Tag Archives: wi state journal

Credit card breach at Dells resort imacts thousands of cards

State Journal Staff
Wisconsin State Journal
September 13, 2011

A Wisconsin company that supplies arcade equipment and vending machines to businesses said hackers broke into its credit-card processing systems at resorts in Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Vacationland Vendors Inc. said Monday up to 40,000 credit and debit cards used in its arcades may have been affected.

Company spokesman Bill Bray said the resorts were Wilderness Waterpark Resort in Wisconsin Dells and the Smokies Resort in Sevierville, Tenn.

The company said it shut down its card-processing systems at both arcades when it discovered the March 22 breach. The company is issuing warnings to patrons who used a credit or debit card at either arcade between Dec. 12, 2008, and May 25, 2011, and is advising those patrons to be on the lookout for unauthorized activity on their bank statements and credit-card bills.

Telecom deregulation bill passed by the state Senate

By Mary Spicuzza
WI State Journal
May 11, 2011

A bill to deregulate Wisconsin’s telecommunications industry passed the state Senate on Wednesday.

Argument over the legislation broke out largely along party lines, with Republicans saying it would bring better Internet access and more competition among businesses and Democrats arguing it would lead to higher rates and worse service.

“This legislation ensures that we are not playing favorites among technologies,” said state Sen. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee.

Zipperer, the bill’s main Senate sponsor, said corporate competition would help the state advance technology and move on from the “monopoly era” when one company had control of the industry. He and other Republicans said consumers would be better served if the industry is deregulated.

But state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, and some other Democrats argued the measure would leave customers vulnerable to rate increases and worse phone and Internet service.

“The service quality will become poorer and poor and the price will be higher and higher,” she said.

Vinehout also argued that rural areas will be particularly hard hit by the measure, and warned GOP lawmakers were pitting urban against rural.

“We’re picking winners and losers,” she said.

Democrats offered numerous amendments to the bill to include some consumer protections, but they were rejected by the GOP.

Zipperer and bill supporters argue that the legislation is long overdue, saying it would be the first changes to the state’s telecommunications rules in about 20 years.

During the floor debate, the Republican senator praised former state Sen. Jeff Plale, who had pushed for deregulation during the last session.

But state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, said Plale’s telecommunications legislation is part of why he was able to defeat the Democratic incumbent from South Milwaukee in the primary election. Larson sai dhte bill was “put together in secrety behind closed doors” and “cut off regular folks.”

Vinehout agreed and said the bill, which is backed by powerhouses like AT&T Wisconsin, was effectively drafted by industry lobbyists.

Under the bill, the Public Service Commission could no longer determine telecommunication rates, audit providers or investigate complaints from consumers about their service.

The commission also would be prohibited from regulating additional services like high-speed Internet and broadband.

The measure passed 25-8 on a bipartisan vote. It now heads to the state Assembly.

Steve Kohlmann: State must update telecom law

By Steve Kohlmann
April 5,2011

Dear Editor: In today’s tough economy, Wisconsin needs to do everything it can to attract new jobs and investment to our state. One long-overdue policy change we can make to spur economic growth and create jobs is to modernize Wisconsin’s telecommunications law. With Wisconsin facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, this is a simple update that won’t cost taxpayers a dime.

Outdated regulations on landlines prevent more investment in new technologies that are fueling economic growth in other states. Current law requires providers to invest resources in old, copper line technologies that consumers and businesses no longer desire — instead of investing those resources in the technologies of the future: wireless and broadband.

Ohio and Illinois both modernized their telecom laws last June, and since then have seen a combined $1 billion in announced investment and nearly 29,000 estimated jobs. Wisconsin could reap similar benefits.

Advancing a new telecommunications law will help Wisconsin become a leader in the Midwest for technology jobs and help keep and expand the valuable manufacturing jobs Wisconsin is known for.

The longer it takes Wisconsin to update its telecom laws, the farther we fall behind. That’s why the Independent Business Association of Wisconsin has joined a coalition of over 100 economic development, business, community and education leaders in urging lawmakers to update Wisconsin’s telecom laws as soon as possible.

If Wisconsin is to be open for business we’re going to have to walk the walk.

Steve Kohlmann

President, Independent Business Association of Wisconsin


Bill to legalize raw milk sales reappears in Wis.

By Associated Press
March 15,2011

The push to legalize raw milk sales in Wisconsin is continuing.

A bill that would permit the widespread sale of unpasteurized milk is being circulated for cosponsors by Republican Sen. Glenn Grothman and Rep. Don Pridemore.

Their proposal they made public Monday would allow for a licensed dairy farmer to register with the state to sell raw milk and its byproducts directly to consumers.

Under current law, only incidental sales of raw milk are allowed. The Legislature last year passed a law that would have allowed more sales, but then-Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed it citing safety and health concerns.

Nineteen states allow direct sales of raw milk from dairy farmers to individuals, while nine additional states go a step further by permitting retail sales.

Van Hollen declares federal health law ‘dead’ in Wisconsin

By Mary Spicuzza and David Wahlberg
Wisconsin State Journal
February 3, 2011

States around the country are debating the meaning of a judge’s recent ruling against the new federal health care law, but Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen already has declared the law null and void here.

“For Wisconsin, the federal health care law is dead — unless and until it is revived by an appellate court,” Van Hollen said in a statement this week. “Effectively, Wisconsin was relieved of any obligations or duties that were created under terms of the federal health care law.”

Wisconsin was one of 26 states to join the legal challenge that prompted Monday’s opinion by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Fla., that the law is unconstitutional because it goes too far in requiring most Americans to buy health insurance or face penalties.

Vinson’s ruling is one of four by federal judges, who have reached vastly different conclusions. The two Republican appointees have deemed it unconstitutional while the two Democratic appointees have declared it constitutional.

The U.S. Justice Department plans to appeal. Both sides agree it will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.


If Van Hollen is right and the entire law is tossed out, Wisconsin would not have to implement the law requiring states to create insurance marketplaces known as health care exchanges. States also wouldn’t have to expand Medicaid coverage or oversee new rules on private insurers.

It could also give Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers greater power to cut existing state health care programs, such as Badger Care Plus, to fix the state’s budget deficit. Walker last week created a new Office of Free Market Health Care that will fight health care reform. Walker’s spokesman praised Vinson’s ruling in a statement Thursday.

If Van Hollen is wrong and Wisconsin doesn’t carry out parts of the health care law, the state could lose federal money and face a federal takeover of some activities.

Decision criticized

Supporters of the federal health care reform law slammed Van Hollen’s comments, accusing the state’s top lawyer of jumping to conclusions about the nearly one-year-old health care law, most of which takes effect in 2014.

“It’s ground zero here,” Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “The attorney general is taking the most extreme position in the country.”

But in a few other states that are party to the litigation, Republican lawmakers also suggested the law is effectively null as a result of the judge’s ruling. Others, however, said it’s too early to stop carrying out the law.

“We’ll be required to move forward until such time relief is granted or an appellate decision is finalized,” Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia was quoted as saying in The New York Times.

Kraig called it “shockingly inappropriate to jump in ahead of the U.S. Supreme Court.” And he urged the Walker administration to promise Wisconsin residents that it will continue to push for improvements to health care coverage and keep implementing the federal law.

Time frame

States must declare an intent to form exchanges by Jan. 1, 2013 — and have them ready a year later — or the federal government will step in and run them.

The law also requires states to expand Medicaid coverage, or maintain their already expanded coverage, or risk losing some federal contributions to the state-federal health plan for the poor.

States are also supposed to oversee several aspects of the law, such as making sure private insurers lift lifetime coverage caps and stop banning people with pre-existing conditions from enrolling.


UW-Madison warns 60,000 of card data theft

By Samara Kalk Derby
Wisconsin State Journal
December 10, 2010

UW Hospital warns 53 patients about possible exposure to fatal disease

From the Wisconsin Sate Journal (7/24/09)
By Doug Erickson and Mark Pitsch

UW Hospital has told 53 patients they face an “extremely low” risk of contracting a rare but deadly brain disorder because they may have been operated on with contaminated surgical instruments.

The instruments had been used on a woman who died Tuesday of the brain disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. She had surgery at the hospital in June.

Hospital officials say they immediately stopped using the surgical instruments once tests confirmed the woman’s diagnosis. However, the 53 patients all had neurosurgery during a 40-day window when the instruments were still in use, said Dr. Carl Getto, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

The situation poses no risk to the general public and an “infinitesimal” risk to the 53 patients, Getto said. UW Hospital officials said the instruments used went through normal sterilization procedures after each surgery, but CJD experts believe normal sterilization is not enough.

The hospital plans to continue using the surgical instruments once they go through the heightened sterilization process, an approach questioned by a national expert who said his hospital destroys the instruments used during brain surgery in cases where the patient may have been suffering from the disease.

“We don’t even want to have a theoretical risk for the (disease) to be transmitted,” said Dr. Michael Geschwind, a CJD expert at the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center.

CJD is an always-fatal neurological disorder that kills about 390 people per year in the U.S. It is characterized by rapidly progressing dementia, with death often coming within a year from the onset of symptoms.

“It’s a horrible situation, and I’m sure the university is as devastated by this as they possibly can be,” said Florence Kranitz, president of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation in Akron, Ohio.

‘Not mad cow’

The disease can set off alarm bells because it belongs to a family of human and animal diseases that includes a bovine version often referred to as “mad cow” disease. However, UW Hospital officials said the woman died from a type of the disease distinct from the bovine version. (See Q&A)

“This is not mad cow disease,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, a specialist in infectious diseases who oversees infection control at the hospital. “(People) need not be concerned about that relationship.”

There are two forms of CJD: classic and variant. UW Hospital officials say the dead woman had classic CJD, the most prevalent form.

Although mad cow disease occurs only in cows, eating infected beef is thought to be the cause of the variant form of CJD. No case of variant CJD has been documented as originating in the U.S. Three cases of it have been reported in the U.S., but the victims were exposed elsewhere, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Test results from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland confirmed the woman died from classic CJD, Safdar said. More test results from the same lab in a few weeks will be able to conclusively rule out the variant form, she said.

UW Hospital is basing its diagnosis of classic CJD on the patient’s symptoms, age, travel history and family history and the course of the disease, Safdar said. “It doesn’t fit any profile (of variant CJD),” Safdar said.

Mistaken diagnosis

Due to patient privacy, hospital officials would say only that the woman was in her 50s and had been transferred to UW Hospital on June 8 from a regional hospital in Wisconsin. The woman suffered an upper-respiratory infection in March and April and saw her family doctor in May, Getto said.

Because she showed unsteadiness walking, vision problems and memory loss, doctors at the regional hospital determined she had viral encephalitis, a brain infection. Geschwind, the UCSF expert, said CJD is commonly mistaken for viral encephalitis.

Getto said the woman also had a brain tumor, which doctors thought was causing her symptoms. There was no reason to suspect CJD because of the tumor, he said.

During surgery June 11 to remove the benign brain tumor, surgeons took samples of adjacent tissue, Getto said. The tissue was tested on site during the surgery, and there was no indication of CJD, he said.

However, over the next month, the woman’s condition declined unexpectedly and rapidly, so a sample of tissue from the earlier biopsy was sent to the National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center at Case Western, Getto said. Prions are deformed proteins that can cause brain disease.

Monday, UW Hospital officials received a preliminary report that the sample had tested positive for CJD. Immediately, staff pulled all instruments used in previous neurosurgical procedures and began re-sterilizing them according to federal guidelines for equipment used in confirmed cases of prion diseases, Getto said.

The woman died at the hospital Tuesday.

Counseling offered

On Tuesday, immediately after confirmation of the positive result, the hospital staff began identifying patients to be notified. All 53 patients have been notified by FedEx letter and a phone call, Safdar said.

The letter reads in part: “First and foremost, we wish to reassure you that the risk of exposure to CJD as a result of surgical instruments is extremely low. In fact, there have been no cases of transmission from surgical instruments to patients since 1976, when the standardized sterilization processes now used throughout the country were put in place.”

Other hospitals have potentially exposed patients to CJD in recent years through surgical equipment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the agency has not verified a resulting case of CJD.

The UW Hospital patients range in age from 3 to 83, although the great majority are between 30 and 60, said hospital spokeswoman Lisa Brunette. Most are from the Midwest, primarily Wisconsin and Illinois, she said.

UW Hospital will offer them free consultations with neurosurgeons in addition to visits they already have scheduled with their regular neurosurgeons. They also can receive free psychological counseling, Getto said. Because the disease is so rare and the risk of transmission so small, the letter is meant to be “informative and reassuring,” he said.

The patients will not be able to find out immediately if they contracted the disease because there is no test for pre-symptomatic CJD, Safdar said. Symptoms might not appear for years or decades, she said.

The patients will be under no restrictions imposed by UW Hospital, although individual organizations may decide not to accept blood or organ donations from them based on their exposure, Safdar said.

Kranitz, the president of the CJD Foundation, said if the exposed patients need to have other medical procedures, they are required to say they may have been exposed to CJD. Some medical centers may deny them care, she said.

“Considering how they were exposed, I would think that (UW Hospital) should be more than willing to provide the necessary care,” Kranitz said.

Brunette, the UW Hospital spokeswoman, said the patients should be able to get medical care in the future.

“These people don’t have a disease. They don’t have a diagnosis,” she said. “That wouldn’t be a factor for us. I don’t think it should be a factor for another institution.”

Workers not at risk

Transmission of the classic form of CJD occurs only through direct implantation of tissue into the brain, spinal cord or eye, Safdar said. That’s why health-care workers and others are not at risk. “You’d have to have an instrument with a patient’s tissue on it and then penetrate it into the brain, spinal cord or eye,” she said.

Oral transmission — for instance, from a doctor’s finger into his or her mouth — has not been reported as a route, she said.

If UW Hospital surgeons had suspected CJD prior to the woman’s brain tumor surgery, they would have instituted extra layers of precaution, Safdar said. They would have disposed of the instruments used for the tissue biopsy and sequestered all other instruments used in the surgery until receiving a conclusive diagnosis, she said.

Geschwind said there are no national protocols guiding doctors and hospitals to treat brain diseases that could potentially be CJD. But he said any time a patient has rapid dementia or other symptoms of the disease, such as loss of motor function, CJD should be considered a possibility.

At the UCSF Medical Center, doctors destroy all instruments after operating on patients that possibly could have CJD, he said, which costs the hospital up to $20,000 per operation.

While incinerating the instruments is an option, Safdar said the hospital chose to follow CDC guidelines for heightened sterilization because “they do work.”

The instruments are being sterilized by being soaked in sodium hydroxide for an hour and then heated to 250 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour in accordance with the guidelines, she said.

Brunette said hospital staff has not calculated the value of the instruments and did not consider cost in deciding whether to save or destroy the instruments.

Although no sterilization process is known to completely destroy all prions, the CDC guidelines — and additional cleaning and disinfecting — lower the tissue load “several fold,” which is adequate for preventing transmission, Safdar said. Asked what risk future patients have if operated on with the surgical instruments, Safdar said, “I would say none.”