- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

Telegraph Herald. Aug. 29, 2014.

Pondering ‘to go’ in a new context

If one associates the words “Burger King” and “to go,” chances are that thoughts center around burgers and fries and lunch on the road, not the location of corporate headquarters.

Yet that’s the situation as Burger King, the American company that was supersizing before it became fashionable, is pondering moving its corporate headquarters to Canada. Burger King, founded in the U.S. some 60 years ago, introduced us to the Whopper. The rest is waistline-building history.

This week, the fast-food company announced plans to buy Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee-and-donuts chain, and move its corporate headquarters north of the border. The price is $11 billion.

Tim Hortons, by the way, is named after its founder, former professional hockey star Tim Horton. (Yes, Tim Hortons lost the apostrophe in its name somewhere along the way.) Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution - so much so that when the federal government minted a commemorative coin a decade ago, it distributed them not through banks but through Tim Hortons shops.

Anyway, the thought of an American-firm-owned Tim Hortons is more abhorrent to Canadians than the acquisition of Marshall Field & Co. by Macy’s was to Chicagoans in 2005. Folks in the Windy City are still getting over that loss of their beloved Field’s.

Americans aren’t any too happy about Burger King’s intentions, either, as it represents yet another company fleeing the U.S, for foreign soil - soil where the corporate taxes are lower. (As if this bit of news were reassuring, Burger King said the chain would continue to be run out of its existing offices in Florida.)

Burger King denies that taxes were a major consideration, but it appears to be yet another company executing a tax inversion - a transaction in which a larger company buys a smaller one and moves its headquarters to the acquired company’s lower-tax country.

Walgreens (another company that lost its apostrophe along the way) would have done the same thing. But the pharmacy chain, founded in Illinois by Charles R. Walgreen, dropped its plans to move its headquarters from Chicago to Switzerland in response to public backlash.

We can’t expect Americans to stage protest rallies or conduct boycotts to keep U.S. corporations here. They don’t have the time, energy or organization for that. Besides, if there are to be rallies, they should take place on the steps of the Capitol, where federal lawmakers should change corporate tax structures and the legal loopholes they created (or at least have failed to close) that make foreign relocation attractive to corporations. Let’s see some decisive action there, instead of rallying outside corporate offices or boycotting the Whopper. What is the problem with our tax system that these companies think they are money ahead to engage in their tax-inversion transactions?

Instead of shaming and pressuring corporations, Congress should make the U.S. a place where it is financially attractive for them to stay or start businesses.

___

Globe Gazette. Aug. 27, 2014.

Vigorous challenge of telemedicine ruling appropriate

We were glad last year when a judge put a stay on an Iowa Board of Medicine administrative rule banning abortions through a teleconferencing system. And now that the board’s rule has been found valid by a district court judge, we urge Planned Parenthood to pursue its appeal vigorously.

We find the rule more politically based by a conservative-leaning panel appointed by a conservative governor in opposition to abortion rather than one based on sound, proven, effective medical practices that would especially benefit those in rural areas.

Under the telemed system, licensed physicians conduct medical assessments with patients in rural Iowa clinics - some miles away from major medical facilities. They then are able to dispense Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, in the early stages of a pregnancy.

The rule banning the practice and requiring personal contact between patient and physician was approved by the Iowa Board of Medicine 8-2 a year ago and has been a lightning rod of controversy since.

There are strong feelings on both sides.

Those on the pro-life side, victorious in the judge’s latest ruling, said the telemed program violates state medical standards and poses a health risk to women because of no personal meeting with a doctor. Jenifer Bowen, executive director of Iowa Right to Life, called it a dangerous practice. Yet this is the only telemed procedure singled out to be banned.

Telemedicine is widely acceptable in the country today and is used for a variety of purposes. Searching the Internet, we found numerous examples of how it is changing health care delivery for the better.

The American Academy of Family Physicians, for example, called it an “an integration of technology and care,” and said that it is not designed to take away care but to support it in rural areas.

And it wasn’t long ago that North Iowa relieved its shortage of psychiatric care through a telemedicine system. There certainly was no outcry then.

Meanwhile, Penny Dickey, chief operating officer of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the system was “just as safe and effective” as in-person protocols, that the procedure was thoroughly researched to ensure it was in full compliance with the law and that it serves women in remote parts of the state who might find such care inconvenient or difficult to obtain.

One of their strongest arguments for the system was that there had been no complaints from the more than 5,000 women who used the telemedicine system at 15 health centers.

After the latest ruling, Dickey said, “Planned Parenthood of the Heartland will continue to fight for evidence-based medicine and a woman’s right to make her personal health care decisions.”

We hope it does and that it can ultimately prevail.

It’s unfortunate convenient, safe, proven medical care is being deprived to some women, especially those in more rural areas, because of politics.

We hope Planned Parenthood can make that point in its appeals and that all Iowa women will be able to obtain the care they want how they want it.

___

The Des Moines Register. Aug. 30, 2014.

If not the bar exam, then what?

The requirement that law school graduates pass a grueling two-day examination to be admitted to practice is a rite of passage most lawyers will never forget and, God willing, will never have to repeat.

Upon passing the exam, lawyers enter an elite club that has a monopoly on the practice of law. Thus, it would seem lawyers would be loath to give up this special status conferred by the bar exam.

Yet the Iowa State Bar Association has proposed doing just that, at least for graduates of the Drake University and University of Iowa law schools, the only law schools in Iowa.

Graduates of those schools who intend to practice in Iowa would be granted a “diploma privilege,” meaning they would be exempt from taking the exam. A 16-member committee created by the bar association recommended this change for a number of reasons, including the belief that Drake and the UI adequately educate law students without making the students go to the added expense and stress of a test that the vast majority of them ultimately pass.

The bar association deserves credit for proposing a radical change that would put Iowa in the company only one other state - Wisconsin - that offers a diploma privilege.

At a time when Iowa should be rethinking the proliferation of licensing of everything from hair styling to teeth whitening, it is refreshing that leaders of the legal profession would challenge the need for a licensing examination that has been in place for 130 years.

Iowa lawyers, however, are deeply divided over the proposal, based on the large volume of written comments submitted to the Iowa Supreme Court and testimony before the court in a daylong hearing last week. Many lawyers worry that the change would diminish the reputation of the legal profession, that it could have unintended consequences for future lawyers and could put the public at risk of incompetent lawyers.

Those concerns seem overblown. At best, the current bar exam clearly is a deeply flawed measure of minimum competence.

The exam is intended to protect the public by screening out the unfit. Yet, between 350 and 650 complaints were filed annually over the past decade against Iowa lawyers for failing to ethically or properly represent their clients. All of those lawyers passed the Iowa bar exam.

Many lawyers say the current bar exam does not test on what they learned in law school. Rather, they say it measures how well they can regurgitate facts crammed into their heads during a bar-review course before the exam.

The product of that cramming is soon forgotten and has little practical value to their work, in part because the test does not cover any Iowa law. Indeed, one lawyer who took the test just three years ago testified she could not pass the test today, and one member of the Supreme Court speculated that neither he nor his six colleagues could pass it cold.

As the bar association proposal implies, it’s hard to see the need for a comprehensive post-graduation exam if Iowa’s law schools are properly screening applicants, teaching basic legal concepts and maintaining rigorous academic standards.

The Iowa Supreme Court’s responsibility in regulating the legal profession is not just to protect the public from incompetence but to assure that the lawyers licensed to practice in Iowa are prepared to serve the interest of fair and equal justice. The current bar exam is doing neither. It postpones graduates’ entry into the workforce and adds to the staggering burden of debt that law school graduates carry.

It is not clear, however, that a diploma privilege for two Iowa schools is the right solution. Too much of the evidence on both sides is anecdotal, and more objective research is needed on other alternatives, perhaps by a court-appointed commission that looks at licensing regimes for other professions.

The Iowa State Bar Association proposal, while laudable, should be seen not as an end but as the beginning of a search for an alternative that would be widely supported by the legal profession and the public.

___

Sioux City Journal. Aug. 26, 2014.

Criticism of presidential vacations: Political silliness

No shortage exists of policies and decisions by President Obama with which we find fault and disagree, but on the “issue” of taking a vacation, we do not join in criticism of him.

Like anyone who works for a living, the man deserves some down time with his family.

On Sunday night, Obama returned to the White House from a much-criticized, two-week vacation on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Disapproval of a president seemingly at play as crises, domestic and foreign, swirl around him is common. Obama faces the same criticism when he departs for Martha’s Vineyard each August, for example, as his predecessor, George W. Bush, absorbed when he flew to his ranch in Texas for a summer break from Washington.

It’s all little more than political silliness.

First, given the burdens and responsibilities of the office, the president more than earns the occasional opportunity to clear his mind and relax. Taking a little time for R&R; when Congress is on summer hiatus makes sense in terms of timing.

Second, the office of president goes wherever the president goes. Events necessitating presidential involvement arise nearly every day in one place or another, but Obama can do whatever needs to be done wherever he is in America or abroad, at any time, day or night.

In other words, he need not be hunkered down at his Oval Office desk 24-7.

We are confident the nation will not collapse if President Obama plays a round or two of golf.

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