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Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

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Des Moines Register. Aug. 8, 2015

Judge's no-pregnancy order won't fly

After Stephanie Fatland of Mason City was convicted of child endangerment in a Floyd County case, District Judge James Drew suspended her 10-year prison sentence, put her on probation for five years and added an extraordinary condition: that she not become pregnant during those five years.

"This order is unconstitutional," ACLU-Iowa legal director Rita Bettis told the Associated Press.

That is a reasonable conclusion. Judges have authority to prohibit activities that might contribute to an offender committing a new crime, but Judge Drew's order would appear to go too far in denying the fundamental right of childbirth.

A similar probation order in a Missouri case was recently reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over seven states including Iowa.

In that case, a federal trial judge ordered a convicted criminal to abstain from unprotected sex during his probation. Although the man was convicted on a federal firearms charge, the judge seemed more disturbed by the fact that the defendant had fathered 10 children with seven different women.

The courts routinely deal with such "social evils" as drug abuse, but the judge found more troubling "irresponsible sexual conduct (that) greatly burdens women who may be unwilling to conceive children as well as offspring routinely abandoned by biological fathers."

The appeals court rejected what it called a "novel" condition of probation. That is in part, the court said, because "the condition impermissibly involves a greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary to afford adequate deterrence, protect the public from future crimes ...."

The purpose of imposing conditions on supervised probation is to discourage convicted criminals from committing new crimes. But it is not a crime to have unprotected sex, nor is it a crime to become pregnant. The 8th Circuit court was right to reverse the no-sex condition, and if it's appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, the Floyd County no-pregnancy order should be reversed, too.


Quad-City Times. Aug. 6, 2015

GOP debate heightens Iowan's responsibility

Ten Republican presidential candidates got their tickets punched for tonight's debate by appealing to the most Americans polled by various organizations.

Fox News used a formula of polling results to select this group. With a field of 17, Fox News had to do something to winnow the field to prevent a repeat of Monday's comical speed forum that seemed more a "Saturday Night Live" parody than news. So instead of the full field racing through narrow questions, we'll get a first glimpse of 58 percent of the GOP field trying to distinguish themselves from one another.

For those who believe there must be a better way, there is.

It's happening every day in Iowa through Feb. 1.

All of the 10 on tonight's debate, and the seven on the sidelines have actively campaigned in Iowa. Nine of the 10 debaters have campaigned in the Quad-Cities. The tenth, , is scheduled to visit as part of the Quad-Cities New Ideas Forum, presented by Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security. The event will be 2 p.m. Aug. 13 at the Beehive on St. Ambrose University's campus in Davenport.

These caucus campaign visits give Iowans an opportunity to learn much, much more about the candidates than this or any debate will offer. More importantly, it leaves Iowans with a responsibility to do what these debates cannot: Choose an American leader.

Polls are helpful to determine who is capturing public attention at the moment.

Debates are helpful to learn which candidates can answer succinctly and effectively.

The Iowa caucus campaign trail reveals those answers and so much more. Here, candidates must engage real voters, not just cameras. This affords an opportunity for Iowans to gauge depth of knowledge, patience, consistency, sincerity and other attributes that can't be squeezed into a 90-minute debate, or three-minute polling call.

That's why we partnered with the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce and St. Ambrose University for the Quad-Cities New Ideas Forum, a platform that requires illumination, not just volume.

Many Americans will tune in tonight to hear what just over half the field has to say.

But all Americans are counting on Iowans to fully vet the entire field, then caucus for those who can be president, not just this week's poll leader.


Sioux City Journal. Aug. 5, 2015

Tax credits for renewables should be extended

Our hope is the full U.S. Senate, and House, follow the lead of the Senate Finance Committee and extend tax credits for wind energy, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol through 2016.

The Senate panel voted 23-3 last month for the extensions.

Clearly, these extensions are important for Iowa. Consider:

- Iowa ranks first in the nation in terms of percentage of total generation of electricity from wind energy and third for employment related to the wind energy industry.

- Iowa ranks second in the nation for production of biodiesel.

- Last year, Iowa celebrated the start of a new chapter for the renewable fuels industry as cellulosic ethanol production, which uses corn plant residue left in the field, began. For the industry, this state and, indeed, the nation, cellulosic ethanol production represents a significant, if not historic advancement and holds substantial future promise.

In a broader sense, these renewables are important for the country, too, at a time when job creation, energy independence and the production of clean energy are national priorities.

As we have said before, we are comfortable with federal support for producers of energy, including both renewable and fossil fuels, in the name of achieving energy independence for the nation, but we are open to discussion of ending support within the context of reducing the federal budget and reforming the tax code if all producers are treated the same. Let's not forget, the oil, natural gas and coal industries get federal tax help, too.

In a New Hampshire campaign appearance last month, Republican presidential candidate called for an end to all federal energy subsidies.

"I don't think we should pick winners and losers," Bush said. "I think tax reform ought to be to lower the rates as far as you can and eliminate as many of these subsidies — all of the things that impede the ability for a more dynamic way to get where we need to get."

In our view, that's a proposal worth exploring.

Until then, tax credits for renewable fuels shouldn't be singled out for elimination.

We encourage Iowa's congressional delegation to lead the way in extending the wind, biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol tax credits.


Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Aug. 6, 2015

What Walter Palmer reportedly did in Zimbabwe was wrong. If published accounts prove accurate, Palmer hired hunting guides who lured a distinct and well-known lion out of a game reserve by dragging a dead animal behind their vehicle.

Palmer allegedly shot "Cecil" with a crossbow, tracked him for 40 hours and then killed the lion with a rifle.

If true, there's a word for what Palmer was doing, and it's not hunting. It's poaching.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources offers a not-too-subtle definition on its website.

"Poachers are thieves who are stealing our fish and wildlife resources," according to the agency.

Hunters also will notice details of the incident fall far short of recognized rules of "fair chase."

"Fair chase, as defined by the Boone and Crockett Club, is the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native ... big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals," according to the organization.

The reaction to Cecil's death focused only partly on its illegal and unethical aspects. Instead, calls went out for retribution and bans on exotic animal hunts in Africa.

E.J. Montini, a columnist for the Arizona Republic, suggested turning the tables on Palmer.

"If anything, you are no longer a big game hunter. You are the hunted. And that is a good thing," he wrote.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals followed a similar theme, insisting Palmer be "extradited, charged and preferably hanged."

The reality is legal, controlled hunting in Africa, as in Iowa, remains a necessary part of responsible wildlife management efforts. Alternatives, such as birth control measures and relocation, are employed in many African nations as well, but those are frequently expensive and provide limited results.

One basic problem is overcrowding. A given number of acres can only support so many healthy animals, whether white-tail deer and Canada geese or elephants and lions. So banning hunting would inevitably produce undesirable and unintended consequences, like starvation and disease.

Eco-tourism can certainly help sustain herds and management efforts but isn't the sole solution, according to Melissa Simpson in a column for National Geographic.

"Tanzania ... has 15 photo-safari areas, which have been lauded as a non-consumptive alternative to traditional hunting tourism," she wrote.

"Unfortunately, only 4 of the 15 photo-safari areas are financially viable. The remaining 11 are subsidized by hunter-generated funds," Simpson added.

Her conclusion: "Without the financial resources provided by hunters to protect habitat and stop poachers, there would be no infrastructure for wildlife management."

As far as Palmer is concerned, punish him for poaching, not for hunting.

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