Sandhya Dirks arrived in Iowa in January of 2012 as a general assignment reporter. Since coming to Des Moines she has covered the Statehouse and traveled across Iowa to bring back stories for IPR. Sandhya was previously a reporter at KALW in San Francisco, covering education and criminal justice issues. Her work was awarded a SPJ Sigma Delta Chi and a regional Edward R. Murrow award.

Most recently, Sandhya earned her Master of Science from Columbia Journalism School in New York. Her master’s project was an investigative documentary about international adoption for which she was awarded the Pasty Preston Pulitzer Documentary Fellowship.

Sandhya’s favorite public radio program is Radiolab.

5:40pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Around the Nation

A Century-Old Grotto That Might Out-Glitter Vegas

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 6:11 pm

Father Paul Dobberstein began building the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa, 100 years ago. It's covered with stones, rocks, petrified wood and seashells.
Denise Krebs via Flickr

The Midwest is known for its roadside attractions — world's largest ear of corn, heaviest ball of twine, biggest truck stop.

But it's also home to one of the largest collections of grottoes in the world. Most of these man-made caves were created by immigrant priests at the beginning of the 20th century. And the mother of them all — encrusted in $6 million worth of semiprecious stones — is in West Bend, Iowa.

This weekend, the Grotto of the Redemption turns 100.

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5:12pm

Fri June 22, 2012
It's All Politics

Obama Basks In Latino Politicians' Love After His DREAM Moves

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 3:55 pm

President Obama returned a young fan's salute at the conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in Orlando, Fla.
Brendan Smialowski AFP

Coming a week after President Obama announced that he would defer deportation proceedings for many young illegal immigrants, it was safe to predict that he'd get an appreciative response from an audience of Latino leaders. They didn't disappoint.

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5:11pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Movie Interviews

Digital Domain Grapples With Fur, Feathers

Originally published on Mon June 25, 2012 5:42 pm

Gesundheit: Kichaa is the name of one of the animated characters causing consternation among the animators at Digital Domain. He's featured in the upcoming film The Legend of Tembo.
Digital Domain

You may not have heard of the special-effects studio Digital Domain, but you've probably seen their work. They sank the Titanic for James Cameron; they aged Brad Pitt backward in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Most recently, their virtual likeness of the late Tupac Shakur performed in concert.

Having worked those wonders, they're tackling thornier challenges: fur and feathers.

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5:03pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Business

The Downside To Owning Your Own Island

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 5:41 pm

It's great to have your own private island like this one in the Caribbean, unless there's a hurricane bearing down.
Christian Wheatley iStockphoto.com

Who hasn't dreamed of having their own coral-fringed island, lounging on its sandy beach, coconut daiquiri in hand?

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4:57pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Politics

Candidate Accidentally Uploads Four Reaction Videos

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 6:11 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Call it being prepared. Call it a blunder. Whatever you call it, a dirty little campaign secret is out. Politicians sometimes pre-tape supposedly instant responses.

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4:51pm

Fri June 22, 2012
The Two-Way

Germany Knocks Greece Out Of Euro Championship

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 6:11 pm

Germany scored three goals in the second half to knock Greece out of the European Championship, today.

As we reported, it was a match dubbed the "debt derby," because it pitted the Eurozone's weakest economy with its paymaster.

The AP adds:

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4:44pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Planet Money

Why A Strong Yen Means More U.S. Jobs

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 6:11 pm

Ben Margot AP

The cost to build a Toyota Prius hasn't changed much in the past five years — if you measure the cost in Japanese yen. But if you measure the cost in dollars, it's a different story. In 2007, it cost Toyota about $16,000 to build a Prius. Now, it's more like $24,000.

That's because the value of the yen has risen relative to the dollar. In 2007, $1 bought 124 yen; today, $1 buys just 79 yen.

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4:39pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Drug-Resistant Germ In Rhode Island Hospital Raises Worries

Pretty to look at, almost, but Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria these are a common cause of infections in hospitals.
CDC

A highly resistant form of a common bacterium recently popped up in two Rhode Island patients, only the 12th and 13th times it has been spotted in this country.

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4:18pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Business

A Week Of Near-Calamities Erodes Confidence

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 4:24 pm

Vanessa Loren shops in Miami. An index of consumer sentiment dropped more than expected in June.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

When Moody's downgraded the credit ratings of most major U.S. banks on Thursday, you'd have thought Friday would be a tough day for bank stocks.

But bank stocks ticked up — largely because investors were relieved. They had feared the downgrades would be worse. The Dow Jones industrial average was recovering from Thursday's 250-point drop, the second-worst of the year.

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