The latest local news

Former Geneseo teacher accused of sexual misconduct with a student pleads not guilty

WQAD News -

HENRY COUNTY -- A former Geneseo teacher accused of sexual misconduct with a student plead not guilty in court Tuesday, January 2nd.

Jayme Farrell faces eight counts of  aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Police say Farrell's misconduct with an underaged student happened between May and July 2015.

His next court date is set for January 17 at 1 p.m.

Plumbing companies swamped with busted pipe calls

WQAD News -

ROCK ISLAND - The relentless rounds of frigid temps have swamped local plumbers with calls of pipes that have burst.

Deanna Hall called Crawford Company as soon as the business opened this morning over a busted pipe in the wall of her bathroom.

"Last night, all of a sudden we saw gushing water by the spigot, and I yelled at my husband and he went and shut down the water," said Hall.

"Luckily, we were home. Our insurance company told me about a family that just returned from vacation, and their upstairs bathroom was literally now in their dining room," she said.

Repairs can cost between $500 to $1,000.

Experts say you can usually prevent pipes from freezing if you keep a faucet running very slowly.

"As long as there's a flow of water, it should not freeze," said plumber Joe Reese.

If a pipe does freeze, use a hair dryer, heat gun, heating pad, or hot towels to thaw it.

Never use a device with an open flame.

Trump throws full US support behind protesters in Iran

WQAD News -

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Tuesday threw the weight of the U.S. government behind the protesters taking to the streets of Iran, rooting them on despite the risk of helping Iranian authorities dismiss a week of major demonstrations as the product of American instigation.

As Iran’s supreme leader accused “enemies of Iran” of trying to destabilize his country, the State Department pressed Tehran to unblock social media sites used by the protesters. It even offered advice to tech-savvy Iranians on circumventing state internet controls.

President Donald Trump declared it was “time for change” in Iran, and other officials floated the possibility of additional sanctions. At the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley sought a Security Council meeting to show support for those protesting in the Islamic Republic.

“We want to help amplify the voices of the Iranian people,” said Haley, who appeared before cameras to recite the chants of protesters across Iran. She said Iran’s claim that other countries were fomenting the unrest was “complete nonsense,” describing the dissent as homegrown.

Borrowing from a response playbook it has used before, Iran’s government blamed the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Britain for the protests. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the 78-year-old supreme leader, said Iran’s enemies were using money, weapons, politics and spies “to create problems for the Islamic system, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution.”

Trump was undeterred, praising Iranians for “finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.” In an allusion to possible sanctions in response to human rights violations, Trump said the United States would closely monitor the situation.

“The U.S. is watching!” the president tweeted.

Beyond rhetoric, though, it wasn’t clear what the Trump administration could do substantively to empower the protesters, who are railing against corruption, mismanagement and economic woes including higher food prices. His support also sets up a potential test of his presidential leadership if the protests — already deadly — grow more violent.

At least 21 people have died and hundreds have been arrested over six days of demonstrations, the largest in Iran since the “Green Movement” that erupted in 2009 following a disputed presidential election. The new outbreak started in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city, and has expanded to many others.

Iranian authorities have sought to suppress the protests in part by shutting down key social media sites protesters use to communicate, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the messaging app Telegram. On Tuesday, Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein urged Iran’s government to unblock the sites.

“They are legitimate avenues for communication,” Goldstein said. He said the U.S. has an “obligation not to stand by.”

Iranians seeking to evade the blocks can use virtual private networks, Goldstein said. Known as VPNs, the services create encrypted data “tunnels” between computers and can be used to access overseas websites blocked by the local government.

The primary U.S. goal is to ensure enough global attention to deter Iranian authorities from violently cracking down on protesters with impunity, said a senior State Department official involved in Iran policy. The official wasn’t authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

For Trump, the protests have served as an unexpected but welcome opportunity to rally the world against Iran, and U.S. officials said the administration was actively encouraging other countries to back the protests. Early U.S. attempts to get European allies to coordinate their messaging with the U.S. ran into obstacles, but several countries including France and Italy have joined in expressing concerns.

In the U.S., Trump’s full-throated support for the protesters has renewed the debate about how best to encourage change in Iran, whose government Trump deems a top national security threat.

Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. took a more cautious approach during the last major wave of anti-government protests. It was concerned about enabling Iranian authorities to exploit longstanding suspicions of the U.S., dating back to American and British support for a 1953 coup toppling Iran’s elected prime minister.

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s former deputy national security adviser, said “too much ownership” of the protests by Trump would likely be counterproductive.

“I can’t imagine that the people marching in the streets of Iran are looking to Donald Trump for inspiration or support,” Rhodes said. “I just don’t think it helps things for the White House to make this into a U.S.-versus-the-Iranian-government circumstance.”

But former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a staunch Iran critic, said it’s a given Tehran will portray dissent as externally provoked.

“That’s a very weak excuse for American inaction and inconsistency with our own interests and values. I’m glad President Trump is not following that advice,” Lieberman said in an interview.

It wasn’t immediately clear what effect Trump’s support was having on the protests, although Iran’s state TV reported his tweets and some Iranians shared them online.

When it comes to supporting the Iranian aspirations, Trump’s credibility may be dented by his hostility to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and his inclusion of Iranians in his travel bans.

Trump’s insistence in an October speech on using the term “Arabian Gulf” in place of the Persian Gulf also riled the Iranian public. There also was criticism of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for saying America was working with people in Iran for a “peaceful transition of that government.”

The Rock Island Music Association (RIMA) announced as Three Degree recipient for January

WQAD News -

The Rock Island Music Association (RIMA) has been selected as the January recipient of the Three Degree Guarantee sponsored by Eriksen Chevrolet in Milan, IL.

For each day of the month that the actual temperature is within three degrees of the forecasted high temperature, the Rock Island Music Association (RIMA) will receive $20 from Eriksen Chevrolet. Each night, Storm Team 8 will predict the next day’s high temperature. The forecasted temperatures are compared to the actual temperatures recorded by the National Weather Service.

The Rock Island Music Association’s mission is to facilitate communication between the music faculty, parents and the community; provide financial support for special projects; and build great spirit throughout the Rock Island/Milan School District’s music departments and our organization.

If you would like to learn more about the Rock Island Music Association, please click here.

If your charity or organization would like to be considered for the Three Degree Guarantee, please click here.

Cable and internet outages exacerbated by arctic chill

WQAD News -

DAVENPORT, Iowa — In addition to water pipes, fire hydrants and slick roads, the current cold snap is also playing some havoc with many cable subscriber’s data, voice and video internet connections.

“What some customers are experiencing is signal loss or signal degrading – intermittently or during a brief time,” said Phyllis Peters, communications director for Mediacom’s Field Operations Group. “These are very localized situations.  In many cases the signal levels change back to the positive, normal levels.  It is definitely a combination of things – and we do have technicians working to diagnose and resolve issues.”

Over the past week or so, Mediacom has noted pockets of outages in the Quad Cities, Preston, Maquoketa and Comanche areas, Peters added.

Similar to the way bridges, roads and other objects contract in frigid temperatures, so do underground fiber optic and coaxial cabes that carry digital signals. When they contract, lines can pull away from connections, disrupting service.

“These are typically smaller outages, affecting residential customers,” Peters said. “Our service technicians have been addressing these issues situation-by-situation, working around the clock throughout the past several days – including New Year’s Eve and January 1.”

Exacerbating the situation is that for safety reasons due to the dangerously cold weather, Mediacom employees are required to work in pairs during such stretches of weather, effectively cutting its technician workforce in half.

Peters said the number of outages continues to shrink, and crews are hopeful to get back to normal conditions as the thermometer eventually rises.

Beet juice: the secret to making road salt more effective in Moline

WQAD News -

MOLINE-- Driver Andrew McClinton has heard the stories.

"There was a lot of slipping and sliding, maybe two or three accidents," says McClinton.

He tries his best to avoid traveling on bridges like I-74 when it's cold.

From our WQAD traffic cam video, you can see cars sliding into one another left and right even before the sun came up.

The roads don't necessarily look bad, and that's the problem.

"See, that's how black ice gets you. You don't see it until it's too late," says McClinton.

Bridges like I-74 are plowed and salted by state departments. But Moline Public Works manager Rodd Schick knows a thing or two about icy bridges.

"They are very difficult to manage. The problem that you have is it's not only freezing temperatures above, but below as well," says Schick.

And just because it's not snowing doesn't mean you're in the clear. The cold adds additional problems.

"With these extremely cold temperatures, you can get yourself and anti-ice material down, and it works. But then at a certain point, it gets diluted enough that it's no longer working. And because it's so cold at that point, it turns to ice," says Schick.

But there is a trick Moline does to make their road salt more effective. If you notice the salt in Moline looks brown, it's because public works mixes regular road salt with a solution made out of beet juice called GeoMelt.

"It's a fully organic product that's not corrosive. It basically lowers the effective melting ranging of our salt down to about 30 degrees below zero. So that makes a big difference," says Schick.

So avoid driving if you can.

"With the really cold temperatures like we've got, everyone just needs to be very proactive and do what they can to be as safe as possible," says Schick.

But if you have to, do so with care.

"I'm looking forward to that bridge. If I can make it there safe, I'll be okay," says McClinton.

Because of last year's mild winter, the city of Moline has saved about $300,000 in salt in 2017.

Utah’s Hatch to retire, opening door to possible Romney run

WQAD News -

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said Tuesday he will not seek re-election after serving more than 40 years in the Senate, opening the door for former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to run for his seat.

Hatch, 83, said he’s always been a fighter, “but every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves.”

Hatch is the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. He chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee and was a major force in getting a tax overhaul through Congress and signed into law in December.

He also played a key role in persuading President Donald Trump to sign proclamations scaling back two sprawling national monuments in Utah that Hatch and other conservatives considered examples of government overreach.

In a statement, Hatch said he decided to retire at the end of his seventh term after “much prayer and discussion with family and friends” over the holiday break.

“Only in a nation like ours could someone like me — the scrappy son of a simple carpenter — grow up to become a United States Senator,” he added.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who now lives in Utah, has been eyeing a Senate run, but Trump had encouraged Hatch to seek re-election.

Romney thanked Hatch in a statement on Facebook and said Hatch “has represented the interests of Utah with distinction and honor.”

Romney’s statement did not mention his own plans.

Trump had been open in recent months about pressuring Hatch to stay in the Senate, particularly as Romney’s ambition for the seat became apparent. Trump’s private lobbying campaign was bolstered by a public love-fest, as Trump invited Hatch with him on Air Force One in December as he shrunk the boundaries of the two Utah monuments.

Trump called Hatch “a fighter” and “a special friend of mine,” and thanked Hatch for his vocal support when “it wasn’t exactly the easiest thing to do.”

Romney has a far more tortured relationship with the president, having been a vocal critic of Trump’s during the 2016 campaign, including delivering a broadside address in March 2016 condemning Trump. But after the election, Romney submitted himself as a candidate to be secretary of state in an excruciatingly public interview process.

Since Trump has moved into the White House, Romney has been a frequent detractor, particularly after Trump equivocated on condemning white supremacists in Charlottesville last summer.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday she had not discussed Romney’s potential candidacy with Trump and could not say whether the president would support him.

Amid earlier speculation about Hatch’s plans, the Utah senator stepped up to defend Romney, a fellow Mormon. Last month Hatch lashed out at former White House adviser Steve Bannon for his attack on Romney and the Mormon Church.

At a rally for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Bannon called Romney, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, a draft dodger who “hid behind” his religion. Romney received a draft deferment for missionary work in France during Vietnam.

Hatch called Bannon’s attack “disappointing and unjustified” and said Romney “has sought every opportunity” to serve the country.

Hatch defended “the selfless service of missionary work” and said he’d be happy to explain his church to Bannon, adding, “I’ve got a copy of the Book of Mormon with his name on it.”

Late last year, Hatch also found himself in a heated debate with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio. The dispute occurred as Republicans pushed a near $1.5 trillion, 10-year tax cut for businesses and individuals through the Senate Finance Committee over Democrats’ objections.

Brown, a liberal firebrand, said people know Republicans want to help the rich because it’s “in their DNA.”

Hatch told Brown he’d heard enough, adding that he’s helped disadvantaged people “my whole stinking career.” As the two senators talked over each other, Hatch said he was tired of Democrats’ “bull crap.”

In the statement announcing his decision to retire, Hatch cited work helping create the Americans with Disabilities Act, expanding children’s health insurance and expanding use of generic drugs.

Hatch also served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was at the center of many of the biggest confirmation battles. During his time on the committee, the Senate has confirmed nearly 1,900 federal judges.

In 2000, Hatch sought the Republican nomination for president, saying he had more experience in Washington than his opponents and insisting he could work with Democrats. He withdrew from the race after only winning 1 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucuses and then endorsed George W. Bush.

Hatch frequently wrote religious songs and recorded music in his spare time as a way to relax from the stresses of life in Washington. One of his songs, “Unspoken,” went platinum after appearing on “WOW Hits 2005,” a compilation of Christian pop music.

While seeking re-election in 2012, Hatch pledged it would be his last term. He seemed to waver on that decision in recent months with Trump publicly calling on him to run again.

Romney would enter the Senate race as the heavy favorite, having carried Utah in 2012 by a margin of nearly 3 to 1 over Democrat Barack Obama. Romney, an unabashed Trump critic, would likely be among a small number of influential Republicans willing to take on Trump.

Derek Miller, a Utah businessman who had been considering a run for Hatch’s seat, said Tuesday that Romney has popped up more frequently at policy gatherings, chamber of commerce meetings and social events in Utah.

“I go to events and I see Gov. Romney there, over the last couple months, when I never saw him at those events before,” Miller said.

Remaining frigid in the days ahead… Snowfall still likely on Sunday

WQAD News -

Clouds will be on the increase tonight as a weak clipper grazes the area just around midnight.  This will have a little snow with it but like all clippers the passage will be brief with no worse than a dusting by sunrise.  Still enough to make conditions a bit slick in spots, so be on guard.  Temperatures overnight will slowly rise just over 10 degrees by the time that light snow chance arrives.

Sunshine quickly returns on Wednesday with highs returning in the single digits .   In fact, we’ll see plenty of sun for the rest of the shorten work week.  However, not much warmth I’m expecting as highs we’ll return in the single digits and overnight lows in the minus single digits.

Still on track to see a nice boost in temperatures this weekend as our next round of snowfall is still likely on Sunday.

Chief meteorologist James Zahara

Download the News 8 Weather App — for iOS, click here and for Android, click here

Download the free News 8 App — for iOS, click here and for Android, click here

Moline’s World Relief continues global vision to help refugees despite cuts

WQAD News -

MOLINE -

The new year could bring more changes for agencies that help refugees to relocate to the United States.

Moline-based World Relief should find out in mid-January how many clients it will be able to help in 2018. The feds are already way behind on reduced yearly projections.

"We want to help refugees," said Director Amy Rowell, on January 2.  "We want to help immigrants, and we want to help our community be a welcoming community."

World Relief continues its mission during challenging times, reaching out to neighbors from its local office.

"That doesn't mean the person that lives in the house next to you," said Rowell.  "It's the world.  That's your neighbor."

But that global view is coming under fire.  Federal restrictions may force the closure of agencies that help fewer than 100 refugees each year.

Moline's World Relief served just over 100 refugees in 2017.  That's a client base sliced in half from recent years.

"We want to be here," Rowell continued.  "We want to help, and we want to lead."

Leadership that was put to the test in 2017.  The Christian-based organization cut a third of its local staff while five offices closed nationally.

That also threatens other front line service providers that work with World Relief.

"We want to support churches, local governments, schools and hospitals," she continued.

Rowell believes that 2017 cuts will put World Relief in a better position to weather any fallout this year.

"We made so many adjustments a year ago," she concluded. "Some of the other agencies, not World Relief, are having to make a lot of those decisions now."

The organization most needs cash donations.  For more information: http://worldreliefmoline.org

 

Franken marks final day in Senate in wake of groping allegations

WQAD News -

(CNN) — Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken marked his final day in the US Senate on Tuesday after he announced he would step down in the wake of groping allegations.

Franken submitted his letter of resignation, effective at 1 p.m. ET, to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton. Franken wrote that serving in the Senate “has been a privilege and an honor.”

“I am grateful to Minnesotans for giving me a chance to serve our state and our nation, and I am proud to have worked on their behalf,” the letter states.

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will replace him on Wednesday.

“When I leave the Senate in a few weeks,” Franken said during his Senate floor speech announcing his exit, “I will continue trying to be an educated citizen and an advocate and an activist.”

Multiple women have accused Franken of touching them inappropriately. He apologized for some of the accusations but in his resignation speech said his response to those women’s accounts “gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done.”

“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” he said on the Senate floor December 7. “Others I remember very differently.”

A special election will be held in Minnesota to permanently fill the seat timed to next year’s midterm elections in November. Smith has said she’ll run for that position.

McDonald’s tests fresh beef in another burger

WQAD News -

NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald’s is testing the use of fresh beef in another burger, the latest move by the fast food chain to swap out frozen beef as it seeks to improve its image.

The company said Tuesday that the new burger, called Archburger, is being tested in seven McDonald’s restaurants in Tulsa, Oklahoma. McDonald’s held similar tests for fresh beef Quarter Pounders for about a year before announcing in March that it would roll it out to most of its 14,000 restaurants by the middle of this year. McDonald’s said the latest test is limited, and it is seeking feedback from customers and its restaurants.

McDonald’s Corp. has made several changes to its menu in recent years in an attempt to appeal to Americans who are increasingly concerned with the ingredients in their food. The world’s largest burger chain, for example, has cut artificial preservatives from Chicken McNuggets and switched out the apple juice in its Happy Meals for one with less sugar.

Fresh beef is a big change for the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company, which has relied on frozen beef patties for more than 40 years.

The Archburger test could mean the company is open to expanding the use of fresh beef to even more menu items, analysts at Nomura said in a note to clients Tuesday. The analysts also said the rollout of fresh beef Quarter Pounders later this year could boost a key sales figure at the chain.

At less than 3 ounces, McDonald’s said the fresh beef patties used in the Archburger are slightly smaller than those in the Quarter Pounder and larger than the ones in its hamburgers and cheeseburgers.

Iowa governor’s budget transfer was illegal, lawsuit claims

WQAD News -

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and a top aide broke the law when they transferred $13 million from a reserve fund to balance the budget, a Democratic lawmaker argues in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed against Reynolds and Department of Management director Dave Roederer by Rep. Chris Hall of Sioux City, ranking member on the House Appropriations committee.

It asks a court to declare that Reynolds’ proclamation ordering the fund transfer in September was illegal and to void “all actions” taken as a result. The lawsuit notes that Reynolds and Roederer could be “liable to the state for $13 million together with interest” if a jury agrees that the transfer was a misuse of appropriations but stops short of asking for that result.

Reynolds’ press secretary Brenna Smith said the governor’s office is reviewing the lawsuit, which she called politically motivated.

At issue is whether the administration acted legally in September when transferring $13 million from the State Economic Emergency Fund, which was created to cushion the blow of fiscal downturns on core services. The case could be a headache for Reynolds, who succeeded Terry Branstad last May, as she runs for her own four-year term in this year’s elections, although its merits might not be decided until 2019 or beyond.

State law allows governors to transfer up to $50 million from the fund when certain conditions are met, including that annual general fund revenue collections be at least 0.5 percent less than estimated by the state’s revenue-estimating panel during the third quarter of the year. The $7.1 billion collected for the general fund in fiscal year 2017 was only 0.15 percent — or $11 million — lower than the panel’s March 2017 estimate, not enough to trigger the governor’s transfer authority, the lawsuit claims.

State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, a Democrat, had warned Reynolds in September that the transfer would be illegal on that basis and could invite legal action.

Reynolds dismissed that interpretation of the law, accusing Fitzgerald of playing “gotcha” politics.

Her aides have argued the governor’s transfer authority was triggered when the March 2017 estimate came in 1.5 percent lower than the estimate at its prior meeting in December 2016. They note that the panel no longer meets quarterly, as it did when the emergency fund was created in 2004. Smith said lawmakers are “free to change the outdated transfer statute and we’d encourage them to do so.”

Hall’s lawsuit argues that, based on the current language of the law, “there is no meaningful dispute” that the conditions to allow the transfer weren’t met. That’s important because the requirements were intended to distinguish between “shortfalls that are the product of true economic emergencies from those that are the foreseeable result of years of fiscal mismanagement,” the lawsuit says.

Hall said he filed the lawsuit “only after significant thought and consideration,” calling the case an effort to protect taxpayers and hold the executive branch accountable.

Reynolds ordered the transfer after her administration said the 2017 budget had a $14.6 million shortfall.

Legislative analysts in July had put the shortfall much higher, at $100 million, and some lawmakers believed Reynolds would have to call them back to a special session to fill the hole. But Reynolds and Roederer said that step was unnecessary because the budget ended in far better shape once late tax payments and adjustments were counted and she could make the transfer to cover the remaining deficit.

Democrats have expressed skepticism about the administration’s accounting, and the lawsuit gives them the opportunity to learn from officials under oath about how the budget gap shrank. The lawsuit alleges that Reynolds wanted to avoid a special session because it would have drawn “attention to her inability to adequately manage the state’s fiscal affairs.”

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