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Iowa Greyhound Park to close following shortened 2022 season

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — The last remaining dog-racing park in Iowa is closing amid a shortage of available greyhounds and the overall collapse of the racing industry.
The Iowa Greyhound Park in Dubuque is hoping for one last season in 2022, The Telegraph Herald reports. Plans call for it to be shortened, lasting just a month or two, compared to 112 days of racing this year, said Brian Carpenter, the park’s general manager and director of racing.
But he conceded that even that may not be feasible. Dogs that raced in Dubuque frequently split their time between Iowa Greyhound Park and tracks in Florida, allowing the dogs to race year-round. But in 2018, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment to eliminate greyhound racing at the conclusion of the 2020 season.
The end of greyhound racing in Florida, which was long the epicenter of the sport, disrupted the industry and resulted in a dramatic drop-off in greyhound breeding.
“We don’t know if we will get enough dogs,” he said
But the park’s days might have still been numbered even without a greyhound shortage.
For the past seven years, Iowa Greyhound Park has been propped up by subsidies that helped it continue to operate. In 2014, Dubuque’s Mystique Casino & Resort — now Q Casino and Hotel — and the casino in Council Bluffs reached a settlement allowing the casinos to sever ties with the greyhound industry. As part of this deal, Council Bluffs agreed to pay an annual $4.6 million subsidy to Iowa Greyhound Park through 2022, while Q Casino agreed to pay a yearly subsidy of $500,000 through 2021.
Carpenter acknowledged that these subsidies have allowed the park, which opened in 1985, to stay in the black. And without them, it won’t be feasible to turn a profit.
“We never did make it to a point where we could survive on our own,” he said. “We were heading in the right direction — every year we were going up but we were not where we needed to be. We just ran out of time.”
In recent years, Iowa Greyhound Park saw a sizable increase in wagering activity, due in large part to a massive rise in bets made on Dubuque races by those who are not physically in the park.
“We lasted longer than most people expected we would,” Carpenter said, reflecting on the park’s recent growth.

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Plan proposes big changes in Iowa’s congressional districts

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s four congressional districts would include two that lean heavily toward Republicans, one that favors Democrats and one that both parties would have a chance at winning under proposed redistricting maps released Thursday by a nonpartisan agency.
The Legislative Services Agency redrew the state’s political dividing lines to create a southeastern Iowa 1st Congressional District likely to favor Democrats by placing Linn, Johnson and Scott counties in one district. In south-central Iowa, the 3rd District would slightly lean Democratic thanks to the inclusion of Polk County, the state’s large population base.
The new 4th District would grow even larger, increasing from 39 counties to 44 counties, approaching nearly half of Iowa’s 99 counties. It has long been a Republican stronghold and would be even more conservative under the new map.
In northeast Iowa, the proposed 26-county 2nd District would gain Story County, home to Ames, and lean more toward Republicans.
Iowa currently has one Democrat in the U.S. House and three Republicans.
By state law, the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency is responsible for following detailed guidelines to ensure population balance among Iowa’s congressional districts and to prevent political influence in the initial drafting of changes.
The agency’s report said the ideal congressional district population is 797,592 and each of the new districts are close to that, with the 1st District having 63 more people, the 2nd District 36 under, the 3rd eight people under, and the 4th 18 under.
A five-member Iowa Temporary Redistricting Advisory Commission now has 14 days to hold public hearings to gather comment and prepare a report for the Legislature.
The commission has scheduled virtual hearings for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Legislature is scheduled to meet in special session beginning Oct. 5.
Republicans hold a majority in the Legislature, so they will have the power to approve or reject the first set of maps.
“Our nonpartisan redistricting process in Iowa is considered one of the fairest in the nation. After months of delays, we now have a proposed set of maps for redistricting in front of the Iowa Legislature. We will do our due diligence and review it thoroughly to ensure it is a fair set of maps for the people of Iowa,” Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley said in a statement.
Senate Democratic Leader Zach Wahls said his caucus is reviewing the plan to ensure it meets all legal and constitutional requirements for redistricting.
“We believe Iowans deserve a fair redistricting process, without interference from politicians, and without partisan amendments. We encourage Iowans to examine Plan 1 and to make their voices heard at three public hearings next week,” he said.
House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst and Iowa Democratic Party Chair Ross Wilburn said they plans to vote yes on the first set of maps.
The maps could have a significant impact on state legislators because the new legislative boundaries place many incumbents in the same district.
It appears 24 Senators and 38 House members would be in a district with another incumbent, for a total of 62 lawmakers who would have to run against each other, move or drop out. In the House, it’s eight Democrats and 30 Republicans, including Grassley, who was placed in the same district as Shannon Latham. In the Senate, seven Democrats and 17 Republicans are paired in districts.
Wahls pointed out that it’s close to the 54 paired incumbents after the 2000 census, when lawmakers declined to pass the first map but accepted the second one submitted by the LSA. In 2011, 41 incumbents were paired together in the same district. Lawmakers that year approved the first map submitted.
Konfrst said she is reminding incumbents to not make any decisions until a map is signed into law.
“No for sale signs in the yard, no declarative statements about what they’re going to do,” she said.
If the first maps are rejected, the LSA has 35 days to draw up a second set. Lawmakers again must vote them up or down. If a second plan is rejected, the agency has 35 days to draw a third set. Only then could lawmakers amend the maps like any other legislation before approving them.
Redistricting is required every 10 years and new lines are to be redrawn based on population changes reflected in the U.S. census.
Redrawing the political lines was complicated this year by a delay in releasing U.S. Census Bureau data blamed on the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Iowa will miss deadlines mandated by the state constitution. However, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen has signed an order giving the Legislature extra time.

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Iowa man charged with attempted murder in suffocation death

BETTENDORF, Iowa (AP) — A man accused of suffocating his brother to death was charged Tuesday with attempted murder.
An arrest affidavit alleges Todd Alan Laing Sr. of Bettendorf, Iowa, put his hands over his brother’s mouth on Nov. 11, expecting and intending to cause his death, the Quad-City Times reported.
The attack was witnessed by a family member, and Laing admitted to others that he had put his hands over his brother’s mouth, according to the affidavit.
Scott County First Assistant Attorney Amy DeVine said Laing wasn’t charged with murder because those charges require the perpetrator to have had “malice aforethought” and state prosecutors didn’t feel they could prove such malice. A charge of attempted murder doesn’t have the same requirement.
Prosecutors also couldn’t charge Laing with voluntary manslaughter because that requires some sort of instigator that would cause a reasonable person to react violently, and that didn’t occur in Laing’s case, DeVine said. Prosecutors didn’t want to charge him with anything less because the killing was done on purpose, she said.
Attempted murder is a felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

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Second inmate gets life term for killing Iowa prison workers

ANAMOSA, Iowa (AP) — A second inmate received a life sentence Wednesday for the beating deaths of two Iowa prison workers during a failed escape attempt in March.
Michael Dutcher, 28, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Anamosa State Penitentiary correctional officer Robert McFarland and nurse Lorena Schulte. He also pleaded guilty to kidnapping another prison worker during the failed escape and to attempted murder for the beating of an inmate who tried to stop the attack.
Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde sentenced Dutcher to serve back-to-back life sentences plus another 50 years behind bars, in what she called an attempt to provide solace to the victims’ families. She told Dutcher, whose trial had been scheduled to start next week, that she couldn’t imagine a worse crime.
Hoover-Grinde last month sentenced inmate Thomas Woodard to life in prison for his role in the attacks. Both inmates had been serving time at the Anamosa prison for armed robbery convictions.
Investigators say the inmates got into the prison infirmary by claiming they were performing maintenance work, then accessed a break room where they used a handheld power saw to try to cut through the bars on a window. They used hammers to beat 50-year-old Schulte and 46-year-old McFarland to death and to seriously injure inmate McKinley Roby.
The pair, who also held prison dental assistant Lorie Matthes as a hostage, had accessed the tools from a prison work program. Matthes was able to be freed, and the pair was arrested soon afterward.
Matthes, a 29-year employee of the Iowa Department of Corrections, recalled in a victim impact statement how Dutcher grabbed her out of a hallway and forced her into the break room. She said the attack altered her life “physically, emotionally and mentally,” explaining that she suffered broken ribs and other injuries and she still struggles with the mental harm.
“The evilness that took place that day will never be forgotten,” she said.
Schulte’s sisters and parents described her as a doting aunt and loyal daughter who had looked forward to spending time with family and traveling during retirement.
“My sister was a good person,” Isabel Schulte told Dutcher. “I hate you and I hate your friend.”
Roby told Dutcher that he will suffer “lifelong scars and trauma” from the attack.
“May you rot in hell and your soul go to hell for the lives you took and the pain and suffering you caused,” he said.

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Iowa State University gets $42M gift for new facility

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Two Iowa State University alumni have provided a $42 million gift commitment to build a new facility for industrial engineering students.
C.G. “Turk” and Joyce A. McEwen Therkildsen’s gift to the university’s Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering is part of their long-standing relationship with Iowa State, the university said in a news release.
“Iowa State alumni know that our educational excellence creates a solid foundation for future achievements,” Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen said. “This transformational investment by two extraordinary alums, Turk and Joyce Therkildsen, helps to solidify Iowa State University’s prominence in engineering and to prepare our students for success in an increasingly complex, technology-driven world. We are grateful for their generosity.”
The Iowa Board of Regents Property and Facilities Committee recommended on Wednesday the approval for the building to be named “Therkildsen Industrial Engineering” in honor of the Therkildsens. The full board will consider the proposed naming on Thursday.
The couple are members of the class of 1959, he is an industrial engineering alumnus, and she graduated with majors in zoology and physical education.

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Iowa posts 64 more COVID-19 deaths as cases continue to rise

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The number of new coronavirus cases in Iowa in the past seven days surged 51% compared to the previous week, and new COVID-19 hospital admissions also increased along with the number of patients requiring intensive care, the state Department of Public Health reported Wednesday.
The health department reported 11,588 new positive cases in the past seven days. There were another 64 deaths, more than double the 30 reported in the previous week. The total number of COVID-19 deaths in Iowa increased to 6,401.
Iowa’s seven-day moving average of cases is at 1,487 new cases per day, a level not seen since the middle of last January, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Patients newly admitted with the virus in the past 24 hours jumped to 95, a 23% increase over the 77 newly admitted in the previous week report.
The 14-day rolling total of people in intensive care reached 2,107, the most since last Christmas. About 87% of ICU patients were not fully vaccinated.
Long term care center outbreaks increased to 23 from 20 reported a week ago.
The state reported that children age 17 or younger made up 29% of positive cases in the last seven days with some counties exceeding 40% of new cases among children.
Vaccination continues to be slow with 52.8% of the state’s population fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, ranking the state’s vaccination rate 23rd in the nation.
The CDC said all 99 counties have a high rate of spread.

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Iowa may receive 695 Afghan evacuees for resettlement

WASHINGTON (AP) — Iowa is expected to receive 695 Afghan evacuees from the first group of arrivals to be resettled in the United States.
The Biden administration on Wednesday began notifying governors and state refugee coordinators across the country about how many of the nearly 37,000 arrivals from that first wave are slated to be resettled in their states.
“They will be going to the major populated areas of the state where there are resources and jobs and support systems for them,” said Alex Carfrae, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services.
Those would include places such as the Des Moines and Cedar Rapids metro areas, he said.
The Iowa Department of Human Services said in a statement that it is working closely with several agencies to coordinate the resettlement of Afghan refugees in Iowa.
“Our state has a long history of welcoming refugees from all over the world, and the Department’s Bureau of Refugee Services is eager to help coordinate the arrival of the newest Iowans. Our resettlement partners have the capacity to settle approximately 350 people in the short term,” according to the statement.
The agency said it is working to prepare for the new arrivals, including coordinating with the business community and employers as well as with faith-based and community service organizations.

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Patrol: Iowa couple killed in chain-reaction crash on I-35

HUXLEY, Iowa (AP) — A Van Meter couple died in a chain-reaction crash on Interstate 35 near Huxley in central Iowa, the Iowa State Patrol reported.
The patrol said the crash happened Tuesday afternoon when a semitrailer crashed into the back of another semi that had slowed for traffic congestion, causing the chain-reaction crash. Four semitrailers, a van and pickup truck were all caught up in the crash.
The patrol says Gordon Martens, 81, and Nora Martens, 79, both of Van Meter, were in the pickup and died in the crash, investigators said. The patrol said another person sustained serious injuries and was taken to a hospital.

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Man sentenced in Iowa for flying plane without a license

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A New Mexico man has been sentenced in Iowa to two years’ probation and fined $5,000 for flying a single-engine plane in 2018 without a license, which was discovered only when he was forced to make an emergency landing.
Federal prosecutors for Iowa said Keith Alexander Thomas, 44 of Portales, New Mexico, was sentenced in Cedar Rapid’s federal court on Wednesday after he pleased guilty in April to a single count of operating as an airman without a airman certificate.
The incident began when Thomas and another man flew from New Mexico to Wisconsin in June 2018 with plans for the other man to buy a Cessna plane and have Thomas fly it back to New Mexico — even though Thomas didn’t have a pilot’s license.
In the midst of the flight back, the plane went into engine failure over Iowa, and Thomas made an emergency landing in Waterloo, but failed to establish radio contact with the company that owned the airstrip where he landed, authorities said.
The Cessna, it turned out, was not airworthy, was out of inspection compliance and did not have functioning landing gear, prosecutors said. Still, Thomas managed to land the plane, and no one was hurt.

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Iowa judge considers whether to halt state mask ban law

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Republican legislators and the governor prohibited mask mandates in schools for purely political reasons to appease complaining constituents, a lawyer representing a mother and her sons argued Thursday.
“The popularity of the governor and the legislature is the reason for it,” said Dan McGinn, a Council Bluffs lawyer who is representing Frances Parr.
Parr, the mother of twin boys, sued the state, Gov. Kim Reynolds and several state officials last month in Polk County District Court. She wants a court to order the state to issue a universal mask mandate for all students and school personnel until a voluntary plan can be implemented that separates mask-wearing students and staff from those who refuse.
The hearing focused on whether Judge Celene Gogerty should issue a temporary injunction to prevent the state from enforcing the law while the case proceeds. Gogerty said she would consider arguments and issue a ruling soon.
Assistant Attorney General Sam Langholz argued that lawmakers have many reasons to keep school boards from enacting mask requirements, including concerns about the effects masks have on a child’s communication, development and relationships. He said lawmakers might have wanted to alleviate the burden of school boards handing the politically hot issue of masks.
However, none of those issues came up as lawmakers quickly pushed through the bill on the last evening of the legislative session in May with no committee meetings or opportunity for public input.
McGinn argued there are no medical, educational or scientific justifications for the law.
He said during debate that lawmakers only complained about mask mandates and “they just wanted to get it off the books and forbid communities from having mask mandates to appease people.”
Parr asserts that the law Reynolds signed violates her constitutional rights. She claims education is a fundamental right and therefore courts must find the Legislature had compelling interests in passing the law and narrowly tailoring it to meet those interests.
Langholz said there is no fundamental right to education in Iowa and he asserted it’s unlikely the Iowa Supreme Court would conclude that if asked.
The state has filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing Parr has no standing to challenge the law. A separate hearing will be set to argue that motion.
Parr’s sons were set to start first grade in the Council Bluffs Community School District this fall, but she is teaching them at home over fears for their safety.
Iowa is among nine states that have banned schools from implementing universal mask mandates either by passing a law or by a governor’s executive order.
A group of parents of disabled students filed a separate lawsuit last week seeking to strike down Iowa’s law, arguing it endangers their health and denies equal access to education. The lawsuit is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and disability rights organizations.
The U.S. Department of Education also has launched investigations into whether the Iowa law and similar measures in four other Republican-led states illegally discriminate against students with disabilities or health conditions.
A Florida judge ruled Wednesday that the state cannot enforce a ban on public schools mandating the use of masks to guard against the coronavirus, while an appeals court sorts out whether the ban is ultimately legal.