July 28, 2014

One dead, 7 injured in Washington County accident

One person was killed, seven injured, when a pickup truck and a car collided Sunday afternoon in southeast Iowa’s Washington County. The state patrol says the driver of the pickup was in the process of turning around on a county road a few miles from Washington when the car collided with it head-on, sending both vehicles into the ditch. A passenger in the car was killed.

He’s identified as 46-year-old Dennis Albright of Washington. Four other adults were injured and three young children, all of whom were in carseats. No condition reports have been released. There’s no word on any charges.

U-I working on dust mite allergy vaccine

A vaccine that fights dust mite allergies by naturally switching the body’s immune response is being developed at the University of Iowa. Dust mites are microscopic relatives of spiders that eat skin cells and live in the upholstery of furniture, rugs and curtains.

U-I researcher Aliasger Salem says people with dust mite allergies develop skin rashes and have trouble breathing, including asthma attacks. “It can have a fairly dramatic impact on the quality of life of people when they suffer from this,” Salem says. “Having a long term solution that can help to mitigate those affects patients suffer would be a really impactful thing.”

Salem says it will be a while before the vaccine is commercially available. He anticipates the research will be used to create vaccines for other types of allergies in the future. Salem was a guest on the Iowa Public Radio program “River to River.”

Police working to identify body pulled from Des Moines River

Des Moines Police are still trying to identify a body pulled from the Des Moines River Sunday. The body, spotted by a boater around 12:40 p.m. on the city’s far southeast side, was caught in some debris in the water.

Des Moines Police Sergeant Jason Halifax says the victim is a white adult male. “There was no identification on him, no ID cards, no papers with his name, or anything like that,” Halifax said. “As of (Monday) morning, we have not yet got an ID on him.”

An autopsy is being conducted to help determine the exact cause of death. “When they did pull him from the river, there were no obvious signs of trauma to the body,” Halifax said. “We did not witness any gunshot wounds or stabs or major trauma that would’ve happened before he went into the water.”

The autopsy will also help determine how long the body had been in the river. “Based on the condition of the body, investigators on the scene believe it had probably been a fair amount of time,” Halifax said. Investigators are checking with other agencies in the area to see if they have a missing persons report that might match the victim.

Ernst says it’s up to Braley “to refute” attack on his VA hearing attendance (AUDIO)

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst

Joni Ernst, the Iowa Republican Party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate, says it’s up to Bruce Braley, her Democratic opponent, to explain why he missed 78 percent of the hearings held by the House Veterans Affairs Committee when he served on the panel.

“I think he should have been attending those hearings, obviously,” Ernst told reporters this morning. “I heard in one account he had said that he had to skip a meeting to go to another meeting and he didn’t actually go to that other meeting…but that’s up for him. He has to justify why he wasn’t there at a time when he was failing our veterans.”

Ernst, a unit commander in the Iowa National Guard, returned to the campaign trail this morning after two weeks of active duty. She spoke briefly at an early morning rally with about 150 veterans and National Guard soldiers and did not mention Braley by name or his attendance at VA hearings. The subject is now being pressed by a $2.4 million ad campaign against Braley. During a news conference, Ernst was asked if it was appropriate for the ad to accuse Braley of being AWOL — absent without leave — on veterans issues.

“That’s up to him to refute, but I think those are important issues and we need to focus on those,” Ernst said. “We’ve made a lot of promises to our veterans and we need to make sure that we are taking care of our veterans.”

“Joni Ernst can choose to ignore Bruce’s long record of achieving results for Iowa’s veterans, such as securing overdue combat pay for 800 Iowa National Guard troops, working across the aisle to support disabled veterans, and helping thousands of veterans re-enter the workforce by providing businesses with tax breaks to hire veterans returning from duty,” Sam Lau, a spokesman for Braley’s campaign, said in a written statement. “But she can’t hide her extreme views…that put her out-of-step with Iowa’s middle class families.”

Ernst told reporters VA Hospitals should remain open, but she would support giving veterans vouchers or cards that they could use to obtain care at a local hospital or clinic, rather than forcing veterans to drive to a Veterans Affairs facility for care. According to Ernst, the problems with long wait times and substandard care have not cropped up at Iowa’s VA facilities.

“I wish I could say that in every state out there, but unfortunately we have had many, many issues and we need elected officials that are willing to take on these problems head-on — not ignore them, not bury their heads in the sand,” Ernst said during her speech at the rally. “We need to address these issues head-on and find solutions.”

Ernst also said she opposes reducing the size of the U.S. active duty military force to pre-World War II levels.

AUDIO of Ernst’s morning rally, 17:33

AUDIO of Ernst’s news conference, 7:00

(This post was updated at 11:22 a.m. with additional information.)

Iowan helps organize benefit concert for tornado-ravaged Pilger, Nebraska

Several musicians with ties to Pilger, Nebraska have organized a benefit concert for the tiny town that was struck by two EF4 tornadoes last month. Clint Meyer, an associate professor of biology at Simpson College in Indianola, grew up in Pilger.

He saw the pictures and videos of the damage done on June 16 and went back to his hometown a couple days later to volunteer with cleanup efforts. “To be there and notice the scale and the depth of it all, it wasn’t just the row of houses you see in the picture – but the row behind it and the row behind that, several blocks completely destroyed” Meyer said. “There was no way to get a sense of that with just the pictures, so it was a pretty shocking experience to see it.”

Two people, including a five-year-old girl, were killed, and 16 more were critically injured. Over half of the buildings and homes in Pilger were destroyed or severely damaged. “It will never be the same as it was, of course, but the hope is that there will still be a town there that can start finding whatever that new normal is,” Meyer said. “I think the hope is to try and raise awareness that even though the volunteers are gone, there is still a need there.”

Meyer plays guitar and sings in the central Iowa based band Monday Mourners. He wrote a song about Pilger, titled “(The Town) Too Tough To Die,” which he plans to premiere at the benefit concert.

Audio: 30-second clip from demo recording of “Too Tough To Die”

Monday Mourners and three bands from Omaha will play the benefit show for the town of Pilger this Wednesday, July 30 at The Waiting Room in Omaha. The show will start at 8 p.m. and there’s a cover charge of $8.

Aerial video footage of Pilger, NE tornado damage:


More lake GPS information now available from the DNR

The Iowa DNR continues adding to the GPS information that’s available for the states lakes. Fisheries Research Technician, Lewis Bruce, says they now have information on rock or brush piles and other habitat areas in the lakes that you can access online. “What this file allows you to do is download all the coordinates across the entire state onto hand-held GPS units, fish finders, anything that you can download GPS coordinates into. Once you have those points downloaded, once you go to a lake, those coordinates are going to show up,” Bruce says.

He says it helps anglers zero in on the best spots for their favorite type of fish. “I you’re fishing for say bluegills, it will allow you to find spawning beds. If you’re fishing for walleyes, you’ll be able to look for rock reefs,” Bruce explains. “Basically it’s gonna allow you to hit the water running instead of having to look for all these different sites on the lake.”

So, is modern technology giving away all those deeply held secrets about the best fishing spots gained through years of knowledge. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that. There’s always going to be those piles that are off on an edge or those locations that everybody kind of hones in on on their own after being on the lake for awhile. It’s going to bring out a lot of points and ultimately will probably spread the fishing out more because there are going to be areas that people weren’t aware of originally,” Bruce says.

There’s now a lot of information available to help you find fish, but Bruce says that doesn’t guarantee that you will be successful. “Just because you are sitting over the structure doesn’t mean they are going to bite,” he says. “It seems like it can be more frustrating sometimes when you have all the technology available. You can see the fish there, you can see your lure there and they are just looking at it.”

But Bruce says the information should cut down on the time it takes to get into position to catch fish. “You know, our ultimate goal is to shorten the time between bites and give anglers all the opportunities that they can for catching fish,” Bruce says. “And ultimately we are putting a lot of the angler’s money into fish habitat and they should be the ones to benefit from it.”

To find the habitat coordinates, go to the DNR’s website .


Maryland Governor O’Malley campaigns with Democrats in eastern & western Iowa

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley returned to Iowa this weekend to campaign with Iowa Democrats, building more ties with Iowa activists who could be key contacts if O’Malley decides to run for president in 2016.

“It’s something that I’m seriously considering, but I’m here to campaign for Jack Hatch and for the other good Democrats here in Iowa,” O’Malley told Radio Iowa during an interview today. “…I hope to come back and do more.”

Just over three decades ago, O’Malley worked in eastern Iowa as an organizer for Gary Hart’s 1984 presidential campaign.

“I got out there around Christmas time and Scott County had yet to be organized, so Scott County was my primary area of responsibility,” O’Malley said.

On Saturday, O’Malley was just north of Scott County, in Clinton, to headline a fundraiser for a state senator, then he went to North Liberty to help another Democratic candidate for the state senate. On Sunday, O’Malley was in western Iowa where he headlined two private fundraisers for Jack Hatch, the Democratic candidate for governor, then he and Hatch spoke to Iowa Democratic Party volunteers headed out to go door-to-door in Sioux City to register voters. Despite recent world events, O’Malley said he senses the “primary anxiety” among most voters all across the country is the economy.

“And while we’ve done some good things as a country to avoid going over the fiscal cliff or sliding into a second Great Depression or having our financial markets totally collapse, the truth of the matter is there’s still a lot of anxiety throughout the country and in every state about whether or not our children will be able to live better lives than we have lived,” O’Malley said.

O’Malley is a two-term governor who cannot seek reelection due to Maryland’s term limits. During a Friday afternoon conference call with reporters, Iowa Republican Party chairman Jeff Kaufmann called O’Malley one of the “most liberal, eastern elite” governors in the country.

“Governor O’Malley is out of the mainstream,” Kaufmann said.

And Bill Dix, the Republican leader in the state senate who also participated in the telephone news conference, suggested the Iowa Democratic candidates who’ve campaigned alongside O’Malley this weekend are tainted.

“Looking at Governor O’Malley’s record, clearly they have a different solution,” Dix said. “It’s big government.”

Dix suggests O’Malley is a classic “tax and spend” liberal. O’Malley calls himself a progressive.

“No state that I’m aware of has ever cut its way to prosperity,” O’Malley said. “We need to be fiscally disciplined, but you also have to be smart enough to make investments to bring about that better future that I think everybody hopes for.”

Hatch called O’Malley a “practical” governor.

“I don’t have any problems campaigning with a governor that has lifted his state for the past five years as the number one state in public education,” Hatch said today.

High school students in Maryland must pass a test in order to graduate, for example, and the tests for the Class of 2015 will be tougher. O’Malley, who hinted he’ll be back in Iowa before November’s election, headlined the Iowa Democratic Party’s state convention in June and he served as the headliner at Senator Tom Harkin’s annual Steak Fry fundraiser in 2012.