Reynolds’ address offered renewed optimism

Reynolds’ address offered renewed optimism

Gazette Column
This week was for the doubters and the naysayers. This week was for those who continue to believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that it makes no difference when women lead. With her first Condition of the State address, Gov. Kim Reynolds proved to all Iowans why well-rounded states value and embrace the strengths and experiences of all residents. Her remarks were generally inclusionary and conciliatory. They stood in stark contrast to last year’s contentious legislative session, and in defiance of the bungled Statehouse sexual harassment scandal. “All of us in public office must ensure not only a safe workplace but serve as a model for the public and private sector,” she said. “What we do here matters. Iowans are watching. We can’t change behavior everywhere, but we have…
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Education is aim of ‘Know Your Neighbor’ religion series

Education is aim of ‘Know Your Neighbor’ religion series

Gazette Column
Can three community discussions on religion improve life in Cedar Rapids? Organizers hope so. “Hans Kung has a great quote about there being no peace without the great religions coming together. So, we need to start at that level,” Charles Crawley, president of the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County, said. The council worked with the Cedar Rapids Public Library for a series of three “Know Your Neighbor” events. Crawley says the idea was to work with the library on its mission to improve literacy by offering information that specifically addresses religious literacy and fosters community understanding. [caption id="attachment_1815" align="alignleft" width="400"] The first Know Your Neighbor religious discussion took place Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, before an overflow crowd at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. It was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County.[/caption]…
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Triage for mental illness makes sense

Triage for mental illness makes sense

Gazette Column
Iowans need jail alternatives County law enforcement officials are asking Iowa lawmakers to create regional triage centers for Iowans experiencing mental health episodes or an addiction crisis. It would be a much needed and smart move by lawmakers. The six triage centers proposed by the Iowa State Sheriffs’ & Deputies’ Association would assess individuals committed voluntarily or involuntarily so that those people can receive proven treatment that’s cost-effective. Currently, these people in crisis are being funneled into highest cost care, generally hospitals, jails and prisons. The flip side of the coin is why this is happening, and has been happening for several years. Iowa doesn’t have nearly enough treatment options for those with mental illnesses. This was true four years ago, when I wrote a two-part series about a Johnson County criminal case. It involved…
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Use #IamMedicaidIowa to share experiences

Use #IamMedicaidIowa to share experiences

Gazette Column
When Iowa lawmakers consider what should be done to improve Iowa Medicaid, Disability Rights Iowa hopes people will be their primary focus. To that end, the organization is encouraging Iowans to go online and share their stories in an #IamMedicaidIowa awareness campaign. Jane Hudson, executive director of Disability Rights Iowa, told Iowa Public Radio the idea was hatched following a forum last month that highlighted “turmoil” in the program. “Many people came up to me and said: ‘Politicians need to see our faces. They are just thinking about the numbers,’ ” Hudson says. “ … That’s why we’re doing this.” [caption id="attachment_1793" align="alignleft" width="500"] Disability Rights Iowa is encouraging Iowans to hold a #IamMedicaidIowa sign, take a photo and tell their story to lawmakers.[/caption] A special announcement on the Disability Rights Iowa website is more…
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Rubashkin supporters have forgotten Postville. I can’t.

Rubashkin supporters have forgotten Postville. I can’t.

Gazette Column
Greed knows no religious boundary. On May 12, 2008, the day federal immigration officials raided the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, I was two hours away at a hospital, waiting for my husband to have surgery. The call came, and I, the only nearby reporter for the national news outlet that employed me, couldn’t go — wouldn’t go. A few hours later, as I sat beside my husband in a post-surgery recovery room, he made the decision. “Go,” he said. I did — not just that day but nearly every day over the course of the next year, and for months after that. The story of Postville, told from the tiny town in northeastern Iowa and points beyond, forever changed me. [caption id="attachment_1470" align="alignleft" width="500"] The welcome sign in Postville, Iowa…
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A 2017 summary in four quotes

A 2017 summary in four quotes

Gazette Column
If anything, 2017 was a quotable year. Here are four that sum up a year’s worth of news in the Hawkeye State. SEXUAL HARASSMENT “Several of the staff members interviewed indicated they possess a fear of retaliation, which is why they did not feel comfortable reporting any instances of harassment.” — Senate GOP internal report on sexual harassment at the Statehouse. Although several quotes surrounding the Iowa Senate Republican Caucus sexual harassment scandal that put taxpayers on the hook for $1.75 million could be used — many of them absurdities uttered by Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix as he has repeatedly attempted to whitewash bad behavior — this statement from the GOP’s internal investigation is most troubling. To date, no one has been held accountable and Statehouse employees, which include teenage…
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Holiday gifts for readers and researchers

Holiday gifts for readers and researchers

Gazette Column
Gusts of sharp December wind remind newspaper folk everywhere that its time for a year-end review. I’ll play along, but with a gift-giving twist. Instead of reviewing my work, which is too often a cringe-worthy experience, I’ve instead been plowing through your email messages to me. Kind comments, some of which helped me through difficult moments, once again had my eyes filling. I stand in awe of your quick wit and your generous spirit. Some feedback was brutal, constructive or otherwise, yet the vast majority of dissenting views focused on my words and not me. It’s an exceptional gift that far too few writers can claim, and a testament to a widespread desire for more civility and thoughtful dialogue. Within the messages I also discovered a pattern of questions and…
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Trump-sponsored UN tour highlights American poverty

Trump-sponsored UN tour highlights American poverty

Gazette Column
A United Nations team investigating extreme poverty and human rights toured the U.S. and found cause for concern. “The United States is one of the world’s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty,” Philip Alston, the UN’s lead on extreme poverty and human rights, wrote in a report published Dec. 15. Alston’s team, which was invited by the Trump administration to tour the country, traveled through California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. and spoke with a wide variety of people, including government officials, local nonprofit leaders and those living in poverty. “My visit coincides with a dramatic change of direction…
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Congress was warned of farmer suicides

Congress was warned of farmer suicides

Gazette Column
Americans are waking up to a new reality, one in which farmers are killing themselves in record numbers. Residents also should know that members of Congress have been aware, but have refused to provide help. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found people working in agriculture — farmers, laborers, ranchers, fishers and other harvesters — take their own lives at a rate higher than any other occupation. Data suggests that suicide rates for agricultural workers in 17 states is nearly five times higher than the general population. In some states, according to Newsweek, the suicide rate for farmers is greater than for military veterans. And, when compared to studies from the 1980s farm crisis, which captured suicide rate peaks in 1982 at 58 for every 100,000 farmers and ranchers,…
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1992 Iowa and the rebirth of feminism

1992 Iowa and the rebirth of feminism

Gazette Column
Some may view it as a setback, but I think renewed interest in the word feminism is women (and men) finally deciding for themselves. Each year, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary selects one word that received increased attention and interest throughout the year, naming it as the “Word of the Year.” Not surprisingly, given the current state of our union, the word for 2017 is “feminism.” The word was one of the top lookups throughout the year, increasing by 70 percent from 2016. “The general rise in lookups tells us that many people are interested in this word; specific spikes give us insight into some of the reasons why,” Merriam-Webster explains on its website. It began with the Women’s March last January, and continues amid allegations of sexual harassment and assault. That has…
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