FRI AM News: COVID, climate change response results from faulty communication, political division; WisBusiness podcast features Karu Sankaralingam, Simple Machines Inc.

— Science communication experts see faulty science communication and political division as major determinants in the nation’s response to climate change and coronavirus.

Kendra Pierre-Louis, a climate change reporter from Gimlet Media and UW-Madison Science Writer in Residence, and life sciences communication Prof. Dietram Scheufele headlined a university livestream titled “Climate and COVID” to discuss what can be learned from science debates in the U.S.

One in 920 Black Americans, one in 1,100 Indigenous Americans, one in 1,300 Latino Americans, one in 1,450 Pacific Islanders and one in 1,840 white Americans have died from COVID-19, cited Louis. 

“Put simply, roughly two Black people have died for every white American because of COVID-19,” she said.

Members of marginalized groups are more likely to have pre-existing conditions including “lifestyle diseases” such as diabetes and hypertension, she said. This puts them at risk when working a higher number of positions deemed “essential.”

Even the most wholesome diet, though, cannot counter the effects of breathing polluted air, Louis said. Particulates from energy plants and car tailpipes prime the body for such diseases.

Read the full story at 

— This week’s “WisBusiness: The Podcast” features Karu Sankaralingam, founder of Simple Machines Inc.

Sankaralingam, who is also a professor of computer sciences at UW-Madison, set out in 2017 to design a streamlined computer chip. Today, Simple Machines is in the process of bringing it to market.

The chip can handle massive amounts of big data in different ways that results in computing performance of up to 40 times faster than currently available chips handling the same kind of data. 

“We are bringing it to market in two ways,” Sankaralingam explained. “We sell those systems to big companies like Target, Walmart, financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and so on who have big data center deployments.”  

“Another way is we bring it to market like it’s just a piece of software,” he said. Simple Machines has its own data center where customers use the software by running a piece of code that sends a request to the Simple Machines server.

The chip functions as both a piece of hardware and software, which is the key differentiation for Simple Machines. The inspiration for this technology was to find a fast working device that could keep up with the ever changing algorithms and software — even those that haven’t been developed yet.

Simple Machines’ chip is currently sampling with early customers. 

“We are eagerly looking to expand those trials and we actually kicked off a second-generation design as well,” Sankaralingam said. 

Listen to the podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison:

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is calling on Verso Corporation to either run its Wisconsin Rapids mill or sell it to a buyer that will be committed to the community.

Verso announced in June it would indefinitely stop production at its paper mills in Wisconsin Rapids and Duluth in order to offset market decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, laying off more than 1,000 workers.

While the paper mills were idling, Verso said it would explore viable and sustainable alternatives for both mills whether that is restarting if market conditions improve, marketing for sale or closing permanently.

Baldwin previously wrote to Verso Sept. 30 urging company officials to find a buyer committed to keeping proceeds from the facility’s operations in the community. On Oct. 1, as the community waited for news about its future, Verso’s president and CEO stepped down.

Then, after months of exploring possibilities, Verso announced Oct. 21 it would slow down its effort to find a buyer for the Wisconsin Rapids mill.

“Many in the community were hoping for a quick sale to a buyer that would operate the mill and preserve its nearly one thousand jobs. The disappointing news that the sale is on hold raises concerns that Verso will close the mill instead of selling it to an operator,” Baldwin wrote in yesterday’s letter. “I write to request that you resume active marketing of the mill, giving full and fair consideration to local buyers, and honor your commitment to treat the employees of the Wisconsin Rapids mill with “fairness and respect.”

Since Verso’s decision to idle its paper mills in Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Wisconsin Paper Council has offered its assistance and support in coordinating response efforts. 

“We do continue to work closely with Verso, the RapidsTogether Task Force, federal and state legislators as well as federal and state agencies to provide assistance and support to those employees, community members and supply chain businesses affected by this situation,” WPC President Scott Suder told 

Read Baldwin’s full letter to Verso Corporation: 

— The Trump administration invested over $1 million in Wisconsin to increase American biofuel sales.

“These investments will give consumers more choices when they fill up at the pump, result in more demand for American farmers and deliver more affordable fuel prices for Wisconsinites,” U.S. Department of Agriculture Wisconsin Rural Development State Director Frank Frassetto said. 

BP Kenosha Travel Plaza LLC will use a $378,000 grant to replace and install 20 dispensers and a storage tank at two fueling stations in Kenosha, increasing ethanol sold by 1.6 million gallons per year.

Smart Station Ventures LLC will use a $54,000 grant to replace six dispensers at a fueling station in Monroe, increasing ethanol sold by 550,000 gallons per year. 

Cambeck Petroleum Corp will use a $367,000 grant to replace dispensers and a storage tank at a fueling station in Janesville, increasing ethanol sold by 740,000 gallons per year. 

Roettgers Company Inc will use a $251,000 grant to replace dispensers and storage tanks at fueling stations in Brown Deer, Wauwatosa, Mequon, Thiensville and Milwaukee. This project is expected to increase ethanol sold by 420,000 gallons per year. 

Casey’s General Store Inc will put a share of its $5 million grant to upgrade its Beloit fueling station.

The money was made available through the Higher Blends Infrastructure Incentive Program. The initial $22 million to recipients in 14 states is projected to increase ethanol demand by nearly 150 million gallons annually. USDA plans on announcing the remaining of the up to $100 million in HBIIP investments in the coming weeks.

— Bayfield County is receiving $250,000 from the state for a multi-phased expansion project for the 114-acre Wild Rice Retreat located in the Town of Bayfield.

The Community Development Investment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will support the first phase of an expansion project for the retreat, a center for guided retreats and a venue space on State Highway 13.

“A vibrant blend of businesses is key to a community’s overall economic success, which is why it is one of WEDC’s top priorities to support communities across the state and invest in quality infrastructure and services,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of WEDC. “The expansion of the Wild Rice Retreat Center will serve as a foundation for future economic growth and for the collective good of the Bayfield community.”

Superior Living Arts LLC, the developer for the project, is planning a multi-phased expansion of the retreat totaling close to $30 million. The first phase will consist of building additional lodging, a multi-purpose classroom, a sauna and expansion of the local trail system. This development will allow the center to host and accommodate 50 guests at a time with year-round operation.

“This new development will bring jobs and investment to our region on an ongoing basis,” said Bayfield County Board Chair Dennis Pocernich. “The County supports and applauds WEDC and Wild Rice Retreat’s efforts and encourages other businesses to consider Bayfield County as a place to live and work”.

The grant allowed the project to proceed with construction in 2020, said Heidi Zimmer, president of Superior Living Arts. The project created over 50 construction jobs and is built “almost entirely” with materials from northern Wisconsin suppliers and vendors, she added. 

The first phase of the project will result in the creation of seven permanent, year-round jobs. Up to 12 part-time and seasonal positions will also be created, along with opportunities for local artists, educators, farmers and business owners to teach workshops and engage with the Wild Rice Retreat, according to WEDC’s release.

Both Sen. Janet Bewley and Rep. Beth Myers expressed their support of the state’s investment in northern Wisconsin, where small businesses, including in the tourism industry, are hurting due to the pandemic. 

— Wisconsin reported 4,870 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases to a record 4,128.

The state health department’s weekly surveillance shows all but two of Wisconsin’s 72 counties rank “very high” for COVID-19 activity. Douglas and Vernon counties rank “high” for COVID-19 activity.

“We’re in a tough spot, Wisconsin,” said Department of Health Services Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk.

Willems Van Dijk told reporters in a health briefing yesterday that anecdotally, contact tracers and local public health departments are attributing case increases to smaller gatherings such as birthday parties, backyard barbecues and Packers watch parties.

“Our hospital capacity is strained,” she said. “Yesterday, one in five Wisconsin hospitals reported a critical staffing shortage. This past week we saw a 16 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the week before.”

— As COVID-19 numbers stay high, the state plans to open 71 new free community testing sites to test about 48,000 people each week.

Increasing access to testing for all Wisconsinites continues to be a major pillar in the state’s COVID-19 response plan, Gov. Tony Evers and Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm announced yesterday.

The new sites, spread across 56 counties and seven tribal nations, will have the capacity to collect around 400 tests per day. The 71 testing sites are in addition to three enduring sites that continue to operate in Dane, Milwaukee and Winnebago counties.

The testing sites are opening in October and will be available through Dec. 10, but the hours of operation for each site are unique. DHS encourages people to pre-register for testing using COVID Connect, the state’s online testing registration and result system, which each testing site will use.

Community testing sites are funded by the federal CARES Act. Evers dedicated more than $500 million in CARES funding to support Wisconsin’s testing efforts. CARES funding is set to expire at the end of December.

Willems Van Dijk said the state wants Congress to pass COVID-19 relief to fund testing outreach. In the meantime, she said Wisconsin is making a plan to continue testing in the absence of federal dollars.

— The Department of Health Services is conducting 302 more facility-wide COVID-19 public health investigations than last week. It’s now conducting 2,588 investigations statewide.

Workplaces outside the health care industry account for 775 of the active investigations. 

Long-term care facilities make up 610 of the investigations. Those facilities are reporting 580 deaths due to COVID-19, making up 30 percent of the state’s death count. These include nursing homes and assisted living facilities, such as community-based residential facilities and residential care apartment complexes.

The state has 254 active nursing home investigations. About 89 percent of confirmed COVID-19 patients who have died in the state were age 60 or older.

Education facilities account for 439 investigations.

The state is also conducting 401 investigations in “other settings,” which according to DHS include adult day care centers, restaurants, event spaces and religious settings.

One hundred and sixty-two of the investigations are in group housing facilities, including correctional facilities, homeless shelters, dormitories and group homes, which have seen 60 COVID-19 deaths or 3 percent of the state’s total. DHS marks 781 deaths as “unknown” meaning they may or may not have occurred at a long-term care or group housing facility.

DHS is conducting 101 investigations in health care facilities.

Counties with the highest numbers of investigations include: Milwaukee (312), Dane (256), Waukesha (220), Marathon (134) and Kenosha (130).

There have been a total of 4,243 investigations, with 1,655 investigations closed. An investigation is considered closed and removed from the DHS listing 28 days after the last positive case was confirmed.

Click here to see the nursing homes under investigation and a breakdown of investigations by county: 


# Badgers football COVID-19 outbreak up to 16 players, staff members

# More Mink Deaths Reported at Taylor County Fur Farm

# Milwaukee hotel occupancy falls for another consecutive week to 36.1%



– Badger Steam & Gas Grounds to Host 2023 Farm Tech Days 

– Rackow Family Sausage Issues Product Recall 

– World Championship Cheese Contest Pushed Back to 2022 

– Biden Rural Advisor Lays Out Campaign’s “Aggressive” Agricultural Priorities 

– Pair of Dairy Organizations Endorse President Donald Trump 


– A Look Inside Foxconn’s Wisconsin Facility 


– As COVID-19 continues to disrupt life, young adults face high stress, isolation and grief


– Johnsonville opens new retail store to public 


– Facebook revenues up more than 20% despite ad boycotts 


– Candidate Interviews: Fourth Congressional District U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore

– Wisconsin GOP: Hackers Stole $2.3M From Trump Re-Election Fund

– Wisconsin Supreme Court declines to address ballot issues in northeastern Wisconsin


– Lemberg Electric announces new leadership 


– See which grocers have the biggest share of the Milwaukee market 


– Wolf decision triggers automatic hunt re-start in Wisconsin


– Founder of Milwaukee-area startup to pitch product on Shark Tank 


– Cheesehead manufacturer expands to events business 


– InsideWis: Here are science and tech priorities that will face the next president 


<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

– Tech Council: vFairs to power interactive virtual platform for November Wisconsin Early Stage event 

– Builders Association: Statewide new home permits increase twenty two percent