September 2, 2014

Senator Grassley hosts town hall meetings in northwest Iowa

Congress is in recess through this week and Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’ll be using that time to host town hall meetings in five northwest Iowa cities. During this month-long break, Grassley says he’s made a lot of stops in counties across Iowa and he’s hearing from constituents about a host of issues and concerns.

“Ukraine, ISIS, Medicare, the president issuing executive orders, the EPA regulations particularly as it affects agriculture.” Grassley, a Republican, blames Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, for cutting the upcoming work session short. Ordinarily, Grassley says, members of Congress would be back at work for more than a month following the August recess during an election year, adjourning around the 10th or 12th of October.

“This year, Reid is so nervous about losing Demcratic control of the United State Senate, he told us in July that he was going to adjourn for the election on September 23rd,” Grassley says. “So, we have at a maximum, unless we work weekends, we’ll only have 12 days of sessions.”

Most of that time, Grassley expects the chamber to be focused on budget talks, debating the amount of money that will be spent next year. Grassley says, “There will probably be other things brought up, but I think you have to realize that for the most part, the Senate’s going to be run to whatever benefits the Democrats politically because of their concern about losing control of the United States Senate.”

Grassley is holding town hall meetings this week in: Rockwell City, Odebolt, Holstein, Denison and Jefferson. With these meetings, he says he will have visited all 99 Iowa counties this year for the 34th year in a row.


Summit to focus on physician assistants & benefits for rural Iowa

Iowa’s two medical schools are co-sponsoring a national conference in Omaha next week that will explore the role physician assistants play in the changing world of health care, especially in rural areas. Dr. Michael Huckabee is director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s PA Education Division.

“You know there are barriers in rural primary care and a lot of this is the change that is required in health care reform and dealing with some of the misperceptions that come with that,” Huckabee says. “The PA is not in competition or making people leave their doctors. Unique to PAs, we, by state laws in every state in the country, must be linked to a physician’s practice.”

Huckabee says the increased need for health care is expected to be a burden to small communities that may not have the infrastructure and workforce to provide those services.

“There are just not enough doctors to go around,” Huckabee says. “Physician assistants, by their very name, are linked to physicians to extend that care.” The fast-evolving health care landscape has created a time of change and challenges for the entire medical profession, he says, though some people may be unclear about what it is PAs do.

“All PAs are trained in the model of primary care so they’re equipped to manage acute and chronic health care problems of all types within the scope of their physicians’ practice,” he says.

The conference is called “Advancing Rural Primary Care,” and it’s scheduled for next week (September 11th and 12th) at the Hilton Omaha Hotel. Huckbee says there will be a slate of national speakers.

He says, “All of them are here to address how PAs can effectively be utilized in rural communities to continue to extend the care of physicians.”

The conference is being co-hosted by the University of Iowa and Des Moines University, as well as Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, the University of South Dakota and Wichita State University. The conference is tailored for those who hire and use PAs. It’s geared toward administrators, health care leaders, academicians, policy makers, physicians and PAs.

For more information on the conference, visit:>



Former spacewalker looks to the Moon, Mars

Clay Anderson aboard the International Space Station

Clay Anderson aboard the International Space Station

Retired astronaut and Iowa State University instructor Clay Anderson says he misses space and hopes someday all Iowans will have the opportunity to reach orbit.

Anderson calls space a wonderful environment and a beautiful place. Anderson, who got his master’s degree at ISU, admits to gazing skyward from time to time.

“I look at space very longingly now,” he says. “I typically look at sunsets or a meteor shower or the Moon or space and just go, good gosh, I sure wish I could go back there.”

He flew two missions aboard space shuttles to the International Space Station, including a five-month stay there in 2007.

“I’m just very privileged,” he says. “I’ve lived a life where I had a lot of good luck and some good timing, I worked pretty hard and had some great people helping me along the way.”

Anderson, a 55-year-old Nebraska native, says NASA ended the space shuttle program years too soon.

“Our shuttles were capable of flying a lot more,” Anderson says. “I don’t like being beholden to the Russians who have to take American astronauts to and from the space station. The other thing I don’t like is, I think we should be going to the Moon next to establish a base, to learn how to live and work off the land, like we plan to do on Mars.”

Anderson says it makes more sense to get that experience on the Moon which is a journey of three days away versus six to nine months away on Mars. He believes there will be commercial space travel in the years ahead, making rocket rides more accessible to the general public.

“I hope it’s not just really wealthy celebrities that are doing it,” Anderson says. “We have Lady Gaga getting ready to go and Sarah Brightman, the opera singer, is going to go and that’s all great, but I want it to be people that can buy a ticket and perhaps spend two or three days or a week on a space platform where they get to see exactly what I got to see.”

Anderson, a faculty fellow at ISU in aerospace engineering, is working on book about his adventures.


Labor Day travel predicted to increase

The last holiday weekend of summer is just ahead and more Iowans are expected to be on the road this Labor Day compared to last year. Rose White, at Triple-A Iowa, says holiday travel should be picking up nationwide. “Across the country, we’re expecting that travel will be up about 1.3% from last year with about 34.7 million Americans taking trips 50 miles or more away from home,” White says. “In fact, this will be the highest level of Labor Day travel that we’ve seen in 6 years.”

Most people who are taking trips for the holiday will be traveling by car, about 86-percent, according to the motor club’s survey. “If you are traveling by car, you will see some lower fuel prices that will help make the trip more affordable,” White says. “Some will see the lowest prices for this holiday weekend since 2010. Although we did see an increase in the Midwest fuel prices over the last few weeks, they are now on a downturn.”

U.S. oil production is at a record high level, and since the winter-grade fuel is cheaper to produce, White says prices at the pump should continue to drop as we head into fall. “In Iowa, prices right now are below the national average,” White says. “In Iowa, you can expect to pay about $3.33 for self-serve unleaded, a year ago, that price was at $3.52.”

The survey finds Iowa’s most expensive gas is in Des Moines at $3.36 a gallon, while it’s cheapest in Sioux City at $3.22.

Wet weather forces Farm Progress Show to close early

Foul weather is forcing the cancellation of the final day of one of the nation’s biggest agricultural exhibitions, what’s considered the World’s Fair of everything farm-related.

Dena Morgan, spokeswoman for the Farm Progress Show in Boone, says it’s a huge disappointment, but the show will not go on today and it’s now closed for the year. “We’re not going to open,” Morgan says. “It was raining this morning and it was forecast that there was lightning coming through, so we decided to close the show for everyone’s safety.”

The show opened Tuesday. Organizers have 600 vendors on the grounds and had been expecting up to 150,000 visitors over the three-day run.


Program uses mentors to teach intervention against sexual violence

The Mentor in Violence Prevention program is teaching Iowa high school and college students how to prevent sexual assault. MVP coaches the students to intercede when they recognize signs of looming sexual violence.

Iowa State University student Tucker Carrell participated in MVP while in high school and says sometimes it’s hard to speak up, but it’s important to act. “I know one of the biggest things that we consistently talked about and that I really took from this whole program was just listening to things happen, being that bystander,” Carrell says. “It really almost hurts you more and affects you more because you hang on to that and you remember that as well as letting you know whoever is committing some kind of action or harmful act know that’s okay or think that is okay.”

A recent study found one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college. Alan Heisterkamp (HY-stir-camp), director of the Mentors in Violence Prevention Leadership Institute, says silence in the face of disrespect or assault condones sexual violence, so the program teaches bystander intervention.

Heisterkamp says, “You may think that it’s wrong but if we speak out or respond in a way to correct the behavior, often times the abuse or the inappropriate comments can come back on me because the culture of that system doesn’t support those prosocial behaviors.” Carrell and Heisterkamp made their comments on the Iowa Public Radio program, “River to River.”


Carter Lake man sent to jail for stealing vases from cemetery

A southwest Iowa man is sentenced to prison time after being convicted of stealing dozens of vases from an eastern Nebraska cemetery. Authorities say 53-year-old Gary Hostetter, of Carter Lake, Iowa, admitted to taking 45 brass vases from Memorial Cemetery in Fremont, Nebraska. The vases are worth about $220 each, for a total of $9,000.

While Hostetter confessed to taking 45 vases, the cemetery says 93 were missing. He was caught trying to sell the vases for scrap. Hostetter was sentenced in Dodge County, Nebraska, courts to a minimum of ten months in prison, a maximum of five years.