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.

Spouses of military members are used to moving every few years, and they often have to put their careers on hold when they need a professional license to work in their new state.

A proposal in Missouri’s Legislature would ease that problem by having the state honor professional licenses held by military spouses who are transferred from other states. 

“If we can do this to show our support for our military families and getting our military spouses jobs quickly and easily, that not only benefits that spouse, it benefits the whole family,” said state Rep. Steve Lynch, R-Waynesville.

ROLLA — More than $60 million in grants and low-interest loans is headed to Missouri as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to increase broadband internet access in rural areas.

Six businesses are receiving the grants to install fiber optic internet lines that will bring high-speed service to areas that have little to no access.

Gascosage Electric Cooperative is one of those businesses. It provides electricity to rural areas of Camden, Maries, Miller, Phelps and Pulaski counties in south-central Missouri. This grant is part of its entry into the internet service provider market.

When Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville closed recently, it became the seventh rural hospital to shut its doors in Missouri since 2010.

In that same time frame, Illinois had two rural hospitals go out of business. The National Rural Hospital Association blames the difference on lack of Medicaid expansion. 

The association reports there are nine factors that can lead to a rural hospital shutting down, and being in a state, like Missouri, that hasn't expanded Medicaid is No. 1.

ROLLA — Twenty teams of Missouri junior high students took a crack at solving a big problem: What will cities of the future look like as they try to address clean water shortages?

Future City is an annual competition challenging sixth through eighth graders to design and build a model of a city and present it to a group of judges. This year’s theme was “Clean Water: Tap Into Tomorrow.”

The teams gathered at Missouri University of Science and Technology over the past weekend to present their ideas and compete for a chance to represent the state at a national competition in Washington, D.C.

If you have a little bit of money and can answer a 10-question online survey, you can get an official-looking certificate stating that you need an emotional support animal. 

You don’t have to talk to anyone or go through an assessment.

Because it’s so easy to obtain the documentation and the laws on accommodations for emotional support animals are murky, some people are using the certification to get out of paying pet deposits and monthly fees to keep an animal in an apartment.

ROLLA — As more industries, including transportation, are looking to electricity to deliver more power, Missouri University of Science and Technology wants to help meet that demand.

The school is leading a research effort to develop the equipment needed to deliver voltages that are up to 100 times what are found in the average household outlet.

“The goal is to figure out how to deliver high voltage cheaply and safely,” said Mehdi Ferdowsi, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T.

FORT LEONARD WOOD — Passenger counts at the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport were down from February through October of 2019 compared to the previous year.

That’s despite a new airline coming in and upgrading the departing planes from eight-seat propellor planes to 30-seat jets.

When Nashville-based Contour Airlines replaced Massachusetts-based Cape Air, local officials were confident it would improve and expand service. But it’s taking a bit longer than expected for that to come to fruition.

The number of Missouri farmers who are pessimistic about the new year is double what it was at the same time in 2019, according to a new survey by the Missouri Farm Bureau. 

The poll of members showed that 14% of farmers have negative feelings about 2020, compared to 6% in 2019 and 3% in 2018.

A similar survey of farmers by Purdue University shows a comparable mood across the Midwest.

ROLLA — Chantae McMillan came back to her hometown for the holidays, in part for some help as she looks to qualify for the Summer Games in Tokyo next year.

“Olympic athletes don’t get a paycheck,” McMillan said at a fundraiser at Public House Brewing Company in Rolla. “We rely upon sponsors. And I have always been able to rely on people in Rolla who have always helped me.”

ROLLA - Kudzu and other invasive plants are threatening parts of the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri’s Ozarks, and goats might be part of the solution.

In 2019, the National Forest Service started a pilot program to use small herds of goats in certain sections of the 1.5 million acre forest to clear out invasive plant species.

Utility company Ameren has come to an agreement with Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources to donate an old rail line for use as a recreational trail. 

The former Rock Island and Pacific Rail corridor owned by Ameren stretches 144 miles from Beaufort to Windsor and would complete a trail that would connect Kansas City to St. Louis. 

For the first time in more than 70 years, farmers in Missouri will be allowed to grow industrial hemp during the 2020 growing season.

But first they will need a permit from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Those applications are online now, and the department will start processing them right after the first of the year.

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.”

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