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Education
Lego League teams to flood Cedar Valley this weekend

CEDAR FALLS — Water — how it’s found, transported, used and disposed of — will be the theme of FIRST Lego League regional meets Saturday and Sunday across the Cedar Valley.

Students will flood Peet Junior High School in Cedar Falls on Saturday and Hawkeye Community College’s Tama Hall in Waterloo on Sunday to work on the competition’s “Hydro Dynamics” challenge. A total of 35 teams of up to 10 9- to 14-year-olds are expected Saturday and another 20 at Sunday’s event. Peet will also host 14 Junior FIRST Lego League teams, which include 6- to 9-year-olds.

Teams compete in tabletop matches using Lego Mindstorms robots they built and programmed.

The public is invited to attend the free events, both starting at 9 a.m. Peet’s event is expected to continue until 3 p.m. followed by an awards ceremony. Hawkeye’s event will hold its awards ceremony at 12:30 p.m.

Peet is located at 525 E. Seerley Blvd., Cedar Falls. Hawkeye is located at 1501 E. Orange Road, Waterloo.

Teams are coming from Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Grundy Center, Denver, Evansdale, Allison, Dysart, La Porte City, Jesup, Ossian, Osage, Cedar Rapids, Gilbertville, Hudson, New Hartford, Waverly, Ames, Tipton and Calmar. The events are regional qualifiers for the state-level Lego League competition Jan. 13 and 14 at Iowa State University.

Students put 12-13 weeks into research, design and robot building to complete missions on a 4-foot by 8-foot thematic playing surface and obstacle course. Teams research problems with the water cycle, create or improve a solution and share their solutions with others. Through hands-on experience and working in teams, children have a chance to explore a real-world issue to gain an appreciation and interest in science and technology.

Scores are determined by how many missions are completed as well as by the presentations on the theme that teams make to a panel of judges. An ability to work together and demonstrate they are upholding FIRST’s core values are also important.

FIRST is the guiding organization that puts together the annual challenges. Its name is an acronym of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.


Govt-and-politics
Court returns Rath Administration Building to city

WATERLOO — The city is taking back the historic but deteriorated Rath Packing Co. Administration Building.

District Court Judge Brad Harris approved an order Wednesday granting title to the city after a private developer failed to renovate the long-vacant structure at 1515 Sycamore St.

Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson said the city is already working to find a new developer to rehabilitate the building.

“While this past developer was not quite the answer in the end, we are in conversation with a few developers from out of state right now on the potential of a project for the building,” Anderson said.

“We will continue to talk with the different parties, see what their plans are and how they can fit into that area and benefit the Rath neighborhood area and the city of Waterloo as a whole, and hopefully move forward with some agreements in the next several months,” he added.

The city acquired the 200,000-square-foot building in 1985 when Rath Packing Co., once the city’s largest employer, was liquidated after more than 90 years in business through bankruptcy proceedings. It was later added to the National Register of Historic Places but remained empty as the city was unable to attract a redevelopment project.

City officials were working on plans to demolish the building in 2008 when Mako Waterloo Corp., led by California investor Bruce DeBolt, stepped forward with a renovation plan.

The company installed some new windows but failed to meet the July 2011 deadline to complete the work. Mako Waterloo received several extensions but allowed the building to continue to deteriorate.

The city went to court Aug. 29 seeking to regain title after DeBolt’s similar project in Sioux City filed for bankruptcy protection. Mako Waterloo had also failed to pay property taxes on the Rath building, which has become a haven for squatters.

Mako Waterloo did not file any court responses to the city’s legal action to seize the building. Judge Harris approved the order after no one representing the company or any other party with an interest in the building showed up for the hearing.


BRANDON POLLOCK, COURIER STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER  

The city of Waterloo regained possession of the Rath Administration Building.


Local
Foul play suspected in man's disapperance, Grundy sheriff, DCI say

GRUNDY CENTER — Investigators suspect foul play in the disappearance of a man reported missing to Grundy Center police in late October.

Michael Bruce Johns, 28, was reported missing Oct. 26. He is described as 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing 180 pounds.

At the time of his disappearance, Johns was wearing a white baseball cap, a green or dark-colored Under Armor hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and white and gray tennis shoes.

Johns was last seen in an area between Greene and Charles City around 6 a.m. Oct. 25. He has not been seen or heard from since.

The Grundy County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation are asking for the public’s assistance in providing any information about having contact with or seeing Johns during the early morning of Oct. 25.

The public is also encouraged to look for anything that would indicate a current location for Johns.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office at (319) 824-6933, or Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers at (855) 300-8477. Tips may also be left at www.cvcrimestop.com or sent with TipSoft or by texting the word CEDAR plus the information to CRIMES (274637). Message and data rates may apply. Text stop to opt out at any time. Text help for more information.


Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers 

Johns


NBC fires Lauer

NEW YORK (AP) — “Today” show host Matt Lauer was fired for what NBC on Wednesday called “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a colleague and was promptly confronted with a published report accusing him of crude and habitual misconduct with other women around the office.

With his easygoing charm, Lauer has long been a lucrative and highly visible part of NBC News and one of the highest-paid figures in the industry, and his downfall shook the network and stunned many of the roughly 4 million viewers who start their day with him.

He is easily one of the biggest names brought down in recent weeks by the wave of sexual misconduct allegations that have swept through Hollywood, the media and politics.

Network news chief Andrew Lack said in a memo to the staff that NBC received a complaint about Lauer’s behavior on Monday and determined he violated company standards. NBC said the misconduct started when Lauer and a network employee were at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and continued beyond that assignment.

Lack said it was the first complaint lodged against Lauer in his 20 years at NBC, but “we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”

NBC News received two new complaints against Lauer on Wednesday, “NBC Nightly News” reported.

Earlier Wednesday, it was left to Lauer’s shaken “Today” colleagues, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, to break the news to viewers at the top of the morning’s show.

Word of Lauer’s abrupt exit came on the day of NBC’s “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” special featuring the annual Manhattan tree-lighting ceremony. Lauer was to have co-hosted the Wednesday night program with Guthrie, Kotb and Al Roker.

Hours after the firing, the trade publication Variety posted what it said was a two-month investigation that included dozens of interviews with current and former staffers who asked to remain anonymous.

Among other things, Variety reported allegations Lauer once gave a colleague a sex toy with an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her; that he exposed himself to another female co-worker; that he would question female producers about their sex lives; and that he would talk about which co-hosts he would like to sleep with.

Messages to Lauer and his agent were not immediately returned, and NBC would not say whether he denied or admitted to any wrongdoing. He is married with three children.

Lauer becomes the second morning host in a week to lose his job over sexual misconduct allegations. CBS fired Charlie Rose after several women who worked for him complained about his behavior.

In other developments, former “Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor was cut loose by Minnesota Public Radio over an allegation of “inappropriate behavior.” MPR gave no details, but the 75-year-old Keillor said he inadvertently put his hand on a woman’s bare back in an attempt to console her.

Lauer, 59, has essentially been the king of television morning news since first being paired with Katie Couric on “Today” in 1997.

For many years, “Today” was the unquestioned ratings leader, until it was eclipsed by ABC’s “Good Morning America” following the ugly 2012 firing of Lauer’s co-host Ann Curry. The show had stabilized in recent years with Lauer’s pairing with Guthrie.

Lauer’s “Where in the world is Matt Lauer?” segments were popular for years, and he regularly played a lead role at the Olympics and other major news events.

He joins a lengthening list of media figures felled by sexual misconduct accusations this year. Besides Rose, they include Lauer’s NBC News colleague Mark Halperin, Fox News prime-time host Bill O’Reilly and National Public Radio newsroom chief Michael Oreskes. The New York Times suspended White House correspondent Glenn Thrush last week.

The flood of allegations was set off in large part by the downfall of Hollywood studio boss Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexually assaulting or harassing numerous women.

An immediate challenge is filling a giant hole on a show that has long been the most lucrative for NBC News. One potential replacement, Willie Geist, on Wednesday called Lauer someone “I have always looked up to in the business, and he taught me a lot.”

As for Keillor, Minnesota Public Radio said it will end distribution of the radio program “The Writer’s Almanac,” Keillor’s daily reading of a poem and telling of literary events, and end rebroadcasts of old “Prairie Home Companion” episodes.

“I meant to pat her back after she told me about her unhappiness and her shirt was open and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it,” Keillor said in an email to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We were friends. We continued to be friendly right up until her lawyer called.”

On Wednesday’s show, Guthrie appeared to fight back tears as she called Lauer her friend who is beloved by many at NBC. She said she was “heartbroken for my colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.”

“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly? I don’t know the answer to that,” she said. “But I do know that this reckoning that so many organizations have been going through is important, it’s long overdue, and it must result in workplaces where all women, all people, feel safe and respected.”

Later in the show, NBC’s Megyn Kelly, who has written about being sexually harassed by former boss Roger Ailes at Fox News Channel, noted the anguish on the faces of her colleagues but said, “What we don’t see is the pain on the faces of those who found the courage to come forward, and it is still a terrifying thing to do.”

On Twitter, President Donald Trump said, “Wow, Matt Lauer was just fired from NBC for ‘inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.’ But when will the top executives at NBC & Comcast be fired for putting out so much Fake News.”

Trump also alluded to potential misconduct by three other NBC News figures, while offering no details.

Natalie Morales, a former “Today” show colleague who left the show for “Access Hollywood” last year, said she was in shock about the story. She referred to stories that said she and Lauer had an affair, which they both denied.

“I have personally dealt with rumors in the past few years that were hurtful to me and to my family,” she said. “They diminished my hard work. I’ve addressed these rumors head-on in the past. It’s not the story today.”

Another former “Today” host, Deborah Norville, said she was stunned by the news.

“As a journalist, it’s upsetting to see another from our ranks caught up in these kinds of scandals. But as we’ve seen, no profession is immune,” she said. “Sadly, I doubt if anyone will be surprised if there are similar headlines to come.”