A 29-year-old Iowa native was killed and four other Iowa National Guard soldiers from a unit based in Burlington were injured Sunday morning in Iraq. Second Lieutenant Richard “Brian” Gienau was killed when the Humvee he was riding in was struck by a bomb. Lieutenant Greg Hapgood, a spokesman for the Iowa National Guard, says at about 10:50 a-m Iraq time the five soldiers were driving on a road near Karbala when an “improvised explosive device” detonated. Gienau was pronounced dead at the scene. Gienau is a 1994 graduate of Tripoli High School. He enlisted in the Navy after high school and served as a Navy aviation mechanic ’til 1998. In 1999, he enlisted in the Iowa National Guard then enrolled at the University of Northern Iowa, where he was in the ROTC. He graduated from UNI in 2003. He leaves behind a son and his parents as well as a girlfriend. His mother lives in Dunkerton; his father lives in Waterloo. His family issued a statement, saying “Brian was very proud to serve his country and believed deeply in what he was doing.” His family called Brian “well-liked and easy-going.” The four soldiers in the Humvee with Gienau were injured. Thirty-two-year-old Dennis Smutzer of Moline, Illinois, was quickly flown to a military hospital in Germany for treatment. Twenty-two-year-old Seth Garceau of Oelwein was initially treated at a hospital in Baghdad, but was flown to a hospital in Germany. Twenty-three-year-old Justin Edgington of West Burlington was treated at the same combat hospital in Iraq. His injuries were the most minor of the gruop and he’s back on duty now. Twenty-two-year-old Timothy Shay of Muscatine is being treated at a combat hospital. Shay should be released to duty soon, according to Hapgood. The Burlington-based engineering battalion in which these soldiers serve has units in Fairfield, Burlington, Ottumwa, Mount Pleasant, Keokuk and Davenport. Five-hundred soldiers in the 224th Engineering Battalion were activated in October of last year. The soldiers work at reducing mine fields, repairing bridges and roads and providing escorts to supply convoys.
Archives for February 2005
Governor Tom Vilsack met privately this past weekend with key backers and staff to talk about promoting himself as a national figure, groundwork for a possible run for the presidency in 2008. Vilsack and the rest of the nation’s governors are in Washington, D.C., for meetings and on Sunday night President Bush hosted a White House dinner for the governors. President Bush told the group many presidents first served as governors, and Bush said his six years as governor of Texas have been “invaluable” to him. During a telephone conference call with Iowa reporters, Vilsack downplayed the idea he is plotting a presidential run. Vilsack, instead, said he’s focused on helping democrats in other states win governorships in 2006. Vilsack says he wants to help the 12 democratic governors who are up for re-election in 2006 to win another term in office. “I think if democratic governors can expand their numbers, then more creative and innovative ideas can be forthcoming, which will help the nation,” Vilsack says. This morning (Monday), Vilsack and the other governors met again with President Bush and this afternoon, the governors are meeting with Congressional leaders to talk about Medicaid, the government program that provides health care coverage to poor and disabled Americans. Since 2000, the number of Americans on Medicaid has grown by 40 percent. President Bush, though, told the governors he was not going to back down from ending an accounting practice that has allowed states to collect more federal support for Medicaid because some states used the maneuver, and spent money on other programs. Vilsack says it may be time to have Medicaid recipients who can afford it pay a bigger fee when they visit the doctor or get prescriptions filled. “We will continue to work with the Administration to try to get to a consensus,” Vilsack says. “We’re not there yet, but we’re working hard on it.” The “sliding fee” would be based on a Medicaid recipient’s income, so the very poor wouldn’t pay a fee while those who have some income would. “When you talk to many people, they actually are interested in trying to contribute something to their health care. They like to have the dignity of knowing they are contributing something,” Vilsack says. While he was at the White House, Vilsack also pigeon-holed former Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns who is now the Secretary of Agriculture. Vilsack asked Johanns to focus more federal dollars on ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply, as acts of “agro-terrorism” could inflict serious damage on the livestock and crop industries. The two also talked about ethanol, and Johanns told Vilsack the Bush Administration is still pushing to ensure ethanol gets preferential treatment in tax policy. “It was reassuring that renewable fuels are still part of the Department of Agriculture agenda,” Vilsack says. Tomorrow, the governors meet with Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, former governor of Utah.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the first day consumers in Iowa and other midwestern states can get a free copy of the credit report that a handful of big financial-reporting firms keep on us. Attorney General Tom Miller says there are three major credit-reporting companies in the U.S., and up to now they’ve charged you a fee to see the files they keep. The change is a result of a fairly simple change in federal amendment, he says, to make sure that consumers have free access to information that “everyone else has about their credit.” Miller says you should take advantage of the new opportunity, and take a look at the data that everyone else is reading about you. They’re people like creditors, employers and insurance companies, sometimes with your consent, Miller says. The Attorney General says credit information’s getting more important these days, and this new rule will mean that once a year you can get a report from each of the three credit-reporting companies at no charge. If you want another within a year, he says they can still charge for that. The companies used to charge a litle under ten dollars for each report. Miller suggests taking advantage of that, and using some planning. He says it’s your chance to see that there aren’t errors in your report…wrong names, addresses, or “just items on that shouldn’t be on.” And of course identity theft, a crime that’s growing fast, is another reason to carefully check over your credit report. The three national credit-reporting companies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion but there’s one website set up to get all their reports from the same place — simply surf to www.freecreditreport.com
Steve Alford’s former coach came to his defense on the Big-12 teleconference. Texas Tech coach Bob Knight said Alford has done a good job at Iowa under the circumstances. Knight says losing Pierre Pierce was a real setback, particularly in the middle of the season. Iowa blew out Texas Tech when the teams played in Chicago this past December. Knight said he doesn’t know what Iowa people expect. He says “Iowa is not a state that supplies an awful lot of basketball players. I mean there are good kids there, not a lot of them.” He says that’s the same at Iowa and Iowa State. Knight says Alford has put together a team that’s “pretty good.” Knight and Alford publicly fueded after Alford took the Iowa job in 1999 and Knight was still at Indiana. They made up a couple of years ago.
UNI women’s basketball player Alex Cook moved into the record books on Saturday. Cook became just the 4th women’s player in Missouri Valley Conference history to score over a thousand-points and grab one-thousand rebounds in her career. Cook pulled down 14-rebounds as UNI took over sole possession of 2nd place in the Valley with a 65-58 victory over Creighton. The senior from Decorah finished the game strong after recording just two-rebounds at halftime. Cook felt the emotions of playing her final game at home may have caught up to her to begin the game. She says it was more emotional than what she thought it would be. Cook feels this has been a special season for her and the Panthers. She says she hasn’t even had time to think about it. She says the team is where it’s at because of the team effort and the way they play together. UNI will return to action on Thursday when they play at Wichita State.
The Iowa Department of public health is part of a project that seeks to improve the treatment of drug abusers. Janet Zwick of the Department’s Division of Behavioral Health says the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is providing funding for the effort.
She says they’re one of four states that were picked to use demonstrated methods to improve the access and success of substance abuse treatment programs. Zwick says the national figures show that fewer than a quarter of substance abusers receive treatment, and for those who do get in, half leave the program before receiving the full benefits of treatment.
She says there are waiting lists for people who want to get into treatment and they need to ensure that they’re using the “best quality practices” so that the people who do get in, stay in treatment. Zwick says this project will last at least one year and it could be extended. The foundation is providing a $15,000 grant for the project.
Iowa basketball coach Steve Alford says he is not ready to call the current season “disapointing”. The Hawkeyes are 5-9 in the Big Ten after Saturday’s victory at Penn State, just their second win since leading scorer Pierre Pierce was kicked off the squad. They close out the regular season this week with a home game against Ohio State and a visit to Michigan. Despite the poor Big Ten record Alford says with a 17-10 overall mark he has not abandoned all hope that the Hawkeyes could squeeze into the NCAA Tournament field.
An outbreak of syphilis is reported in eastern Iowa’s Scott County. Doctor Louis Katz, medical director of the county health department in Davenport, says four men have been diagnosed with the potentially-fatal sexually transmitted disease in the past ten weeks. All four men admitted having sex with other men and Katz said they had something else in common. All had solicited partners for sex on the Internet. Katz says people shouldn’t engage in that sort of risky behavior and if they insist on doing it, they should use protection like a condom. Syphilis often starts with painless sores and leads to a rash with fever and can be deadly, though it can be treated with antibiotics.
A bill making its way through the legislature sets a new penalty for drug runners who use secret compartments in vehicles to smuggle drugs. Representative David Tjepkes, a republican from Gowrie, says the crime would be a felony. The bill would make it a crime to “knowingly” possess, use, or control a false compartment in a vehicle with the intent to store, conceal, smuggle or transport “contraband.” The bill also makes it a crime to build one of these hiding places for drug running. Tjepkes says the bill’s important because most meth in Iowa is “imported.” He says illegal meth labs in Iowa manufacture no more than 20 percent of the meth consumed in Iowa. Over 30 percent of the drug seizures state troopers made last year involved secret compartments in a vehicle a trooper had pulled over. Tjepkes, a retired state trooper, says in one seizure, a trooper found half a million dollars in cash stashed in a false compartment. Tjepkes says the bill does not make it illegal to have a secret compartment in your vehicle, but makes it against the law to use it as a hiding place for drugs or drug money. “There are many legitimate uses for those types of compartments,” Tjepkes says. For example, he says people stash “valuables” like purses in a secret compartment in their vehicle. Representative Don Shoultz, a democrat from Waterloo, questions whether the new law would be effective. “In order to actually charge anyone with this particular offense and punish them, they would already have to be guilty of so many other things that I don’t know why you would bother,” Shoultz says. Representative Bruce Hunter, a democrat from Des Moines, says there’s no need for the new law as the existing “conspiracy to traffic drugs” law covers the construction or use of secret compartments. Hunter says the bill is just a “feel good” measure. The bill has already won approval in the Iowa House. It must get the backing of the Iowa Senate and Governor Vilsack before it becomes law. A few other states have such a law on the books.
The University of Iowa has acquired one of the world’s largest collections of science fiction fanzines. More than a quarter-million of the small-circulation publications are in dozens of boxes in Iowa City now and they’re being carefully catalogued. Sid Huttner, head of Special Collections at the U-of-I Libraries, says the sci-fi fanzines are -not- comic books. Huttner says they are something like magazines, but are more informal, containing articles, columns, letters, artwork and photographs. Some are just run off on a copy machine while others are professionally printed. Some of the ‘zines date back to the late 1930s, but most are from the ’60s and ’70s. Huttner says the collection contains titles from the U.S., Canada, Britain and Australia. He says it’s well-organized and includes some very rare ‘zines. Since most people throw their magazines away, it’s highly unusual to find an entire series of fanzines from several decades ago. Huttner says when it’s fully available to scholars, the collection will provide an invaluable resource for research into the history of modern science fiction and the formation of fan communities. Huttner says the collection of more than 250-thousand sci-fi fanzines was donated to the U-of-I by an Oregon man who had originally hoped to sell them on the Internet auction site e-Bay. The collection was being stored in a warehouse which had changed ownership. The new owner offered the building to the local fire department to burn down as practice. The ‘zine collector had to find a taker for the collection within days or they would have been burned with the building. The fanzines include Bob Tucker’s “Le Zombie” and Robert Silverberg’s “Starship,” which Huttner says are considered significant names in science fiction history. U-of-I officials say they now have the largest collection of science fiction fanzines in the Midwest and one of the largest anywhere on the planet. For more information, surf to “www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll”.