November 25, 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.

Des Moines man charged with OWI in fatal accident

Police car lightsA Des Moines man is now facing several charges in connection with a fatal accident.

Des Moines police have charged 24-year-old Troy Lee Mure Junior with vehicular homicide by reckless driving, vehicular homicide by operating while intoxicated and first offense operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Police say Mure was behind the wheel Monday when the car he was driving hit a utility pole. Twenty-two-year-old passenger, Scalicity Boyd, died in the accident. Officers who first arrived on the scene reported the car was so badly damaged they couldn’t tell what model it was.

Mure was taken to the hospital for treatment after the accident and was arrested after being released today.


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.


Gas drops below the $2 mark in Iowa and other states

gas-1-99Gas prices are below $2 a gallon in many locations as Iowans prepare to hit the road for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. AAA Iowa spokesperson Rose White says motorists are thankful for pump prices that haven’t been seen in 7 years.

“Approximately 42-million Americans are expected to take a road trip this Thanksgiving and drivers should pay the lowest pump prices for the Thanksgiving holiday since 2008,” White said. The U.S. Energy Administration has reported domestic crude oil inventories are near an all-time high and White says many Midwest refineries are back on-line after planned or unplanned maintenance.

“Production in the region is at its highest rate in nearly two months and that has attributed to a steady decline in prices across the Midwest,” Rose said. This morning, AAA reported the statewide average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas dropped to $2.08.

“Motorists across Iowa are seeing significant savings compared to last year,” Rose said. “If you look at today’s prices and compare them to last Thanksgiving, they’re saving about 72-cents a gallon.” Nearly 60 percent of all gas stations in the U.S. are now selling fuel below $2 a gallon.


Senator Grassley says take global travel alert seriously

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Senator Chuck Grassley.

Many Iowans will be traveling across the state or across the country for Thanksgiving, but a few will be making international trips in the next week.

The U.S. State Department is issuing a rare global travel alert due to increased terrorist threats. Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says America’s intelligence community is keeping closely attuned to any rumblings that may indicate trouble.

“CIA, FBI use the word chatter,” Grassley says. “There’s a lot of chatter out there coming from all of the terrorist organizations that you can name, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, ISIS, probably a dozen more you could name, seems to be a lotta’ chatter.”

There are reportedly no specific threats directed at the United States, but officials are warning Americans to be more vigilant after recent multiple attacks around the world. “I think it’s reasonable to take it very serious,” Grassley says. “I hope nothing comes of it. We had the same thing July the 4th, not too much came out of it. That’s because the FBI was on top of things and arrested several people before they had an opportunity to do any damage.”

The alert from the State Department says travelers abroad should avoid large crowds and crowded places, and exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.

Grassley says, “We saw what happened in Paris so I think we ought to listen to what the State Department says.” The November 13th attacks on the French capitol for which ISIS claimed responsibility claimed 130 lives and injured hundreds. Other recent attacks struck in Denmark, Mali, Nigeria and Turkey.

The travel alert will remain in place into late February.


Iowa’s ‘Prince Farming’ is now ethanol pitchman

Chris Soules

Chris Soules

The Iowan nicknamed “Prince Farming” during his time on a reality TV show has stepped into the debate over the future of ethanol.

“To protect something that’s really important to my family’s farming operation as well as thousands of others,” says Chris Soules, who was the star of “The Bachelor” last spring.

This fall, he was a contestant on “Dancing With The Stars” and now Soules is featured in a pro-ethanol advertisement to counter ads being run by the oil industry.

“The truth is biofuels mean more jobs, less foreign oil and cleaner air,” Soules says in the ad. “Tell Washington politicians to support clean American biofuels.”

Soules grew up on a family farm near Arlington in Fayette County and graduated from Iowa State University. Growth Energy, the promotional arm of the ethanol industry, is running the ad starring Soules. During a telephone news conference to debut the ad, Soules told reporters ethanol has been an economic benefit not just to farmers, but to people in rural Iowa who’re employed in the ethanol industry.

“Given the things that have occurred recently with Paris, it’s been made very clear that we need to be able to secure our nation’s energy supply,” Soules said, “…and provide those jobs and that stability to the Midwest and to farmers all over.”

In his concluding episode as “The Bachelor” Soules was standing in a barn on his family farm when he proposed to a Chicago nurse. The pro-ethanol ad in which he now stars is airing in Iowa, Illnois, Indiana and Ohio.

There’s a November 30 deadline for federal regulators to announce three years worth of ethanol production guidelines, for ultimately blending ethanol into gasoline.

Trump gains 5 points, Cruz up 13 in new Quinnipiac University Poll

Ted Cruz (file photo)

Ted Cruz (file photo)

A new Quinnipiac University poll finds businessman Donald Trump has the support of 25 percent of likely Iowa Republican Caucus goers and Texas Senator Ted Cruz has 23 percent. Peter Brown, the assistant director of the poll, says support for Cruz has more than doubled in the past four weeks.

“Senator Cruz is the hot candidate in Iowa. There’s no doubt about that,” Brown says. “That’s a very big jump in just one month.”

Retired surgeon Ben Carson is in third place, but his support in Iowa dropped by 10 percent in the past month — while Cruz picked up 13 points. Brown says those trends are “mathematically linked.”

“Many of these are the same people,” Brown says. “Not all, necessarily, but many.”

The poll was taken from November 16th through the 20th — after the terrorist attacks in Paris — and only six percent of those surveyed gave Carson high marks on foreign policy experience, while Cruz topped the chart as the candidate judged “best able to handle” foreign affairs.

“Dr. Carson’s background which is relatively light on foreign policy experience and Senator Cruz’s relative depth, you know, it’s not terribly surprising there’s been this movement,” Brown says. “Also Senator Cruz seemed to get the best grades out of the last televised debate, so that’s helpful.”

Support for Florida Senator Marco Rubio held steady in the month-to-month comparison. Brown says the GOP candidates are now clearly separated into two tiers.

“There’s the first tier, which is made up of four candidates — two insiders, Senators Cruz and Rubio; and two outsiders, Dr. Carson and Mr. Trump — and everybody else is pretty far back,” Brown says. “This is Iowa, so anything’s possible, but for someone to move from that bottom tier into that top tier is going to take an awful lot of work and good luck.”

Thirty percent of likely Iowa Republican Caucus-goers listed “terrorism” and “foreign policy” as their top issues, while 24 percent said “jobs and the economy” are their number one concern.