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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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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Alabama redefined pro-life

Alabama redefined pro-life

Gazette Column
Alabama election results made clear that anti-abortion no longer is the equivalent of pro-life. The professional number-crunchers will have their say in the days to come, tweezing out drilled down demographics. But the campaign strategy embraced by Roy Moore and his allies reveals new insights into an ongoing cultural shift, one expedited by religious conservatives’ embrace of President Donald Trump. In a nutshell, dire warnings about candidates’ stances on abortion don’t hold the weight they once did. Millions of dollars — $1.1 million from one pro-Trump super PAC alone — were pumped into the Alabama special election to remind voters that Democratic candidate Doug Jones favors abortion rights. The warnings were issued within ads on social media, television, newspapers and direct mail. “Jones is so liberal he supports abortion even…
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This year of uppity women

This year of uppity women

Gazette Column
Survivors of sexual harassment and assault didn’t need a magazine cover story to justify or validate ongoing cultural shifts. Blunt and comprehensive cover stories are for the naysayers, “witch hunt” proclaimers, perpetrators and apologists who mistakenly believe this movement toward a more equal society is either overblown or will soon run its course. “This is just the start. I’ve been saying from the beginning it’s not a moment, it’s a movement. Now the work really begins,” Tarana Burke, mother of the #MeToo movement, told Time magazine. The publication named as its persons of the year “The Silence Breakers” — those who could no longer stomach merely whispering about serial perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault. These women and the millions more they represent don’t need a cover story to understand the depth and…
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Could have supported interest deduction cap

Could have supported interest deduction cap

Gazette Column
One piece of the Trump administration and U.S. House Republican proposed federal tax overhaul I agreed with appears to have already fallen amid an onslaught of the lobbyist horde. The White House budget proposal called for a lowered cap on the home mortgage interest deduction. House Republicans agreed and included the lesser cap in their proposal alongside a requirement that the deduction be limited to primary residences. Members of the Senate were immediately confronted by real estate lobbyists, so the lowered cap, estimated to produce up to $300 billion in revenue during the next decade, is not part of the smaller chamber’s plan. Before any readers choke on their Saturday morning coffee, let me explain that I’m not completely against the mortgage interest deduction, or the type of behavior it’s intended…
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Hopeful past presidents speak out

Hopeful past presidents speak out

Gazette Column
President George W. Bush set down his paintbrushes this week to issue a very public assessment of U.S. politics. Let’s hope everyone was listening. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them,” Bush said at the George W. Bush Institute in New York City on Thursday. I doubt I would have believed anyone who told me back in 2003 that I’d one day praise Bush for his eloquence at the podium, but here we are. The sins of a few garbled idioms or made-up words pale in comparison to what Bush calls out as “casual cruelty” and “outright fabrication.”…
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Food is critical part of academic achievement

Food is critical part of academic achievement

Gazette Column
Researchers have long highlighted links between academic achievement and food, noting that hunger eventually manifests as cognitive issues. Newer studies show such negative outcomes aren’t problems that appear years down the road. Hunger negatively impacts a child’s ability to learn and achieve, increases the likelihood of behavioral issues and slows development of social skills. Multiple studies indicate hungry children grow into adults who are less likely to reach their full potential. It’s why the nation invests in nutritious school meals and provides food assistance to the most vulnerable. It’s also why communities support food pantries and other food programs to bridge local gaps. But a newer study completed by scholars at the University of South Carolina and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh shows the detrimental effects of hunger are not only devastating, but…
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Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Bad teen behavior is a mirror reflecting

Gazette Column
Can you believe it? This and similar sentiments arrive by inbox and social media feed each time teens are caught behaving badly. And, for the record, yes, I totally believe it. The most recent national dust-up arrived courtesy of four male students at Westside High School in Anderson, S.C. The young men were participating in a football game against a neighboring school, Daniel High School. The game was part of the “Touchdown Against Cancer” series intended to fundraise on behalf of and bring more awareness to breast cancer. Ten students had each painted a letter on their chests. When they stood together, the letters spelled out, “Bump Cancer.” Four of the students — two seniors and two sophomores — rearranged themselves to spell the word “rape,” had their photo taken…
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American culture, not Congress, is changing

American culture, not Congress, is changing

Gazette Column
New cultural research shows bumpy paths forward for both dominant political parties and better explains why economics wasn’t the sole booster of Donald Trump’s rise to the White House. It also proves most Americans are right: Washington, D.C., and state legislatures are out of step with their constituents, just not for the reasons many think. The 2016 American Values Atlas, an annual survey conducted by Public Religion Research Institute, was released last week with some very interesting findings on America’s shifting culture. A few key points: • The share of Americans who identify as white and Christian no longer constitutes a national majority. • White Christians now make up only 43 percent of the U.S. population, a steep decline from four decades ago when the demographic was at 80 percent. •…
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