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Iowa Public Radio / Joyce Russell

Three State Senate Republicans crossed party lines in voting to pass a bill that would stop the privatization of Iowa's Medicaid system. 

State Sen. David Johnson of Osceola County is the ranking Republican on the Human Services Committee. He says Iowa is trying to do too much too fast and, as a result, healthcare providers and vulnerable people are getting dumped on.

“We need to put a dagger in this,” says Johnson. “It’s moving too fast, and we can come up with a better plan. I’m absolutely convinced of that."

Courtesy Oxfam America

In the first nine months of 2015, workers in meat-packing plants owned by Tyson Foods averaged at least one amputation a month. 

That report was gleaned from a Freedom of Information Act request by Celeste Monforton, a George Washington University occupational health professor.

WIKICOMMONS / Klaus with K

Iowa’s NAACP chapter is asking state lawmakers to pass a number of significant criminal justice reforms this year. The organization says these reforms will improve the lives of African-Americans in Iowa who are arrested and incarcerated at disproportionately high rates.

Don Graham/Flickr

Cuts to the crop insurance program will again be a talking point on Capitol Hill.

The budget drafted by President Obama and released Tuesday would make cuts to the crop insurance system, allocate more funds for agricultural research and fund the summer program that provides free meals to children.

William Patrick Butler/Flickr

Former Democratic Gov. Chet Culver is now in the struggle surrounding the current Governor, Republican Terry Branstad’s plan for converting Iowa’s Medicaid program to private management. Culver is conducting several public forums this month.  In Coralville Tuesday, he listened for two hours to the fears of parents and others receiving Medicaid services about the move away from state management of the program.  He told the roughly 30 people attending the forum that privatizing Medicaid isn’t a partisan political issue.

Flickr / Pat Hawks

If you are one of many who dislike driving on Interstate-80, the Iowa Department of Transportation wants to know what you’d do to make it better through an online survey. The department is gearing up for some major updates to I-80 and is collecting opinion data on the interstate's traffic volume, safety, convenience, and quality.

One of the main options being considered is additional lanes.

Courtesy Adam Dolezal

The persistent decline of honeybees has scientists scrambling to understand what's causing the problem and how to correct it. Humans may be part of the problem.

 

U.S. beekeepers report losing about a third of their colonies each year and the figure increased from 2014 to 2015.

 

FLICKR / GEOF WILSON

The Iowa Utilities Board is holding afternoon meetings this week on whether to grant a permit that allows the construction of a crude oil pipeline through Iowa. The proposed 1,134-mile Dakota Access pipeline would begin in North Dakota, travel through South Dakota and Iowa, and terminate in south-central Illinois.

Dakota Access’s parent company, Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, needs permission from the Iowa Utilities Board so it can use eminent domain to gain access to land along the pipeline’s proposed route.

IDOT

Whiteout conditions caused by today’s snowfall and high winds has closed Interstate 35 in both directions between Ames and Clear Lake. 

The Iowa Department of Transportation says the gate system at the U.S. 30/I-35N and I-35S/U.S. 18 interchanges have been activated and the gate arms are down. Northbound I-35 travelers must exit at U.S. 30. Traveler services are available at the nearby U.S. 30 exits into Ames.  Southbound I-35 travelers must exit at U.S. 18. Traveler services are available at the nearby U.S. 18 exits into Clear Lake and Mason City.

Daniel Orth/Flickr

A Cedar Rapids church is stockpiling bottled water to help Flint, Michigan families deal with that city’s lead-contaminated municipal water supply.  Bottled water cases are being stacked at Mt Zion Baptist Church where Damian Epps is the Senior Pastor.

“My plan is to leave next Monday, on the 15th, and hopefully we can have more than 100,000 bottles of water,” he says. “Take a team of people there and at least spend a day-and-a-half or so passing out water, but also assessing their plight.”

TravelIowa.com

While ice fishing has been in full swing for several months, anglers heading out are encouraged to bring a friend and check the ice often as they make their way to their favorite fishing spot.

Amy Mayer / IPR

    

  After Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory in the Iowa Caucuses many are questioning the political importance of ethanol, an industry that has long held sway in the political scene of Iowa and much of the Midwest.

Iowa is the top-producer of ethanol, the corn-based fuel, in the country. With its status as the first state that gets a crack at the presidential contest, Iowa often brings renewable fuels into the political limelight.

Food safety regulators are hoping new rules will reduce the number of Americans sickened by salmonella bacteria found on the chicken they eat. Currently, salmonella is estimated to cause about 1 million illnesses a year.

NIAID

Regulators are taking aim at foodborne illnesses caused by salmonella. The Department of Agriculture has been able to cut the amount of salmonella found on whole chickens. Now it’s putting in place stricter limits on the amount of bacteria it will allow on cut-up chicken parts and on ground chicken and turkey.

“I think it makes the industry look at things in a different way and say we’ve made progress in one aspect of the production and processing, now we need to make progress in some of these other areas,” says James Dickson, who studies food safety at Iowa State University.

Courtesy Office of the U.S. Trade Representative

The U.S. is formally part of the biggest global trade partnership in history after the countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership symbolically signed the deal in New Zealand. For President Obama, now comes the hard work.  

 

Restoring Prairie on the Great Plains

Feb 4, 2016
Courtesy Prairie Plains Resource Institute

From the air, the Midwest looks like a patchwork of cropland and pastures. But before the land was turned over to plows and center pivots, most of it was a sea of grass. 

Native grasslands were first plowed by pioneers homesteading on the plains. More land was converted to crops as tractors and machinery arrived on the farm and conversion of land intensified. 

A Webster City Hot Lotto winner says he was shortchanged $10 million in his cash prize, and is now suing for that sum plus interest. The lawsuit stems from the rigging of the Hot Lotto game back in December 2010, when Multi-State Lottery Association information security employee Eddie Tipton fraudulently programmed the game to spit out a specific set of numbers and then purchased a ticket with those numbers.

Hot Lotto is a “progressive jackpot" game. If there's no winner, the money is put in the next pot with at least an additional $50,000. 

Wendy/flickr

Republicans in the Iowa House are backing a special kind of prescription painkiller they say will help cut down on opioid abuse.   

GOP lawmakers have introduced a bill to encourage the use of tamper-proof pills for doctors to prescribe for patients likely to abuse. 

Such patients will sometimes alter the pain pills for recreational use.   

Keota Republican Jared Klein says specially formulated painkillers will discourage that.

Iowa Air National Guard

An old F-100 jet fighter has been saved from the graveyard for old military aircraft and will soon be on display at the Air National Guard Headquarters in Maryland. The preservation was a homecoming for a team of specialists in Sioux City.

For 15 years, the Iowa Air National Guard Paint Facility has quietly been spray painting aircraft. It's not your neighborhood body shop; it's the only one like this in the nation according to Colonel Larry Christensen, commander of the 185th Air Refueling Wing.

Clay Masters/IPR

The Iowa Republican Party set a record for GOP caucus turnout last night, with nearly 186,000 participants. The party hopes this means good things for November since many of these caucus goers are new voters.

"We're looking at this data and we're saying, 'Wow, we have enthusiastic voters.' And if you can capture them and work with them, you know we have a really great shoot at turning Iowa red for the presidential election," says Charlie Szold of the Iowa GOP. 

Flickr / Katie Haugland

There’s either a blizzard, winter, or ice storm warning for most of Iowa making travel extremely hazardous. Parts of the state will get 6 to 12 twelve inches of snow.

"We have a big area of low pressure that moving threw the plains and the Midwest," says meteorologist Kelsey Engle at the National Weather Service’s Des Moines Office. "With temperatures cold enough, as well as well enough moisture, that is producing snow across Iowa."

Joyce Russell, Sarah Boden, Amy Mayer/IPR

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses for the Republican presidential nomination, while the Democratic race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was considered neck-and-neck early this morning.

In a speech at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Cruz thanked Iowa Republicans while also referencing scripture, Reagan Democrats, and what he calls “courageous conservatives”.

Photo by Amy Mayer

Delays by the U.S. Department of Agriculture helped make the outbreak of a fast-spreading pig virus worse, according to a federal watchdog agency.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a critical report last month on the USDA’s handling of 2013’s outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus. (pdf)

Healthcare companies WellCare and Meridian are continuing their fights to manage a piece of Iowa’s $4.2 billion Medicaid system.

WellCare was one of four companies selected to privatize Medicaid. But its contract was terminated after Administrative Law Judge Christie Scase determined it had violated rules of the bid process. 

Wikipedia / Citizensharp

In addition to the 1,681 caucus precincts, some Iowa Democrats also have the option to attend either a "satellite caucus" or "tele-caucus" on Monday night. 

Andy McGuire, head of the Iowa Democratic Party, describes these new caucus options as "baby steps" towards a more inclusive process. 

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Many Iowa Republicans are still considering which candidate they'll caucus for on Monday. A Quinnipiac poll of likely GOP caucus participants from earlier this week has 39 percent saying they may change their minds.

Some of the undecided gathered in front of two large projectors on the second floor of the downtown Des Moines Marriott last night to watch the last GOP debate before the caucuses. Moderated by Fox News, the debate was held a half-mile away at the Iowa Events Center. 

Photo by Amy Mayer

For almost a year, presidential candidates have been crisscrossing Iowa, wooing voters in a state that relies on agriculture for about one-third of its economy. But even here, most voters live in cities or suburbs and don't have a first-hand connection to the farm.

That makes it difficult to get candidates talking about food system issues from school lunches, to crop supports, to water quality. Yet these all fall under the federal agriculture department. If candidates aren't talking about them in Iowa, it's possible they'll be left out of the campaigns entirely.

FLICKR / WILLIAM PATRICK BUTLER

As Iowa gears up for transitioning its Medicaid system into private management by three for-profit companies, lawmakers are grappling with how many ombudsmen are needed to give recipients assistance and objective information.

Staff Sergeant Chad D. Nelson, Iowa National Guard

Hundreds of positions in the Iowa National Guard have opened to women for the first time in the Guard’s history, and women have already begun to enlist in combat roles.   

That’s according to Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, Major General Timothy Orr, who delivered his annual Condition of the Guard address to a joint session of the Iowa House and Senate.

Orr says last month’s announcement from Defense Secretary Ashton Carter opening up combat roles to women is having an effect in Iowa.

Dean Borg/IPR

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s half-hour rally in the University of Iowa Field House Tuesday night was frequently interrupted by chirping whistles and protest placards.  Each time, Tump paused, frequently yelling, “Get ‘em out!”

Trump opened the rally by parading members of the UI’s football and wrestling squads across the stage. He also pledged allegiance to Iowa by supporting ethanol and keeping Iowa’s presidential preference caucuses first in the nation.

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