Pat Blank/IPR

Longtime Cedar Falls Mayor Jon Crews is calling it quits. He announced Thursday he’s decided to retire instead of facing a run-off election next month.

Crews is currently serving his 15th term, having held the office three separate times over the past 40 years. This week’s election showed him finishing second in a three-candidate field, about 700 votes behind Cedar Falls school board member Jim Brown.

Crews says Brown will still have to run, but now the focus will be different. 

March of Dimes

Iowa earns a grade of C on a report card issued by the March of Dimes.

The rating measures the rate of premature births in the state, and it shows a disparity between the races.

The percentage of babies born before full term in Iowa is 9.3.

For blacks, it’s 11.7 percent.

The state director of programs and advocacy for the March of Dimes, Michelle Gogerty says it’s not clear why this disparity exists.

She says the state chapter is working to do something about it.

John Pemble

The National Endowment for the Arts was created in 1965 under the Johnson Administration. NEA Chairman Jane Chu has been in office for a little over a year, and during that time she has traveled to 30 states. Chu is currently in Iowa, her first visit to the state as Chairman. 

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Chu about the NEA's current focus, the division's 50th anniversary, and whether we should be encouraging young people into a career in the arts.

Mark Mathison of Iowa State University unearthed the fossil of a skull that belonged to a fox more than 4 million years ago in Ethiopia.

The fossil has now been named Vulpes mathisoni, or “Mathison’s fox” after it's finder. In this Talk of Iowa interview, Charity Nebbe talks with Mathison about the discovery, what it was like to unearth and research a fossil skull among the culture and politics of several Ethiopian tribes, as well as some of his other adventures as a geologist.


  It was here in Iowa where young voters helped propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. As the president leaves the oval office – Iowans have the opportunity to do the same in the caucuses in less than three months. Where does the youth vote stand now? NPR’s Michel Martin will be in Des Moines next week to hold a conversation on the topic. She talks with IPR's Clay Masters about the November 10th event at Drake University.

Photo by Amy Mayer

Cage-free eggs could be coming to a breakfast near you.

Several large food companies and restaurants, from Starbucks to McDonald's to Kellogg's, announced timelines this year for phasing out eggs laid in conventional cages, a victory for animal welfare advocates who have pushed for changes for years.

But there is more to housing hens than square inches and some egg farmers argue the cage-free barns are less humane than traditional hen housing.

Library of Congress

Frank Klipsch has defeated Davenport’s four-term mayor, Bill Gluba by capturing more two-thirds of the vote in yesterday’s municipal election. Klipsch, the former CEO of the Scott County Family YMCA, says his leadership style will be less authoritarian than Gluba’s as he plans to focus on shared interests and building consensus.

Flickr / Phil Roeder

The jet stream responsible for Iowa’s unseasonably warm November weather isn’t going to last long enough for weekend picnics. A cold front will come through the state Thursday night.

Tony Alter / Flickr

This week marks Paul Ryan's first week  as the new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with political experts Hans Hassell of Cornell College and Chris Larimer of the University of Northern Iowa. They share their predictions of how Ryan will fare in House leadership.

"You're going to end up with in-fighting among Republicans on how to proceed in the face of a veto threat from President Obama," says Hassell. "These structural differences and problems haven't gone away."

Fairfield Community School District

The 2016 Teacher of the Year in Iowa is a 35-year veteran of the profession. 

Fairfield High School English teacher Scott Slechta was introduced as the latest Teacher of the Year during a school assembly.

The 57-year-old has been teaching in the southeast Iowa town since 1984.

Slechta reflects on what the recognition means at this stage of his career.

“New opportunities, new doors opened," he says. "I always think there are points in my career when I kind of look for something new and adventuresome, and I’m sure this journey will offer both of those things.

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation / Wikimedia Commons

Every once in a while we hear about a child musical prodigy who can play an instrument better than most of us could ever dream of playing.  Few of these prodigies become adult stars, but Chris Thile is an exception. 

Thile started playing mandolin with the band Nickel Creek when he was only 8 years old, and he won his first Grammy at age 16.  Today, he fronts the band Punch Brothers and has been named a MacArthur Genius. Starting in early 2016, he’s going to be taking over as host of A Prairie Home Companion for Garrison Keillor.

Des Moines Symphony

In honor of Veteran’s Day at 11 a.m. on November 11th, 2015, Iowa Public Radio will air an encore broadcast of the Des Moines Symphony’s “Yankee Doodle Pops” concert from July 2nd. The Des Moines Symphony and Maestro Joseph Giunta are joined by Governor Terry Branstad for the Armed Forces Salute. Guest Broadway vocalists Christiane Noll and Hugh Panaro perform favorites from State Fair, The Bridges of Madison County, and The Music Man. The Des Moines Symphony will premiere selections from former Iowa composer Peter Hamlin’s Symphony on a Stick.

Wikimedia Commons

Before modern fencing, farmers planted rows of hedge shrubs to keep their animals on their property. Today those hedges are considered a nuisance. Cows can choke on the fruit shed by the bushes, and while some believe hedge apples repel spiders, hedge balls have widely been considered useless.

That’s until chemist Todd Johnson from Burlington discovered the seeds from the fruit contain some of the same anti-inflammatory properties as aspirin and some of the same antimicrobial properties as penicillin.

Reese Erlich

There are interviews you spend hours sweating over, and then there are situations like the one faced by award-winning foreign correspondent Reese Erlich on a recent trip to Jordan. That's where he interviewed Abu Qatada, once described as Osama Bin Laden's right-hand-man in Europe before he was deported from the UK to Jordan in 2013.

Erlich says he had 20 minutes to prepare. The interview was hastily arranged by another of Al Qaeda's top leaders. Erlich says Qatada wanted to talk about human rights violations by the Assad regime in Syria, and by the U.S.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

U.S. energy policy that effectively promotes corn ethanol is holding back a generation of more environmentally sound fuels, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.

To grow corn for ethanol, farmers have been plowing up new land and fertilizing big crops. Some research says that means corn-based ethanol can have a larger carbon footprint than traditional fuel.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A statehouse committee spent the day Tuesday hearing about what’s being called a massive change in how health care in Iowa is delivered to the poor and disabled. 

Private companies are scheduled to take over management of the state-federal health care program known as Medicaid which serves more than 560-thousand Iowans.  

Critics worry about the effect on the state’s most vulnerable populations.  

Flickr / Jennuine Captures Photography


Stun guns produce an electrical shock that causes pain. Wednesday night, the Iowa Supreme Court considers whether this qualifies these devices as "dangerous weapons."

The categorization matters because when Taquala Howse was arrested at a Waterloo Walmart for shoplifting in 2013, officers found a stun gun in her purse. She was convicted of carrying a concealed dangerous weapon without a permit, but the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned that conviction this spring.

Courtesy of Joseph Firecrow

Joseph Firecrow remembers growing up on the reservation and listening to the elders play the flute. He started learning the instrument when he was 18 and says a true Cheyenne flute player hasn’t mastered the craft until he can both play and make a flute.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District / Flickr

Lt. Col. James Fielder was in Afghanistan from October 2013 to December 2014. A senior intelligence officer and air intelligence advisor for the 438 Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, part of his job was to apply political science to real-life scenarios. 

"I used a political communication model. Understanding noise inside of communication is very important if you want to successfully transmit a message to a sender to a receiver and back. And part of noise can be cultural, language differences, time differences."

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa-based magician Nate Staniforth wants to bring wonder back to the modern world. He’s been practicing magic since he was about 10 years old and is on a mission to encourage people to embrace the unknown.

“Whatever happens at a magic show is tapping into something that fundamentally human,” he says. “If you perform at a kid’s party, it’s the adults in the back that are watching most closely. I think that’s because it reminds us of something we’ve lost… a sense of wonder, maybe.”

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A long courtship between the state of Iowa and the southeast European country of Kosovo is about to become formal; the two governments are preparing to tie the diplomatic knot with the opening of the first foreign consulate in Iowa. 

Iowa is becoming part of Kosovo's modern history after years of conflict following the breakup of Yugoslavia. Kosovo's struggle for independence hit bottom in 1999, and NATO forces intervened on behalf of those who wanted autonomy from Yugoslavia. The struggle was given widespread news coverage.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

Close to 60,000 jobs are set to open up in agriculture, food and natural resource sectors each year for the next five years, according to a report from Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The American agriculture industry has a problem though: there are not enough grads to fill those jobs. The report projects about two open jobs for every qualified graduate. That's left the USDA, land grant universities and private industry scrambling to try and bridge the gap.

John Pemble / IPR

Think for a moment about the person with whom you share the least in common, when it comes to your beliefs. Now, imagine having coffee with that person, not just once, but many times over a period of two years.

Univ. of Colorado

Nervous about how your son or daughter will do at the big university?  Now, what if she found this assignment on her syllabus: "Understand Batman as an historically and culturally specific character," with one lecture called "Batman: The Long Halloween."  Or how about this assignment: "Does Harry Potter have a role in shaping your decision-making?"  Or this essay assignment: "Loyalty and Wit: Friendship and the Formation of Dumbledore's Army."

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad says he will not intervene in the controversial Bakken Pipeline project which is under consideration by the Iowa Utilities Board.  

And he is downplaying landowners concerns.    

Dakota Access wants to crisscross the state with a pipeline to transport crude oil from North Dakota.   

Some landowners have not granted permission.    But Branstad argues the company won’t be taking their land.

Boys Town National Research Hospital / Skip Kennedy

The greater degree a child’s hearing loss, the harder it is for that child to keep up with normal-hearing peers. But a new study by the University of Iowa, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha, shows hearing aids can make a big difference.


The cost of a dozen eggs has dropped about a dollar since August, when the price was roughly double from the previous year as a result of the worst outbreak of avian influenza in the nation’s history. But bird flu is only part of the reason egg prices were so high this summer.

John Pemble

On this News Buzz edition of River to River, political opposites, conservative Christian activist Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader and Donna Red Wing of One Iowa, share their views on the 2016 presidential race.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

An Iowa man convicted of first-degree murder in 1992 will be resentenced. This comes as little surprise following the Iowa Supreme Court's ruling this summer in State of Iowa vs. Yvette Louisell

Eric Querrey was 15 when he shot and killed 16-year-old Stacy Halferty. He received the mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

JD Lasica, / Flickr

It is widely reported that there are three Democratic presidential candidates vying for the party's nomination, but there is another Democratic candidate many Iowans have never heard of. His name is Lawrence Lessig, and he is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.