WisconsinWeekly: Ron Johnson’s ‘secret society’; gerrymandering debate; injuries, bankruptcy among WI farmers

Explosive allegation withdrawn; experts evaluate alternatives to partisan redistricting; farm families face physical and financial perils

Of Note: This week we highlight national stories with Wisconsin angles, including PolitiFact Wisconsin’s exploration of how U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson alleged and then withdrew the explosive claim that there was a “secret society” in the FBI. Two stories discuss the effects of partisan gerrymandering and how difficult it could be to make the voting districts more fair as the U.S. Supreme Court mulls whether to throw out Republicans’ redrawing of Wisconsin’s map. Two more stories explore some problems unique to farmers. The New York Times features a Wisconsin family in its report on the thousands of injuries and roughly 100 deaths among children and teenagers working on farms each year. And Wisconsin Public Radio found that our state is home to the highest number of farm bankruptcies in the United States.

WisconsinWeekly is produced by Andy and Dee J. Hall, a couple who founded the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Andy is the executive director and Dee is the managing editor.

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In Context: Ron Johnson’s ‘secret society’

Politifact — Jan. 25, 2018

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., charged that an informant told a Senate committee that Johnson heads that a “secret society” was set up within the FBI and the Department of Justice soon after Donald Trump was elected as president. Later, Johnson acknowledged the “secret society” comment was likely made in jest.

Gerrymandering is the root of all political evil. Or is it?

The Washington Post — Jan. 29, 2018

Gerrymandering in Wisconsin has made national headlines, as the U.S. Supreme Court is set to rule on a case challenging the state’s Republican-drawn map. A study by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight and the Cook Political Report casts “doubt on the idea that there is a straightforward solution to the controversy over the partisan gerrymandering of congressional district boundaries.”

How the GOP rigs elections

Rolling Stone — Jan. 24, 2018

A new report by Rolling Stone also examines gerrymandering and the impact it may have on the 2018 midterm elections. Although Republicans are facing a “toxic political environment” heading into midterms, gerrymandering has made Republicans who should be vulnerable, like Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard, untouchable.

5-year-olds work farm machinery, and injuries follow

The New York Times — Jan. 29, 2018

On family-operated farms, children grow up driving large farm machines to help their family, work that is “deeply embedded in rural traditions.” Yet, thousands of children are injured and an estimated 100 children are killed. Generations of farm families see this work as a way to pass down lessons on hard work and responsibility.

Western Wisconsin led nation in farm bankruptcies in 2017

Wisconsin Public Radio — Jan. 24, 2018

New federal court data show the Western District of Wisconsin — composed of the western two-thirds of the state — had 28 Chapter 12 bankruptcy cases last year, the highest number of farm bankruptcies of any federal court district in the country. Wisconsin farmers are earning less due to low commodity prices for corn, soybeans and milk, while input costs like rent have remained the same or increased. As commodity price estimates show little sign of changing, experts predict more farm bankruptcies in 2018.

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