Michael Leland

News Director

Michael comes to IPR from Wisconsin Public Radio, where he led an award-winning news staff for nine years.  He has also worked as a News Director at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor.  Before getting into management, Michael’s reporting career took him to a variety of places, from Chicago City Hall, to a former coal mine 600 feet under southern Illinois, to an Inuit community in far northern Canada.

Michael is a New Englander who came to the Midwest for graduate school  in the mid '80s and decided to call this part of the country home.  He has a master’s in Journalism and Mass Communication from Kansas State University.  His undergraduate degree is in Communications and Business Administration from Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts.

Michael’s favorite public radio program is On the Media.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and the woman who has accused him of sexually assaulting her in high school, Christine Blasey Ford, are testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Watch the proceeding live.

Kate Payne/IPR file

Update at 4:37 p.m.

Officials say first degree murder charges have been filed against a Poweshiek County man in the disappearance and death of 20-year old Mollie Tibbetts.  A body authorities believe to be Tibbetts was found early this morning in a rural part of the county, south of her hometown of Brooklyn.  Rick Rahn with the state Department of Criminal Investigation said Tuesday afternoon they’re still working to confirm her identity.

Rahn says charges were filed against 24-year-old Cristhian Rivera after a long interview.

Michael Leland/IPR

The Libertarian candidate for Iowa’s 4th Congressional District seat says low income Iowans should be able to keep more of their money.  Charles Aldrich of Clarion is running against Republican incumbent Steve King.  Aldrich says people who earn less than $350 a week shouldn’t have to pay federal taxes. 

“These people are working for poverty wages, and they shouldn’t be having to fork over their money because the government thinks that they can spend it more wisely,” he said.

Michael Leland/IPR

The Libertarian candidate for Iowa governor acknowledges he probably won’t win the election, but he says this political campaign is an opportunity to expand the party in the state.  Council Bluffs business consultant Jake Porter says Libertarians are on the ballot in about three dozen contests this November, including statewide offices and all four congressional races. 

Porter says there are about 11,000 registered Libertarians in the state, and he’d like to see that number reach 20,000 in part by getting out the party’s message.

Michael Leland/IPR

An Iowa State Fair tradition resumed on Thursday's opening day – political speeches at the Des Moines Register soapbox. First up Thursday was Abby Finkenauer.  She’s a Democrat challenging Republican Rod Blum for the 1st Congressional District seat in Washington.  In a brief speech to a few dozen supporters, Finkenauer said she’d like to get people talking more about values, and hope.

Iowa Environmental Mesonet

Gov. Kim Reynolds plans to visit the central Iowa cities of Bondurant, Pella, and Marshalltown Friday.  All three communities were hit by tornadoes late Thursday afternoon.  As of Thursday night, no deaths or serious injuries had been reported, but there was a lot of damage.

In Marshalltown, a large twister heavily damaged several buildings downtown, and knocked the spire off the county courthouse.  Also, the Lennox manufacturing plant was damaged, as were many other buildings in the area.

Iowa Secretary of State office

Former minor league baseball player J-D Scholten will face eight-term Republican incumbent Steve King in the November election for Iowa’s 4th District congressional seat. Scholten picked up about 51 percent of the vote in defeating two other Democrats: Leann Jacobsen and John Paschen. 

Scholten toured the expansive district in his RV, and says he believes can defeat King by continuing to meet voters face-to-face.

The polls are closed in Iowa's 2018 primary election, and we have results from the Democratic primary race for governor, as well as the primary elections in Iowa's 1st, 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts. 

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John Pemble/IPR

We’re heading into the last few weeks of the legislative session, and there are still a few big things to be done before lawmakers go home, as we hear in a discussion between IPR's Joyce Russell and Michael Leland on Morning Edition.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Senate Republicans are proposing a tax overhaul plan that it says would provide $1 billion a year in individual and corporate tax relief. 

It proposes lowering the top individual tax rate from 8.98 percent to 6.3 percent beginning in 2019.

“Working families in Iowa deserve big, bold tax relief,” said Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull).

The proposal, called the Iowa Working Families Tax Relief Act, also lowers the state’s corporate tax rate, which is currently 12 percent.

You’ve probably noticed that IPR’s All Things Considered  host Pat Blank has been away from the mic recently.  Pat wants you to know that she’s working on a personal project these days, misses talking to you in the afternoons, and hopes to be back on the air again soon. 

Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III, seen as a rising political star with a famous last name, will deliver the Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union. In announcing their decision, Democratic leaders in Congress called Kennedy a "relentless fighter for working Americans." Kennedy is the grandson of the late Robert Kennedy, the former U.S. attorney general and New York senator who was assassinated in 1968. He is also the great nephew of both the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and the late president John F. Kennedy.

LIVE SPEECH:

President Trump is delivering his State of the Union address to Congress, which will be followed by a response from the Democratic Party. Journalists across the NPR newsroom will be annotating those remarks, adding fact-checks and analysis in real time. You can also watch the speeches live.

LIVE SPEECH:

FACT CHECKING:

Michael Leland/IPR / Iowa Public Radio

While millions of Americans are beginning their holiday shopping at big-box stores and online, some are also looking for something they won't find in larger stores.  About 75 artists and other creators from Iowa and nearby states took part in the annual "Market Day" pop-up market in downtown Des Moines. 

"We really exist to serve the people out there who are shopping on Black Friday anyway, and are looking for something that's sort of one-of-a-kind, and to support [the] local economy," says Cat Rocketship, the event's co-director.

Karen/Flickr

Postal workers in Des Moines are protesting what they say is a reduction in the number of people working in the clerical division, which processes mail.  American Postal Workers Union Local 44 says 36 clerical workers at the main Des Moines post office have been moved out of those positions this year.

“That is cutting jobs out of the clerk craft, who process the mail, and we’re seeing a problem with that with the mail service,” says local President Mike Bates.   

Michael Leland/IPR / Iowa Public Radio

Environmental lawyer Josh Mandelbaum has won a seat on the Des Moines City Council.  He won a three-way race with 56-percent of the vote over former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Michael Kiernan and Abshir Omar, the president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.  Mandelbaum says his stand on water quality issues helped put him over the top.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa's U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she’s hopeful lawmakers will pass legislation she says will help people facing steep premium increases for individual health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act.

About 72-thousand people in Iowa face increases of nearly 60% after the state withdrew its proposal for a stopgap plan that would have provided relief. In this interview with River to River host Ben Kieffer, Ernst says the current situation puts a lot of Iowans in a bind.

Romeo Durscher / NASA

It is indeed dark during the day as a total solar eclipse makes its way from Oregon to South Carolina. Eleven states are in the path of total darkness. Follow the astronomical phenomenon's journey across America along with NPR journalists and others experiencing the eclipse.

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., returned to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday after a brain cancer diagnosis to help Republican leadership begin debate on health care. But after casting his vote in favor of debate, McCain took the floor and said he would not vote for the current health bill, the latest product of a controversial and contentious process in which Republicans have been at odds with one another as well as with Democrats.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday morning about foreign agents and attempts to influence the U.S. election. The panel is among the bodies investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Senators had requested Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, to appear as witnesses. Instead, they are in closed-door discussions for now.

U.S. Drought Monitor

Iowa corn-growers may be keeping a closer eye on the weather the next couple of weeks.  Nearly 60 percent of the state is considered abnormally dry or in moderate drought.  More consistent rainfall would help corn pollination and kernel development over the next few weeks.

doug ommen
Iowa Insurance Division

Iowa’s insurance commissioner is urging people to read and comment on a proposal he hopes will keep insurance carriers selling individual policies in the state in 2018.  Two carriers have already said they won’t sell such policies in Iowa next year, and a third is expected to decide soon.  Commissioner Doug Ommen says he hopes to get the federal government’s permission by the end of this month to implement his plan but stresses the government needs to agree on a longer-term heal

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John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds says she plans to run for a full term in 2018.  Reynolds became governor when Terry Branstad resigned last month to become the U-S ambassador to China.  Branstad’s term runs through January, 2019.  Reynolds says current acting Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg will be her running mate.  They’ve established a new campaign committee and plan to make a final decision and a formal announcement within the next few months.

Amy Mayer

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley says he doesn’t agree with former FBI Director James Comey’s statement that President Donald Trump was lying when he said the FBI was in disarray under Comey’s leadership. Grassley says he considers the president’s statement a matter of opinion.

“When you characterize an agency, how you think it’s being run, you can be perfectly honest in your assessment of that, and somebody else could consider that a lie," he says.

Brian Strombeck / Flickr

Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack says he’s concerned that rural parts of the country could lose out under President Trump’s plans to increase infrastructure spending. The president has said he’d like more of the funding to come from cities, states, and private investment. Loebsack says rural infrastructure needs might have a tough time attracting private funding.

John Pemble/IPR

Kim Reynolds was sworn in this morning as Iowa’s 43rd governor, shortly after the resignation of Terry Branstad, the state’s – and the country’s – longest-serving governor.  Branstad this morning was sworn in as the new U.S. Ambassador to China. 

Reynolds is the first woman to hold the office of Iowa governor, but in a speech following her swearing-in at the Capitol, she said she wants to accomplish more than that while in office.  Reynolds outlined four priorities for her administration, all aimed at improving Iowa’s economy and job growth. 

Screenshot from CPSAN

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been confirmed as the next U-S ambassador to China.  The U-S Senate voted 82-13 Monday to make his appointment official.  Before the vote, Senator Chuck Grassley said Branstad has already been an ambassador his whole career.

“As governor, he’s been vigorous in promoting our state’s economy and opening markets for our farm commodities, financial service and our manufacturing to the world marketplace,” Grassley said.

NASA

Astronaut and Iowa native Peggy Whitson has set a U.S. record for space travel.  Today is her 535th cumulative day in space, one day longer than the record previously held by astronaut Jeff Williams. Whitson is currently commanding the International Space Station, and this morning took a congratulatory phone call from President Donald Trump. 

“That’s an incredible record to break,” Trump said via a video link from the Oval Office.  “On behalf of our nation and, frankly, on behalf of the world, I’d like to congratulate you.  That is really something.”

NASA photo

Astronaut and Iowa native Peggy Whitson sets a U.S. record in orbit today.  She is spending her 535th cumulative day in space, and that breaks the record of 534 days that had been held by Jeff Williams.  Whitson lifted off from Kazakhstan November 17th, 2016, on what is her third trip aboard the station. 

In an interview with Texas schoolchildren in February, Whitson was asked what it’s like to be flying through space at 17-thousand miles an hour.

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