Ebola outbreak continues in the Congo as obstacles challenge health care workers

(CNN) — The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola outbreak, which began August 1, is continuing unabated in the new year.

The total number of probable patients is now 663, while 407 deaths are likely attributable to the viral illness, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday. An additional 123 people, who doctors suspect may be sick with Ebola, are currently under investigation. The ministry also reported that 237 people have recovered from the life-threatening illness.

On average, Ebola — which causes fever, severe headache and in some cases hemorrhaging — kills about half of those infected. The latest outbreak has a case fatality rate of 60%.

The current outbreak is the second-deadliest and second-largest in history, topped only by one in West Africa in 2014, when the disease killed more than 11,000 people, according to the World Health Organization.

Recent tweets from both Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director-general, and Dr. Peter Salama, WHO deputy director-general of emergency preparedness and response, address the “numerous” challenges of this epidemic.

Salama believes the current outbreak “is really several distinct outbreaks,” as North Kivu province remains the epicenter with additional cases occurring in neighboring Ituri province, according to the World Health Organization. The two provinces are among the most populous in the nation and border Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Not only is North Kivu experiencing this deadly Ebola outbreak, but long-term conflict smolders there, with 50 armed groups causing intermittent violence, according to WHO. The UN public health agency estimates that more than a million refugees and internally displaced people are traveling through and out of North Kivu and Ituri, and this movement is a potential risk factor for the spread of Ebola.

Another complication: a high number of malaria cases in the region.

Local grit has overturned some of the obstacles. Though protesters of a long-delayed presidential election vandalized health care facilities in late December, on Monday, locals in Rwangomaworked to repair the damage with their own labor and at their own expense. Each inhabitant contributed 500 Congolese francs (equivalent to about a third of a US dollar).

Hope arrived in the form of a baby girl born earlier this month to a mother who had been cured of the viral disease in December. Twice the healthy baby girl has been tested for Ebola, and twice the results have come back negative.

Other positives include the Ministry’s November launch of the first randomized control trial for experimental Ebola treatments; 248 patients have received one of the four new drugs as of January 1, according to the WHO. Additionally, 60,715 people have been vaccinated since early August.

How the TaxSlayer Center turns an ice rink into a rodeo stadium

MOLINE, Illinois — The TaxSlayer Center is saddling up for a rodeo, converting the hockey rink into a dirt arena.

The Cinch World’s Toughest Rodeo is on Friday, Jan. 18, and Saturday, Jan. 19, and will feature bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, women’s barrel racing and even a rodeo monkey.

But how does the TaxSlayer Center turn ice to dirt and back to ice again?

Kevin Snodgrass, director of operations, told News 8 the ice actually never leaves.

“The ice stays in year round so the time we put it in in September till we put it in April or May,” Snodgrass said. “We did it in basically about 12 hours … last night getting ready for the dirt to come in.”

Snodgrass said crews covered the ice in several layers including fiberglass and wood to keep the ice safe and insulated.

Then, 66 truckloads of dirt rolls in, eventually covering the floor in 6-8 inches.

When the rodeo is over, it’s time to scrape it all back out.

“More time is probably spent in the out because there’s more cleaning involved,” Snodgrass said. “Then, we have to reset for hockey.”

The rodeo starts at 7:30 p.m. both nights.

Iowa food stamps arrive early due to shutdown

DES MOINES, Iowa- The USDA will issue February’s SNAP benefits early.

The Iowa Department of Human Services said in a press release February benefits will become available on January 17, 2019. These are still the normal February benefits, they are just being issued early.

Due to the government shutdown, the Iowa DHS wanted to ensure life still runs as normal as possible. “We understand the importance of ensuring food security for Iowans in need and will do everything we can to ensure there is as little disruption as possible,” said Director Jerry Foxhoven.

The DHS says in the upcoming weeks there may be increased call volume, which may impact the timeliness of returned calls. Contingency plans are being developed for March.


Muscatine County suspends its use of slag for gravel roads

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — An eastern Iowa county has stopped using slag as the gravel on its roads, at least temporarily, because a state toxicologist reported that the steel manufacturing byproduct could be harmful, especially to children.

Muscatine County supervisors voted Monday to suspend the use of slag while they wait for further testing on it, The Muscatine Journal reported.

The move comes after Iowa Public Health Department toxicologist Stuart Schmitz issued a report that said slag contains metals at levels that can be harmful.

Related: Muscatine County residents fighting against slag use on county roads

Children exposed to high levels of manganese, which is in slag, could develop learning disabilities and adverse behavioral changes, according to a U.S. Department of Health report.

Slag dust is also dangerous for adults who are exposed to high concentrations of the material, though adults would have to work “an entire workday, most days of the year,” to be harmed, Schmitz’s report said.

The material hasn’t been used on roads since June, said County Supervisor Nathan Mather.

“Simply put, we suspended the use of slag out of an abundance of caution while more information is gathered,” Mather said.

Glenn Hundertmark is the North American environmental manager at Harsco, the industrial company that provides the county with slag. He said there aren’t health or environmental risks tied with the material.

“We believe that any claims otherwise are completely meritless and based on mischaracterized, misinterpreted data,” Hundertmark said.

Hundertmark requested time to provide additional information. He said samples of the slag were taken recently with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and results should be available soon.

Former ‘To Catch a Predator’ host Chris Hansen arrested in Connecticut

STAMFORD, Conn. — Chris Hansen, best known as the former host of NBC’s “To Catch a Predator,” turned himself in to police in Connecticut on Monday on charges of issuing a bad check.

The 59-year-old allegedly failed to pay a $13,000 bill despite a police warning, according to the Stamford Advocate.

Hansen allegedly ordered 355 ceramic mugs, 288 T-shirts and 650 vinyl decals from Promotional Sales Limited in Stamford, Conn., receiving an invoice for $12,998.05 in September 2017.

Owner Peter Psichopaidas then filed a complaint in April, saying a check he received had bounced.

An apologetic Hansen offered to make partial payments, but the money never came, according to an arrest affidavit, which notes Hansen also bailed after agreeing to give a statement to police.

The charges came after Hansen was warned he could be arrested for larceny, according to investigator Sean Coughlin. “I told Chris … that nearly $13,000 is a lot of money to a ‘mom-and-pop’ business and it is not fair that he accepted the material but hasn’t paid for it,” he writes.

Per The Wrap, Hansen previously offered coffee mugs and T-shirts as a way to attract investors to a 2015 Kickstarter campaign intended to revive “To Catch a Predator,” which NBC canceled. (The campaign worked, sort of.)

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Scammer poses as Davenport police over the phone

DAVENPORT, Iowa- The Davenport Police Department warns against a telephone scammer impersonating the police.

In a recent Facebook post the Davenport Police say a scam is  falsely threatening locals with arrest. The scammer uses an app to appear as the Davenport Police on caller ID. Then the scammer warns victims they will be arrested unless they pay a large fine. Instructions are then given on how to pay the fine over the phone with a pre-paid charge card.

The Davenport police say they don’t solicit money over the phone. Plus, legal fines cannot be paid on those type of pre-paid cards.

They ask if you receive a call, don’t pay the fine and report the call to the Davenport Police Department at 563-326-7979.

US service members killed in ISIS-claimed attack in Syria

(CNN) — ISIS has claimed responsibility for a deadly explosion that killed US service members in the Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday.

US service members were killed in the attack, according to a tweet from the spokesperson for the US-led coalition Operation Inherent Resolve.

“U.S. service members were killed during an explosion while conducting a routine patrol in Syria today. We are still gathering information and will share additional details at a later time,” the tweet said.

The coalition has not said how many service members were killed. Prior to Wednesday’s attack, only two US service members had been killed in action in Syria since the start of the campaign in 2014.

There were several reported casualties in the city a militia controlling the city and a UK-based monitoring group said.

The ISIS-affiliated Amaq agency said the attack in the northern city of Manbij was carried out by a suicide bomber with an explosive vest.

“An explosion in Manbij’s busy market street, initial reports of casualties,” spokesman of the Manbij military council Shervan Darwish wrote on Twitter.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least eight people were killed.

A spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve tweeted Wednesday that the coalition is “still gathering information” about the explosion.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump has been briefed on the situation. Vice President Mike Pence has also been briefed, according to a tweet from his press secretary.

However, Pence made no mention of the attack or the deaths of US service members while making remarks at the Global Chiefs of Mission conference at the US State Department Wednesday, claiming “The caliphate has crumbled, and ISIS has been defeated.”

The attack comes less than a month after Trump announced that US troops would withdraw from Syria. In making his announcement, Trump declared in a video released on Twitter: “We have won against ISIS. We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land and now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”

The US has about 2,000 troops in Syria, with no specific date for their withdrawal. Last week, the US began withdrawing some military ground equipment from Syria, according to an administration official with direct knowledge of the operation.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was a harsh critic of Trump’s plans to bring home US troops from Syria when the decision was announced earlier in December, said Wednesday that he is concerned that the President’s statements about withdrawing from Syria have emboldened the enemy.

“My concern, by the statements made by President Trump, is that you set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we’re fighting. You make people we’re trying to help wonder about us. And as they get bolder, the people we’re trying to help are going to get more uncertain. I saw this in Iraq. And I’m now seeing it in Syria,” Graham said during impromptu remarks at a Judiciary Committee hearing on Attorney General nominee William Barr.

“Every American wants our troops to come home, but I think all of us want to make sure that when they do come home, we’re safe,” he added. “So I would hope the President would look long at hard at where he’s headed in Syria. I know people are frustrated, but we’re never going to be safe here unless we’re willing to help people over there who will stand up against this radical ideology.”

During his surprise visit to Iraq on December 26, Trump was warned by military commanders that — despite his claims — ISIS was not entirely defeated in Syria. People familiar with the President’s reaction said the conversation was eye-opening for a leader who, days earlier, claimed the terror group was defeated “badly” in the country.

The discussion occurred inside a tan tent at the al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad and included the US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman, Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera, national security adviser John Bolton, and the first lady Melania Trump, along with other officials.

Trump was told that pockets of ISIS militants remained in the Euphrates River valley and that the US military had not yet eliminated all of their strongholds. Commanders told him the US had been successful in taking back other areas but that the job was not finished.

The people familiar with the conversation described it as sobering, and said it broke through to Trump in a way his conversations with national security officials in Washington had not. Coming days after Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria, it centered partly on the remaining challenges of going after ISIS fighters in pockets of Syria.

In addition to the briefing from the commanders, Trump found the massive security apparatus on the trip surprising — something his advisers told him was reflective of the remaining challenges against ISIS.

Still, it remains unclear whether Wednesday’s attack will impact Trump’s decision to pull US forces from Syria as top administration officials continue to qualify the terms and timing of a pullout — altering the President’s December 19 assertion that forces would leave “now.”

After Trump declared that the US would pull troops from Syria and a US Defense official told CNN that planning was underway for a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal, national security adviser John Bolton began adding conditions that could indefinitely delay a troop departure and has refused to discuss timelines.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also avoided offering a specific timeline but insisted in a Cairo speech last week that under the Trump administration, the US is a stalwart presence in the Mideast. He told reporters separately that “there’s no contradiction whatsoever” in the US policy on Syria, arguing that “this is a story made up by the media.”

At the same time, the top US diplomat has denied allies were confused about the US withdrawal from Syria. “I think everyone understands what the United States is doing,” Pompeo said. “At least the senior leaders in their governments do.”

Yet on the ground and in diplomatic circles, Trump’s decision landed with explosive effect.

US allies in the region were blindsided. Two diplomatic sources say their countries were not consulted or informed and the news came as a total surprise.

But discussions about a US withdrawal have continued this week.

Trump and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed “ongoing cooperation in Syria as US forces begin to withdraw” during a phone call Monday, just one day after Trump threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if the NATO-allied country attacks Kurds in the region.

“The President expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement about the call.

Winter Weather Advisory south tonight… Snow on track to start the weekend

First of two weather systems will be tracking across the area as early as overnight hours with the second still on track to start the weekend.

Expect some light snowfall to begin sometime after midnight Thursday before slowly coming to an end near lunchtime.  For most, a good dusting to a half an inch is likely with roadways looking more wet than slippery.  The only exception will be along Highway 34 from Mount Pleasant, IA to Galesburg, IL. where up to an inch of snow is likely.   A mix of freezing rain is also likely and thus a Winter Weather Advisory has been issued for this area from 9pm tonight to 9am Thursday morning.  Untreated roadways will have the biggest impact.

We continue to track the potential for a stronger system by Friday night and Saturday. The track remains south of the area, keeping any heavy snows well south of the area as well.  Too early on snowfall amounts but given the snowfall road conditions will be a challenge as I expecting plenty of blowing and drifting on main roadways.

As the system departs, temperatures will plummet later Saturday into Sunday with wind chills as cold as the minus teens Sunday night into Monday morning. Highs will struggle to get out of the single digits above zero that Sunday as well.

Chief meteorologist James Zahara

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

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WQAD Sports 1-15-2019

  • Assumption races past Alleman to retain "A" Trophy
  • Rock Island races past Geneseo despite a HUGE 1st quarter from Geneseo's Isaiah Rivera
  • 1A Prince of Peace bests 4A Davenport North
  • Newman complates comeback to best Hall in Three Rivers showdown

RICO Board approves analysis of Hope Creek Care Center

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois-- With a vote of 13-10, the Rock Island County Board approved a study that will look at the county-run nursing home's financial situation and future.

The comprehensive cost-benefit analysis will be completed by Management Performance Associates, the company that previously managed the care center before the county terminated the contract, county board members said.

But some board members and people living in the county say the study is a waste of time and money.

"It's also on the agenda for you to hear and vote to spend $29,000 to hear a consultant to tell you what you need to hear or what you want to hear to clear your conscience," Don Pearson said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Board member Richard Morthland said it will only tell the board what they already know about the facility's finances.

But other board members say the study is the first step to start fixing the problem.

"I hope this new MPA review will give us some enlightenment of where we are today, what's possible and what's not possible and how to work within our means," board member Rodney Simmer says.

The analysis is supposed to be done within 90 days, by the end of February. It will not only look at Hope Creek but also its marketability and challenges other nursing homes are facing in the area. MPA will also provide suggestions for how to move forward, whether that means selling the facility or starting a private/public partnership.

Board members say they'll have to work quickly and make tough decisions after getting the results. Simmer says the care center will run out of credit near the end of the year unless action is taken.

"Hopefully (MPA) can come up with some ideas that will get us out of this crisis we're in," he says.

Some board members expressed frustration that this problem has been kicked down the road in the past.

"Maybe we should have looked at an in-depth analysis like this sooner," Board Chairman Richard Quijas Burnk says. "I think this board is prepared to make some tough decisions."

Hope Creek is more than $4 million in debt.

Teen missing for nearly a year was kept as ‘sex slave’ in trailer, police say

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Police have arrested seven suspected human traffickers after a 16-year-old boy who had been missing for nearly a year was found in a “filthy” trailer St. Petersburg, Florida.

“The teenage victim in this case was lured with promises of a better life,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said at a press conference Monday. “Instead, he was moved into a filthy trailer and used as a sex slave for nearly a year.”

The investigation began on May 9, 2018 after Louisiana officials contacted police in St. Petersburg with information about another missing boy, 17, who they believed had been lured through the online gaming app Discord.

According to police, the suspects used it to communicate with the teen, who they picked up and drove to St. Petersburg.

When investigators went to a mobile home in North St. Petersburg where Louisiana authorities said he was, they found both teens living in the trailer with four men, Mark Earl Dennis, Andrew Barry Dennis, Curtis Lee Gruwell and Michael Wayne Schwartz.

The suspect we were looking for in the human trafficking case is in custody. Curtis Gruwell turned himself in to #stpetepd this morning.
He’s charged w conspiracy to commit human trafficking and interference with custody. pic.twitter.com/aHM9ZD88kA

— St. Pete Police (@StPetePD) January 15, 2019

Dennis initially told authorities he was the 16-year-old’s father, which turned out to be false, police said.

The 16-year-old, from Marion County, Florida, was 15 when he disappeared. Police say his family found a note from her son saying not to look for him. Investigators now believe one of the suspects, Eleanor Faye McGlamory, had befriended the boy and lured him to the trailer.

“For the next year, he was introduced to sadomasochism and used as a sex slave by Mark and Anddrew Dennis, Gruwell, Schwartz and their associated, Michael Ray Blasdel and JR Gauthier,” police said in a news release. During the time he was held in the mobile home he did not attend school and wasn’t given medical treatment, according to police.

All seven face charges of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and interference with custody. Mark Earl Dennis, Andrew Barry Dennis, Michael Ray Blasdel and JR Gauthier also face charges of sexual battery with a child under age 16.

Women accused of lacing recovery home manager’s mac and cheese with heroin

PORT HURON, Mich. – Two residents of a Michigan recovery home allegedly used heroin to poison a manager at the facility.

On Sunday, police arrested Shanna Marie Kota, 40, and Sarah Elaine Prange, 22, who each face a 15-year felony poisoning charge, according to the WDIV.

Port Huron women arrested for poisoning recovery house manager with heroin in mac n' cheese https://t.co/xOneWDsUvP

— Local 4 WDIV Detroit (@Local4News) January 15, 2019

The 38-year-old victim told investigators the women didn’t want her to work at the Port Huron home any longer, and had heard rumors the pair had laced her macaroni and cheese with the drug on Friday. She said she remembered it tasting strange and had thrown it in the trash.

The manager received treatment at McLaren Port Huron Hospital where tests found evidence of poisoning, according to the Times Herald.

Kota and Prange, who are due back in court Jan. 29, are being held on a $100,000 bond.

16-year-old dies after falling from Royal Caribbean cruise ship

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A teenage passenger lost his footing while trying to get onto the balcony of his room aboard Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and plummeted to his death, officials say.

The 16-year-old, identified by the Broward Medical Examiner’s Office as Laurent Mercer, was with his family on the cruise, which was docked in Haiti when the fall happened Jan. 11, according to the Sun Sentinel.

The teen apparently did not have the key card to his room and was trying to get from a neighboring 8th floor balcony to his own when he slipped, falling to the pier below.

The cruise ship’s medical staff performed CPR on Mercer, but he had suffered “major head trauma” and died of his injuries, the medical examiner’s office said in a statement to the Sentinel.

Royal Caribbean said in a statement that they are “saddened by the loss of one of our guests in a tragic accident.”

The death comes after almost 500 people on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas cruise ship were sickened by a gastrointestinal illness, forcing the cruise to end early.

Girl Scout cookie season is upon us, here’s what you should know

QUAD CITIES- It’s that time of year again, the ovens have been baking nonstop, it’s Girl Scout cookie season!

According to girlscouts.org the official start of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois cookie season is January 18.

In addition to the classic favorites, Girl Scouts are adding a new cookie to their lineup. It’s a gluten-free caramel chocolate chip cookie, yum.

Wanna know where you can get your fix? We have you covered.

Don’t feel guilty about eating all those boxes either, remember it’s for a good cause…

“The largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world, the Girl Scout Cookie Program is proven to help the majority of girl participants develop five essential life and business skills, fostering the next generation of women who are entrepreneurs and business leaders. A recent Girl Scout Research Institute study found that 85 percent of girls surveyed learned how to set goals and meet deadlines, 88 percent became effective decision-makers, 88 percent learned to manage money, 85 percent gained people skills, and 94 percent learned business ethics—all through the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Two out of three girls surveyed (66 percent) developed all five skills while doing amazing things for themselves and their communities.”

Check out the full cookie line-up below! Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment



Jurors deliberate murder case against accused shooter of Davenport activist

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Jury deliberations have begun in the murder trial of Deondra Thomas, accused of shooting and killing Jason Roberts in downtown Davenport last June.

Thomas faces charges of murder and firearms possession by a felon. Prosecutors argue that Roberts was trying to intervene in a fight between Thomas and others outside MVP Sports Bar on June 9, 2018.

“For Jason to step in and say ‘We’re just trying to have a good time,’ it cost him his life,” Scott County Attorney Mike Walton told jurors. “Deondra stepped back and shot him, three times.”

Walton told jurors the killing was premeditated and urged them to find Thomas guilty of murder in the first degree.

In laying out their case, prosecution attorneys relied on the testimony of a key witness: Thomas’ cousin.

“Deondra admitted it,” to his cousin, Walton said.

During the trial, the cousin, a reluctant witness for the state, testified that he drove Thomas to the bar in a maroon GMC Yukon, and left with him shortly after gunshot rang out.

The cousin said Thomas did not mention Roberts’ by name, but told him, “Dude put his hands on him and he shot him.”

Walton reminded jurors that they must weigh both direct and circumstantial evidence.

Several other witnesses had also placed Thomas at the crime scene or saw Thomas walking away calmly just after shots rang out, Walton said. Taking the witnesses’ statements together, he argued, “you should have no doubt Deondra fired those shots.”

The prosecution also has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted premeditatively and with intent to kill.

“Three times he had to pull the trigger. If that’s not intent, if that’s not premeditation, what is?” Walton asked jurors.

Defense attorney Jack Dusthimer in his closing argument cast doubt on the witnesses’ statements. He sought to highlight inconsistencies in their statements on the witness stand and prior interviews they had given to police. He pointed out that several witnesses who were at MVP Bar were inebriated or had prior run-ins with authorities and given changing statements.

“Would you hesitate to rely on somebody like that?” he asked several times.

“I have nothing but respect for the Roberts family,” he told jurors. “But this is not about Roberts. It’s about whether or not the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Jurors began deliberating late Tuesday afternoon and will continue on Wednesday.

Local robotics team looking for more donations

PORT BYRON, Illinois — A group of nine Riverdale High School students are asking for monetary donations so they can buy and donate new LEGO kits to an Iowa Children’s hospital.

The Robotics Rams pose in front of last years total of 112 LEGO sets ready to be donated to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

The Robotic Rams are hosting their third annual fundraiser this week.

The school’s Technology Director, Jason Dennhardt, said the hospital they donate to was not chosen at random.

“In 2016 a teacher from Riverdale, Mark Lofgren, his son was diagnosed with cancer,” Dennhardt said. “(His son) was receiving treatments at the University of Iowa Stead Family Hospital and we came up with the idea.”

Dennhardt said the group chose to donate LEGO sets for two main reasons: First, it is the most wanted toy under the website’s “Wish List,” and secondly, because LEGOs are the first step to having an interest in STEM and Robotics.

“Who doesn’t love to build Legos,” Dennhardt asked.

The public is invited to donate directly at Riverdale High School or at donations jars at this upcoming weekend’s FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics League Competition.

“Our students are following the vision of FIRST and are trying to help younger children dream of one day becoming science and technology leaders too,” Dennhardt said. “Even if it just starts with a simple Lego set.”

The Robotic Rams started in 2011. This year’s competition will be at Riverdale High School in Port Byron on Saturday, January 19th. The robots will start competing at around 9:30 am and will conclude around noon.


In 2018, the Robotics Rams donated more than 100 LEGO sets to pediatric patients at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.


Galesburg school board approves school closings and upgrades

GALESBURG, Illinois- Work is set to begin on school upgrades in Galesburg this summer.

The board wants to update things like security and fire safety at King Elementary, Lombard Middle School, the high school and the Lincoln Education Center.

The board also plans to close Gale and Neilsen Elementary and Churchill Middle School. Potentially by the end of the 2020 school year.

The board still needs final approval from the state on the plans.

J.B. Pritzker signs first executive orders on first full day as Illinois governor

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker used his first full day in office to restore frozen wage increases for unionized state employees.

The Democrat also took other pro-worker action Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Pritzker announced that union employees would begin getting seniority-based "step" increases in pay. Those contractually required increases were frozen by former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner four years ago during still-unresolved contract negotiations.

Pritzker did not say how much the extra pay would cost. It is not retroactive.

The governor also signed executive orders to prohibit state agencies from asking prospective employees their salary histories. Advocates believe it's discriminatory toward women who enter and leave the workforce more often. Pritzker likely will sign a law on the issue this spring. Rauner vetoed it twice.

It’s a boy! Niabi Zoo welcomes baby monkey to the family

COAL VALLEY, Illinois- Niabi Zoo has announced their newest member, an adorable baby Monkey.

Katavi is an Eastern Black and White Colobus monkey (Guereza colobus).

“Eastern Black and White Colobus are found in the woodlands of tropical Africa and these strikingly colored primates are favorites among zoo visitors.”

Katavi is a male and was born on December 9th, 2018.

Niabi Zoo says his parents are Shirati, a 16-year-old female and Tuli, a 12-year-old male.

“All Baby Black and White Colobus start life completely white. After about 3 weeks patches of dark hair start to appear. It takes about 3 months for the babies to fully take on the coloration of mom and dad.”

Niabi has 9 Eastern Black and White Colobus monkeys, According to Niabi there are only 169 in North America!




2019 JEFFERSON AWARDS: Aledo Woman Makes Difference Through Purses, Story Books

She gives purses purpose for those who need them the most.

Deb Bowen started her “Purses With Purpose” project in 2016, when she decided to host a purse party.

“I just put a post on Facebook and said – ‘Will my friends meet me and bring a purse they’re no longer using and fill it with things people need?'” she explained. “We got 144 purses that day.”

Three years later, that number has grown to more than 3,000 and now includes purses for girls/women as well as bags for boys/men, filled with the essentials like shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and more… and given to people who are homeless or in need.

“You feel so alone when you’re struggling,” said Deb. “I mean, we’ve all been through hard times. I don’t care to what level. We’ve all been through it, so to know that somebody is thinking about you and put some things in a purse for you… it’s just amazing to think what a difference it makes for them to know they’re being thought about. Somebody sees them struggle.”

The great success of her purse project inspired Deb to create her outreach organization called Love Like Lorraine. It’s a tribute to her mother who lived through The Great Depression.

She had a lot of tragedy and a lot of hard times, but she was such a loving, giving person,” Deb described. “It made me angry as a kid, when she would say no to me in the store – ‘You don’t need that’ – and it was always the word ‘need.’ Then, I would see her give money or write a check or whatever to someone that we didn’t even know. I didn’t understand it as a kid, but I certainly understood it as an adult.”

Getting more kids to understand that is the other part of Deb’s mission. In 2003, she started A Book By Me – which gets students to help her share people’s stories.

“There’s Holocaust stories, there’s a lot of hero stories, and there’s a lot of human rights stories,” said Deb. “I want to build compassion. I want to build that muscle in students and adults. We don’t tend to think about what other people have been through or are going through.”

There’s also the story of Al Taylor,  a local Pearl Harbor survivor who opened Deb’s eyes up to the reality of homelessness in our area.

“He’s passed now, but he was talking about how hungry he was and the struggles that he had and working for his family and then his dad started being abusive towards him and he ran away, was a homeless youth and I started thinking about all the homeless youth we have here in the Quad Cities – kids who are couch surfing – I hear about it all the time in schools and I thought – I gotta do something for them.”

75 books and more than 3,000 purses later, Deb is definitely doing something.

“She has always been very interested in helping people that maybe have been forgotten,” said Kathryn Bohn, who decided to nominate Deb for the Jefferson Awards, a foundation that celebrates public service and the people in our communities who are changing lives.

“It`s always about giving back and letting people know they are loved and cared about,” she added.

To Deb – it’s about living her mother’s legacy by being the giver her mom was. “Give For Good” is a slogan of the Jefferson Awards Foundation and Deb, now a 2019 Jefferson Awards Nominee, is passing down how one person can make a difference.

“I’m becoming my mother,” she laughed. “There’s a time in every women’s life where they say that, right?”

To learn more about Love Like Lorraine, click here.

To learn more about A Book By Me, click here.

To learn more about the Jefferson Awards Foundation, click here.

Every Tuesday in January and February, WQAD News 8 is introducing you to our 2019 Jefferson Awards Nominees. Then, in April, we will announce our Jefferson Awards Finalist. That person gets to attend the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. this June and meet other Jefferson Awards Finalists from across the country.

The Jefferson Awards are sponsored locally by Genesis Health System and Budget Blinds.

To see who was nominated in all four previous seasons of the Jefferson Awards on WQAD News 8, click here.