Farewell to the Quad Cities

Dear Visitors,

As of September 2014 I am moving to a new part of the country. Once I settle in I hope to start another news blog there. There will probably be other posts and updates on this website, but my focus will primarily be on a new area.

It has been my great pleasure to get to know the Quad Cities. Many thanks to those who shared your stories with me and to those who’ve supported my efforts here just by showing up to hear, watch, or read a story. I will miss the beautiful Mississippi, the eagles and other wildlife, the sound of cicadas in the summer, the fireflies, the churches, the changing seasons, the almost complete lack of traffic, the snow (yes, even the snow), and the people of the Quad Cities who are so dedicated to the upkeep and improvement of this area. I hope, in some small way, my reporting has helped your mission of continually improving this area, which seems to be a common theme in all these communities.

With a heavy heart I move on to a new chapter in my life. I hope it’s a good one!

(Last updated Aug. 18, 2015.)

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Living Lands and Water Barge Tour

During Tugfest 2014 in Port Byron, Illinois the Living Lands and Waters barges were berthed offshore and open for tours. Here’s a short tour and quotes from Chad Pregracke’s dad and one of his former board members. Chad wasn’t there Saturday or else I would have interviewed him too.

Tugfest is an annual event held on the Mississippi River in Le Claire, Iowa and Port Byron. Teams play tug-of-war with a giant rope stretched across the river. The festival offers rides, arcade games, live music, food vendors and fireworks.

Memorial Day at Rock Island Arsenal

Slide show:

Please note: I ordinarily never retouch my photos or video except for using editing practices that are common in all news photography. Common practices are: cropping to better emphasize a subject, color correction, exposure corrections, adding movement to still photos in video (aka the “Ken Burns Effect”), or inserting text like dates, ownership, or captions into a photo.

In this slide show I removed names from headstones and badges out of respect for survivors and the military. I made that decision after searching for Associated Press photos of national cemeteries and noticed many of those cemetery photos, not all, have the names on the stones out of focus or hidden in other ways. This was an exception I made for this particular story.

NPR Story: Justice is Not Blind for the Poor

This story is not specifically about the Quad Cities. It is a story about poverty and the Quad Cities have their fair share of poor people just like every other town in the U.S.

Joseph Shapiro reports – When the poor are arrested or ticketed and cannot pay their fines they are often incarcerated, and so in many states they are, in essence, punished twice. Wealthier people can pay their fines and go. The poor cannot. Most U.S. court systems operate in this manner.

Link to the story (12 min.)

State by State Court Fee Chart on NPR

Profiles of Criminals Who Were Forced to “Pay or Stay”  

Viewpoint: Professor Shares Her Experiences in Afghanistan

Professor Jordan Schneider shared news of her recent visit to Afghanistan with a supportive crowd at the Bettendorf Library. Schneider was an intern at the Afghanistan Embassy in Washington, D.C. in the 1990s. Part 1 of that presentation. Part 2. (Still photos in this video were obtained from Wikimedia Commons. Butte College logo and overhead shot came from californiacommunitycolleges.cccco.edu and w w w.dpr.com.)

Below is a slide show of some of the artifacts and memorabilia Professor Jordan Schneider brought with her for the February 25th presentation sponsored by the World Affairs Council of the Quad Cities.

The Annual Festival of Trees

Nov. 28, 2013 Deck the halls with boughs of everything because it’s that time of year again. Quad City Arts has kicked off the holiday season with its annual fundraiser, the Festival of Trees.

Since 1986 Quad City Arts has invited businesses, individuals, and charitable organizations to create all kinds of holiday décor available for purchase for eleven days at the start of the season. These gift baskets, holiday trees and decorations raise thousands of dollars to support local arts every year.

The creativity and whimsy of the decorations is new every year. But along with that, the 11 day event features performances from various schools, clubs, and other performing artists.

Officials say 99 percent of donations are purchased by the end of the festival. Those rare items that are not sold are donated to local non-profits.

Dec. 1 was the last day of the festival but here is a video to remember it by.

Quad City Physician Shares Insight About the Syrian Conflict

Click to Listen:Background on the Syrian Conflict as Explained by Dr. Kayali

 The World Affairs Council of the Quad Cities hosted three speakers at its April meeting, all of whom had first-hand experience with the political upheaval in their home countries.

QC residents Aussama Bazaraa, from Egypt, Dr. Adnan Ismail, from Yemen, and Dr. Kayali, from Syria, described how life at home has changed for them and their families.

Dr. Kayali completed his medical training in Des Moines. While living in Iowa he and his wife gave birth to their two children. They decided to return to Syria in 2006 so their children could grow up near other family members, but at the urging of his mother, Dr. Kayali brought his family back to the U.S. in 2012 until life returns to normal in Syria.

Due to current events in Syria his story is featured. What follows are parts of his presentation at the World Affairs Council meeting and some answers to questions asked a week later.

Transcription, Part 1:   I was born and raised in Syria. I went to medical school over there in my city called Aleppo, second largest city in Syria. I came to the states in 1990. I did my residency in pediatrics at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines. My oldest was born there, my youngest was born here at Genesis. In 2006 my wife and I decided that we wanted to take our kids and go back to Syria and have them live with their cousins and uncles and grandparents and so on and we have been in Syria until the end of 2012. Because of everything going on in Syria, we decided to come back.

         In Syria first we have Assad the father. So the father, Hafez al-Assad, led a coup, he was an officer and led a coup, took over in 1970. In the year 2000 he died of natural causes and the son took over. The problem was that his son was only 36 years old and the constitution says that the president should be at least 40 years old. The constitution was changed within a half hour.

There is no freedom of speech. There is all of corruption. There is no equality when it comes to … job opportunities or education opportunities. The police state was run by the police, by the intelligence service.

The question is not really what led to the Arab Spring but what took it so long … to happen. Henry Ford one time said, ‘Whether you think you can or you cannot, you are.’ Most of the Arabs felt that they cannot. We were putting up with all that corruption…with all that injustice and all of the people were on the borders. If any unrest happens they are going to starve the following day. They are working per day and earting whatever they are making that day. They have no reserve. So any unrest, any problem, that might affect their living and their family might starve.

So people put up with that until we saw what happened in Tunisia first, and people start to feel that yes, this can be done. And then Egypt; and we felt more empowered because Egypt is like a key country in the Middle East.

So because of everything going on, and because they felt that yes, we can do something about it and, the age of information when you can go to the Internet and see what’s going on in other parts of the world.