Author: WHO

Local Farmer Raises Concerns over Quality of Drinking Water

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, Iowa --  "I said that people are drinking crap."

Chris Henning, a farmer in Franklin Township (rural Jefferson), does not mince words when it comes to speaking out about the impact she believes Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are having on the public`s drinking water.

"When you and I flush each day, we flush and we put two and a half gallons of water with our flush," said Henning. "Well, a pig poops four times as much as you and I do...and the only water that goes in with their poop is their urine."

Graphic as that description may be, Henning believes it's important to spell out exactly what`s going on, so people understand the danger.

"When you have 2400 pigs, four times as much, you`ve got a town double the size of Jefferson in a building and all of that poop in a pit, okay, you know and I know that in town the water with its load goes to the sewage system and they treat it," said Henning. "They don`t treat hog waste. They put it on the ground, ripe, awful, ecoli full, whatever is in it."

And when it rains it goes into the ground, into the tile, and into the creek.

Henning says her well has failed tests for bacteria.

"And when that happens, you pour bleach in the casing..."

Henning raised her concerns to the Greene County Board of Supervisors at a recent public hearing.

"The Supervisor...Mick Burkett from Grand Junction, whose son just happens to have a CAFO, oh, isn`t that interesting, told me that if my well, wouldn`t pass, maybe I ought to drink bottled water," recounted Henning. "There was an audible gasp in the room. I went, yeah, like that`s an answer?!?!"

Iowa Native Displaced by Hurricane Harvey Returns Home

DES MOINES, Iowa — While some island nations are still in the heart of Hurricane Maria, those who made it through Hurricane Harvey are just starting to pick up the pieces.

89 year-old Richard Cornelison evacuated his home on Mustang Island just off the coast of Corpus Christi Texas. With no vacancy in any nearby hotels the Des Moines native was forced to sleep in the back of his car until he was allowed back to see what had happened to his home.

“There was just trash piled up in front of my front door, I could hardly open it” said Richard.

When he did open the door, he found out just how much water was in his house.

“I had shoes sitting on the floor in the bedroom. I had a pair there, one shoe I found in the corner of the bedroom, the other one was in the kitchen which is two rooms away! I don’t know how the water sloshed around so much in there, but everything was ruined” said Richard.

But incredibly some items were salvageable; pictures of Richard and his late wife Dorothy along with their marriage certificate.  Soaked, but not destroyed.

“They were on the floor. The water had got high enough that it washed them off the table. I’m still not over it” Richard said as he got choked up. “and I’m sorry I get so emotional but I do” he said.

After gathering what he could save Richard’s son helped set him up in an assisted living home in Des Moines.  Oddly enough, less than half a mile from the home he built and raised his family in.  In fact he can see the trees he planted over 40 years ago from his living room window.

“It’s just something unusual I’d say. No I don’t know that it’s comforting at all or anything, it’s just something unusual that I’d move back so close” said Richard.

Now the man who moved so close to the ocean so he could fish more often must decide what comes next.

“My kids will probably fight me like the devil, me going back and living alone again. I probably won’t” said Richard.

Richard was born in Decatur County and spent most of his life in Des Moines working for the Bell Telephone Company.

Bill Increases Ag Promotion Funds

U.S. legislators are trying to help farmers keep an edge in the global marketplace.

This week, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst along with Senators King, Donnely, and Collins introduced bipartisan legislation increasing the funding for the USDA export promotion programs.

The Cultivating Revitalization by Expanding American Agricultural Trade and Exports (CREAATE) Act aims to revitalize the export promotion programs, which it claims have added $28 for every dollar invested in the last 40 years.

It specifically would help the Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program by doubling their funding over five years.

Senator Ernst says Iowa is a prime example of a state that relies on exports and one in five jobs here are tied to trade.

She says the bill promotes Iowa’s agriculture and will be effective in selling Iowan goods, “We just need to continue that, we really need to push that and right now we see that American farmers and ranchers are struggling with low commodity prices. So we do think that this will help us maintain those programs it will help us strengthen our trade relationships around the world.”

Ernst is hopeful the bill will get passed.

The Iowa Corn Growers applaud the bill saying funding for export promotion programs have not kept pace with inflation, marketplace growth, or investments by competing countries.

They estimate the MAP funding will go from $200 million to $400 million a year and the FMD Program will increase from $34.5 million to $69 million dollars a year.

Habitat for Humanity Gets Help Expanding in Dallas County

PERRY, Iowa  --  A Perry bank is doing more to help prospective homeowners buy a house than just offering a loan.  They're giving away money and picking up paint brushes and hammers to make those dreams come true.

On Thursday Raccoon Valley Bank donated $15,000 to Habitat for Humanity in Dallas County.  The money will be used to build the first ever new "Habitat home" in Perry as well as funding renovations on other homes in Perry.  After making the donation today bank employees were on site at one of those homes being rehabbed for a prospective homeowner.  Habitat for Humanity officials say it's about so much more than just houses.

"A family without a home has to struggle with a lot of other issues like health care, education, not knowing if they're going to have stability to send their family to do the other things they need to do," Omar Padilla with Habitat for Humanity says, "So through housing we hope we can impact those other areas."

Habitat for Humanity plans to finish five homes for new owners in Perry in the next year.

ACLU Suing DHS for Denying Medicaid Coverage of Transgender Surgeries

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  The Iowa Department of Human Services is facing another lawsuit.

On Thursday the ACLU of Iowa announced it was suing the DHS in hopes of overturning a policy that blocks Medicaid coverage for transition surgeries for transgender Iowans.  The ACLU says as far as the law should be concerned there is no difference between those surgeries and any other surgery.  But that is not the case in Iowa.

"When, with their physician, it is clear that this type of care is medically necessary they shouldn't be barred from accessing it simply because of their gender identity," said ACLU legal director Rita Bettis,  "That is a clear violation of the law and the constitution."

The suit is being brought in part by Carol Ann Beal.  She has lived as a woman since the age of 14.  That's when she began undergoing horomone therapy.  However she says DHS policies are denying her surgeries her doctor has approved.  She says the lawsuit is not just about her.

"I want to make to it easier for young people who need this surgery to make it easier for them to have insurance available for those who have to go through this and not struggle the way I have through this whole process."

Another plaintiff, Quad Cities resident EerieAnna Good, released this statement explaining the importance of transition surgeries:

“This surgery is not just something that I want. It’s something that I very much need to resolve the depression and anxiety I face because my outside fails to match who I know I am: a woman. I’m only 27 and I have my whole life stretching in front of me. I want to have a career. I want to be married and raise kids. I’ve faced a lot of challenges in my life that have made it difficult for me to do these things, but my inability to get the medical care I need has been one of the major roadblocks. This is so important for my health, well-being, and my life.”



$15,000 Donation to Kick Off Perry Habitat for Humanity Project

PERRY, Iowa – A Habitat for Humanity project in Perry is getting a boost Thursday from a local bank.

The Raccoon Valley Bank is donating $15,000 to the Dallas County Habitat for Humanity. The money will go toward building a home for a low-income family. The home will be the organization’s first new construction home in Perry.

The bank is also promising some volunteer help from its employees during the construction project and during Rock the Block repair events.

The check is being presented Thursday morning.

Fundraising efforts to cover the rest of the construction costs continue.

The low-income family who will get the opportunity to buy the home will put in hundreds of hours of “sweat equity” during construction and receive an affordable mortgage.

Teacher’s ‘Gender Neutral’ Pronoun Note Causes Stir Among Parents

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A Florida teacher’s note requesting that her fifth graders try to use gender-neutral pronouns in her classroom has parents divided, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Chloe Bressack, a new math and science teacher at Canopy Oaks Elementary, greeted parents in a letter introducing herself. “One thing that you should know about me is that I use gender neutral terms. My prefis ix Mx. (pronounced Mix),” she wrote. “My pronouns are ‘they, them, their’ instead of ‘he, his, she, hers.'”

She added that “students catch on pretty quickly,” even though it “takes some practice for it to feel natural.” Bressack assured parents she wasn’t looking for “perfection,” just that they make an effort. “My priority is for all of my students to be comfortable in my classroom and have a space where they can be themselves while learning,” the letter reads.

According to the paper, comments on the letter in a Facebook group called “Tally Moms Stay Connected” revealed a division between two camps of parents, either strongly in favor or strongly opposed to the idea.

Canopy Oaks Principal Paul Lambert told the Tennessee Democrat that the school supported Bressack’s “preference in how she’s addressed,” and said the only agenda she might have is “teaching math and science at the greatest level she can.”

It May Feel Like Summer, but Flu Season is Almost Here

DES MOINES, Iowa – Flu season is right around the corner and doctors are suggesting to get the vaccine by the end of September.

The peak time people get the flu is around January and February, but experts can see cases as early as October.

Polk County Health Educator Nola Aigner said the shot is targeting the four most common flu strains. Those include: Two A strains: H1N1 and H3N2, and two B lineages.

“Each year the CDC estimates that 200,000 people will be hospitalized. Of that population, 20,000 of them will be under the age of five. It is incredibly important that we are making sure that everyone gets their flu vaccine so they can stay healthy and enjoy flu season,” Aigner said.

People who cannot get the flu shot are those who are allergic to the components inside the vaccine or are under six months of age.

Aigner said to check with a clinic or pharmacy to see if it carries a flu vaccine that doesn’t have certain components you may be allergic to.

“Our little ones, love to touch things. So, if I’m sick and I touch a table and then another one touches the table and touches their eyes, nose and mouth, chances are they are going to get sick with the flu. It’s really important for them to get the flu shot, because they are developing their immune systems and theirs might not be as strong as an adult would be,” Aigner said.

Flu symptoms include: sore throat, headaches, fever, body aches, runny nose, and the chills.

Aigner said to call your family doctor, local pharmacy or the Polk County Health Department to make an appointment.

The Polk County Health Department is giving flu shots for $20 if someone does not have health insurance.

The CDC says it takes about two weeks after the vaccination for the antibiotics to develop and protect against the flu.

Iowa Missing Out On Sales Tax Revenues From Online Retail Purchases

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Businesses that have a Nexus, or physical presence in the state, are obligated to collect sales tax, but if a business does not have a physical Nexus in Iowa, under current federal law they are not obligated to collect on behalf of the state.

Amazon has agreed to collect sales tax on some purchases, but not all.

“They made an agreement with the state of Iowa, as they have with all of the states in the country that have sales tax, to collect on their behalf on any purchase that they fulfill," said Amy Rehder Harris, PhD, the Chief Economist and Division Administrator for the Iowa Department of Revenue. "So Amazon does sell a lot of items and they’re a large seller in the country, obviously. But they also sell what's called a market place. They have third party sellers that sell through Amazon, so they're just kind of a platform. They did not agree to collect on those, because they said we will collect sales tax on any item that we physically sell to Iowans."

Which means there are still purchases that people make on Amazon for which sales tax is not collected, and yet the tax is still due.

"Many taxpayers are not aware of their use tax obligation and so those revenue collections are quite small, and we’re trying to increase awareness of that through a communication campaign with taxpayers," said Harris. "So we encourage our citizens when you see, when you're fulfilling an order, was sales tax collected, and if it wasn't, you still owe that six percent to the state of Iowa on that purchase."

The Department of Revenue has several options on its website, where Iowans can go and pay their tax obligation.

Meanwhile, online retailers have a competitive edge against mom and pop brick-and-mortar shops like Fleet Feet Sports.

"Yeah, that's disappointing," said Andy Roat of Fleet Feet Sports in Des Moines. "I think sometimes people don't realize that we make an investment in training our team so they do a great job fitting people here, and that there is a cost involved with that, so it's disappointing when someone does that and then they go decide to make a purchase online."

Not only does gaming the system like that have a negative impact on how well local businesses can do, but it also affects how much good they're able to do for the community.

"We do things for pets, we do things for the homeless, pretty much any organization wants, needs some help, needs some support, and local businesses have a great heart," said Roat. "People in Des Moines have a great heart, but they need to realize in order to keep that good cycle of things going, they need to support local businesses."

The ‘Masked Veteran’ Runs Across Iowa for Veteran Suicide Awareness

OTTUMWA, Iowa  --  The run is grueling. Over 200 miles in the bag with 80 miles still left to go.  It’s day eight of 10 for Joshua Jorgensen, the masked veteran.

On Wednesday, Joshua ran from Albia to Agency. Every step he takes moving forward, he’s wearing a military grade gas mask and what it represents.

"The struggle, you know, to me it’s a challenge. I like to challenge myself to these endurance events, but it’s also become a symbol of what these veterans struggle with when they’re struggling with PTSD," said Joshua.

With restricted breathing, Joshua is running across the state to raise awareness for veteran suicide rates due to PTSD. Every day, 20 veterans take their own lives as a result of PTSD and untreated depression. 

"I’m very proud of him…very proud of him, and it’s amazing that he can keep doing this. I can’t imagine 10 days in the mask, wind, and sun. It’s very impressive," said Joshua's cousin Michael Hoygens, who made Wednesday's run with him.

Along with his cousin, Joshua says he's been joined by other people along the trek.

"When I started out last Wednesday, I was self-supported, and that was the plan. I was going to make my way across the state by myself the best way I could, but I haven’t been by myself at all, and that’s the message that we’re trying to put out there, that there’s people out there that want to help and want to be there for you," said Joshua.

With two days left before he ends his run in Burlington, Joshua hopes his cross-state run will inspire other veterans who may be dealing with the scars of war we can’t see.

"This struggle is voluntary, but it represented the struggle that all veterans go through and are out there thinking, 'maybe I can’t see the finish line.' But it is there if they keep moving forwards and keep taking those steps towards it, they’ll make it," he said.

Joshua is being assisted on his run by Team Fidelis, a veteran mental health non-profit out of Kansas City.