Women in prison inspire Iowa pastor’s approach to church

A dozen women in prison-issue blues that look like nurses’ scrubs were handed choir sheet music by Lee Schott, pastor of Women at the Well.It’s the only physical church inside the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, and its chapel is a basic room with folding chairs, a sterile hospital smell and banners on the walls that say “Hope” and “Peace.” A small window near the ceiling provides an angled view to the outside world — the night sky dissected by shiny razor wire.“Most of the time we are beaten down by negatives,” said Anna Sothman, 30, in the second year of a 50-year sentence for child endangerment causing death. “She believes in us even when we don’t.”She soon joined the choir in the song, “Breath of Heaven.”“Do you wonder as you watch my face/ If a wiser one should have had my placeHelp me be strong”Schott has been inspired by the inmates’ practice of faith and shared it with outside-the-wire churches that she hopes will continue to transform their focus in the coming year. Her lectures, advocacy, social issues workshops with inmates, expansion of the re-entry program and forthcoming book for church leaders promote a church that is open and “real,” not just dressed-up versions of goodness in pews.“It’s OK to bring who we are into the church,” said Schott, who is one of the Des Moines Register's 2018 People to Watch. “In church there often are things you can talk about and things you can’t. We ask for prayers for broken bones and grandchildren, but we won’t ask for prayers for someone with HIV, or for divorce or a family member who is incarcerated. This saddens me.” Related Coverage: Learn more about current and former People to Watch Church should be a place more like what she found on the inside, full of a raw honesty that gets to the heart of both personal and Continue Reading

Our View: Arizona’s 12 people to watch in 2018

Some are front and center in the headlines. Others work quietly behind the scenes.But all 12 of these Arizonans (listed alphabetically below) could have a major impact on Arizona in 2018. Keep your eye on them.The highest calling in public education is to take children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds – families that are beset with poverty, language and cultural barriers and no tradition of educational success – and turn them into high achievers.Alicia Alvarez, principal at Tucson’s Alta Vista High School, has made that calling her life’s work. The youngest of 11 children growing up in Nogales, Ariz., Alvarez rose to get her undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona and her master's at Northern Arizona University.Now in her 14th year at Alta Vista, she is providing a highly challenging learning environment for 450 young people at the “A”-rated charter school. Her kids succeed because they are immersed in a culture that encourages and expects success.In 2015, the Rodel Foundation of Arizona named her an “Exemplary Principal” and she was a finalist for Arizona Charter Schools Transformational Leader of the Year.“I wanted to work with the ‘at-risk of not graduating population,’” said Alvarez. “Why? Because I know the power one caring adult who inspires hope and doesn't destroy dreams can have on a teen. And I know that as a principal I have the ability to surround those students with many adults who share my vision.”Alvarez’s vision is proving itself daily in the real world, and can become a model for serving disadvantaged young people across the state.Mending Arizona’s relationship with Mexico that frayed over Senate Bill 1070 and other anti-immigrant efforts at the state Capitol took a good deal of time and trust.But while Gov. Doug Ducey gets the credit – deservingly so – he couldn’t have done it without top aides like Continue Reading

Ophelia Dahl’s National Health Service

Audio: Listen to this story. To hear more feature stories, download the Audm app for your iPhone. In many ways, life in Great Missenden was idyllic, bucolic, sweet. The author Roald Dahl and the movie star Patricia Neal called their cottage there, in the rolling English countryside of Buckinghamshire, Gipsy House, because they’d parked a bright-blue caravan in the garden for their four children to play in, and because there was a freewheeling spirit to the place. A dozen people might show up for dinner on any given night; Neal would frequently be on her way to the United States to shoot a film; Dahl wrote his famous children’s books in a little hut—his “nest”—at the edge of the garden, surrounded by the roses and rhododendrons he liked to tend. “It was a very unmanufactured garden—very cobbled together, not unlike the house,” Ophelia Dahl, the second-youngest of the siblings, recalled recently. “I remember Dad in the garden all the time. In the summer, he’d be standing there in the evening with a whiskey-and-soda. I remember sipping it, and saying, ‘Oh, God, this is a horrible taste!’ He told me, ‘I don’t drink it for the taste. I drink it for the nice whizzly feeling it gives you.’ ” There was a small orchard on the property, and Dahl taught Ophelia to drive there when she was only eleven years old. Like Dahl’s child hero in “Danny, the Champion of the World”—who lived with his widowed father in a Gypsy caravan, and started driving when he was nine—Ophelia was a brave and competent child, who soon took to driving around the village. “I often chose my friends for their moms, these warm, interesting moms, and I would drive over to these people’s houses, and, even if my friend wasn’t there, I’d stop in for a cup of tea and a chat.” The next day, she’d drive to another house, making her rounds. Continue Reading

What Donald Trump doesn’t understand about abortion: Women are already punished, all throughout their lives

When Donald Trump said that women who had abortions would be punished if the procedure is outlawed, he was simply stating what is already happening in the United States. Abortion doesn’t have to be illegal for women to be punished — they are punished for their abortions every day. I grew up in Kentucky, where the highways are studded with anti-abortion billboards. My cousins blocked the doors of an abortion clinic. I remember a friend telling me over school lunch about her preacher’s sermon in which he described the wayward, whorish, godless women who did away with their babies. I vowed never to have an abortion. TRUMP SAYS WOMEN WHO GET ILLEGAL ABORTIONS COULD BE PUNISHED Second year of college, I was pregnant and 19 and a thousand miles from home and reading websites about abortion, trying to sift the truth from the lies. All my fears of punishment fell away — punishment was irrelevant compared to my life and the life of the baby I didn’t have the resources to raise. When I walked into the clinic, I braced myself never, ever to tell a single person I had been there, other than the handful who already knew. But when I walked out of the clinic, I had already changed my mind: I decided never to keep my abortion a secret. I decided never to let another woman endure the punishment alone, as long as I could help it, even if abortion were outlawed one day, even if I had to go to jail. In the 12 years since my abortion, women have told me their stories of punishment: High school students being denied comprehensive sex education. Girls under the age of 18 standing before a judge and requesting permission to have an abortion without telling her parents, even though she wouldn’t need permission to become a parent herself. Women whose babies have fetal abnormalities choosing to take on the punishment rather than to subject her child to suffering. AMELIA BONOW: TRUMP'S IDEAS FURTHER Continue Reading

WATCH: President Obama, Zach Galifianakis Trade Jabs to Promote ObamaCare

President Obama stopped by actor Zach Galifianakis’ fake web talk show, “Between Two Ferns.” The two poked fun at each other all in an effort to promote ObamaCare ObamaCare Ad Features 'Cute' Pets to Entice Women Into Signing Up Galifianakis asks, “What is like to be the last black president?” “Seriously?” President Obama responds. “What is it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?” When the president asks Galifianakis if he has heard of the Affordable Care Act, he says, “Oh yeah, I heard about that. That’s the thing that doesn’t work.” WATCH: Paisley, Underwood Mock ObamaCare Problems at CMA's On Happening Now, Michael Warren, writer for The Weekly Standard, said the video fell flat when they touched on ObamaCare. “I just don’t see how young people are going to watch this and then go sign up with HealthCare.gov.” He said the video reminds Americans that President Obama has become the health care law’s “pitch man,” and added that it isn't a good strategy. At the 2014 CPAC, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said he would connect with younger voters by talking about the Fourth Amendment and liberty. Shira Center, politics editor at Roll Call, said the difference in strategies makes sense. “I see a lot of undergraduates [at Harvard] who are prime for picking for Republicans because they’re very concerned about privacy issues.” Warren criticized Republicans for not being funny or cool, referencing Mitt Romney's appearance on Jimmy Fallon's show. “I don’t know about Rand Paul’s strategy either," Warren said, "The party is going to worry too much, I think, about getting young people at the expense of losing the voters that they already have.” Watch the debate above and the full video with President Obama and Zach Galifianakis​ below. Mom Confronts President Obama Over Cancelled Continue Reading

Harvard-educated lawyer and former Marine accused in Bay Area kidnapping linked to similar crimes dating to 2009: police

The disbarred, Harvard-educated attorney and former Marine accused in the so-called “Gone Girl” California kidnapping has been linked to similar crimes in the state dating to 2009, according to authorities. The well-educated Matthew Muller, 38, appeared to be on his way to a successful law career after a military stint that allowed him to travel the world — until his life seemingly fell apart in recent years. Now, he’s behind bars, charged in a March home invasion and kidnapping in Vallejo that authorities say has similarities to a June robbery in Alameda County and at least three others in the San Francisco Bay Area that occurred in 2009. “This is just a shock,” Bruce Day, whose daughter is married to Muller’s stepbrother, told the Associated Press. Day described Muller as some who “seemed like a very nice young man.” The multi-lingual lawyer, described by family as diagnosed with bipolar disorder and other mental health issues, was caught after the June incident, which led deputies to link him to the Vallejo case in March. That case was originally described by Vallejo police as a hoax. New details in that case, unveiled in an FBI arrest warrant, instead paint the portrait of a terrifying ordeal for the 29-year-old Huskins and her boyfriend, Aaron Quinn. The couple was bound with zip-ties and drugged before Muller, and possibly other suspects, took off with Huskins. A confused Quinn, meanwhile, awoke later in the day to find emails ordering two payments of a $8,500 ransom and specific instructions on how to conduct the deal. He reported the incident to the FBI, but the ordeal was mocked by Vallejo police, who claimed there was “no evidence to support the claims,” after Huskins turned up two days later near her parents' home in Huntington Beach, a tony enclave in Orange County some 400 miles from her home. But the alleged kidnapper, Continue Reading

Pregnant Harvard grad killed in Kenyan terror attacks just two weeks from giving birth

Elif Yavuz had just two weeks to go. The 33-year-old Harvard grad, who landed a job with the Clinton Foundation after graduation, planned to spend the last days of her pregnacy near the good hospitals of Nairobi, choosing what she thought was one of the safest spots in east Africa to give birth to her first child, a friend told the Daily News. But she walked into a deathtrap. The Clinton family was shocked to learn that Yavuz and her architect boyfriend, Ross Langdon, 33, were among the 69 people confirmed dead after Islamic militants ambushed shoppers at Westgate Mall in the Kenyan city.  "We were shocked and terribly saddened to learn of the death of Elif Yavuz in the senseless attacks in Nairobi," former President Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton said in a release. "Elif devoted her life to helping others, particularly people in developing countries suffering from malaria and HIV/AIDS." Yavuz and Langdon were a pair of rising stars among the humanitarian workers and researchers in the region. Langdon was an award-winning architect who sought out projects that could make a difference. Yavuz was focused on fighting disease. "Elif was brilliant, dedicated, and deeply admired by her colleagues, who will miss her terribly," the Clintons said. Harvard Assistant Professor Jessica Cohen met Yavuz four years ago in Cambridge and quickly recognized the spark of a talented researcher and friend. She picked Yavuz as an on-site researcher for a malaria project in Uganda. She remembers the first day the the stylish native of the Netherlands arrived for work with a giant flower fixed in her hair and high heels. "She would walk around dusty towns with these great clothes and a big smile," Cohen said. Yavuz taught Ugandan children the "Thriller" dance from the Michael Jackson video in the few hours she wasn't working on malaria prevention. She and Cohen searched for ways to make sure Continue Reading

Walking may switch off ‘obesity genes’ while  TV-watching ramps them up

Turns out that lacing up your sneakers and walking briskly for an hour every day can cut the effect of genetic tendencies toward obesity in half, new research claims. "In our study, a brisk one-hour daily walk reduced the genetic influence towards obesity, measured by differences in BMI by half," study researcher Qibin Qi, Ph.D., a post-doctorate research fellow at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a statement. "On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle marked by watching television four hours a day increased the genetic influence by 50 percent." The research was presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions in San Diego this past weekend. WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT? DO THE MATH Qi and colleagues analyzed data from thousands of men and women who were part of the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. They looked at the study participants' physical activity and television habits two years before they examined their body mass indexes. Researchers also scored each subject on their genetic predisposition toward obesity, based on 32 established genetic variants. Research published last year in the journal PLoS Medicine also showed that just 30 minutes of exercise for five days during the week can counteract obesity genes, Time magazine reported. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Study finds some early breast cancer overdiagnosed; Many tumors will never become harmful in women’s lifetime

For years, women have been urged to get screened for breast cancer because the earlier it's found, the better. Now researchers are reporting more evidence suggesting that's not always the case. A study in Norway estimates that between 15 and 25 percent of breast cancers found by mammograms wouldn't have caused any problems during a woman's lifetime, but these tumors were being treated anyway. Once detected, early tumors are surgically removed and sometimes treated with radiation or chemotherapy because there's no certain way to figure out which ones may be dangerous and which are harmless. "When you look for cancer early and you look really hard, you find forms that are ultimately never going to bother the patient," said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, who was not part of the research. "It's a side effect of early diagnosis." HOW TO DO A BREAST SELF EXAM The study is the latest to explore overdiagnosis from routine mammograms - finding tumors that grow so slowly or not at all and that would not have caused symptoms or death. Previous estimates of the problem have varied. The researchers took advantage of the staggered decade-long introduction of a screening program in Norway, starting in 1996. That allowed them to compare the number of breast cancers in counties where screening was offered with those in areas that didn't yet have the program. Their analysis also included a decade before mammograms were offered. They estimated that for every 2,500 women offered screening, one death from breast cancer will be prevented but six to 10 women will be overdiagnosed and treated. Study leader Dr. Mette Kalager and other experts said women need to be better informed about the possibility that mammograms can pick up cancers that will never be life-threatening when they consider getting screened. The dilemma is that doctors don't have a good way of telling which won't be dangerous. "Once you've Continue Reading

U.S. task force says mammograms for most women should start at 50

New mammogram screening guidelines from an influential panel of U.S. experts reaffirm earlier guidance that breast cancer screening should begin at age 50 for most women, but they acknowledge that women in their 40s also benefit, something experts say is a step in the right direction. "They made it really clear this time around, unlike 2009, that the discussion between a woman and a clinician about breast cancer screening should begin at 40," said Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer at the American Cancer Society. The Department of Health and Human Services provided for mammogram coverage for women age 40 to 49 after the health panel made its recommendation in 2009. The department said on Monday that the guidelines are only in draft form and that nothing has changed regarding access to mammograms or other preventive services. Critics stressed that keeping 50 as the starting age for screening – a change first introduced by the panel six years ago — could threaten insurance coverage for millions of women age 40 to 49. "If this becomes the final guideline, coverage of mammograms would no longer be mandated under the ACA," said Wender. President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires preventive medical services with a grade of "B" or higher be covered, unless the administration specifies otherwise. Under the draft guidelines released on Monday, mammogram screening every two years for women 50 to 74 got a grade of "B," meaning doctors should offer the service. Screening for women in their 40s remained a "C" grade, meaning doctors should offer the service for select patients, depending on individual circumstances. The draft guidelines from the government-backed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also prompted renewed debate over when women should be screened for breast cancer, as patients parse conflicting advice from health experts and advocacy groups. Some prominent physician groups welcomed the shift in Continue Reading