One less barrier to vaccination

One less barrier to vaccination

Gazette Column
Amid measles outbreak and emergency mandates, Vatican makes position change public For vaccination advocates, there’s bad news and good news. Let’s start with the bad. Although deemed eradicated in 2000, measles is making a record comeback in the United States. Health officials have, for the second week in a row, added dozens of new cases, bringing the nationwide total to 465 as of last week. Not only does this mark the highest number of cases in a five-year period, highly contagious measles is now present in a third of U.S. states, including Iowa neighbors Illinois and Missouri. More measles cases occurred in the first three months of 2019 than in all of 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although 2014 remains the year since 2000 with the most…
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Veteran facing deportation finds hope in Iowa’s presidential parade

Veteran facing deportation finds hope in Iowa’s presidential parade

Gazette Column
Manuel Valenzuela, a Marine who served in Vietnam in 1971 and 1972 and has been facing the possibility of deportation since 2009, is very happy his travels to raise awareness brought him to Iowa. “The people of Iowa came to me, shook my hand and expressed gratitude for my service,” Valenzuela told me by phone as he drove his message-wrapped recreational vehicle out of Iowa toward Chicago. “I was respected by so many good people, some even handed me money to help pay for fuel while I continue to spread the message about me, my brother and other veterans who are being deported by the very country they fought for and would still die for. Iowans told me to ‘keep it rolling.’” And while visiting with Iowans was rewarding, Valenzuela…
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Biden censures: Politics, legitimate or both?

Biden censures: Politics, legitimate or both?

Gazette Column
Should Joe Biden had known better? Maybe. As a longtime Iowa caucus consumer, I’ve had multiple interactions with Biden. That doesn’t make me unique in the Hawkeye State. I’ve had opportunity to speak with him one-on-one on several occasions, and many more to watch as he has interacted with others, in semiprivate and public settings. Again, this doesn’t make me special. There was the time when Biden spoke at an event at a Cedar Rapids home. I asked if I could walk with him to his car to get in a few more questions. He agreed, tossing his arm around my shoulder as we walked. (For the record, a similar request of U.S. Rep. Steve King and numerous other politicians, regardless of gender, have resulted in similar outcomes.) There also…
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Why state leaders needed to step back from work requirements

Why state leaders needed to step back from work requirements

Gazette Column
State work requirements for Medicaid recipients appear to be scuttled, at least for this year. That’s a good thing because research and experience show the numbers don’t add up for participants or for taxpayers. The bill passed by the Iowa Senate, Senate File 538, required the Department of Human Services to petition the federal government for permission to implement Medicaid requirements beyond those already in place at the federal level. Those new stipulations centered on work requirements. Specifically, “able-bodied” recipients would need to work or volunteer a minimum of 20 hours each week, and government officials would need to make larger investments in software and staffing in order to track the changes with the increased veracity required by the bill. Sticks of chalk sit around a partially completed drawing of the…
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Just like love is love, hate is hate

Just like love is love, hate is hate

Gazette Column
This is what we’ve been reduced to and the saddest part of all is that we no longer find such behavior shocking. On March 22, at a Fort Dodge restaurant, a 26-year-old man — a Jefferson, Iowa, native transplanted in Lafayette, Colo. — tossed a glass of water onto U.S. Rep. Steve King and the congressman’s dinner mates. The man, Blake Gibbins, was immediately arrested and charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. That same day a woman who knew Gibbins when they were both younger and now lives in King’s congressional district, Carly Johansen of Ames, began fundraising online for Gibbins’ legal defense expenses. The GoFundMe site had a goal of $3,000 and, as I type, it has raised more than $5,000 from 254 donors in a five-day span.…
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We must talk about suicide

We must talk about suicide

Gazette Column
For Iowans between the ages of 15 and 34, suicide is second-leading cause of death On Monday we learned a third person connected to a mass shooting took his own life. Jeremy Richman, a 49-year-old neuroscientist and father of Newtown, Conn., shooting victim Avielle Richman, took his own life in the town hall offices of the nonprofit he co-founded to research violence and named for his daughter, the Avielle Foundation. His death closely followed those of two survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Fla., school shooting. Also gone are former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School cheerleader and recent graduate Sydney Aiello, 19, who lost her best friend in the rampage, and an unidentified sophomore at the school. (Author’s note: After this column was filed, the family of Calvin Desir identified him as the second Parkland shooting survivor to…
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Push needle on Cedar Rapids’ age-friendly reputation

Push needle on Cedar Rapids’ age-friendly reputation

Gazette Column
April 4 public meeting to provide older residents' survey responses Here’s what we know: Anything designed to facilitate access, engagement, safety, enjoyment and participation by older people is good for all age groups. So, why aren’t we doing more of it? The idea of creating “age-friendly” communities isn’t a new one. In 2011 Des Moines became the first Iowa community to earn the distinction of being an Age-Friendly Community, a partnership between the World Health Organization and AARP. Sadly, it remains the only Iowa community to complete the process, although Charles City in Floyd County has been exploring the idea. Two years ago Iowa City was named the best small city for successful aging by the Milken Institute. The group ranks communities in nine areas: general livability, health care, wellness, financial security, education, transportation and convenience,…
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This is what democracy looks like

This is what democracy looks like

Gazette Column
Hundreds of area residents who took time this past snowy Saturday morning to attend a League of Women Voters’ Legislative Forum also should take a moment to pat themselves on the back. It was a job well done, and all participants — residents, lawmakers and organizers — deserve kudos for creating and being part of such a civil political display. Despite inclusion of hot-button issues like abortion, state finances and gun rights, Democratic and Republican lawmakers sat side-by-side and answered questions while people listened — a refreshing exercise of democracy that has lately become the exception instead of the rule. And, given the most recent national revelations, such events may serve as a cure for our political dysfunction. [caption id="attachment_1945" align="alignright" width="500"] Local members of the Iowa Legislature answered questions…
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More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

More than reactionary gun violence plans needed

Gazette Column
Pro-gun legislation in the Iowa Statehouse has succumbed to a barrage of bullets. Unfortunately, this is not a metaphor. The nation’s latest mass shooting, this time at a Florida high school, contributed to the demise of an Iowa bill aimed to loosen gun-permitting regulations. Instead, lawmakers want school districts to adopt security plans that address “active shooters” and other disasters. Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who managed Senate File 2106, said the untimely and unnecessary deaths of 17 Floridians “apparently changed the optics.” Well, it’s about damn time. [caption id="attachment_1934" align="aligncenter" width="690"] Students, friends and family gather at the memorial crosses at Pine Trails Park in Parkland, Fla., to remember those where were killed and injured in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)[/caption]…
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Feminine hygiene product drive began with dignity

Feminine hygiene product drive began with dignity

Gazette Column
As Iowans extend a helping hand to those in need, feminine hygiene supplies are too often forgotten. A local group is stepping up to help. Members of the Cedar Rapids National Organization for Women are collecting pads and tampons to help support homeless and incarcerated women and girls. “The idea for the feminine hygiene product drive followed discussions on initiatives like the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act,” said Bailey Mendenhall, chapter president. “Throughout our last few meetings we had been discussing legislative solutions, as well as other organizations’ efforts to assist women abroad and at home with access to these products. We decided that we should be doing something right here, within our own community.” The women learned that there is a near constant need for feminine hygiene products in local transitional housing…
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