Saturday, May 30, 2015
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Saturday News May, 9

Branstad Supporting Switch To Private Care

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Governor Terry Branstad is supporting a proposal to switch two state mental health facilities to private care next year.

Representatives Dave Heaton and Cecil Dolecheck say Friday there's an agreement with Branstad's office and the state Department of Human Services to keep state-funded services available at facilities in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant through December 15th. It includes psychiatric services at Clarinda and substance abuse services at Mount Pleasant.

State officials would then secure private health providers to operate the facilities in 2016.

Democratic Senator Amanda Ragan, chairwoman of the Health and Human Services Appropriations subcommittee, says she needs to review the proposal.

Branstad's budget proposal removed funding for the facilities starting in July. His spokesman says the delay is a compromise to help patients and employees with the transition.


Bird Flu Infects More Birds

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa agriculture officials say bird flu will claim an additional 4 million Iowa egg-laying chickens on two more farms in a county already hit by the disease.

Officials are waiting for preliminary tests on two farms in Wright County to be confirmed. The county earlier reported a farm with 2.8 million chickens affected.

Iowa's chicken loss is approaching 25 million, more than 40 percent of the state's egg-laying flock.

Officials on Friday also announced detection of the virus on five more turkey farms, including one with 42,000 birds.

That brings the state to 44 cases in 12 counties.

Minnesota and Wisconsin, two other states hit hard with the disease, reported no new bird flu cases Friday.

The virus has spread to well over 30 million birds in 13 states.


Man Convicted Of Murder Asks For New Trial

CHARLES CITY, Iowa (AP) - A judge plans to hear a man's request for a retrial after he was convicted in March in the killing of his former girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter.

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports 36-year-old Casey Frederiksen's request for a new trial will be considered prior to his sentencing hearing Monday. Jurors found him guilty of first-degree sexual assault and first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Evelyn Miller while baby-sitting her in 2005. Her body was found in the Cedar River  after she was reported missing.

Frederiksen's attorney argues that the judge presiding over the trial erred in allowing child pornography found on Frederiksen's computer to be used as evidence. He also says the jury returned verdicts that defy state law.

Frederiksen faces a mandatory life sentence without parole.



Ernst Looking For Compromise In NSA Data Collection

(Washington DC)--Senator Joni Ernst says she's looking for a compromise that would still allow the National Security Agency to collect raw data on phone calls, but place some limits on the practice to protect Americans' privacy rights.



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A federal court this week ruled the bulk collection of phone records was unconstitutional. The issue is among those soon to be addressed when Senators consider a bill to reauthorize the so-called Patriot Act that was passed after 9/11, giving the federal government broad powers for terrorism investigations.



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Ernst says the National Security Agency is NOT listening in on everyone's phone conversations or reading texts, but rather collecting the raw data of which numbers are calling what numbers and how long the calls last. That information can later be used in terror investigations to build a circle of contacts an alleged terrorist may have made before being identified as a suspect. Ernst made her comments Friday during an appearance on the "Iowa Press" program which will be rebroadcast Sunday at noon on Iowa Public Television.




Ernst Considering Retirement From Natonal Guard

(Des Moines)--First-term Republican Senator Joni Ernst is pondering retirement -- from the Iowa National Guard.


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Ernst made the announcement Friday morning during taping of the "Iowa Press" program that airs on Iowa Public Television. Ernst says it's been "very hard" to balance her work as a senator, her obligation to the Guard and her desire to spend time with her husband and teenage daughter.


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Ernst enlisted in the Iowa National Guard in 1993. After her election last November, Guard leaders moved Ernst from command of a unit to a position at Iowa Guard headquarters in Johnston. She's likely to retire within the next year and coordinate her exit with superiors, to ensure there is someone in place to take over her duties. There is no prohibition against members of the Guard serving in the U.S. Senate. Half a dozen Guard members are currently serving in the House and the freshman Senator from Alaska is in the Marine Reserve.


Friday Afternoon News, May 8

Four Year Old Council Bluff's Boy Shot In The Neck

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (AP) - A 4-year-old western Iowa boy has been shot in the back of his neck and another child has been taken into protective custody.

Authorities say Q-Marion Jones has been taken in critical condition to Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Police say the boy was shot around 5 p.m. Thursday at the Northgate Apartments in Council Bluffs.

Police say another juvenile in the home at the time had access to a semi-automatic pistol, and the child was taken into protective custody. No arrests have been reported, and police haven't said whether the shooting was accidental.






State's Contract To Purchase Weapons For State Law Enforcement Under Review

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - A spokesman says the Iowa Department of Public Safety has returned 800 handguns purchased under a contract that is now under investigation.

The weapons were bought under a master contract awarded to Smith & Wesson to supply handguns to troopers, agents and other law enforcement officials.

The department has hired two retired agents to review whether employees followed purchasing policies. Three veteran, high-ranking Iowa State Patrol officials have been placed on leave during the inquiry.

DPS Commissioner Roxann Ryan last month told employees to return their newly issued handguns after some officers raised concerns about the weapons' functionality. The department hasn't clarified their concerns but Ryan told employees she took them seriously because they implicated the safety of the officers and the public.

Smith & Wesson hasn't returned messages.






Severe Weather Possible For Weekend

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Officials say storms sweeping across eastern Nebraska and Iowa this weekend pose the threat of isolated tornadoes and hail while strong wind gusts and heavy snow are expected further west.

Meteorologist Jim Lee with the National Weather Service in Des Moines says the entirety of Iowa is slightly at risk for severe weather Sunday, though it's unlikely the storms will hammer the whole state. He says it remains unclear what regions could be hit the hardest.

Forecasters in central Nebraska say the region faces potentially damaging winds, and meteorologists overseeing the Nebraska Panhandle predict between 3 inches and 5 inches of snow by Sunday evening.

Meteorologist Shawn Rossi in Hastings says the upcoming system isn't expected to produce widespread storms like those seen in southeast Nebraska earlier this week.





Emerald Ash Borer Found In Polk And Dallas Counties

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Officials have found emerald ash borders in Polk County, home of the state capitol in Des Moines.

A news release from the Iowa Agriculture Department said Friday that the tree-killing pests were found in Urbandale and West Des Moines. The department says the confirmation brings to 22 the number of Iowa counties where the insects have been found.

The larva of an emerald ash borer cuts off an ash tree's flow of nutrients when deposited below the bark. Once infected, trees typically die within five years.

The insects are native to Asia and were first spotted in the U.S. in 2002, when they showed up in the Detroit area. They devastated ash trees in Michigan and have spread to at least 21 other states.






Airport Runway To Become Drag Racing Strip

ONAWA, Iowa (AP) - Onawa officials plan to turn their little used municipal airport into a drag strip.

City administrator Bradley Hansen told the Sioux City Journal that officials are hoping to have at least one racing date this year.

The Onawa City Council voted in April to close the airport, which is used primarily by private pilots, aerial sprayers and traveling doctors. Hansen says four of its five hangars are occupied. Its closure is scheduled for July 1.

Officials have not determined whether the drag strip would be funded privately or with local taxes.




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