IPR News Stories

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Hurricane Harvey and the subsequent tropical storm could cause shipping delays and damage to infrastructure that is necessary for Iowa’s agricultural exports.

About 60 percent of soybean and corn exports leave the U.S. from the lower Mississippi River. 

Mike Steenhoek is executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. He says prolonged rainfall along the Gulf Coast is delaying some barge unloading and ocean vessel loading.

Steenhoek says the rain is also washing out railroads and putting stress on bridges.

Sarah Boden/IPR File

In Iowa an estimated 6,000 people are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the country as kids to live and work in the U.S.. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds today defended the executive branch agency that’s charged with overseeing compliance with Iowa’s open meetings and public records laws.  

The Iowa Public Information Board is itself the subject of a complaint alleging a violation of the law.    

IPIB is in a legal struggle to force the Burlington Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation to release video from a fatal 2015 police shooting.   

As allowed by law, the board met in closed session last week to discuss the case.

ACLU of Iowa

The ACLU of Iowa has filed what is believed to be the first transgender rights lawsuit in Iowa since the state amended the Iowa Civil Rights Act in 2007 to include gender identity protections.

Jesse Vroegh, a transgender nurse, worked at Iowa’s Department of Corrections for seven years. After he publicly transitioned to male, Vroegh says he was barred from using the men’s bathroom and locker room, and denied medical coverage for surgery.

Iowa’s efforts to improve water quality could get a boost in the next legislative session.

At a meeting Monday in Des Moines to highlight partnerships among farmers, environmental groups, and state and federal agencies, Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey says lawmakers would likely send more money to conservation efforts in the coming years.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The state’s largest teachers union is reaching out to teachers and other employees in 14 Iowa school districts and community colleges where critical recertification votes will take place next month.  

The voting is mandated by Iowa’s new collective bargaining law that went into effect this year.        

For all public sector workers including teachers, the new law requires regular votes to stay unionized which used to be automatic.

IPR/Pat Blank

An Iowa Army National Guard medical helicopter unit based in Waterloo will leave Saturday for a mission that will eventually take its members to the Middle East and nearby regions.

National Guard spokesperson Greg Hapgood says this assignment will be familiar for many of the 35 soldiers who are part of the group known as the Detachment 1, Company C, 2-211th General Support Aviation Battalion.

Update 8/25/17: The Amazon-Whole Foods merger passed a key hurdle after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission decided the grocery deal would not hamper competition or provide an unfair advantage.

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In June, the online retail giant Amazon announced a deal that showed its latest ambition: to completely change how America gets its food.

The latest step toward that goal is a proposed merger with Whole Foods Market, worth nearly $14 billion. For years Amazon has been making moves and launching programs to make food a bigger part of its business.

Daniel Go/Flickr

Students returned to school this week at Des Moines Public Schools, and it’s the first year the district offers all elementary school students breakfast at no charge.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Apple, Incorporated has chosen Waukee for a new high-tech facility,  joining other tech giants Microsoft, Google, and Facebook which built data centers in Iowa in recent years.  

Apple will construct a $1.3 billion campus on 2000 acres to initially include two data centers, with additional expansion in the future.

Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham said, once completed, it will be the largest ever private investment in the state. 

At a news conference on the capitol grounds, Apple CEO Tim Cook called Iowa a home for innovation.

Sarah Boden/Iowa Public Radio

President Donald Trump's stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was on the minds of some people who attended Sen. Chuck Grassley's town hall meeting in Mount Ayr in southern Iowa Wednesday.

President Trump said Tuesday the trade agreement will probably be terminated at some point.

cedar rapids police patch
City of Cedar Rapids

A Cedar Rapids city employee was hospitalized after he brought a shotgun to the City Services Center  Wednesday morning. City officials say the man intended to harm himself.

The City Services Center, which houses several city departments and nearly 375 employees, was evacuated Wednesday morning.

Cedar Rapids Deputy Police Chief Tom Jonker says police entered the building and confirmed the man had caused no injuries.

ACLU OF IOWA

A Des Moines suburb says it is not violating the First Amendment rights of two couples who were told to remove signs on their properties that were critical of the city.

Last week a letter from the ACLU of Iowa to the city of Windsor Heights said that infringes on free speech. In its response, Windsor Heights says the homeowners didn’t comply with city code because they lacked permits, and because the signs displayed were the wrong size.

doug ommen
Iowa Insurance Division

Iowa has submitted a "stopgap" plan to the federal government with the goal of stabilizing the state’s collapsing individual health insurance market.

The plan redirects federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to encourage younger, healthier people to buy insurance.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen says the plan to change parts of the ACA will prevent thousands from dropping insurance. 

Joyce Russell/IPR File

Gov. Kim Reynolds is declining to say whether she’s fully behind President Trump, when she was questioned during her weekly press conference if the president still has her “full-fledged” support. The governor says Iowa is her first priority.  Reynolds backed the Republican nominee Trump during the presidential election. 

Last week Trump seemed to equate neo-Nazis and skinheads with protesters opposing white supremacy after a protest in Virginia turned violent.

Reynolds said racist bigotry and hate is unacceptable, and emphasized her focus is on Iowa.

desks
alamosbasement/flickr

Early voting is underway on a $191.5 million bond question for the Iowa City Community School District.

It is considered the largest K-12 bond in state history, and it is supposed to fund the district’s "Facilities Master Plan."

Kate Moreland is a parent who has been advocating for the bond. She says she is excited for all the schools to be made accessible for students with disabilities, and for the installation of air conditioning.

Drake University

The Metro Arts Alliance of Greater Des Moines is ending operations after nearly 42 years, citing a lack of grant funding. 

The alliance is perhaps best known for arts education programming and the annual Jazz in July series, which celebrated its 35th year this summer.

Executive Direct Angela Ossian wouldn't say whether the drop in funding was from government or private sources, or both.

FLICKR / TAKESHI KUBOKI

The path of totality for today’s solar eclipse all but misses Iowa, except for a sliver of Fremont County, the state’s most southwestern county. 

Less than 600 square acres of Iowa will experience total darkness. Part of this area includes the Lower Hamburg Bend Wildlife Management Area.

Matt Moles works at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources State Parks Bureau. At 1:05 pm, he says, eclipse watchers at the wildlife area will experience 32 seconds of total darkness.

courtesy Iowans for Sam Clovis

As President Donald Trump continues to fill political appointments, his nomination for the top science job at the U.S. Department of Agriculture is raising unique concerns.

Trump has chosen Iowan Sam Clovis to be undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics. Clovis served as a fighter pilot in the Air Force, has a doctorate in public administration, and taught economics at Morningside College in Sioux City.

Sioux City is also where he gained a following as a conservative talk show host.

Iowa DNR

Next week as classes begin, Northwood Kensett secondary principal Keith Fritz will include something in his fall assembly speech that’s not heard often in Iowa schools.

“I mention, in addition to ‘we have the right to search your lockers, guys, we’re going to have a great year this year,” he says. "Those of you who hunt, federal firearms regulations prohibit you from having those on campus.’ And that’s all it takes, they just comply.” 

joni ernst
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Sen. Joni Ernst says she wants the federal government to continue making payments for Obamacare subsidies to health insurance companies.

President Trump has repeatedly threatened to stop making "cost-sharing reduction" payments.

That uncertainty has led the only health insurance company left on Iowa’s exchange to propose a nearly 57 percent rate hike for 2018. Medica originally requested a 43 percent increase. 

Flickr / Takeshi Kuboki

Don’t look at the sun during Monday’s eclipse.

That’s the message from Dr. Michael Abramoff, an ophthalmologist and retinal specialist at the University of Iowa. He warns that during every total solar eclipse, about five or 10 people permanently damage their eyes.

John Pemble/IPR

Gun rights activists are renewing their call to allow firearms at the Iowa State Fair, after a violent incident on the fairgrounds Tuesday night.   

A man was stabbed and critically injured in a fight involving four young men on the southwest corner of the fairgrounds.    

On social media, the Iowa Firearms Coalition is urging the state legislature to end the ban.

"If the Iowa State Fair can't stop violent crime during the fair they should allow lawful citizens to adequately protect themselves,"  the organization wrote on Twitter.

Student Voice

A group of students is gathering in Des Moines to talk about the future of education. They want to be part of the conversation about educational priorities.          

A nonprofit called the Iowa Student Learning Institute is behind the meeting among students, community leaders and legislators. Ian Coon co-founded the institute when he was in high school. Now a sophomore at Wartburg College, Coon says students need to be included when talk turns to education.

During the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, spectators will turn their eyes upward to see the moon pass in front of the sun.

But many Midwest scientists will turn their eyes and cameras to the plants and animals here on the ground. And they're not sure what will happen.

Wikimedia

One part of Iowa’s new comprehensive gun rights law that went into effect in July may end up in court. Under the new statute, a gunowner can sue any local government that tries to keep firearms out of public buildings.  

Dozens of counties with courthouse weapons bans are potential targets. 

Jackson County Chief Deputy Steve Schroeder says they lived through a nightmare a few years back at their courthouse in Maquoketa. 

police car
Diego Parra / Pixabay

The Marion Police Department is teaming up with University of Iowa researchers to improve policing strategies, pending approval by the Marion City Council.

Criminologists from the UI Public Policy Center will be embedded with the police department to promote "Intelligence Led Policing." 

Marion Police Chief Joe McHale says the partnership will help the department analyze information including locations and types of criminal activity.

Flickr / Phil Roeder

The ability of a police officer to spot someone carrying a concealed weapon or bomb is only slightly better than chance, according to a new study from Iowa State University.

Lead author Dawn Sweet directs ISU’s Body Language and Facial Expressions Lab. She says the study's findings don't show that police officers are bad at their jobs, rather it's that they lack the right training or tools to spot people who are concealing potential threats.

Inc. 5000

Twenty-eight Iowa companies are on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing privately owned firms nationwide. Most are located in urban areas, although a few small town enterprises landed spots.

Inc. magazine lists West Des Moines-based Ivy Lane Corporation as the fastest growing company in the state. Revenue for the owner of 35 Valvoline oil change stores has grown by 693 percent over the past three years to put it at 658 on the list.

Grape Tree Medical Staffing in the small, lakes-region town of Milford landed a few spots behind at 665.

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