Trump’s top chemical hits keep coming

Trump’s top chemical hits keep coming

Gazette Column
Between devastating hurricanes, ongoing Russia investigations and White House staffing musical chairs, it’s been difficult to track policy decisions by the Trump administration. Even so, a handful of recent chemical-related decisions stand out. Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt has shunned a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics to ban use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. The Academy made the recommendation after peer-reviewed studies determined even minuscule amounts of the chemical can negatively impact brain development of fetuses and infants. For the past four years government scientists have studied three pesticides — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — and have produced more than 10,000 pages of evidence that these chemicals pose a risk to nearly every critically threatened or endangered species they studied, which included more than 1,800 frogs, fish,…
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Vets know: Nazis not ‘fine’ folks

Vets know: Nazis not ‘fine’ folks

Gazette Column
As a cub reporter, I was sent to interview World War II veterans. The interviews were going well, but there was one veteran — an older man in a wheelchair — not really participating. I tried to reel him into the conversation. He resisted. Other veterans began to goad the man, telling me that he and his troop were some of the first to enter a German concentration camp. “People need to know,” one man urged. As the interview wrapped up and the men began to leave, I shifted to sit beside the veteran in the wheelchair. “Is what the others said true?” I asked. “Were you one of the first Americans to enter a concentration camp?” The man nodded and met my gaze. I could tell he was hesitant…
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National monuments under fire

National monuments under fire

Gazette Column
Maybe, if the review of national monuments ordered by President Donald Trump directly targeted Effigy Mounds or the Herbert Hoover Historic Site, Iowans would be more interested. But a lack of Iowa sites isn’t reason to be complacent. If the Trump administration chooses to shrink or abolish a national monument, and earns court approval for doing so, precedent will be set, placing the fate of all national monuments in jeopardy. The reviews, being conducted primarily by the U.S. Department of the Interior and its new secretary, Ryan Zinke, are the result of an April executive order that questions the legitimacy of recent designations under the Antiquities Act of 1906. That’s the law that established the nation’s first historic preservation policy, intended to protect artifacts from would-be looters or vandals. It gives the…
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Act now for net neutrality

Act now for net neutrality

Gazette Column
Following the major win for net neutrality in 2015, many may have thought it was a moot issue. It isn’t, and we all need to act this week to protect and preserve an open internet. The new Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai, has announced plans to reverse rules that protect free speech on the internet. Ending these rules would allow internet providers — like Comcast or Verizon, which is Pai’s former employer — to control what you see, do and say online. This isn’t just about the behind-the-scenes technical stuff or how the internet works. It’s about my and your freedom, about making sure already underserved populations, including low-income or rural areas, aren’t left behind. The FCC is accepting comments on these proposed rollbacks until July 17. The voices of everyday…
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Get more creative in protesting

Get more creative in protesting

Gazette Column
If those opposing a certain political candidate or personality didn’t line up on sidewalks shaking signs and screaming chants, how could they still be seen and heard? Various forms of that question have arrived in my inbox over the past week, responses to a comment I made at the June 29 Pints and Politics event. When asked about protesters during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Cedar Rapids, I lamented that Iowans against Trump and/or the current GOP agenda weren’t more “creative” and “constructive” in voicing their displeasure. “If we don’t choose to take a stand directly outside or near the venue,” a reader said, “it will appear to the media and the rest of our community that there is no resistance. It will be presented as if all Iowans…
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Partisan messaging won’t help rural Iowa

Partisan messaging won’t help rural Iowa

Featured, Gazette Column
Maybe I set too high a bar for former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge’s initiative to engage rural Iowa voters. The first news release from the organization, Focus on Rural America, arrived Tuesday afternoon. It contained a summary of the group’s revelations following a series of focus groups with rural Iowans who switched their presidential vote from Democrat Barack Obama in 2012 to Republican Donald Trump in 2016. None of the findings are earth shattering. • Both Obama and Trump were considered agents of change, candidates the broke the status quo. • Messaging by the Hillary Clinton campaign was described as murky; the Trump campaign messaging was clear. • Democrats generally were perceived as focusing too heavily on entitlements and social programs, which voters translated into a lack of interest for…
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Middle-aged women (still) leading political activism

Middle-aged women (still) leading political activism

Gazette Column
A funny thing happened in the wake of last year’s presidential election. No, it wasn’t that more women signed up to serve as foot soldiers on the political battlefield. They’ve always been there — marching, dialing and door knocking. The humorous part is how some are now surprised, how those individuals have forgotten or never understood herstory. According to common belief, women are not generally political leaders. We’re told that politics is too nasty a business for most women, or that most women simply aren’t capable of grasping the nuances of public policy. But that only holds true if “being politically active” is defined as giving major speeches or running for elected office. Women have — for more years than I’ve been walking the planet — served as the backbone…
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Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Parallel messaging gave GOP Statehouse control

Gazette Column
Have casual conversations with Iowans and a pattern emerges of the ways the national 2016 election narrative did and did not apply to the Statehouse. Since November I’ve been quietly talking to people around Iowa. I’ve reached out to farmers and small town residents I met during research on rural communities, as well as urban dwellers I met through discussions on public transit and affordable housing. As a general rule these aren’t folks who’d be labeled as political activists. That is, they vote, but don’t shake signs outside Congressional offices or hold court with the county central committee. They live in the present, focused on taking their kids to activities, worried about their mortgage and expending energy on careers or higher education. Nearly all political nuance is lost on them.…
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Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Disability isn’t so easy, even for the desperate

Gazette Blog
As much as I need to stop thinking about the Washington Post story on Social Security disability benefits reprinted in The Gazette on Sunday, I’m having trouble letting it go. As the youngest child of elderly parents — my mother went to the doctor for concerns about menopause only to discover she was pregnant with me — I grew up on Social Security dependent benefits. So, in addition to my parents’ Social Security retirement checks, our family received a little more than $200 each month earmarked for me. In order to better make ends meet, my father and mother worked odd jobs. Until bone cancer made it impossible, my mother took in sewing projects. My dad mowed lawns and did handyman or mechanic work when he could find it. During…
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Donald Trump puts the ‘bully’ in bully pulpit

Donald Trump puts the ‘bully’ in bully pulpit

Gazette Column
The Trump administration has rescinded Obama-era guidance for public schools that promoted use of bathrooms based on student gender identity. In a joint letter, officials within the justice and education departments rejected the previous administration’s position that non-discrimination laws require schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. Under Title IX, schools that receive federal funding are not allowed to discriminate against students on the basis of sex. Obama justice and education departments, as well as numerous civil rights watchdogs, said long-standing Title IX protections encompassed gender identity. [caption id="attachment_497" align="alignleft" width="300"] A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. (Jonathan Drake/Reuters)[/caption] And while the…
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