Evans: The wacky extremes with ‘two sideisms’

The requirements for becoming a teacher were always straightforward: Earn a college degree in education, take enough classes in your area of specialty, practice your teaching skills for a semester as a student teacher. Politicians have added a new skill this year in some states: Be a mind reader. That’s what teachers in a Texas school district concluded recently after receiving guidance for how to comply with a law passed this summer by the Texas Legislature and signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The law, known as H.B. 3979, restricts how topics like race, sex, diversity and discrimination are taught and discussed by Texas public school employees and in textbooks and other course materials teachers use. A companion bill, S.B. 3, discourages teachers from addressing current events in their social studies classes.

IowaWatch accepting nominations for returning Berry, Brubaker awards

URBANDALE, Iowa – IowaWatch is taking nominations for the Stephen Berry and Randy Brubaker Free Press Champion awards. The awards are being presented this year after a break in 2020 due to COVID-19. “We are thrilled to bring these awards back after a year off,” Suzanne Behnke, editor of IowaWatch – the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. “These awards recognize the Iowans who bolster democracy as journalists and open records advocates, often persisting through opposition. I can’t think of a more important time to honor those who do this important public service work on behalf of Iowans.”

Nominations can be sent to Behnke at Suzanne-behnke@iowawatch.org by Oct.

Evans: These men have eloquent guidance

Richard Deming, the son of a grain elevator worker and grocery store clerk from small-town South Dakota, is a modest, soft-spoken man. He has spent the majority of his adult life with people when they are most vulnerable — when they or loved ones are fighting cancer. Ron Fournier came out of a different background. The son of a Detroit, Mich., cop has spent much of his working life as a big-time political reporter, covering our nation’s political leaders, including several presidents. While you might think the two are as different as Madison, S.D., and the Motor City, they are quite similar in one important way: Each has become an eloquent, soul-searching advocate for keeping life in the proper perspective.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, at a Romney rally in Dubuque. (Photo by Emily Hoerner)

Evans: Neither party is immune from ineptitude

Do the folks in politics think we are asleep? Do they really believe no one is paying attention to what politicians are up to? It’s not surprising if you have acid indigestion these days. A few examples illustrate why I might need a tanker truck of Maalox. SENATE RACE.

Iowa experiment tests potential to pair solar with carbon sequestration

As thousands of acres of Iowa farmland are eyed as possible sites for solar farms, a research project is getting underway to explore a new crop that could co-exist with this burgeoning source of power: carbon sequestration. The state’s economic development office last month awarded $297,000 to an environmental consultant to create a business model “for monetizing carbon capture on solar energy farms.”

Although solar energy production and “carbon farming” exist independently, the consultant, Mike Fisher, said he didn’t think they’ve been combined, as he has proposed. He will test his theory that the right combination of crops could stash significant amounts of carbon in the ground while enhancing the soil’s fertility. Both the landowner and the solar developer could benefit, he said, from the sale of credits for the sequestered carbon and the enhancements to the soil. 

The most common Midwestern crops — corn and soybeans — don’t sequester much carbon because they put most of their energy into producing above-ground “fruits,” said Randy Jackson, an agronomy professor at the University of Wisconsin. Perennials, which plow much more of their energy into roots, stash more carbon as a result. Pasture grasses, such as brome, direct carbon into just the top 12 inches or so, Jackson said.

Evans: Enforcement of Texas abortion law in un-American

Let’s set aside our views on abortion. Instead, let’s consider one aspect of the new Texas abortion law that took effect last week. All of us should be able to agree on this, whether we find abortions abominable or support a woman’s right to end her pregnancy: The enforcement mechanism created by Texas lawmakers is un-American. It farms out enforcement of a state’s laws to vigilantes and bounty hunters. Iowans who followed news of the new law and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last week to let it go into effect, at least for now, can be forgiven if they missed details about this enforcement mechanism.

IowaWatch names new editor and adds veteran fundraiser

IowaWatch, or the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, has named Suzanne Behnke as its new editor, marking a transition for Behnke from executive director to a new role focused on developing high-impact investigative news and fostering collaborations. Mary Ungs-Sogaard

IowaWatch also has hired Mary Ungs-Sogaard, a proven fundraiser and long-time newspaper publisher in Eastern Iowa, as the news nonprofit’s business developer. The leaders will boost IowaWatch’s capacity to provide high-quality public affairs news and information that improves civic life and public policy outcomes across Iowa. “I am grateful to have a role with IowaWatch that allows me to focus on in-depth journalism and working with talented reporters and writers,” said Behnke. “This change plays to my strengths and to Mary’s.