IPR's Top Stories of 2014

Dec 30, 2014

Data centers, legislative scuffles, and national park scandals: this year was big for Iowa news.

Juvenile Life Sentence Challenged -- Joyce Russell
Both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Iowa Supreme court have ruled that mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional. Now, one-time teen offender Yvette Louisell is attempting to be released on parole. "[Her attorney's] argument is that since the legislature hasn't come in and clarified what the sentence should be and since the parole board is acting as though it's still only life sentences, then in effect Iowa is not complying with court rulings."  Listen to the original story here.

Park Service Construction Damaged Native American Burial Sites -- Clay Masters 
Three million dollars' worth of illegal construction projects went on for a decade at one of the nation's most sacred Native American burial grounds in northeast Iowa. Now the question is how to repair it. "The National Park Service, which ultimately their job is to preserve artifacts, [are] trying to figure out how to undo its own construction that many in the area are viewing as a desecration of the land. There's no one clear answer as to what's going to happen next." Listen to the original story here.

Trackin' Turtles -- Pat Blank
Blank went out with a group of University of Northern Iowa students and their professor to track an endangered species--the wood turtle.  "I got an email from Professor Tamplin before we went out there and he said, 'Make sure you have long sleeves, wear some clothes you never want to wear again,' and I'm thinking 'Oh my gosh, this sounded like such a good idea at the time.'" Listen to the original story here.      Cedar Rapids Casino Proposal -- Dean Borg

A Cedar Rapids casino will be proposed in the 2015 legislative session. The attendant legislation also includes plans for casino revenue distribution and a 10-year moratorium on other casino construction. "Mayor Ron Corbett [...] knows how to craft legislation to be politically attractive. He's proposing a special license be established in Iowa for a smoke-free casino. Bear in mind all other Iowa casinos are exempt from  Iowa's non-smoking-in-public-places law." Read the original story here.

The Uneasy Marriage of Food Stamps and Farm Policy -- Amy Mayer
 The process of signing the long-overdue Agriculture Act of 2014 into law was fraught with ups and downs, and the loose coalition tying nutrition and farm programs seemed barely able to survive. "You had the contentious issue of how much to cut the nutritional support programs [...] and then within the Republican party there was an unusual divide, because, although typically Republicans from rural areas in particular are categorical farm bill supporters, in this one, because there were so many budgetary concerns, there was a lot of debate about just where those cuts should be." Listen to the original story here.

Facebook's Iowa Data Center Goes Online -- Sarah Boden
In the past couple years, tech giants Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all announced plans for new facilities in Iowa.  In November, Facebook's center went live. "Data centers are like hotels for information; it's where the internet lives. [...] You see hallway after hallway of servers. We saw one room full of servers probably the size of a rather large high school gymnasium. In one building alone there were four rooms full of servers and there's room to expand." Check out the original stories here, here, and here.

Iowa Commemorates Civil War Sesquicentennial -- John Pemble
Iowa celebrated the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War throughout the state this year. Arts reporter John Pemble covered the Capitol staging of Lincoln's last interview, the return of Senator James Harlan's statue, and a collection of photos of black Union soldiers. "The early years of photography happened during the Civil War and it's the first time art represented a war in a very non-abstract way. There are pictures of war from this time and while some were staged, the gritty reality of this brutal conflict is very present." Listen to the original stories here, here, and here.