Spokane ex-NAACP Leader’s Brother Facing Charges in Iowa

There’s an Iowa tie now to the international story involving the controversial and now-former leader of a civil rights group on the West Coast. Rachel Dolezal resigned as head of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington. She’s white and was outted by her parents for pretending to be black. Her brother is an English professor at Central College in Pella and he faces felony charges. Thirty-nine-year-old Joshua Dolezal is accused of several counts of child sexual abuse in Colorado from a dozen years ago. Continue Reading

Branstad Wants Federal Disaster Declaration in Bird-Flu Stricken Counties

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad says more than 1,500 workers will likely lose their jobs as a result of the bird flu outbreak and he is asking President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster for four of the hardest hit counties. The presidential disaster declaration would draw federal help in coordinating recovery efforts. In his letter to the president Thursday, Branstad says 438 people have sought unemployment benefits from Buena Vista, Sioux, Webster and Wright counties. More are expected to lose their jobs by August. Branstad says Iowa’s egg industry expects losses in excess of $1 billion from lost production. Continue Reading

USDA to Expand Program to Develop Plant-Based Plastics

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it’s expanding a program to develop the use of plant-based plastic, rubber and fiber used in manufacturing. The USDA is offering loan guarantees initially designed for ethanol plants to companies that replace petroleum-based materials with plant-based plastics and other components used in manufacturing a wide range of products from Coca Cola bottles to seat cushions used in Ford cars. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says a report released Wednesday shows bio-based industries can boost the rural economy by providing new jobs and returning manufacturing to the U.S.

The report, mandated by the 2014 farm bill, was written by professors at Duke University and North Carolina State University. It says plant-based manufacturing contributed $369 billion to the nation’s economy in 2013 and created four million jobs. Continue Reading

Bomb Threat Shuts Down Cedar Rapids Airport

A bomb threat shut down the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids for two hours early Wednesday morning. Police were alerted by OnStar at 3 a.m. about a man claiming to have an explosive at the airport. A suspect was taken into custody a short time later near the airport, which was placed on lockdown. Emily Dudley of Cedar Rapids told KCRG-TV she arrived at the airport and nearly missed her flight. “We came in and there were cop cars everywhere. Continue Reading

New Bird Flu Case Discovered, Outbreak Actually Lowering Chicken Prices

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — After a six-day break with no new bird flu cases, the Iowa Department of Agriculture says another egg-laying chicken farm has tested positive. A farm in Wright County with 1 million chickens has experienced increased deaths among the flock and a preliminary test indicates the presence of the bird flu virus. The frequency of new cases has slowed dramatically with no new cases in Minnesota in 11 days. Iowa’s last reported case was June 9. The bird flu has cost Minnesota, the leading turkey producer, 9 million birds. Continue Reading

Criminals Criminalizing Criminals: Man in Des Moines Robbed After Robbing Gas Station

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Des Moines man has been arrested after he told police he was robbed by someone after he had robbed a gas station. The Des Moines Register reports a 24-year-old man was arrested Monday night. Police say they responded to a report of a robbery of a gas station and found a man who matched the description of the suspect while on their way to the scene. Police say the suspect told them he had robbed the gas station convenience store so he could go drink at a nearby bar. He told police a black car that was in the gas station’s parking lot during the robbery followed him to the bar. Continue Reading

Bird Flu Started With Wild Bird Populations, USDA Report Says

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Bird flu that’s devastated Midwestern farms likely spread by several means, including on machinery and workers, by rodents and possibly even by the wind. That’s according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Monday. The agency studied genetic properties of virus samples on more than 80 turkey and chicken farms.

USDA scientists say wild birds introduced the virus onto farms, but it appears the virus spread in other ways once there. The scientists found lapses in biosecurity on farms and environmental factors likely contributed to the spread of the disease. More than 49 million birds died or were euthanized in 15 states this spring as the virus spread from the Pacific Northwest into Midwest farms. It’s the nation’s worst outbreak of bird flu. Continue Reading

Appeals Court Upholds Protest Restrictions at State Capitol

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — In a free speech ruling, an appeals court has upheld restrictions on the public’s ability to protest overnight on the Iowa Capitol grounds. Attorney Sally Frank said Monday the decision was a blow for free speech and assembly, pledging an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court. Frank represents Basil Hill, one of two dozen Occupy Iowa protesters arrested for trespassing in 2011 for staying on the Capitol grounds after an 11 p.m. closing time. To hold protests overnight, groups need advanced permission from the Department of Administrative Services. Frank argued protesters’ free speech rights should trump the restrictions. Continue Reading

No Wrongdoing in IDPS Handgun Investigation

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Department of Public Safety says internal investigations into the purchase of hundreds of handguns that were later returned has found agency employees did nothing wrong. In a Friday afternoon news release, the department announced the results of its internal investigation and said officials would make no further comment at this time. The investigation began in April after officials told employees to turn in nearly 800 newly issued Smith & Wesson handguns after some officers raised concerns about their functionality. The department didn’t specify the handgun problems. Three officials were placed on paid administrative leave during the inquiry. On Friday, the department said no “illegal or improper activities” occurred in purchasing the guns and no department policies were violated. Continue Reading