The Iowa Supreme Court has overturned a nearly $17 million award against BRK Brands, Incorporated, manufacturers of the First Alert smoke alarms, in a case involving the death of a three-year-old Davenport boy. Nathan and Jennifer Mercer had sued BRK Brands, claiming the BRK model 83R ionization smoke detector was defective and failed to go off in time when a fire, sparked by a faulty baby monitor, killed their three-year-old boy Bradley and severely burned their 18-month-old son Travis in January 1993. A Scott County jury awarded the Mercers $16.9 million after a two-week trial. The opinion, written by Chief Justice Arthur McGiverin, said the district court committed an error by allowing 363 consumer complaints to be admitted as evidence in the trial. McGiverin also noted that the plaintiffs failed to prove that BRK's conduct was willful and wanton, and that the issue of punitive damages shouldn't even have been issued to the jury. The court reversed the judgment and has sent the case back for new trial.

October 28 is the deadline in Iowa for registering to vote in the critical November 7 election. (The deadline in Illinois is October 11.) Registering is as easy as filling out a voter-registration card, which can be found at post offices, libraries, banks, driver's license stations, and many other places. In Iowa, you can even download an application from ( There's no excuse not to be registered and vote.

Dealing with issues such as getting your children to school and doing homework can be difficult. A free booklet is available on those and other parenting concerns by calling the Helpline for Parents at (309)757-8555 or (800)4333-6644. Helpline for Parents is a community service funded by United Way of the Quad City Area with volunteer support from the Child Abuse Council and Illini Hospital.

According to a report recently issued by The Lewin Group, Iowa ranks 18th best among states in women's health, with Illinois 37th. "Making a Grade on Women's Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card" was compiled from data gathered from federal- and state-government sources in collaboration with two other organizations. Although the report shows Iowa is 41st and Illinois 40th in mammograms, that category is the only satisfactory grade the states received in three health-screening categories. Both states received failing grades in all components of health prevention, including preventing smoking, binge drinking, and obesity; eating five fruits and vegetables a day; and doing leisure-time physical activity. Overall, women's health in the United States was unsatisfactory, and no state received an overall grade of "satisfactory." You can see the report by following the links at The Lewin Group's Web site at ( You will need Adobe Acrobat to read the study.

The Doris and Victor Day Foundation recently issued more than $1 million in grants to Quad City health, education, and social-service projects. The grant announcement included $100,000 for a family pool in Rock Island and $50,000 to renovate housing in Rock Island. Also included were a $100,000 grant to Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, $7,000 to Quad City Arts, and $20,000 to the Rock Island Public Library. The foundation, named for the couple that owned Bear Manufacturing Company, contributes to specific projects, not general funding for programs or agencies. For more information about the foundation, call (309)788-2300.

It is now a misdemeanor traffic offense in Davenport to allow passengers to ride in the back of a pickup truck unless they are in a parade or it's a requirement of their job. Aldermen passed the law at the request of Alderman George Nickolas, 2nd Ward. He was prompted by a crash in Walcott that killed an eight-year-old boy when the pickup he was riding in flipped over, pinning him underneath it. The new law was opposed by Alderman Bob McGivern, 6th Ward, who called it an unnecessary intrusion by government into people's behavior. Alderman Roxanna Mortiz, 1st Ward, opposed suspending the council rules to fast-track the new law.

Illinois could lose up $500 million in Medicaid funds if a loophole is closed that allows Illinois and 19 other states to collect excess Medicaid reimbursements. The loophole permits a state to use the maximum allowed cost for services at public hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes to be reimbursed by the federal government. Because many of these services often cost less, the difference means extra money for the state and costs the federal government $2 billion a year.

More than 600 members of Iowa's entrepreneurial community met in Des Moines for the first annual Iowa Venture Capital Conference. The conference featured remarks by Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, McLeodUSA Chairman and CEO Clark McLeod, and entrepreneur and investor John Pappajohn. A number of panel discussions were held, including "Financing Entrepreneurial Ventures" and "Attracting the Right Money." At the conference, John Pappajohn also announced a $3.5 million follow-up gift to educate students in entrepreneurship, adding to a 1996 gift of $4.5 million to five Iowa colleges. More than 450 new businesses have been launched as a result of the assistance provided. You can find out more about Iowa economic development on the Web by looking at the Iowa Department of Economic Development at (

Martin Lopez, president of the Davenport Police Association, is warning of a telephone scam in which solicitations are made in the name of the Police Protective fund. He said, in a press release, "The Davenport Police Association has no connection with this solicitation, and we do not benefit from any of the funds."

Iowa schools are suffering from a teacher shortage, and with the number of teachers retiring in the coming years, it will only get worse. Forty-eight teachers have received a forgivable loan and are now teaching subjects such as math, industrial arts, language, and special education. The loan program offers loans up to $3,000 a year and encourages teachers to stay in areas of shortage for five years to get their loans fully forgiven. Funds for the program were increased from $250,000 to $525,000 this year. You can find out more by calling the Iowa College Student Aid Commission at (800)383-4222 or by looking at their Web site at (

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