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Iowa’s compelling interest in equality for all

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.

It’s time to overhaul, or end, the caucuses

For 40+ 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.

Remember, our imperfections don’t define us

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. But not every student’s moment of dread is as fleeting as mine.

A teacher has a lesson from the ER for all of us

Schools across Iowa have been dark for more than a week because of winter vacation.

But a Des Moines teacher still managed to teach a very important lesson during that time – but this lesson wasn’t aimed at the kids she normally works with. It was intended for adults.

Laura’s lesson is one more people should learn from, because the discussions in Washington, D.C., and at the Capitol in Des Moines would benefit from a wider appreciation and understanding of what she was telling us.

Horrors of Cricket Hollow Zoo expose need for reform of state, federal enforcement agencies

Viewpoint by Tracey Kuehl, of Bettendorf, one of the seven plaintiffs who filed lawsuits filed against Cricket Hollow Zoo.

When Cricket Hollow Zoo was ordered closed by a district court judge Dec. 4, it was the end of a long-running tragedy for hundreds of animals that suffered from neglect and cruelty.

But the lengthy legal battle over operation of the roadside zoo near Manchester also exposed an equally despicable condition – apathy and neglect by government agencies charged with protecting those animals from deplorable conditions and mistreatment.

Regulatory inadequacies and lax enforcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Animal & Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) paved the way for more than a decade of animal suffering at the zoo.

UI utility secrecy: A blow to public accountability

The Iowa Board of Regents is being asked this week to consider a complex proposal to turn the operation of the University of Iowa’s utility system over to an unnamed a business that will be paid to operate it for the next 50 years.

The business will make a cash payment of undisclosed size to the university up front in return for the privilege of managing the coal-burning power plant, water treatment plant and the infrastructure for distributing electricity, steam and water across the sprawling campus and hospital complex. In return, the business is guaranteed a 50-year stream of revenue from its one customer.

Our legacy is more than our bank accounts

I was in Dubuque last week to toast a friend who was retiring after a long and distinguished career. There was a big community reception that was attended by scores of people.

The speakers mentioned his many contributions to the company where he worked for 33 years. They commented on the awards he had received and how he had helped make Dubuque a better community.

There were congratulatory letters read from some notable Iowans – former Gov. Terry Branstad, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley and a friend, the Most Rev. William Joensen, the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines.

But it was the mention of his family – his wife, their four children, the flock of grandkids – that had the honoree dabbing at his eyes.

There’s too little talk about corporate welfare

Here we go again.

Many politicians and their followers are warning of the dangers of the United States drifting into socialism.

If you listen to those sounding the alarm, the culprits behind this trend are presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Party in general, and some of the party’s young lighting rods, notably Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

There’s more to being a good role model

I have been sputtering like an old pickup truck for the past three years over the sometimes outrageous, sometimes ill-informed, and often infuriating comments our president makes each day on his Twitter account.

But before readers rush to judge me too harshly for that statement, allow me to add:

It would be utterly foolish, absolutely wrong, and a perversion of what the United States is all about if the officials who operate Twitter bow to efforts by Kamala Harris, the California senator and Democratic presidential candidate, to pressure the company to shut down Donald Trump’s account.

Our founders wanted the press to shine its spotlight

Fifty-three years ago, I was a high school kid in southern Iowa who knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: I wanted to be a journalist.

The first step on that journey occurred when I walked into the offices of the Bloomfield Democrat and introduced myself to Gary Spurgeon.

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