November 23, 2014

More information expected soon in Yik Yak threats targeting school

Southeast Polk High School

Southeast Polk High School

Charges are expected soon after postings earlier this week on a social media app threatened violence at a Des Moines area school. Pleasant Hill Police say two students are believed to be responsible for the threats at Southeast Polk High School.

The threats were made on the app Yik Yak, which allows users to make posts anonymously. But, cyber security expert and Iowa State University professor Doug Jacobsen says virtually anything posted on the Internet is traceable. He notes Yik Yak utilizes a user’s GPS coordinates. “Also, the IP address of your phone on the Internet is recorded by the Yik Yak servers,” Jacobsen says. “So, those two pieces of information can be used by law enforcement to potentially track you down.”

There’s been heightened security in place at Southeast Polk since a threat was made over the weekend and another one was posted Tuesday. Jacobsen says teens and all social media users should recognize that everything they post can have consequences. “It never goes away and it can always come back to haunt you,” Jacobsen says. “The rule of thumb I tell people to tell their kids is ‘what would grandma think?’ Before I post this, what would grandma think if she knew I was the one who put that on the Internet?”

The superintendent of Southeast Polk Schools announced late Wednesday that two students suspected of posting the threatening messages have been suspended from school. Police say formal charges are pending, as they continue to question additional students.

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.


Bicyclist killed in Clear Lake accident

A Clear Lake bicyclist was killed in a collision with a flatbed truck on Thursday morning. The Iowa State Patrol says 62-year-old Sally Bell was traveling west on 340th Street west of Fertile when she collided in the intersection at Balsam Avenue with a northbound truck driven by 63-year-old Timothy Cole of Clear Lake.

Bell was airlifted to Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, where she later died. The State Patrol says the investigation into the accident is ongoing.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)



Supreme Court rules in New Albin harassment case involving teens

gavel-thumbnailThe Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling that found a New Albin teen should not have been declared a juvenile delinquent. A girl reported a confrontation with another girl at a bus stop where she says the first girl called her names and swore at her in February of 2013. Both of the girls are 15 and their names were not revealed in court documents.

The first girl told police the other girl had been continually harassing her at school. The girl’s mother said they had considered moving because of the harassment. The state sought to have alleged harasser declared a juvenile delinquent. The juvenile court found the statements by the one girl were meant to intimidate the other girl and constituted harassment means of intimidation. It ruled the girl should be declared a juvenile delinquent.

The Iowa Court of Appeals found the juvenile court erred in its definition of intimidation and overturned the ruling. The Iowa Supreme Court agreed, saying there is insufficient evidence in the record to support the declaration of the girl as delinquent. It says the state failed to prove the girl purposefully or intentionally made personal contact with the other girl with the specific intent to threaten, intimidate, or alarm her.

The court says it clearly does not condone the behavior demonstrated in this case, but says the juvenile court committed an error when it declared the girl a delinquent under the harassment statute and reversed the judgment of the juvenile court.

Here’s the full ruling: Juvenile ruling PDF


Survey finds cost of Thanksgiving dinner up slightly

Turkey dinnerThe American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual survey on the cost of serving a traditional Thanksgiving meal is out.

Iowa Farm Bureau director of research, Dave Miller, says you won’t have to find much more cash than you did last year to buy all the food for ten people . “The Thanksgiving feast is basically stable in cost at about $49.41 according to the American Farm Bureau study. We’ve been within about a 20-cent range on the cost of that meal for the last four years,” Miller says.

He says the increase is less than the cost of a postage stamp. “It’s up 37 cents from a year ago, it’s still actually cheaper than 2012,” Miller says. The checks the price of turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of celery and carrots, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk.

“The biggest ingredient is the turkey, and it was actually down 11 cents from a year ago,” Miller says. “The biggest upside was probably the sweet potatoes that were up 20 cents for three pounds of sweet potatoes, so up about three cents a pound.”

Commodity prices have dropped dramatically last year, and Miller says there was some impact. “It doesn’t show up a lot, although the pie shells were actually down seven cents, the rolls were down a penny, the stuffing was down 13 cents. So, those things that were grain-related were all down in price. The things that tended to be up in price were the things that tended to be more dairy and livestock related,” according to Miller.

The turkey averaged $21.65 cents or $1.35 a pound. “Turkey production took a hit when corn prices were high coming out of the 2012 drought when corn prices were high, but turkey production is up on a national basis, and that’s part of the reflection of turkey prices, slightly lower this year,” Miller says. At around $49s for 10 people, the cost of the meal is $5s per plate. But Miller says this is a nationwide average cost and you may be able to find some local bargains.

“One of the things that shoppers report are there are places that if you spend 50 bucks or 100 bucks that the turkey may be free,” Miller explains. “So there are some real good promotions to get you in the store and with the use of coupons and some other things, the price of your Thanksgiving feast could be substantially less than five dollars per person.” This was the Farm Bureau’s 29th annual study of the cost of the Thanksgiving meal.


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


Vision Iowa makes awards to Ottumwa and Washington

The Vision Iowa Board on Thursday awarded grants to a couple of big projects in Ottumwa and Washington. The board is providing a $125,000 Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) grant to help a group in Ottumwa construct a Highway 34 underpass that will be part of an existing 10-mile trail system.

The Wapello County Trails Council reports the more than $650,000 project will provide for a safe crossing to an area along the Des Moines River that will be utilized for hosting large outdoor concerts and other events. Another CAT grant of $800,000 was awarded to the Washington Area Performing Arts and Events Center Project in Washington. That’s a $7 million project involving the construction of a 700 seat auditorium next to Washington High School.