Michael Leland

News Director

Michael comes to IPR from Wisconsin Public Radio, where he led an award-winning news staff for nine years.  He has also worked as a News Director at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor.  Before getting into management, Michael’s reporting career took him to a variety of places, from Chicago City Hall, to a former coal mine 600 feet under southern Illinois, to an Inuit community in far northern Canada.

Michael is a New Englander who came to the Midwest for graduate school  30 years ago and decided to call this part of the country home.  He has a master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication from Kansas State University.  His undergraduate degree is in Communications and Business Administration from Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts.

Michael’s favorite public radio program is On the Media.

Romeo Durscher / NASA

It is indeed dark during the day as a total solar eclipse makes its way from Oregon to South Carolina. Eleven states are in the path of total darkness. Follow the astronomical phenomenon's journey across America along with NPR journalists and others experiencing the eclipse.

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., returned to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday after a brain cancer diagnosis to help Republican leadership begin debate on health care. But after casting his vote in favor of debate, McCain took the floor and said he would not vote for the current health bill, the latest product of a controversial and contentious process in which Republicans have been at odds with one another as well as with Democrats.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday morning about foreign agents and attempts to influence the U.S. election. The panel is among the bodies investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Senators had requested Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, to appear as witnesses. Instead, they are in closed-door discussions for now.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Iowa corn-growers may be keeping a closer eye on the weather the next couple of weeks.  Nearly 60 percent of the state is considered abnormally dry or in moderate drought.  More consistent rainfall would help corn pollination and kernel development over the next few weeks.

doug ommen
Iowa Insurance Division

Iowa’s insurance commissioner is urging people to read and comment on a proposal he hopes will keep insurance carriers selling individual policies in the state in 2018.  Two carriers have already said they won’t sell such policies in Iowa next year, and a third is expected to decide soon.  Commissioner Doug Ommen says he hopes to get the federal government’s permission by the end of this month to implement his plan but stresses the government needs to agree on a longer-term heal

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says she plans to run for a full term in 2018.  Reynolds became governor when Terry Branstad resigned last month to become the U-S ambassador to China.  Branstad’s term runs through January, 2019.  Reynolds says current acting Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg will be her running mate.  They’ve established a new campaign committee and plan to make a final decision and a formal announcement within the next few months.

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.

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.

John Pemble/IPR

Kim Reynolds was sworn in this morning as Iowa’s 43rd governor, shortly after the resignation of Terry Branstad, the state’s – and the country’s – longest-serving governor.  Branstad this morning was sworn in as the new U.S. Ambassador to China. 

Reynolds is the first woman to hold the office of Iowa governor, but in a speech following her swearing-in at the Capitol, she said she wants to accomplish more than that while in office.  Reynolds outlined four priorities for her administration, all aimed at improving Iowa’s economy and job growth. 

Screenshot from CPSAN

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been confirmed as the next U-S ambassador to China.  The U-S Senate voted 82-13 Monday to make his appointment official.  Before the vote, Senator Chuck Grassley said Branstad has already been an ambassador his whole career.

“As governor, he’s been vigorous in promoting our state’s economy and opening markets for our farm commodities, financial service and our manufacturing to the world marketplace,” Grassley said.

NASA

Astronaut and Iowa native Peggy Whitson has set a U.S. record for space travel.  Today is her 535th cumulative day in space, one day longer than the record previously held by astronaut Jeff Williams. Whitson is currently commanding the International Space Station, and this morning took a congratulatory phone call from President Donald Trump. 

“That’s an incredible record to break,” Trump said via a video link from the Oval Office.  “On behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of the world, I’d like to congratulate you.  That is really something.”

NASA photo

Astronaut and Iowa native Peggy Whitson sets a U.S. record in orbit today.  She is spending her 535th cumulative day in space, and that breaks the record of 534 days that had been held by Jeff Williams.  Whitson lifted off from Kazakhstan November 17th, 2016, on what is her third trip aboard the station. 

In an interview with Texas schoolchildren in February, Whitson was asked what it’s like to be flying through space at 17-thousand miles an hour.

Congressman Steve King Facebook page

Republican U-S Congressman Steve King will cast the Iowa delegation’s only “yes” vote when the Republican health care bill comes to the House floor  Thursday.  King says he’ll vote in favor of the bill because he has a promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to remove a requirement that all insurance policies provide certain benefits.

Dean Borg/IPR file photo

Trustees at Auburn University in Alabama voted this morning to approve ISU President Steve Leath as AU's 19th president.  The voice vote was unanimous. Leath will replace Jay Gogue, who has announced his retirement effective this summer.

Leath has been ISU's president since 2012.  He begins his new job at Auburn on July 15.

In a statement to the Trustees following this morning's vote, Leath said, "I could not be more excited, or frankly more humbled, by this once in a lifetime opportunity."

Caleb Housh

People in Seymour are working to convert a closed nursing home into temporary classrooms, after a tornado heavily damaged the local K-12 school on Monday.  Caleb Housh is the city’s mayor.

“I can’t tell you how many local contractors have been in there, getting this building ready to go. I believe today they’re ready to start painting rooms. Teachers have reached out to their students, and the students are going to come in and help paint the classrooms and get them ready to go."

Michael Leland/IPR

Supporters of Iowa’s bottle deposit law say an overwhelming majority of Iowans think the law is good for the state, and regularly return bottles and cans.  They released results of a poll conducted by Selzer & Company, suggesting 88-percent of people in the state think the law is good.  It also found about three-quarters of respondents saying they regularly return cans and bottles to get their deposits back, or give the empties to someone else to redeem.

Michael Leland/IPR

People testifying at a hearing on a proposed voter ID bill were divided on whether the bill would protect election integrity or keep significant numbers of people away from the polls.  Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate was the first to testify before the House State Government Committee Monday night.  He says the bill is about protecting elections, and nothing else.

“No eligible voter will be denied their right to vote by this legislation,” Pate said.  “I am adamant about that fact, and I will fight to ensure that voters are not disenfranchised.”

Tonight, around 8 pm, President Trump will address a joint session of Congress for the first time. The address comes one day after Trump gave an outline of his budget plan to Congress. That plan includes increases in defense spending and cuts to domestic programs.

Shortly after the president concludes, former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will deliver the Democratic response. Additionally, immigrant activist Astrid Silva will provide a Spanish language response.

Congress.gov

Iowa’s only Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives says he still doesn’t know the details of what Republicans will propose as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.  Dave Loebsack is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will vote on a replacement before sending it to the full House.

“So far what I have heard is that what they have offered is wholly inadequate and it doesn’t deal with the problems that we tried to deal with in the Obamacare legislation,” he says.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter says he will not seek reappointment when his term expires at the end of April.  Rastetter has been on the board that governs the state’s public universities since 2011.  He was elected president in 2013.  In an interview on Iowa Public TV’s Iowa Press two weeks ago, Rastetter called his time on the board a “unique and challenging experience.”

IDOT

Iowa seems to have avoided the worst effects of an ice storm that began Sunday evening and still lingers this afternoon, left 1/3 of an inch of ice on parts of Iowa, and sent hundreds of crews onto roads and highways to remove the ice.  As of this afternoon, most of the state’s major roadways were listed in good or “seasonal” condition, or only partly ice or slush-covered.

Join Iowa Public Radio as NPR reporters fact check President-Elect Trump's Press Conference. This page will update as his speech is transcribed and reporters complete their fact-checking.

Live updates begin at 10 am Central Time.

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Join Iowa Public Radio as NPR reporters fact check President Obama's Farewell Address. This page will update as his speech is transcribed and reporters complete their fact-checking.

Live updates begin at 8 pm Central Time.

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John Pemble/IPR file photo

The two Des Moines-area police officers shot and killed in ambush attacks in November were among 21 killed in such attacks on law enforcement officers last year.  Des Moines Sgt. Anthony Beminio and Urbandale Officer Justin Martin were shot and killed in separate incidents less than two miles apart while in their patrol cars early on November 2.

Michael Leland/IPR file photo

This year is ending as one of the deadliest for Iowa bicyclists in more than a decade.  The Iowa Bicycle Coalition says 11 cyclists died while riding this year.  Iowa hasn’t had that many cycling fatalities since 2005, and it’s the most since 2010, when eight cyclists died while riding.  The Coalition’s executive director, Mark Wyatt, says he fears this year is not an anomaly.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Gov. Terry Branstad to serve as U.S. ambassador to China, pending Senate confirmation.  The word from the Trump transition team comes a day after the two men met at Trump Tower in New York City.

If Branstad becomes ambassador, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would become the first woman to serve as Iowa governor.

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