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Joyce Russell/IPR

Three Iowa school districts will test out a new program to provide first responders with better information in the event of a school shooting or other emergency.   

The program is dubbed WISE, for Wi-Fi Internet for School Emergencies.

Under the pilot project, a dedicated wi-fi network will link law enforcement officials with school surveillance cameras in Marshalltown, Norwalk, and Martensdale-Saint Mary's Community Schools.  

Iowa Department of Public Safety

An increase in bicycle fatalities on Iowa roadways this year has cyclists and public safety officials concerned, and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau has launched a public awareness campaign to address the problem.    

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition says already this year there have been nine fatalities, more than in any year since 2010.    

That includes the death of a RAGBRAI cyclist early Sunday morning.

Governor Branstad says his administration will be recommending ways to address distracted and drunk driving, and that includes bicycle safety.

WIKICOMMONS / BrokenSphere

The recidivism rate for ex-offenders is significantly lower when they find employment after they leave prison. But getting hired can be difficult for people with criminal records.

This week, Iowa employers can attend free seminars to learn more about the benefits of hiring people with criminal records. The federally-sponsored program is titled “Iowa’s Untapped Workforce: A Roadmap for Second Chance Hiring.”

City of West Des Moines

Officials in West Des Moines are touting what the news of a third data center from Microsoft means for development in the southwest corner of the city. 

The computer giant is announcing plans to build a one-point-seven million square foot data center in an area straddling Warren and Madison counties within West Des Moines city limits. It will be built in four phases, with the initial investment at $417 million. West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer says the project will pay for the infrastructure needed to open thousands of acres to commercial and residential development.

ACLU of Iowa

A long-time employee at the Iowa Women’s Prison in Mitchellville has filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of gender identity. 

According to the complaint, 34-year old Department of Corrections transgender nurse Jesse Vroegh is being denied access to male restrooms and locker rooms, but  is allowed to use unisex facilities instead.       

Michael Leland, Iowa Public Radio

Population and economic growth in metropolitan areas often pits local community interests against those of the larger region. Now, something different is happening in Central Iowa, and it’s resulting in a remarkable number of construction projects in the Des Moines area. The urban center and its suburbs are coming together for the good of all.

For decades, the suburbs of Des Moines have boomed while the city itself has retracted. Today, things seem to be evening out, according to real estate attorney Larry James.

Flickr

Floating down the river on an inner tube is a common way to escape the summer heat. However, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has some advice to make your trip a smooth ride.

The DNR’s Todd Robertson says even though you’re surrounded by water, you still need to consume plenty of fluids.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

U.S. Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack may be on Hillary Clinton's short-list for a vice presidential running mate. Several national media outlets have reported that while Vilsack has not confirmed he's being vetted, Clinton insiders say he's in the running.

Vilsack served as the Democratic governor of Iowa from 1999-2007. He's been in President Obama's cabinet since 2009.

Flickr / Jimmy Emerson, DVM

The Iowa College Student Aid Commission says more than $700,000 in grants will be awarded to 16 healthcare professionals who work in rural Iowa. The grants will be matched by the communities where the recipients are employed.

Danielle Weber is a physical therapist who lives and works in Jefferson, the seat of Greene County. With more than $80,000 in debt she says the grant is like winning the lottery.

She explains that while her tuition at Des Moines University was “not cheap,” salaries in rural communities tend to skew lower.

Pat Blank/IPR

Wright County Supervisors have taken the first step toward a proposed a $240 million pork processing plant by rezoning land near Highway 17. Today’s vote came after both discussion and protest.

Storm clouds loomed on the horizon as about 50 members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement gathered on the lawn of the court house prior to the vote.  That mood continued for some all morning. CCI member and county resident Kathy Schnell says she’s bothered by the speed at which the plan by North Carolina-based Prestage Farms is moving

Dean Borg/IPR

Regents President Bruce Rastetter says the board wants the universities to develop two-year budgets, hoping the Iowa legislators will reciprocate with more appropriation predictability. “And that’s what we’ve asked the universities to think about in terms of their needs so we can be more forward looking for parents and their students on what tuition may look like over the course of two and three years out rather than just year by year,” he said. Rastetter also said Iowa State President Steven Leath and Iowa’s Bruce Herrald asked that their salaries not be increased, so the Regents postponed

Flickr / photolibrarian

Gov. Terry Branstad has issued a disaster proclamation for Benton, Humboldt and Wright counties.

The three counties requested the aid after recent severe weather, saying the demands of the disaster response exceeded local resources.

Dean Borg / IPR

Powerful winds swept through Eastern Iowa in Sunday morning’s predawn darkness, collapsing a house on four people in Walford and ripping the roof from a Vinton apartment building.

Linn County sheriff’s deputies, responding to emergency calls, found Brett Gioimo, 27, trapped inside a pile of rubble that had been his home. He was transported to a hospital.

Ashlee Shill, 28, and two children aged three and four years old were also in the house when it collapsed, but were not injured.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

A new billboard with the message “Meat Kills, Go Vegan” will appear on Highway 17 in Wright County. The roadside message, which also lists health risks correlated with meat consumption, comes from an animal rights organization that aims to prevent the construction of a pork processing plant.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PETA, wants to stop Prestage Farms from constructing a proposed plant, which the company says will create 900 fulltime jobs. The meat processor is considering Wright County, after a failed attempt to build a facility in Mason City. 

Flickr / Jason Mrachina

U.S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack will be at the National Governors Association's summer meeting in Des Moines Saturday to discuss the value of local foods to rural economies.

Vilsack says in order to repopulate rural communities, smaller farming operations need consumers that don't put a premium on size and speed. One strategy to carve out markets for these smaller producers is through food hubs.

Jeremy Bernfeld/Harvest Public Media

Food companies and farm groups were the victors Thursday with the passage of a federal bill establishing standards for the disclosure of genetically-modified ingredients in food products.

Pat Blank/IPR

Eagle Lake in Evansdale is home to the nationally-ranked competitive water ski team known as the Water Hawks.  The lake is small, only 15 feet deep. It’s usually buzzing with skiers practicing for their next show, but one day each July it’s transformed into a playground for people with mobility limitations.  

Fourteen-year-old Suzanne Shoemaker has cerebral palsy and earlier this week, was here at the adaptive ski clinic near Waterloo for the second time.

Rick Fredericksen/IPR file photo

A new study supports planting perennial grasses on current cropland as a way to reduce nutrient loss from farm fields.

 

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A new $10 million emergency department was dedicated today at the VA Central Iowa Health Care System in Des Moines. 

About 1,000 veterans a month arrive at the Des Moines facility needing emergency treatment. The new addition includes a designated space for infectious disease care, decontamination showers and eight private treatment rooms, including one for mental health crisis. 

John Pemble/IPR file

Judges and justices often make unpopular decisions, and these decisions may come back to haunt them come election season.

For Supreme Court justices in Iowa, that’s every eight years. And this November, Chief Justice Mark Cady, along with Justices Daryl Hecht and Brent Appel will be on the ballot.

Voters will not be asked to choose between the current justices and a challenger; rather with a retention election, voters are simply asked if each justice should keep his or her job.

But, many dislike Iowa’s judicial retention system.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

From the outside, it looks the same as it did on opening day in 1924 when one and a half million bricks became the headquarters of the Equitable Life Insurance Company. In its prime, just about everyone in Des Moines came here to see a dentist or doctor, buy a wedding ring at Josephs, or a milk shake at King's Pharmacy.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa's senior senator is putting national security concerns near the top of his agenda.

Republican Chuck Grassley is introducing a bill to make the U.S. Department of Agriculture a permanent member of a committee that reviews foreign companies' efforts to buy U.S. businesses. 

Grassley says already a Chinese firm has a major foothold in the pork industry here and more food and agriculture mergers and acquisitions are pending.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

The USDA’s latest update of Iowa crop shows the state with areas of “haves” and “have-nots”.

Despite abundant rains with water standing in some north Iowa fields, the USDA says topsoil moisture is short-to-very-short in nearly a quarter of the state. 

But 76 percent of the state has adequate-to-surplus top soil moisture.

Clay Masters / IPR

  Presidential hopefuls barnstorm Iowa for months or even years in the run up to the state's first in the nation contest. Many hit all of its 99 counties, but the general election is all about the state's half dozen electoral votes. That means the campaigns treat it differently.

An efficient way to get voters is to target places like Ankeny, Iowa. New census data shows this small farm town turned bustling Des Moines suburb is the third-fastest growing city in the country. Gary Lorenz is its mayor. He says growth is more than just building roads.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

In Washington D.C. the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hard at work hoping to elect more Democrats to the U.S. House.  

In Iowa, they’ve targeted 3rd District Republican incumbent David Young for defeat.   

The DCCC has launched television ads linking Young to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.  

The ads will run in Iowa through the Republican convention.   

The ads are running in ten congressional districts across the country.  

Flickr / michellewithoneell

The ninth annual 80/35 musical festival starts today in Des Moines. The two-day event in Western Gateway Park features nearly 40 local and national acts.

80/35 project manager Amedeo Rossi of the Des Moines Music Coalition handles much of the booking. 

Rossi says he likes bringing interesting musicians to Des Moines, who have yet to tour in central Iowa.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A striking restoration project has been completed at Terrace Hill. The governors' residence now features a reflecting pool.

Originally an outdoor swimming pool dating back to the 1920s, it may have been the first private pool in Des Moines.  It was filled in and went largely unnoticed for decades, but donations were secured to revive this piece of lost history which is now clearly visible during public tours of the old Hubbell Mansion. 

Peggy Lowe/Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Senate late Thursday approved a bill that outlaws states' efforts to put labels on food products made with genetically-modified organisms and instead gives companies more leeway in disclosing GMOs.

The measure must still be passed by the U.S. House, but there are lots of questions. Harvest Public Media has been watching this ongoing battle for more than a year and we have answers for the five big questions about this latest volley in this food fight.

 

IOLTA / Office of Professional Regulation, Iowa Judicial Branch

Nearly $240,000 in grants will be given to 14 Iowa legal non-profits that assist low-income people. This funding comes from the state's Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Account program, which has suffered extreme decreases over the past decade.

So while this year's grants total $28,000 more than what was distributed in 2015-16, the funding is still less than what some legal service organizations say they need. 

Pat Blank/IPR

Ninety-six-year-old Rose became a fraud victim in 2013 when she received a sweepstakes letter in the mail at her northeast Iowa home, saying she’d won a Publisher’s Clearing House prize.

"I was supposed to get $2 million," she remembers. “It was my last paycheck and I cashed that. I think I even borrowed $8,000. And then he said they would be coming over. I said, 'how many people?’ and he said there’s seven of us. So I sent the money and nobody came."

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