Thursday, December 31, 2015

Police Investigating Drug Story Burglary in Harmony, MN

Officers with the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office in my hometown of Harmony, MN, are investigating a burglary that took place early yesterday morning at two businesses.

A burglar broke into Sterling Drug Store and Boutique on Main at 5:13 AM on 12/30/15. Medications were stolen. It is unclear from news reports if any money was stolen.

Surveillance video recorded the burglar. The suspect is being described as being a male who is bald or who has short hair. He stands somewhere between 5'8' and 5'10" and has a thin build. Investigators recovered a gray Under Armour beanie with orange trim and a dark face back at the scene of the burglary.

Contact the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office at 507-765-3874 if you have any information about this burglary.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Mama June from "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" Scheduled to Appear in Female Strip Club This Weekend

Are you going to be in Nashville, TN, this weekend? Do you like to look at female strippers? Are you a fan of TLC's now-canceled "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo?" If you answered yes to each of these three questions, then I have the event for you!

Seriously, that's not a fake advertiser -- though I've chopped the stripper little person out of the image. Mama June will be a featured guest at a strip club this weekend.

I've been shaking my head ever since learning of this event. I am not trying to body-shame June. I just don't get the idea of a meet and greet with her at a strip club.

Whose idea was it to book this event? What is the connection between what's left of her TLC fans and this type of venue? Why not schedule a "Honey Boo Boo" meet and greet at a convention or a mall or something that's generally more socially acceptable to her primary fans (i.e., women and gay men)?

I know that June is still trying to maintain a public image since the cancellation of her family's reality TV show. But this really isn't the way to do it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Guthrie County, IA: Authorities Investigating Case of Illegal Cow Butchering

Authorities in Guthrie County (a small west-of-center county in Iowa) are investigating a report of "illegal cow butchering" that occurred on Christmas Day:
The incident happened at a farm operation near the town of Menlo, according to authorities. Deputies were initially called to the farm area on suspicion of a burglary. When they arrived, they noticed blood on the roadway and raw cow flesh and hide in a nearby ditch. Authorities say they noticed a gate to a corral next to the ditch was open and continued walking into the pasture next to it. At that time, authorities found a cow cut in two large pieces behind the corral.
According to farmer Keith Partlow:
"The cops were able to get some good boot prints in the snow and blood," Partlow posted. "Neighbor up the road reported a break-in at one of his sheds. He has a security camera system so hopefully they can see who it was."
The cow was reportedly shot, cut in half, and then gutted. The value of the slaughtered animal is estimated at $2,000. The suspect faces charges of trespassing, livestock abuse, felony theft, and criminal mischief.

It's not pretty, but I've posted some graphic images of the cow carcass following this page break.

Monday, December 28, 2015

D' Battling It Out Over Smash Bros!

I used to post a lot of information about my son D'. And then he became a teen and became less interested in hanging out with his parents. So that means less D'Angelo on the blog.

He's gotten pretty active in the local gaming community, particularly enjoying Smash Bros competitions here and throughout the state. He and his gaming friends got together this past weekend and live-streamed this particular series of matches. The video was then posted here. D' was pretty actively involved with the competition and appeared to have a good time.

He had a pretty good time and it was fun watching him interact with his various friends in his new element.

Concept Art Released for Upcoming "X-Force" Movie

20th Century Fox commissioned a screenplay for a movie based off Marvel Comics' X-Force team back in 2013. The project continues to slowly progress through the movie production process. We've learned that the team would have five members and it's been stated that Cable and Deadpool would both be members of that team.

Earlier today, movie concept art began circulating on Facebook featuring what appears to be the team that will be appearing in the "X-Force" movie:

No Deadpool (though it wouldn't surprise me if he appears in the "X-Force" movie given the upcoming "Deadpool" movie). The concept art features Cable, Domino, Cannonball, Warpath, and some additional female character.

It was suggested that the unidentified woman might be Rogue, Hope Summers, or Psylocke. Personally, I think that the unidentified woman is either X-23/Wolverine or Feral.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Riverdale Podcast: Jon Shares His Favorite Archie Comic Memory of 2015!!

You all know that I'm a longtime fan of "Riverdale Podcast," the official Archie Comics Podcast! Earlier this month, Jonathan put out the call for listeners to call or email with their favorite Archie Christmas tales and/or their favorite stories from 2015.

I called in a couple of weeks ago and my comments were aired this weekend on this week's episode:
Jonathan! It's Jon from Iowa City! I was just calling because you had put out a request for people to share their favorite Archie memories within the year 2015. And I was going through my collection and I have to say that I'm a fan of the new JUGHEAD series and everything that Chip and Erica are doing right now with it. But... the big thing that was the most exciting Archie story -- and it was probably the most unexpected Archie story of the year. It wasn't even done fully by Archie Comics. It was actually their joint project with Dark Horse Comics, which is ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR. I would have never thought in a million years that they would do it. Between the art and the story and the characterizations... It was close to perfect, especially the first couple issues of the story. But pretty much the whole thing. And to be honest, it ended up being more of a "Betty and Veronica" story instead of an "Archie" story. I think. So that was probably my all-time favorite story.

I just wanted to add in, I really liked that they had those one-page Archie/Dark Horse crossovers at the end of each story. So you had Sabrina and Hellboy doing a little adventure. Or Mind Mgmt and Jughead doing something together. I just really like those stories altogether.

I hope you're doing well and I hope you have a good Christmas! I will talk with you later. Bye!
It was fun hearing some of my online friends like BettyReggie and Murray on this episode of "Riverdale Podcast," as well as a few other friends to sent online messages with their ideas.

Texas Restaurant Tells Customers: We're "Politically Incorrect;" Now Leave! // OR; It's Really Not a Sign of Rebellion to Wish Somebody "Merry Christmas"

Remember this story last month where an Ohio bakery told the world that the store is "politically incorrect" because the staff say "Merry Christmas" in November and because they salute the flag and supports the firefighters? It bugged me for reasons that you can read about here. Since this Ohio story went viral, I've seen a few other "we're politically incorrect" stories online and in the news -- including a sheriff somewhere in Florida who called his county "politically incorrect."

But I'm in a surly mood today. So I've been ranting for the past hour, ever since I watched this 28 second news bit from CBN's "The 700 Club" from the 23rd of December:
A restaurant chain in Texas is warning customers that their eatery is "politically incorrect." The CEO of Berry Hill Baja Grill says he's Jewish and he still sees nothing wrong with saying "Merry Christmas." The chain has posted signs outside of all nine locations saying, "Merry Christmas, God Bless America, and In God We Trust." The sign also notes that customers can leave if they are offended.
Berry Hill's sign is a word-for-word copy of the Ohio bakery's sign, except that it has the corporate name on their own signs.

I was traveling over the Christmas weekend. I got gas and soda at a Casey's General Store near Independence, IA. The cashier wished me "Merry Christmas" without the need for a sign or media crew to film my reaction.

Husband Mark and the boys were traveling separately from me and experienced a vehicle break-down on Christmas Day. They called several towing companies and each of them were capable of saying "Merry Christmas" without fear of reprisal.

Most people don't give a toss if anyone says "Merry Christmas." They just hate hearing people complain about how Christmas is under assault before Veterans Day has even happened. And they hate hearing people whine about how festive a coffee company's cup is or isn't. And they hate when people freak out if somebody says "Happy Holiday" or "Happy Hanukkah" or even "Have a nice day" instead of "Merry Christmas."

Because as much as someone has the right to say "Merry Christmas" whenever they want, they also have the right to not say "Merry Christmas" whenever they want.

It just really annoys me when people act like it's the biggest sign of rebellion to wish people "Merry Christmas." It's not. These types of stories and reactions just make the Christian establishment look like a bunch of whining babies. IMHO, as always.

P.S. --> When did it become "politically incorrect" to support the fire department, much less the police or the military? People don't like it when communities rally around obvious signs of police corruption. That doesn't mean that they don't support the police itself. It means that they don't want to get shot by poorly trained cops when there's a problem at home and they don't want their local officials to claim that the officer feared for his/her life to excuse him shooting yet another unarmed citizen!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Meet the All New Archies in ARCHIE COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #264!

It's Christmas morning, but I thought I would share at least one post. I had a lot of fun reading ARCHIE COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #264 this morning. It appears that the Riverdale City Council is planning their biggest Holiday Festival ever. They have invested tons of money into lights and musical performers and sound systems and TV screens. The only problem? They overloaded the electrics and everything blows out!

Fortunately, the Archies are the opening acts and these creative kids put their heads together to transform this hi-tech media event into a candle-lit acoustic concert!

But what got me really excited was this new version of the Archies! It consists of Archie, Betty, Jughead, and some new dude on the drums! (Which is interesting, given that Reggie and Veronica are cheering the band on from the sidelines!) I really want to know the backstory to this reorganization of the Archies!!

"Holiday Light" was written by Alex Simmons, penciled by Fernando Ruiz, inked by Rich Koslowski, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Glenn Whitmore.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas celebration!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Yet Another Traumatized Mall Santa in B&V FRIENDS COMICS ANNUAL #246!

B&V FRIENDS COMICS ANNUAL #246 boasts a fun Christmas-themed lead story called "Naughty And Nice!" featuring story by James Gartler, pencils by Bill Galvan, inks by Jim Amash, letters by Jack Morelli, and coloring by Glenn Whitmore.

Here is the gist: Betty and Veronica are shopping when they come across the Mall Santa. He stressing out because his assistants haven't shown up for work and the kids are getting all distressed.

Betty comes up with a solution. She and Veronica will help out! Not that Ronnie is happy about this solution. But she agrees to help out for a while -- even if she's not sold on those Christmas costumes!!

There is one page in this story that had me rolling on the floor with laughter! Check this out!!

It seems that Veronica cannot stand not being the center of attention where picture-taking is concerned. Look at her get into the act!

As these stories typically evolve, the Riverdale Gang eventually moves on for bigger and better things and Mall Santa is left traumatized!

The rest of this comic book digest features great classic stories starring Veronica, Betty, Josie & the Pussycats, and Li'l Jinx. Definitely pick it up!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How I Got Called Out on "Radio Or Not" and Twitter-Blocked by Its Host

I got called out on the "Radio Or Not" program and Twitter-blocked by its host earlier today.

I learned of online radio host Nicole Sandler of "Radio Or Not" back in 2013 when alt-folk singer Michelle Shocked went a bit nutty. She was doing a gig somewhere and somewhere along the way instigated an anti-gay rant. The situation went viral and it was a mess for a while. Nicole Sandler was familiar with Michelle and attempted to do an interview with Michelle. As I wrote before, it was a mess. Not because of Nicole, but because Michelle was doing this weird countdown from the 20 second delay and was acting all paranoid.

I kept listening to "Radio Or Not" after the Michelle Shocked situation died down. It is a lefty political show and I mostly enjoyed it. Her shows are typically broken down into two interview segments -- sometimes with guests, sometimes with recurring commentators.

I eventually began supporting her financially. It wasn't a lot. If you listen to her latest show, you will know that it was $5. But I've given her money every month for nearly two years. When Ed Schultz left Sirius XM back in 2014, I even wrote to the company and recommended that they look at "Radio Or Not" as a replacement show.

And I've stuck with her during some rough patches. Like when she angered the online black community over the whole Patricia Arquette Oscars speech earlier this year where she obtusely refused to listen to or understand the complaints of black people online as they pushed back against black erasure. It was painful to hear Sandler become the focus of that debate on Twitter long after Arquette (wisely) sat back and extricated herself from the discussion.

One of the things that Sandler does really annoys me. And it's not just her. Other people from more populated states do it also. Like Rachel Maddow, for example. They make fun of the "flyover states" like Iowa. We don't represent this country, as the argument goes. We're not diverse.

I would argue that we're as diverse as any other state. We just have fewer people, more space, and cheaper rent. But we have white people and black people. We have a growing Hispanic population, as well as Asians. Central Iowa is home to a growing refugee population. We have evangelicals, and Catholics, and Methodists, and Amish. We have Jews and Muslims and Sihks. Cedar Rapids boasts the longest-standing mosque in the United States. We were the third marriage equality state -- and we didn't reverse that decision, unlike California. The University of Iowa is home to the longest running LGBT Student Union. And I was foster parenting and adopting my kids long before Florida quit fighting that particular battle.

Yes, we have Steve King. I can't vote for or against him because I live in a different district. And we also have Joni Ernst as a U.S. Senator. I actually did vote against her and I still cringe when I think of her pig-squealing commercial. But she's hardly been the most radical senator out there. And she actually shows up to vote for or against legislation -- even if I disagree with her votes.

So Nicole Sandler has been doing what others do lately. They rag on Iowa for its "first in the nation" presidential status. "Why Iowa??" I actually sympathize with that idea. Mostly because I get sick of pollsters constantly bugging us here in Iowa. I also think that that "first in the nation" status has increasingly tainted the statewide political discourse. It has become this nonstop process that never lets go of the state. I mean, there are politicians who don't do anything but prepare for the next presidential cycle. That means that they are constantly mugging for the cameras and visiting focus groups throughout this state while neglecting to work for their own local constituents. I think that this is wrong. And I think we need to put a formal limit on the campaign cycle.

But that's a separate issue from Iowa and how relevant or irrelevant we are to the rest of the country.

So I've cringed a bit each time I've heard Sandler snipe at this state, just like I do with others in the media. Unlike others in the media, I actually have a connection with her. So last week when she spoke (again) about the Iowa Caucuses and how out of touch we are because we chose Santorum (by way of Huckabee), I decided to reach out.

I reached out to her on Twitter and pointed out other Caucus wins in previous years, such as Barack Obama, John Kerry, George W. Bush, Al Gore, Bob Dole. We don't get all of the eventual nominees, but we get a lot of them. Plus, (and I didn't say this on Twitter, but it's worth stating here) the idea of the Caucus is not to decide the actual nominee. There are 49 other states and they all contribute to the nomination process even if Iowa kicks it off.

I have since learned that she thought I was being "pissy." She responded to my Caucus response by saying that she worked for six years for a Des Moines-based radio station while actually living in Florida. Because that actually addressed the subject that I responded to. But I dropped it (outside of pointing out that this says more about the state of her professional industry in how they outsource talent).

Anyway (and I realize that I'm jumping around a bit here), this is where my head has been for the past year. I have been frustrated by the general Iowa dismissals and the situations like that whole Arquette mess for months. I have wondered whether or not to drop my pledge for a while. I even brought it up this past weekend with Husband Mark and sought his input.

So when I listened to her show again yesterday and heard another bit about Donald Trump's latest speech and how the rubes in Iowa didn't get the joke because we don't know what a "schlong" is, I decided it give up my pledge.

Let's set aside the fact that Trump's "schlong" speech took place in Grand Rapids, MI, and not anywhere near Iowa. Iowa may not have a huge Jewish population. But we have a Jewish population. And we're not culturally removed from the rest of the world. We have TV here. We have Internet here. We sometimes travel. And we sometimes even chat among ourselves. Many of us know what a "schlong" is.

So I adjusted my pay account and discontinued my pledge. And I wrote something about it on Twitter: "Just updated my recurring paypal payments. Tired of listening to Iowa-bashing from this one online radio program. No more money from me."

I didn't call her out publicly. I just did it and tweeted about it. I could have been more direct with her about this annoyance instead of earlier attempts at nudging. Maybe I should have been more direct. But I wasn't more direct. I simply discontinued my payment and tweeted indirectly about it.

She saw my funding change and then saw my tweet. She apologized and said she was just having fun. She told me that I could have called in to the program to talk about all of the great things in Iowa (which really wasn't my point). I was busy working so I didn't respond right away, though I did note that the one Trump rally actually took place in Michigan instead of Iowa. It was probably not the right information at the right time.

Because Nicole had a "Fesitvus"-themed program today, she led with an "airing of grievance" against me. I missed part of it due to a phone call, but caught up with the whole bit later. She noted that I was angry and pissy and couldn't take a joke. She noted that I stopped my $5 monthly payment and that she didn't want my money anymore. She then doubled-down on the whole "Iowa Caucus is a joke" bit.

I noted on Twitter that she did a segment on me.

Sandler asked me on Twitter, "Why are you still listening? I insulted your state and you won't support my show any more. So stop listening. Happy Festivus."

I responded with "That's fine. I enjoyed yr show. Just tired of the ongoing state jabs. But I can unsubscribe from yr show."

Which got me a, "learn to take a joke. We make fun of Florida all the time. Get over yourself and lighten up or go away."

This is true. She has a weekly "Flori-Duh" segment where she highlights crazy and stupid happenings in her state. That's different than essentially saying that Iowa itself is a joke. Just because.

So I responded with "You make funny (sic) of stupid incidents in FL. You make fun of corrupt govt in FL. You make fun of Iowa as irrelevant."

Which got me an "ok bye!" and I was blocked by Nicole Sandler.

I had planned on calling into her show until I heard how hostile she was being this morning on the show and on Twitter. She said that I could call in and talk about Iowa if I wanted. But I decided that it would be a waste of time.

I didn't react to a joke. I responded to a series of drips by one in a series of coastal snobs. The Trump bit was the final drip, though I was still interested in resolving things -- until her Festivus comments toward me.

So I have unfollowed her on Twitter (which essentially she did to me when she blocked me). And I've unsubscribed from her program, listening just long enough to today's first hour via iTunes to hear the portion that I missed while I was on the phone.

And that is how I got called out today on "Radio Or Not" and Twitter-blocked by its host.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Governor Bevin Issues Executive Order that Removes Clerk Names from Kentucky Marriage Licenses

Kim Davis is in the news again. Kentucky got a new Republican governor last month -- largely due to her refusal to issue marriage licenses from her office and her subsequent arrest on charges of contempt of court.

Gov. Matt Bevin pledged to help Davis and others like her if election. And now he has, with the issuance of a new executive order:
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin issued an executive order removing county clerk's names from marriage licenses on Tuesday...

Davis has long advocated for her name to be removed from the licenses: "I can't put my name on a license that doesn't represent what God ordained marriage to be," she said earlier this year.

Judge David Bunning released Davis from jail in early September after marriage licenses in Rowan County were altered to remove her name and replace it with the county's name. Though the removal of her name was a quick fix, controversy arose about whether or not the licenses would be legal without her name.

Bevin's executive order resolves this matter, as the nameless licenses are now the standard statewide. His statement reads as such:
To ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored, Executive Order 2015-048 directs the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives to issue a revised marriage license form to the offices of all Kentucky County Clerks.  The name of the County Clerk is no longer required to appear on the form.
Ultimately, this is all window-dressing. Bevin and Davis both want to ban same-sex couples from marrying altogether. This executive order does nothing. Davis will still need to process marriage license applications. Her name just won't be on the licenses.

Iowa Prosecutor Trying to Bar Discussion of Bigfoot at Lottery-Scam Trial

I'm a fan of the lottery. I purchase at least one Mega Millions ticket (or sometimes the Powerball when the prize starts getting up there -- though I hate that it was jacked up to $2 per ticket!!) every week. So I've been following the criminal case against Eddie Tipton, the former security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association. Tipton was convicted of attempting to claim winnings from a $16.5 million Hot Lotto jackpot here in Iowa a while back. Now prosecutors are trying to convict him of charges of ongoing criminal conduct and money laundering related to the various lottery jackpots. Basically, they say that he manipulated the lottery computers so that his friends and accomplices would win millions in jackpot winnings.

But I'm not writing about these charges. I'm writing about Bigfoot. Yes, Bigfoot.

It seems that some of the witnesses in his trial, including his brother Tommy Tipton, are members of a Bigfoot investigative group and prosecutors want to bar any mention of Bigfoot from the trial, fearing that the subject will distract from the actual trial:
(Iowa prosecutor Rob) Sand wrote in his motion that Iowa's lengthy investigation has found that Bigfoot hunting is a hobby that Tommy Tipton — who recently resigned as a justice of the peace in Flatonia, Texas — shares with two unidentified friends who "were involved in purchasing or claiming jackpot-winning tickets." He said their relationships can be established without mentioning that quirky pastime, and that hauling Bigfoot into the proceeding would have "no probative value on the ultimate question."

The motion noted that members of the Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization — which is dedicated to searching for the hairy humanoid in Southern states —"prefer to keep a low profile, due to the repercussions from their peers or employers."

That group distanced itself from the lottery scandal Tuesday, saying it hasn't had a Tommy Tipton sighting in years. "It's been right at, or nearly 15 years since any of us, has conversed with him in any way, shape or form," founder Bobby Hamilton said.
Eddie Tipton's attorney was joking about the motion. Frankly, it's unclear to me why it came up in the first place.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Who Has the Most Creative Dance-Vitation? Find Out in WORLD OF ARCHIE JUMBO COMICS #55!

I'm so behind with my comic books and then it occurs to me that I have a few Christmas/Winter Holiday-themed comic book digests yet to write about -- and not that many days left to write before Christmas!! So I'm going to do my best to catch up with all of my stray comic book digests this week -- even if I end up writing about them on Christmas Day itself!!

The first of this bunch is the brand-new lead story in WORLD OF ARCHIE JUMBO COMICS #55. This is not really a Christmas story, but instead a winter holiday tale in with the Riverdale Gang are getting excited about the annual Winter Dance!

Everyone is going crazy with these over-the-top dance-vitations (much like the real life "prom proposals" that you've seen in social media during the past few years). Reggie sent Veronica a personalized rock invitation. Moose had a robot deliver his dance-vitation to Midge. It's out of control!

Of course, that means that Archie needs to come up with his own over-the-top dance-vitation for Betty. And he does a pretty good job! He ends up designing this giant cake. He plans to pop out of the insides and serenade Betty with her own musical dance-vitation! How can she say no?

Of course, the devil is always in the details when it comes to Archie Andrews! Instead of dragging the cake out onto the drive-way and calling Betty and her friends over for some sort of fake-study date or whatever, he decides that he and Jughead will need to bring the giant cake-shell to Riverdale High and do the dance-vitation there!

All I can say is "SMASH!"

"Take Your Cake and Beat It, Too!" features story and art by Fernando Ruiz, inks by Rick Koslowski, letters by Jack Morelli, and coloring by Glenn Whitmore. It's a pretty good tale and the story (despite the giant "SMASH") ends with a bit of unexpected redirection!

FDA Allows Gay & Bi Men to Donate Blood Again -- Assuming That They Have Been Sexually Celibate for One Year

I was watching KGAN this evening and came across some great news(!!) -- which unfortunately missed some vital information. KGAN reported that the Food and Drug Administration is dropping its lifetime ban on blood donations from man who have had sex with other men.

What KGAN failed to report on television (though they did write about it on the station's webpage) is that gay men are still banned from donating blood once they have refrained from gay sex for at least one year.

I'm a married and monogamous gay man. I am drug- and disease-free. But I'm still prevented from donating blood to the Red Cross or other centers. It makes no sense to me.

This used to piss me off a lot. Now it only vaguely annoys me.

Largely because it's based on verbal screening and honesty on my part. I mean, the FDA will take my word that I have never had sex with another man (which is a lie). They will now take my word that I've been celibate for at least one year (which is a lie). But they won't take my word that I am sexually monogamous and generally aware of my HIV status.

Also, why don't they actually break down "men who have had sex with men" a bit more specifically in order to more correctly assess risk? Besides monogamy, there are specific sex acts that men engage in that are largely risk-free. But they don't screen for risky vs. less risky vs. virtually risk-free sexual behaviors when you donate blood, do they?

This change goes into effect immediately, though it might take a while before it is fully implemented.

Iowa City Church Creates "Star Wars"-Themed Christmas Pageant

A local church is in the news for its "Star Wars"-themed Christmas pageant! The pageant at Iowa City's Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church incorporated characters from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" into their annual nativity story:
To the play's directors, the theme represented a chance to appeal to the children who participated by relating faith to movies that many of them were excited about. Scharlde Franklin, who helped organize the production, said the connections were obvious.

"I've always thought that 'Star Wars' had a spiritual component to it, which is the Force," she said. "And as believers we also believe in a force, which is God."

The church's production was officially called "Star Trip: Our Faith Awakens." About 14 kids from the church participated, said youth choir director Barbara Haack. The story centered on three wise men who follow a star to the baby Jesus. Only, in this version, the wise men are Luke Skywatcher, who puts his faith in science, Only One Kenobi, who believes only in himself, and Yoma, who relies on his family for everything. Over the course of the play the three wise men learn to put their faith in God.
The kids were involved with the creation of this story. The church leadership was pleased with their ability to link their Christian faith with other things in their life (like "Star Wars") that excites them.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Coralville, IA: Image of Masked ATM Thief Emerges // Allegedly Stole $4200 from Elderly Victim

This post is going around Facebook tonight. It was posted by the friend of a friend and involves her mother:
My mom's purse was stolen from her Assisted Living home in Coralville, Iowa. The ATM camera caught this low life using the card to the tune of $4200, at 5:30 AM in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. People like this need to be taken off this earth. How could you steal from a struggling old woman? It's just so beyond me....
Sadly, the elderly and the disabled are prime suspects for financial exploitation -- usually at the hands of family or the people who are paid to assist them with their most personal needs.

Whomever went to this ATM machine knew the victim's ATM PIN number. Unless she has her PIN number written on the card (some people still actually do this), most likely the thief is somebody who assists with her care or is intimately connected to somebody who assists with her care -- either professionally or family.

I'm hesitant to put too much personal information about this case online. But if you see this post and know something about it, why not give the local police a call and help this poor woman out!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

It's a Christmas Truce // Five Great Things to Enjoy about JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS HOLIDAY SPECIAL!!

IDW published this great JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS HOLIDAY SPECIAL earlier this week. I just read my copy and I can't say enough good about this feel-good holiday special! It's that good!

In my last post, I noted that somebody was in a major car accident at the very end of JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS #9. But I was spoiler-friendly. Until now. It was Pizzazz. She drove off in a huff after learning that the Holograms would open for the Misfits for their upcoming West Coast Tour. She checked an incoming text and ended up smashing up the countryside. It doesn't look like her injuries were life-threatening. However, something happened to her throat. She can barely speak right now -- which isn't terribly positive when you are the lead singer of a band!

Here are five reasons to get excited about JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS HOLIDAY SPECIAL:

1. I Hate Secret Santa Exchanges!: Five By Five Records held its annual Holiday Party and both the Holograms and the Misfits were invited/expected to make appearances. They were told that they missed the drawing for Five By Five's annual Secret Santa gift exchange. However, they all missed the drawing. So somebody else drew for them. Unfortunately, each of the Misfits got Hologram names and vice versa! Not cool!

2. It's a Set-Up!: Turns out the the names were not drawn randomly. This was an effort by Five By Five's management to smooth over the hostility between the two bands:

3. Getting into the Spirit: Everybody was upset about the gift exchange. But then the tide slowly shifted. Shana agreed to design an amazing dress for Kimber's girlfriend Stormer. That prompted Jerrica to encourage the Holograms to shift from lumps-of-coal mode to generosity-mode!

That prompted Kimber to text Stormer for gift ideas, which made the Misfits determined to not be outshined by the Holograms! (Except for Pizzazz, who refuses to get Jem anything for Christmas!!)

What follows is a nonstop shopping spree of outrageous proportions! Even Pizzazz eventually gets into the action!

4. Shana Needs a Man!: Meanwhile, Shana is depressed because everybody is dating except her! Aja sets her up with a guy, but he turns out to be a big loser. But maybe Tony the Cute Bartender will return for future romantic adventures!!

5. Synergy Is So Cute!: Christmas night arrives and everyone gets to open presents -- including Synergy!! I know that something dark and corrupted is hiding deep within Synergy right now, but it's fun to see her being all cute and included with the Holograms!

Like I said before, JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS HOLIDAY SPECIAL is a lot of fun! I really like this artist and the story-telling continues to be topnotch! Plus, it's nice to see the Holograms and the Misfits actually dropping their hostility and attempting to get along for a week or so!

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS HOLIDAY SPECIAL was written by Kelly Thompson, with art by Amy Mebberson, colors by M. Victoria Robado, and letters by Shawn Lee.

Iowa Man Shows Off His "Star Wars"-Themed Prosthetic Leg

A Coralville, IA, man has been in the local news recently due to his "Star Wars"-themed prosthetic leg:
His prosthetic leg is specially built, as these early memories inspire him to fight through the medical challenges he's faced for years. "I got diabetes when I was 14," he said. He then had kidney failure and had to get a kidney and pancreas transplant. That triggered his low immune system and a cut he got on his leg at the hospital never properly healed. "The cut got infected," he said. "And after a couple of months, they ended up having to take off my leg." 

But nearly six months ago, prosthetists at the Iowa City office for the American Prosthetics and Orthotics hand delivered him a Star Wars-themed prosthetic leg he designed. "It took me eight hours at a quilt shop to find," Kleis said. He had to secure the right fabric with the correct design for the leg. Prosthetist and orthotist Brent Morgan said the leg is also able to help with uneven pavement. "We were able to provide him with a foot," Morgan said. "That gives him some added capabilities of shock absorption."
Kleis went on to say that he jogged for the first time recently with his new leg.

The KGAN article pointed out that several prominent characters from "Star Wars" -- named Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader -- have both lost limbs and had them replaced with hi-tech prosthetic limbs of their own.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Most Trump Supporters Want to Bomb Agrabah, the Fictional Disney City from "Aladdin"

Public Policy Polling just released the results of their latest national Republican primary poll. You can read the results here. Here is the saddest news to come out of this PPP GOP poll:
To put some of these findings about real modern day issues and Trump voters in context, 41% of his voters think Japanese internment was a good thing, to 37% who don't. And 41% of his supporters would favor bombing Agrabah to only 9% who are opposed to doing that. Agrabah is the country from Aladdin. Overall 30% of Republican primary voters say they support bombing it to 13% who are opposed. We asked the same question of Democrats, and 36% of them opposed bombing Agrabah to 19% in support.
That's right. 41% of Donald Trump supporters want to bomb the snot out of Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, the Geni, and sweet little Abu the Monkey!!

Judge Mablean: It's Reasonable to Mace Somebody Without Provocation

I'm totally unprepared for Christmas. So I took a day off from work today to get some Christmas shopping done. I might even put up a Christmas tree later this afternoon. But I went to the gym first thing this morning for a work-out and was treated to a court show called "Justice with Judge Mablean." She used to be on "Divorce Court," but then got replaced. Now she has her own show again.

Today's episode was an old episode from 2014 called "Gym Woes/A Grave Situation." I have to admit that I was completely unimpressed by her ruling in the first case. (I turned the channel once the second case began!)

Here is the summary: The plaintiff and the defendant both live in the same building in some large city. There is a gym in the building. The lighting within the gym is on a timer. You set the lights for a certain amount of time and once your time runs out, the room goes dark.

The plaintiff (a male) was exercising for a half-hour at 6:00 AM. The lights went off after thirty minutes. He wanted to continue exercising for another 10-15 minutes so he went to turn the lights back on.

As he approached the lights, the defendant (a woman) entered the room for her morning work-out. She saw the plaintiff approaching to turn on the light and immediately maced him. He ended up having an asthma attack. She ran to the building manager's office and called 911. He went to the hospital for treatment and ended up missing two days of work (it was an out-of-town job and he missed his flight) because of her mace-attack and because of the subsequent medical treatment.

He didn't sue her for any of his medical treatment, nor did he sue her for pain or suffering. He sued her for $600 for the missed work.

She claimed that she is from a suburb of Des Moines and that she was new to the big city and her father told her to watch out for rapists. She claimed that she was fearful of the man in the darkened room and immediately and preemptively defended herself from a hypothetical attack.

She won the case. Judge Mablean said that her response was reasonable. She implied that the plaintiff deserved to get maced because of the woman's fear. She said that she could not order the defendant to pay for any of the plaintiff's losses, but she could gently encourage her to help him out. Of course, Ms. Des Moines said that she had no intention of giving the maced man one penny.

Judge Mablean gave anyone permission to mace or otherwise attack anyone else in that building's gym. No questions asked. It doesn't matter if you are walking towards a light-switch and doing nothing else, you can be maced without recourse.

If I were the plaintiff, I might consult with an attorney and see if I have a case against the building management. Whose bright idea was it to install a timer-based lighting system in the public gym. Especially if others are now free to assault you without provocation if you happen to mistime your workout with the light-timer?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Federal Government Delays Iowa's Medicaid Privatization Plans by at least 60 Days // CMS: Iowa Isn't Prepared for This Transition

Governor Terry Branstad has been working hard to privatize modernize Iowa's Medicaid system all year. The entire Medicaid system was supposed to transfer to four for-profit MCOs effective January 1st. The governor stated that recipients would find improved services and the state would receive millions in saving by making this switch. However, there have been complaints and concerns by Medicaid recipients and providers alike as the deadline has approached for this transition.

Among the concerns... Providers were being given false and contradictory information by the state and by the MCOs. Other MCOs who failed to land bids with the state issued complaints of cronyism -- a complaint that has been substantiated by state courts. Providers were being asked to sign off on provider contracts with little information. Medicaid recipients were being told to sign up with MCOs, even though they had little information about which of their doctors, case managers, or hospitals were signed with the MCOs, if any. The call centers offered little substantive information for confused recipients -- or they experienced dropped calls after hours of waiting to speak to somebody.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been in Iowas reviewing Iowa's transition progress. They are the federal agency who is ultimately charged with approving Branstad's transition plan. Advocates have been pushing CMS hard to delay Iowa's Medicaid modernization plan due to its lack of readiness.

Today was the day when Medicaid recipients were supposed to be signed up with one of the four MCOs. Today is also the day that CMS told Branstad and Iowa to delay implementation of its Medicaid Modernization process:
Federal administrators have ordered Iowa to wait at least 60 days before shifting its Medicaid program to private management...

One of the main complaints has been that Iowa Medicaid participants were supposed to choose a managed-care plan by Thursday, even though they had little information about which plans their doctors, hospitals and other health care providers would participate in.

Branstad needs federal permission to make the switch, because the federal government pays more than half the cost of Medicaid. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrators made their position known Thursday in a letter to the state’s Medicaid director, Mikki Stier.

“Based on our review last week of Iowa’s progress, as well as the information you have provided, CMS expects that we will ultimately be able to approve Iowa’s managed care waivers. However, we do not believe that Iowa is ready to make this transition Jan. 1,” the letter says. “CMS previously outlined the requirements to provide high quality, accessible care to Medicaid beneficiaries, and Iowa has not yet met those requirements, meaning that a transition on January 1 would risk serious disruptions in care for Medicaid beneficiaries.”
I have read a copy of the letter written by CMS director Vikki Wachino to Medicaid director Mikki Stier. Here were some of their findings (as of 12/11/15):

Only one MCO provider network contained more than 42% of non-critical access hospitals. Only one MCO provider network contained more than 18% of critical access hospitals and none of the MCOs contained more than 34% of critical access hospitals. None of the MCOs had contracted with more than 36% of elderly waiver agency providers and intellectual disability wavier agency providers for home and community based services (i.e., group homes, vocational providers, day programs, care aids, etc.). The MCOs had only contracted 13-33% of ICF/IDs (residential nursing facilities for severely mentally disabled individuals) -- and three of the four MCOs had only contracted with the ICF/IDs.

Additionally, they noted that the state call center representatives have done a horrible job with communicating with Medicaid recipients and family members. They reported a 49% abandonment rate on calls to the call centers and 10,000 called drops in the first nine days of December. They also noted that callers received only small amounts of useful information when they were able to actually get through to call center representatives. There were also concerns that Iowa still lacks "a fully-functioning LTSS (long-term services and supports) Ombudsman to assist Iowa's elderly and disabled communities with this transition to modernized Medicaid.

Iowa's transition to managed care has been pushed back to March 1, 2016 -- but will need to show that they have met sixteen different signs of readiness in order to get approval to fully transition by that date. In other words, this process might continue to get pushed back further and further in time if Iowa Medicaid Enterprise continues to flounder with its preparations.

Governor Terry Branstad issued this statement following CMS' decision:
The decision by CMS formally puts the wheels in motion to implement our Medicaid Modernization plan on March 1...The CMS letter effectively gives the green light to Iowa as long as steps are taken to build on the progress already made. Iowa’s Medicaid Modernization plan is similar to plans CMS has approved in 39 other states. From the very beginning, our focus has been on improving patients’ health outcomes. Current Medicaid patients should continue working with their Managed Care Organizations for a March 1 kick-off.
AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued this statement following CMS' decision:
All across Iowa, we have been hearing about the massive confusion that has been caused by Branstad-Reynolds Medicaid Outsourcing Plan. We are pleased that CMS has delayed the implementation of a transition for sixty days; the Branstad-Reynolds Administration is clearly not ready to implement any sort of changes at this time. The Branstad-Reynolds Administration needs to listen to Medicaid consumers. The health care of those counting on Medicaid must come first as CMS continues to evaluate the Branstad-Reynolds plan.
I'm an AFSCME member, so I have always supported their opposition to Branstad's Medicaid modernization plans. But I also appreciate their continued reminder that Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds is also part of their executive governmental team effort to outsource Iowa's Medicaid dollars to out-of-state for-profit MCOs.

Iowa City Earns 100 out of 100 on the 2015 Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index!

I have written a couple of times about Iowa City's Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index scores (90/100 in 2013 and 100/100 in 2014). This year, the HRC looked at 408 cities from across the nation (up from 353 cities last year) exploring a variety of factors -- including Non-Discrimination Laws, Municipality as an Employer, Municipal Services, Law Enforcement, and Relationship with the LGBT Community -- and established scores for each of these communities.

I discovered Iowa City's 2015 rating earlier tonight and Iowa City ended up with another 100/100 final score for the 2015 HRC's Municipal Equality Index:

Iowa City scored perfect scores when it came to Non-Discrimination Laws, Municipal Services, and Law Enforcement. Under Municipal Services, we earned additional points when it comes to the bonus headings of "Enforcement mechanism in Human Right Commission," "City provides services to LGBT youth," "City provides services to LGBT elderly," and "City provides services to people living with HIV/AIDS."

Iowa City scored 18 out of 24 when it came to Municipality as Employer because we fall behind under the category of "Transgender-Inclusive Healthcare Benefits." But we earned additional points under the bonus heading when it comes to "Municipality is a Welcoming Place to Work."

Iowa City scored 5 out of 8 when it came to Relationship with the LGBT Community because we fall behind under the category of "Leadership's Pro-Equality Legislative or Policy Efforts." But we earned additional points under the bonus heading of "Openly LGBT elected or appointed municipal leaders."

In contrast, nearby Cedar Rapids earned a score of 99 (up from 68 last year), Ames earned a score of 70, Davenport earned a score of 100 (up from 86 last year), Des Moines earned a score of 82 (down from 85 last year), Sioux City earned a score of 83 (up from 61 last year), and Waterloo earned a score of 68.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Muscatine, IA: Man Protests Panhandlers with Streetside Side of his Own

So there's this post that has been going around Facebook recently and it just appeared on KGAN. A man pulled up to two panhandlers in Muscatine, IA, and supposedly offered them work. The guys supposedly turned him down. So this "busy" guy then got up behind the panhandlers with his own sign that reads "Offered these guys a job. They said no. Don't give money."

Now, I have my own issues with panhandling. Bluntly, I don't think it's safe for them or for the rest of us. Especially the roadside panhandlers. Then again, panhandlers don't rob people of their money. It's freely given.

I have a problem with with the guy with the yellow sign. We don't know what kind of job he offered them. We don't know if they have the skills to complete the job that was offered. We don't know if they are physically able to perform the work that he offered. Maybe they can, but some disabilities are invisible. And maybe they just prefer to panhandle.

In other words, it's easy to get mad at the panhandlers. But there's always more to the story. The news outlets have gotten "Uncle Mike's" perspective. Nobody has sought comment from the two panhandlers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Pat Robertson: Those Who Undermine Others' Faith Need to Repent // Meanwhile, Pat Robertson & "700 Club" Continue to Undermine the Faith of LGBT Christians

I was checking out today's Bring It On segment on "The 700 Club" program on CBN and heard any interesting question by a viewer named David. He asked co-host Terry Meeuwsen the following question: "What happens to a Christian who accidentally makes another Christian lose their faith in Christ and makes them walk away from the faith of Christ? Will God send to hell the one that made the other Christian fall away – and then to burn in the Lake of Fire? What if the person repents and asks for forgiveness? Would God eternally damn a person for accidentally making someone fall away?"

Here is Pat Robertson's answer:
Terry Meeuwsen: I don’t understand that question. 

Pat Robertson: There’s no such thing as “accidentally making someone fall away.” There was a deliberate attempt to undermine somebody’s faith. And Jesus said that “anyone who causes one of these little ones who believed in me to stumble, it’d be better if he had a millstone tied around his neck and thrown in the sea.” But, God will forgive. I keep saying over and over again, God wants to forgive. And the Bible says that “all manner of sins and blasphemy will be forgiven the sons of man.” So you need to come to the Lord and ask for forgiveness. 

But don’t be giving me this stuff about “it was accidental.” It ain’t accidental if you try to go after somebody’s faith. You did it on purpose. 
There are times that Christian leaders are terribly obtuse. Robertson is clearly offended by the idea that this guy said and/or did something to make another person turn away from Christianity (or at least the Church).

But people like Robertson and Meeuwsen constantly do whatever they can to undermine the collective faith of LGBT people through their ministries and programming. People write into this program on a weekly (if not daily) basis to complain about some family member or friend who is gay or who is married to somebody of the same-sex and Robertson always urges these viewers to push back against their LGBT loved ones. "The 700 Club" supports religious schools or businesses who fire LGBT employees. The program pushes back and undermines affirming churches or denominations.

In other words, Pat Robertson and others like him need to reflect on David's letter and take part in some serious introspection. IMHO, as always.

You can watch the entire clip here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Alpha Flight To Co-Star in new CAPTAIN MARVEL Comic Book!

Long-time fans of "Jon's Blog" know that I am a fan of Alpha Flight, Marvel Comics' team of Canadian super-heroes. Marvel Comics resurrects this team every so often, but it rarely sticks around. In recent years, Alpha Flight fans have looked pretty much towards the X-Men, which has boasted a small number of former Alphans (namely Northstar and Madison Jeffries) among their ranks. Otherwise, I've always been a bit leery about Alphans appearing in various books because they're usually targeted for some dramatic death scene!

Recently, Marvel Comics announced a new CAPTAIN MARVEL series featuring Carol Danvers as Earth's space-based protector. I'm not a huge Captain Marvel fan, but I was intrigued by this new development: Captain Marvel now leads Alpha Flight!

Of course, we haven't heard much about Alpha Flight except that it's now based out of an orbiting space station:
Carol Danvers now leads Alpha Flight, but this group does more than protect just Canada. In fact, they keep the entire Earth safe from extraterrestrial threats that pop up. With the new gig comes a great deal of science fiction gear and vehicles for Anka to play with.
Looking at a lot of the early preview art, it was unclear to me what this new Alpha Flight would look like. For the most part, it seems like it's a completely all new all different team of support heroes. But then I saw this one image that has made me feel a bit better about this latest incarnation of Alpha Flight:

That appears to be Puck, Sasquatch, and Aurora flying those ships! How many other traditional Alphans will be appearing within this new comic book title? I'm definitely looking forward to picking up CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 when it gets released next month!

Shelter House Finds Location for Temporary Homeless Shelter in Iowa City During Coming Winter Months // Updated on 12/14/15: The Winter Emergency Shelter Opens Tonight

(Originally written on 11/24/15): Last winter, Iowa City's Shelter House opened a temporary secondary homeless shelter that was capable of housing 20-25 people per night during the months of January and February 2015. This was created in order to alleviate some of the overcrowding that happens during the winter months at the Shelter House, but is was also used as a "wet shelter" (i.e., allowed individuals who had been drinking alcohol). Those individuals are turned away from the Shelter House. The temporary homeless shelter was a huge success. Iowa City Police reported a 95% decrease in vagrancy calls in the shelter's first month of operation. Basically, people weren't seeking protection from the cold in the hallways of local apartment buildings.

Shelter House wanted to open temporary shelter again this winter in Iowa City, but struggled to secure a location. The old Aldi grocery story building is no longer available and other places were not open to the idea.

Until now. Shelter House announced earlier today that they have located a new location for the temporary homeless shelter:
SouthGate will allow Shelter House to set up the temporary shelter — rent free from December through March, with Shelter House responsible for utilities — at the former TMone building, at 1925 Boyrum St. on the corner of Boyrum Street and Southgate Avenue, just across the street from Shelter House, 429 Southgate Ave.

“We’ve been looking and we’ve been talking with people, but property owners outright said no or the rent that we were going to need to come up with made the project unfeasible,” Canganelli said. “We have finally worked through the details and are going to be partnering with SouthGate this year ... it’s only because of that that we’re going to be able to proceed with the project.”

Joe Hughes, director of real estate operations for SouthGate, said the agreement with Shelter House worked out perfectly.

“We’ve had this property in mind for the Shelter House overflow for months. Our goal was to provide a much needed solution for people who are struggling in our community and do it as soon as possible,” he said in an email. “When we learned that the building will be available for this winter, we jumped on the opportunity to create a warm home for those most in need.”
It's unfortunate that a secondary homeless shelter is needed in Iowa City, but this was a great service last winter. It paid for itself by reducing calls to the police on vagrancy calls, plus people weren't forced to camp out in the city admin building/police department.

Updated on 12/14/15: The new temporary homeless shelter is opening tonight. That means that there are up to 20 additional beds available each night for this community's homeless population.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: Archie Comics' Nancy Silberkleit Tackles Gun Violence Awareness in Schools with New Comic Book

Nancy Silberkleit is the co-CEO of Archie Comics. But she also runs a non-profit organization called Rise Above Social Issues Foundation. This group addresses challenging social issues that affect the lives of young people through comic books and speaking events. I had already heard of RISE ABOVE!, which explored bullying and steps that students can take when they witness bullying. But I just learned of some other really interesting comics that address getting in shape, celiac disease & going gluten free, Crohn's disease, and wellness.

Silberkleit's latest project is called SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING and it addressed the issue of gun violence in school:
Nancy Silberkleit, co-CEO of Archie Comics, said she has been shaken by recent shootings and fast-tracked the launch a new eight-page comic book, “See Something, Say Something.”
“This escalation in folks going out and shooting one another has left us all saying it must stop. I feel conversation in an education environment may just plant the seed for one to handle their internal conflicts in a peace manner,” said Silberkleit, who has visited Haverhill twice in recent months. A four-page teaching guide is in development and will be offered free to teachers with the $1.99 purchase of the comic book. Proceeds benefit Silberkleit’s non-profit Rise Above Social Issues Foundation...

The comic book tells the story of a new student who is shunned and bullied at school. “He struggles with the turmoil and cannot find inner peace, which causes him to bring disharmony to the school. He tells another student of his plan to get even, which involves violence to others,” a statement said. 
I first learned of SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING from a gun advocate who believes that this book is all about implementing gun control. But it really seems to be offering advise for students who learn of potential shooting situations at school or elsewhere.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Healing Power of Purring Cats

I found the following meme today on Facebook (misspellings and all!), which touted the healing power that occurs when cats purr. The gist is that there is something medically healing about the vibrations resulting from a purring cat!

Which, of course, got me thinking. I need to figure out how to incorporate my cat into some form of holistic healing program. So much of new age healing has to do with energy manipulation. Why not sound energy?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gov. Terry Branstad Reflects on Gay Marriage in Iowa

Governor Terry Branstad was interviewed by columnist Kyle Munson about a variety of topics, including same-sex marriage:
Munson: What about same-sex marriage? How will history judge you, do you think?

Branstad: Let me just say this. Three members of the Supreme Court lost their job because of what they did. Okay? So the people of Iowa cast their judgement. I stayed out of it. I stayed out of it. Now, the facts are that had Bob Vander Plaats been the Republican nominee, that was the issue that he was campaigning on. I focused on the debt that Culver had put us in and what I wanted to do was focus on jobs and economic development. Yes, I'm pro-life and I believe in traditional marriage. But that was not what I focused my campaign on. I answered all the questions on it. I took a beating from both sides, but I focused on what I believed was important for the state of Iowa. And I think I won the election. And three members of the Supreme Court lost their retention. And so Bob Vander Plaats turned his focus on them after he lost to me in the primary. 

Munson: You'll leave office still believing in traditional marriage?

Branstad: Yes. Absolutely. I'm a Catholic and believe in protecting human life and who believes in traditional marriage.
It's worth noting that subsequent efforts by BVP to vote out Supreme Court judges who overturned Iowa's DOMA law have failed.

Gov. Branstad is the longest-running governor to serve anywhere in the USA. Sadly.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wessels Living History Farm of York NE Struggles to Meet Budget After Halting Wedding Business Over Fears of Renting to Gay Wedding Parties

Here's a story from my hometown of York, NE. There's this place in York called Wessels Living History Farm. I don't remember anything about it from my childhood, but it has been around for nearly a century and it's used as an education resource, as well as a site for events such as weddings. Until last month. That's because Wessels' board of directors voted last month of prohibit all weddings in the properties church building or anywhere else on the grounds because of the gays:
(WLHF's director Dale) Clark’s next comment alluded to the theory that the earlier board decision may have been prompted by personal issues with gay marriage as he told the membership, “The Supreme Court has made its decision and that is involved here. I’m concerned and I would like you to reconsider.” 

Clark told the membership that he was told the 10 already-booked weddings could be held – but no more after that, which means the three wedding requests made shortly after the split-board decision and any yet to come will be met with denial. 

“If this wasn’t the case, I believe we could have 25 weddings at the farm next year,” Clark said. 

Board member Elaine Stuhr argued that the books didn’t reflect that level of revenue had been generated by weddings. Clark explained that the revenue from weddings was entered into the books simply as rentals, and not specifically as weddings. 

“This area (of usage) for the farm is growing,” Clark continued. 

“My understanding is that the church, once on the grounds, was then considered non-denominational,” said Evelyn Campbell, a Wessels member, “and that it could be used for different events.” 

“No, no more, none on the grounds,” Clark said. 

“I don’t understand why the turnaround,” Campbell said. 

“The Supreme Court says . . . if a gay wedding was to be there . . . well, it wasn’t set up for that,” Conner said. “It was to educate children. This was not to be the point of the farm. Some of us have religious beliefs and we are standing up for that.” 

“Doesn’t that then jeopardize our (tax exempt) status?” Campbell asked. 

“Oh yes, and the American Civil Liberties Union will probably come after us,” said an agitated Clark. 

“We can’t jeopardize our 501C3,” Campbell said. “And how will this affect our association with the York Community Foundation?” 
Meanwhile, WLHF is still trying to figure out how to move forward financially. They typically earn about $18,000 in wedding-related revenue. They need to bring in more than 200 people for tours to make up for one wedding.

Keep in mind that Nebraska does NOT bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. I disagree with this, but Nebraskans have the right to discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation pretty much anywhere in the state. People might complain about it and there might be social media backlash, but this discrimination is legal.

It seems like somebody should have consulted with an attorney before making this costly decision. IMHO, as always!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

911 Transcripts of West Des Moines Hotel Reporting Transgender Guest to Police

Hopefully you remember the case of the trans woman named Meagan Taylor who filed a complaint last month with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission against the Drury Inn & Suites of West Des Moines, IA, complaining that the hotel's employees violated her civil rights earlier this year on the basis of her race and gender identity. They had called the police on her and a friend after they had checked into the hotel on the way to a friend's funeral. The hotel's management told the police that they suspected that Taylor and her friend were prostitutes because they were "men dressed like women."

Taylor was arrested and held in solitary confinement for eight days while her friends scrounged to come up with bail. The charges that led to her arrest were eventually dropped (see here for more details).

BuzzFeed posted audio of the 911 call yesterday that led to Taylor's arrest. You can hear it here, but here are the transcripts:
911 Dispatcher: Communications, this is Holly.
Hotel manager: Yeah, hi, Holly, this is Kim, the general manager over at Drury Inn & Suites. And I have somebody that is a little unusual that is checking into the hotel, and I didn’t know if there was any way to possibly run their name or information through the database. They’re dressed as a woman, but it’s a man’s driver’s license.
Dispatcher: OK, I can send an officer, but I can’t do it over the phone. What’s your address there?
Hotel manager: It’s 5505 Mills Civic Parkway. I’d want it to be discreet though.
Dispatcher: OK, well, um, I can’t do it on the phone, that’s the only thing. It’s against the law. So I can have someone come over. Where — are they in the lobby there, or?
Hotel manager: They went up to the room and stuff. So I guess if they just kind of discreetly park in the parking lot, instead of, you know, right out front, that would be great.
Dispatcher: Well, I’ll leave that up to them... OK, so that’s a female, with a male’s driver’s license.
Hotel manager: There’s two males, but they’re dressed as females. And they have Illinois driver’s license.
Dispatcher: And are they — what are their driver’s licenses? Male or female?
Hotel manager: Male. And I took pictures with my camera, so.
Dispatcher: OK, so just because they’re dressed as — is it because they’re dressed as females, is that why you’re concerned?
Hotel manager: Um, It’s just, you know, it’s, I guess so. They’re dressed a little bit over the top, too. I just want to make sure they’re not hookers either.
Dispatcher: OK, gotcha. Okay, ma’am, we’ll have them swing over there.
This complaint is still being investigated by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Woman Breaks Nose While Having Sex During a Zombie Apocalypse

I was on YouTube and noticed an advertisement for a program called "Sex Sent Me to the ER," which will be airing on TLC later this month.

It features a couple who went on a "Zombie 5K Run" together, at the insistence of the girlfriend. She'd done it before, but hadn't won yet. I guess she planned to pushed her boyfriend in front of a zombie or something in order to make it through to the end unscathed.

She enticed her boyfriend into coming to the run with promises of sex. After all, "Who wouldn't want to get involved with stirring the honey-pot when the world was ending?" (What a romantic, eh?) The couple stumble across an old rusty school bus and decide to "stir the pot," to coin a vulgar phrase. 

They start making out and having sex on the old rusty bus when the predictable happens: a zombie shows up and reminds them that there is a virtual apocalypse occurring!

The girl freaks out and smashes her nose against her boyfriend's chin. Instant bloodbath. So much for the honey-pot...

The moral of the story? Public sex acts are bad. Even during a zombie apocalypse!

You can watch the whole segment here.

Monday, December 7, 2015

'Tis the Season! // Two Reasons to Enjoy WORLD OF ARCHIE COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #54!

I was checking out WORLD OF ARCHIE COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #54 tonight and was treated to a fun story featuring Archie's efforts to earn some extra money for Christmas cash by doing odd jobs for his friends. I don't think that it's too much of a spoiler to reveal that he ends up creating far more trouble for his friends than assistance!

But the artwork is beautiful! I used to really disliked the artwork of Pat & Tim Kennedy when I first read their stories in LIFE WITH ARCHIE. Now I cannot get enough of them! I really wish that we could see more of these guys in one of Archie Comics' main monthly titles. Until then, I look forward to seeing their pencils in the various digests (along with Fernando Ruiz and Gisele, of course!)

There were two things that really got me excited about this short story!

1. Nero Would Look So Cute!: I absolutely adore Vegas' outfit! He can really pull off a sweater and stocking cap combo!

2. Coming Up Next: The Trial of Archie Andrews: Surely I can't be the only person who finds it funny that Archie nearly killed a centenarian with his toxic cookies?? I think it would be great if the Kennedy brothers came up with a multi-part story featuring Archie Andrews' criminal misdeeds!

"All Worked Up" is written by Angelo DeCesare, penciled by Pat & Tim Kennedy, inked by Jim Amash, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Digikore Studios.

Disability & Elderly Advocates Protest Iowa's Medicaid Privatization Plans

Governor Terry Branstad and his administration announced early this year that Iowa would completely privatize its Medicaid system on January 1, 2016. Gov Branstad said that this switch would save the state $51 million within the first six month. Court testimony has subsequently revealed that they pulled that number out of nowhere. Since then, they have contracted with four MCOs (Wellcare, Amerigroup, UnitedHealthcare, and Americare).

Medicaid providers can sign up to work with any or all of these MCOs. Outside of pharmacies, service providers have been slow to sign up with the new MCOs. For example, the big news late last week was that three hospital groups in Iowa have signed up with MCOs. This was supposed to be a reassuring announcement, but news sources conveniently failed to note that the hospitals have only signed with a fraction of the MCOs. Genesis signed with UnitedHealthCare and Amerigroup and UIHC and UnityPoint have each signed with UnitedHealthCare.

Medicaid recipients are supposed to sign with an MCO by 12/17/15, but they and their guardians are understandably upset. They are supposed to make informed decisions, but can't even figure out if their medical and long-term care providers are signed up with one MCO or the other.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is currently in Iowa. They are required to review and sign off on Iowa's Medicaid privatization plan. CMS can deny or delay these plans. Advocates are in Des Moines today communicating their concerns and this goal (deny or delay) to CMS and the state:
The about 75 loaded a chartered bus in Cedar Rapids at around 6:30 a.m. to attend a Legislative Oversight Committee meeting starting at 10 a.m. A few of the protestors plan to speak during the public comment period Monday afternoon. Rhonda Shouse, a Medicaid user from Cedar Rapids, organized the charter with the help of an anonymous donor. She believes the move to privatize by January 1st is too fast. “We haven't had time to consider what managed care really is because the information timeline is ridiculously fast and reckless,” Shouse said in a statement. “Let's delay this and take time to have the necessary discussion we should have had when he brought this up in February.” Governor Terry Branstad's plan to privatize calls for four out-of-state companies to manage Iowa's Medicaid system by the end of the year. The state's 560,000 users have until December 17th to sign up for one of the four plans within the new system.
There are plans for people driving out of Iowa City and Sioux City today as well.

The Branstad administration is committed to seeing this privatization through to completion. So it all comes down to CMS to delay these plans until everything is ready to go or until an alternate plan is decided upon.