October 9, 2015

Group urges Iowans to ask candidates about climate change

ISU professor David Swenson, Dr. Yogi Shah of DMU & UI professor David Osterberg. (L-R)

ISU professor David Swenson, Dr. Yogi Shah of DMU & UI professor David Osterberg. (L-R)

A group of almost 200 Iowa scientists, researchers and educators is urging Iowans to ask the presidential candidates what they’ll do to address problems associated with climate change.

“We believe the upcoming Iowa presidential Caucuses provide Iowans with a unique opportunity to bring their questions about need for better climate action into national conversation,” says Dr. Yogi Shah, associate dean of global health at Des Moines University.

Democratic candidates argue that human activity is causing climate change, but some Republicans reject that. David Osterberg, a professor in the University of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Clinical Health, says the bottom line is “science says climate change is a reality.”

“That’s nobody’s view,” Osterberg says. “It’s good data and when you look at that good data, then it’s time, maybe, to begin making some policy based on it.”

Earlier this year, 188 Iowa scientists, researchers and educators from 39 Iowa colleges and universities released a “Time for Action” statement on climate change. The group has concluded “a warmer and wetter Iowa climate” is causing water and air quality problems. It’s also spawning the growth of super weeds that trigger more allergic reactions in humans. Those weeds are creating difficulties for farmers trying to keep their fields weed-free.

“Climate change in Iowa is having an impact on agriculture that is discernable,” says Iowa State University economist David Swenson. “It’s having an impact on commerce. It’s especially having an impact on communities, especially their ability to cope with disasters, both to fund and anticipate.”

The three men spoke at the start of the third annual Iowa Climate Science Education Forum which is underway today at Des Moines University.

AUDIO of Shah, Osterberg and Swenson speaking at news conference

This afternoon, a University of Northern Iowa professor will present research with this title: “Why some members of the public are ‘immune’ to the evidence on climate change.”

Senator introduces bill to improve telehealth access for veterans

Senator Joni Ernst.

Senator Joni Ernst.

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, is the lead sponsor on a bill that would ease some of the restrictions on telemedicine use to help veterans.

“Telehealth is one of the VA’s major transformational initiatives to achieve patient-centered affordable and convenient health care for our veterans. My legislation would build on these improvements for disabled or rural veterans by expanding the telehealth services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Ernst says.

She says the VETS Act would allow qualified health professionals to operate across state lines and conduct teleheatlh services, including mental health care treatment for veterans. “Under current law, the VA may only waive the state license requirement for telehealth services if both the patient and physician are located in a federally-owned facility. Additionally, the VA may only perform at-home tele-heatlh care when the patient and the physician are located in the same state,” Ernst says. She says it’s particularly important for veterans in rural areas.

“My legislation works to overcome rural health care challenges and provide easier access to health services for our disabled veterans, so they may lead more independent lives in their own homes and their local communities,” Ernst says. Iowa is a rural state, but Ernst is not sure how many veterans might need the service here. She says there are some 225,000 veterans in Iowa, but she does not have exact numbers on how many might benefit from this change.

The Veterans Administration health system has had a variety of issues and Ernst says there’s is still a lot to be done to solve them. “I would love to say that I’ve seen great improvement in the VA, but I can’t say that right now,” according to Ernst. Ernst hopes this bill will pass and help with some of the issues with getting the proper care in a timely manner.

“I think we are blessed in the midwest to have some great care — however across the nation if you look at the situation with the VA’s– we are still experiencing delays in treatment for our veterans. So, we still have a number of issues that need to be resolved,” Ernst says. “I am committed to continuing that fight for our veterans.” Ernst says the bill has bipartisan support along with lead cosponsor, Democrat Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii.

Ernst says telehealth procedures reduced the number of days in a hospital for care by 54 percent and saves veterans on average $2,000 each year.


Senator Ernst concerned with Russia’s actions in Syria

Senator Joni Ernst.

Senator Joni Ernst.

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican from Red Oak, says she is concerned with the way the administration has allowed Russia to take the lead in action in Syria. “We have truly in the United States abdicated our leadership in the Middle East. And that has been done by our administration. They lack a clear and coherent strategy in the Middle East,” Ernst says.

She says without the leadership of the U.S., other countries are stepping in. “That’s exactly what Russia is doing — they saw and opening and they are taking it,” Ernst explains. “So, we see a trifecta emerging in the Middle East and that trifecta is Iran, Russia and Syria.” Ernst says those countries definitely do not support the goals of the U.S. for the region.

“So, I have very grave concerns about it. Yesterday we did hear from General John Campbell, he is the commander of forces in Afghanistan, and he does believe we need a new strategy in Afghanistan. And that means keeping our troop levels the same and not decreasing those,” Ernst says. “He does have strategies he has proposed to the administration. We are waiting to hear what the results of those discussions are.” Ernst is a military veteran and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.


Santorum says it’s ‘baloney’ to blame ‘inanimate object’ for Oregon shooting

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says blaming guns for last week’s mass shooting at a community college in Oregon is “baloney.”

“We have fewer per capita now than we used to years ago and we have more crimes, so what do you think the issue is?” Santorum says. “Do you think the issue is guns?”

Santorum says there are trends in society to blame instead, including “the breakdown of the family.”

“The breakdown of morals and culture in America,” Santorum says. “The president’s not going to talk about that. He’s going to blame some inanimate object…and I think most Americans know that’s a bunch of baloney.”

On Friday President Obama plans to visit Roseburg, Oregon, where nine people were killed last week at a community college. The gunman committed suicide. Since then, Obama has been more vocal in denouncing opponents of gun control measures. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Tuesday during a stop in Davenport that she’d take aggressive executive action on gun control if she was elected. Santorum says Obama and Clinton are politicizing the Oregon tragedy.

“You look and you say, ‘How low can they go?'” Santorum says. “They continue to set the bar lower and lower. I mean, I think they have to start digging holes to set the bar lower.”

Santorum made his comments earlier this week in Mason City as part of a three-day swing through Iowa.

(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KGLO, Mason City)

Bush says voters want ‘sincere plans’ rather than ‘platitudes’

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush says the nation’s problems will never get solved unless there’s a culture change in Washington — and to create that culture, Bush suggests style matters.

“I’ll do it in a way that I guess is like ‘Iowa Nice’. I’ll do it with civility,” Bush says.

Polls show that more than half of likely Iowa Republican Caucus-goers are supporting outsiders like Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, but Bush — who served two terms as Florida’s governor — is banking on a shift among voter attitudes as the February 1st Iowa Caucuses draw near.

“When you get closer and closer to this, it’s going to matter,” Bush said. “That experience matters…Lofty patitudes are not going to be as relevant as direct, sincere plans and the heart to be able to fix things and the leadership skills that are proven.”

Bush spoke this morning at an event hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership, a group that represents the chambers of commerce in the Des Moines metro area. Bush called for ending the education “monopoly” and giving parents more choices about where their children go to school. He also called for gradually raising the retirement age for Social Security and “means testing” benefits, so wealthy Americans would not get part or all of the monthly benefits others receive.

A handful of people in the crowd got to ask Bush a question during the event. One man asked Bush whether he supports the effort to “reauthorize” the Voting Rights Act.

“If it’s to reauthorize it to continue to provide regulations on top of states as though we were living in 1960 — ’cause those were basically when many of those rules were put in place — I don’t believe that we should do that,” Bush said. “There’s been dramatic improvement in access to voting, I mean exponentially better improvement and I don’t think there’s a role for the federal government to play in most places, there could be some, but in most places where they did have a constructive role in the ’60s.”

The issue has flared in recent days as Alabama officials closed drivers’ license stations in areas with large black populations. Critics say the move is designed to prevent blacks from getting the photo IDs they must show in order to vote in Alabama. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has issued a statement, calling Alabama’s move a “blast from the Jim Crow past.”

Bush: ‘No other campaign comes close to the details’ in my tax plan (AUDIO)

Jeb Bush.

Jeb Bush.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush this afternoon told Radio Iowa his message to voters is “grounded in reality” and he’s “confident” about how his campaign is positioned in Iowa and elsewhere.

“There’s one path to prey on people’s angst and prey on their fears and prey on their anger and leave it at that, just say, ‘I’m the big guy on the stage and I’ll take care of it,'” Bush said, ‘or say: ‘We’re on the verge of greatness and here’s the plan to get there.”

Bush has just unveiled a tax plan that would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven down to three. It would end Social Security payroll taxes for Americans who’re 67 years old or older, but still working.

“No other campaign comes close to the details,” Bush said.

A series of other steps, including the end of the so-called “marriage penalty”, would mean 15 million more Americans would pay no federal income taxes, according to Bush. And Bush would reduce the corporate tax rate to 20 percent.

“I think it’s the right way to empower people that are struggling in the middle and to create a business tax environment that would create big investing,” Bush said.

Bush said the campaign “is a long-haul” and he’s not concerned by the polls, including one in his home state of Florida that shows him trailing Donald Trump.

“People are going to want someone who has a consistent, reform, conservative message based on the actions that they’ve taken, not just the words that they’re speaking,” Bush said.

And Bush told Radio Iowa he plans to remind voters of his eight-year record as Florida’s governor and his 2002 “landslide” reelection victory. Bush is wrapping up a three-day campaign swing through Iowa tomorrow.

AUDIO of Bush’s interview with Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson, 13:40



Leaders from Kosovo wrapping up visit to Iowa

Members of the Kosovo delegation meet with the leader of the Iowa National Guard.

Members of the Kosovo delegation meet with the leader of the Iowa National Guard.

Five members of the Parliament of Kosovo are wrapping up a weeklong trip to Iowa. It’s a study mission where leaders from that Southeastern European nation are learning how accountable government works in Iowa.

Kim Heidemann , executive director of Iowa Sister States, says the delegation has met with several of Iowa’s top leaders, including Governor Terry Branstad, Secretary of State Paul Pate and Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.

“They’ve really been concentrating on looking at the different branches of government, how they interact with each other,” Heidemann says. “They really want to look at administrative rules, how they’re formulated, what the process is to actually pass those rules.” The delegates also met with Iowa Adjutant General Tim Orr as the Iowa National Guard has a partnership with Kosovo’s security force.

The group came to Iowa as part of the Open World Leadership Program. “This is going to give them ideas,” Heidemann says. “They’re going to go back and take these ideas, implement these ideas and truly change their government.” Besides the professional aspect of the program, members of the delegation are being hosted in private homes across central Iowa through an effort to further strengthen the relationship between Iowa and Kosovo.

“This is just one of many and we can expect many more,” Heidemann says. “We hope to have a consulate open for Kosovo very soon. We expect many more members of Parliament and high-level visits from Kosovo in the future.”

Other stops during the past week included: the Iowa League of Cities, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the Iowa Bar Association and the Des Moines Police Department. The group heads home tomorrow.

Iowa Sister States is a non-profit organization founded in 1985 to manage Iowa’s official relationship with foreign states, as established by the governor. There are nine: Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan; Yucatan, Mexico; Hebei Province, China; Terengganu, Malaysia; Stavropol Krai, Russia; Taiwan; Cherkasy Oblast, Ukraine; Veneto Region, Italy; and Kosovo.