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Iowa’s congressmen, US senators divided on key Obama tax proposal


January 25th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Iowa’s congressional delegation is split along party lines over a key proposal President Obama highlighted in his “State of the Union” speech. Obama has proposed raising the tax rate to at least 30 percent for Americans who make more than a million dollars, an idea Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett advocates. Obama invited Buffett’s secretary to last night’s speech in D.C., as Buffett often says he pays a much lower tax rate than his secretary does. That does not sway Steve King, a Republican Congressman from western Iowa. “Warren Buffett has shielded a lot of income,” King says. “We can’t look at Warren Buffett’s tax rate and his secretary’s tax rate and draw any calculation…so it looks to me like it’s a political ploy more than anything else.”

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley says “under-taxing” millionaires and billionaires isn’t the problem. “But the most important thing is the intellectual dishonesty of saying that Buffett’s paying 15 percent and that’s less than what his secretary pays. He pays 15 percent on capital gains, but you’ve got to remember that same money was taxed at 35 percent at the corporate level,” Grassley says. “You could figure that dollars taxed at 50 percent, not 15 percent.” Republican Congressman Tom Latham of Clive doesn’t directly accuse President Obama of engaging in “class warfare,” but Latham’s no fan of raising the tax rate on the wealthy. “I think it’s important that we try to unite the country and not divide the citizens economically or wherever,” Latham says, “because we’ve got a lot of problems in this country.” Iowa’s three Democratic Congressmen all support the higher tax rate for people who make more than a million dollars

Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, says he’s been a “long-time” supporter of raising the tax rate on top wage earners. “Maybe amnesia set in how we got to where we are, but there’s no point in lamenting on it. We’re there,” Boswell says. “How do we get out of it? And if everybody participates and I mean everybody — all — we can do this.” Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, says the Republican Party’s “trickle down” economics doesn’t work and Harkin argues Obama’s tax proposals “promote a better, more fair tax structure.”

President Obama is due in Iowa over the noon-hour today (Wednesday). He’ll give a speech at a manufacturing plant in Cedar Rapids, a stop through five “battleground states” in the November election and a backdrop to highlight the president’s proposals to boost the manufacturing industry.

(O. Kay Henderson/Radio Iowa)

Some Pamida stores slated for closing


January 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Officials say some Pamida stores will close as part of the merger with Shopko, but it’s still unclear how many, if any, will be shuttered in Iowa. Shopko, based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, announced earlier this month it will take over Pamida, headquartered in Omaha. There are six Shopko stores and 30 Pamidas in Iowa. Shopko spokeswoman Tara Powers says the two companies have been linked in the past, but only behind the scenes.  “Shopko and Pamida were one company back in the early 2000s, but at that time, they were really run as two separate organizations and they shared some back office functions but they were largely independent of one another,” Powers says. “The difference today is they are truly merging together under the Shopko banner as one company, one corporate office.” While some company mergers are just done on a balance sheet, she says customers will see big changes at Pamida locations. The Pamida name will be eliminated and most product lines changed.

“Shopko Hometown carries a much larger assortment of certain categories, like apparel and home merchandise and they have a big emphasis on national brands,” Powers says. “The product mix that consumers will see when they come into the store is going to be very, very different from what they’re used to at Pamida.” No changes are planned at any of the Shopko stores, but some 80-million dollars will be invested over the next year to convert most of the 193 Pamida stores into Shopko Hometown stores this year. Combined, the new chain will have almost 350 stores in 22 states. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The merger is expected to close in mid-February.

“The two companies looked at the retail landscape together and see that there is a lot of opportunity to serve smaller communities,” Powers says. “(Customers) currently have to drive anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to go into a larger town to go to Walmart or Target to get everything they need. The idea with a Shopko Hometown store is they can get everything they need in a smaller footprint store right in their own community.” There are currently Pamida stores in 30 Iowa cities: Albia, Audubon, Bloomfield, Chariton, Clarion, Corydon, Dyersville, Eldora, Estherville, Forest City, Glenwood, Greenfield, Harlan, Humboldt, Hampton, Ida Grove, Jefferson, Missouri Valley, Mount Ayr, New Hampton, Oelwein, Onawa, Osceola, Perry, Red Oak, Sheldon, Sigourney, Toledo, Waukon and Winterset. There are now six Shopko stores in the state: Burlington, Council Bluffs, Dubuque, Fort Madison, Mason City and Sioux City.

(Radio Iowa)

Audubon County Farmer Wins $2,500 for Audubon HS Wrestling Fund

Ag/Outdoor, News, Sports

January 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the Monsanto Seed Company said Tuesday Blane Kerkhoff, of Audubon, has been selected as a winner in the “America’s Farmers Grow Communities” contest, which gives farmers the opportunity to win $2,500 for their favorite local nonprofit organizations. The donations are available through the Monsanto Fund. Kerkhoff has designated the Audubon High School Wresting Fund to receive the award in Audubon County. Audubon Community School District Superintendent Brett Gibbs, Kerkhoff and a Monsanto representative will participate in a check presentation ceremony Saturday morning, beginning at 9:30., at the Audubon High School (800 3rd St. in Audubon).

Farmers in 39 states and 1,245 counties were eligible to win $2,500 for their favorite community nonprofit.  America’s Farmers Grow Communities is part of a broad commitment by the Monsanto Fund to highlight the important contributions farmers make every day to society, by helping them grow their local communities.

Nearly 60,000 farmers participated in the second annual Grow Communities program, which is designed to benefit nonprofit groups such as ag youth, schools and other civic organizations. For more information and to see a full list of winners, visit www.growcommunities.com

I-80 rest area near Adair closed Jan. 25th-26th for installation of wind turbine blade


January 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Officials with the Iowa Department of Transportation said Tuesday, that the westbound I-80 rest area, located between Adair and Casey at milepost 80, will be closed beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 25th, until approximately 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26th, weather permitting, for installation of a wind turbine blade. The rest area will be closed to allow the wind turbine blade to be installed on the facility’s grounds using two large cranes.

The blade will ultimately serve as a sculptural element on the site and be accompanied by an interpretive plaque. The blade and transportation to the site were donated to the State of Iowa by Siemens Energy of Fort Madison, Iowa.  There will be no public viewing area for the wind blade installation. Parking on interstate highways and freeways is for emergencies only.

The rest area is located at the threshold of an Adair County wind farm. Visitors to the site will discover several design elements incorporated into the building and grounds that speak about energy and alternatives such as wind.

Iowa has become a national leader in the wind energy industry, employing many Iowans in this important energy sector and businesses throughout the state. The industry is a significant contributor to the state’s economy. According to the Iowa Wind Energy Association, the wind energy industry in Iowa currently employs at least 3,000 full-time workers in manufacturing, operation and maintenance of wind turbine components, with an estimated payroll of $70.2 million.

Iowa produces 20 percent of all the electricity generated in the state from wind turbines, ranking it first in the nation and second in the world. Siemens has a 600,000-square-foot wind turbine blade manufacturing facility in Fort Madison, serving as the largest employer in that community and Lee County with nearly 800 employees, contributing to the economic revitalization of the region.

Senate committee votes to override lead-shot ban

Ag/Outdoor, News, Sports

January 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa legislative committee has voted to overturn a Natural Resources Commission rule that would have banned hunting mourning doves with lead-shot ammunition. The Senate Natural Resources committee voted 9-3 for the measure on Tuesday. The commission last year unanimously recommended lead-shot ammunition be banned. Environmental advocates say it can harm or kill animals when ingested. A legislative committee put the ban on hold, but it would take effect if lawmakers don’t reverse the rule before adjourning in a few months. If lead-shot is banned, steel-shot ammunition would still be allowed. But hunters say steel-shot doesn’t perform as well, and is inconvenient and expensive. The resolution now goes to the full Senate.

Patrol: Driver in deadly Greene County crash not licensed


January 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Authorities say the driver of a car involved in a deadly collision in Greene County last weekend was not licensed to drive. The Iowa State Patrol says 42-year-old David Muir, of Rippey, was suspended from driving and should not have been behind the wheel. Troopers say Muir’s car collided with an oncoming pickup truck near Rippey on Sunday afternoon. Muir, a passenger, Andrew Jackson, of Orient, and the driver of the pickup, Dwight Snowgren, of Jamaica, were killed. The patrol determined Muir was traveling at 127 mph just seconds before the crash. Investigators say Muir’s car lost some speed before the collision and was traveling at about 85 mph at the time of impact.

Audubon man arrested for allegedly assaulting a Police Officer & other charges


January 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Audubon Police Department reported today (Tuesday), 34-year old Steven Joseph Nowman, of Audubon, was arrested Sunday on numerous charges, including Assault on a Peace Officer. Nowman faces additional charges of Unlawful possession of ammunition by a person subject to a No Contact Order, and, violation of a domestic abuse No Contact order. He was being held in the Audubon County Jail, pending an appearance before the magistrate.

And, two people were arrested in Audubon on Tuesday, January 17th. 41-year old Barbara Ellen Carfrey, and 44-year old Gary Eugene Bertelsen, both of Audubon, were taken into custody on 5th Degree Theft charges. Both were being held in the Audubon County Jail, pending an appearance before the magistrate.

Atlantic woman loses control of car..hits 2 vehicles


January 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

An Atlantic woman was cited for Failure to Maintain Control, after her vehicle hit two parked vehicles Monday evening. According to Atlantic Police, Margery Johnson, of Atlantic, was parked in front of the News Telegraph building in the 400 block of Walnut. When she proceeded to back out of a parking stall, Johnson backed across the street and hit a legally parked vehicle registered to Dell Weaver, of Griswold. Her car then shot forward and hit another legally parked car, registered to Ed Leistad, of Atlantic. The accident happened at around 4:35-p.m., Monday.

Officials say Johnson left the scene of the incident after she hit the Leistad vehicle. Damage to the vehicles amounted to $8,000.

Norovirus Outbreaks Continue in Iowa


January 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reports they are continuing to see outbreaks of norovirus illness across the state, and reports of activity have been increasing in recent weeks. Anyone can be infected with norovirus and become ill and you can get norovirus illness more than once. “With this virus in our communities and because it is so easy to spread, we need everybody to stay home when they are ill with diarrhea and vomiting,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “There’s no vaccine and no antibiotics for norovirus. It can spread in food, in the air, by shaking hands and by touching things like door knobs that an ill person has touched. So the only way to stop its spread is for those who are ill to stay home.”

Norovirus is sometimes called a ‘stomach bug.’ Symptoms of norovirus infection usually include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach cramping. Norovirus can spread quickly from person-to-person, especially in crowded, closed places like schools, hotels and daycare centers. The viruses are found in the vomit and stool of infected people, and can get into the air. Typically you get it by:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus (someone gets stool or vomit on their hands because they are ill, they then touch your food or drink).
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth.
  • Being near someone who is vomiting or having diarrhea.
  • Having direct contact with a person who is infected with norovirus (for example, when caring for someone with norovirus).

There are two critical ways to stop the spread of norovirus:

  • Stay home when ill and do not prepare food for anyone but yourself until three days after all diarrhea and vomiting have stopped.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after using the toilet and changing diapers, and always before eating or preparing food.

For more information about norovirus, visit http://tinyurl.com/7g3gvml.

IA unemployment rate drops to lowest level in 2-1/2 years


January 24th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent in December, the lowest level since June 2009. Iowa Workforce Development spokesperson Kerry Koonce says the report shows the state’s economy has improved a quite a bit over the last year. The unemployment rate is down from 5.7 percent in November and 6.1 percent in December 2010. An estimated 93,500 Iowans were unemployed in December. That’s down from 102,600 one year ago. The manufacturing sector added 800 jobs last month and 86-hundred (8,600) jobs over the year. Government cut the most jobs in 2011, shedding 43-hundred (4,300) positions.

(Pat Curtis/Radio Iowa)