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State Sen. Matt McCoy from Des Moines, co-chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations Subcommittee, said last week that lawmakers don’t back Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposal to spend $65 million to demolish part of the 234,000 square foot state historical facility and renovate the rest. He’s proposed an alternative plan.

YUVAL PELEG

The Bible is the most read book of all time. For billions of people around the world, it provides answers, and it also leaves many questions.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with archaeologist and biblical scholar Robert Cargill, who has worked long, hard, and traveled far to find an answer to the question of - Where did the Bible come from?

He's written about what he has found in his new book, The Cities that Built the Bible.

Ryan Harvey / Flickr

Iowa is one of only a handful of states where it isn't legal to cash out an online fantasy sports bet. That could change this legislative session. Rep. Jake Highfill, a Republican from Johnston, introduced legislation that would legalize cash prizes for participating in the games online. Rep. Guy Vander Linden of Oskaloosa, says that type of gaming needs regulation.

Alan Levine/flickr

A bill to allow vouchers for some Iowa private school students advanced at the capitol this week.  

The bill faces an uncertain future, but it created a firestorm of protest from advocates for the state’s public schools.  

Private schools are pushing hard for something they call Education Savings Accounts.   The bill would give some low-income families close to six thousand dollars in state funds per child to help defray tuition.   

Not everyone is pleased with the idea of a proposed $240 million pork processing plant near Mason City. North Carolina-based Prestage Farms said last month it expects to employ up to 2,000 people at its hog slaughtering facility, after it opens sometime in 2017.

But environmental watchdog group Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement says the need for thousands of hogs will mean more factory farms in North Central Iowa.

Group spokesperson Jess Mazour says the project will have long-term, irreversible consequences.

WIKICOMMONS / Billwhittaker

Conventional wisdom says city-living is expensive. But a new report from an Iowa public policy group finds that's not always the case.

The Iowa Policy Project's 2016 "Cost of Living in Iowa" report finds that even though Iowa cities have higher rents and childcare costs, health insurance and long commutes eat up bigger portions of rural household budgets.

Shinya Suzuki / Flickr

Mary Swander, Iowa's Poet Laureate, moved out to the country when she fell ill in 1983. She wanted to be close to where organic, whole foods were grown. Thirty years later, she's gained more than a connection to agriculture--she's gained a connection with a group of people not seen by most of society: the Amish. 

"They are based on the Benedictine monks, so they live like a cloistered community but they have families. They’re supposed to be disconnected from the outside world," she says. "So, now I’m a neighbor, and that’s a very privileged position."

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa House continues working on legislation to fund water quality improvements at what some are calling historic levels.   The House bill would appropriate $750 million over the next 13 years, what Governor Branstad calls a good start.  

Nitrogen levels in the Raccoon River have prompted a lawsuit from the Des Moines Water Works.  Mike Delaney with the Raccoon River Watershed Association and the Sierra Club says the public needs to know how much nitrogen is in their watersheds.

Iowa Public Radio / Amy Mayer

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland are meeting for breakfast soon. But Grassley says the meeting won’t change his mind about not holding confirmation hearings for Garland.

The Iowa Republican heads the Senate Judiciary Committee. Grassley says he spoke with Garland over the phone yesterday, though the two still have to set a date for their breakfast.

Reji/flickr

Republicans in the Iowa House Monday added more money to their water quality initiative, proposing to spend nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars over the next 13 years.  

But experts estimate that meeting goals for nitrates in the water will cost as much as five-and-a-half billion dollars.

“We have a severe water quality issue in the state of Iowa,” said Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt (D-Cedar Rapids).   “Especially with nitrates.”

Jason Weinberger

This week’s Symphonies of Iowa broadcast features the wcfsymphony’s “Bach I” concert. It features music composed by the illustrious Johann Sebastian Bach.

Photo Courtesy of Peter Aguero

Peter Aguero, Moth GrandSLAM champion and instructor for the Moth Community Program, started telling stories for The Moth in 2007 after finding a community at an open mic story slam in New York City. 

"I put my name is the hat, and I got picked. I told a terrible story," he says. "It didn't have any structure, and it didn't make sense. After that, the producer said 'that wasn't great, but you should come back.'" 

He went back because of the community. 

Flickr / Jeff Gitchel

Iowa’s Secretary of State Paul Pate says the Iowa Supreme Court should not be determining who can and cannot vote. 

Iowa's constitution says people convicted of infamous crimes are forever prohibited from voting, though some with felony convictions have successfully petitioned to have their rights restored. The state's high court is currently considering if "infamous crimes" means all felonies.

John Pemble

Here’s what to know going into the week at the Iowa legislature.

Anita / Flickr

With April, spring has tentatively arrived, grass everywhere is starting to turn green, and Iowan eyes are cast to the lawn. One question facing homeowners is whether or not to rake the leftover leaves on the lawn.

"You can get some damage from it. On the other hand, in most situations those leaves will break down and they won't do a thing, Iowa State University horticulture professor and turf grass expert Nick Christians.

Christians says the leaf breakdown can even be beneficial.

Courtesy of DMMO

This week’s Arias in April broadcast features another production from the Des Moines Metro Opera’s 43rd Festival Season, Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West. It will air on Saturday, April 9 at 8:00 p.m and Sunday, April 10 at 11:00 p.m.

Blue Avenue April 3

Apr 3, 2016

WILLIAM CLARKE-BLOWIN' THE FAMILY JEWELS (EXCERPT)

ANDY POXON-I WANT TO KNOW

THE JIMMYS-WHAT CHUR DOIN'

THE KNICKERBOCKER ALL STARS-HE WAS A FRIEND OF MINE

JANIVA MAGNESS-LOVE WINS AGAIN

HARPER-WHAT'S GOIN' DOWN

BONNIE RAITT-ALL ALONE WITH SOMETHING TO SAY

BOB CORRITORE-T-TOWN RAMBLE (EXCERPT)

TIM WILLIAMS-ANYWHERE C/O THE BLUES

BRYCE JANEY-DOWN HOME BLUES

LUTHER DICKINSON-HOW I WISH MY TRAIN WOULD COME

JAMES HUNTER 6-LIGHT OF MY LIFE

NIKKI JAMES-LOVE YOU LONG

MAGIC SAM-YOU BELONG TO ME

Photo by Kyle Munson

One of the Iowa's most generous philanthropists has died at the age of 79.  Richard Jacobson grew up in Belmond. He died today at his home in Florida.

Jacobson used the wealth he built as owner of a Des Moines-based shipping company to support many causes in the areas of health care, education and the Iowa State Fair.  His large gifts include $15 million to the University of Northern Iowa’s College of Education and $100 million to the Mayo Clinic, the largest gift Mayo has ever received from a single donor.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Public Radio Senior Producer Dean Borg is being honored by Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.  It has named him this year’s recipient of the James W. Schwartz Award, which honors distinguished service to journalism and mass communication.  Borg has been with IPR since 2000, and also hosts and moderates Iowa Public Television's “Iowa Press” program, now in its 45th year.

Dean Borg/IPR

As Iowa legislators search the state’s budget for money to fund water quality projects, an Iowa environmentalist believes it may be on grocery store shelves.

Ralph Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Iowa Environmental Council, estimates a five-cent tax on plastic bottles containing water and other beverages could bring the needed money to the state.

“We’ve heard it may raise as much as $20 to 25 million a year,” Rosenberg told reporters Friday, following taping of an Iowa Press program on water quality at Iowa Public Television.

Amy Mayer

In 2015, an outbreak of avian flu led to the depopulation of 50 million birds across Iowa and the Midwest. During the height of the outbreak last summer, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration halted egg inspections to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig says that the state halted inspections after the FDA announced they would do the same.

Louis / Flickr

In the spring of 1916 war raged in Europe and tensions rose in the United States. In response, some far-sighted Iowans decided it was time to bring the Red Cross to Iowa.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe hosts a discussion on the history of the American Red Cross, the work of its volunteers, and the mission of the Red Cross in Iowa today. Volunteer Nancy Kintner remembers an experience she had in Cedar Rapids during the 2008 flood recovery.

Remi Itani / International Organization for Migration / Flickr

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, fleeing war, poverty, and ecological disaster. The influx has sparked a crisis, as European counties struggle to cope with the human flood. It's also creating division in the European Union over how best to deal with resettling people. 

Senator Chuck Grassley is caught in the middle of the controversy over whether or not to hold hearings on D.C. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Jim McCormick, political science professor at Iowa State University says that the move to block hearings on the nomination is “odd.”

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

At midnight this morning, Iowa's Medicaid system transitioned into the hands of three for-profit corporations. Gov. Terry Branstad says the move will contain costs, but critics say privatization leaves many patients without services. 

At the McDonough home in Cedar Rapids, shower day for seven-year-old Carson can be tricky.  That's because he breathes through a tracheal tube.

From tomorrow on, the previously state-run Medicaid system will be managed by private companies called "managed care organizations," or MCOs. In the lead-up to the switch, many of those who benefit from Medicaid have struggled with getting information about coverage, payment, and benefits.

Anders Adermark/flickr

A Republican-sponsored water quality bill passed by a wide margin in a House committee today in spite of reservations from Democrats.  

The bill takes existing tax revenue, and commits it to cities trying to get pollutants out of their drinking water.  

Iowans who live in cities pay a tax on metered water.  The bill would direct the tax to a special fund for water treatment upgrades.   

But Democrats say farm chemicals and other contaminants will still be in Iowa waterways.  

File Photo, House Democratic Caucus

With the privatization of Iowa’s health care program for the poor and disabled set to go into effect tomorrow, state lawmakers Wednesday grilled company representatives and Medicaid managers about the change.    

There was emotional debate in the House about a young cancer patient’s treatment being delayed.        

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether it violates the state’s constitution to permanently ban people with felony convictions from voting. 

The constitution states anyone who commits an “infamous crime,” forever loses the right to vote, though the text offers little context as to what makes a crime "infamous."

Photo by Amy Mayer

The country's top attorney on national security issues told Iowans Wednesday that all Internet-connected computers are potentially vulnerable to outside attacks.

John Carlin, assistant U.S. attorney general for national security, visited central Iowa to share with business leaders what the government sees as threats, and how companies can protect themselves.

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