You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
White House: No exemptions from steel, aluminum tariffs

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s administration appears unbowed by broad domestic and international criticism of his planned import tariffs on steel and aluminum, saying Sunday that the president is not planning on exempting any countries from the stiff duties.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said: “At this point in time there’s no country exclusions.”

Trump’s announcement Thursday that he would impose tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, on imported steel and aluminum, roiled markets, rankled allies and raised prospects for a trade war. While his rhetoric has been focused on China, the duties also will cover significant imports from Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Japan and the European Union.

The Pentagon had recommended that Trump only pursue targeted tariffs, so as not to upset American partners abroad. But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Sunday that was not the direction the president would take.

“He’s talking about a fairly broad brush,” Ross said on ABC’s “This Week.” He rejected threats of retaliation from American allies as “pretty trivial.”

Few issues could blur the lines of partisanship in Trump-era Washington. Trade is one of them.

Labor unions and liberal Democrats are in the unusual position of applauding Trump’s approach, while Republicans and an array of business groups are warning of dire economic and political consequences if he goes ahead with the tariffs.

Trade politics often cut along regional, rather than ideological, lines, as politicians reflect the interests of the hometown industries and workers. But rarely does a debate open so wide a rift between a president and his party — leaving him almost exclusively with support from his ideological opposites.

“Good, finally,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat and progressive as he cheered Trump’s move. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, a Democrat who has called for Trump to resign, agreed.

“I urge the administration to follow through and to take aggressive measures to ensure our workers can compete on a level playing field,” Casey tweeted.

This moment of unusual alliance was long expected. As a candidate, Trump made his populist and protectionist positions on trade quite clear, at times hitting the same themes as one of the Democratic presidential candidates, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“This wave of globalization has wiped out totally, totally our middle class,” Trump told voters in the hard-hit steel town of Monessen, Pennsylvania, during one of his campaign stops. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Trump’s criticism of trade agreements and China’s trade policies found support with white working-class Americans whose wages had stagnated over the years. Victories in big steel-producing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana demonstrated that his tough trade talk had a receptive audience.

Both candidates in a March 13 House election in Pennsylvania have embraced the president’s plans for tariffs. They addressed the topic Saturday in a debate that aired on WTAE in Pittsburgh.

“For too long, China has been making cheap steel and they’ve been flooding the market with it. It’s not fair and it’s not right. So I actually think this is long overdue,” said Democratic candidate Conor Lamb.

“Unfortunately, many of our competitors around the world have slanted the playing field, and their thumb has been on the scale, and I think President Trump is trying to even that scale back out,” said Republican candidate Rick Saccone.

But Trump’s GOP allies on Capitol Hill have little use for the tariff approach. They argue that other industries that rely on steel and aluminum products will suffer. The cost of new appliances, cars and buildings will rise if the president follows through, they warn, and other nations could retaliate. The end result could erode the president’s base of support with rural America and even the blue-collar workers the president says he trying to help.

“There is always retaliation, and typically a lot of these countries single out agriculture when they do that. So, we’re very concerned,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., asked the administration to reconsider its stance. He said American companies could move their operations abroad and not face retaliatory tariffs.

“This scenario would lead to the exact opposite outcome of the administration’s stated objective, which is to protect American jobs,” Walker said.

The Business Roundtable’s Josh Bolten, a chief of staff for President George W. Bush, called on Trump to have “the courage” to step back from his campaign rhetoric on trade.

“Sometimes a president needs to, you need to stick to your principles but you also need to recognize in cases where stuff you said in the campaign isn’t right and ought to be drawn back,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.” ‘’The president needs to have the courage to do that.”

Tim Phillips, president of the Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, noted that Trump narrowly won in Iowa and Wisconsin, two heavily rural states that could suffer if countries impose retaliatory tariffs on American agricultural goods.

“It hurts the administration politically because trade wars, protectionism, they lead to higher prices for individual Americans,” Phillips said. “It’s basically a tax increase.”

The president wasn’t backing down, at least on Twitter, where he posted this message: “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

Martin Meissner, Associated Press 

Steel coils sit on wagons Friday as they leave the Thyssenkrupp steel factory in Duisburg, German. U.S. President Donald Trump risks sparking a trade war with his closest allies if he goes ahead with plans to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, German officials and industry groups warned Friday.


McDonell seniors John Francis (42), Joe Schwetz (14), Hayden Baughman (21) and Joey Huffcutt (23) hold up their newly won Division 5 regional title plaque after the McDonell boys basketball team defeated Owen-Withee on Saturday evening in Owen. For more from the game, check out sports on Page B1.

featured top story
Showing off new technology: Students debut creations at CVTC show

EAU CLAIRE – The instruments began belting out the opening bars of the rock classic “Smoke on the Water,” but the musicians were nowhere to be found. A computer program was the conductor, and various mechanical devices strummed the guitar strings, tapped on the drums, played the keyboard and plucked at the base strings.

The automated rock band was one of the attractions at the annual Manufacturing Show March 1 at Chippewa Valley Technical College, and Melissa Rasmus of Chippewa Falls pointed out to her son, Sean, that this was a far more elaborate version of a toy they had at home. Should he choose to enroll in CVTC’s Automation Engineering Technology program, it’s a device Sean would be capable of building himself after just two years of study.

About 50 area manufacturers set up displays at the show, wanting to get the word out on opportunities available at their companies.

“We thought it would be very interesting for Sean,” Rasmus said. “He’s going into sixth grade next year and it’s never too early to start thinking about a career.”

Nearby, CVTC student Soren Sigurdsen of Bloomer explained to visitors how to play an automated miniature billiards game and also the pneumatics, electronics and sensors that made the game work. In all the program areas, other students were present to explain what they do, what they are learning, and the exciting opportunities available to them in manufacturing careers.

Sigurdsen is in his final semester in the Automation Engineering Technology program. “When I got out of high school, I needed to find a job,” he said. “I’ve always been exposed to machinery and technology and wanted to get more information on them. The project I’m working on is a conveyor belt, but it’s not running yet because of an error in the programming.”

“We’re here for recruiting,” said Tony Clausen of Catalytic Combustion in Bloomer. “There are students from CVTC’s Welding program that work for us, and we are expanding, so there are opportunities. But there are people who stop by and ask what we make and where we’re located.”

“This is an opportunity to show off new technology,” said CVTC Dean of Engineering and Skilled Trades Jeff Sullivan. “The Manufacturing Show brings together alumni and people in the area, and shows off student projects. Our manufacturing partners come in and show the things they’re doing.”

High schools from around the area brought busloads of students to the Manufacturing Show, with some taking part in competitions.

A team from Menomonie High School won the Vex IQ Challenge robotics competition against teams from Owen-Withee, Durand and Greenwood high schools. Teams had to build and operate their own robots to complete a series of tasks.

“We spent a lot of time prototyping,” said Menomonie student Bobby Nelson. “I was looking over the shoulders of the team members as they were programming. Next year I want to learn how to code.”

“We’re learning a lot of teamwork and leadership,” said Menomonie student Lauren Flaschenriem.

“They are learning a lot of problem-solving skills, teamwork, programming, and basic machine and mechanical skills,” said Menomonie technology education teacher Ryan Sterry. “They are getting a lot out of it. They were very excited to come here to the competition.”

“The atmosphere of getting ready to compete was really fun,” Flaschenriem said. “We’ve only been to one robotics competition before.”

Showing people what is taking place in modern manufacturing and the opportunities available for careers in the field is the goal of the Manufacturing Show, which drew about 1,600 people to CVTC’s Manufacturing Education Center.

top story
Wisconsin doubles GPS monitoring despite five years of malfunctions, unnecessary jailings

Cody McCormick spent much of the past seven years incarcerated or on probation after being convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota.

Since he had his supervision transferred to his home state of Wisconsin in late 2016, McCormick has been repeatedly thrown in jail. He lost a job. And he continues to be disturbed by corrections officials calling him — sometimes in the middle of the night.

Coburn Dukehart, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism 

Cody McCormick, 29, packs belongings into his fiancé Breanna Kerssen's car in rural Monroe County on Aug. 1, 2017, as they prepare to move from his grandmother's house to an apartment in Sparta, Wis. McCormick faces ongoing difficulties with the GPS monitoring device he wears because of a conviction for a sex offense. Due to poor cell phone service at his grandmother’s house, the GPS device would lose contact with the Madison-based monitoring center, resulting in false alerts.

McCormick says these barriers to reintegrating into the community stem from a GPS ankle bracelet, which he was not required to wear in Minnesota but is required by Wisconsin to wear for life. As of January, Wisconsin monitored 1,258 offenders on GPS devices at an annual cost of about $9.7 million.

Five years after the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism documented serious problems with the state’s GPS monitoring program for offenders — false alerts that have landed offenders in jail, disrupting family lives and causing them to lose jobs — inefficiencies and inaccuracies with the system remain, according to state and county records and 16 offenders interviewed for this story.

Such problems have led some law enforcement and other officials to doubt the program’s ability to ensure public safety and assist offenders in reintegrating into their communities.

Since the Center’s 2013 report, the cost of the program and the number of offenders under monitoring have roughly doubled. Lawmakers never followed through on calls to study the system in the wake of the Center’s report. State officials have been unable to produce records of any evaluation of the system’s reliability or effectiveness.

In this current report, the Center found numerous service requests and complaints related to bracelets failing to hold a charge. In February, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill that would make it a felony for anyone on GPS monitoring to intentionally fail to charge his or her bracelet.

Offender: Problems from the start

McCormick, 29, said his troubles with GPS monitoring began soon after being fitted with an ankle bracelet in February 2017. Records show the tracker made by Boulder, Colorado-based BI Inc. was not communicating with the Department of Corrections’ Electronic Monitoring Center in Madison because of poor cellular reception at his grandmother’s house where he lived in rural Monroe County.

And even though police found him exactly where he was supposed to be, McCormick was taken to jail for about three days. As a result, he lost his job at his family’s restaurant.

Ten months later, McCormick was incarcerated again, this time for five days. Records from the Sparta Police Department show the arrest stemmed from McCormick allegedly being located next to a library — a zone off-limits for him — for an hour. McCormick said he only drove past it; his roommate, who was driving with him, affirmed this version of the incident.

McCormick’s difficulties persisted. This January, McCormick was briefly jailed on a warrant for allegedly tampering with the bracelet. A police report said McCormick showed them he had not tampered with it. He was later fitted with a new bracelet. Officials did not charge him with a crime — although tampering is a felony offense.

“It’s not just the people who are on monitoring devices (who are affected),” McCormick said. “It’s their family, their jobs, their social life.”

McCormick’s story illustrates broader flaws with Wisconsin’s GPS monitoring program, which relies on both cell phone and satellite service to track offenders.

The Center reviewed data from a single month, May 2017, to more deeply explore the large volume of alerts being triggered by Wisconsin’s monitored offenders. In all, Wisconsin offenders in May generated more than 260,000 GPS alerts, 81,000 of which corrections officials sorted through manually.

The review found:

  • The state monitoring center lost cell connection 56,853 times with 895 offenders that month — or an average of about 64 times per offender, according to DOC records.
  • Most offenders on monitoring across the state experienced loss of satellite signal, generating 32,766 alerts — half of which were serious enough to be investigated.
  • Of the 52 arrest warrants issued by the DOC monitoring center, service request records indicate 13 involved offenders whose equipment was having technical problems around the same time.
  • DOC employees submitted 135 requests for technical problems with GPS tracking devices— 93 for charging or battery issues with ankle bracelets, 12 for signals lost, 14 for false tamper alerts.

Wisconsin’s problems are not unique. A 2017 examination by the University College London and Australian National University of 33 studies of electronic monitoring worldwide found widespread technological problems.

In 2012, California replaced half of the state’s ankle bracelets because of technical problems; Massachusetts replaced all 3,000 of its GPS bracelets in 2016, citing poor cell coverage.

Wisconsin DOC officials said the benefits of the program outweigh any technical drawbacks. Spokesman Tristan Cook said the bracelets provide a “deterrent effect since offenders know they are being tracked.”

BI Inc., which supplies the ankle bracelets and other monitoring equipment, declined to answer questions about reported problems with the technology.

Ranks of monitored offenders swell

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, 88,000 offenders were strapped with GPS bracelets in 2015 — 30 times more than the 2,900 offenders who were tracked a decade earlier. Wisconsin had a daily average of about 1,500 offenders on tracking in 2017-18 — a nearly 10-fold increase from 158 offenders in 2008-09.

Some experts say GPS monitoring can be a useful tool in providing structure, reducing recidivism, allowing offenders to work and lowering costs compared to incarceration. But technological problems can get in the way of those benefits.

Mike Nellis, editor of the Journal of Offender Monitoring, which focuses on the use of monitoring technology to enhance public safety, said such problems can undercut the program.

“To suddenly find yourself carted back to prison for something that is in no way your fault seems to me to be quite an unnecessary disruption in the life of an offender — and quite at odds with good practice in reintegrating them,” Nellis said.

Cecelia Klingele, a University of Wisconsin-Madison associate law professor who specializes in correctional policy, said DOC is in a difficult position when it knows some, or even many, of the alerts it receives are caused by equipment malfunctions.

“Even short periods of jail are highly disruptive and can cause a person to lose his job, be unable to care for children, or even lose stable housing,” Klingele said.

Local officials uncertain over GPS

Some officials in law enforcement who deal with Wisconsin’s GPS program have seen false alerts firsthand and have reservations about the program.

Price County Sheriff Brian Schmidt recalled an incident in which he refused to detain a GPS-monitored offender with a warrant because it appeared to stem from a device malfunction.

“If … you find a gentleman in bed, and the monitor is failing, even though I have the (apprehension) request, I’m less likely to put that person in jail,” Schmidt said.

DOC sees it another way. “There is no such thing as a ‘false alert,’” Cook said. He said the law requires offenders to be taken into custody until such alerts can be resolved; DOC can have them jailed for up to three days to determine whether a violation occurred.

DOC records show it can take days or even weeks to locate errant offenders, especially if they are homeless or have removed their bracelets.

‘Tail wagging the dog’

Recent studies show that electronic monitoring combined with traditional parole methods and treatment could lower rates of arrests, convictions and returns to custody. But a University College London study speculates that any positive effects may be due to increased compliance with treatment programs, not the monitoring itself.

Susan Turner, a professor of criminology, law and society at University of California-Irvine, argues such systems do not provide much benefit for the cost.

In a 2015 study on California’s GPS program that she co-authored, Turner found the system does reduce recidivism, but only for administrative violations such as failure to register as a sex offender, not for criminal sex and assault violations, where recidivism is already “very low.”

“I think they (lawmakers) had the tail wagging the dog,” Turner said. “They hadn’t really thought through what exactly they hoped to accomplish by putting it on, other than just saying we got the GPS on the sex offender.”

Malfunctions lead to jailings

Offenders interviewed by the Center say they generally have experienced fewer malfunctions as time passes. Jessa Nicholson Goetz, a Madison-based criminal defense attorney, said that technological improvements have largely resolved the malfunctions her clients experienced.

Still, problems do remain.

James Morgan, a sex offender profiled in the Center’s original report who was jailed for alleged GPS violations at least eight times between 2011 and March 2013, has been arrested three times since then for alleged GPS violations. DOC records show that one time was for a lost signal, which was not Morgan’s fault. In another case, Morgan said, his bracelet malfunctioned.

If found guilty of violating the terms of his monitoring, Morgan, 58, could be returned to prison for years. That prospect keeps him up at night.

“I could potentially never walk out,” Morgan said as his daughter, Angela, and new wife, Rachel, listened beside him.

George Drake, president of Correct Tech LLC, an Albuquerque-based corrections technology consulting company, said agencies should use more discretion.

“If I take this guy into custody, for this two-minute curfew violation, it’s going cost (the offender) his job, and he won’t be able to pay the victim his restitution, and it’s going to create an awful lot of hardships,” Drake said.

Coburn Dukehart, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism 

Steven Nichols, 48, in his apartment in Whitehall, Wis., is a registered sex offender, having spent time in prison for two separate child sex-related convictions in 2005 and 2008. He is on supervision and has been placed on lifetime GPS monitoring. Nichols says the restrictions of supervision make it difficult to find a job.

GPS coverage poor in rural areas

The system’s ability to accurately locate offenders in rural areas, where cell service is poor, also can be spotty.

Several offenders told the Center they have received repeated phone calls from the monitoring center or their probation agents asking them to regain a signal or informing them they are located in places where offenders claim not to be.

David Bay, a sex offender on GPS from Ashland County, has been arrested three times on probation violations since 2013. He claimed the problem was with his monitoring bracelet. Bay, 69, of Glidden, said he faces days in jail if he strays too far from the beacon at his home.

Battery malfunctions are widely reported, according to DOC records. Of the 93 service requests submitted in May for battery problems, some were for batteries that failed to take a charge or drained within a few hours. BI Inc., the device manufacturer, advertises that its devices can hold a charge for up to 80 hours.

When GPS bracelets lose their charge prematurely, offenders who are outside of their homes must race to find a place to gain a charge, or face jail time.

Coburn Dukehart, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism 

Steven Nichols says the GPS monitor he wears often fails, and he has been arrested and placed in jail repeatedly due to alleged GPS violations. To charge the unit Nichols, 48, must be tethered to a power outlet.

“When they go dead, they go dead fast,” said Steven Nichols, 48, of Whitehall. “I once charged it fully and drove to Eau Claire (a 50-minute drive), and it was beeping that the battery was dead.”

Jason Wolford, a 37-year-old offender on lifetime GPS, said he has spent up to five hours sitting in one place to charge an older unit. GPS service requests show reports of charging taking up to seven hours. Offenders say new units charge in about 30 minutes.

Cook said DOC submits service requests when any potential technical issue is identified with equipment. Drake said the DOC should regularly replace the batteries; letting them go dead is “poor management.”

A life still interrupted

On an early August evening with the summer sun setting behind them, McCormick, his fiance Breanna Kerssen and a friend packed boxes of belongings into two aging Acura sedans and drove down a winding country road away from his grandmother’s house to an apartment in Sparta where McCormick hoped better cell reception would give him a life less interrupted by the corrections system.

“I was tired about getting phone calls (from the monitoring center),” McCormick said as he surveyed his new yard. “Here, I don’t have to worry about that as much.”

McCormick’s optimism, it turns out, was misplaced.

In addition to two more arrests since moving to Sparta, the monitoring center called McCormick in October when he came within half a block of a liquor store, which is one of his exclusion zones. Another time, he had to return home early from helping with his grandmother’s fall yard cleanup.

The monitoring center said it could not gain a signal.