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Harvest Public Media / Peggy Lowe

Iowa isn’t requiring new bio security standards at its poultry facilities in the wake of last spring’s catastrophic outbreak of avian flu, but many farms are creating heightened bio-security barriers. Though there is no concrete proof of how bird flu spread so far and so rapidly, it’s widely believed humans played a large role in spreading the disease across the Midwest. 

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

During the final year of the Obama administration, Congress will likely address several agricultural concerns. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who sits on the Senate agriculture committee, expects the federal government could tackle free trade, childhood nutrition and ongoing implementation of the farm bill.

Sarah Boden / Iowa Public Radio

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stumped at Northstar Elementary  School in Knoxville on New Year's Eve morning.

The Vermont senator, who is running as a Democrat, says Wall Street's "recklessness" destroyed the economy with the subprime mortgage crisis in 2007. For this reason he says big financial institutions should help pay for free college education in the U.S. through a tax on speculation, or high-risk trading.

Photo Courtesy Daniel Moon

Twenty years ago in Iowa, the influx of latino workers and their families was a large topic of conversation. Today, refugee programs are working with more than 180 different languages and are helping migrants from all over the world navigate culture in Iowa, and starting to include ideas of sexual identity and socio-economic status in the conversation.

During this hour of River to River, we hear from Henny Ohr, Executive Director of the Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, about the influx of refugees from Burma who have been relocating to Iowa.

Metal Chris / Flickr, Licensed under Creative Commons

Many decry the coarsening of our political discourse. History demonstrates that politics has always been a "contact sport." But over the years Iowa's social capital has allowed Iowans to disagree without being disagreeable.

Katherine Perkins / IPR

There was a time when Iowans knew their neighbors. They relied on each other to help with labor on the farm, or to keep an eye on children. And if you didn't see your neighbors during the week, you saw them on Sunday at church. But as church attendance declines and farms are fewer and farther between, Iowans are finding new ways to form community.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Pittman

Thousands of Iowans are attending the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California tomorrow as part of Rose Bowl festivities. Three of this year’s floats are designed by Iowan Dave Pittman. He’s employed year round as a float designer and says companies sponsoring floats are spending up to half a million dollars on the event. 

Kids on Hawk-I, Iowa’s Medicaid program for low income children, are receiving new insurance cards in the mail. But they might not put them to much use, since Iowa’s Medicaid program is scheduled to go into privatized management on March 1.

Initially the transition to privatization was scheduled for New Year’s Day. In anticipation of this date, insurer Wellmark scaled back its Hawk-I resources; but now the transition is scheduled for March so Wellmark’s Hawk-I contracts need a new home.

Mark Kortum / Flickr

Parenting in Iowa has changed a lot over the decades.

“We have the luxury of giving lots and lots of time and energy to kids that our great-grandparents didn’t,” says Pamela Riney-Kehrberg of Iowa State University.

The head of the governor’s office of drug control policy will ask state lawmakers to make it easier for doctors and pharmacies to use the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.    The program is designed to prevent the overprescribing of painkillers and other addictive drugs.   

Clay Masters/IPR file photo

Des Moines residents can expect their water bills to go up 10 percent in April. It comes as the state’s largest water utility is in the middle of a lawsuit with three northern Iowa counties.

Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe says the utility has removed more nitrates from the city’s water supply of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers in the last year than any other.

Flickr / Jason Mrachina

There were 21 homicides in Des Moines in 2015. This is nearly double the number of homicides from 2014, which saw 11.

The last time the city saw at least 20 homicides in a single year was in 1995. Back then gang activity was a major factor, but in 2015 that's not the case and the Des Moines Police Department says it's unclear why the number of homicides was higher in 2015. 

Pat Blank/IPR

Cedar Falls Mayor Jon Crews is ending his 15th term in office. He decided to retire instead of facing a run-off election with Cedar Falls School board member Jim Brown.

Crews says, " I consider myself lucky because I've had far more good days on the job than bad ones."

Crews made headlines in 1971 when he was elected mayor at the age of 25. Iowa Public Radio's Pat Blank  talks with Crews about his career and his future plans.

  

One year ago Iowans and Nebraskans enrolled in the healthcare startup Co-Opportunity Health found out they were losing their healthcare coverage. There are 11 other of these so-called “co-ops” that were funded by the federal government that have failed. 

The Affordable Care Act had set aside funding for these so-called health co-ops.

They enabled organizations to compete in places where there weren’t many insurers.

Flickr / slappytheseal

Iowa’s ban on live poultry exhibitions, swap meets, exotic sales, and other gatherings of birds is ending on New Year’s Day.

The final poultry operation that was infected with avian flu came out of quarantine this month, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship says it considers gatherings of live birds to be safe now.

Ben Kieffer

This edition of River to River kicks off Iowa Public Radio’s Iowa Week with the theme “then and now.”

Iowa Digital Library / Flickr

From one room country schools to high tech multi-million dollar facilities, schools in Iowa have changed a lot. What goes on inside the schools has changed a lot too.

“Every decade or two we see these large transformations in what the school is asked to do."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe kicks off "Iowa Week: Then and Now" with a look at education in Iowa over the years.

JOHN PEMBLE

*This is an updated version of this story. 

If you don’t have to travel, it's best to stay off Iowa roads today since the blizzard that blanketed parts of the southwest U.S. has moved into the Midwest as a heavy snowstorm. Roughly 5000 Iowa Department of Transportation trucks are out clearing snow from the state’s interstates and highways, most of which are partially or completely covered with snow, ice and slush.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

Corn Belt farmers faced a down year in 2015, according to Agriculture Department numbers. Demand for grain was high, but farmers hauled in an enormous supply of corn and soybeans, keeping prices low. USDA says overall farm income in 2015 is likely to be down 55 percent compared to a peak in 2013.

constructionlessons.com

The construction industry in Iowa is moving into a busy first-half of 2016 with not enough workers to handle the jobs. Efforts are underway to attract more young people into the field.

Leaders in the building industry are promoting construction careers to students as young as middle-school age as a way to fill a gap in skilled laborers in Iowa.  The president of the Master Builders of Iowa, Chad Kleppe, says there are not enough carpenters, ironworkers, masons and other construction workers to attend to the hundreds of building projects in progress.

Deb Zeller

A bronze statue stolen from downtown Sioux City will return by next summer, with some repairs and a new pedestal, which is designed to be more secure. So secure that Sioux City Art Center won't give too many details on the new mount for "Goddess of the Grapes." 

"Well if I told you, it wouldn't be a secured design," laughs Al Harris-Fernandez, director of the art center. "It's just something that will give us more to attach the sculpture onto so that it can't be easily removed." 

A year ago, Iowans enrolled in the healthcare startup Co-Opportunity found out they were losing their healthcare coverage. Since then a dozen of these so-called “co-ops” that were funded by the federal government have failed.

Luther College

Our holiday offerings continue throughout Christmas Day with lovely specials from St. Olaf, the Rose Ensemble, Chanticleer, the Christmas Revels, Christmas at Luther, and a live performance of Handel's Messiah. Here's a complete list for Dec. 25th:

Markus Grossalber / Flickr

"Remember the reason for the season" is an oft-repeated platitude, intended to rebuke the commercialization of Christmas and bring to the forefront thoughts of Jesus in a manger. But Bruce Forbes, professor of Religious Studies at Morningside College in Sioux City and author of Christmas: A Candid History, says the reason for the season is more complicated, and far older than Jesus' birth.

Courtesy: National Christmas Tree Association

It's the time of the year when Katie Abrams sees her Fort Collins, Colo., neighbors pulling up with real trees tied to car roofs. She feels small pangs of jealousy when friends post woodsy pictures in flannel shirts, cutting down the perfect spruce.

"It all sounds really nice," Abrams says. "And then once you go out and do it I can just imagine all the steps involved."

That's about when she pulls out the fake tree from the garage. An act that terrifies U.S. Christmas tree growers.

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer

Another outbreak of bird flu in the Midwest remains likely, even if farms and public health systems are more prepared to deal with it.

 

Marc Nozell / Flickr

All eyes are on Iowa in advance of the February 1st precinct caucuses, but just eight days later, the first primary in the nation takes place in New Hampshire. Though the state experiences the same frenzy of candidate attention Iowa does, candidate appearances and electorate makeup differ.

One key difference? The importance of faith background on voting.

IPR Classical's holiday programming continues December 24th with specials that will add joy to your day.  (There's more to come on the 25th; we'll post those tomorrow.) Highlights include A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols live from the UK, the Spelman-Morehouse Christmas concert from Atlanta, the wfcsymphony from Cedar Falls, Amahl and the Night Visitors from Des Moines, Christmas at Luther, Doug Brown's classic reading of A Christmas Carol, and more. Here's the complete schedule:

Photo Courtesy of Angie Hansen

With our 24 hours news cycle, it’s easy to get caught up in the crisis of the day. While all that is going on, however, individuals everywhere are making a difference by performing acts of kindness that will never make it into a newscast. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with a handful of Iowans touched by remarkable acts of kindness in 2015.

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

Three Iowans have died from influenza this season, but the overall activity involving flu-like illness remains light. The mild weather may be a contributing factor, according to Patricia Quinlisk at the Department of Public Health.

"We've had flu around Iowa for about a month, a month and a half now, we've certainly had people hospitalized, but it’s been staying at a pretty low level, probably part of that is we've just been so warm. We know that the flu really likes cold weather."

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