Weekly News Roundup: Fox News Targets Ames, Iowa AG Sues DeVos, Reynolds Defends RFS

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Evan Walker/White House via Flickr

The Informer’s weekly news roundup, presented in partnership with KHOI community radio.

Attorney General Tom Miller Sues Betsy DeVos

On Tuesday, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, joined with attorneys general in 17 other states to sue the federal Department of Education and its secretary, Betsy DeVos, for failing to implement an Obama-era policy called the gainful employment rule meant to protect students from being defrauded by for-profit schools. “Students will continue going to these programs that are not preparing them, they’re very expensive,” Iowa Deputy Attorney General Nathan Blake told Channel 13 News. “They come out with a degree, maybe they get a job, maybe not. But either way they’re not able to pay off their debt.” DeVos previously justified delaying implementation of the rule by arguing that it would unfairly limit students’ choices. When President Trump nominated DeVos to head the Education Department, she faced heavy scrutiny over her central role in establishing Michigan’s poorly regulated charter school program.

Kim Reynolds Pushes Back on Challenge to Renewable Fuel Standard

Before the Iowa caucuses last year, Donald Trump hammered GOP rival Ted Cruz over his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal mandate establishing minimum levels of biofuels that must be included in transportation fuel. So when Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt recently announced that he was considering lowering those levels next year, many Iowans became concerned because of the RFS’ importance to the state’s agriculture industry. Gov. Kim Reynolds vowed to fly to Washington to personally lobby Pruitt and Vice President Mike Pence to uphold the Trump administration’s previous commitment to the RFS. Pruitt soon backed down after pressure from Corn Belt lawmakers.

Fox News Turns Its Outrage Machine on Ames

Fox News twice focused its ire last week on political statements made by people in Ames. After members of the Ames High School marching band walked off the field during a football game earlier this month in a show of support for NFL protests against racial discrimination, columnist Todd Starnes wrote that the school “has the unfortunate distinction of having one of the most un-American marching bands in the nation.” “It was absolutely disgraceful,” he added. “Sickening.” A few days later, Fox News drew attention to a recent tweet from an account apparently representing Iowa State University’s Young Democratic Socialists student group that read, “The only dope worth shooting is in the oval office” and reportedly caught the eye of the Secret Service. Another tweet from the account approved of exterminating capitalists. The account has since been deleted.

Lawsuits Accuse Iowa State University of mishandling rape cases

As the Informer first reported Saturday, two lawsuits were filed hours apart earlier this month that both alleged ISU failed to adequately investigate students’ reports of sexual assault on campus. The first lawsuit was filed by a former student who was allegedly assaulted in her dorm room in October 2013 against Robin Kelley, the university’s former Title IX coordinator. Kelley herself filed the second suit against ISU, claiming that she faced retaliation and eventually termination after repeatedly raising concerns about compliance problems with Obama-era guidelines aimed at addressing campus sexual assaults. Her attorney said her case was an example of a “systemic problem of sexual assault around the country and the constant battles that go on” at universities that often fail to properly handle assault reports.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.