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Arian Schuessler / ARIAN SCHUESSLER The Globe Gazette 

Deadra Stanton reacts as she looks out over a room of over 100 current and former students who gathered to celebrate her career as a teacher at Mason City High School in May 2016.

April showers: Snowstorm brings 4+ inches to Mason City, Clear Lake

MASON CITY | Tuesday’s snow might take awhile to melt with cool temperatures through the remainder of the week.

Schools in Mason City, Clear Lake, Charles City, Osage, Riceville, Forest City, Britt, Algona and Buffalo Center closed Tuesday morning for the snow. Snow didn't start falling until after 1 a.m. and remained light through early morning.

Some Mason City area residents and businesses were without power during the storm from about 10:41 a.m. to 11:08 a.m., according to Alliant Energy. The cause of the outage was unknown as of Tuesday afternoon.

Most of North Iowa received between 2 to 4 inches of snow, according to KIMT meteorologist Tyler Roney. Mason City, Clear Lake and Algona had closer to 4 inches of snow as of about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday. 

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

A Mason City Recreation Department employee plows the sidewalks in East Park on Tuesday.

Sub-zero wind chills are expected Wednesday morning in North Iowa, according to the National Weather Service. Wind chills could be in the minus 5 to minus 10 degree range in the region.

Sunny skies are expected through the day Wednesday, with a high near 29 degrees and 7 to 13 mph winds.

Clouds are expected to roll in Wednesday evening with a low of 19 degrees. Thursday will be mostly cloudy with a high near 39 and low of about 16.

Friday and Saturday are expected to be mostly sunny, with highs in the 20s. 

Rain and snow are likely during the day Sunday and overnight into Monday, National Weather Service forecasters say, with about a 60 percent chance of precipitation. Temperatures are expected to range from the mid 20s to upper 30s.

Impatient for wall, Trump wants US military to secure border

WASHINGTON — Frustrated by slow action on a big campaign promise, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants to use the military to secure the U.S.-Mexico border until his promised border wall is built.

Trump told reporters he's been discussing the idea with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

"We're going to be doing things militarily. Until we can have a wall and proper security, we're going to be guarding our border with the military," Trump said, calling the move a "big step."

It was unclear exactly how the proposal would work or what kind of troops Trump wanted to deploy.

Federal law prohibits the use of active-duty service members for law enforcement inside the U.S., unless specifically authorized by Congress. But over the past 12 years, presidents have twice sent National Guard troops to the border to bolster security and assist with surveillance and other support. An official said the White House counsel's office has been working on the idea for several weeks.

Trump has been annoyed by the lack of progress on building what was the signature promise of his campaign: a "big, beautiful wall" along the Mexican border. He's previously suggested using the Pentagon's budget to pay for building the wall, arguing it is a national security priority, despite strict rules that prohibit spending that's not authorized by Congress.

The Department of Homeland Security and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment. At the Pentagon, officials were struggling to answer questions about the plan, including rudimentary details on whether it would involve National Guard members.

But officials appeared to be considering a model similar to a 2006 operation in which President George W. Bush deployed National Guard troops to the southern border.

Under Operation Jump Start, 6,000 National Guard troops were sent to assist the border patrol with non-law enforcement duties while additional border agents were hired and trained. Over two years, about 29,000 National Guard forces participated, as forces rotated in and out. The Guard members were used for surveillance, communications, administrative support, intelligence, analysis and the installation of border security infrastructure.

In addition, President Barack Obama sent about 1,200 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in 2010 to beef up efforts to battle drug smuggling and illegal immigration.

Texas has also deployed military forces to its 800-mile border with Mexico. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, now serving as Trump's energy secretary, sent 1,000 Texas National Guardsmen to the Rio Grande Valley in 2014 in response to a sharp increase in Central American children crossing the border alone.

Trump met Tuesday with top administration officials, including Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, to discuss the administration's strategy to address what White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders described as "the growing influx of illegal immigration, drugs and violent gang members from Central America."

In addition to mobilizing the National Guard, Trump and senior officials "agreed on the need to pressure Congress to urgently pass legislation to close legal loopholes exploited by criminal trafficking, narco-terrorist and smuggling organizations," Sanders said.

The meeting and comments came amid a flurry of tweets by the president on the subject over the last several days.

Trump has been fixated on the issue since he grudgingly signed a spending bill last month that includes far less money for the wall than he'd hoped for.

The $1.3 trillion package included $1.6 billion for border wall spending — a fraction of the $25 billion Trump made a last-minute push to secure. And much of that money can be used only to repair existing segments, not to build new sections.

Trump spent the first months of his presidency bragging about a dramatic drop in illegal border crossings, and indeed the 2017 fiscal year marked a 45-year low for Border Patrol arrests. But the numbers have been slowly ticking up since last April and are now on par with many months of the Obama administration. Statistics show 36,695 arrests of people trying to cross the southwest border in February 2018, up from 23,555 in the same month of the previous year.

Trump appeared to take credit Tuesday for halting a caravan of about 1,100 migrants, many from Honduras, who had been marching along roadsides and train tracks in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

"I said (to Mexican officials), 'I hope you're going to tell that caravan not to get up to the border.' And I think they're doing that because, as of 12 minutes ago, it was all being broken up," he said.

But the caravan of largely Central American migrants had never intended to reach the U.S. border, according to organizer Irineo Mujica. It was meant to end at a migrants' rights symposium in central Mexico later this week.

The caravan stopped to camp at a sports field in Oaxaca over the weekend. Mexican immigration officers have been signing them up for temporary transit visas, which would allow them to travel to the U.S. border, possibly to seek asylum, or to seek asylum status in Mexico.

Iowa governor signs law allowing health plans that skirt ACA

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa will allow people to buy a cheaper form of health insurance that skirts Affordable Care Act rules, under legislation signed into law Monday by the state's Republican governor.

The law will allow Iowa's Farm Bureau to partner with a designated insurance company to offer so-called health benefit plans that technically aren't defined as insurance. The plans, which won't be regulated by the state, aren't required to cover "essential health benefits" like maternity care and mental health. They don't have to offer protections to people with pre-existing medical conditions and can implement annual limits on coverage.

Speaking to a packed room in her formal office at the state Capitol, Gov. Kim Reynolds said the legislation is about providing relief to people who have seen their health insurance premiums spike in recent years. Many of those individuals do not qualify for subsidies that have helped others offset those costs.

Data shows enrollment in Iowa's individual insurance market has plummeted, from nearly 75,000 people in 2016 to about 46,000 last month.

"Because of this bill, thousands of Iowans will now have affordable health care coverage," Reynolds said.

Health policy experts say the legislation is unusual because few states have tried to take themselves out of regulating health insurance. The plan is similar to a set-up in Tennessee, which currently lets its own Farm Bureau offer such limited health insurance coverage. Those plans are tied to an unrelated law enacted in the early 1990s.

Iowa's effort does highlight new attempts by states to work around the 2010 health law championed by President Barack Obama. Earlier this year, Idaho tried to offer skimpy health insurance, though officials there still called it insurance. Federal health care regulators later shot down Idaho's plan, though the state is still negotiating the idea.

Separately, President Donald Trump's administration is in the midst of proposing rules that try to expand alternative health insurance options that don't have to meet ACA standards.

Specific details about what's covered in Iowa's plans aren't available yet. Messages left for Iowa Farm Bureau were not immediately returned last Friday. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the partnering insurance company, said the plans will be competitive. Cory Harris, an executive vice president for the company, noted Wellmark is also returning to the individual insurance market in 2019.

"Farm Bureau hasn't gone through all of this to offer a product that the market doesn't want," Harris said.

Sarah Lueck, a health policy expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said last month that there's a concern younger and healthier people will jump ship into these new plans.

"That doesn't help stability of the market," she said.

Medica, the Minnesota-based insurance company that is currently the sole carrier in Iowa, criticized the proposal as it moved through the Republican-controlled Legislature this session. In the end, several Democrats also supported it. Geoff Bartsh, Medica vice president of individual and family business, said in a statement Monday that the law does not change the company's immediate plans for the Iowa market.

Still, Bartsh called the law "a hasty solution that will benefit a select few at the cost of others."

"Markets don't work when some get to play by a different set of rules," he said. "There are consequences."

The new law signed Monday also has a provision that will allow more so-called association health plans. Those plans, part of Trump's efforts to offer alternative health insurance options, are aimed at small businesses that can band together to offer non-compliant ACA plans.