November 26, 2014

Grassley says violence in wake of Ferguson decision is not the answer

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Rallies are planned in four Iowa cities tonight in response to last night’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, where indictments were not brought against a white policeman who fatally shot a black teenager. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he has sympathy for the family of Michael Brown, who “lost a son.”

“There’s a strong feeling on both sides, the Brown family, President Obama and the clergy all said that violence is not an answer,” Grassley says, “but obviously, people didn’t listen to that or you wouldn’t have had all the fires you had last night.” There were clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson and elsewhere, in addition to gunfire, looting and the burning of many buildings.

Grassley says it’s senseless. “I wasn’t on the grand jury so I don’t have all the evidence that was presented,” Grassley says. “I heard a lot of it on television last night. You have to have confidence in the grand jury and in our system of justice and I do.”

Grassley says those doing violence last night were able to “take advantage of the situation to create the turmoil and the revolution that they think this country ought to go through.” Violence should never be the answer, he says. “We know that violence only adds to the hurt,” Grassley says. “There’s nothing wrong with peaceful protests. It happens that they’re a much better way to get a point across.”

The Ferguson National Response Network says on its website that rallies will be held at five o’clock tonight in Des Moines, Iowa City, Grinnell and Waterloo, as well as in numerous other cities nationwide.



Thanksgiving travel expected to be busiest since 2007

AAA-Iowa says you can expect to see a lot of cars on the highways this Thanksgiving.

AAA-Iowa says you can expect to see a lot of cars on the highways this Thanksgiving.

Many thousands of Iowans will be on the road this week and their Thanksgiving holiday travels could be hampered by wintery weather. Forecasters say up to three inches of snow is likely this afternoon into tonight for a wide section of eastern Iowa, while more snow is predicted for much of the state tomorrow night into Wednesday.

Rose White, at AAA-Iowa, says travelers will have plenty of company. “Forty-six-point-three million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving weekend which is the highest volume for the holiday since 2007,” White says. “It shows a 4.2 percent increase over last year.”

Gasoline prices in Iowa have dropped to the lowest levels in many months, falling more than 30-cents a gallon from last Thanksgiving, while the cost to fly has risen slightly. “Airfare prices are only up about 1%, fuel prices are down substantially,” White says, “but we are expecting hotel prices to be up about 8 percent and if you’re renting a car, prices are up about 10 percent more.”

Some people prefer to rent a car for long trips so they don’t put the miles on their personal vehicles, but White notes it’s getting pricey. “Ten percent is significant so you just need to budget more for car rental expenses,” White says. “Keep in mind though, you’ll incur the savings when you fill up that vehicle.” Regular unleaded gasoline is averaging $2.81 a gallon in Iowa, the same as the national average. The Iowa price is down 32 cents a gallon from a year ago.

White says travelers are expected to spend an average of $573 over the course of their Thanksgiving holiday travels.



Oak Ridge Boys plan Iowa stops on Christmas tour (AUDIO)

The Oak Ridge Boys.

The Oak Ridge Boys

One of the most successful and longest-running country music acts will be making two stops in Iowa this week. The Oak Ridge Boys are marking their 25th annual Christmas tour in their 41st year as a band.

Bass singer Richard Sterban says the show is divided into two sections, the first being a rundown of the songs that have made them so famous for decades.

“It’s our greatest hits done live,” Sterban says, “so you’re going to hear 45 minutes of Oak Ridge Boys hits, including ‘Elvira,’ even though it’s a Christmas show, you’re going to hear ‘Elvira’ and ‘Thank God for Kids’ and all the songs that you’d expect to hear from the Oak Ridge Boys.”

After an intermission, the four-member group will return to the stage to focus exclusively on the songs of the Yuletide season. “We cover just about every aspect of Christmas,” Sterban says. “We’re going to cover the secular side of Christmas, the fun side of Christmas, the romantic side of Christmas. We have a great time, a lot of audience participation.”

During the holiday half of the show, the four band members will have a seat in four rocking chairs arranged in front of a fireplace in what Sterban says has become a fan favorite.

“Basically, we take turns talking about childhood Christmas memories and what Christmas means to the four of us,” Sterban says. “It’s really a chance for the audience to get to know the four Oak Ridge Boys better. It’s a great down-home segment. We sing some traditional Christmas carols and we encourage the audience to sing along with us.”

Sterban became famous for his “oom-papa-oom-papa-mau-mau” bass solo in the single “Elvira.” It became the band’s fourth number-one country hit, reached number-five on the pop charts and won the group a Grammy award.

The Oak Ridge Boys are playing Friday in Des Moines and Saturday in Dubuque. They’ll be back in Iowa next month for a show in Tama on December 19th.

For ticketing information, visit the band’s website:

Audio:  Matt Kelley interview with Richard Sterban. 9:50.



Cosby show still on for Des Moines

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby

Comedian Bill Cosby’s life lately is anything but comedic, with mounting allegations of sexual assault. Cosby is scheduled to bring his stand-up show to central Iowa in a few months and the venue is watching developments closely as tickets went on sale a matter of days ago.

Cindy Hughes-Anliker is spokeswoman for Des Moines Performing Arts, which runs the capitol city’s civic center. “Given the nature of the allegations, we are in communication with the tour management regarding the current tour,” Hughes-Anliker says. “At this time, there is no indication the tour will be suspended and there are no immediate plans to cancel the show.”

Des Moines is one of 35 stops for the comedian’s “Bill Cosby 77 Tour,” in celebration of his 77th birthday. If the status of the tour changes, she says an announcement will be made.

“We understand some individuals currently holding tickets to the March 7th, 2015, Bill Cosby performance at the Civic Center will choose not to attend this event,” she says. “Des Moines Performing Arts is prepared to issue refunds to those ticket-holders.”

No charges are filed, though development of Cosby’s upcoming sitcom on NBC has been halted and Netflix has also postponed a project with Cosby. Repeats of “The Cosby Show” have also been pulled from TV Land’s entertainment schedule.


Cold November not an indicator of long winter trend

Iowans are enduring much colder-than-normal, snowy weather for the last half of fall, and while there’s a little relief in sight for the weekend, the winter ahead is still a toss-up. Jeff Zogg, senior meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Johnston, says they’ve re-run all of their computer models to get a glimpse at December through February and so far, it’s 50-50.

“We’re calling for equal chances for temperature,” Zogg says. “That means there’s really no strong signal of above-, near- or below-normal temperatures. For precipitation, generally equal chances, maybe a little bit of a dry signal across the eastern part of the state.”

Armchair prognosticators may claim this current cold spell could be a sign of a bitter, blizzard-filled season ahead, while other say it’s an indicator a warmer winter is on the way. Zogg says nobody really knows at this point. “When you go back and look at past winters, really the temperature trends that you see in November really have very little if any predictability as to the rest of the winter,” Zogg says. “Yes, we have been quite cold for the first part of November but that would not necessarily translate into a certain trend for the rest of the winter.”

While much of Iowa should see highs in the 40s this weekend — a nice change from the 20s — but the travel forecast for Thanksgiving looks dicey. “This weekend, we’re looking for a warm-up, even a chance of rainfall on Saturday and Sunday,” Zogg says. “Temperatures will be warm enough for rain but there is the potential for some additional unsettled weather next week, particularly towards Thanksgiving. We’re seeing the potential for below-normal temperatures again, maybe another system to bring us some rain or snow.” Stay tuned in to the latest forecast at


Drivers don’t follow their own thoughts when it comes to texting

texting driving 1Most drivers say they’d support laws banning the use of cell phones while behind the wheel, but an insurance company survey finds, those drivers don’t practice what they preach.

Ann Avery, spokeswoman for State Farm in Iowa, says the company just wrapped up its 6th annual survey on cell phone use by motorists.

“There has been a steady reduction in the number of drivers talking on a hand-held cell phone, which is great,” Avery says, “and the number of people who report texting while driving has remained stable over six years.”

If you didn’t have a smart phone a few years ago, the odds are, you have one now. “In 2011, 52% of drivers reported owning a smart phone,” Avery says. “By 2014, that number has grown to 80%. We see the greatest increases in smart phone ownership to be among adults age 40 and older.”

While devices like iPhones and Androids put a wealth of information, navigation and convenience at our fingertips, Avery says there’s also a big problem with them. “The interesting things about smart phones is, those do create new distractions,” Avery says. “There’s a significant increase over six years in drivers who use their phones for such things as accessing the internet, reading email, responding to email, reading social media.”

The survey found road conditions have a lot to do with whether drivers have one hand on the wheel and the other on the phone. “There are some things that drivers say make them more likely to use their cell phones, such as stopping at a red light or being on an open highway,” Avery says. “On the other hand, drivers say there are some circumstances under which they’re less likely to use their cell phones, such as weather conditions, it’s dark outside, it’s foggy, snowy, icy, they’re in heavy traffic or in a school zone.”

Only nine states prohibit all drivers from using hand-held phones while driving, and Iowa is not one of the nine. Iowa is among 35 states that prohibit texting while driving. A spokeswoman for the Iowa Governor’s Traffic Safety Bureau says a cell phone ban for motorists would greatly improve driving conditions on highways and interstates.

Senator Harkin says inaction by Congress forced president to act on immigration

Senator Tom Harkin

Senator Tom Harkin

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he understands why President Obama will likely issue an executive order today providing temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. Harkin, a Democrat, blames the Republican-led U.S. House for its inaction on immigration. He notes, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill 18 months ago, a bill that hasn’t yet come up for debate in the House.

“So, it’s forcing the president to do something on an executive basis, which, I would admit should be done legislatively, but the crisis is real and the president has to act, so keep that in mind.” Harkin says if House leaders would allow the bill to go to a vote, it would likely pass. He’s expecting the president to take action today where the legislative branch of government has failed.

“I think he’s going to clarify in an executive order what his lawyers tell him that he can do executively,” Harkin says. “I think he’s going to do something about the “dreamers,” the young kids who are brought here as children or young kids, to let them be a part of our society and go to college here.”

The most controversial part of the expected executive order would grant legal status, at least on a temporary basis, to as many as five-million immigrants who are now in the country illegally.

Harkin says, “I believe that he’s going to stay the deportation of certain segments of people who have been here for a long time and are working and paying their taxes and everything else in this country.”

One Republican U.S. Senator says the president’s actions today may spark violence and “anarchy” from immigration opponents. Harkin says the comments from Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn go too far in predicting such a negative reaction about the president’s pending executive order. “I wish Mr. Coburn would use less inflammatory language,” Harkin says. “This is the kind of thing that stirs people up and implicates fear and anxiety in people rather than calmly discussing it and talking about it.”

The president is expected to address the nation from the White House tonight.