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CHRIS ZOELLER The Globe Gazette 

Mason City fans cheer during the Mohawks' football game against Fort Dodge on Aug. 24.


Lisa Grouette / LISA GROUETTE, The Globe Gazette 

Sen. Cory Booker records a message for an audience member's wife, who'd asked her husband to say hello to the senator for her at a presidential campaign event in Mason City on Friday, Feb. 8.


Govt-and-politics
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Sen. Cory Booker makes first stop in Mason City and talks farms, education and the environment

MASON CITY | For his first campaign stop in Iowa as a candidate for president, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) had a lot to say on a whole lot of issues. 

During the course of his two-hour meet and greet in the basement of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, Booker spoke to: farm monopolies, single-payer health care, environmental justice, student debt and old threats from the current President of the United States while offering anecdotes about Martin Luther King Jr., Fredrick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and folks from his hometown of Newark, New Jersey.  

Booker mentioned the need to "Rekindle the idea that this is about more than an election, this is about the cause of our country" and often returned to his theme of "radical love." 

Farming

Farm monopolies and the dominance they have of food systems was one such cause that Booker expounded on. 

He was quick to bring up the 2018 farm bill he introduced that would place an "18-month moratorium on large agribusiness, food and beverage manufacturing, and grocery retail mergers and acquisitions."

"Folks are sometimes paying more for a tomato than a Twinkie," Booker remarked to the attentive crowd of 90 or so people.

To Booker, the "original entrepreneurs" of America were family farmers but the country had drifted away from that because of consolidation and the emergence of foreign-owned companies such as Smithfield (which is controlled by Chinese meat processor Shuanghui International Holdings). 

"What's happening in the agricultural industry is hurting all of us," the 49-year-old Booker said.

Health care

Another source of pain Booker identified at the event was the issue of health care which the one-term senator called a universal "right." "It's gotta be," Booker proclaimed. "Can't have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without it." 

One example of this "hellness" instead of "wellness" system that Booker, who has backed Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All proposals, brought up was the issue of infant mortality.

Though the infant mortality rate in the United States has fallen in the past decade, by as much as 15 percent (according to the National Center for Health Statistics), America continues to hover around 5.82 infant deaths per 1,000 live births (which would put it ahead of countries such as: Cuba, Serbia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Israel and Germany).

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WASHINGTON — "Medicare-for-all" is quickly becoming a rallying cry for many Democratic White House hopefuls, but there are growing questions about how to pull off such a dramatic switch to a government-run health care system.

Environment

For Booker, one issue causing those health problems is an unstable climate constantly being shook by massive, polluting companies. Though specific industries were readily singled out as culprits.

He rattled off that it's hurting the fishing industry (rising temperatures send the fish elsewhere), costing taxpayers "billions" and "affecting our most vulnerable." 

"We need to be bold," Booker emphasized. Concerns of "impracticality" are beside the point to him. "If we used to govern our dreams that way, we would have never gone to the moon." 

And if pollution is a major source of blame for the environmental issues stemming from climate change, Booker also worked to highlight how it can interrupt the education system.

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WASHINGTON —  It might seem counterintuitive, but the dreaded polar vortex is bringing its icy grip to parts of the U.S. thanks to a sudden blast of warm air in the Arctic.

Schools

An image Booker painted was of children with asthma having to miss class because they're having attacks that are triggered by poor air quality. 

But that wasn't the only schooling hurdle Booker mentioned kids having. 

Cost issues, lead in the water of impoverished urban and rural areas forcing sick days and charter schools not working in the best interest of the community as a whole all came up as well.

"I believe that local communities should design their own public schools, one-size fits all doesn't work for everybody. The federal government shouldn't be telling folks what to do," Booker said. "Even in Newark, I fought to close charter schools that were not serving our kids because they should be schools of accountability."

Booker commented that if he was President of the United States he would commit to a massive reinvestment in public education. "We'll give a 25-year-old stockbroker better tax treatment than we'll give a 55-year-old teacher," Booker said.

His other solution to revitalizing the public education system was having universal preschool so that American children aren't behind before they even hit kindergarten.

"We live in a nation where the only way to have great democracy is to have great public schools."

Dems lurch left on top policies

NEW YORK — Democratic presidential contender Julian Castro launched his campaign by pledging support for "Medicare for All," free universal preschool, a large public investment in renewable energy and two years of free college for all Americans.

Iowans

Citizens who came said they had shown up to "hear Booker out" and "enjoy the chance to shine as Americans." 

Robin and John Bratvoid agreed that their most pressing concern was finding a candidate that could "bring the country together as a whole."

Deb Banicki said she wanted to "learn as much as I can where each candidate stands" and was most concerned with "finding someone who can win." 

"I'll support whoever the nominee is," Banicki said.

Trisha Howe, who brought her daughter to the event, said she missed taking part in much of the 2016 cycle because she was "having a baby at the time."

"I'm interested to see what Cory has to say," Howe said. 

Howe expressed that she was most concerned with health care costs and would "most likely" support whomever the nominee was.

Local representative Sharon Steckman, who helped introduce Booker at the event, said that the former Newark mayor did "an awesome job" and was "sincere in his answers." 

"He wasn't just giving soundbites," Steckman said.

Criticism

But not everyone was as pleased with the tour kickstart, which Booker said he began in Mason City because he "wants to run a campaign that doesn't just go to big cities."

In a press release, Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann stated that Booker likes to tell folks like the Bratvoids what they want to hear.

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"Cory Booker will say just about anything to stand out in the Democrats' crowded field of coastal liberals," Kaufmann said.

"Iowans can see through his theatrics and still reject his policies - like his embrace of trillion dollar government programs, burdensome regulations for Iowa farmers and his plan to eliminate private health insurance."

Booker's "Iowa Rise" tour wraps up Saturday afternoon at the Kum and Go Theater in Des Moines. 

Walls, borders, Trumps and Nancys: Political cartoons for January

LISA GROUETTE, The Globe Gazette 

Sen. Cory Booker addresses a crowd at his presidential campaign event in Mason City on Friday, Feb. 8.


Local
breakingtop story
Lawsuit dismissed against retired Mason City OB-GYN doctor, Mercy

MASON CITY | The medical malpractice lawsuit filed against Dr. Stephen Thorn, a retired Mercy OB-GYN physician, has been dropped.

The lawsuit, filed by Terra Gaffney, of Rockwell, in July, was dismissed without prejudice on Jan. 30 in Cerro Gordo County District Court, which means she can file another suit on the same grounds in the future.

In her lawsuit, Gaffney stated Thorn "committed an unconsented and not medically indicated physical touching" of her during a prenatal visit on Oct. 4, 2017.

She also alleged Thorn, along with other unidentified women, made "disparaging remarks about Terra Gaffney's mental health, past medical treatment, the paternity of her unborn fetus and health of Terra Gaffney's unborn fetus" when Thorn left a voicemail for Gaffney in October 2017.

Gaffney sought monetary compensation for emotional and physical injury, but the lawsuit didn’t specify an amount.

The lawsuit also listed Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa, now MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center, and its OB-GYN Clinic as defendants.

In August, Connie Alt, the attorney representing Thorn, Mercy and members of its OB-GYN Clinic, denied the allegations by Gaffney, according to court documents.

Alt alleged that Gaffney initiated the touching, and that it was her fault any contact between her and Thorn occurred.

Alt's response admitted Gaffney's phone "picked up the voice of Thorn and at least one nurse after Thorn believed the phone had been disconnected," but denied disparaging remarks were made, or that employees of the OB-GYN Clinic were given access to Gaffney's private medical information.

A trial was scheduled for January 2020, according to court documents.

Molly Hamilton, a Storm Lake-based attorney representing Gaffney, declined to comment on the dismissal and whether the lawsuit was settled Friday morning.

Alt and Desiree Kilburg, the attorneys representing the defendants, didn’t respond to phone calls or emails for comment before press.

Thorn, who delivered more than 7,000 babies in his career, retired in May. He started working at Mercy in 2012 after more than 20 years in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Photos: Mason City in its heyday

CHRIS ZOELLER, The Globe Gazette 

Dr. Stephen Thorn, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Mercy Medical Center—North Iowa, reflects on his career in his office on Friday.


Crime-and-courts
breakingtop story
Two Iowa men arrested after a 100 mph chase in blizzard conditions in Clear Lake

CLEAR LAKE - Two Iowa men were arrested Thursday night after leading law enforcement on a chase through Clear Lake. 

Jared Scott Schneckloth, 31, of Clear Lake and Manilla, was charged with felony theft of a motor vehicle, misdemeanor driving while barred, trespassing, speeding 100 mph in a 45 mph zone, driving under suspension, no insurance, careless driving, failure to yield to an emergency vehicle and interference with official acts.

Dylan Patrick Dimig, 26, of Schleswig, was charged with misdemeanor interference with official acts.

Police chase, wrongful arrest, puppy mill: North Iowa crime and courts news for January (with mugshots)

At about 10:15 p.m. Thursday, a Cerro Gordo County Sheriff’s Deputy located a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro near the I-35 and Highway 18 intersection.

The Camaro was reported stolen from rural Clear Lake.

The deputy attempted to make a traffic stop and the driver fled in the Camaro through Clear Lake, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph.

North Iowa received between 1 to 3 inches of snow through the day. Winds ranged from 23 to 31 mph with gusts has high as 44 mph, causing blizzard conditions with blowing snow.

Due to the poor road conditions, the driver lost control of the car west of Clear Lake near McIntosh Road, entering the south ditch.

103 odd North Iowa crime stories from 2018: Pasta salad evidence, cigarette robbery, stolen pigs (with mugshots)

The driver and passenger fled on foot through a field.

The passenger, Dimig, was caught after a short foot pursuit and the driver, Schneckloth, was found later hiding inside of a garage. Both were transported to Cerro Gordo County Jail.

Schneckloth is held on two bonds totaling $12,000. Dimig is held on a $300 bond. 

No court dates have been set. 

The Camaro was damaged during the incident. No one was injured and no patrol vehicles sustained damage.

Iowa State Patrol and Clear Lake Police Department assisted.

North Iowa's mugshots of 2018

North Iowa's mugshots of 2018