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Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Along Interstate 80 in Iowa, near the Illinois border, is The World’s Largest Truck Stop – at least that’s what it claims. It has parking for 900 big rigs, there are restaurants, showers, even a dentist. Driver Roosevelt Phillips is here from Pittsburgh. He says truck stops like this one are a community.

“We talk about everything. I mean, y’know, I’m an adult so I’m talking to another truck driver, so we talk about whatever comes up,” Phillips says.

They talk about everything from politics to the news of the day – and the strange activity they see on the road.

Vietnam Mobiography

In response to new UN sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons program, North Korea has vowed to retaliate against the U.S.  

In this politics day edition of River to River, guest host Emily Woodbury talks with political scientists, Rachel Caufield of Drake University and Scott Peters of the University of Northern Iowa, about President Trump's reaction to the developments in North Korea.  

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Recently, four Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa ended operations. This comes after the Republican-controlled state legislature blocked federal funding to the organization as a way to restrict abortion access. But in addition to abortions, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provides birth control, STD testing and cancer screenings.

To see if these closings have affected healthcare access in the state, I visited southeast Iowa, where two of the four clinics that recently closed were located.

Nan Palmereo/flickr

The Iowa Utilities Board today issued an order deregulating landline phone service quality in Iowa.  

That means that local telephone exchanges will no longer be required to meet customer service and quality standards.   

With the growing use of cellphones, deregulating landlines has become more common across the country.  The Iowa order cites the widespread availability of effective competition for local service, including mobile wireless and cable.  

Kate Ter Haar

Is your sidewalk a hazard? Has your driveway seen better days? Cracks in concrete happen over time, and they're sometimes difficult to troubleshoot, especially if the problem is due to a tree root or uneven ground. 

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with home improvement expert Bill McAnally about concrete, asphalt and other paving solutions for your driveway, sidewalk, patio or paving project. 

Amy Mayer/IPR

Iowa State University’s enrollment has escalated since 2009, while the state’s appropriation to the school has plunged. That’s the message interim President Ben Allen presented to the Board of Regents tuition task force today in Ames.

Sandy Dyas Photography

Susan Becker was having a tough time.  Her mother had recently died.  She started feeling like she had made wrong decisions. She wasn't motivated.  She decided there needed to be a change.

She got a job as a lunch lady in Bellevue in northeast Iowa, and she was managing a staff that was many years older than her.  It was challenging, and ultimately it was enjoyable, meaningful, and sparked a renewed outlook on her life.  

"These ladies, what they considered their job...it was service with love."

Clay Masters / IPR

Iowa farmers are making land use decisions aimed at helping farm chemical runoff curb into streams, rivers and, ultimately, the Gulf of Mexico. This year’s dead zone in Gulf is the biggest one ever, and Iowa’s secretary of agriculture says more changes are needed. Bill Northey says cover crops, which keep roots in the ground and prevent nutrients and soil from washing away, are a key practice. But he says statewide only about three to four percent of farmland gets a cover crop. 

AMY MAYER/IPR FILE PHOTO

Last week the Senate approved a bill introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse by federal employees when they travel.

The Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards Act directs the General Services Administration to review its database of charge card purchases to identity potential misuse.

Grassley says he believes this bill is important due to oversight investigations he’s conducted of the Defense Department and other federal agencies.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

A group of community members from Des Moines is asking Iowa’s U.S. senators to let a woman in Iowa arrested by Immigration Customs and Enforcement officials be reunited with her 4-month-old son.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds threw her support behind her appointee to head the Iowa Department of Human Services following complaints about the State Training School for Boys at Eldora.   

An organization known as Disability Rights Iowa released a report criticizing the use of seclusion rooms and restraints on boys referred to the facility by juvenile courts, sometimes for serious crimes.   

Reynolds says DHS Director Jerry Foxhoven is the right person to review the complaint.

Drake University

Fifty students of color from the Des Moines public schools are on Drake University’s campus this week preparing for college. It’s an effort to draw more minorities into higher education.

University of Northern Iowa photo

In the first of three meetings to be held this month by Iowa’s Regents institutions, University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook Monday unveiled UNI’s five year tuition plan. Nook told a group of about 50 people on the UNI campus that in order to attract and retain students, any increases must be reasonable and predictable.

Courtesy of the State Historical Society of Iowa.

A new online collection of primary source materials from Iowa and U.S. history is up and running as of today. The Primary Source Sets contain 174 items, including photographs, maps, audio recordings and documents.

The online collection was created for K-12 educators who are now required to teach Iowa history as part of their curriculums, though anyone can access the materials.

One of the most colorful cultural histories in Iowa belongs to those of Czech heritage. Early Czech immigrants to Iowa settled in farming communities, most notably at Spillville in the northeast corner of the state. Later, immigrants from today’s Czech and Slovak Republics came to work in meatpacking plants, primarily in Cedar Rapids where Czech immigrants first settled in the early 1850s. Many of the Czechs who settled in Cedar Rapids worked in the large Sinclair meatpacking plant.

Flickr / Phil Roeder

This year, the Iowa State Fair’s youngest thrill seekers will be able to enjoy rides and games away from the faster, taller, scarier rides that are geared towards older children or adults.

Thrill Town is designed for the families who are still pushing around strollers. The idea is to create a calm, kid-friendly atmosphere that’s away from attractions like the "Haunted Mansion" or "Spaceroller."

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa’s largest public employees union is warning of likely legal action after hundreds of government workers lost their overtime rights as of July 1st.   

Under Iowa’s new collective bargaining law, professional employees who hold 160 different government jobs will no longer get paid for overtime. 

Mark Hedberg is an attorney for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees or AFSCME. 

Alex Hanson / Flickr

Sam Clovis is a well-known name in Iowa, especially in western parts of the state. Clovis has been many things during his life – an F-16 fighter pilot, a defense contractor, a conservative radio host in Sioux City - and then last year, chief policy advisor and national co-chair of the Trump-Pence campaign.

Now he is the White House representative at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in charge of coordinating White House and USDA policy and staffing under President Trump.

Courtesy of Luke Tweedy

Eastern Iowa music lovers, take note. Luke Tweedy and his team at Flat Black Studios are throwing the inaugural Grey Area festival August 18 and 19.

The two day concert series will feature artists who have recorded at the studio, DJs local to the Iowa City area, aerial performances by Elevate Vertical Fitness and National Dance Academy, and a laser light show.

John Pemble

The Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison is home to more than 300 of Iowa's most dangerous inmates, or otherwise known as "lifers." Hundreds of other men serving time there will eventually return to their communities.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Representatives of public employees who could lose their union representation appeared before a statehouse committee Friday to express concern about Iowa’s new collective bargaining law.   

Starting next month, thousands of public workers will cast ballots to continue to be represented by unions.    

The new law requires the regular recertification votes. Retaining union representation used to be automatic. 

Yolanda

The decline of Monarch butterfly populations over the past two decades has received much attention from scientists. However, recent surveys of the Monarch population in the Midwest have not been showing dramatic decreases.

Monarch populations are thought to be tied to the disappearance of milkweed, the only plant on which Monarchs lay eggs. Iowa State University assistant professor in ecology, John Pleasants says Monarch populations in the Midwest may appear stable because counts are taken in open areas where butterflies can find milkweed.

Joyce Russell, IPR

The Iowa Board of Regents is approving the fiscal 2018 budgets for the three state universities. But before doing so, board members heard from the schools’ presidents about how cutbacks in state support are hampering their efforts to stay competitive. At Iowa State, faculty and staff salaries are frozen. At UNI, some adjunct faculty have been let go. Regent President Michael Richards says each school has its own challenges.

“I think we’re open to looking at what each university needs to move forward and keep progressing,” he says.

Lee Enterprises

Total revenue for Davenport-based Lee Enterprises is down for the third quarter ended June 30. The company is earning increasingly more from the digital side of newspapers.

The owner of newspapers and specialty publications in 22 states is reporting a 6.6 percent decrease in total revenue from the previous quarter. But Lee Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Kevin Mowbray says revenue from digital advertising is up nearly eight percent.

“In the June quarter, digital retail advertising represented 29.1 percent of total advertising revenue for the company,” he says.

Indian Helath Service

At least 35 people at the podiatry clinic of the Indian Health Service hospital in Winnebago, Neb., have possibly been exposed to Hepatitis and HIV. An instrument at the IHS clinic, which is near Sioux City, may not have been properly sterilized between patients. 

IHS is an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides healthcare to American Indians and Native Alaskans. The Winnebago clinic serves members from the Omaha and Winnebago Tribes of Nebraska who live in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. 

Steve Gibbons

December of this year marks the 60th anniversary of the premiere of The Music Man on Broadway; it was written and composed by Mason City native Meredith Willson.  In this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe explores what the musical says about Iowa and why the music and story have remained popular.

First, we visit the Des Moines Community Playhouse, which has one last weekend of performances of their production of The Music Man.  We hear from actors Brad Church and Katy Merriman who play Harold Hill and Marian Peroo.  

Tom (turkletom) / Flickr

Iowa has seen fewer mosquitoes than usual this summer, but recent rainfall may change that, according to Donald Lewis, a professor and extension entomologist at Iowa State University.

Lewis says drought conditions in Iowa in the first part of the summer led to low mosquito populations.

“The rainfall we had in parts of the state where they got one or two inches all at once could rapidly change that situation," he says. "So don’t think we’re out of the woods for mosquito bites through the rest of the summer.”

Marcia Cirillo/flickr

A hard-fought race for a southeast Iowa legislative seat is entering its final days, and the topic of transgender bathroom rights has emerged as an issue in the race.     

Democrats and Republicans are both waging expensive races to fill the seat vacated with the death of Democrat Curt Hanson in House District 82. Some consider the race a bellwether for Democratic prospects after the Republican sweep of the state last fall.   

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Chemical runoff from Midwest farm fields is contributing to the largest so-called dead zone on record in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Scientists have mapped the size of the oxygen-deprived region in the Gulf since 1985. This year’s is estimated at more than 8,700 square miles, which is about the size of New Jersey.

 

Wikimedia Commons

Today, President Trump signed into law legislation that levies new sanctions against Russia and restricts his own ability to ease those sanctions. 

Hans Hassell, assistant professor of political science at Cornell College says that Congress' act to send those sanctions to Trumps desk is important. 

"This is a really clear rebuke of the President saying, 'Look, what we've heard about Russia makes us very concerned,' so we're going to take these strong stances against Russia while you're trying to get us to relax those sanctions." 

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