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Friday Afternoon News, January 4

Wellness Challenge Being Organized For Plymouth County

(Le Mars) -- This time each year, many people set new year's resolutions for themselves, perhaps to lose weight, get more exercise, or to start eating healthy.  Living Healthy Iowa is challenging all Iowans to focus on getting healthy for the new year.  Iowa ranks 20th in the nation as the healthiest state, and unfortunately Plymouth County ranks low among the 99 Iowa counties as for being the healthiest county.  Todd Lancaster, the executive director of the Le Mars YMCA, and also one of the local coordinators to the Living Healthy Iowa program says there is an effort being organized to get Plymouth County residents to start thinking about wellness and being healthy.  Lancaster says people are urged to participate in the ten-week wellness challenge.
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Lancaster says diabetes and obesity are on the rise for people across the state and the nation.  He says to extend your life expectancy is another reason to look at joining the ten-week wellness challenge.
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Recently, an organizational meeting took place attracting more than 30 community leaders. 
The wellness challenge begins on January 28, and Lancaster says Plymouth County organizers have a goal of having at least 2500 people participate.
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The YMCA official says it doesn't take much to get healthy.  He says people can take some small simple steps to modify their lifestyle in order to become a healthier person.

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The Le Mars YMCA, Floyd Valley Hospital, and the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach of Plymouth County are organizing the ten-week wellness challenge.  Lancaster urges everyone to participate, form a team, and to encourage your family, friends, and co-workers to join the program.  For more information, you can contact the Le Mars YMCA, Floyd Valley Hospital, or the Plymouth County Extension office.  Registration is $20 with a five dollar coupon that can be used at area Hy-Vee supermarkets.


Investigation Continues On Medical Helicopter Crash

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - Federal investigators are still looking for the cause of a medical helicopter crash in northern Iowa that killed three people.
Pilot Gene Grell, nurse Shelly Lair-Langenbau and paramedic Russell Piehl died when the helicopter crashed north of Ventura Wednesday night. They were on the way to Emmetsburg to pick up a
Lair-Langenbau and Piehl worked for Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa in Mason City.
The CEO of the medical transport company that owned the helicopter says the pilot didn't make any emergency call. The helicopter had a satellite tracking system that monitored its
position and other information instead of the traditional onboard black box.
Weather was overcast with 10-to-15 mile per hour winds at the time of the crash.

Leath Loosens Research Restrictions on Harkin Institute

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Iowa State University President Steven Leath is loosening restrictions that he imposed on the Harkin Institute of Public Policy's ability to research agriculture.
Leath issued a memo Wednesday withdrawing a November order that allowed the institute to conduct agriculture research only if it related to Sen. Tom Harkin's papers and had approval from the
Center for Agricultural and Rural Development.
The restrictions were opposed by Harkin and the institute's advisory board. Critics called them a restriction on academic freedom, while Leath said they were meant to avoid duplication and
protect CARD's prominent reputation.
Leath's new memo seeks to reach a compromise. It says public policy research conducted by the institute focusing on subjects found elsewhere on campus "is expected to be planned, conducted
and published in a cooperative, collaborative manner."

State Responds To Pollution Run-off Concerns

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The state has responded to requests and added two weeks to the public comment period on a plan to cut pollution running down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico.
Friday was the scheduled end of the 45-day comment period. Comments now will
be taken until Jan 18.
Under the plan that was released in November, wastewater treatment and industrial plants would be asked to make costly upgrades to cut pollution while farmers would do so voluntarily.
It took two years of study and private meetings to formulate the plan. It comes in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's order in 2008 for 12 states along the Mississippi River to
develop strategies to prevent nitrates and phosphorous from reaching the gulf.






Friday News, January 4

City To Pick Up Christmas Trees

(Le Mars) -- The City of Le Mars Public Works Department will be picking up live Christmas Trees beginning the week of January 7th.  Steve Hanson, superintendent for the city's public works department says They will do one pass through of the entire town; therefore, he asks that residents please have your tree out next to the curb by Sunday January 6th. 
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Hanson says the city will dispose of the trees.  Depending upon the number of trees to be picked up will determine what may happen to the trees.
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Hanson wants to remind residents to remove all lights, plastic covers, tinsel, stands and garland.


Le Mars Community School Board To Hold Special Meeting

(Le Mars) -- The Le Mars Community Board of Education will hold a special meeting scheduled for Monday, January 7th at the Le Mars Education Service Center Administration building.  The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m. The school board is expected to receive the initial proposal from the Le Mars Education Association as for the bargaining negotiations contract for the school year 2013-2014.


Museum To Host "Jammin January"

(Le Mars) -- The Plymouth County Historical Museum has announced it will host "Jammin in January" a benefit dance featuring the band "The Jammers".  The benefit dance is scheduled for Saturday, January 19th at the Plymouth County Historical Museum's Old Central Gymnasium. Dance hours will be from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. with a concession stand that will open at 7:00 p.m. in the gym's lobby.  Proceeds from the benefit dance will go to help defray the Museum's expenses, especially during the winter months.


Sac County Authorities Investigate Kidnapping and Dead Body

EARLY, Iowa (AP) - Police in western Iowa discovered the body of a woman while investigating the apparent kidnapping of another woman.
The Sac County sheriff's office says authorities received a call about 8 a.m. Thursday after someone encountered a 21-year-old woman trying to run from a vehicle and claiming she had been kidnapped.
After talking with the woman, deputies found a suspect hiding in a nearby barn.
Deputies arrested 21-year-old Kirk Riley Levin. He was being held Thursday night at the Sac County Jail on charges of assault with intent to commit sexual assault, assault while participating in a felony and third degree kidnapping.
While investigating the matter, authorities found the body of another woman near Early. The name of the dead woman isn't being released until police can notify her family.


Record Number of Lives Saved By Smoke Alarms

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa officials say smoke alarms saved a record number of people's lives in the state last year.
The Iowa State Fire Marshal says more than 215 people survived because of working smoke alarm systems in their homes. That's a jump from about 185 in 2011, and about 145 in 2010.
Most people saved by smoke alarms were asleep during the night.  Officials say advance warning also reduces property damage. The state estimates $20 million in property damage for fires with
working smoking alarms. Property damage climbs to $46 million for fires with no smoke alarm.
Officials say 42 people were killed in fires in the state last year.

Wellmark/Blue Cross-Blue Shield Wants To Raise Insurance Rates

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Dozens of Iowans have asked the state health insurance commissioner to deny another premium increase sought by the state's dominant health insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross
and Blue Shield.
The company wants to raise premiums on 150,000 individual policyholders by 12 percent to 13 percent starting in April.  Wellmark has been raising premiums for the past several years, including 9.4
percent last year and 8.5 percent in 2011.
Wellmark says it needs more money to pay for the higher costs of medical services.
The company sells about 86 percent of the nonemployer health insurance policies in Iowa.
On Saturday state Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss will hold a public hearing on the company's request.


People Speak Out Against Voting Eligibility Rules

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - About 40 people spoke at a public hearing to oppose a proposed new rule that would establish a process for removing voters from registration rolls if they cannot prove citizenship.
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz is pushing the rule. He says it's needed because he believes people who are not U.S. citizens are registering to vote in Iowa.
Many of the speakers say the rule will intimidate and scare voters, especially recent immigrants, from voting.
The hearing was carried statewide on the Iowa Communications Network to allow broad participation. Comments came from several locations including Des Moines, Sioux City, Bettendorf and Iowa City.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa says Schultz doesn't have the authority to pass the rule himself without legislative approval.


Stewart Iverson To Head Tax Appeal Board

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Former Iowa Senate GOP leader Stewart Iverson has been appointed to lead a state agency monitoring property tax appeals in the state.
The Des Moines Register reports Gov. Terry Branstad announced the appointment Thursday. Iverson's annual salary to be chairman of the Iowa Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board will be $137,000.
Iverson is filling the term left by Richard Stradley, who resigned in November. It will run through April 2017.
The tax board is a state agency that conducts administrative hearings regarding the appeal process of an assessment or valuation.

Pawlenty Asks ISU For Hefty Speaking Fee

AMES, Iowa (AP) - It would've cost big bucks to get Tim Pawlenty to return to Ames, where his presidential campaign ended in 2011 after a poor finish at the Iowa Straw Poll.
Emails released by Iowa State University show its Harkin Institute of Public Policy wanted Pawlenty to come speak this year about Iowa's leadoff role in the presidential nominating process.
Pawlenty's agent told school officials his speaking fee was $25,000 plus expenses. Institute director Dave Peterson wrote that fee was "well beyond" what the institute could afford, but started asking others whether they could "cobble together enough" university funds from elsewhere.
The idea was dropped after lectures program director Pat Miller objected to the payment. Miller argued the university has long claimed "Iowans don't pay for politicians," given the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses.


Pella Woman Pleads Guilty To Fraud

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A southern Iowa woman who convinced friends to loan her hundreds of thousands of dollars under false pretenses has pleaded guilty to mail fraud.
Beverely DeRonde of Pella entered the plea Thursday in federal court in Des Moines under an agreement in which prosecutors dropped 11 other charges.
The 61-year-old acknowledged that she fraudulently asked relatives and acquaintances to loan her money so she could buy birthday and anniversary presents to surprise her husband or
equipment so he could open a boat shop. Instead, she actually used the money to buy antiques, jewelry and Rolex watches for herself while failing to repay them.
DeRonde remains free on bond, but faces a possible prison term at her sentencing in April. She also agreed to pay full restitution, which hasn't been calculated.






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