Thursday, August 11, 2022

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Civic Skinny

A whistleblower, a mountain lion, $604 for addicts and some not-so-desirable rankings


Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen is from Iowa City. The former Facebook data scientist, who is the daughter of two professors and grew up attending the Iowa caucuses with her parents, recently sounded the alarm on the social media giant regarding the dangers of the platform. 

“The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people,” she said in a prepared statement to the U.S. Congress. 

According to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, this is not Haugen’s first time raising red flags in attempts at curtailing unwanted intrusion into the lives of children. As an 8-year-old, the youngster was so concerned about plans to widen a neighborhood road that, in a 1993 letter to the editor printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, she wrote to U.S. Rep. Jim Leach: “Please don’t let them turn Melrose Avenue into a four-lane road. I couldn’t walk home from school because I have to cross Melrose. Sincerely yours Frances Haugen.” 

Haugen’s latest concerns are that Facebook has been prioritizing profits over the well-being of its users. She reviewed thousands of documents over several weeks before leaving the company in May. She also testified last week before a committee at the British Parliament, stating that there are countless employees with ideas for making Facebook safer, but those proposals aren’t recognized internally because they would hamper the company’s growth. …    

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources confirmed that a north Des Moines video is of a mountain lion. Nancy Wagner Dowart shared a video with KCCI that was taken by her Ring Security apparatus. There are no mountain lion breeding populations in Iowa, according to the DNR, but small groups do exist in South Dakota and Nebraska. Occasionally, some of these young males get chased from there by older males. Iowa offers an ample food source, but not the necessary vast expanses or female mates to keep them from moving on. …

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa

Des Moines ranked No. 104 in the Safest Cities in the U.S. data compiled by WalletHub. The report compared more than 180 U.S. cities across 44 key indicators of safety in an attempt to determine where people can feel most secure. The data set ranges from COVID-19 deaths in the past week per capita and assaults per capita to the unemployment rate and road quality. Des Moines ranked No. 90 in regard to Home & Community Safety, No. 143 in Natural Disaster Risk, No. 83 in financial safety. Cedar Rapids ranked No. 59 overall, and No. 64 in Home & Community Safety, No. 101 in Natural Disaster Risk, and No. 79 in financial safety. Omaha ranked No. 37 overall. Columbia, Maryland, ranked No. 1 overall and South Burlington, Vermont, took the second spot. St. Louis, Missouri, ranked last of the 182 cities considered. … 

Iowa drivers are the worst in the nation, according to QuoteWizard’s annual report ranking the Best and Worst Drivers by State. Analysts reviewed more than two million car insurance quotes to rank each state based on four contributing factors: accidents, DUIs, speeding tickets and citations. … 

High school wrestlers from around the state fondly recall days of reading The Predicament wrestling newspaper for rankings, scores, photos and more for 50 years. The publication ceased printing in recent years but continued online and on social media. The most recent owner and publisher, the well-liked Wyatt Schultz, died on Aug. 21, reportedly from complications of COVID-19. According to his wife, Kirsten, his final wishes regarding The Predicament were that it would cease if something were to happen to him. As such, the website will be discontinued, and The Predicament will end. … 

Ted Fetock had a stroke several years ago, and he now needs the use of a wheelchair. That makes road trips tricky. Without a properly equipped hotel room, Ted can’t shower or achieve a variety of basics that others take for granted. 

Ted’s wife, Judi, has a heart condition that limits her ability to help her husband through such situations. She overcomes these difficulties, usually, by being diligent about planning ahead to avoid them. Knowing that many hotels have only a few such rooms, she made reservations on May 18 for their upcoming trip scheduled for July 2. With rooms booked at a reputable West Des Moines hotel, Judi breathed a sigh of relief. 

“The general manager said I would be getting… the only room adequate for a wheelchair,” she writes. “I called the hotel several times to make sure that the accommodations would meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines.” 

Before embarking on the trip, Judi double-checked her hotel confirmation. Everything appeared to be as it should be, so she was surprised upon arrival from Pennsylvania.

“They had given our reserved handicap room away,” she says. The clerk did offer them another room, but it “absolutely was not ADA acceptable.” 

“This denial of the promised handicapped room definitely violated my husband’s rights as a disabled person,” she continues, citing ADA regulations pertaining to Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Public Accommodations and Commercial Facilities. 

This wasn’t the first time a hotel had given away a room reserved by the Fetocks. A similar occurrence happened to them two years ago at a different hotel in Atlanta. 

“I had it reserved,” she exclaims. I had a confirmation number and everything. No doubt about it.” 

Fetock contacted several watchdog groups who look out for the rights of the disabled, but to no avail. The Department of Justice is too busy, she says. Unless more complaints of this nature come in, apparently, there is little anyone can or will do. 

Meanwhile, Fetock says if you or someone you know has a problem with a hotel not holding a reservation for a wheelchair accessible room, contact Disability Rights of Iowa on their website at … 

And finally, recent research suggests that 42% of Iowans say they support use of tax dollars to pay addicts to stay clean. Of course, that means up to 58% say they don’t. The study was completed in response to events in California, which recently proposed the strategy. In 2020, the CDC reported that drug overdose deaths spiked by 29.7%, the highest number in a recorded 12-month span — more than 93,000 deaths. The payment program would use tax dollars to pay people for every negative drug test they provide during a certain stretch of time and a bigger reward for completing treatment without failing any such tests. The study states that Iowans suggested, on average, that $604 would be a fair payment to complete the program. ♦

One Comment

  1. Scott Klinefelter says:

    Why not name the hotel?

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