Monday, December 10, 2012

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News,Science and Technology

EVANSDALE, Iowa (AP) — Evansdale police say an autopsy has confirmed that two bodies found last week in a wildlife area are those of Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook.

Police Chief Kent Smock says he received confirmation Monday from the Iowa State Medical Examiner's Office that the bodies were the two cousins, who had been missing since July 13. The full autopsy hasn't been released to police.

Elizabeth was 8 and Lyric was 10 when they went for a bike ride in the northeastern Iowa community and didn't return.

Hunters found their bodies last week in the Seven Bridges Wildlife Area in Bremer County, about 25 miles from where they were last seen.

Authorities closed the park while they searched for evidence connected to the case but now have reopened the area.

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa officials are asking the Obama administration for flexibility in complying with the federal health care act because of Medicaid cost increases expected even before the new law takes effect next year.

Gov. Terry Branstad told reporters Monday that Iowa's relatively low unemployment and expected increases state revenue have prompted federal officials to increase the share Iowa must pay for Medicaid, a state and federal health insurance program for the poor.

Iowa officials say insuring existing Medicaid recipients is expected to go up $35 million in the current budget year, $57 million in the year that starts in July and another $31 million in another year.

Branstad says those extra costs complicate Iowa's ability to finance the new federal law, which requires states to cover additional low- and middle-income people.

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The University of Iowa College of Education dean is stepping down amid a dispute between faculty members upset with her performance and administrators who backed her, school officials said Monday.

Margaret Crocco will leave her post Friday after 18 months leading the college, the university announced in a statement. The announcement comes days after the news media reported that faculty members had issued a vote of no-confidence in her leadership, citing concerns such as a lack of consultation and communication about decisions.

The resignation comes after a dispute between college faculty and staff leaders and high-ranking administrators over access to employee surveys done last month, some of which had critical comments about Crocco's leadership. Provost P. Barry Butler ordered faculty and staff leaders to give him all copies of the records and to delete electronic copies, saying they were part of Crocco's personnel file and would be discussed at an upcoming job evaluation. Faculty and staff leaders were upset with what they called a heavy-handed approach.

In response, all seven members of the college's Faculty Advisory Committee resigned in protest, saying they could no longer serve as a liaison between the faculty and the administration because of what they called a lack of communication and transparency.

Crocco said in a statement that she chose to resign "in an effort to end the discord within the College of Education." She criticized the process leading to the no-confidence vote, in which ballots were anonymously put in professors' mailboxes. Of 91 faculty in the college, 65 ballots were returned, with 44 of them voting no-confidence in Crocco.

"Even at this late date, I remain perplexed about the reasons behind faculty resistance since the senior faculty leading the opposition have been unwilling to step forward, identify themselves, and share openly the specific issues behind the conflict," she said.

Crocco, an expert in social studies education, came to Iowa City from New York, where she chaired the Department of Arts and Humanities at Columbia University's Teachers College. She replaced Sandra Bowman Damico, who was dean for 12 years.

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Regent Ruth Harkin has fought for months against Iowa State University's plans to limit farming research at the institute that honors her husband, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, arguing the issue has been central to his career, according to emails released Monday.

The Harkin Institute of Public Policy was created last year to house the Democrat's papers from his four decades in Congress and study a range of subjects, but it has been embroiled in controversy. The emails add detail to a dispute over its research mission in which Ruth Harkin has played a key role — both as a wife trying to burnish her husband's legacy and a member of the university's governing board.

"The very nature of the Institute is to capitalize on Tom's papers, his work in the House and the Senate and the strengths at ISU. Why would a Senator, who has been Chairman of the Senate Agriculture (Committee) give his agriculture papers to an Institute that wasn't going to use them? Surely we can do better than this," she wrote July 19 to ISU President Steven Leath. She warned that her husband wouldn't donate his papers if the institute doesn't study agriculture — a threat Tom Harkin, an ISU alum, made publicly last week.

In another email to Leath, Ruth Harkin said "agriculture has been the centerpiece of Tom's legislative agenda" dating to 1975, noting he played a role in two major farm bills.

The e-mails were released in response to an open records request from The Associated Press.

At the center of the controversy is a memorandum of understanding signed by ISU officials last year, before Leath became president, which banned the Harkin Institute from studying agriculture. The memo was signed months after the regents created the institute and specified that agriculture and three other areas would be its main focus.

Leath withdrew that memo but substituted his own restrictions Nov. 8. The dispute became public last week when the institute's advisory board called on Leath to rescind his policy and honor the regents' original plan to allow unrestricted agriculture research.

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A fund set up by the Iowa Legislature a decade ago to attract investors' help for startup companies will cost taxpayers at least $26 million.

The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/TMen5Q) reported Sunday that lawmakers created the Iowa Fund of Funds because the state historically ranks low for attracting capital investments needed to fuel the growth of new Iowa companies. The state has struggled to find and launch a successful model to attract private money.

When the program started in 2002, the idea was to establish the fund to invest in out-of-state venture capital funds. In return for the investment, the funds were required to at least consider investing in Iowa companies.

Initially, up to $100 million in tax credits was available, but that was cut back to $60 million in 2010 after fraudulent use of tax credits in a program the state set up to encourage film production. The Fund of Funds tax credits were designed to be used by the investors who backed the Iowa startups only if investment returns fell short of expectations or there was a loss.

A hearing on state tax credit programs, including the Iowa Fund of Funds, is scheduled at the Capitol on Wednesday.

Steve Ringlee, a retired venture capitalist and an architect of the fund, said the state's fiscal exposure was supposed to be limited.

"The intent was never to touch the tax credits. The intent was always to use them as collateral. . But at the end of the day, they're pretty lousy collateral," said Ringlee, who now agrees the program was flawed.

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