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The student art exhibit that just went up in Drake University’s Harmon Fine Arts Center crosses the intersection between art and the natural world. It’s the result of work created in a class called Planets. 

Drake associate art professor Angela Battle is pawing through an untidy box of display materials as she searches for things by which student artwork might attach to a gallery wall.

“See all the stuff required to hang an exhibition," she says. "Where are they?”

Flickr / David Morris

New data from the Iowa DNR shows that drier than normal conditions so far this year have actually been ideal for the state.

Heavy rainfall during the autumn raised concerns that Iowa would experience flooding after the snow melted this spring. But the dryness has normalized hydrological conditions so now stream flow, soil moisture, and water supply are all in normal range. 

John Pemble

Families striving to raise autistic children would get help under a human services budget approved in  the Republican-controlled Iowa House this week.   

But Democrats say private insurers should cover the treatment to take the burden off taxpayers.

Under the bill, more families will have access to a revolving fund to pay for intensive treatment.

“To be able to have early intervention will offer an opportunity to reach a state of normalcy,”  said Rep. David Heaton (R-Mount Pleasant).  

Courtesy of Iowa City Public Library

In order to try and encourage more students to read, Sue Inhelder and Susan Fritzell of Marshalltown High School went in search of fun ways to get books in high schoolers' hands. Thus began the Iowa High School Battle of the Books. They hosted their first contest during the 2007-2008 school year for students in their Area Education Association, and then the expanded it to be a statewide program.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

Turn on the TV and you can barely escape it: presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle deriding free trade agreements, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is a bum deal that will hurt the U.S. economy and especially low-wage workers, according to pols from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.

But here in the Midwest, ask a farmer about the TPP, and you're likely to get a different answer.

Iowa Department of Human Services officials say Iowa’s Medicaid system has transitioned into private management with no major systematic problems. But members of the Senate Human Resources Committee say they’re hearing about serious issues from their constituents.

Senate Democrat Bill Dotzler of Waterloo says these problems stem from a lack of consistency among the companies now managing Medicaid. 

"You're not hearing what we're hearing, it's not all roses," says Dotzler. "It is systemic and it's across our districts from senator to senator." 

An Iowa historian is running as an independent to unseat six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley.

Michael Luick-Thrams of Mason City says both major political parties are too married to ideology and can’t do what’s best for the country. 

"We have to have real people with real problems within the halls of government. Be that farmers, or teachers, or labor unionists, or actors, or whoever it needs to be. But someone who’s not there to have a career in politics," says Luick-Thrams.

Photo by John Pemble

A GOP state senator wants clerks of court around the state to keep their offices open during all normal business hours, in spite of a limited judicial branch budget for next year.  

Court officials warn they may have to reduce office hours or furlough workers under a judicial branch status quo spending plan.

In 2009, court employees took unpaid leave and offices were closed for several days to accommodate a nearly four million dollar cut in the judicial branch budget. Hours were reduced in some counties again in 2013.

When Luke Benson started approaching other music lovers in the state about his idea for the Iowa Music Project, he did not anticipate that the end result would be a showcase where he and a committee would be trying to pick fewer than 30 songs from more than 250 submissions. 

"We were hoping for maybe 100, and we got that many in the last week alone. It was a tremendous response," says Benson. 

Michelle Hoover

In her new novel "Bottomland," (Grove Press), Ames native Michelle Hoover writes about a family's struggles after the disappearance of two of their daughters.  She tells host Charity Nebbe that the story was inspired by a long forgotten photograph of her own family.

Photo by John Pemble

The golden dome of the historic Iowa State Capitol is succumbing to damage from the inside out, and scaffolding will soon envelop the structure as part of a $10 million restoration.  

The dome was regilded in 2005, but McCoy says the current problems weren't apparent during a prior restoration project. 

Des Moines Democrat Matt McCoy says moisture has seeped in and eroded the mortar.

“They are going to have to go up into the dome, with scaffolding all around the dome,” McCoy says, “and fix and repair the cupola on down.”

WIKICOMMONS / Ser Amantio di Nicolao

An Iowa woman who lost her daughter in a car crash allegedly caused by an undocumented Honduran immigrant testified before members of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. Michelle Root says her daughter Sarah was killed on the day she graduated college by Edwin Mejia, who was drag racing while intoxicated.

Root says due to the Obama administration’s immigration policies, Mejia was able to post bail and then possibly fled the country after the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency declined to detain him.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A state senator best known for leading a long and controversial fight to legalize the hunting of mourning doves said farewell to the Iowa Senate today. 

Des Moines Democrat and avid hunting enthusiast Dick Dearden is retiring after 20 years in the legislature. 

In remarks to his fellow Senators, Dearden recalls leading passage of the dove hunting bill three times before it finally became law in 2011. 

He remembers what he calls one of his favorite e-mails from an animal rights enthusiast:

Jim Pease

Lions, zebras, and elephants are not native to the Iowa landscape, but a lot can be learned from these African creatures and from the challenges they face.  

On this wildlife day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe sits down with wildlife biologist Jim Pease, who has just returned from a trip to Africa. His guide, Jim Heck, of Explorer’s World Travel, also joins the conversation to talk about their journey and what they saw, including an up close and personal encounter with the Great Migration.

Photo by John Pemble

A controversial measure to defund Planned Parenthood because the organization performs abortions is again under consideration at the statehouse, with the blessing of Governor Branstad. 

Republicans have added the measure to a human services budget bill, setting up a showdown with Democratic critics.   

The governor won’t comment on the specific legislation, but at his weekly news conference he made his views clear.

Jacqueline Halbloom

This week’s Symphonies of Iowa broadcast features the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra’s “Romeo & Juliet and The King of Instruments” concert. It features music composed by Hector Berlioz, Francis Poulenc, and Camille Saint-Saëns.

Victor Daly / Ft. Des Moines Museum

Nearly 100 years after the Army's first black officers' training program debuted in Iowa, dozens of old photographs have been discovered showing what life was like when Fort Des Moines was gearing up for World War I. 

The country's oldest African American fraternity returned to its early roots this month when the Fort Des Moines Museum welcomed members of Alpha Phi Alpha in remembering their brothers from generations ago. In 1917, the national fraternity helped recruit black college students to become officers, and a racial barrier was broken. 

Pat Blank/IPR

As more people look to have control over how their food is grown, many are planting gardens for the first time. And some are even turning their backyards into chicken coops. It’s the time of year when hardware stores and agricultural supply companies share space among the lawnmowers and grass seed with live baby chickens.

Some venues offer informational seminars to help customers get started.  On a recent Thursday night at a Cedar Falls farm store, Cargill animal nutrition specialist Jodi Holmes said people came with a lot of questions.

Wikimedia Commons

As the Iowa legislature strives toward adjournment, we look to surrounding states to compare and contrast priorities at other statehouses in the Midwest during this hour of River to River. During this conversation, Iowa Public Radio Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell talks with Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting, Brian Mackey of WUIS in Springfield, Illinois, and Shawn Johnson of Wisconsin Public Radio.

John Pemble/IPR

After high hopes for action at the statehouse this year on water quality, it appears that lawmakers will soon be adjourning without reaching consensus on how to pay for the cleanup of Iowa rivers and streams. 

So far the Republican House and Democratic Senate have not been able to agree on a funding plan for water quality improvements.

The governor, the House, and the Senate each had competing funding mechanisms for cleaning up the water.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) says the three interested parties are like ships passing in the night.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

 

Food waste is an expensive problem. The average U.S. family puts upwards of $2,000 worth of food in the garbage every year.

What some see as a problem, however, others see as a business opportunity. A new facility, known as the Heartland Biogas Project, promises to take wasted food from Colorado's Front Range and turn it into electricity.

Courtesy of Simpson College Opera

This week’s Arias in April broadcast features Simpson College Opera’s production of Cavalli’s La Calisto. It will air on Saturday, April 23 at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 24 at 11:00 p.m.

Flickr / 401(K) 2012

Though Monday is the deadline to file federal income tax returns, Iowans still have another two weeks before they must hand over their state income taxes. 

The Iowa Department of Revenue advises Iowans to file electronically, and depending on your income and veteran status there is software people can use for free.

"If you are going to get a refund, you will get it much quicker," says IDR spokeswoman Victoria Daniels. "A lot of the software programs, they actually do the calculations for you, and so you are less likely to have mistakes."

facebook.com/andrewbirdmusic

Andrew Bird is from the North Shore area of Chicago (Lake Forest), and that's where he learned to play the violin.  He was a Suzuki student beginning at age four.  In 1996, Bird graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in violin performance.  He soon began recording, including three albums with the band Squirrel Nut Zippers and three more with his own group, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire.  At this point, Bird is well into a successful solo career, with many quirky and intriguing albums to his credit.

Jared and Corin/flickr

It appears that advocates for rural Iowa schools will again be wrapping up this year’s legislative session without addressing a critical concern.

With more and more school consolidations, students are traveling longer distances to school, resulting in higher transportation costs compared to other districts around the state.    

Sen. Tom Shipley (R-Nodaway) represents students in the Southwest Valley District, what used to be Villisca and Corning schools.

Iowa Sweet Corn Planting!

Apr 15, 2016
Michael Leland/IPR

Iowa’s sweet corn season is underway! That planting, that is.

Dean Rebal’s roadside stand at his farmhouse adjacent to Highway 1 north of Iowa City won’t be opening until mid-July.  But, on Thursday, Rebal began moving his planter across the twenty-acres where he’ll be growing this year’s sweet corn crop. He usually sells some nine-thousand dozen ears of sweet corn. Last year, Rebal’s selling season began July 17th and he sold the final ears for the season on September 16th.

Joanna Bourne / Flickr

Like most institutions, the University of Iowa uses coal in its power plants. It, however, also has a hyper-local source of fuel: discarded oat hulls from the Quaker Oats factory in Cedar Rapids.  With a landmark change in regulation between the university and the DNR, plus a dash of good weather, University of Iowa is able to explore a different type of fuel type. Ben Fish, associate director of Utilities and Energy Management at the University of Iowa, joined Clare Roth to discuss their efforts.

NASA

On Christmas Eve 1968, nine-year-old Clayton Anderson watched on television as Apollo 8 traveled to the far side of the moon. That night, his dreams of being an astronaut were born.

"I was enamored. I was just transfixed by what was happening," he says.

Anderson realized his dream. He's a veteran of two space flights and spent five months aboard the international space station in 2007. He's written about his life in space and on Earth in the new book, The Ordinary Spaceman: From Boyhood Dreams to Astronaut.

Photo courtesy of Iris DeMent

During the 4:00 hour of The Folk Tree on Sunday, April 17, Iris DeMent talks with IPR's Karen Impola about her roots in the Arkansas Delta, her emergence as a songwriter, and her most recent album, The Trackless Woods, on which she put music to the poems of Russian writer Anna Akhmatova. Iris will be performing on Thursday, April 21 at the Temple for Performing Arts in Des Moines; opening the show will be her daughter-in-law, Pieta Brown.

Click here to hear a song from The Trackless Woods.

Simon Estes Foundation

  In the 1970s, Simon Estes - the son of an Iowa coal miner and grandson of slaves - was triumphing in Europe's most legendary opera houses. He starred at La Scala, Covent Garden, Salzburg, Glyndebourne, and the  Bayreuth Festival (where he was the first male of African descent to sing lead roles).  But here in his home country, top opera companies ignored him, and the reason was obvious: race. That slight could have embittered almost anyone, but not Estes. What saw him through was guidance from his mother - advice she had first given him when he was a child in Centerville, Iowa.

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