November 28, 2015

‘Mythbusters’ making stop in Iowa as TV show approaches final season (audio)

Adam Savage

Adam Savage

One of the most popular and longest-running cable TV programs is taking its show on the road with one Iowa stop planned before the last season starts airing in January.

Adam Savage co-hosts “Mythbusters” on the Discovery Channel with Jamie Hyneman, and after 14 years, 248 episodes and 2,950 experiments, the final show will air next year.

Savage says the program’s unexpected legacy is inspiring generations of kids — and adults — to love science. “In the beginning, we got emails from people saying, ‘Thanks for getting me through high school science,’ then we got emails from people saying, ‘Thanks for getting me through college chem,'” Savage says. “Now, we’re getting emails from people saying, ‘I’m a doctor of engineering and I’m raising my kids on your show,’ all because of Mythbusters.”

The stage version of the TV show, called “Mythbusters: Jamie and Adam Unleashed,” will be at Stephens Auditorium in Ames next Monday at 7 P.M.

Savage calls it “science-based entertainment” on a grand scale. “It operates very similarly to a magic show, ultimately in its overall format,” Savage says. “We have multiple vignettes, each vignette has a great finish, but the finish isn’t a magic illusion, it’s a scientific bit of clarity. We use audience members, brought up on stage, to help us tell the story.”

On the show, the team uses science to test the validity of rumors, myths, movie scenes, adages, Internet videos and news stories. Over the past 13 years, it’s gained a global following of devoted viewers. The adoration of fans around the planet is astounding, Savage says: “It’s as close as Jamie or I, a couple of old men, will ever get to feeling like genuine rock stars.”

Much more importantly, he says, the program has had a dramatic impact on many thousands of lives and minds, getting people — young people especially — to think about math and science in a new way.

“Making this show has fundamentally changed me as a person and turned me into a scientist, genuinely, in my mind and in the way that I approach the world,” Savage says. “I am incredibly grateful for that and I will never be the same.”

Before “Mythbusters,” Savage worked as set designer, prop master, art director and producer while pursuing welding, pneumatics, hydraulics, electronics and robot-building. His special effects and prop work was in movies including: “Star Wars: Episodes 1 and 2,” “Galaxy Quest,” “Space Cowboys,” “Terminator 3,” “The Mummy,” “The Matrix Reloaded” and many more.

With the global popularity of “Mythbusters,” Savage says he has many career options ahead, in front of and behind the camera. “It’s the most humbling, remarkable, astonishing thing,” Savage says. “All I’ve ever wanted to do is tell a story about curiosity and satisfying curiosity and that has resonated and reverberated out in the world. It’s more than anyone can hope for when they set out to tell a story.”

The 48-year-old Savage is a New York native who now lives in San Francisco with his wife, twin boys and two dogs. The 14th and final season of “Mythbusters” premieres on January 9th on Discovery with the series finale airing about 11 weeks later. Savage promises, it’ll be explosive.

Audio: Matt Kelley interview with Adam Savage. 8:33.

ISU economist expects shopping season similar to last year

Dave Swenson

Dave Swenson

An Iowa State University economist says the signs are pointing to an average holiday season for retailers this year. Dave Swenson says all of the analysis he’s seen doesn’t predict any big swings in shopping.

“Most people who are looking at the Iowa economy say it’s looking steady and a lot like last year,” Swenson says, “we continue to improve and incomes have gone up, and by all measures then you should expect a conventional holiday season.”

The good news is the economy hasn’t gotten worse compared to last year, but the improvement isn’t setting any records. “There’s not part of the Iowa economy that’s booming. There’s no special part that is really showing well. Because of that, there’s really not a lot of expectation for there to be a strong growth in holiday spending beyond the growth in just regular household income,” according to Swenson.

Swenson says it does appear though that the urban areas have an edge over rural areas economically. “The farm sector is weaker because of low crop prices and the multiplied through consequences of that might mean that there are parts of the economy that aren’t doing as well,” Swenson explains. “We know that communities that depend on manufacturing jobs and those types of things aren’t doing quite as well metropolitan areas which are enjoying consistent, both employment, population and income growth.”

One thing that is making an impact across the economy in the state is the drop in gas prices. He says the savings at the pump translates into a pay increase for households. “Compared to a year ago, it’s significant,” Swenson says. “Now, how much that increase is as a fraction of your household income — it isn’t that much — gas prices have more of a psychological than a significant effect for most families. But it will put more money in our pockets and more disposable income and greater opportunities for purchases. We can afford to do just a little bit more at the holiday season, but not that much more,” Swenson says.

Milder temperatures and lower heating fuel costs have also save Iowans some money on utility bills. “Every little piece on energy savings — whether its in your utility bill or if it’s gas being pumped into your car — every little savings is a boost to your household income. And it’s one of the few boosts to income we’re getting,” Swenson says. He says that boost helps in a time when wages have stay pretty flat.


Reward increases for information on missing Hampton man

Ethan Kazmerzak

Ethan Kazmerzak

A reward fund has climbed to $100,000 in a missing person case out of northern Iowa. Ethan Kazmerzak of Hampton went missing on September 15, 2013. He was 22-years-old at the time.

A group of anonymous donors pooled the reward money being offered for “any relevant and useful information that leads to the current location and/or safe return of Kazmerzak.”

Numerous searches have been conducted by local law enforcement, but no trace of Kazmerzak has been found. His vehicle, a 2006 Volkswagen Jetta, remains missing as well.

Anyone with information about Ethan Kazmerzak is asked to call North Iowa Crime Stoppers at 1-800-383-0088 or the Hampton Police Department at 641-456-2529.

At the time he disappeared, Kazmerzak had dark blond hair, a beard, and Grateful Dead tattoo on his upper left arm. He was wearing glasses and peach/orange colored shorts and a white/teal printed shirt.


State unemployment rate hits ‘full employment’ level in October

Workforce-Development-frontOctober’s unemployment rate dropped one-tenth of a percent from September to 3.5 percent.

Iowa Workforce Development spokesperson, Courtney Greene, says it has been awhile since the unemployment rate was this low.

“The low unemployment rate of 3.5 hasn’t been seen since 2006,”Green says. The unemployment rate one year ago in October was 4.3 percent. The number of unemployed dropped to 60,300 in October.

Iowa’s unemployment rate may have bottomed out. “Many economists agree that 3.5 percent is considered full employment. There’s roughly 3.5 percent of the population in transition between jobs at any given time, or those who have significant long-term barriers to employment,”Greene says. “Low unemployment is good for job seekers — but it is challenging for many Iowa employers who are struggling to find those with the skills needed in various industries.”

Greene says non-farm employment added jobs for the second straight month. “Professional and business services surged ahead in October — thanks to hiring in administrative and waste management. This is the third consecutive month of growth for this sector, which has added 4,500 jobs since July,” according to Greene. “There was also a gain in the service sector — which has gained jobs in three of the last four months. And Iowa’s financial sector has remained strong over the past 12 months and is up 2,500 jobs annually.”

Greene says job losses were low compared to the gains. “Leisure-hospitality lost 1,900 jobs and manufacturing saw a slight decline of about a thousand jobs,” Greene says. The Workforce Development report says leisure and hospitality was hampered this month by a decrease in accommodations and food services staffing that was larger than seasonally expected. The current estimate is that the number of people without a job is 13,500 lower than one year ago.

Iowa’s unemployment rate remains well below the national rate, which dropped to five percent in October.


Trump says Carson shows ‘devastating’ lack of foreign policy acumen (AUDIO)

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.

Late this afternoon, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump went to the Iowa town he first connected with five years ago.

In the fall of 2010, Trump telephoned the people he saw featured in a “60 Minutes” story about the demise of Newton’s largest employer.

“I watched what happened with Maytag and I watched two of folks and I guess I had four or five or six that we helped out. Some had to come out of college and we helped them get through college and, you know, just things, and it made me feel good,” Trump said on WHO-TV. “But I looked at that show and it had a big impact on me because I’m so involved in trade and I’m so involved in people and, you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened, I think.”

Trump was about 10 minutes late for an hour-long, live interview on WHO TV. The televised forum was focused on jobs and the economy. Trump suggested his standing in the polls is tied to the number of people who cannot find the kind of job they want.

“One of the things that I see in this country is a lot of people have lost hope,” Trump said. “They’ve lost their spirit. They’ve lost their mojo…We can talk economics. We can talk everything, but we have to give people back their hope.”

Trump briefly steered the TV show conversation away to current events.

“What’s happened since Paris is people are really starting to like my hard line on immigration,” Trump said, to applause from the audience gathered to watch the show in the Newton auditorium where Maytag’s final shareholders meeting was held.

Trump then took questions from a crowd gathered next door in the same complex. A woman in the crowd asked about Syrian refugees.

“Very simply, folks, we can’t take ’em,” Trump said, to applause. “It could be a Trojan horse.”

A few minutes later a man in the crowd asked Trump about rival Ben Carson’s ability to address foreign policy issues.

“Is his campaign going to go into free-fall now that it’s been exposed how little he knows?” the man asked.

Trump responded: “I think it is in freefall…Yesterday, as you know, in the New York Times…his consultant said he was incapable of learning foreign policy…We can’t have a man incapable of learning foreign policy…That’s devastating.”

Toward the end of the 40-minute rally, Trump — without prompting from a questioner — criticized rival Marco Rubio for skipping a senate security briefing to attend a campaign fundraiser.

“With what just happened in Paris, he’s out in California and he’s raising money so that he can buy ads so that you people can see how wonderful he is. Right?…I think it’s outrageous,” Trump said. “I’ll tell you, I’m so sick and tired of politicians and I think it’s why I’m doing well.”

Registered Republican voter Chris Bjornson of West Des Moines wore a Trump t-shirt to the event.

“I like his boldness, like everybody else,” Bjornson said. “It’s going to be interesting. I think now with this terrorist attack I think that just seals the deal with Donald Trump, in my opinion, because of the way he says he’s going to handle this kind of stuff. I don’t see anybody else stepped up to the plate like that.”

Andrew Worrell of Kellogg, a registered Republican voter, likes Trump’s “no nonsense” style, but he’s hoping Trump will tone down the attacks on his GOP rivals.

“I’m not telling him to change his character, but if he’s going to be our president, he might want to — at least until he gets in the office and then he can say whatever he wants,” Worrell said. “But, no, I like him. I really do.”

Lonnie Appleby of Newton is a registered Democrat who plans to support Trump in the Caucuses.

“I admire anybody that can get away with saying what he says,” Appleby said. “But also someone that isn’t afraid to speak their mind, no matter who it might offend.”

Appleby comes from a family of Democrats — and joked that he doesn’t plan to talk politics over the Thanksgiving table.

AUDIO of Trump’s rally, Q&A with Newton crowd, 40:00

Racing and Gaming fines casinos in Osceola, Council Bluffs for underage gambling violations

Racing and Gaming Commission.

Racing and Gaming Commission.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission issued fines totaling $100,000 today to three casinos for allowing underage people to gamble.

The Lakeside Casino in Osceola was fined $60,000 after an underage female was able to get into the casino and gamble six times in August.

Lakeside general manager Bob Thursby apologized to commission members. “I was absolutely mortified at this progression — it was not the progression of one individual employee to be properly trained or motivated — it was a half-a-dozen over a period of one week,” Thursby told the commission.

The female involved was stopped 3 other times from entering the casino floor and an investigation found the other 6 where she had been allowed to gamble. He says they have taken steps to discipline and retrain the employees involved.

“Each of the individuals involved in not checking the I.D.’s served a 3-day suspension. The management of the security department has been counseled and trained,” Thursby says. “We are increasing the frequency of our I.D. training. It used to be biannual, now it will be quarterly.” Thursby says they’ve also introduced some other training exercises that challenge the security staff to identify underage gamblers. “I believe we’ve taken some extraordinary steps to correct this situation and it won’t happen going forward,” Thursby says.

Rich Arnold

Rich Arnold

Rich Arnold of Russell spoke to Thursby. “I just want to say you should have been mortified that this happened. I can’t believe that six different people let this individual in. I can maybe see one, one security guard, six different times, that tells me something is lacking,” Arnold says.

Commissioner Delores Merz of Algona also told Thursby she was not happy with what happened. “And I will tell you sir, if I would have had my way, you would have been fined $20,000 per incident — that would have been $120,000,” Mertz says. “So, I think we are being very good to you.”

Delores Mertz

Delores Mertz

Mertz says it’s hard to believe the facility could have multiple problems in one week. “It just seems to me like there is something that is not jiving well, or something is not going well that you have to come before us to have fines presented to you. So, I would ask you to please have better oversight over all of this. But I am glad that you are taking steps to correct a lot of this, ” Mertz says.

Racing and Gaming Commission chair Jeff Lamberti of Ankeny was asked about the decision to levy the $60,000 fine against Lakeside instead of $20,000 for each of the six visits the person made for a total of $120,000. “We think $60,000 by historic standards is still pretty tough. We could have gone higher but we thought that was the appropriate amount to send a message. I don’t think any facility wants to pay that kind of penalty. Our bigger concern there is what appeared just a systematic failure on their training,” Lamberti says, “and they have taken the steps that we asked them to do. And we will be watching them very closely.”

Harveys Casino in Council Bluffs and the Horshoe Casino in Council Bluffs were each fined $20,000 for allowing minors into their gaming areas. An underage male entered Harvey’s in June with the help of his father and gambled. Another underage male got into the Horshoe Casino in September and gambled. He was caught when he tried to reenter the casino a second time. Lamberti says the casinos are constantly working to keep out underage gamblers.

“Seems to be no shortage of minors trying to get into these facilities, so they actually do a very good job, but every once in awhile one happens and we try to take them very seriously, and I think most of our facilities do as well,” Lamberti says. The commission today also fined the Riverside Casino and Rythmn City Casino in Davenport $3,000 for allowing people to gamble who had put themselves on the gambling ban list.

The commission met in Altoona.


Binge drinking rate high in Iowa; obesity rate stable from 2013 to 2014

Health-Department-LogoA new report indicates the percentage of Iowans who were overweight or obese was almost identical in 2013 and 2014, however two-thirds of Iowans still fit into that category. Don Shepherd of the Iowa Department of Public Health says it’s too early to tell if this is the beginning of a decline in obesity rates in Iowa.

“We’re on the high side, even though we’ve paused this year and not gone up any,” Shepherd says.

The data on obesity rates comes from the 2014 “Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System” report. The just-released report found the vast majority of Iowans consider themselves in good health. However, health care professionals are looking for improvement in the number of Iowans taking important cancer screening tests. The percentage of Iowa women who’ve had the “pap” test to screen for cervical cancer has declined by about three percent over the past three years.

“I was surprised by that one myself because I hadn’t heard any reports of it doing down,” Shepherd says, “but it is showing a decline.”

More than 71 percent of Iowans above the age of 50 have had a colonoscopy — the screening test for colon cancer — and Shepherd says that’s a welcome increase.

“There’s a campaign out to try to get 80 percent screening (for colon cancer) and we’ve still got a ways to go for that, but we’re better than we have been in the past,” Shepherd says.

Nearly 67 percent of elderly Iowans got a flu shot last year.

“We were the top state in the country a couple, three years ago in terms of having people over the age of 65 get flu vaccinations and we’ve dropped somewhat,” Shepherd says, “but we’re still in the top 10.”

Nearly five percent of Iowans surveyed last year admitted to driving while they were intoxicated. Only one other state had a higher rate of admitted drunk driving and Shepherd says there are likely more who’ve driven while intoxicated, but wouldn’t admit it. About one in five Iowans surveyed in 2014 admitted to binge drinking. That puts Iowa among the top five states for binge drinking — and it’s not just a problem in college towns. Shepherd says it’s a “widespread” problem.

“It seems to have something to do with the geography of the country because the upper Midwest is a high binge drinking area in general,” Shepherd says. “Quite often four of the top five states in binge drinking are up here in the upper Midwest.”

Health professionals define binge drinkers as a man who drinks more than five alcoholic beverages or a woman who has more than four drinks on one occasion.