Members of the Iowa Legislature are in the midst of tying themselves into knots over the issue of equality, and that’s unfortunate. The knot-tying involves what these lawmakers call “religious freedom.”
That has a patriotic ring to it. Who would disagree? Our constitutional right to freedom of religion sets the United States apart from many nations. But when you analyze what this legislative initiative really involves, it is too reminiscent of America’s past – a past when some people regularly were subjected to discrimination when they tried to find lodging for the night, or sit at a lunch counter for a meal, or to be hired for a job.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – A federal jury determined that German agribusiness giants Bayer and BASF will have to pay $250 million in punitive damages to Bader Farms, the largest peach farm in Missouri, for damage caused by their dicamba-related products. The verdict comes at the end of a three-week trial of a case where Bader Farms alleges it is going out of business because of damage incurred by the companies’ dicamba herbicides moving off of neighboring fields and harming their 1,000 acres of peach orchards.
On Friday, the jury ruled that both Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2018, and BASF acted negligently and Bader Farms should receive $15 million in actual damages for future losses incurred because of the loss of their orchard.
Bader Farms will receive a total of $265 million. BASF and Bayer will have to sort out what portion of the damages each company pays.
Bader Farms is among thousands of farms, comprising millions of acres of crops, that have alleged dicamba damage since 2015. “It sends a strong message,” said Bev Randles, an attorney for Bader Farms. “The Baders’ were doing this, not just because of themselves or for themselves, but they felt like it was necessary because of what it means to farmers everywhere.
ByClaire Hettinger and Pam Dempsey/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting |
With farmers facing increasing stress and depression, Midwestern states and national farm groups are making more efforts to better provide services to alleviate the high rate of suicide among the agriculture industry. Yet in rural areas, this care is more of a challenge. Rural hospitals — often the primary source of health care services in these areas — are closing or merging. Since 2010, 23 hospitals have closed across the Midwest — a loss of nearly 1,000 beds, according to the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.
An Institute for Nonprofit News investigation by 12 news outlets across seven states found that rural Midwest hospitals have reduced services or merging with larger health systems in an effort to deal with financial and regulatory pressures. Only two of those Midwestern hospitals were in Illinois, but accessing mental health services in rural communities remains difficult. Some groups have decided to address the situation themselves.
A collaborative project including the Institute for Nonprofit News and INN members IowaWatch, KCUR, Bridge Magazine, Wisconsin Watch, Side Effects Public Media and The Conversation; as well as Iowa Public Radio, Minnesota Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Radio, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), Iowa Falls Times Citizen and N’west Iowa REVIEW. The project was made possible by support from INN, with additional support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems. For more stories visit hospitals.iowawatch.org
For example, the organization GROW sets up meetings over Zoom, a video conferencing app, to help those in rural areas experiencing mental health issues.And more than a dozen farm bureau managers in Illinois have taken mental health first aid classes that help people recognize signs of distress. Harry Brockus — the chief executive officer of Carle Hoopeston and Carle Richland in Central Illinois, a collection of hospitals that serves 41 mostly rural counties — said there is a physician shortage across the country and recruitment to rural areas is an even bigger challenge.
“We do not offer the amenities that physicians are looking for,” he said, “such as shopping, schools and different entertainment venues.”
Other challenges in rural areas, such as transportation, housing and access to healthy food, can make rural healthcare costs inefficient and unaffordable, Brockus said.
This has left rural America in a bind when it comes to care for mental health.
Iowa lawmakers are considering a bill that would require owners of large rental buildings to disclose typical utility costs to apartment-seekers. The legislation has momentum in large part due to a Des Moines-area property manager who has been a champion for energy efficiency in his buildings. “Rental housing is the low-hanging fruit” of energy efficiency, said Keith Denner, president of Professional Property Management. The problem is that property owners often aren’t rewarded for those investments. Residents are typically the ones who realize the cost savings, and they rarely have the information to factor utility bills into rental decisions.
The top officials at a state-run institution for people with severe disabilities directed the purchase of sexual lubricants, silk sheets or boxers and pornographic images in preparation to study patients’ sexual arousal, according to a new lawsuit filed by former employees at the facility. The lawsuit, filed Monday by six former employees at the Glenwood Resource Center, claims former Glenwood Superintendent Jerry Rea and other managers purchased a dedicated computer, software program and joystick for the sole purpose of sexual arousal research at the facility. The former employees, who include former Glenwood center doctors and top administrators, further claim in a 37-page lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa that the medically fragile patients’ medications were changed to prepare for the study. “They intended to use, and did use, highly vulnerable GRC patients as the ‘guinea pigs’ in research experiments,” the suit says. The lawsuit was filed in the midst of an ongoing federal investigation into the Glenwood Resource Center.
Policymakers have eagerly promoted walking and bicycle riding as a way to get healthy exercise while reducing traffic congestion, air pollution and carbon emissions. But those activities are becoming increasingly dangerous in America. More than 6,200 pedestrians were killed by traffic collisions in 2018, the last year for which federal statistics are available, continuing the rising trend of recent years. That’s the highest it’s been since 1990, and a 53 percent increase since 2009. Up until then, the number of pedestrian deaths had been steadily falling.
For 40-plus years, Iowa has been pulling the wool over the eyes of the free world every four years. It is time our state’s political leaders put aside their love of the national spotlight and retire the much-ballyhooed Iowa caucuses – or overhaul the process to address the obvious flaws that exist with the event. I say that, not because some people think Iowa is the wrong location for the first stop in the process of choosing the Democrats’ and the Republicans’ nominees for president. Randy Evans STRAY THOUGHTS Randy Evans is the executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. He is a former editorial page editor and assistant managing editor of The Des Moines Register.
This story about immigrant students was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. IowaWatch is the exclusive Iowa partner. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter. SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The rolling backpack was grey with bright orange zippers. Made by Totto, a popular South American brand, the backpack had been 13-year-old Cristian Rubio’s hand luggage on his flight from Ecuador to the United States a week earlier.
Drunk drivers, motorcyclists and young or distracted motorists make up the majority of those involved in fatal vehicle crashes, and many states are failing to pass key safety measures that could prevent such deaths, according to a new report by a highway safety group. The nonprofit Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety each year releases a report card grading states on their legislative efforts to reduce traffic deaths. The group’s 2020 report credits seven states—Rhode Island, Washington, Delaware, Maine, Oregon, California and Louisiana, along with the District of Columba—with having the best laws to reduce crash deaths. Twelve states—South Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, Montana, Arizona, Ohio, Florida, Nebraska, Nevada, Vermont, New Hampshire and Virginia—ranked worst in the report card. In 2018, the most recent year for which federal data is available, 36,560 people died in traffic collisions in the U.S. The figure marks a 2.4 percent decrease from 2017, but is still high compared to earlier in the decade.
Every one of us probably has a moment of dread from our grade school days squirreled away in the dusty recesses of our memories. Or many such moments. For me, it was in elementary school when it was my turn to sing a solo in music class. I would have given anything to be spared from having the spotlight on me that day. In the grand scheme of things, however, my agony quickly passed.