Jonathan Ahl | KBIA

Jonathan Ahl

Jonathan Ahl joined Iowa Public Radio as News Director in July 2008. He leads the news and talk show teams in field reporting, feature reporting, audio documentaries, and talk show content. With more than 17 years in public media, Jonathan is a nationally award-winning reporter that has worked at public radio stations in Macomb, Springfield and Peoria, IL. He served WCBU-FM in Peoria as news director before coming to Iowa. He also served as a part-time instructor at Bradley University teaching journalism and writing courses. Jonathan is currently serving a second term as president of PRNDI – the Public Radio News Directors, Incorporated.

Jonathan has a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois - Springfield along with a bachelor's degree from Western Illinois University.

Jonathan’s favorite public radio program is All Things Considered.

ROLLA — Hunters interested in taking any of the feral hogs that are doing significant damage in the Ozarks will have to do so in very limited windows.

The U.S. Forest Service announced on Saturday that hunting of feral hogs in Mark Twain National Forest will be limited to deer and turkey season and restricted to hunters holding permits.

Diagnosing traumatic brain injury faster so treatment can start right away is the focus of a $5 million research project centered at Fort Leonard Wood and nearby Phelps Health Hospital in Rolla.

Traumatic brain injury is a head injury from an external force that can do long-lasting damage to the brain. Phelps Health is a community hospital that serves a county of fewer than 50,000 people, but is conducting research that could revolutionize the way the Army treats everything from concussions to serious brain injury. 

The trade war with China is nearly a year and a half old, and farmers say there is no end in sight.

Farmers in Missouri and Illinois will receive a second round of federal payments to make up for losses from the ongoing trade war with China. Tariffs have reduced the demand for U.S. agricultural products.

Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said the farmers he is talking to are not optimistic there will be a resolution soon.

ROLLA Kathy Ellis lost to Congressman Jason Smith last year by nearly 50 percentage points, but the Democrat from Festus is already gearing up for a rematch she thinks she can win.

Eillis has held a dozen town hall meetings throughout the 30 counties that make up Missouri’s 8th Congressional District in the southeast part of the state.

ROLLA — The spring floods in Missouri and Illinois caused more than $1 billion in damage and may have left behind chemicals that could hurt the environment and end up in drinking water.

“A lot of times we don’t take measurements right after a flood. So we don’t have a really good idea of how long it takes for these things to get flushed out,” said Ryan Smith, a geologist at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. 

Low crop prices and an ongoing trade war limiting exports are adding to the financial struggles of farming. 

Across the nation, and in Missouri, an increasing number of farmers are looking to solar energy as a way to shore up the bottom line.

ROLLA — Kyle Wernke is an up-and-coming composer, but he doesn’t teach at a high-profile music school. 

There are no music majors in his orchestra, and the students spend more time on equations than they do on scales. Wernke teaches at Missouri University of Science and Technology, a school known much more for engineering than for performing arts.

Mo Dehghani, who has led Missouri University of Science and Technology for 100 days, already has ambitious plans to increase the size and impact of the school.

He laid out his vision for the campus in Rolla during a State of the University address last week. 

ROLLA — Voters in Phelps County were inconsistent Tuesday in their approach to authorizing local government to collect sales taxes on online purchases. 

Phelps County rejected the tax, while its two biggest cities, Rolla and St. James, approved it.

ROLLA — A change in federal tax law is threatening the future viability of rural electric cooperatives, according to Missouri industry leaders.

Federal law requires nonprofit electric co-ops to have only 15% of their revenue come from outside their customer base in order to maintain tax-exempt status. But part of the 2017 tax cuts modified the law to have federal grants count toward that 15%. That means Federal Emergency Management Agency grants for repairs due to natural disasters could push the providers into the realm of taxable power companies.

ROLLA — Phelps County and its two largest cities have only one question on the ballot Nov. 5 — whether to start collecting a tax for online sales known as a use tax.

Phelps County, along with Rolla and St. James, are reporting sales tax revenue that is lagging behind expenses. They all place the blame on consumers increasingly moving toward online shopping, where there isn’t any sales tax paid. 

FORT LEONARD WOOD — Soldiers in Missouri are testing new technology that could help save lives after a natural disaster or a terrorist bombing while keeping search-and-rescue teams safe.

The $700,000 Department of Defense project at Fort Leonard Wood is combining new and existing forms of technology that can be used by both the military and civilian first responders.

ROLLA — Rural Missouri school districts short on money sometimes struggle with teaching the three R's, so the idea of adding advanced science and technology instruction can be daunting.

A $250,000 state grant through Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla is helping 41 school districts in 10 counties in south-central Missouri bolster their offerings.

Fort Leonard Wood is home to more than 6,000 soldiers and at least three endangered species.

Those animals and two more that are threatened are protected and cared for despite living among shelling and other military training.

And scientists flock to the installation, saying it’s a boon to their research and gives them an opportunity to help these animals.

ROLLA — A new study shows suicide rates are on the rise, especially in rural counties, and the Missouri Ozarks and the Bootheel have some of the highest in the Midwest.

The report from Ohio State University shows counties with higher suicide rates tend to have more gun shops, more veterans and fewer people with health insurance. Their populations also tend to be poorer, more socially isolated and have less access to health care.

Across the country, people who live in rural areas are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer than city dwellers, according to a new study published in the Journal of Rural Health.

Patients living in counties far from populated cities and suburbs were 1.23 times more likely to be diagnosed with non-curable, stage 4 colon cancer than people living in urban areas, according to the research. That’s despite rural residents having lower rates of developing the disease.

Treatment outcomes are also worse for rural patients, with various studies finding they have an 8% to 15% greater chance of dying from colon cancer.

The state of Missouri can begin taking over the regulation of large livestock operations from county and local representatives. 

A Cole County judge last week lifted a temporary injunction that had been blocking a law that transfers that regulatory power from counties to the state since last month.

FORT LEONARD WOOD — In 2007, Jason VanKleeck was a drill sergeant in the Army, moving up the ranks and taking on new jobs.

But depression led to suicidal thoughts and nearly ended his life. 

He got help, and now is sharing his story with fellow soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood as part of a suicide prevention and mental health education program called “I Chose To Live.”

Holly Bickmeyer is worried about what a large livestock operation would do if it moves in next door. 

She points to the small lake in front of her house on the 20-head cattle farm she operates in Maries County.

“Sinkholes open up all the time,” Bickmeyer said. “You see the lake that’s in my front yard here? If somebody builds a hog operation at the end of my driveway, I would be concerned about that waste getting into the groundwater and I walk out one day and all my bass are dead.”

Bickmeyer said that’s why she wants her local county commissioners to decide if concentrated animal feeding operations, also known as CAFOs, can locate nearby. 

Daniel Jones said he is right and the law is wrong.

But ultimately, he didn’t think he would win a legal battle to keep his seat on the Rolla City Council.

He resigned Thursday night, on the eve of a hearing to determine whether he could continue to hold public office.

ROLLA - Sometimes, the best way to see how strong something is means shooting it with a cannon loaded up with stuff found in a coal mine.

While this may sound like a TV comedy bit, it’s part of serious research at the Missouri University of Science and Technology that could make coal mines safer for workers.

WAYNESVILLE — Sen. Roy Blunt is quick to tell people he is proud of soldiers, veterans and the bases in Missouri.

And he says the state can do better in supporting those soldiers and their families.

Blunt was a speaker Thursday at the annual meeting of the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, a nonprofit that promotes the region around Fort Leonard Wood.

The theme of the meeting was “Supporting National Defense in the Heart of America."

Small towns love their high school football team. 

So much so, that every year around this time there are scam artists who try to prey upon that pride to get money from local businesses.

The scam works like this: An out-of-town printing company calls businesses saying it is printing items to promote the high school team, and asks them to be sponsors by buying an ad. 

But the money doesn’t go to support the team, and the items may never be printed.

Mo Dehghani looked at Missouri University of Science and Technology (then known as the University of Missouri-Rolla) when he was picking a school for his undergraduate education.

While he decided to go to Louisiana State University, Missouri S&T’s commitment to science and technology stayed in his mind. Now, he’s ended up in Rolla as the school’s chancellor.

“When I got the call for the position, I was over the moon,” Dehghani said.

Highway 63, which stretches the length of Missouri and runs through Columbia, Jefferson City and Rolla, has the highest rate of fatal crashes over the past decade of any road in the state, according to a new report.

Fleet management company Geotab compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration to calculate the roads with the highest fatal-crash rate in each state.

Highway 63 saw 158 crashes and 179 fatalities in the past 10 years.

Eric Meusch, who farms 240 acres just outside Rolla, didn’t have health insurance for seven years until he recently got another job.

“We signed up for a plan under the Affordable Care Act right when it was passed. But two years later, we couldn’t afford the premiums,” Meusch said, speaking to U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, on the porch of his home last week.

Responding to a Department of Defense mandate that all military bases improve housing conditions, Fort Leonard Wood has hired more staff and made it easier for soldiers and their families to report problems. 

The base is reporting those changes have reduced complaints and sped up repairs.

Iron County is one of the state’s least healthy counties, according to the Missouri Health Atlas.

So when Iron County Medical Center in Pilot Knob, about 85 miles southwest of St. Louis, filed for bankruptcy protection last year, there was great concern.

“We’re all people around here have. It’s a very impoverished area,” said Joshua Gilmore, the CEO of the hospital.

Phil Cohen didn’t think anyone would want to work for him at the cabinetry company he opened in St. James in 2004. He was recovering from being addicted to drugs and had been in trouble with the law. He didn’t know much about business. His plans were largely built on faith.

So he hired people like him — former criminals and people who had been drug addicted who were turning their lives around.

Updated at 1 p.m., June 25 with comments from Bayer — Two Missouri law firms have filed a potential class-action lawsuit against Bayer, alleging the company violated state law in not disclosing the health risks associated with the weed killer Roundup. 

The lawsuit is different from others because it seeks purchase refunds, not compensation for personal injury.

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