- Associated Press - Monday, March 10, 2014

Telegraph Herald. March 7, 2014.

Iowa Regents could do more to address sexual assault

When the Iowa Board of Regents called out University of Iowa President Sally Mason last week, the regents might have been missing the larger issue.

Notice of the special meeting held Feb. 28 stated the reason for the meeting as: “To receive an explanation from President Sally Mason regarding her remarks on sexual assault.” Mason had been interviewed by the campus newspaper, The Daily Iowan, for a story about the high number of sexual assaults on campus during this school year. A comment Mason made in the article struck a wrong note, upsetting some students and perhaps some parents and alumni.

Regents President Pro Tem Katie Mulholland (a former Dubuquer and assistant superintendent here) chastised Mason and called her comments “inappropriate.” Mullholland said the regents were concerned about students who might have found those comments hurtful.

The reaction to this seems over-the-top. Here’s what Mason said: “The goal would be to end that, to never have another sexual assault. That’s probably not a realistic goal just given human nature, and that’s unfortunate, but the more we understand about it, the better we are at trying to handle it and help people get through these difficult situations.”

Is it an articulate and well-thought-out statement? No. Is she wrong to say that we’ll probably never eradicate sexual assault? No - just as we’ll never eradicate robbery or murder or other criminal behavior. But, while her words aren’t the most comforting coming on the heels of a spate of campus sexual assault reports, most people can probably concede that they can understand what she meant.

Yet the regents demanded explanations and apologies and generally gave Mason a serious scolding for her words. The issue of Mason’s choice of words pales in comparison to the problem of sexual assault on campus and how it is being addressed. If the regents want to dig into an issue, this is where the University of Iowa could use some guidance. A recent sexual assault reported on campus brought this school year’s total to nine.

Mason is working to address concerns with a six-point plan to combat violence. Plans include getting tougher on offenders (expulsion as warranted), offering more support to survivors, improving prevention education and communication. In a listening session with students last week, Mason disclosed she herself had been the victim of a sexual assault as a college student.

That underscores the fact that this is a long-term problem. What makes sexual assault even more difficult to address is the fact that it is significantly underreported. Typically, only 40 percent of victims report sexual assault. On college campuses, that number falls to just 12 percent. One reason is because a high number of campus assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. Looking for ways to curtail sexual assault requires vigilance, education and a collective effort by stakeholders at all levels.

Those are some of the issues the Iowa Board of Regents might have chosen to dig into. A serious conversation about sexual assault prevention at the regents level would do more to address the problem than reprimanding Mason for her poorly chosen semantics.


Globe Gazette. March 5, 2014.

Branstad’s right: Don’t cut National Guard strength

They’re crucial to have around in emergencies. And Iowa National Guard members have performed exceptionally when called on to go to foreign battlefields.

That’s why we’re backing Gov. Terry Branstad and the other 49 governors who want the Defense Department to leave National Guard cuts out of planned force reductions.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently laid out the administration’s plans to cut personnel, close bases and eliminate some vehicle programs. Included was the National Guard, but Col. Greg Hapgood of the Iowa Guard said the political process usually takes 60 to 90 days to shake out. Thus, the fate of Iowa’s 7,200 Army National Guard members remains up in the air.

Branstad, though, wasted little time going on the defense. He was in Washington, D.C., for the National Governor’s Association meeting and was able to meet with President Obama to let him know how he felt.

Obama was “a little defensive” and “talked about how they had to cut spending and all that,” Branstad said. But he did get the attention of Vice President Joe Biden, who has a son in the Delaware National Guard and said he wanted to follow up with Branstad.

The governor’s arguments are sound. A major point was the Guard is much less expensive and more efficient - something proven at home and overseas. Thus, the reduction should be in the regular Army and not the Guard, the governor said.

“The governors are pretty much united on this,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Guard Association of the United States released a statement from its president, retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett, who said that for more than 10 years the Army and Air National Guard units have been “nothing less than integral to the Army and Air Force accomplishing their missions around the globe.”

He said armed services and Pentagon leaders have almost all said “they can’t tell the difference between active and Guard personnel.”

“Unfortunately, active military leaders all too often change their tune when budgets get tight, even when Guard cost-effectiveness can be the solution,” Hargett wrote.

We hope that doesn’t happen this time.

Basically, here’s the deal, as laid out in a letter from the governors to the administration:

“The modern National Guard is a highly experienced and capable combat force and an essential state partner in responding to domestic disasters and emergencies. A return to a pre-9/11 role squanders the investment and value of the Guard and discredits its accomplishments at home and as an active combat force.”

While we agree that the full-time armed forces can use some updating and revamping, we agree with the governors the slashing the Guard “discredits its accomplishments at home and as an active combat force.”

We believe the government, and thus the taxpayers, are getting excellent value from the National Guard. That’s why we urge the administration to heed the governors’ advice and not tinker with the troop numbers.

We want the National Guard to be there when we need them.


The Des Moines Register. March 7, 2014.

Less training proposed for manure, but not hair styling

According to the Iowa Environmental Council, there were 262 manure spills between 2001 and 2011 in which the Iowa Department of Natural Resources documented manure reached a waterway. Such spills may happen when people spreading manure on fields make a mistake or a hose leaks. Eventually, manure makes its way to Iowa’s streams, rivers and lakes, which already are too dirty.

The last thing Iowa lawmakers should be deciding is requiring less training for manure applicators. But House File 2367 seeks exactly that. It “reduces from three to two the number of hours of continuing education that a commercial manure service representative must attend in lieu of passing an examination” in order to be certified by the state, the bill says.

The bill was replaced by House File 2110, which was introduced by Rep. Jarod Klein, R-Keota. Klein describes his full-time job as raising corn, soybeans and hogs.

His interest in reducing the annual training for those spreading manure is not likely a coincidence. But reducing the training requirement is also not likely to make Iowa’s water any cleaner or safer.

Of course, if the goal is to reduce government-required training hours, lawmakers have their work cut out for them. Klein might direct his energies to reducing the training requirement of 2,100 hours for people wanting to be cosmetologists. You see, someone who only wants to braid hair still must get 2,100 hours of training at a for-profit school, and nothing in Iowa’s laws or regulations requires that school to even teach hair braiding.

And the young woman who wants to braid hair doesn’t pose any risk to Iowans or our environment.


The Messenger. March 8, 2014.

Qualifications should matter

President Barack Obama apparently is more concerned with rewarding political supporters than good relations between the U.S. and other countries.

That ought to concern thoughtful Americans. When a prospective U.S. ambassador to Norway angers people in that country by categorizing one of the nation’s ruling parties as extremists, Americans’ interests are damaged.

That happened the recently when Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Norway testified before a U.S. Senate committee. He referred to members of one Norwegian political party as members of a “fringe.”

The performances of other Obama nominees for ambassador’s posts were not much better. Soap opera producer Colleen Bell was unable to answer questions about U.S. interests in Hungary, where she wants to represent our nation. Robert Barber, nominated to go to Iceland, admitted he has never been there. Ditto for Noah Mamet, slated for the embassy in Argentina.

All four nominees have one thing in common: They have raised millions of dollars for Obama.

Rewarding donors with ambassadorships is not unusual. Most presidents have done it, reserving an average of 30 percent of their nominations for such friends. The other 70 percent go to career Foreign Service employees - safer in critical countries such as, say, Argentina.

Obama has thrown that formula out. During his second term, political allies have received 53 percent of the ambassador nominations.

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