OBAMA-AGRICULTURE Vilsack to stay on as agriculture secretary WASHINGTON (AP) – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will keep his job in President Obama’s second term. USDA communications director Matt Paul said Monday that Obama asked Vilsack to stay in his post and Vilsack accepted. Vilsack is the former Democratic governor of Iowa. The farm economy has thrived under Vilsack’s tenure, but his job hasn’t been as easy in Washington. He is expected to spend the next several months lobbying Congress to pass a farm bill that would extend agriculture subsidies and domestic food aid. Farm-state lawmakers’ efforts to pass that bill failed in the last Congress. Vilsack spent much of his first term working to revitalize rural America. He said in a December speech that rural areas are becoming less relevant as the U.S. population shifts to cities.
BODY FOUND Iowa police discover woman’s body in apartment DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Police in central Iowa are treating the death of a woman as suspicious in nature. The Des Moines Police Department says the woman’s body was discovered Monday morning in an apartment in Des Moines. Crime investigators are working the scene and interviewing friends and neighbors. Police say a cause of death has not been determined, but it is being treated as suspicious in nature at this time. Authorities have not released the victim’s name.
ATTACK-STEAK KNIVES Iowa man accused of attack with steak knives (Information in the following story is from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/) CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) – A man in eastern Iowa has been accused of attempting to attack his roommate with steak knives. Mark Stewart of Coralville was in a physical fight Sunday night with his roommate and allegedly grabbed two steak knives. A criminal complaint says a second roommate intervened and Stewart put the knives down. The 52-year-old Stewart was arrested. He faces one charge of assault with the use or display of a weapon. He remains jailed in Johnson County on $5,000 cash bond. Online records do not list an attorney for Stewart.
JUDICIAL NOMINATING COMMISSION Gov. Branstad names members to judicial commission DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Governor Terry Branstad has named eight Republicans to the nonpartisan Judicial Nominating Commission, a citizen board responsible for interviewing and selecting nominees to the Iowa Supreme Court and Iowa Court of Appeals. Branstad on Monday chose Jerry Welter of Monticello; Kathy Pearson of Cedar Rapids; Scott Bailey of Otley; Helen Sinclair, of Melrose; Liz Doll of Council Bluffs; John Bloom of West Des Moines; Patricia Roberts of Carroll; and Steve Sukup of Clear Lake. The commission is part of Iowa’s merit-based judicial election and retention system in place since 1962. The governor selects two candidates of each gender from Iowa’s four congressional districts. Iowa State Bar Association lawyers name another eight people. All the appointments are subject to state Senate approval. Senior Justice Dave Wiggins will chair the commission.
CEDAR RAPIDS SHOOTING Man agrees to plea deal in Cedar Rapids killing (Information in the following story is from: The Gazette, http://www.gazetteonline.com/) CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – A Fairfax man who successfully appealed a murder conviction has agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges in the case. Jacovan Bush pleaded guilty Monday in Linn County District Court to substituted charges in connection with Thomas Horvath’s death. They include voluntary manslaughter, intimidation with a dangerous weapon and going armed with intent. His sentences will run consecutively for a total of 25 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole after 10 years. Horvath was shot in the abdomen and head in April 2008. The Iowa Court of Appeals overturned Bush’s conviction last year and ordered a new trial. The court ruled prosecutors should not have put witnesses on the stand at Bush’s trial who recanted statements that identified Bush as the shooter.
BRALEY-RADON PROPOSAL Braley wants mandatory radon testing in schools DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Congressman Bruce Braley says his first piece of legislation this year will call for mandatory radon testing and mitigation in school buildings nationwide. The Democratic congressman announced his plans Monday at the state Capitol. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. All of Iowa’s 99 counties lie in the EPA’s highest risk zone for exposure to the colorless, odorless gas that leaks through cracks in building foundations. Iowa law only requires radon mitigation in preschools. The End Radon in Schools Act would provide federal grant funding to high-risk states to test for radon and install mitigation systems. Mitigation systems cost school districts upward of $1,000. Braley hasn’t specified how much his bill would cost.
IOWA ST-PLAYER CHARGED Abuse charge dropped against Iowa State’s Palo AMES, Iowa (AP) – Prosecutors have dismissed a sexual abuse charge against Iowa State basketball player Bubu Palo, paving the way for him to rejoin the Cyclones. Palo was suspended from the team in September after being charged with sexually abusing a woman he was driving home in May. The Story County Attorney’s Office announced Monday that new forensic evidence found on the woman’s blouse clashed with her and her mother’s sworn testimony. Iowa State said later Monday that Palo had been cleared to resume basketball-related activities. Palo says he’s relieved and that he felt he’d never gotten a chance to defend himself. He says he was raised to do the right thing and “would never make a mistake to this level.” Another man who’d been charged, Spencer Cruise, also was cleared.
IOWA ST-NIANG Niang comes into his own for Iowa State AMES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa State freshman forward Georges Niang (George Nee-yang) isn’t very athletic. But teammate Will Clyburn knew from the moment he saw the 6-foot-7 Niang play that he was watching a youngster who would help the Cyclones. All summer, Clyburn watch Niang shoot over smaller players and simply go around the bigger ones, and he has become one of the Big 12′s better freshmen. Niang is third on Iowa State in scoring at 11.5 points per game. He was also named the Big 12′s Rookie of the Week on Monday after averaging 15.5 points per game in a loss to Kansas and a win over Texas last week. Niang and the Cyclones (11-4, 1-1 Big 12) host West Virginia (8-7, 1-2) on Wednesday night.