January 26, 2015

Trump says people ‘certainly should’ take his potential candidacy seriously

Businessman Donald Trump told reporters in Des Moines this morning that he is a “very serious person” and is seriously considering a bid for the White House in 2016.

“I want to see this country be great again and I can do that,” Trump said.

Trump also dismissed both Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney as flawed candidates for the party. Romney was a “disaster” as the party’s nominee in 2012, according to Trump.

“Mitt Romney had his chance and he blew it. He just blew it,” Trump said. “Something happened to him in the last month of that campaign, whether he choked or something way bad happened to him and I don’t think Republicans can afford to give him another chance.”

As for Bush, Trump offered an equally harsh assessment.

“The last thing the country needs, and I’ve been saying it, is another Bush,” Trump told reporters. “…He’s not going to win and I think he’s going to have a very hard time getting the nomination because he’s in favor of common core. He’s very weak on immigration.”

Trump said he likes “very much” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but Trump suggested Cruz may face questions because he was born in Canada. Trump told reporters New Jersey Governor Chris Christie “is a friend,” but Trump suggested Christie’s candidacy is weighed down by “Bridgegate” and “those issues have to be cleared up.”

Trump is scheduled to speak at today’s Iowa Freedom Summit.

Steve King welcomes crowd to Iowa Freedom Summit (AUDIO)

Congressman Steve King opened the “Iowa Freedom Summit” this morning in Des Moines by suggesting the crowd will hear from one of the Republican candidates who will win the presidency in 2016.

“I wanted to put up a ship’s bow up here and get out a bottle of champagne and just break that over the bow so that we could launch the next era of American exceptionalism together,” King said, to applause from the crowd. “That is what we’re doing. It’s what we must do together.”

Eight candidates who have made clear they are considering a run for president are scheduled to speak today. The list includes the last two winners of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Caucuses. King offered his own opinion about the would-be candidates who did not accept his invitation today.

“Do you believe that the next president of the United States is going to be speaking from,” King asked. The crowd cheered, then King added: “As do I.”

King, who had the first speech slot of the day, laid out a few issues which he expects the possible candidates to address today, including national defense. When King called for abolishing the IRS he got a rousing response from the crowd. A few moments later the audience bowed their heads as King delivered this prayer: “And I pray that out of this process you will identify and lift up the individual whom you will use to restore the soul of this great country. Thank you Lord. God bless America.”

AUDIO of King’s speech

A group of protesters are gathered outside of the event hall to criticize King’s stand and statements about immigration. This past Tuesday King used the word ‘deportable’ to describe Texas college student President Obama had as a guest at the “State of the Union” address. The young woman was brought into the country illegally by her parents when she was a child and has been shielded from deportation by Obama’s executive order. Later today a group of “Dreamers” who were brought into the country illegally by their parents will gather at a Des Moines restaurant for hamburgers with “a side of cantaloupe.” That’s a reference to King’s comments a few years ago that there are more drug runners than valedictorians among the young people brought into the country illegally by their parents.

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee held a news conference a block away from the Iowa Freedom Summit event hall, in the hour before the event began. DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz suggested GOP candidates would pay a price with the public for being “in such close company” with King.

“It would feel surreal, which is what reality TV feels like, if it weren’t so frighteningly real because these are all people who actually have their hands on the levers of power,” she told reporters. “These are people that actually control power.”

Lawmakers tour new prison, ask questions about delays

New prison under constructon at Fort Madison.  (click on image to enlarge)

New prison under constructon at Fort Madison.

About a dozen state lawmakers spent Friday in Fort Madison, touring the current Iowa State Penitentiary and its still empty replacement.

Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, says he’s frustrated with the delay in opening the new prison.

 “I was here, I spoke at the grand opening of this prison a year and a half ago and this prison is still empty,” Courtney said. “A year and a half ago…what’s going on?” Representative Bobby Kaufmann, a Republican from Wilton, is among those looking for answers to Courtney’s question.

Kaufmann heads the House Government Oversight Committee which is charged with looking into the delay. Kaufmann says three basic questions must be answered. “Why isn’t it open, what’s it going to take to get it open, and what’s the reason it took so much longer than we initially anticipated,” Kaufmann said.

 The first two questions were discussed openly during Friday’s tour. The prison’s deputy warden, Mark Roberts, said the initial delay resulted from problems with the geothermal heating and cooling system. That issue has been resolved, but now there’s a problem with the ventilation system in case of a fire.

 “The problem is… the design of the building did not allow for enough fresh air intake,” Roberts said. Once the ventilation system is addressed, Roberts anticipates he could have inmates in the new facility within 60 days. But, he could not say why the problems occurred in the first place.

 The state is considering legal action against some of the companies involved. Kaufman expects to hold more hearings on the topic in the coming weeks.

 Iowa Department of Corrections director John Baldwin told lawmakers this week he’s “embarrassed” by the situation. Prisoners were to be transferred out of the 176-year-old maximum security facility in Fort Madison and into the new prison nearby last March, but now Baldwin predicts it won’t happen until sometime this summer.


Herbert Hoover Presidential Library opens exhibit of signed baseballs

Baseball from former President Herbert Hoover's collection.

Baseball from former President Herbert Hoover’s collection.

If you’re tired of winter, an exhibit about the “boys of summer” might warm your spirits. The only Iowan to be elected president was a tremendous baseball fan.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum is opening a new exhibit this weekend called “The Signature of Baseball.”

Curator Melanie Wier says they’ll display some of President Hoover’s extensive collection of baseball paraphernalia. Wier says, “We have a lot of his American and National League passes and different baseball game tickets and letter he wrote to players and coaches and all kinds of memorabilia.” Hoover’s private collection includes a baseball autographed by legendary player Babe Ruth.

The exhibit at the West Branch facility also features a remarkable collection of 181 baseballs, all signed by world leaders and prominent figures.

Those include Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and each president from Nixon to Obama. “They’re displayed so that you can see all of the different signatures,” Wier says. “There’s also labels that list out every person, what their title is and what country they’re from.”

Since Iowa is known as the home of the “Field of Dreams,” she says they’ve also devoted space in the exhibit to the single-A baseball team from Cedar Rapids. “We have a glimpse of Iowa baseball history through the Kernels,” Wier says. “We have a timeline of their history and then we featured six of their players.” The exhibit will open Saturday and runs through late March.

Learn more at hoover.archives.gov.


Deere spokesman says layoffs should not be a surprise

DeereDeere and Company will lay off 900 workers in Iowa and Illinois to handle an anticipated declines in sales of farm equipment. Deere announced Friday, that 565 employees at three Waterloo facilities will lose their jobs, along with 300 at the Des Moines Works in Ankeny.

Company spokesman, Ken Golden, says no one should be surprised. “In November we had indicated our forecast for 2015 was considerably lower for sales overall — especially in the ag and turf division. And so, today’s announcement reflects what we had indicated in November,” Golden says. “And it results in changes in our workforce in the ag division, and changes in our workforce in the construction and forestry division.”

The impact in the Quad Cities will not be as harsh as in Waterloo and Ankeny. The job cuts there include 45 positions, plus a 500 employees will be on a shutdown that is longer than normal. “It would hard to estimate how normal shutdowns take place because it all depends on the products and how much we’re selling,” Golden says. “This particular shutdown is an extended shutdown, but the difference is, these employees do have an expected call back date.”

Deere also announced it has added 110 jobs at the Davenport Works and 110 at the Dubuque Works. Both factories make construction and forestry equipment. And Golden says the company had rehired many workers who lost their jobs building farm equipment last year.


Supreme Court says doctor helping juror is cause for retrial

Iowa Supreme Court building.

Iowa Supreme Court building.

The Iowa Supreme Court says a Des Moines doctor who helped a juror during his malpractice trial should have to be retried after the verdict came back in his favor.

Doctor John Sweetman and Doctor Jennifer Booth were accused of malpractice after Booth performed a hysterectomy on Mary Jack in 2009. Sweetman an anesthesiologist was accused of malpractice in inserting an IV in Jack’s arm during surgery.

During their trial, a juror fainted and Sweetman went to her aid. The juror was removed, and the district court allowed the trial to continue even though Jack’s attorney’s request a mistrial, saying Sweetman’s action could influence the jury.

The jury ruled in favor of the doctors, but Court of Appeals ruled they both should be retried. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Dr. Sweetman’s action should not have impacted the case against Dr. Booth, and says Booth should not be retried, but Sweetman should.

Here’s the full ruling: Doctor trial ruling PDF

Man wanted for murder in Iowa arrested in Missouri

Dustin McDanel

Dustin McDanel

A man wanted in the killing of another man in southeast Iowa nearly three weeks ago has been captured in a suburb of St. Louis. Ottumwa Police Lieutenant Jason Bell says investigators learned 24-year-old Dustin McDanel might be staying at an apartment in Richmond Heights, Missouri and they went to the home late this morning.

“When officers approached the residence, the tenant there lied to law enforcement about McDanel being there and a search located McDanel hiding under a bed inside that apartment,” Bell said. McDanel is charged in the shooting death of 25-year-old Roger Wiseman, Junior during the early morning hours of January 4.

According to Bell, the altercation was over the ownership of a dog. “That ultimately led to an argument where the victim sustained several gunshot wounds,” Bell said. “Witnesses there identified McDanel as the person responsible for shooting (Wiseman).” McDanel was wanted by police before the murder, as he was listed as an escapee from a work release facility after serving prison time. He was placed on escape status in October 2014.

“Essentially, he didn’t return back to the halfway house on a furlough is my understanding,” Bell said. “His original charges, why he was at the halfway house, were drug-related.”