August 1, 2015

Landowners sue Iowa Utilities Board over Bakken oil pipeline

Route of the proposed Bakken pipeline.

Route of the proposed Bakken pipeline.

A group of Iowa landowners is suing the Iowa Utilities Board, saying it’s an effort to protect their property from the Dakota Access pipeline, which aims to carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields, through South Dakota, Iowa and into south-central Illinois.

They claim that agents from the proposed Dakota Access pipeline have told them if they don’t agree to easements that allow the pipeline onto their property, they will have their land seized by the state of Iowa.

Attorney Bill Hanigan says the state’s utilities board has no authority to grant eminent domain to Dakota Access, because the pipeline doesn’t provide services in the state. “Dakota Access however delivers nothing to Iowans and it receives nothing from Iowans. Furthermore crude oil is not even consumable by anyone until further refined. And Iowa has not crude oil refineries,” Hanigan says. Landowners also say the pipeline will harm agricultural production because it will cause excessive heat and water.

Boone County farm owner, Dick Lamb, says he does not want to allow the Dakota Access pipeline onto his property, and says he’s being threatened by agents of the company. “The buyers have said if you don’t settle with us, you’re going to have to face eminent domain. And that is going to be a terrible situation that you don’t want to go through,” Lamb says. “So yes, I would say I feel threatened.” Texas-based Energy Transfer — the parent company behind Dakota Access — and the Iowa Utilities Board both say they do not comment on pending litigation.

The pipeline company says it has obtained easement agreements on more than 61 percent of the tracts along the proposed route in Iowa.

(Reporting by Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio)


Mason City police believe bank robber was the ‘AK-47 Bandit’

Bank photo of alleged AK-47 Bandit.

Bank photo of alleged AK-47 Bandit.

Authorities believe the man who held up a credit union in Mason City this week is the suspect known as the “AK-47 Bandit,” who’s wanted in multiple bank heists in several states.

Mason City Police Lieutenant Rich Jensen says the man walked into the Iowa Heartland Credit Union on Tuesday at 10 a.m., armed with a semiautomatic rifle. He demanded money, forced the bank employees into the vault, then fled in a Toyota Camry.

“In previous robberies, the suspect used a dark-colored Nissan Maxima with chrome door handles,” Jensen says. “The suspect left behind an improvised explosive device that was rendered safe by the FBI and the local fire marshal.” Though he was wearing a ski mask, Jensen says it’s believed he’s the same suspect responsible for robberies in at least four other states.

“This suspect shot and wounded a Chino, California, police officer after robbing a bank in 2012 and has since been linked to four bank robberies and one attempted bank robbery in multiple states, using the same rifle,” Jensen says. Lieutenant Andy Bjelland, with the Chino Police Department, says the Chino robbery happened after the suspect phoned in a bomb threat at another facility as a distraction before robbing the bank.

Upon arrival at the bank, an officer interrupted what appeared to be a carjacking by the suspect. He fired at the officer and left the officer seriously wounded. The officer has had several major surgeries since the incident but is now back on duty. Bjelland says ten days later, the suspect unsuccessfully attempted to rob a bank in Sacramento, California, and then three days later, he robbed a Vacaville, California bank.

Since then, he robbed a North Bend, Washington, bank in July 2012, a Rexburg, Idaho, bank in November 2012 and the First Nebraska Bank branch in Nebraska City, Nebraska, in August of last year. While the suspect fled the Mason City bank in a dark-colored 2007-to-2009 Toyota Camry, he had previously used a chrome-packaged 2009-to-2011 Nissan Maxima. Bjelland calls it “a significant change.”

If you have any information about the robbery, call the Mason City Police Department at (641) 421-3636.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)


Senator Ernst and others introduce bill to cut Planned Parenthood funding

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst takes questions at the news conference.

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst takes questions at the news conference.

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst took the lead today in introducing a bill that would cut federal funds to Planned Parenthood in the wake of the release of videos showing leaders in the organization talking about harvesting body parts from aborted babies to be sold.

Ernst was joined at a Washington, D.C. news conference by 7 other Republican Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“The recent footage depicting Planned Parenthood’s role in the harvesting of organs — heart, liver, kidneys — of unborn babies is morally reprehensible and vile,” Ernst says. “The American people, Republicans and Democrats alike, are horrified by the utter lack of compassion shown by Planned Parenthood for these women and their babies.”

Ernst says people in both parties are upset by the videos, including a Democrat candidate for president. “In fact, now Hillary Clinton is calling these Planned Parenthood images ‘disturbing.’ And I agree. These videos are hard for anyone to defend, and hit at the moral fiber of our society,” Ernst says.

Ernst says the bill she is backing will take away federal dollars from Planned Parenthood. “In addition to defunding Planned Parenthood, our legislation ensures that federal funding taken from Planned Parenthood will be made available to other entities that provide health services for women,” Ernst says.

She says the bill won’t hurt the availability of health services for women.”I want to make clear that there will be no reduction in overall federal funding to support womens’ health,” according to Ernst. Ernst was asked if the bill would also include state funding.”What we are discussing right now is just that federal legislation, and then how those state dollars, local dollars are handled, is another issue that will have to be addressed later on,” Ernst says.

She was also asked if she is against all research using fetal tissue. “That is a separate issue. What we’re seeing right now is absolutely reprehensible. There are a number of questions that have been raised by these videos,” Ernst says. “I have joined and led 49 other Senators in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell asking that she take a look at this. We want to make sure that any documents regarding this issue are preserved and that she is doing a thorough investigation. And we will see what the results are after she does that.”

Other Republican Senators who appeared with Ernst are: Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas; Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota; Deb Fischer of Nebraska; Johnny Isakson of Georgia; James Lankford of Oklahoma, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Tim Scott of South Carolina.

Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign released this statement from Jill June, the former president of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, in response to the Republican Senator’s news conference:

“Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood are nothing but a callous and political attempt to put ideology ahead of the health and well-being of Iowa women. We’ve seen this movie before. Senator Ernst and other Republican senators should drop their latest attack on Planned Parenthood that provides health care each year to nearly 60,000 patients in Iowa and surrounding states, including in hard to serve rural areas. Hillary Clinton believes health care should be left between a woman and her doctor – full stop. It’s time politicians stop trying to insert themselves in these personal decisions and instead focus on the issues Iowans elected them to solve.”

Branstad: Trump leading polls due to ‘name recognition’ (AUDIO)

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Terry Branstad doesn’t think it’s “likely” that Donald Trump will wind up being the Republican Party’s presidential nominee next year.

“It’s way early and polls at this point in time tend to reflect name recognition,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “And, obviously, he’s a TV personality who has a lot of recognition, but there’s a lot of really good candidates in this race.”

Trump is tops in several recent national polls and a couple of recent surveys focusing solely on Iowa Caucus-goers found Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in the lead, with Trump surging into second place.

“I don’t think he’s going to be the nominee, but you know he, like any other candidate, has an opportunity to express their viewpoint,” Branstad said. “If you remember what happened four years ago, we had a lot of people that were the front-runner at some point in time, but Iowans tend to reward people that work hard and spent a lot of time in the state.”

Trump announced in mid-June that he would run for president and he’s appeared at three events in Iowa since then, including a weekend rally in Oskaloosa that attracted a crowd of more than 14-hundred people. The candidate who has spent the most time in Iowa is Rick Perry and Branstad predicts the former Texas governor “will do a lot better” in the Iowa Caucuses than expected.

AUDIO of Branstad speaking with reporters on this and other topics this morning, 21:30

Board of Regents to consider tuition increase for the spring semester

Regents-buildingThe three years of tuition freezes at the three state universities could be coming to an end.

Materials released by the Board of Regents in advance of their meeting next week call for a 3 percent tuition increase for the spring semester of 2016 at the University of Iowa, Northern Iowa and Iowa State University.

Board president Bruce Rastetter said in June they would hold the line on tuition for the fall semester, but said a freeze for the spring was up in the air after the 2015 Iowa Legislature approved only a portion of the funding they were asking for. Legislators approve $6.5 million dollars in funding, while the regents had requested $21.7 million.

The proposal says the increase would add 100 dollars to the cost of tuition for full-time undergraduate students. The board will meet via telephone on August 5th.

‘The gloves are off,’ Trump says as he goes after Iowa front-runner Walker (AUDIO)

Donald Trump in Oskaloosa, IA.

Donald Trump in Oskaloosa, IA.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke to more than 1,400 in Oskaloosa this afternoon.

Trump greeted a crowd inside the 700-seat high school auditorium and his speech was broadcast into a building next door for the overflow crowd, with still more standing outside unable to get in to either venue.

“Beautiful, beautiful,” Trump said, when he arrived on stage. “What a welcome.”

Trump spoke for nearly an hour, touching on many of the topics he’s discussed in previous solo stops in Winterset and Des Moines in June. Trump did take on Republican rival Scott Walker, the current front-runner in Iowa polls.

“He’s the only guy that’s ahead of me. I can’t believe I’m in second place…Folks, would you please put me in first place so I feel better?” Trump asked and the crowd cheered.

Trump told the audience he had appreciated and contributed to Walker’s fight to survive a recall election in Wisconsin, but Trump said a “stupid person” who works for Walker made a “horrible statement” about him and Trump blasted Walker’s management of Wisconsin.

“They projected a $1 billion surplus and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion. The schools are a disaster and they’re fighting like crazy because there’s no money for the school…and he was totally in favor of Common Core,” Trump said. “Did you know that?”

The crowd cheered Trump’s negative critique of Walker. Later, Trump told reporters Walker hadn’t been that nice to him anyway.

“One of his people hit me…and I said: ‘Hey, now the gloves are off,” Trump said. “…The real truth is that Wisconsin’s it’s a mess right now. It’s a mess, from an economic standpoint.”

Trump told reporters there is “no cap” on the amount of his personal fortune that he will spend running for president. The Trump campaign handed out “Veterans for Trump” signs to the crowd and Brad Nagle, a native of Cherokee, Iowa, who is a former Navy Seal, spoke to the crowd before Trump arrived on stage.

“Donald Trump loves veterans unlike some others who think . crazies,” Nagle said, to applause. “Donald Trump is someone who talks the talk, but walks the walk. I like that.” A man in the crowd gave a Marine “oorah” yell in response.

Trump later told reporters his well-publicized dust-up with Arizona Senator John McCain was “over with.”

Susan Leonard of Oskaloosa lives just a few blocks from the school where the event was held and she was among the crowd who arrived to see Trump today.

“He’s out there being our voice,” Leonard said. “He’s out there saying what we can’t say for anybody to hear, but he’s got the platform to say it and get it out there. Some things I wish he’d maybe tone it down a bit, be a little subtle, but that’s the only tip I would tell him.”

Leonard’s cousin, Angela Binns of Oskaloosa, is equally thrilled with Trump.

“I like his outspokenness. I’m so glad that he has the courage to say what needs to be said and, quite frankly, I really don’t care who is offended,” Binns said.

Both women, who accidentally wore block dresses with white polka dots to the event, say they “probably” will Caucus for Trump, unless someone else in the GOP field “steps up” and makes the case on the issues the way Trump is.  Jill Jepsen and her husband are more than ready for Trump. Jepsen, who is from Oskaloosa, made six signs to wave at the event.

“He tells the truth. He’s an honest guy,” Jepsen said. “It’s amazing and I am an independent voter. So’s my husband. We’re not Democrats. We’re not Republicans. We’re independents and he’s put the spirit back into it. He’s putting the spirit back into our country again.”

Forty-year-old Dana Jones of Ottumwa wore a Reagan-Bush ’84 t-shirt to the event because he sees a lot of Reagan in Trump.

“He says it the way it is,” Jones said. “He’s not reading off (any) teleprompter or he (doesn’t) have any, like, notes and I believe he’s honest and gets straight to the point and no other politicians out there are like that.”

AUDIO of Trump’s speech, 58:00

AUDIO of Trump’s news conference, 28:00

(Photo by Asya Akca)

Christie says Clinton ‘owns the big lie’ of Obama’s second term (AUDIO)


Chris Christie

Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie says the Iran deal is the single worth thing President Obama has done during his presidency.

“What’s going to happen with this Iran deal, in my opinion, is it’s going to lead to a nuclearized Middle East.

It is going to lead to danger not only for the United States, but also for our allies in the Middle East like Israel and other friendly Arab countries,” Christie says. “And remember: Iran is still the largest state-sponsor of terrorism in the world.”

Christie faults the deal for failing to have “anytime, anywhere” inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and he says the deal will allow Iran to import and develop ballistic weapons.

“This is a life-and-death situation and this is absolutely the worst thing this president has done,” Christie says. “This will go down in history as an enormous, monumental, life-costing error.”

According to Christie, Obama should have done what Reagan did while negotiating with the Russians.

“What Ronald Reagan understood was…no deal is better than a bad deal and he walked away from Gorbachev and those negotiations,” Christie says. “That’s exactly what President Obama should have done. He should have walked away from the mullahs in Iran, ratcheted up the sanctions and said: ‘When you’re serious about a fair deal, come back and we’ll talk to you then.'”

And Christie says likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will find it hard to defend the delay international inspectors will face when asking to see Iran nuclear facilities.

“I mean, as a former prosecutor, I’ll tell you, that’s like getting a search warrant, going to someone’s house and then saying: ‘I’ll be back in 24 days to see if there’s any evidence of a crime.’ Even the stupidest criminal in the world would be able to get rid of that evidence,” Christie says. “So she now owns the big lie of the second term which is ‘any time, anywhere inspections’ in Iran.”

Christie made his comments this morning during an interview with Radio Iowa. Christie also discussed recent Amtrak delays in New York and New Jersey as well as his competition with a crew of governors who are seeking the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination.

AUDIO of Christie’s interview with Radio Iowa, 7:41

(Photo courtesy of Chris Christie’s Twitter Account)