Nearly two years after ICE came to town, trauma still haunts these Iowa families

Editor’s note: This story was produced with support from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s National Fellowship and by the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism. Luis bent over his front porch, one knee on a piece of plywood as he muscled an old hand saw through a cut in the wood on a warm day in early February. He was repairing a section of flooring in the small white house he shares with three other men on a quiet street in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.The cuts became more challenging as the saw caught in the wood. Luis, whose name has been changed for anonymity,  shook his head and said he once owned newer power tools that would make the job much easier.

Smooth sailing so far for planned Iowa-Illinois underground power line

A high-voltage underground transmission line proposed to cross Iowa and Illinois is moving ahead without the landowner opposition that has dogged overhead transmission lines in the region. The SOO Green HVDC Link, which would span 349 miles from Mason City, Iowa, to a connection with the PJM grid at Yorkville, Illinois, has encountered no major objections at the four public meetings that have been held in Iowa and Illinois, according to project spokeswoman Sarah Lukan. She said the developer knows of no organized opposition to the project. The project is a fundamentally different approach to moving electricity over long distances, never before tried in this country. The German manufacturing conglomerate Siemens developed the technology and is using it to move wind power from the North Sea to southern Germany.

Pesticides and produce: Environmental group lists the cleanest and dirtiest fruits and vegetables

An environmental advocacy group is out today with its annual report on pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Raisin lovers, take note. Nearly all conventionally-grown raisins are contaminated by traces of two or more pesticides, according to test data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited in Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, the report by the Environmental Working Group, based in Washington, D.C. The average sample contained more than 13 pesticides, and one sample tested positive for 26. Even most organic raisins sampled by the USDA tested positive for at least one pesticide. The environmental group recommends that consumers buy organic raisins when possible, or avoid raisins in favor of fresh fruits and vegetables with lower levels of pesticide contamination. According to the analysis, the 12 items with the most pesticide contamination were, from worst to best: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes.

Evans: Sick leave for all workers just makes good sense

There won’t be any shortage of lessons to take away from the coronavirus crisis that has sent Iowa and the rest of the United States reeling. One lesson that deserves plenty of discussion now, rather than months from now, involves sick leave for American workers. Paying employees to stay home when they are ill is not just an economic issue for employers and employees alike – although it certainly does involve dollars and cents. It’s just good sense. Paid sick leave – or, more accurately, the absence of paid sick leave – can be a full-fledged public health problem.

Coronavirus is poised to inflame inequality in schools

The threat of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, is forcing educators across the country to think about what they’ll do if they have to close their schools for weeks or even months at a time. State and federal agencies have advised schools to create online learning plans to minimize the disruption to student learning. For some schools, that’s a small leap. Their students have internet connections at home, laptops they can work from, teachers who know how to design online lessons and a strong foundation of in-school blended learning experience. But the fact is, these schools are rare.