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Study says heavy drinking costs Wisconsin lives and money; Jurors begin deliberations in Native Mob case; more briefs

One thousand five hundred people die each year because of a "problematic alcohol culture" in Wisconsin, according to Paul Krupski of the Health First Coalition.

His group released a UW-Madison study yesterday showing that excessive alcohol consumption costs Wisconsinites $6.8 billion dollars a year.

At news conferences around the state, health and law enforcement experts cited the high cost of continuing Wisconsin's long and deep traditions with alcohol. Some officials said a lot would be solved if people would just consider binge drinking to be a problem, which many don't.

The experts offered concrete proposals as well - a higher alcohol tax, sobriety checkpoints on the highways, alcohol screenings by doctors and an end to letting teens drink with their parents in restaurants and bars.

But some of those measures would face uphill battles in the state Legislature where lawmakers have refused to raise Wisconsin's beer tax since 1969. Recently, one Democrat said he'd favor sobriety checkpoints, while a Republican called it an infringement on civil liberties.

Experts say some positive things are taking place, though. Almost two dozen Wisconsin communities now have social-host laws in which adults are liable if they provide or host teenage parties with alcohol.


Jurors begin deliberations in Native Mob case

A federal court jury in Minneapolis is about to decide whether three members of an American Indian gang are guilty of racketeering.

Closing arguments began Tuesday in a nearly two-month-long trial involving the Native Mob, a gang known to terrorize people mainly in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Winter said the Native Mob dealt in murders, drug trafficking and witness retaliation. Winter said alleged group leader Wakinyon McArthur and members Anthony Cree and William Morris resorted to violence to uphold the gang's reputation.

McArthur's lawyer, Frederick Goetz, said members may have committed individual crimes, but there's no evidence of organized racketeering.

The three defendants were the only ones not to accept plea deals after 25 people were charged in a 57-count indictment.

Prosecutors say racketeering is a tool that's rarely used against gangs, but they say it's necessary in this case in order to take down the entire enterprise. The National Gang Threat Assessment from 2011 listed the Native Mob as among the nation's most violent Indian gangs. Officials said it was formed in the 1990's to set up turf for drug dealing.


Senator plans to introduce raw milk bill

A Republican state lawmaker says he'll try again to legalize raw milk in Wisconsin.

West Bend Sen. Glenn Grothman says he'll introduce a new bill in the next few weeks. The governor's office says Scott Walker is open to approving the measure, but only if it has safeguards to protect public health and the integrity of the state's dairy industry.

Grothman tried passing a bill in 2011 that would have allowed farmers to sell raw milk and related products, but it never got out of a committee.

In 2010, raw milk legislation made it all the way to the governor's desk. But Democrat Jim Doyle vetoed it after a last-minute lobbying push by the state's dairy industry, which said that even one outbreak of illness from raw milk would tarnish Wisconsin's worldwide reputation.

The Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition says it's still impossible to make unpasteurized milk safe. Raw milk's supporters say it has healthy nutrients that are ruined in the pasteurization process, and consumers should be able to decide for themselves if they want to drink it.


Police want charges against teen who claimed he brought gun to school

An 18-year-old Nekoosa High School student faces a possible criminal charge after an incident that sent students home early on Monday.

Police have asked the Wood County district attorney for a disorderly conduct charge, but nothing was filed as of late yesterday.

Authorities said the teen wrote on a social media site that he had a gun at the school. Once school officials caught wind of it, police arrested the teen, and he denied bringing any weapons to school.

The building and grounds were searched Monday afternoon, and no weapons were found. Normal school activities resumed Monday evening.


Study shows new Brewer stadium attracts million more fans

The Milwaukee area gets a lot of green from Brewer blue.

A new study from UW-Milwaukee shows that a million more fans a year have attended Brewer baseball games in the 12 seasons Miller Park has been open, compared to the final 12 years the team played in the old County Stadium.

The study was done for Major League Baseball, and it found that those million additional fans add $263 million per year to the Milwaukee economy. Forty-five percent of Miller Park's customers are from outside the metro Milwaukee area.

Stadium district officials say the retractable roof lets out-of-towners make their travel plans knowing that their games won't be rained or snowed out.

Also, the Brewers have been winning more lately. But the UWM study said the team's winning percentage at Miller Park was almost exactly the same as the final 12 years at County Stadium - just under 48%.


Felon accused of voting illegally

A convicted felon from Kenosha County is facing new felony charges of voting illegally last November.

Michael Radtke, 49, of Twin Lakes is scheduled to make his first court appearance March 27 on three felony counts of election fraud.

Prosecutors said Radtke registered at the polls and signed a statement that he was not under probation or parole for a felony conviction. But officials found out later that he was still on probation for a 2010 case in Walworth County.

In Wisconsin, felons can only vote after they've served all their obligations to society, including probation.


Dalia Lama will visit Madison in May

The Dalai Lama will make his ninth visit to Madison in May.

The spiritual leader of Tibet will speak during a daylong series of panel discussions on making the world healthier and happier.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman and Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post will moderate the event, which will be held May 15 at Madison's Overture Center. Tickets will go on sale next month.

The Dalai Lama is connected with the Deer Park Buddhist Center in Oregon, south of Madison. It has brought him to southern Wisconsin numerous times since 1979. The last time he was there in 2010 when he helped open the UW-Madison Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.