News

Sanofi Pasteur / Patrick Boulen

Chikungunya is a debilitating inflammatory virus carried by mosquitoes. The University of Iowa is one of three sites in the U.S. that is enrolling participants for a clinical trial of an experimental vaccine for chikungunya. The illness has been found in the U.S.

Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic is second only to the Mona Lisa in terms of significance. The Iowan artist was extremely appreciative of Midwest traditions and culture, which he celebrated in 1930 through American Gothic and many other works. The painting is often understood as a satirical comment on the Midwestern character, and is now firmly fixated in the nation’s pop culture. Yet Wood intended it to be a positive statement about rural American values and an image of reassurance at a time of great dislocation and disillusionment.

Flickr / jess2284

Iowa ranks fifth nationally in overall child wellbeing in this year’s Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book. But there's still room for improvement.

As a senior associate and fiscal director for the Des Moines-based Child and Family Policy Center, Mike Crawford works with the Casey Foundation on its annual report. He says that while Iowa compares very well to other states, when Iowa is compared to itself the picture is less optimistic.

NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute

The space probe Cassini has been exploring Saturn since 2004.  One of the instruments on the two story tall spacecraft is from the University of Iowa called the Radio Plasma and Wave Science (RPWS) instrument.  It picks up Saturn’s radio waves.

 

University of Iowa scientist Bill Kurth takes telemetry from the RPWS and converts it to audio files in the human hearing range.  It’s a mix of ascending tones.  Some have a squealing quality.

doug ommen
Iowa Insurance Division

Iowa’s insurance commissioner is asking the federal government to approve a plan that could keep the state’s individual health insurance market from collapsing. It’s possible the state could have no insurers selling individual plans on the Affordable Care Act exchange in 2018.

Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen says tweaking the ACA could stabilize the state’s individual market and make it more attractive to insurers.

IPR’s 2017 Summer Book List

19 hours ago
Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

The summer months can be a great time of the year to crack open a new book. During this hour on Talk of Iowa, Jan Weismiller and Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights Book Store in Iowa City and Kathy Magruder from Pageturners Book Store in Indianola join host Charity Nebbe to discuss both their new and classic book recommendations to add to your summer reading list.

FICTION:

Jan's picks:

Do Not Become Alarmed—Maile Meloy

Flickr / John Mitchell

Over the long summer break, students can lose weeks of learning from the previous school year. But there are ways to keep kids engaged with reading and writing. 

Iowa State University's Emily Hayden, an assistant professor of literacy education, says the key is to make these activities not feel like school. Instead, parents should think outside the box and capitalize on a child’s interests. 

For example, if your kid likes being outside, get them a "science" notebook.

This time on IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Eastern-Iowa funkers Meteor Cat bring their rowdy, cosmic sound (all nine members of it!) to the coffee house. 

Check out the free podcast below to hear cuts off the group's debut album, "Earth Family Elixir," and gain insights on how the group crafts its distinct brand of funk. 

Ben Kieffer

Iowa singer-songwriter and children's book author Chad Elliott brings his knack for simple-yet-profound songwriting to The Java House stage in this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." The accomplished creative also provides glimpses of his forthcoming album, "RINGGOLD." 

Download the free podcast below and hear Elliott's rootsy, gravely growl and impressive, tasteful guitar work. Plus, peek inside the artist's creative process with Studio One host Ben Kieffer. 

facebook.com/pokeylafarge

As an American roots musician and songwriter, St. Louis-based Pokey LaFarge has impeccable credentials. The Bloomington, Illinois-born LaFarge even earned his nickname honestly.  As a child, his mother would tell him to hurry up.  His banjo-playing grandfather gave him his first guitar and a tenor banjo.  Growing up, LaFarge was very interested in history and the classics of American literature.  He got into country blues artists like Skip James and Sleepy John Estes, as well as Jimmie Rodgers and bluegrass originator Bill Monroe.

Emily Woodbury

Oak trees in Iowa are experiencing “oak tatters,” and it might be caused by farm chemicals in the atmosphere.

DNR district forester Mark Vitosh says this is a problem that’s been on his radar for two decades, but weather patterns have made this a bad year for oak trees. About a thousand people have called the DNR because they thought insects or diseases were to blame.

Vitosh says he’s observed these damaged oak leaves.

Bruce Marlin / Wikimedia Commons

Arthropods have a lot of legs. It’s easy to want to kill them when you find them in your house because they look creepy. But Iowa State University Extension Entomologist Donald Lewis says most often, these animals are friends not foes.

“They’re not insects. They are closely related. These are  animals that have an exoskeleton and have jointed legs. Millipedes, centipedes, and sowbugs are important to our gardens. You’ll see these critters, and it’s like pulling weeds, it’s satisfying to be able to call them by their right names,” says Lewis. 

Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association

A rural telephone cooperative in western Iowa is receiving a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help upgrade its broadband capabilities. The money will enable it to replace copper wires with fiber.

The Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association in the Guthrie County town of Menlo is getting a $6.5 million loan from the USDA. It will use the money to lay more than 200 miles of fiber. Association general manager Jim Nelson says access to high-speed internet is increasingly important for the cooperative’s 700 members.

Flickr / David Wilson

A Muscatine mother of four who was born in Mexico will not be deported for breaking a state law. Prosecuting Martha Martinez for identity theft would have jeopardized her legal residency through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Martinez came to Iowa from Mexico when she was 11 years old.  As a young adult she used a false identity to gain employment.

Amy Mayer

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley says he doesn’t agree with former FBI Director James Comey’s statement that President Donald Trump was lying when he said the FBI was in disarray under Comey’s leadership. Grassley says he considers the president’s statement a matter of opinion.

“When you characterize an agency, how you think it’s being run, you can be perfectly honest in your assessment of that, and somebody else could consider that a lie," he says.

John Pemble / IPR

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie signed on with more than 200 mayors last week to uphold the Paris Agreement. That’s the global accord from which President Donald Trump withdrew the United States. Cownie says it’s a challenge for the city to move forward with clean energy goals without more buy-in from state leaders who regularly fall in line with the president.

“To ignore that factual piece and the science around it and all the data that’s out there is really unfortunate for the citizens of the state of Iowa and looking at our future and how we preserve our resources,” Cownie says.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program is closing offices in Burlington and Keokuk this summer to prepare for cuts to victim services funding. 

The closures come as Iowa programs that help victims of domestic and sexual violence are trying to figure out how to deal with a combined $5.7 million cut in state and federal funding.

DVIP Executive Director Kristie Fortmann-Doser  says a lack of private places for victims to drop in and talk to advocates could impact their immediate safety.

On this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City singer songwriter Nic Arp graces the stage with his band of top-shelf Iowa musicians. 

Download the free podcast below to hear the group tear through a set of songs ripe with Arp's emotive, wise lyrics and propelled by the band's tight sound. Studio One's Ben Kieffer hosts. 

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

For the last year, city planners have been studying traffic patterns in downtown Des Moines with the goal of making the streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. They have now unveiled their early findings.

A preliminary plan includes the conversion of one-way streets downtown into two-ways, the addition of much more street parking and buffered lanes for bicyclists to make travel for them safer. The author of the book “Walkable City,” Jeff Speck, is helping redesign Des Moines’ downtown.

file: Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

President Trump is touting the need to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, and water transportation systems this week and farmers are among those hoping to benefit from new federal attention to infrastructure.

 

Christina Patramanis

The Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre is invading Iowa Public Radio! Join us at noon on Tuesday, June 13th for adventurous arias from the CROT’s production of Michael Ching’s Speed Dating Tonight!. The CROT’s cast features Nicole Besa, Rebecca Buechel, Lincoln Ginsberg, Ian Butler, Erin Persick, Emma Dickinson, Mitchell Gage, Wesley Frye, Nate Hill, and Kellen Schrimper.

Dean Borg/IPR

Robert Donley, Executive Director for Iowa’s Board of Regents during the past nine years, says he’s leaving the state university system facing major financing challenges.

Donley lists "predictable and appropriate funding" as the major challenge.

iowa hospital association
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

As the U.S. Senate crafts a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, the Iowa Hospital Association is emphasizing its opposition to the bill that came out of the U.S. House.

Iowa hospital leaders expressed concerns about proposed cuts to Medicaid funding Wednesday at a news conference in Cedar Rapids. They say cuts would cause problems for patients, hospitals, care providers and the state budget.

City of Cedar Rapids

The latest report on existing industries in the Cedar Rapids area shows employers remain concerned about the number of available workers. The outlook, however, is more positive than a year ago.

Each year, the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance surveys around 85 business executives and plant managers from a wide spectrum of industries to get their views on the area’s economic climate. The Alliance’s local business projects specialist, Mike Lukan, says workforce availability continues to be a challenge in Cedar Rapids. But things are looking up.

Alan Light/Wikimedia Commons

A new coalition of organizations in Iowa is working to keep young people who identify as LGBTQ out of the welfare and juvenile justice systems by finding them supportive places to live. The group calls itself AFFIRM, and it’s looking to include gender-neutral language in all paperwork required of potential foster and adoptive parents.

One of AFFIRM’s founders, Penny McGee, says such changes may not be as easy as they appear, possibly requiring legislative approval and some costs.

Casey's General Stores

Ankeny-based convenience store chain Casey’s General Stores is reporting it fell short of some of its goals for fiscal 2017. While in-store traffic was up almost three percent at the nearly 2,000-store chain, executives had hoped for 6.2 percent growth. Casey’s President and CEO Terry Handley says the company faced the same pressures in 2017 everyone in the grocery industry confronted.

Brookings Institution / Flickr

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with analysts Hans Hassell of Cornell College and Kedron Bardwell of Simpson College about the Russia probe and upcoming testimony of fired FBI director James Comey.

They also discuss President Trump's announcement of his nominee for a new FBI Director, the latest details about Russian efforts to hack voting systems in the U.S., and how these controversies are impacting the GOP legislative agenda, including the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

factory
Christopher Dilts [Barack Obama / flickr]

An Iowa research group says manufacturing jobs continue to decline in the state, even after a new sales tax break was given to manufacturers. 

According to the Iowa Policy Project, a tax break that makes more manufacturing supplies exempt from state sales taxes has not led to more jobs in the manufacturing sector.

The statement comes after the Legislative Services Agency announced that tax break could cost the state about $100 million. It was originally expected to cost about $21 million. 

Brian Strombeck / Flickr

Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack says he’s concerned that rural parts of the country could lose out under President Trump’s plans to increase infrastructure spending. The president has said he’d like more of the funding to come from cities, states, and private investment. Loebsack says rural infrastructure needs might have a tough time attracting private funding.

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