This is no time for a food fight

This is no time for a food fight

Gazette Blog
Raise your hand if you remember when Congress debated making ketchup a vegetable. Many people remember the absurdity, even as they’ve forgotten the context. In 1981 — back when I was just another kid in the school lunch line — Congress hoped to take a ride on President Ronald Reagan’s spending-cut coattails by demanding the USDA cut $1 billion from child nutrition programs. But proposed legislation neglected to specify what should be slashed. School lunches were then mandated to have a meat, a grain, a dairy and two servings of fruits or vegetables. USDA officials told Congress they could make the cuts and still meet the requirements if pickle relish and ketchup could be reclassified as vegetables. You’d think after the subsequent backlash that Congress would have learned Americans want…
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Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Can rural K-12 achieve the promise of NGSS?

Gazette Column
Rural education leaders outline STEM successes, challenges IOWA CITY — Two days of meetings this week highlighted the latest national standards that will change rural K-12 education in Iowa. The Next Generation Science Standards, rolled out in 2013 and adopted by Iowa leaders this past August, are the first broad recommendations for science instruction in 20 years. Developed by a consortium of 26 states (including Iowa) and several scientist and teaching groups, they primarily switch the focus from rote memorization to hands-on learning and critical thinking. Instruction will emphasize the scientific process — analyzing data, developing models and constructing logical arguments. Advocates have touted the standards as being able to accomplish what current science instruction cannot: make students care by connecting them and lessons to their communities in very practical…
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Yes, Paul Ryan, let’s talk about parental leave

Yes, Paul Ryan, let’s talk about parental leave

Gazette Column
Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan says he’ll consider running for Speaker of the U.S. House, but only if there are guarantees he can still have time for his family. Too bad other American workers don’t have the option of being as blunt. Ryan is a 45-year-old, married father of three children. He travels home nearly every weekend to be with his family. “I cannot and will not give up my family time,” Ryan said this week, alluding to the often grueling fundraising schedule that is placed on those serving as speaker. He also demanded that all facets of the party unify behind his candidacy, and provided a Friday deadline for caucus votes of support. Members of the U.S. House were in session for 153 days in 2012, 128 days in 2010,…
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Smart to refocus on homeland

Smart to refocus on homeland

Gazette Column
Attitudes shifted that day in 1995 when I stood before the miserable, exposed interior of the federal building in Oklahoma City. This year marked the 20th anniversary of that terrorist attack, perpetrated by Americans. Few realize, however, that it was not the first time Americans plotted to bomb the OKC federal building. James Ellison, founder of the Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord (CSA), came to OKC in 1983 with white supremacist Richard Wayne Snell to case the building. Snell wanted to target the government due to a tax dispute. Ellison’s sketches and plans could have served as a first draft for the 1995 attack since they called for a vehicle packed with explosives to be parked in front of the building and remotely detonated. Snell was on death…
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Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Gazette Column
Young people with handmade signs and women wearing ankle tracking devices surrounded several members of Congress to relay their real-life horror stories. Congress did nothing. The women and young people were what was left following a massive 2008 immigration raid at a Postville meatpacking plant. They were destitute, relying on a local churches for food and other necessities. Husbands, fathers and brothers were either awaiting deportation, or had already been deported. Nearly all were also handed a criminal conviction, ensuring they would no longer have the option of entering the country legally. [caption id="attachment_1035" align="alignleft" width="300"] A marcher wears an ankle monitoring device during an immigration reform march through the streets of Postville on Sunday, July 27, 2008. The women fitted with the ankle devices wore them for roughly 19…
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Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Gazette Column
Iowa City pastor was deported to Honduras in March The connection left a lot to be desired. But, actually, that was the point. Pastor Max Villatoro and his son, Anthony, reunited in a public setting this week to discuss their first Father’s Day apart. The Villatoro family has been separated since the man known simply as Pastor Max was arrested in Iowa City as part of a federal immigration sting and deported to Honduras in March. Father and son were brought together with the help of technology on Thursday as part of a webcast by advocacy group America’s Voice. In so many ways, it was a heartbreaking reunion to hear and watch. [caption id="attachment_1082" align="alignleft" width="300"] Pastor Max Villatoro, a former resident of Iowa City who was deported to Honduras…
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Max Villatoro closer to deportation

Max Villatoro closer to deportation

Gazette Column
An Iowa City pastor swept up in a federal initiative to arrest and expel migrant criminals from the country has been relocated to a detention facility in Louisiana, and is likely to be placed on plane later today and sent back to his birth country of Honduras. Max Villatoro, 41, was arrested by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents on March 3. He and his wife, Gloria, founded Iglesia Torre Fuerte (First Mennonite Church) in Iowa City about five years ago. But, after entering the country illegally in 1995, the man known locally as Pastor Max had two skirmishes with the law — a drunk driving charge and aggravated misdemeanor related to the use of false documents to obtain a driver’s license in 1999. Villatoro completed probation and paid fines related…
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Max Villatoro not ‘worst of the worst’

Max Villatoro not ‘worst of the worst’

Gazette Column
Arrest of Iowa City pastor indicative of immigration enforcement woes If actions taken by the federal government are of any consequence, we should all be feeling a little more safe this week. As part of its ongoing “Operation Cross Check,” the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced the arrest of nearly 2,100 people with criminal records. The activity was part of a five-day nationwide initiative in which federal law enforcement agents targeted individuals with criminal records. “These are the worst of the worst criminals,” said Sarah Saldana, director of ICE. “These are not people we want in our neighborhoods.” ICE provided a list of four detained individuals as an example. A Jamaican living in Georgia was previously convicted on several charges including larceny and assault with a deadly weapon. A…
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Veteran death is shameful

Veteran death is shameful

Gazette Column
Statistics are just numbers on a page, something we read before shaking our heads and moving on to the next thing — until they strike close to home. It has been a week since the frozen body of Army veteran Richard Miles was found in Water Works Park on the western side of Des Moines near Gray’s Lake. There was no apparent trauma. His clothing was not cut or ripped. He wore no coat or shoes, although a single shoe and jacket were discovered nearby. The 41-year-old had served three tours in the Middle East, beginning in 2002. Friends, co-workers and family members believe he suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was not receiving the level of care he needed. According to a timeline of Miles’ final days provided…
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Voters drowned out by spending

Voters drowned out by spending

Gazette Column
Although we won’t know fundraising results from other county, legislative and statewide candidates until the disclosure deadline tomorrow, Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds let their cat out of the bag Thursday. The duo is reporting a whopping $4.5 million cash-on-hand and promising, now that the legislative session has closed, their campaign “will kick into high gear.” Iowa’s 2013 U.S. Census Bureau estimate is a total population of 3.1 million. Roughly 1.9 million people were registered, active voters as of May 1, according to the Secretary of State. This means the Branstad-Reynolds campaign has collected roughly $1.45 for every man, woman and child in the state, or $2.37 for each active, registered voter. Looking only at the Republicans? That’d be $7.49 per GOP voter. To put it another…
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