American bald eagles are reflected in the water of the Mississippi River near Lindsay Park, Davenport.

Justice’s distress signal should distress us all

Here is a tidbit from my years as a newspaper reporter and editor:

I never voted in a primary election, never attended the Iowa caucuses, never stuck a candidate’s sign in my yard, never had a bumper sticker on my car, never signed a petition, never donated to a campaign.

When Sue and I married, she got something more in the deal than my sparkling personality. She knew she could not have any yard signs, because people driving past our home would not know which part of the yard was for her opinions and which was for mine. To eliminate any confusion, there were no yard signs. Period.

Iowa's Attorney General Brenna Bird disrespects America’s legal system with comments at Trump trial

by Ed Tibbetts, Iowa Capital Dispatch
May 16, 2024

First, the good news: Most Americans trust juries.

Now, the bad news: Iowa’s attorney general apparently isn’t one of them.

Brenna Bird joined a bunch of other Republican politicians at the New York trial of Donald Trump this week and immediately pronounced it a farce. “Politics has no place in a court of law,” she said.

Unfortunately, Brenna Bird fails this standard. Iowa’s attorney general, who formerly worked for Rep. Steve King, has been aggressively making her name in GOP circles since being narrowly elected in 2022, repeatedly suing the Biden administration. Hardly a week goes by when her public relations people aren’t heralding a new lawsuit. Donald Trump has even practically anointed her a future governor.

On Monday, Bird took leave of her duties in Iowa to be in New York to be part of the Trump entourage seeking to torpedo the proceedings there. Among her fellow travelers: U.S. Sens. J.D. Vance and Tommy Tuberville.

Iowans who value the rule of law ought to be disgusted.

Many Iowa rivers are brimming with nitrate

by Jared Strong, Iowa Capital Dispatch
May 12, 2024

Nitrate contamination of Iowa’s rivers has surged in recent weeks amid heavy, widespread rainfall, according to data collected by the Iowa Water Quality Information System.

Concentrations of nitrate in several large waterways — including the Boone, Cedar, Iowa and Turkey rivers — have recently reached four-year peaks, the data show. Further, many of the affected rivers also have much higher than usual stream flows, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That often reduces the concentrations.

Because the flows and concentrations are so high, the total nitrate load is also very high.

“This is one of the biggest nitrate leaching events in 11 years,” said David Cwiertny, director of the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination at the University of Iowa.

Lee Enterprises, Inc. news release on earnings doesn't mention actual earnings, or lack thereof

Lee Enterprises, Inc. – calling itself a high quality and trusted source of news – issued a news release last week about its second quarter earnings without stating it lost $2.06 per share ($12.2 million) for the three-month period ended March 24.

The owner of the QC Times and Daily Dispatch/Argus and 70 other newspapers and online news site detailed its digital revenues, digital subscriptions, digital subscribers and digital advertising and marketing service in the news release.

But the company omitted stating it lost money during the second quarter, more than double its $1.01 loss ($5.9 million) loss a year ago. (The actual earnings numbers for the period are contained in the financial statement of operations – required by the Security and Exchange Commission – and attached to the news release narrative.)

‘It’s getting worse’ – U.S. failing to stem tide of harmful farm pollutants in Mississippi River

by Keith Schneider | The New Lede, Iowa Capital Dispatch
April 21, 2024

VENICE, Louisiana —  Kindra Arnesen is a 46-year-old commercial fishing boat operator who has spent most of her life among the pelicans and bayous of southern Louisiana, near the juncture where the 2,350-mile-long Mississippi River ends at the Gulf of Mexico.

Clark Porter is a 62-year-old farmer who lives in north-central Iowa where he spends part of his day working as an environmental specialist for the state and the other part raising corn and soybeans on hundreds of acres that his family has owned for over a century.

Though they’ve never met, and live 1,100 miles apart, Arnesen and Porter share a troubling kinship – both of their communities are tied to a deepening water pollution crisis that is fouling the environment and putting public health in peril across multiple U.S. states.

Iowa House votes down measure that would have required more inspections of puppy mills

Iowa Capital Dispatch
April 10, 2024

The Iowa House rejected a proposal Wednesday to require annual inspections of all state-licensed dog breeding facilities by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

“Who doesn’t love puppies? We all love puppies, but sadly, Iowa is closing in on number one in the nation for unscrupulous puppy mills,” Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said.

He offered an amendment to a larger agriculture policy bill, House File 2641, that would require an on-site inspection of every state-licensed dog-breeding facility every 12 months, as well as require on-site inspections if there was reasonable cause.

Currently, the law says the department “may” inspect breeding facilities.

Jacoby wrote to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds last summer to call for better enforcement after the seizure of more than 120 dogs from a breeding facility in his Johnson County district. Inspectors reported many of the animals were in distress and Jacoby said a dozen of them died.

Republicans opposed the amendment.

Fertilizer spill kills 750,000 fish in Nishnabotna River

by Jared Strong, Iowa Capital Dispatch
March 27, 2024

A fertilizer spill this month in southwest Iowa killed nearly all the fish in a 60-mile stretch of river with an estimated death toll of more than 750,000, according to Iowa and Missouri conservation officers.

That is the biggest fish kill in Iowa in at least a decade and the fifth-largest on record, according to state data.

And it could have been worse: Fish populations were likely smaller than normal when the spill happened because of cold water temperatures and low river flows.

“Thank goodness, in a way, it happened when it did,” said Joe Larscheid, chief of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ fisheries bureau. “But this is a big one. It’s a lot of river miles that have been impacted.”

The spill originated at NEW Cooperative in Red Oak, where a valve that either malfunctioned or was not properly closed leaked about 265,000 gallons of liquid nitrogen fertilizer, most of which went into the nearby East Nishnabotna River.

Senate sends bill restricting local topsoil, stormwater rules to governor; Bettendorf senator pushed bill

by Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch
March 25, 2024

The Iowa Senate on Monday sent a bill to the governor’s desk restricting stormwater and topsoil regulations, a measure Democrats say unfairly limits local control.

The Senate approved Senate File 455 on a 29-18 vote. The bill would ban local regulations that are more restrictive than state and federal guidelines on stormwater runoff and topsoil preservation, compaction, placement or depth.

Runoff regulations would be required to be at or less restrictive than those based on flow rates calculated using return frequencies of five years, and topsoil rules would have to stay at or below requirements set by the Department of Natural Resources and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

Hardened hearts, short-sightedness at Capitol

by Ed Tibbetts, Iowa Capital Dispatch
March 20, 2024

Republicans in the Iowa House hate government freebies.

Unless it’s their corporate friends who get them.

The latest evidence of this hypocrisy is the effort to kill a central Iowa program and prevent others like it that are aimed at helping poor people.

UpLift is a test program in central Iowa that gives $500 per month to 110 individuals who live with at least one dependent up to the age of 25 and who have a median household income of only $24,000 a year.

Bill restricting storm water, top soil retention resurfaces; Bettendorf senator's bill passes House

Iowa Capital Dispatch
March 11, 2024

The Iowa House passed legislation Monday on local storm water and top soil regulation after the same bill failed last week.

Senate File 455 had failed to pass with a 44-49 vote last week. House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl filed a motion for reconsideration following the vote Wednesday, and on Monday, the motion was approved. The bill then passed in a 53-46 vote.

The measure would prohibit local regulations on stormwater runoff that are more restrictive than current flow rates based on return frequencies of five years. It also would prohibit local regulations related to topsoil preservation, compaction, placement or depth that are more restrictive than requirements set by the Department of Natural Resources and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

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