- Associated Press - Sunday, February 16, 2014
Reporting based on NSA leaks wins Polk Award

NEW YORK (AP) - Four journalists who reported on the extent of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden are among the winners of the 65th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post will receive the award for national security reporting for stories based on secret documents leaked by Snowden, a former intelligence analyst.

The awards were announced Sunday by Long Island University.

Journalists who wrote about massive traffic jams caused by bridge lane closures in New Jersey, a catastrophic garment factory collapse in Bangladesh and the struggles of a homeless family in Brooklyn also will be among those honored.

The Polk Awards were created in 1949 in honor of CBS reporter George W. Polk, who was killed while covering the Greek civil war. This year’s awards will be given out April 11. Kimberly Dozier of The Associated Press will read the citations at the ceremony.

James Yardley of The New York Times will be honored for foreign reporting for coverage of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 clothing workers.

The award for national reporting will go to Eli Saslow of The Washington Post for stories about some of the 47 million Americans who receive aid from the federal food stamp program.

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Wis. bill breathes new life into cemetery debate

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - When Kevin Pagenkopf’s son told his first-grade teacher what he wants to be when he grows up, she didn’t expect him to say funeral director.

Pagenkopf said he hopes his 7-year-old son will be able to take over the family’s 101-year-old Oconomowoc funeral home, but the business’ future could be in jeopardy if the state changes its laws to allow competition from cemeteries.

Wisconsin is one of nine states that prohibit cemeteries from owning funeral homes. A bill under consideration in the Legislature would scrap that decades-old law and allow cemeteries and funeral homes to be operated together. Those working against the bill say it’s a bad idea because it would open the way for some big players to move into the state and drive down costs, only to hike them later. But supporters argue deregulating the funeral industry would let an open market determine fair prices.

State and national funeral home associations representing more than 400 directors in Wisconsin oppose the bill, far outnumbering supporters. There are only a small handful of commercial cemeteries in Wisconsin.

“There’s not that many family owned funeral homes (anymore), when 100 years ago, that’s pretty much all you had,” Pagenkopf said. He added, “The track record with these companies that come in, sure they’re cheaper to begin with, but as soon as we fail and go out of business or sell out, that’s when their prices go back up.”

The state’s laws currently prohibit cemetery owners from operating a funeral home on the same property. Wisconsin funeral home owners also can’t own cemeteries elsewhere in the state, and there can be no commercial relationship between cemeteries and funeral homes.

Ending the prohibition would allow companies to provide in-house services or point families to companies that could provide them. It’s a concept cemetery owners say there’s nothing wrong with.

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Wis. dairy farmers enjoying rare price boom

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin’s dairy farmers are getting nearly record-high prices for their milk, thanks to soaring demand, higher dairy exports and a smaller milk supply.

Milk production is down in part because dairy farmers culled their herds in recent years to weather the economic downturn. But now demand is up and, with prices dropping for the corn they feed their cows, dairy farmers should see healthy profits through this year, the Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1bVULVNhttp://bit.ly/1bVULVN ).

“This is the dairy farmers’ year to enjoy,” said Mark Stephenson, the director of the Center for Dairy Profitability at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dairy farmers are looking to squeeze every possible drop of milk from their cows, in part because demand for Wisconsin cheese is up domestically and abroad.

Cheese producers already take whatever they can get from Wisconsin dairy producers but now they have to import 15 percent of their milk from other states, said John Umhoefer, the executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.

Wisconsin’s specialty cheese producers played a big role in the growth of U.S. cheese exports. Jen Pino-Gallagher, a spokesman for the state’s agriculture department, said state cheese exports for the first nine months of 2013 grew 23 percent compared with the same period in 2012, to $128 million.

The overseas demand is highest in Mexico, Canada and Japan, but Wisconsin’s efforts to increase demand in other countries have led to a surge in exports to Panama and South Korea, Pino-Gallagher told the newspaper.

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Cell leases make Wis. towns money but some unhappy

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) - The Fox Cities are making easy money by leasing space for cellphone antennas on land and water towers, but some residents are upset that communities have little control over where the antennas are set up.

A Post-Crescent Media (http://post.cr/1gRi8Tyhttp://post.cr/1gRi8Ty ) survey of 10 communities found that lease fees added up to nearly $1.2 million. That money is being used to offset property taxes and utility fees.

Appleton collected more than $250,000 through 14 leases. The Town of Menasha brought in $246,000, and Neenah made $176,000.

The antenna sites provide a steady stream of money, with carriers willing to pay the fees rather than build their own towers. But some communities aren’t happy, particularly because of a state law that restricts their ability to manage cell towers.

As a result of the 2013 Biennial Budget Act, local governments can no longer prohibit cellphone towers in particular locations or limit their height to less than 200 feet. Nor can they deny a tower based on aesthetics or the availability of a more suitable location.

The cellphone industry lobbied heavily for the legislation, saying some municipalities were creating difficult hurdles or demanding exorbitant fees.

“They were holding the companies somewhat hostage, saying, ‘We’re not going to let you put these in our community,’” said state Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah.