I come to praise local television news, not to bury it.

Okay, there won't be much praise, and there will be some burying.

When telling friends about particularly unusual and impressive stage performances, "You have to see it to believe it" is a commonly employed cliché. In the case of a stage performance by the East Coast talents of Galumpha, the latest guests in Quad City Arts' Visiting Artists series, a more appropriate sentiment might be "You have to see it to understand it." (And, also, to believe it.)

Hunger is a human problem with millions of faces, but two related numbers can illuminate the size of the problem in the Quad Cities - and the heartwarming community generosity that's fighting it.

The first number: Christian Care served nearly 56,000 meals last year at its meal site, according to Executive Director Elaine Winter. The second: "Our budget [for food] is about a thousand dollars a year," she said.

The site at 2209 Third Avenue in Rock Island serves 19 meals week. (There's no lunch on Saturday or Sunday.) On average, then, it was feeding more than 57 people per meal. The cash cost per meal? Less then two cents.

What this one site illustrates is that food assistance beyond what taxpayer-funded government programs provide is a real, persistent need in the Quad Cities. And the community - through churches, charitable organizations, and individuals - has been meeting the need.

The bad news is that hunger appears to be growing.

The grim math for Hope Creek Care Center is pretty simple. Changing it is not.

Right now, the 245-bed Rock Island County-run nursing home in East Moline is paid $127.48 by the State of Illinois for each Medicaid recipient it houses. The cost to care for each person, said Administrator Trudy Whittington, is $200 a day.

And because by law government-run homes can't turn away Medicaid recipients, typically more than 60 percent of Hope Creek residents are on the state/federal public-aid program.

So Hope Creek is nearly $4 million in the red each year from that disparity alone, and the current property-tax subsidy for the nursing home doesn't cover it. And that doesn't even consider other factors related to state government - such as late reimbursements and delays in approving Medicaid applications.

In that context, Rock Island County officials on October 10 bluntly announced that "after providing an option for the long-term-care needs for residents of our county since 1839 in one capacity or another, the county is looking to divest itself from the nursing-home business due to forces beyond our control that have made that commitment impossible to continue. ... The Rock Island County Board will take official action at their November 19 meeting to explore the potential of leasing or selling Hope Creek Care nursing home."

That statement brought immediate backlash - by the union representing Hope Creek workers, and by people concerned about the fate of Medicaid recipients who live at Hope Creek or might need to in the future. The county quickly retreated, and County Board Chair Phil Banaszek appointed an ad-hoc committee to look at other options.

Whittington said selling or leasing Hope Creek is Plan D and Plan E at this point - but the county would be remiss if it didn't do its homework on those alternatives. "We have to start looking at what Hope Creek's options are," she said last week. "If we don't do something, those may become our only options. ... That is ... our last resort."

The Rock Island County Board could as soon as its November 19 meeting take some sort of action on Hope Creek. The most likely course is approving a referendum question for the November 2014 ballot to raise property taxes in 2015 to further subsidize Hope Creek.

Sandra Steingraber. Photo by Dede Hatch.

Sandra Steingraber has bachelor and doctorate degrees in biology and a master's in creative writing. "I had long been a biologist by day and poet by night," she said in a phone interview earlier this month. "I kind of kept my writing world and my science world separate."

And that was her intention when she set out to write the book that would become Living Downstream. "It was going to represent my best attempt as a biologist to summarize the links between cancer and the environment," she said.

But the poet in her ended up transforming the project into something unusual: a deeply personal story intertwined with a scientific one, as Steingraber discusses her own cancer in the context of the troubling relationship between chemical pollution and the disease. The hook of the book, she said, is "the life behind one of the data points in the cancer registry, namely my own."

Steingraber will be speaking at St. Ambrose University on October 22 as part of the school's Sustainability Project, which includes events throughout the academic year. Her lecture, she said, will apply the "conceptual theme" of Living Downstream (originally published in 1997, with a second edition and film adaptation released in 2010) to fracking - induced hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas and petroleum.

Domingo Rubio in 2012's DraculaDomingo Rubio left no doubt that his Count Dracula was in charge during Friday's performance of Ballet Quad Cities' Dracula at Moline's Scottish Rite Cathedral. (The production ended its two-night run on Saturday.) From his bat-like entrance - with the dancer slowly flapping his black cape from front to back as he made his way through the darkened auditorium - to his death, Rubio's Dracula never seemed controlled by anyone, and that included choreographer Deanna Carter. Rubio gave the impression that his Dracula wasn't moving because Carter gave him predetermined choreography, but because it was the way he wanted to move.

Kelly Daniels. Photo by Joshua Ford (JoshuaFord.com).

In ninth grade, Kelly Daniels was called to the principal's office, where his father was waiting. Dad took Kelly and his younger brother Ole for a drive, and after a while, he said, "I figured you should hear it from me first."

He said he woke up in jail. And: "To be honest, it was kind of a relief when the guard finally told me I killed Barclay." And then: "You can cry if you want."

But Daniels didn't cry. What he felt instead was "something that still kind of amazes me," he said in an interview earlier this month. "It was a strange reaction. It just seemed like all of a sudden my life brushed against the news. 'This is a big deal.'"

He felt something similar when he emerged from a week-long fever that nearly killed him in Honduras: "There was this same sense ... of my life being like a book."

And now it is - and a good one, too. Daniels, an associate professor of English at Augustana College, earlier this year published his memoir Cloudbreak, California. (He'll celebrate its release with a party from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, September 27, at the Bucktown Center for the Arts, and he'll also read from it as part of the River Readings at Augustana series on January 16.)

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

These are the first words of the Bible, and they were also one of 50 "great beginnings" that we offered our readers as opening lines for our 2013 short-fiction contest. (See the full list at RCReader.com/y/fiction.) We had lots of submission rules, but the other main criterion was a 250-word limit beyond the chosen prompt.

We received 134 entries, and we're printing prize-winners and other favorites here.

Enjoy!

Developer Tim Baldwin in the Democrat building. The skylight, he said, will be integrated into the design of one apartment.

It would be natural to look at the volume of housing being developed in downtown Davenport and infer some coordinated process or a major new incentive program. Roughly 300 market-rate apartments are either recently finished or in the development process.

There's undoubtedly a trend here. The Downtown Davenport Partnership - part of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce - noted in its strategic plan from earlier this year that "nearly 100,000 square feet of office space is currently planned for conversion to residential units."

That includes 11 different projects from seven different developers.

And while the Downtown Davenport Partnership has been a key player, its director - Kyle Carter - said his organization's role has been to "help guide that process. Not own it, guide it. ...

"We always give advice when these developers are shopping," he said. "But the vast majority of those plans are developer-driven. If anything, I'm the tour guide. I'm the guy that is showing the buffet of options down here. So I will certainly push for projects that I think are more catalytic, or locations that will have bigger benefits for the whole down here."

In other words, local government, a downtown organization, or a plan with the scale or taxpayer cost of River Renaissance isn't behind this housing boom. It's largely happening on its own.

By most standards, Jason Kakert's Iowa Hemp for Victory page on Facebook is a modest grassroots political effort. He started the page in 2011, and this week it had only 58 "likes."

"This is just getting started out," the 31-year-old graphic artist said last week in his studio at the Bucktown Center for the Arts. "Right now this is kind of a one-man show."

But Kakert (a former River Cities' Reader intern) is an eloquent advocate for industrial hemp, and he's part of a movement that's gaining significant traction. Last month, the U.S. House - by a vote of 225 to 200 - passed an amendment to the farm bill that would allow "institutions of higher education to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for the purpose of agricultural or academic research," according to the amendment's summary. "The amendment only applies to [the nine] states that already permit industrial hemp growth and cultivation under state law."

The amendment is now attached to the House-passed farm bill, but its fate is uncertain at best; the larger politics of the farm bill dwarf this particular issue.

Yet the amendment's passage represented a major surprise victory for hemp advocates. As Tom Murphy, the national outreach coordinator and a board member of the not-for-profit organization Vote Hemp, said in an interview last week: "We were expecting a 50 to 375 defeat."

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