Katarina Sostaric

Eastern Iowa Reporter

Katarina Sostaric is an Iowa City based reporter covering Eastern Iowa for Iowa Public Radio.

Before coming to Iowa, she was a reporter and host at a public radio station in Southeast Alaska, where her work also aired on Alaska’s statewide public radio network.

Katarina worked as a Morning Edition news anchor and general assignment reporter at KBIA in Columbia while she was a student

at the Missouri School of Journalism. She has bachelor’s degrees in Convergence Journalism and International Studies from the University of Missouri.

Katarina’s favorite public radio program is Reveal.

mcgregor damage
Courtesy of Carrie Nolan

Residents of McGregor in northeast Iowa are cleaning up after an EF-1 tornado (peak winds 110mph) devastated the downtown area Wednesday night.

No major injuries were reported. Some historic buildings have been severely damaged or destroyed, and there were piles of bricks and glass in the street.

McGregor resident Anne Kruse was at a meeting downtown when a window blew in. After the tornado passed, she says she went outside and it was "absolute chaos."

stacey walker
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The Linn County Board of Supervisors says it will honor the goals of the Paris climate agreement, even though President Donald Trump announced the United States will exit the agreement.

The supervisors voted unanimously Monday to approve a resolution to commit to energy efficiency, energy conservation, and sustainability.

Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker says the board recognizes international cooperation is necessary in addressing a changing climate.

doug ommen
Iowa Insurance Division

The Iowa Insurance Division announced Thursday it will hold public hearings on its "stopgap" plan to prop up the state's individual insurance market in 2018. Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen proposed the plan in June. 

Ommen says he’s working with federal officials to fix some issues in the stopgap plan as they move toward approval.

"We're needing to work very very quickly to move through a process that was designed to take years in order to get approved," Ommen says. 

Iowa Regional Autism Assistance Program's logo
Iowa Regional Autism Assistance Program / University of Iowa Health Care

The Regional Autism Assistance Program (RAP) is one of ten programs to recently lose all of its state funding from the Iowa Department of Public Health. For RAP, the $384,552 cut is about 70 percent of its budget.

Advocates worry the budget cut could lead to the loss of the program’s family navigators. They’re stationed throughout the state and connect families to services when children are diagnosed with autism.

woman in hijab
Jerry Seon / Pexels

A self-defense class for Muslim women will debut in Iowa City on Tuesday. These women are often targeted as their religious covering identifies them as Muslim. 

The Iowa chapter for the Council on American-Islamic Relations is sponsoring the class. Executive director Miriam Amer says Muslim women wearing headscarves, or hijabs, have been targeted in the U.S. in recent months. 

pills in a bottle
nosheep / Pixabay

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows per-capita opioid prescriptions decreased in the U.S. from 2010 to 2015. But in one-third of Iowa's counties, prescriptions increased over the same time period.

The CDC encourages doctors to reduce opioid prescribing when treating pain because these medications are associated with abuse and overdose rates. The opioid-related hospitalizations and deaths in Iowa have been on the rise. 

Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has eliminated its Bureau of Forestry and a few other DNR jobs in response to a state budget cut.

Lawmakers approved a $1.2 million cut to the department earlier this year. 

DNR spokesman Alex Murphy says the forestry bureau is only losing its chief. He says the district foresters and other employees will remain at the department. 

"We've moved these employees under different areas and actually eliminated the bureau itself, although all the functions of the bureau exist, just in different bureaus or divisions," Murphy says.

telemedicine
NEC Corporation of America / flickr

A new telehealth initiative will expand HIV prevention efforts in rural Iowa.

TelePrEP will use at-home video calls and the postal system to administer HIV prevention medication to rural residents at risk for acquiring the disease. University of Iowa Health Care, The Signal Center for Health Innovation and the Iowa Department of Public Health are collaborating on TelePrEP, which they believe is the only program of its kind in the country.

Angie Hoth is the coordinator for TelePrEP. She says in other Midwestern states, HIV cases are mostly concentrated in big cities.

alamosbasement/flickr

University of Iowa researchers have found cancer-causing chemicals in some older Iowa schools.

Children may be exposed to airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in schools built between 1950 and the mid-1970s. PCBs were banned in 1979.

Keri Hornbuckle, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Iowa, says the researchers expected to find higher levels of airborne PCBs outside of schools.

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media file photo

A few days before Iowa’s new medical marijuana law takes effect, a Minnesota cannabis producer says his business is not yet profitable two years into that state’s program. The two states have similar medical cannabis laws, but Iowa’s is more restrictive.

Iowa’s new law will allow for two medical cannabis manufacturers and five dispensaries in the state.

Dr. Andrew Bachman, the CEO of Leafline Labs, says Minnesota’s law creates a more sustainable business climate, in part because Iowa’s law limits the THC content of medical cannabis.

keokuk county health center
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The U.S. Senate is preparing to vote on its plan to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The bill would cut funding for Medicaid, the program that provides health insurance for children, middle-income people in nursing homes, poor people, and people with disabilities.

Medicaid cuts would make things harder for Iowa’s rural hospitals and could jeopardize access to healthcare for rural residents.

  

trump
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

President Donald Trump held a campaign-style rally in Cedar Rapids Wednesday night. Around 6,000 people were there to see his first visit to Iowa as president.

President Trump celebrated recent Republican wins in special congressional elections, touted his accomplishments as president, and criticized Democrats and the media.

"While we are here tonight to celebrate the amazing progress that we’ve already made—and we have made amazing progress—we’re also here to lay out the next steps in our incredible movement to make America great again," Trump said.

Jennifer Morrow / flickr

The health insurance company Medica has decided to sell individual plans on Iowa’s Affordable Care Act exchange in 2018. The announcement came Monday in a news release.

It’s likely Medica will be the only company selling individual ACA-compliant health insurance statewide in Iowa. It’s proposing to increase rates by an average of 43.5 percent.

marijuana
Tomas de Aquino/flickr

Iowa passed emergency rules Tuesday to expand the list of medical conditions that allow a patient to use medical marijuana. It's the first phase of implementing the new medical marijuana law signed last month.  

Iowans diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, AIDS and other severe or terminal illnesses can start applying for a registration card June 19.

When cards are issued in August, those patients still won't be able to legally obtain medical marijuana in the state.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

anamika chandel
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

An Iowa City mom is starting a company this summer that she describes as "Uber for kids." 

Bees Knees Drive will be Iowa's first child ride service app. When it launches in the Iowa City area, parents will be able to order transportation for their kids to school or activities.

Founder Anamika Chandel says she got the idea when she spent a few months working as an Uber driver.

"I met a lot of people, a lot of mothers, families, who said they'd like someone like me to drive their kids around," Chandel says. 

wind turbine
Jim Hammer / flickr

An Iowa energy company says President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement won’t affect its effort to use cleaner energy.

Alliant Energy has used cleaner energy sources and some renewables to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about one-third since 2005. That’s a bigger cut than what would have been required for the U.S. as a whole under the Paris agreement.

firework
pixabay

Thursday is the first day of legal fireworks sales in Iowa, but no retailers are licensed yet.

State Fire Marshal Jeffrey Quigle says his office is conducting inspections Thursday and expects to issue licenses for consumer fireworks sales in the next few days. 

He says there are 500 to 600 registrants in the online portal for prospective fireworks retailers.

chuck palmer
Office of the Governor

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Charles (Chuck) Palmer announced Wednesday he will retire June 16.

His retirement comes as the House and Senate Government Oversight Committees prepare to investigate the department. DHS and its handling of child abuse complaints has been drawing increased scrutiny after two teen girls died. They were adopted out of the state foster care system and were severely malnourished.

syringe
WerbeFabrik / Pixabay

Two eastern Iowa nonprofits will offer free naloxone —a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose—starting June 1. It's the first time the overdose reversal drug will be available for free in Iowa.

The Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition and Quad Cities Harm Reduction will distribute naloxone each week in Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Iowa City.

The drug has been available at pharmacies, but the cost can prevent people from obtaining it. One dose costs about $150 with insurance.  

reynolds and gregg
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds and acting Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg traveled across Iowa Friday on their "Building a Better Iowa" tour. Reynolds became the state’s first female governor on Wednesday. 

At a stop in Cedar Rapids, Reynolds emphasized four priorities: tax reform to encourage business growth, energy policy innovation, STEM education and workforce training.

"I want you to know that while we're proud of what we've been able to do over the last six years, we know that our job is far from done," Reynolds says. "We have a lot of work left to do."

michael richards
Dean Borg / IPR

Iowa's Board of Regents will allow public comments at its regular meetings starting next month. 

The first opportunity for public comment will be at the regents' June 8 meeting in Cedar Falls. That is when the board is scheduled to take a final vote on tuition increases for the upcoming school year.

Regent Michael Richards directed staff to develop a "pilot program" for taking public comment when he was elected board president earlier this month.

dubuque
SD Dirk / flickr

The Iowa Economic Development Authority has awarded about $2 million in incentives to retain 200 manufacturing jobs in Dubuque.

With city and county contributions, the Friday decision brings the total incentive package for furniture manufacturer Flexsteel Industries to more than $10 million.

The incentives will help Flexsteel demolish and clean up the site of its current plant in Dubuque, and build a new plant at a different site. The company announced last year it would close its plant in Dubuque and look for a new site.

pills and money
Images Money / flickr

Iowans will rally in seven cities this weekend to ask for "Medicare for All." 

The rallies will call on the federal government to offer Medicare—the healthcare plan for people over age 65—to all Americans. It's a response to ongoing problems with the affordability of health insurance and efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

todd prichard
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City announced Tuesday he is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

Prichard is a veteran and a lawyer. He says he wants to help "forgotten Iowans" by offering free community college to all Iowans, expanding access to health care and raising wages.

Prichard says he can appeal to urban and rural voters because he grew up in Davenport and now lives in a small town.

matt denlinger
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Cedar Rapids police are using new DNA technology to try to solve the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko.

The department sent 37-year-old DNA evidence to a company that uses DNA to predict the ancestry and appearance of the suspect.

At a Tuesday news conference, police presented three images resulting from the DNA analysis. They show a white male of northern and western European descent with blond hair, blue-green eyes and fair skin. The technology cannot predict age and weight, so different versions show what the suspect might look like at age 25 and age 50. 

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