Federal agencies

Chief Judge of the Southern District of Iowa, John Jarvey, said having a new courthouse will fix the security and accessibility problems of the current 90-year-old building.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Construction is underway on a new federal courthouse in downtown Des Moines. Funding for the project was approved by Congress in 2016, and the groundbreaking held Wednesday morning follows years of disagreement on where it should be built.

Former Des Moines city councilwoman, Christine Hensley, has been helping organize opposition to the construction of a new federal courthouse on a former YMCA site.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Some Des Moines business leaders and city council members want the federal government to reconsider plans for a new courthouse on a coveted piece of real estate in downtown Des Moines. The agency in charge of the $137 million project could decide how to move forward as soon as Wednesday.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

The federal government is in the third week of a partial shutdown that is affecting a wide range of programs and services, from the National Wildlife Refuge system and national parks to funding intended to help farmers hurt by the 2018 trade war.

USDA.gov

The ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government, now into its third week, is reaching ever deeper into the lives of people far from the Washington, D.C. epicenter.

Beyond the hundreds of thousands of employees who are either working without pay or furloughed indefinitely, the people those employees would have been working with and for are now feeling the sting of closed offices, delayed payments and missing services.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Even as wind energy production has grown in recent years to be a large part of the country’s energy portfolio, a chill around federal funding for renewable energy has researchers increasingly turning to industry partners to bring the next generation of innovation to the marketplace.

 

The latest report by Iowa’s largest utility companies shows more than 40 million dollars in past due bills.  Iowa Human Rights Department spokesperson Jerry McKim says he’s troubled by other information contained in that document.

“Just for September and October, there were 8,896 disconnected, so going into November even though the weather was mild, (it doesn’t look like it coming out) we have nearly 9,000 households at least without power,” McKim says.

shinosan / Flickr

What do parents of teenagers and an FBI special agent have in common? Negotiation is key to the job. Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, says the difference between high stakes international intrigue and a typical contentious daily interaction is smaller than you think.

“The difference between hostage negotiations and business negotiations is really only the stakes. I like to say, ‘Take the guns out of a typical bank robbery with hostages, you got a typical Monday morning staff meeting with the boss.’”

WIKICOMMONS / Iowahwyman

The Polk County community stands to lose millions in taxes, revenue sharing, and charitable donations now that IRS wants to pull the tax exempt status of a Des Moines-area casino. 

Between Polk County’s lease and revenue sharing agreements with Prairie Meadows, the hotel, casino, and racetrack contributes roughly $26 million annually the county.

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."

Amy Mayer/IPR

Iowa poultry producers are on the alert for a possible reoccurrence of the deadly avian flu which decimated flocks last year.  

The Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is taking steps to more efficiently euthanize birds if the disease strikes again.    

The agency helped coordinate the statewide response last year.   That included hauling water to affected areas to create the foam to kill birds, and coordinating hazardous materials teams for cleanup. 

Courtesy Oxfam America

In the first nine months of 2015, workers in meat-packing plants owned by Tyson Foods averaged at least one amputation a month. 

That report was gleaned from a Freedom of Information Act request by Celeste Monforton, a George Washington University occupational health professor.

Photo by John Pemble

State education officials say they’ll spend the next 18 months figuring out what a new federal education law requires.  

President Obama signed the law replacing the controversial No Child Left Behind statute.  

The new law is dubbed the Every Student Succeeds Act.

It gives more power back to the states for accountability, teacher evaluations, and how to push poorly performing schools to improve. 

Speaking to the state board of Education, Department of Education Director Ryan Wise says there’s a lot in the bill to digest.

Rajesh Kumar / Flickr

The bulk collection of metadata from domestic phone calls by the National Security Agency in the U.S. has come to an end, but at the same time, France is stepping up its surveillance of citizens.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with two information technology experts from Iowa State University, Doug Jacobson and Brian Mennecke, to discuss the latest news regarding privacy, data collection, and cyber-security.

Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad Monday opened the door to the possibility of settling Syrian refugees in Iowa if a bill before Congress to tighten screening procedures becomes law.  

The bill would require that the director of the FBI and other top security officials approve all applicants from Syria and Iraq and assure they pose no threat.   

Otherwise, Branstad says letting the refugees in is not safe.

“If instead we're working as a country I'd feel much safer and more willing to do that,” Branstad says. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Update at 5:00pm: Late this afternoon, Gov. Branstad ordered all state agencies to stop any work on settlement of Syrian refugees.  

Original story: Several states are rethinking plans to accept refugees after the terrorist attacks in Paris. So far, Iowa is not among them.

Investigators say at least one of the Paris attackers slipped through Europe’s immigration system. 

Truthout.org / flickr

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture contains some very grisly findings, detailing CIA interrogation techniques, like mock execution and sleep deprivation.

John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV

During his administration, George W. Bush said the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects was humane and legal.

Mike Mozart

ACLU attorney Ben Wizner says the history books will be kind to Edward Snowden; he will be remembered well.

blu-news.org / Flickr Creative Commons

As the Ukrainian crisis deepens, Host Ben Kieffer talks with Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College and Donna Hoffman of University of Northern Iowa about U.S. response.  Other topics include, the Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Washington Post and the Guardian for their coverage of the NSA, a new climate change study, and Stephen Colbert's new Late Night gig.

CSIS PONI

The head of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee says the CIA improperly accessed computers used by congressional staff.  What comes next?

higginskurt

Iowa Writer's Workshop alumnus Eric Bennett's article, "How Iowa Flattened Literature" in the Chronicle of Higher Education has ruffled feathers—especially in Iowa's writing community.  The first paragraph of the article reads: 

sparktography

Amid allegations that the U.S.

infocux Technologies

We are living at a time when a simple Tweet or online posting can make you a celebrity overnight. Or, change your life for the worse, as when a University of Iowa teaching assistant accidentally emailed her students her own nude photos, instead of a classroom assignment.

This is also a time when private companies like Google and Facebook know more about a U.S. citizen than their own government. Today on River To River - a discussion of privacy-related news. We touch on everything from Google Glass to the international response to NSA surveillance methods.

Politics Day

Oct 23, 2013
Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

President Obama has vowed to fix the Affordable Care Act's online insurance exchanges after an embarrassing launch, but what of the pending political fallout?

Also, will U.S. Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) have a challenger within the Republican Party for his seat next November and what are U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Texas) prospects for a 2016 presidential run?

A task force appointed by the governor will soon be recommending major changes at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.   An inspection last year revealed that teen-aged girls were being held in isolation for months at a time.  An  interim administrator told the task force about improvements at the home.     But the  advocacy group which unveiled the abuse still has concerns about restraining young girls.  

davnull / Flickr

About half of Americans say the leak of classified information dealing with NSA surveillance serves the public interest.  Slightly more say that whistleblower  Edward Snowden should face prosecution. Host Ben Kieffer examines this split in public opinion and the claims that this surveillance has foiled dozens of terrorist plots.  Also analysis of the G-8 summit and the implications of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on voting rights.

U.S. senators of both parties are directing outrage at top IRS officials over not being informed earlier about the tax agency’s work to target conservatives, and they’re demanding answers. Today on River to River, it’s politics day. Host Ben Kieffer sits down with our analysts, Tim Hagle, of the University of Iowa, and Chris Larimer, of the University of Northern Iowa, to find out what questions are being asked, why it matters, and how much of what we’re seeing is simply political grandstanding.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is under fire for a wide-ranging subpoena of phone records at the Associated Press, as part of investigating a national security leak. That, along with continuing investigations of the IRS and the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, has sucked all the air out of Washington for several days. Host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Wayne Moyer from Grinnell College and Donna Hoffman from University of Northern Iowa about the scandals and how they're impacting President Obama's second-term agenda.

Rural Post Offices in Crisis

Mar 25, 2013
Bill Wheelhouse / Harvest Public Media

It’s mid-morning on a bleak March day in Nilwood, Ill. And every 10 minutes or so, a car or truck pulls into the gravel parking lot in front of the south-central Illinois town’s post office.   

Rush hour.

Because there is no mail delivery here, the town’s 236 residents must stop in to the post office to stay connected. Staffed by one full-time postmaster and one relief person, this office provides mail service six days a week.    As in many rural communities across the country, the post office serves as an informal community center.

Ben Kieffer looks back on conversations from 2012 with Iowans who have fascinating or unusual jobs.  These individuals discuss the cool, unique and sometimes scary aspects of their professions.

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