February 7, 2016

Council Bluffs hosts ‘Best in the Midwest’ tattoo convention

Hawk-TattooIf you’ve ever considered getting some ink, southwest Iowa is the place to go for being needled this weekend.

What’s called the “Best in the Midwest Tattoo Convention” is being held in Council Bluffs. An Omaha tattoo shop owner, who only goes by the name Smitty, organized the event.

“We’ll have 120 booths and most will have two to three artists working out of each booth so there’ll be over 300 licensed tattooers there from all over the country,” Smitty says. Some of the most well-known tattoo artists in the nation will be at the convention, showing off their colorful works and offering their services. Many have gained fame from reality TV shows.

“We’re going to have cast members from five seasons of ‘Ink Masters,’ including a winner and a runner up and a lot of the supporting cast,” he says. In addition to the buzz of the tools used to create tattooes, there will be plenty of other things to catch your eyes and ears, including live music, magicians and “side show” acts.

“It is a family event and suitable for your kids or your mother,” Smitty says. “Anybody can come. We have live entertainment that’s PG-rated. There’s a lot to take in. It’s almost sensory overload.” It is a competition with judging in various categories daily. The convention runs today through Sunday at the Mid America Center in Council Bluffs.


‘Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ makes one stop in Iowa

John Rapson

John Rapson

The musical comedy that won the 2014 Tony Award for Best Musical opens tonight in Des Moines, its only stop in Iowa on its first national tour.

One of the stars of the Broadway production of “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is John Rapson, who plays a total of eight roles on the stage, all members of the same family, men, women, young and old.

“It’s an eat-your-Wheaties-in-the-morning kind of role, that’s for sure,” Rapson says. “It’s such an extraordinary piece of writing and it’s the greatest challenge I’ve ever had. It’s so entertaining to do it every night and it’s really fun to watch the audience as we go through the show begin to catch on to the fact that it’s the same guy doing all of these parts.”

One of the biggest obstacles to playing all eight roles is the lightning-fast costume changes that are required. Rapson says, “You kind of go down as one character and then you pop back up as the next and the quickest one I have is 16 seconds long and none of them are all that much longer than that.”

The play is set in 1909 London and the main character learns he’s a distant heir to a vast fortune but he’s eight people in succession away from being able to claim it. All eight of those people are played by Rapson, who says he makes each character an individual.

“Everybody has a very distinctive voice which was one of the most interesting parts of rehearsal, trying to find out how each of these people talked,” Rapson says, “figuring out what your voice can do in terms of its range, high low, gruff, the opposite of gruff. It’s sort of a vocal workout every night.”

While on Broadway, the show received ten Tony nominations and won four. It also received a 2015 Grammy nomination for Best Musical Show Album. It runs through Sunday at the Des Moines Civic Center.

Audio: Matt Kelley interview with John Rapson. 6:20.



ISU professor has tips for sticking with your weight loss plan

Allison Phillips

Allison Phillips

Many Iowans who made New Year’s resolutions a month ago to get fit may have already given up on shedding the pounds, but an Iowa State University study is looking at ways to help you stick to the weight loss plan.

ISU psychology professor Alison Phillips says having what she calls an “instigation cue” can light the spark that prompts you to succeed at developing good exercise habits.

“An instigation cue is a cue that tells you, ‘Okay, it’s time to start exercising,’ or to head to the gym or go for a run,” Phillips says. “It’s a cue in the environment that lets you know automatically, it’s time to go exercise.” The ISU study, published in the journal Health Psychology, finds that these cues can push you to get moving and may help to increase frequency, more so than the type of activity.

She’s still researching the best way for anyone to create an effective cue for themselves.”If you exercise consistently after the cue, then it will become habitual just through repetition,” Phillips says. “You do have to stick with it and it will take effort in the short-term, but if you repeat it enough, your exercise, in the same context, we think an instigation cue will develop.” If you have a schedule that changes from day to day, it’s important to pick a cue that’ll work for your lifestyle.

“I have chosen something that I know happens every day, at least every work day, which is the end of the work period,” Phillip says. “Whenever that happens to be, 3 P.M., 5 P.M., 7 P.M., when I’m finished working, I exercise before dinner. I try and pick a consistent cue that I know will fit into my daily schedule, at least most days of the week.” If you pick a type of exercise you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, walking outside or playing racquetball, if you find something you like, you’ll be more likely to latch on to it for the long haul.

“Not everyone likes exercising when they begin, in fact, most people don’t when they first start, but that’s okay,” Phillips says. “I have found that when people stick with a behavior long enough, even if they don’t find it enjoyable at first, they come to like it.”

Phillip says if you’re exercising for long-term health benefits, exercise must be a life-long behavior, as it’s not a temporary fix.

Photo courtesy of Iowa State University.


State health official says Zika virus not a big concern

MosquitoA disease that’s quickly spread to more than 20 countries in Central and South America is grabbing a lot of headlines this week, but a top state health official says Iowans are at a very low risk.

The Zika virus is spread by mosquitoes. Doctor Patty Quinlisk, medical director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says projections say Zika may infect four-million people over the next year.

“I don’t know that we need to be concerned about it if we stay in Iowa,” Dr. Quinlisk says. “The real issue for Iowans is if we travel to some of these countries where the Zika virus is found, especially for a woman who’s pregnant or might become pregnant.”

The disease is linked to an increase in birth defects in Brazil. Common symptoms of Zika virus include: fever, rash, joint pain and red, itchy eyes. Quinlisk says it’s believed only a certain type of mosquito is responsible for spreading the virus and the insect has been in Iowa before, but not often.

“When we look at the mosquitoes that we know right now could carry Zika virus, there is one species which very, very, very rarely will hit our southern border,” Quinlisk says. “I think there’s been four found in the last 40 years of testing mosquitoes in Iowa of that particular species.”

A person can only catch the virus from a mosquito. It isn’t spread from person to person. The CDC has issued a travel alert for 21 nations due to Zika.

(Thanks to Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City, for contributing to this report.)


Federal money is available for agricultural wetlands

Tom Vilsack

Tom Vilsack

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that $9 million is available for farmers in Iowa and elsewhere to set up agriculture-only Wetlands Mitigation Banks.

Right now, the mitigation banks that exist, give an advantage to big developers over individual farmers, according to Vilsack.

“Several states have begun the process of establishing agriculture-only mitigation banks that are available only to producers. Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota are good examples,” Vilsack said. The mitigation banks can be a “helpful tool” for farmers, according to the ag secretary. “Producers can purchase credits generated from previously drained wetlands, which are restored and approved for wetland mitigation, to offset the loss of benefits where a producer is installing new drainage in a wetland,” Vilsack said.

The wetland mitigation banks program is funded through money authorized by Congress through the 2014 Farm Bill. “There are a number of states that need to be targeted; Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, Nebraska, Michigan, Virginia, and Missouri are (states) that have a great need for the mitigation banks,” Vilsack said.

The banks can be set up by states, tribes, local governments, or other interested third-party entities and will be overseen by the U.S.D.A.’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).


U-I project helps women veterans deal with postpartum depression

Michael O'Hara

Michael O’Hara

Postpartum depression strikes about one in every eight women within about six months of having a baby, but University of Iowa researchers say the rate may be higher for women veterans.

Dr. Michael O’Hara, a professor in the U-I Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, is working with the Veterans Administration on a program to help women veterans suffering from postpartum depression, especially those in rural areas.

“Many of them have been exposed to combat situations or have been in war zones or might have experienced sexual or physical abuse while they were in the military,” O’Hara says. “These kinds of exposures to traumatic events are associated with higher rates of depression.” The U-I is now working with about 40 women veterans through an online pilot program that involves six sessions over six weeks targeting mood management.

“The Mom Mood Booster program is basically focusing on helping women who are experiencing postpartum depression to increase their participation in positive events, to manage their negative mood and cognitions,” O’Hara says. “It focuses on the partner relationship and the woman’s relationship with the baby.” Some symptoms of postpartum depression may include low moods, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, insomnia, appetite disturbances, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts.

So far, he says the Mom Mood Booster program is having a positive impact. “We support it with what we call phone coaches,” O’Hara says. “These are staff members who contact the women veterans every week, provide support and encouragement, answer questions and just help to keep them motivated to go through the program.” O’Hara’s own experiences in the military may help him relate to some of the pressures women veterans are dealing with, as he served four-and-a-half years in the Navy during the Vietnam era.

“Certainly, there weren’t nearly as many women in the service back in those days but I knew many women and they had lots of difficult experiences,” O’Hara says. “It does make a difference being a veteran myself and that’s part of my motivation to reaching out to the VA to do work with veteran women. It feels like I can give back a little bit.”

Women in rural areas often don’t seek out or have access to mental health care, so O’Hara says reaching out to rural veteran women is important. The program will run through September and then the VA will determine whether to continue funding.

Senator Grassley to hold hearing on entrepreneur program

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says a federal program that’s designed to encourage entrepreneurs from outside the U.S. to build businesses here and create jobs is under scrutiny.

The program, called E-B-5, was supposed to attract the attention of qualified foreign investors, but Grassley says it’s failing in a big way.

Grassley says, “Over the course of this investigation, I’ve learned that the program is full of fraud and abuse.”

The employment-based program was created by Congress and expanded to Regional Centers as a way to pool capital from multiple foreign investors for economic development projects within certain areas of the country. Grassley says a top-to-bottom review of the program is needed.

“It has significant national security problems and allegations suggest the EB-5 program may be facilitating terrorist travel, even economic espionage, money laundering and investment fraud,” Grassley says.

The Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, says his panel will hold a hearing next week on the program, which was created by Congress in 1990.

Grassley says, “The program has strayed further and further away from the original intent of Congress which was to help rural areas and to help high unemployment areas create jobs.” Grassley helped write legislation that would bring sweeping reforms to the EB-5 program.

“Our bill would strengthen oversight, insure greater accountability and transparency,” Grassley says. “It would surely discourage fraud and it would provide a high priority for national security.” Grassley says the legislation had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, but it was bypassed in recent votes.