Archive for  January 2018

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowans might call Hawaii the perfect get away.  “One, it was to get away from cold weather, and the best part was it was our 35th wedding anniversary,” said Tom Lloyd.

Tom and Janet Lloyd spent twelve days in paradise.  “We did whale watching and snorkeling.  The whales were so active it was like spring break in Maui for them.”

Time began to fly by until Saturday when the two were traveling on an island tour of the Kona Coffee District of Hawaii.  Tom said, “Everybody’s phone started going off and somebody asked what is that?”  That was a ballistic missile threat alert just after noon Hawaii time.  “Missile threat, this is not a drill, I was like oh my goodness,” said Tom.

Tourists weren’t the only ones confused about what to do next.  “Well where do we go, what should we do? They had no clue what to do.  Now, a tsunami they were prepared for, but something like this they had no idea what to do.”

The couple along with the tour group found shelter in the lower level of a nearby coffee shop and tried to stay calm.  Tom said, “It’s kind of like the ducks going crazy, under the water.  I think everybody, their hearts were beating a million miles a minute.”

Quickly, they informed family members.  “We were getting texts out as best we could because the phone lines were jammed.  There was no calling off the island,” said Tom.  Relief set in when another alert came down thirty-eight minutes later.  The original notification was a false alarm.  “It seemed like a day, it was the longest thirty-eight minutes,” said Tom.

Safe and sound, they resumed the tour and  Janet said, next day they had a few laughs.  “The newspaper the next day said OOPS and it was in big letters, like six inches tall.”

For some it may have put a damper on a special trip but not these two.  Tom said, “If it is your time to go, there are a lot worse places.”

They credit their positive attitude to a longtime membership within local Optimist International groups in the metro.  “Having a positive attitude looking at the bright side and how they could come out vs the opposite.  We are looking at the best ways to make things happen,” said Tom.

The Lloyds received a letter from the Governor of Hawaii, apologizing for the false alarm and for the fear it may have caused.

PENSACOLA, Fla. – A young girl, whose battle with cancer was shared widely after a photo with her weeping grandfather was posted on Facebook, has died, according to a statement on the family’s tribute page.

“Our sweet Braylynn, our warrior princess, earned her sparkly pink angel wings this evening,” the statement read. “Her nickname was Princess Bel and she could light up any room. She loved Hello Kitty and her birthday was December 10. She was a princess with the strength of a warrior and she will NEVER be forgotten.”

In December, 5-year-old Braylynn was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer. The child’s family was told she may live for a year, but in early January she entered hospice after experiencing complications.

Braylynn’s family posted updates about her fight against cancer on Facebook. But a gut-wrenching photo of Braylynn with her grandfather earlier this month was shared around the world. Braylynn’s maternal grandfather suffers from ALS. When he saw Braylynn in the hospital, he broke down.

Parker wrote on Facebook, “In a few days I will have to bury this beautiful little girl. Months, maybe even weeks, later, I will have to bury my father. Both of my heroes, gone, within the same year…”

Braylynn’s family has set up a GoFundMe page for medical and funeral expenses that has raised over $75,000. The family will post funeral arrangements once they have been made.

IOWA CITY, Iowa  —  The University of Iowa is in a legal battle with a Christian student group that denied a leadership position to a gay student.

The Business Leaders in Christ group says the university is infringing on its right to elect who they want. They denied a man’s bid to be vice president after he disclosed he’s gay. The group argues it won’t elect leaders who don’t share its values.

The university revoked the group’s campus registration, saying it won’t tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The religious group has now filed a federal lawsuit.

NEWTON, Iowa  —  A young wife and mother has died due to compilations of the flu.

Family members say 34-year-old Nikki Burtlow passed away on Friday at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. Burtlow’s oldest sister, Amanda Reavis, says Nikki put off going to the doctor for several days despite feeling ill. She eventually went, but it was already to late.

“They ended up treating her for a chest cold and it turned out to be much worse than what that was,” Reavis says.

Family members says shortly thereafter, Burtlow experienced difficulties breathing and walking, and began to look jaundiced.  On Thursday, Burtlow visited the emergency room at the Skiff Medical Center in Newton, but was rushed to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. Her family says doctors told them the woman was also battling pneumonia and had gone into organ failure. Burtlow died less than 24 hours later.

“We didn’t say goodbye, we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, we were just talking to her the night before,” Reavis says.

Reavis is now urging everyone who feels sick to put their heath first and visit the doctor right away.

Burtlow had not gotten a flu shot this year and did not have health or life insurance. A visitation is scheduled for Thursday at the Wallace Family Funeral Home in Newton from 10 a.m until noon. To help the family with funeral and medical expenses, click here.

In this week’s What’s Bugging Andy, Andy Fales thinks he has a good idea why NFL television ratings are down.

If only Andy can remember what it was …

IOWA  —  A former investigator for the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation who has been active in the fight against human trafficking hopes other Iowans will get involved.

Human trafficking is the method of kidnapping or entrapping people to sell them for sex. Studies show victims in Iowa are typically young girls between 16 and 19 years old. Mike Ferjak says while Interstates 80 and 35 alone make Iowa a hot spot for human trafficking operations, there are other factors that play major roles.

“It’s an issue because we have events that happen in the state of Iowa that draw trafficking. And they’re all wholesome, wonderful events, but wherever there’s a crowd, trafficking will follow because that’s their market,” said Ferjak. “The need to be aware is chief among this. You hear trafficking referred to incorrectly as prostitution, you hear it talked about in ways that puts the blame on the victim and not the offender. And we really need to change the public dialogue about that.”

Ferjak will be speaking on Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. at the Saints John and Paul Parish Hall in Altoona. The event is free and open to the public, and it will include a panel for questions at the end.

DES MOINES, Iowa  —   Starting next week, parking meters in downtown’s Court Avenue District will begin charging on weeknights and Saturdays.

Starting on Wednesday, meters will charge for parking from 9 a.m. through 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday instead of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. as part of the Park Downtown Des Moines Program.

The change is a welcomed relief for businesses like Vivian’s Diner and Drinks, whose owner, Jeff Duncan, says a lack of parking has impacted foot traffic. Duncan hopes more parking will generate more profits.

“The idea is that you should be able to drive down here around the block and at least see one to two spaces open or being open.”

Aside from street parking also comes changes to city-owned parking garages–the city will lower the hourly rate by a dollar. The changes aren’t sitting well with many downtown-goers even though they know parking is an issue.

“I’d rather not have to pay at all to have to park. I don’t want to come out every two hours to put money in the meter, especially on cold days like this.”

However, businesses say the changes are necessary.

“A lot of people say, come on, Des Moines. If you want to be a big city, you gotta walk a few blocks, this and that. Well Des Moines is not ready for that, they want convenience and consistency,” says Duncan.

Plans for the program include implementing the same changes in the East Village in spring and in Western Gateway Park over the summer. All phases of the transition will be complete by the end of the year.

URBANDALE, Iowa  —  A team of 10 people is leaving on Sunday for a mission trip to Houston to help rebuild homes damaged in flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Members of Timberline Church in Urbandale gathered on Saturday morning to load tools into totes before flying to Houston.

“God’s moving in churches all over the nation to come down and focus on Houston again,” said team leader Maxx Godsey. “It’s not in the news anymore, there’s always another disaster it seems somewhere around this country.”

Church members began considering this project back in October, and made an envisioning trip to Houston. The crew will work seven days there with two different churches.

“We knew from experience in the past there’s a time after a disaster there’s a lot of relief effort, food, water, clothing, and shelter,” said Godsey.  “Anywhere from a year or two years after that is where the real recovery and restoration occurs.”

Since the team is flying, it involves careful packing and carry-on items to get some power tools, batteries, and other items they will need.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of homes still that are unlivable and in desperate need of help,” said Godsey. “This is the time when the church can step in and start really helping these communities get back on their feet in a real concrete way.”


AMES, Iowa  —  An Iowa State University basketball coach has resigned after sending bullying messages to a high school student online.

Adam Urness was the ISU women’s player development coordinator. He sent a private Twitter message to Clarion-Goldfield-Dows basketball player Rhett Darland, criticizing Darland’s new single game scoring record, using an expletive and making accusations about Darland using drugs, among other actions.

On Thursday, Urness said he had apologized to Darland and the student’s family. However, on Friday evening his resignation was announced.

“Iowa State Coordinator of Player Development Adam Urness tendered his resignation this afternoon after practice and I have accepted his resignation,” confirmed ISU head women’s basketball coach Bill Fennelly.


DES MOINES, Iowa — Born to Burundi parents in a Tanzanian refugee camp, Des Moines North High School senior Robert Nishimwe is thankful for the better life they chose by coming to America when he seven years old.  “In the U.S. there will be educational opportunities and different opportunities you get that you cannot in this refugee camp in Tanzania,” said Robert.

Now a leader among his peers, in an American classroom, Robert still has strong pride in his African roots.  He said, “This is where I know home is and I love the music and I love the language of Swahili.”  On Thursday when news broke that president Donald Trump allegedly put down African nations, Haitians and Salvadorans with vulgar language, Robert took it as a personal attack on his heritage but he was not surprised.  “To me it just confirmed what I always had in my heart, that this country somehow managed to elect a racist into the office of the Presidency.”

In December, Robert, who is President of North’s National Honor Society and a student member on the State Board of Education, was one of two Iowa students awarded to participate in the 56th annual United States Senate Youth Program which will travel to the nation’s capital and spend nearly an hour with President Trump this March.  “However I feel about the President, it is still an honor to be in the presence of the Presidency, the office.  So it is an honor and shows the hard work I have put into achieving my dreams,” Robert said.  The comments, which Trump has since denied, have shown a contrast from the America that welcomed him as a seven year old.  He said, “When you see a country that took in your family, gave a refuge and opportunities to your family, elect an individual who somehow views a place you came from as a s*** hole, excuse my language but it is sad.”  Feelings that have now fostered a question Robert just might ask when he comes face to face with the President of the United States.  “What did people that don’t look like you ever do to this country, do to you, for you to describe them in this fashion, for you to see them in this lens?

The United States Senate Youth Program takes place in Washington D.C. from March 3-10. Each honoree receives a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship.  In college, Robert hopes to study public policy and foreign relations.