Nothing to love about food deserts

Nothing to love about food deserts

Gazette Column
Trump administration budget aims to slash SNAP by $213 billion It’s Valentine’s Day, and I hoped to write a column appropriate for a love and indulgence holiday, however contrived. But that’s mentally difficult when new Trump administration proposals promote food deserts and scarcity. On Monday, the administration announced its plan to slash food assistance for low-income families and replace it with a “Blue Apron-type program.” “What we do is propose that for folks who are on food stamps, part — not all, part — of their benefits come in the actual sort of, and I don’t want to steal somebody’s copyright, but a Blue Apron-type program where you actually receive the food instead of receive the cash,” said Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney during a policy briefing. The Trump administration plans to cut…
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Lawmakers hope to buy votes with your tax dollars

Lawmakers hope to buy votes with your tax dollars

Gazette Column
How will it cost taxpayers if the Iowa Legislature approves, and Gov. Kim Reynolds signs, a bill targeting so-called sanctuary communities? Let’s count the ways. The bill, Senate File 481, earned 32 votes and a nod of approval in the Iowa Senate last year. This week, it received a 2-1 vote in a House Public Safety subcommittee — despite law enforcement officials from across the state lobbying and speaking against it. The proposal must still advance through the full committee before it can be brought to the House floor. If approved by the Iowa House without any changes to what the Senate approved last year, it would be sent to the Governor’s Office where it could be signed into law. On Thursday night, the Reynolds-Gregg campaign used the bill as a fundraising plea, falsely…
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Maybe the answer is fewer rural hospitals

Maybe the answer is fewer rural hospitals

Gazette Column
Midwestern health providers and stakeholders are speaking out, and what they have to say is surprising. Could fewer hospitals bridge the widening urban-rural health gap? A new report highlighting the challenges and opportunities in rural health care across Iowa and six other Midwestern states says small communities need more flexibility to customize health care services, workforces and facilities to meet individual needs — even if, in some communities, it results in the loss of a full-service hospital. The Bipartisan Policy Center and the Center for Outcomes Research and Education spoke with more than 90 thought leaders and key stakeholders in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming to compile the report, which was released this month. [caption id="attachment_1874" align="alignleft" width="500"] Stethoscopes hang in a clinic hallway on May…
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Interior department’s draft plan splits Iowa

Interior department’s draft plan splits Iowa

Gazette Column
Most of state grouped with land along Mississippi River Reorganization plans within the U.S. Department of the Interior call for the creation of 13 regions not limited by state boundaries. Like many states, Iowa is divided — eastern and central portions of the Hawkeye State grouped with lands along the Mississippi River, and western Iowa aligned with Nebraska, the Dakotas and pieces of other states. The plan, which department officials say isn’t finalized, was rolled out to senior Interior executives this month at a leadership summit titled “Planning for the next 100 years.” In a video published to the Interior’s YouTube channel, Secretary Ryan Zinke said his plan moves “decision-making authority to the front-line superintendents and managers so right actions can be quickly made without excessive paperwork or burdensome administrative requirements.” Gritty…
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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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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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