News

Mike Mozart / Flickr

With the lawsuits between North Carolina and the Department of Justice and widespread boycotts of establishments like Target for their inclusive bathroom policies, transgender rights have been dominating the news cycle. In the middle of the politics and punditry, it's easy to lose sight of what being transgender actually means. Jay Irwin, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, says language is a good place to start.

New reforms to Iowa sentencing code in the areas of child endangerment, non-violent drug offense, and robbery were signed into law on Thursday. Gov. Terry Branstad calls the legislation "a balanced approach" aimed at making Iowa’s criminal justice system more equitable.

Child Endangerment

People convicted of child endangerment resulting in death in Iowa now must serve 30 to 70 percent of their sentence before they can be paroled. Though the crime has the sentence of 50 years, offenders have been immediately eligible for parole.

MarKaus, Des Moines based artist

Des Moines based hip hop artist MarKaus (@MarKausMF), his record label, and the Des Moines Social Club are collaborating to produce a hip hop festival in Des Moines to highlight the Iowa hip hop scene. After reading that, you might be thinking, “Iowa has a hip hop scene?” It does, and it’s growing.

Randy Bayne / Flickr

In a speech after his victory in the West Virginia primary Tuesday, Bernie Sanders made a nod towards unity in his party. 

"Our message to the Democratic delegates who will be assembling in Philadelphia is while we may have many disagreements with Secretary Clinton, there is one area we agree, and that is we must defeat Donald Trump."

BBC World Service

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with José Orduña, author of The Weight of Shadows: A Memoir of Immigration and Displacement. In his book, Orduña tells his family's story of emigrating from Mexico and reflects on the process of becoming a North American citizen in a post-9/11 United States.

Orduña says that even after becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, he still has feelings on injustice and anger towards the system.

New Rivers Press

Who says poetry has to be monotonous and sentimental?  Definitely not the case with Debra Marquart's third poetry collection, "Small Buried Things" (New Rivers Press).  The Iowa State University English professor, who teaches in the M.F.A. program in creative writing, keeps you guessing throughout what her next topic will be. 

Flickr / Andrew Higgins

A new law signed Wednesday allows Iowa to finance a statewide communication system of high tech radios for first responders.

Commissioner Roxann Ryan of the Iowa Department of Public Safety says Iowa is currently one of only a handful of states without an interoperable communication system. First responders elsewhere in the country have found the high tech radios especially helpful during natural disasters, when cell phones towers are damaged or networks are overloaded.

Courtesy of Oxfam America

Thousands of chainmail-clad workers with knives and hooks keep a modern poultry plant running, churning out the millions of pounds of poultry we eat every year. The job is difficult and demanding, especially for line employees who make the same motion for hours, struggling to keep up with a fast-moving disassembly line. 

A new report from Oxfam America paints an even bleaker picture. 

Rick Friday

Rick Friday had been drawing editorial cartoons for Farm News for more than two decades, that was until last week when a cartoon criticizing Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer and John Deere cost him his job.

He drew a farmer lamenting to another farmer the downturn in the commodity prices. Friday was as surprised as anyone that the cartoon then cost him his job, especially given that it had gone though the editor of the paper before being printed. 

SriMesh / Wikimedia Commons

If you're been outside in the last week or so across the state, you've heard it: spring migratory rush hour. Lots of species make long migrations in the winter, and many bird species are making their appearances right now across the state. 

"We have seen, in the last two days, very large flocks of Harris Sparrows and White Crown Sparrows," says wildlife biologist Jim Pease. "They are coming through from the South and they will end up in the Arctic. It happens quick when they come through. This morning, I haven't noticed nearly as many Harris Sparrows as I did yesterday." 

John Pemble

A new art exhibit with works by troubled teens about social justice issues is now in a downtown Des Moines gallery. The effort is organized by ArtForce Iowa, a non-profit group working with teens going through the court system.  The centerpiece was created this spring in a classroom at the Polk County Juvenile Detention Center.  

Iowa Public Radio / Amy Mayer

Sen. Chuck Grassley says the Republican Party has time to unite behind real estate mogul Donald Trump, the apparent GOP presidential nominee, before the November Election. That's in spite of the fact that several prominent Republicans have withheld their endorsements.

Tatsunori Hashimoto

This week’s Symphonies of Iowa broadcast features the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra’s “The Moldau, Don Juan & Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto” concert. It includes music composed by Richard Strauss, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Bedřich Smetana and features young pianist extraordinaire Charlie Albright.

CLAY MASTERS / IPR

Gov. Terry Branstad says he’ll support the nominee of his party in the presidential race this November. He adds that he'll be the very first to admit that he underestimated real-estate mogul Donald Trump, the apparent Republican nominee.

"This summer, when he came to the Iowa State Fair, flew his helicopter around and all of this stuff. I thought, 'This is not going to last,'" says Branstad. "Well I was wrong, as have been most of the pundits and political people."

An assistant Iowa attorney general is calling on state lawmakers to take action next session on laws to protect bicyclists on Iowa roadways. Iowa Assistant Attorney General Pete Grady says current law makes it nearly impossible to prove recklessness in cases where drivers hit bicyclists. 

At present, Grady says prosecutors need to show the vehicle operators knew their actions would cause harm.

"I don’t think anyone would define reckless behavior as requiring a better than 50 percent outcome for danger or harm, but that’s the standard we have here in Iowa," he says. 

Flickr / Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures

Iowa now has statewide regulations for ride-sourcing companies like Uber and Lyft.  Gov. Terry Branstad signed legislation into law on Monday, requiring ride-sourcing companies in Iowa to conduct driver background checks.

Drivers must also have a $1 million insurance policy and may only provide pre-arranged rides, meaning they are prohibited from being hailed like a traditional taxicab.

The new law stops cities from implementing tougher local regulations, and trumps ordinances created in Des Moines and Iowa City, where Uber currently operates. 

Princeton University Press

"Appius Claudius was old and blind, yet he led a household of four vigorous sons, five daughters and many dependents.  He did not lazily succumb to old age but kept his mind taut as a bow."  So writes the great Roman orator and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero in 44 BC in a short treatise called "De Senectute." Cicero's prose is newly translated by Luther College's Philip Freeman.

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Schools across the U.S. served more than 5 billion meals in the national school lunch program to millions of students last year. Each one of the meals has to meet federal rules for nutrition. Now, those rules are up for debate and Congress could impose changes on the cafeteria.

Community Solar Garden Helps Power Cedar Falls

May 7, 2016
Cedar Falls Utilities

Just as the freshly planted crops in Iowa’s farm fields need sunshine, so does a new type of garden in a Northeast Iowa community.  It’s called the Cedar Falls Simple Solar project.

For the past ten years, Americans have been able to receive a tax incentive of up to 30% when they invest in a renewable energy project. Things like wind farms or solar gardens. That credit was set to expire at the end of this year, but it’s now been extended until 2019.

Prestage Farms

City council members in Mason City this week turned down a proposed $240 million  pork processing plant after approving it twice on a 6-0 vote.The proposal by North Carolina-based Prestage Farms ended in a 3-3 tie. It needed four “yes” votes to pass.

One of the company's executives, Ron Prestage, says they will continue to seek an Iowa location. He says all four counties surrounding Cerro Gordo (where Mason City is located) have expressed an interest.

courtesy of Jack Schuler

Last Saturday, Democrats held conventions in all four of Iowa’s congressional districts and chose their national delegates and electors. (Delegates choose the party's nominee, electors represent Iowa's votes in the electoral college.) One of those electors is Jack Schuler, a English teacher at Lincoln High School in Des Moines who may be making history. While the Democratic party has had transgender delegates previously, it’s possible that Jack, who was born as Elyse Schuler, is the first transgender elector in Iowa, and in the nation. 

Flickr / Mike Lewis

Iowa tenants scored a victory at the state Supreme Court today. As a result, landlords have less power to withhold security deposits, or shift repair costs onto tenants.

The court ruled that landlords cannot charge automatic fees. And they must pay for all repairs, as long damages aren’t caused by tenants.

The case arose in 2011 after a University of Iowa student sued the Iowa City rental agency Apartments Downtown in small claims court.

Stephen Melkisethian

Many gardeners consider Mother's Day to be the starting gun that signals the beginning of tomato planting season.

On this horticulture day edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa State University horticulturists Linda Naeve and Richard Jauron about what varieties to pick, how to plant, staking and caging, managing diseases, and how to successfully grow tomatoes in containers.

“Hardening off” the plants

U.S. House of Representatives

Iowa’s highest-ranking Democratic office holder is predicting the Presidential campaign in Iowa will be very competitive with extensive spending to win the state’s electoral delegates.

And 2nd District Congressman Dave Loebsack is warning his party not to take anything for granted against apparent Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Iowa economic development leaders are rolling out a new loan program to help communities spruce up, especially small towns.

Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham says low interest loans are available to communities through the Nuisance Property and Abandoned Building Remediation to get rid of eyesore properties. 

Photo by John Pemble

For 20 years, the Red Cedar Chamber Music ensemble has been led by a husband and wife dedicated to performing classical music they commissioned in rural venues like the community center in Central City.  This is a town with less than 2,000  people near Cedar Rapids. On a Friday night, 50 people are listening to Red Cedar perform a new piece by Stephen Cohn titled “Curfew Shall Not Ring Tonight.”  

 

Rick Fredericksen / Iowa Public Radio

A new plaque will be dedicated this morning to honor Iowa's secondary casualties stemming from the Vietnam War: victims of PTSD, Agent Orange and suicide. 

"We've got 867 names on the wall, but what about these other people? That's the purpose of this plaque is to remember and honor those other veterans that served but weren’t killed, but they've certainly suffered a lot of issues in their life since they've came home," says Col. Robert King, Director of the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs.

LEE HAYWOOD

Recently, Democrats in the Iowa Senate introduced a proposal that would allow terminally ill patients to self-administer prescription drugs to end their own lives.

The right-to-die bill did not advance, and was strongly opposed by the governor, but it did spark an emotional debate over individual freedom to end personal suffering versus protection of the sanctity of life.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

  It’s been more than 50 years since Mary Beth Tinker was suspeneded for wearing a black arm band to school in protest of the Vietnam War, leading to the 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District.

“It was mighty times,” she says about the case and the controversy surrounding it and the Vietnam war. “And as I tell kids, now we’re living in mighty times again.”

The jury has returned across-the-board guilty verdicts in the federal conspiracy trial of three senior staffers from former Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Campaign Director John Tate, Campaign Chair Jesse Benton, and Campaign Deputy Director Dimitri Kesari all could serve decades in prison for charges related to disguising payments to an Iowa state senator in exchange for his endorsement of Ron Paul. Upon hearing the verdict, Benton's wife Valori, who is Paul's granddaughter, began to audibly cry.

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