Friday Reads

Conditions inside the Atalissa “bunkhouse” continue to make headlines this morning.

The Des Moines Register took a tour inside the building that housed a group of mentally disabled men who worked at a nearby turkey plant and has a story full of details:

The former gymnasium of the 106-year-old schoolhouse is where Henry’s Turkey Service used to host holiday parties for the men and community workers. A disco ball hangs over the room, and decorations, including jumbo “playing cards” that might have been used for a game night, sit along the edge. In one corner of the gym is an old barber chair, with tufts of hair underneath it. A former stage is now a recreation area with a new flat-screen television surrounded by shabby chairs and a pool table.

Some of the bunkhouse rooms smell of urine. Soiled, moldy mattresses are stacked in a hallway. Dust and grime is everywhere. Emergency exits are plainly marked, but many are padlocked, and access to some is blocked by heavy furniture. Power strips loaded with electrical appliances dangle in midair, hanging by their cords.

Folks in Texas, where “the boys” came from, have taken notice. The Houston Chronicle has coverage.

Voting is making news

The Gazette tucks news inside the paper that Linn County officials have charged 12 felons who voted in November with voter misconduct and are investigating 46 other voters suspected of giving false addresses. Felons can get their voting rights back  in Iowa, but not until they’ve completed all sentences and related obligations.

Meanwhile, state leaders are talking about allowing 17-year-olds to vote in June primaries so long as they will turn 18 before the November election. Party presidential caucuses already allow 17-year-olds to participate. Radio Iowa reports that the bill cleared the House State Government Committee on a party-line 12-9 vote, with Democrats in support and Republicans voting no.

This must be the latest piece of the GOP’s elaborate strategy to attract young voters.

Animals are also in the news.

A state lawmaker wants to shoot more of them, bobcats in particular. Rep. Richard Arnold, R-Russell, wants bobcat hunting quotas increased, leading to an eventual open season on the dread turkey-killers.

And if those bobcats want to say their prayers, perhaps they can go to Underwood Hills Presbyterian Church in Omaha. The church already holds dog-friendly services, according to the Omaha-World Herald, so I’m sure a few bobcats could get in. Dogs have been worshipping at the church since December.

So far, about 20 people – most with dogs – have attended each week. On one recent Thursday, the crowd grew to more than 40 people and about as many dogs. Most aren’t among the church’s roughly 85 members.

The dogs don’t make messes. Just in case, there’s a plastic supply bin in the back.

And they usually don’t bark. At one service, when a pup gave a timely woof after Balestri’s post-gospel “amen,” people in the pews laughed.

So what else is fuzzy?

The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier uses fuzzy and hazy to describe the details surrounding the drunk driving arrest of rookie State Rep. Kerry Burt, D-Waterloo. He was arrested in Ankeny, and police there say an accident report was also filed. But Charlotte Eby reports that they won’t release it. Sure, there was an accident, but the police say can’t prove Burt was at the wheel.

Understand the cops’ explanation? Didn’t think so. Stay tuned.

And how about caterpillars? But not the fuzzy kind. The big bulldozer kind, now made by a lot fewer people than a few months ago. The Quad-City Times fronts President Obama’s stop at the Caterpillar plant in East Peoria. The president says the stimulus will create new jobs. Plant execs say not at Caterpillar, at least not for a while.

After Obama’s 20-minute speech, Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens told reporters that because the stimulus doesn’t include as many building projects as he would like, the company won’t rehire its thousands of laid-off workers any time soon.

“The honest reality is we probably have to have more layoffs before we start hiring,” Owens said.

In fact, Caterpillar this week offered early retirement packages to 2,000 more workers.

If you still have a job, and a dog, say your prayers.


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