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Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War

A group of Civil War patriots is re-marking U.S. Highway-6 in honor of soldiers who served in the Union Army. 

Running from Council Bluffs to Davenport, old U.S. Highway-6 was named the "Grand Army of the Republic Highway" in 1947. Many of the road signs proclaiming the highway's tribute have vanished. Now more than 150 years since the Civil War, Iowans are working to save the memory. Dan Rittel is with the group Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Senate Candidates Debate Water Quality

May 27, 2016
Iowa Public Television

The four candidates competing to be the Iowa Democratic Party's nominee for the U.S. Senate are offering different views on how best to resolve water quality concerns.  The four Democrats appeared on Iowa Public Television for an hour last night in the only statewide forum that will be televised before the June 7th Primary. They were asked about the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit challenging how farm chemical run-off is handled in three northwest Iowa counties. Former Iowa Ag Secretary Patty Judge says water quality "has to be addressed now" throughout the country.

KCCI.com

The three candidates hoping to clinch the Democratic Party’s nomination in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District debated in Des Moines Thursday night.

Hardly any differences surfaced on the policy positions held by Mike Sherzan, Jim Mowrer and Desmund Adams. But Adams says this primary isn’t about issues, but rather about beating the Republican incumbent, Congressman David Young.

Flickr / Alan Light

This Memorial Day weekend is expected to be the most heavily-traveled since 2005.  

AAA estimates 38 million people across the county will travel at least 50 miles.

Gail Weinholzer of the Iowa AAA says gas prices in the state are roughly 40 cents lower than they were a year ago, and historically there has been a strong correlation between low gas prices and the number of drivers.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A class of fifth graders at Saint Anthony Catholic School in Des Moines are reaching a milestone. The students are coming to the end of six years of taking all of their coursework in Spanish. 

The 10- and 11-year olds are native English speakers. They have been completely immersed in a second language since kindergarten. Eleven-year-old Tyler Faris wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he began learning in Spanish at the age of five.

“I felt kind of nervous because it was a whole different language and I barely knew English,” he says.

WIKICOMMONS / Farragutful

An eastern Iowa town of 2,800 people is investing in its future by reviving the past.

Wilton was recently awarded a $500,000 federal grant to restore its downtown.

That's money it plans to match through tax increment financing and funds from local businesses. 

Becky Allgood of the Wilton Development Corporation says she hopes that renovating the facades of 18 downtown buildings to their original 19th century aesthetic will draw new businesses to the community. Soon, structures will display features like original brickwork and iron columns. 

IPR file photos

Two of the four Democrats running for U.S. Senate spoke at the South Side Democrat Federal Candidate Forum in Des Moines Tuesday night. State Sen. Rob Hogg and former state Sen. Tom Fiegen addressed a wide range of issues, including the environment and criminal justice. 

Both candidates agreed on the need for sentencing reform. Fiegen also spoke about decriminalizing marijuana, doing away with for-profit prisons, and advocates for fewer prosecutors being appointed to the federal bench. 

Dean Borg/IPR

Jason Schroeder is praising a new prosthetic leg with a motorized, flexing ankle that distinguishes it from others that he has used.

“I have quite the collection,” explains the 45-year-old Schroeder, of Colona, Illinois. “One for every occasion. Water skiing, snow skiing, running."

Schroeder had to make the amputation decision in 2005 after a rail car crushed his left foot.

“So we went in,” he said, “decided to amputate the leg, about nine inches below the knee.”

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Sen. Chuck Grassley and a bi-partisan group of senators are calling on Congress to pass legislation that reforms the way sexual assault cases are prosecuted in the military. 

The Military Justice Improvement Act would strip the decision of whether a serious crime goes to trial from the chain of command, and place it with trained military prosecutors.

Grassley says it’s clear the Defense Department can’t be trusted to prosecute cases, in light of new information that shows the Pentagon deceived Congress on how military sexual assaults are handled.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

The country's top agriculture official is declining to comment on some of the largest proposed mergers the farm economy has ever seen.

Paul Hudson/Flickr

The Iowa Utilities Board is holding public comment meetings starting today, regarding a proposed water rate increase that would affect roughly 63,000 customers in eastern Iowa.

Iowa-American Water Company wants to increase rates by approximately 13.7 percent. The Davenport-based water utility says it needs additional funds primarily to cover infrastructure updates and to supplement declining costumer use.

It estimates the average monthly residential bill will increase by $5.10 and the average monthly commercial bill to increase by $30.21.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

A female eastern black rhino in Des Moines is expecting her first calf. 

Six-year-old Ayana at the Blank Park Zoo will likely give birth in late October or early November. Black rhinos are usually grey in color and have a prehensile front lip which they use to grab twigs and leaves. 

Blank Park’s Ryan Bickel says the zoo is very excited, since black rhinos are critically endangered and hunted in the wild for their horns.

Harvest Public Media file photo by Luke Runyon

A group of Nebraska farmers is suing the giant seed and chemical company Monsanto in federal court, saying the company's top-selling herbicide gave them cancer.

Farmers Larry Domina, Robert Dickey, and Royce Janzen, along with agronomist Frank Pollard, have all been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. They were exposed to Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller in their work on the farm.

 

They allege that Roundup caused their illness and that Monsanto downplayed research showing the chemical poses a cancer risk.

Clay Masters / IPR

This week IPR News is taking a look at water quality in the state.

A state cost share program designed to help Iowa farmers install nutrient reduction practices on their farm is entering its fourth year.  Lawmakers and the governor struggled this legislative session to come up with a way to spend more money on water quality in the state. In the last three years, the state has awarded $12 million on 45 different projects.

Jason Staker/HCC

In less than a year, Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo has enrolled more than 550 students in English Language Learning classes.

Family Literacy Coordinator Laura Hidlebaugh says while that number is impressive, what’s more remarkable is that the students come from 38 countries.

“They’re responsible students and parents and community citizens working on becoming U.S. citizens, but from so many different countries," she said. “But within those countries there’s so much diversity in those first languages.” 

Clay Masters / IPR

This week IPR News is taking a look at water quality in the state.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

Vermont's first-in-the-nation labeling law for foods containing genetically modified ingredients takes effect July 1, and there now appears to be some movement in the U.S. Senate to pass a law to prevent it.

Some food companies have already started to identify products that contain GMOs, in readiness for the Vermont law, but opponents of the requirement continue to press for a Congressional solution that would prevent every state from making its own rules.

Iowa City Police

Iowa City police say video evidence and eye witness accounts don’t support a racial hate crime against University of Iowa student Marcus Owens.

Police and Johnson County attorney Janet Lyness presented their conclusions at a press conference this morning.

Iowa City Police Captain Troy Kelsay told reporters and some city council members investigation findings don’t support Owens’ initial statements.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

The U.S. Senate Agriculture committee will hold an oversight hearing this week to look at the Farm Credit System. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who sits on the committee, says the hearing will examine concerns that the agency has strayed from its mission to lend money to rural Americans with little access to credit.

"There are some interests that have been expressed to us, outside this hearing, who would say that the Farm Credit System has gone beyond its goal and purpose of helping rural America and farming in particular," he said.

Walter Rollman

A quarter-century after its return to Iowa, the sandhill crane continues to expand its range across the state. Volunteers have completed their annual census. 

Enthusiasts gather before sunrise at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt, a vast wildlife and recreation area in the northeast Polk County -- the state's most metropolitan county. 

"We hear all the time, people will tell us they'll say I didn't know this was here, I had no idea it was here, and you know we're 30 miles from Des Moines, maybe 20 miles as a crow flies," says Doug Sheely, a supervisor at Chichaqua.

Gov. Terry Branstad says he was encouraged by the unity and commitment he observed last Thursday night at the Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual fundraiser for the Iowa GOP.

Many Republican voters, both statewide and nationally, are struggling with whether to support Donald Trump, the party’s de facto nominee.  Though Branstad doesn’t support everything Trump stands for, he is endorsing the New York real estate mogul, citing national security, health insurance costs and debt.

AIB College of Business

A Des Moines school that has trained people to enter the business world for 95 years holds its final graduation ceremonies Sunday.

The American Institute of Business began in 1921 in a single room with 30-dollars-worth of used furniture and one borrowed chair. Two college roommates, Ray Hansen and E.O. Fenton, had an idea, says Fenton's son, Keith.

“They started a teacher placement agency," he says. "I don’t know if it was hard to get teachers or if it was hard for teachers to get jobs.”

WIKICOMMONS / Iowahwyman

The Polk County community stands to lose millions in taxes, revenue sharing, and charitable donations now that IRS wants to pull the tax exempt status of a Des Moines-area casino. 

Between Polk County’s lease and revenue sharing agreements with Prairie Meadows, the hotel, casino, and racetrack contributes roughly $26 million annually the county.

New reforms to Iowa sentencing code in the areas of child endangerment, non-violent drug offense, and robbery were signed into law on Thursday. Gov. Terry Branstad calls the legislation "a balanced approach" aimed at making Iowa’s criminal justice system more equitable.

Child Endangerment

People convicted of child endangerment resulting in death in Iowa now must serve 30 to 70 percent of their sentence before they can be paroled. Though the crime has the sentence of 50 years, offenders have been immediately eligible for parole.

Flickr / Andrew Higgins

A new law signed Wednesday allows Iowa to finance a statewide communication system of high tech radios for first responders.

Commissioner Roxann Ryan of the Iowa Department of Public Safety says Iowa is currently one of only a handful of states without an interoperable communication system. First responders elsewhere in the country have found the high tech radios especially helpful during natural disasters, when cell phones towers are damaged or networks are overloaded.

Courtesy of Oxfam America

Thousands of chainmail-clad workers with knives and hooks keep a modern poultry plant running, churning out the millions of pounds of poultry we eat every year. The job is difficult and demanding, especially for line employees who make the same motion for hours, struggling to keep up with a fast-moving disassembly line. 

A new report from Oxfam America paints an even bleaker picture. 

Iowa Public Radio / Amy Mayer

Sen. Chuck Grassley says the Republican Party has time to unite behind real estate mogul Donald Trump, the apparent GOP presidential nominee, before the November Election. That's in spite of the fact that several prominent Republicans have withheld their endorsements.

CLAY MASTERS / IPR

Gov. Terry Branstad says he’ll support the nominee of his party in the presidential race this November. He adds that he'll be the very first to admit that he underestimated real-estate mogul Donald Trump, the apparent Republican nominee.

"This summer, when he came to the Iowa State Fair, flew his helicopter around and all of this stuff. I thought, 'This is not going to last,'" says Branstad. "Well I was wrong, as have been most of the pundits and political people."

Flickr / Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures

Iowa now has statewide regulations for ride-sourcing companies like Uber and Lyft.  Gov. Terry Branstad signed legislation into law on Monday, requiring ride-sourcing companies in Iowa to conduct driver background checks.

Drivers must also have a $1 million insurance policy and may only provide pre-arranged rides, meaning they are prohibited from being hailed like a traditional taxicab.

The new law stops cities from implementing tougher local regulations, and trumps ordinances created in Des Moines and Iowa City, where Uber currently operates. 

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Schools across the U.S. served more than 5 billion meals in the national school lunch program to millions of students last year. Each one of the meals has to meet federal rules for nutrition. Now, those rules are up for debate and Congress could impose changes on the cafeteria.

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