IPR News Stories

Joyce Russell/IPR

The head of the Iowa Department of Corrections briefed Gov. Reynolds today on an increase in violent crime in the state that he called shocking.  

Statistics from a national survey show that from 2006 through 2016, Iowa was one of only two states in the country where the incidence increased for all four categories of violent crime, including homicide, robbery, rape, and aggravated assault.  

At the same time, the recidivism rate is on the rise for perpetrators of violent crime. 

Milken Family Foundation

A teacher in a small school district in southern Iowa is one of 44 teachers nationwide to receive a Milken Educator Award this year. It’s her job to train other teachers.

Joni Readout is an instructional coach at Central Decatur middle school and high school in Leon. She works with about 15 other district teachers to help improve their classroom work. Her efforts were noticed by the Milken Family Foundation, which honors teacher excellence each year.

Puerto Rico’s hot winter days and warm nights have played a key role in the global seed business for more than 30 years. So, the devastation wrought on the U.S. territory by Hurricane Maria in September stretches to the croplands of the Midwest and Great Plains.

Fields in Puerto Rico are used for research, development and/or testing of up to 85 percent of the commercial corn, soybean and other hybrid seeds grown in the U.S., according to the Puerto Rico Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Association.

Emily Woodbury

Artist Rose Frantzen grew up in Maquoketa and started painting portraits when she was in high school. Since then, she’s gained national and international acclaim for her oil paintings. She lives and works with her husband, Chuck Morris, an acclaimed artist of his own right.

Iowa seems like an unlikely destination for two very successful artists who met in New York City’s Central Park, but Rose Frantzen and Chuck Morris have made Maquoketa their home, their workplace, and an artistic destination.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The presidents of Iowa’s Regents universities today made presentations to Gov. Kim Reynolds and her budget advisors, requesting minimal increases in funding for next year. 

Last year, university budgets were cut by $30 million.

Now the universities are asking for a mostly status quo budget for next year, except for new money to increase financial aid for students and for new capital projects on the campuses.   

New ISU president Wendy Wintersteen, now in her second week in office, was making her first budget appeal.          

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Reynolds today expressed confidence in Iowa’s privately-managed health care program for the poor and disabled, even as thousands of Medicaid patients are being pulled out of the new system.     

One of three for-profit companies managing the program, AmeriHealth Caritas, has dropped out.   Another company, AmeriGroup, can’t absorb some of AmeriHealth’s 215,000 patients.

As a result, at least 9,000 patients are going back to the traditional state-run Medicaid program, at least until AmeriGroup can build up capacity. 

Blank Park Zoo

One of the two female lions at Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines has become the mother of three cubs. The births come as the lion population in the wild declines dramatically.

The zoo’s lioness Neema gave birth Nov. 14 to two female cubs and one male. Neema arrived in Des Moines in June. The father, Deuce, has lived at Blank Park since 2012. They are part of a Species Survival Plan zoos have put in place to protect the great cats. Zoo CEO Mark Vukovich says the past 20 years have seen a steep decline in the number of wild lions.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

A new partnership between the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, which manages the federal crop insurance program, aims to keep more of Iowa’s farmland green in the off-season.

The cover crop premium discount will give farmers five dollars per acre off on their crop insurance premium for acres they plant with cover crops.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Sarah Carlson says in a national survey farmers indicated they wanted this type of program.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Actor Alec Baldwin, who impersonates President Donald Trump regularly on Saturday Night Live, spoke to a large crowd of Iowa Democrats Monday night. He kicked off his remarks with an 11 minute comedy routine that included his President Trump impression, before focusing on politics.

“It’s not enough to slap a new label on our brand that says new and improved,” Baldwin told the crowd. “We’ve got to back that up.”

Baldwin spent twice as much time giving a political call-to-action.

money
Jericho/Wikimedia Commons

Republican proposals to overhaul the federal tax code would give most Iowa households a tax cut next year, but the cuts would phase out for many by 2027.

Iowa Policy Project Executive Director Mike Owen says the middle class, on average, would get a tax cut in the next fiscal year.

"As time goes on, the much-advertised middle class aspects of this, which are a very small piece of the puzzle, are going to go away," Owen says. "And the big breaks will remain in place for very wealthy millionaire, billionaire families and for wealthy corporations."

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

Des Moines-based media company Meredith Corporation is buying publishing giant Time Incorporated. Meredith is receiving financing help from the conservative Koch brothers.

Meredith’s deal to buy Time Inc. comes to around $2.8 billion, including the New York-based publisher’s debt. Koch Equity Development is provided $650 million of that amount. Meredith chairman and CEO Steve Lacy says the arrangement with the politically conservative Kochs does not include editorial influence.

benjamin sTone/flickr

A health care option that’s an alternative to traditional insurance has been growing in popularity in Iowa and across the country.    

Members of so-called health care sharing ministries write checks every month to cover the health care bills of other members, without the guarantees and oversight of traditional insurance.  

Even more Iowans are expected to enroll now that some premiums under the Affordable Care Act have skyrocketed.  

Meredith Corp.

Des Moines, Iowa Based Meredith Corporation has agreed to purchase Time Incorporated – the publisher of magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated. The deal was made possible by a hefty investment from the conservative brothers Charles and David Koch. Meredith has agreed to buy Time for $2.8 billion. This is the third time the Iowa-based company which owns magazines like Family Circle and Betters Homes and Gardens has attempted to make the purchase.

In the hopes of not repeating a problematic year for soybean crops, farmers across the U.S. are deciding how best to protect their crops and their livelihood next year from drift damage caused by the weed killer dicamba.

Michael Leland/IPR / Iowa Public Radio

While millions of Americans are beginning their holiday shopping at big-box stores and online, some are also looking for something they won't find in larger stores.  About 75 artists and other creators from Iowa and nearby states took part in the annual "Market Day" pop-up market in downtown Des Moines. 

"We really exist to serve the people out there who are shopping on Black Friday anyway, and are looking for something that's sort of one-of-a-kind, and to support [the] local economy," says Cat Rocketship, the event's co-director.

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

The Madison County Historic Preservation Association says it’s halfway to its goal of raising more than half-a-million dollars to replace a historic bridge destroyed by arson last April.  Brenda Hollingsworth is the association’s program manager.  She says the fundraising goal for replacing the Cedar Bridge near Winterset is $550,000.

“We are at, $246,000 dollars," says Hollingsworth.  "We have made an application for A Great Places grant that would pay for the remainder of that and we will know by December 15th whether or not we’ve received that grant.”

Ames Economic Development Commission

More than 700 acres on the east side of Ames is opening up for development as an industrial park. City leaders hope to attract some large-scale manufacturing operations.

The Ames Economic Development Commission and Alliant Energy are jointly working to develop the mostly farm land east of I-35 and north of Highway 30 stretching to the Nevada city limits. The 730 acres will be broken into five lots and sell for $25,000 an acre. The president of the economic development commission, Dan Culhane, says easy access to the interstate and rail lines makes the area attractive.

Stanley Consultants

The chairman emeritus of Iowa’s largest engineering firm has died. Richard Stanley joined Muscatine-based Stanley Consultants, the company co-founded by his father, in 1955. He became its president in 1971 and served as its chairman of the board beginning in 1984. He retired as chair emeritus in 2013. He was perhaps better known internationally as leader of the Stanley Foundation. It promotes global citizenship through policy analysis, conferences and outreach efforts.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The top Republican in the Iowa Senate today announced new steps to address workplace culture.     

It’s the latest development following a $1.75 million sexual harassment settlement for former Senate staffer Kirsten Anderson, who described overt sexual comments in the GOP caucus.

In a news release, Majority Leader Bill Dix announced former Ambassador and former Republican Senate President Mary Kramer has agreed to serve as a volunteer advisor to the Iowa Senate to improve the workplace culture.

Food Bank of Iowa

About two dozen Des Moines police officers and Iowa State Patrol troopers packaged Thanksgiving meals at the Food Bank of Iowa in Des Moines this morning in an event called “Arrest Hunger”.

It took about 20 minutes for officers to assemble the 150 meal kits that food will be distributed to families in need in all of Iowa’s 99 counties, plus a couple dozen more in Des Moines. Colonel Jeff Ritzman is the Chief of the Iowa State Patrol says it’s their way to help out.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa’s chief watchdog for residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities is giving Gov. Reynolds a candid evaluation for a new system eliminating onsite visits.   

Deep cuts to the Iowa Department on Aging has led the Long-Term Care Ombudsman to use electronic communication instead of onsite visits to advocate for patients and respond to complaints of abuse or neglect.   

Ombudsman Cindy Pederson briefed the governor on the change during budget hearings last week.

She said communicating electronically is a big change for the residents.  

Des Moines city government

A major link between downtown Des Moines’s East Village and Western Gateway is reopening to traffic. While cars are again crossing the Grand Avenue Bridge, construction on it will continue until next summer.

The 100-year-old bridge spanning the Des Moines River was closed in September of 2016. The structure was demolished and crews have been working to rebuild it since.

The partially finished job is now allowing one-way traffic in each direction. Pedestrians can also now cross it on one sidewalk.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Now that Iowa farmers have most of their corn and soybeans out of the field and into the bins, the numbers suggest another great year for production… and another down year for prices.

Since 2014, the farm economy has been in a downturn, says Iowa State University extension economist Chad Hart. But he says most farms are muddling through.

Between the time a cut of steak or pound of hamburger goes from cattle farm to grocery shelf, it more than likely passes through one of three companies: Tyson Foods, Cargill or JBS.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the top four beef processors hold 85 percent of the market share, controlling the beef market to the point that some farmers believe the companies’ clout unfairly influences livestock prices.

Last month, the USDA withdrew a rule proposed in the final weeks of the Obama administration that would have made it easier for cattle producers to raise objections if they thought meatpackers weren’t giving them a fair price.

Joyce Russell, IPR

Iowa’s Racing and Gaming Commission, voting 3-2, Thursday rejected three applications for establishing casino gambling in downtown Cedar Rapids.

The action mirrors a similar rejection of a single application in 2014. That vote was 4-1.

Commissioners again cited the damaging effect that market studies predict a Cedar Rapids casino would have on existing Eastern Iowa casinos. The commissioners said Iowa’s casino gambling market is saturated and revenues are not increasing.

File: Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Large livestock farms likely will have to report high levels of two types of emissions as of Wednesday, despite the Environmental Protection Agency’s last-minute effort to further delay a federal rule it’s been trying to modify for years.

The EPA tried to exempt most farms, including concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs, from having to report emissions of two air pollutants — hydrogen sulfide or ammonia — that are considered hazardous.

kedarie johnson
Facebook

The murder of a gender fluid teenage in Burlington has brought attention to the treatment and resources available for transgender students and their friends and teachers in Iowa. Iowa Safe Schools is hosting the first Transgender Education Summit in Iowa on November 17th in Des Moines, and Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools Nate Monson says that its hard to get an estimate on how many trans students are attending public school in Iowa. 

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

Iowa’s largest health system is considering ending its contract with one of the two remaining companies that insure Medicaid patients in the state.

UnityPoint Health announced Wednesday it will end its contract with Amerigroup if "contract issues" are not resolved by the end of the year. Amerigroup is one of the two remaining companies that participate in Iowa’s privatized Medicaid program.

Patricia Izbicki

The Technology Association of Iowa is handing out its annual Women of Innovation Awards this week. One of the recipients is exploring the connection between music and the brain.

A doctoral student at Iowa State is being recognized for her research into how music impacts the nervous system. Patricia Izbicki has an undergraduate degree in music performance and is now applying it to her scientific studies in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at ISU. She says she hopes the results of her work lead to more support for music programs.

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