News

IPR file photo by Kathleen Masterson

As the number of farms hit with avian flu grows over 100 nationwide, regulators are implementing containment plans meant to stop the virus’ spread, spare millions of at-risk birds and thousands of poultry farms.

Farms in many states, including Iowa, Missouri and Kansas, are struggling to contain an active outbreak.

“A rapid response is extremely important in an infectious disease outbreak like this,” said Jim Roth, head of the Center for Food Safety and Public Health at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

City of Concord NC / Flickr

The Arc of Southeast Iowa is in the process of building an inclusive playground in Iowa City. And though federal guidelines instituted in 2014 require newly built playgrounds to be ADA accessible, "accessible" and inclusive can be two very different things. Jorja Ludeking is one of the leaders on the project at the Arc. She says ensuring playgrounds are welcoming and accomodating to people of all abilities is essential.

Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments over same-sex marriage yesterday, with Justice Anthony Kennedy saying that he’s not sure the court has the power to redefine an institution that has been around for “millennia.”

University of Northern Iowa associate political science professor Donna Hoffman says that at its core, it's a tricky statement.

John Pemble/IPR

Hundreds of union workers have been laid off at the giant Iowa Fertilizer plant in Lee County, and critics complain the company has hired a new non-union contractor to take their place with out-of-state employees.  

It’s a controversial project that the state spent millions of dollars in incentives to attract.  

Senator Tom Courtney (D-Burlington) says he’s been advised that the main subcontractor has been fired and the union workers let go.    

He says an ad in Texas shows a non-union contractor is recruiting replacement workers to come to Iowa through December.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republicans and Democrats joined hands at the Capitol Tuesday arguing for landowner rights in the face of two large energy projects, the Bakken crude oil pipeline and the Rock Island Clean Line,  a proposed 500 mile electric transmission line.  

 Lawmakers say Iowa’s law is out of date when it comes to condemning land for big private projects.     

Douglas Potratz / Fall of Saigon Marines Association

On this date 40 years ago, two marines were killed in Saigon, including an Iowan; the last American combat deaths of the Vietnam War. Iowa Public Radio’s Rick Fredericksen reports on a memorial to be dedicated in their honor.

Marshalltown native Darwin Judge and fellow marine Charles McMahon were guarding an airport gate during the final evacuation when their position was shelled. A bronze plaque will be unveiled in their memory tonight. Douglas Potratz is heading a delegation from The Fall of Saigon Marines Association.

Clay Masters / IPR

Iowa was only the third state in the nation to legalize same sex marriage, but it was the first to do it unanimously.

Tom Witosky and Marc Hansen wrote “Equal Before the Law: How Iowa Led Americans to Marriage Equality.” Witosky says the unanimity of the decision and Iowa’s moderate reputation helped sway national public opinion towards marriage equality. He points out that polls started shifting significantly in favor of same sex marriage in 2009, the year after the Varnum vs. Brien decision.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

   Ceremonies were held across the state in recognition of Workers Memorial Day. April 28th is set aside each year to remember those who have died on the job. 

Thirty-nine Iowans lost their lives in the past year while at work. 

White crosses honored each of the dead. Bagpipes played and an honor guard fired a 21-gun salute. The president of the Iowa Federation of Labor – Ken Sagar – addressed family members of the workers.

“I do remember what it’s like to sit in one of those chairs," he recalls. "My wife’s brother passed a few years ago on the job.”

Colleen Chisman

As wild animals have adapted to our growing cities and towns, more and more people are encountering wildlife in their own backyards. What do you do if the wild animals you find are injured, orphaned, or displaced?

Chipotle Goes GMO-Free

Apr 28, 2015
Photo by Mr.TinDC/Creative Commons

Chipotle Mexican Grill said Monday that it completed a task that had remained elusive for years: removing all food products derived from genetically engineered crops from its menu.

The Denver-based company is the first national restaurant chain to make the change.

John Pemble/IPR

Teachers, administrators, and students at Southeast Polk Schools Monday sang the praises of Iowa’s new Teacher Leadership and Compensation program, known as TLC.  

Teachers get paid more when they take on leadership roles to help other teachers.  

Madison  Fontana teaches second grade.   She’s in her second year of teaching and she says she’s getting more help this year :

“ It’s been a huge support system for new teachers,” Fontana says.   “We have someone to go to whether it be the instructional coaches or the model teachers.”

Photo by John Pemble/IPR

A Republican-dominated committee in the Iowa House has approved a controversial Board of Regents plan to give more money to state universities that attract more Iowa students.

It’s called performance-based funding.   

But the panel approved no money to soften the blow for the University of Iowa. 

Why do farmers burn their fields?

Apr 28, 2015
Photo by Jacob Grace for Harvest Public Media

Farmers burn their fields to remove plants that are already growing and to help the plants that are about to come up. These burns are often called “prescribed burns” because they are used to improve the health of the field.

What tools do farmers need for a burn?

To keep the fire contained, farmers need to clear away burnable matter around the edges of the field, which usually requires a lawn mower or larger machinery. The burn itself can be managed with some simple, specific tools.

Flickr / FAOALC

UPDATE: The United States Department of Agriculture has confirmed H5N2 in a Sioux County flock of 1.7 million hens. The USDA has not yet confirmed the presence of avian flu in the other four suspected flocks.

More than 6 million hens and juvenile chickens in northwest Iowa will be euthanized pending final confirmation of H5N2. The Iowa Department of Agriculture reports a total of five flocks may be affected by this highly pathogenic strain of avian flu. 

The Nepalese community living in Iowa is rallying to support people back home following a killer earthquake.  A fund drive for those hurt by the devastating trembler is underway.

A spokesman for the Iowa Nepalese Association estimates around 100 families from Nepal are living in the Des Moines area.

Bikram Shrestha of Waukee says the families have been in contact with close relatives back home and none were lost or killed.

He says the local Nepalese are raising money to help ease the suffering

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Mary Roach’s first book proposal was the product of a dare on New Year’s Eve. She says she never envisioned herself as the author of several New York Times best-selling books.

“I’d been writing for magazines for 10-15 years. Writing a book seemed daunting, but I worked in an office with a lot of writers. We would make predictions for what we would all do in the coming year. Someone said I would get a book contract, and then it was October, and I figured I needed to get started.”

Photo by John Pemble / IPR

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is currently in his sixth term as governor. As the 2015 legislative session nears a close, he says that legislation on the gas tax and broadband access for rural communities are the biggest accomplishments of this session.

In this River to River interview, IPR statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell talks with the governor about his views on medical marijuana, granting felons voter rights, and how he plans to deal with the budget impasse.

Julie Lesnik

Iowa State University primatologist Jill Pruetz studies the spear-wielding Savannah chimpanzees ofSenegal. Most recently, after documenting more than 300 tool-assisted hunts, the team found that while adult male chimps are the main hunters, it's the female chimps that hunt with tools more than males.

“It’s just another example of diversity in chimp behavior that we keep finding the longer we study wild chimps,” Pruetz says. “It is more the exception than the rule that you’ll find some sort of different behavior, even though we’ve studied chimps extensively.”

John Pemble / IPR

    

Photo by John Pemble

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds is in Brazil this week.  

She’ll return on Saturday from a week-long trade mission to one of the state’s largest trading partners.     

Reynolds says Iowa and Brazil are both leaders in agriculture and agricultural equipment.

“The delegation is comprise of 15 individuals representing various Iowa industries,” Reynolds says, “and the mission will include two cities, Sao Paulo and Ribeirão Preto.”  

Travel will be paid by private donations to the Iowa Economic Development Authority Foundation.

Clay Masters / IPR

Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio made his first appearance in Iowa after officially announcing he's running for his party's nomination. He was one of nine Republican Presidential hopefuls who spoke at a church in Waukee, a suburb of Des Moines, on Saturday evening. 

Ted Murphy

An Illinois grandmother will not be taking home almost $42 million from a Waterloo casino. Isle of Capri Casinos says Pauline McKee’s big win was due to an equipment malfunction.

The Iowa Supreme Court sided with the company.

On July 2, 2011 Pauline McKee of Antioch, Illinois was visiting northeast Iowa for a family reunion. Some of the family was staying at the Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo and at about 9:00 pm the  87-year-old woman and her daughters went to the gaming floor.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter says he’s still lobbying hard for a controversial plan to redistribute state funds to Iowa’s Regents Universities.   

The plan would appropriate money on the basis of how many Iowa students each university attracts, with more money going to University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University, and less to the University of Iowa.  

Neither the House nor the Senate education budget includes money for the proposal, but Rastetter says that’s not the final word.

Markus Spring / Flickr

Preventing security leaks in information systems can be a frustrating endeavor that often leads back to a simple question: why do people violate the rules when they know of the dangerous consequences?

In order to answer that question, Dr. Qing Hu, a Union Pacific Professor in Information Systems at Iowa State University, decided to go straight to the source: the brain.

Raquelveludo / Wikimedia Commons

Shocking data reveals more than half of Iowa's trees fall under just two different genera: maple and ash. 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources Forestry Bureau recently inventoried trees in 273 communities across the state. The results showed that maple and ash trees make up 54 percent of trees in Iowa’s public parks and streets. DNR Urban Forrester Matt Brewer says that the state needs to value diversity and learn from past diseases that hit the tree population.

Clay Masters / IPR

Governor Terry Branstad’s plan to privatize parts of the state’s Medicaid system is moving forward. Medicaid is the healthcare program for low income Iowans; that represents $4.2 billion in state and federal spending.

Flickr

The Iowa Department of Agriculture is responding to a second case of avian flu in a Northwest Iowa turkey flock. It’s a commercial operation in Sac County.   The facility has 34,000 turkeys and is located near the initial case of H5N2 in Buena Vista County. State officials have quarantined the production areas and birds on the property will be euthanized to prevent the spread of the disease.

State Agriculture officials and the Iowa Department of Public Health are working directly with poultry workers at the affected facility to ensure proper precautions are being taken.

Wine Cooler

Apr 23, 2015
Submitted photo

Grape growers get nervous when temperatures drop into the 20s in April as they did in some parts of Iowa Wednesday night. State Viticulture Specialist Mike White says a freeze warning is always cause for concern but he's had no reports of damage, "for the most part things look pretty good in Iowa. There may have been a vineyard or two in Southern Iowa in a low area that had frost, but I think right now,we're looking pretty good."

South Dakota Historical Society Press

Laura Ingalls Wilder completed the original draft of her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, in the spring of 1930. It was never published, but it led to one of the most beloved series of books of all time.

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography is finally in print. Editor Pamela Smith Hill has painstakingly researched that original draft, sharing light on the events that Wilder wrote about, and painting a picture about a remarkable family that lived through momentous times.

Joyce Russell / IPR

Democrats in the Iowa Senate heard from employees and former employees at the state’s mental health institutes in Mount Pleasant and Clarinda on Wednesday, after the institutes continue to be targeted by Governor Branstad for closing.

Nurses and other staff say patients and their families are still calling and asking for placements, even though the institutions are not accepting new patients. Ann Davison is a nurse at Clarinda who still has her job, "We've received over 120 calls from across the state, from 66 of the 99 counties."

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