Tuesday, May 24, 2016
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Sioux City Man Sentenced for 20 years

(Sioux City) -- A Sioux City man has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prision for possessing a pistol in furtherance of his methamphetamine trafficing.  Robert Hamel, age 23, received his prision term after pleading guilty to one count of possession of a pistol while trafficing methamphetamine. 

He admitted to using his gun to intimidate his drug customers, and to protect his drugs.  Hamel used a .22 calibur pistol with the seriel number scratched off.  Hamel had previously been convicted in Woodbury County in 2010 of introduction of a controlled substance into a detention facility.  Judge Donald O'Brien was the preciding court officer that handed down the sentence to Hamel.

(Des Moines) -- Today is National "Smoke-Out" Day, and a new federal study finds seven out of ten current cigarette smokers say they wish they could quit, and today is their latest opportunity.  Chuck Reed is a spokesman for the Iowa chapter of the American Cancer Society.  He says the number of smokers is continuing to fall in the state and nationwide.

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The Cancer Society is sponsoring today's annual Great American Smoke Out which Reed says has been changed a little this time around.

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Studies have found that smokers who try to quit "cold turkey" are only successful about five percent of the time.  Reed says your odds are much better if you seek help.

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Some Iowa restaurants are making special offers today to encourage smokers to quit, like giving away free cold turkey sandwiches in exchange for packs of cigarettes.

(Dakota Dunes) -- Siouxland Surgery Center of Dakota Dunes has been named as a 2011 Summit Award winner, by the Press Ganey Associates.  The Summit Award recognizes top-performing facilities that sustain the highest level of performance for three or more consectutive years.  The Press Ganey Summit Award is the health care performance improvement industry's most coveted symbol of achievement bestowed annually.  Siouxland Surgery Center is one of 98 organizations to receive the prestigious honor in 2011, and one of 87 to receive it for achieving and sustaining excellence in patient satisfaction.


COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - Thousands of trees damaged or killed by floodwater from the Missouri River will be removed in the next few months along Interstate 29.
     Most of the trees are between U.S. Highway 30 and the north side of Council Bluffs.
     The Iowa DOT says the removal of the trees will cost about $150,000.
     Nebraska Forest Service expert Graham Herbst says debris in the floodwater caused damage to trees that led to decay. In other cases, floodwater choked off oxygen to tree roots.
     The Iowa DOT says it will wait for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine how it will manage the Missouri River in the future before deciding when to replant trees.


(Omaha) -- Farmers National Company, the nation's leading agricultural services company, reports that demand for farmland is at an all-time high -- based on a record number of transactions, pushing sales prices up 20 percent, on average over 2010.  Strong grain prices and farmland profits are fueling record demand, sales volumes and land prices.  These same factors are also resulting in record increases in cash rent levels.  Jim Farrell, president of Farmers National Company, says cash rents in the top production areas have increased by 25 to 40 percent in 2011, some of the largest jumps the market has ever seen.  On the real estate side, market dynamics indicate there are still more potential buyers than sellers, with the possibility to push land prices higher.  Fiscal year sales at Farmers National Company increased by 17 percent over 2010 transactions.  The company sold over $450 million in real estate, with over 750 farm and ranch units.

(Undated) -- The auto club AAA is predicting 42.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holdiday weekend.  That's a four percent increase from the 40.9 million people who traveled one year ago.  The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 23rd to Sunday, November 27th.  AAA is projecting an increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers this year, due mostly to pent-up demand from Americans who may have foregone holiday travel the last three years.  While primary economic drivers continue to show improvement from one year ago, growth levels are not high enough to support a quick return to pre-recession levels of holiday travel.  Rather a slow climb back is expected from 2008 which was a decade-low year Thanksgiving travel with only 37.8 million Americans taking a trip.  With volumes still below historical averages, pent-up demand will be a contributing factor in increased holiday travel, despite current economic conditions.


  DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Department of Education says enrollment at the state's 15 community colleges is down less than 1 percent. Still, the small decline marks the first enrollment drop
since 1994. Nearly 106,000 people were enrolled in community colleges during the fall semester.


 DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa's education department director says he's temporarily dropping plans to adopt a new and costlier system for paying public school teachers.
     Jason Glass tells The Des Moines Register on Wednesday that he believes a proposed four-tier salary structure makes sense. But he adds the time isn't right to take the idea to the Legislature.
Instead, Glass says a task force will study such issues and make recommendations that lawmakers can consider in the 2013 session.
     Under the proposed system, the minimum pay for starting teachers would climb from $28,000 to $40,000. Teachers would be classified as apprentice, career, mentor or master teachers, and teachers
would need to demonstrate their effectiveness before moving to a higher pay grade.
     Cost of the new structure ranged from $100 million to $200 million.

 PELLA, Iowa (AP) - Pella Corporation has announced the layoff of 198 workers at its plants in Iowa and Oregon because of the prolonged recession in the housing industry.
     The Iowa -based window and door company says Wednesday that workers will be laid off at its plants in Carroll, Sioux Center, Shenandoah and Pella, as well as in Portland, Oregon.
     In late October, Pella offered incentives to employees who took early retirement or voluntarily left the company. The company also said it was closing a plant in West Columbia, South Carolina, which
employs 145 people.
     Pella spokeswoman Kathy Krafka Harkema says the layoffs are the result of low consumer confidence, tighter access to home loans and the volatile economy, which continue to hamper the housing market.

   MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Federal regulators have fined an Iowa grain processor more than $96,000 for its failure to develop a facility response plan as required by the federal Clean Water Act.
     The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that Omaha-Neb.-based Ag Processing Inc. agreed to pay the fine for its failure to develop and implement a response plan for its
soybean processing facility in Mason City.
     Company spokesman Mike Maranell says the company has been working with the EPA and will continue to comply with local, state and federal regulations.
The EPA says the Mason City facility is near a stream which flows into two small lakes and eventually into the Winnebago River and that without a response plan the facility was not prepared for a worst-case discharge into nearby waters and the potential impact to wetland and wildlife habitats.

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