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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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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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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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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Newtown was nearly five years ago

Newtown was nearly five years ago

Gazette Column
At times, the juxtaposition of information makes it all the more poignant. In December five years ago I wasn’t employed by The Gazette, but by another local company that had a large on-site corporate cafeteria, complete with large screen televisions. I was sitting in that cafeteria as co-workers put the finishing touches on an upcoming holiday celebration. Each year the company invited employees to bring their children into the facility, where Santa presented each one with a personalized gift. That day, the children’s gifts had all been wrapped and tagged and a final count was underway. One worker read the children’s’ names from a list while others searched out the gift and, once found, placed it in a different pile. The name was checked off the list to ensure no…
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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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Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Suggestions go beyond Appalachia

Gazette Column
Economic recommendations for Appalachia unveiled by a nonprofit and four U.S. senators this week could benefit the whole of rural America, if they garner a champion. The Appalachian region includes all of West Virginia and portions of 12 more states, spanning from upper Mississippi to lower New York. It’s generally an area that’s coping with multiple and nuanced economic and cultural issues including shifting workforce priorities and the opioid epidemic. In May the nonprofit Bipartisan Policy Center began work with U.S. Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), David Perdue (R-GA), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) to establish a task force to develop recommendations for overcoming economic strife and isolation in four topic areas: education and workforce, entrepreneurship and job creation, energy and infrastructure, and rural health. On Wednesday the group…
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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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Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Gazette Column
Spotlight reveals challenges within the Creative Corridor DUBUQUE — Every county in Iowa lacks a sufficient number of affordable housing units, which, in turn, contributes to the prevalence of homelessness most apparent in the state’s population centers. Although intensity varies, this lack of housing is a statewide challenge that affects the ability of communities to attract business and sustain a workforce, the need for taxpayer-funded safety net programs and overall health and well-being. So, this week, the Iowa Finance Authority launched the first of three statewide conversations on housing with a specific focus on the overwhelming need for supported living arrangements. “What we’ve learned from recent experiences in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City,” explained Carolann Jensen, chief programs officer with the IFA, “is that the push for housing, especially supportive…
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