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“A Law Unto Themselves”: Jury Nullification and the Deck Stacked Against It PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 22 July 2010 05:46

(Editor's note: "Fully Informed Juries: A New Hope for Freedom," Don Doig's commentary on jury nullification, can be found here.)

Like most people, Mike Angelos was surprised to learn about the power of juries to disregard the law. "The courts are really stacked against people," he said.

And he's trying to change that.

For more than a year, Angelos (a retired electrical engineer) and three other people have been handing out information regarding jury rights, including the power to return a verdict of "not guilty" if jurors believe that the law itself is unjust -- regardless of the facts of the case. This is commonly called "jury nullification" of laws, and the effort to spread the word about that power is known as the "fully informed jury" movement.

"The message we try to get to people is that it's the jury's right and duty to judge the law -- laws are arbitrary, bad, and misapplied -- as well as the facts of the case," Angelos said. "This was a new concept to me."

 
Bumps in the Road to Medical Marijuana: The Current Iowa Stalemate Doesn’t Change the Endgame -- Federal Legalization PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 08 July 2010 05:45

On February 17, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy voted unanimously to support a motion recommending "that the legislature reclassify marijuana from Schedule I of the Iowa Controlled Substance Act ... to Schedule II ... with the further recommendation that the legislature convene a task force or study committee ... for the purpose of making recommendations back to the legislature regarding the administration of a medical-marijuana program."

That simple, unequivocal statement followed four public hearings in summer and fall 2009, and appeared to be a major victory for medical-marijuana advocates.

But that win looks largely symbolic today, as Democratic legislative leaders last month balked at forming a study group, and the Board of Pharmacy reiterated its desire for legislative guidance.

Yet the Board of Pharmacy's recommendation remains a clear first step toward allowing medical use of marijuana in Iowa. According to the Iowa Controlled Substances Act, a Schedule I drug has "no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision." A Schedule II drug has "currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, or currently accepted medical use with severe restrictions."

So a request to reschedule marijuana is an acknowledgment by the Board of Pharmacy that marijuana has an "accepted medical use." But who will make marijuana available for medicinal use in Iowa?

At this point, the answer from the Board of Pharmacy and the legislature could be drawn from that old Family Circus gag: "Not Me!"

 
Feeding Young Minds: Making School Lunches Fresher (and More Local) Isn’t Easy, But It Can Be Done PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 13 May 2010 05:04

When Jodee O'Tool's son entered kindergarten in the Bettendorf Community School District in 2008, she was troubled by the meals the school offered.

"I started looking at the menu," she said. "I am in the field of nutrition, so that's something that's important to me.

"It's mostly processed food," she said. "Not much fresh food. ... A lot of it is hot dogs. ... A lot of chicken nuggets. Fried food ... ."

The Bettendorf elementary menu for May is a good illustration. The 20 lunches include three meals anchored by chicken nuggets, one with popcorn chicken, and one with a breaded chicken patty. One entrée is a hot dog; another is breaded mozzarella sticks.

On the fresh side are days with orange wedges, bananas, apple slices, watermelon wedges, grapes, celery sticks, "carroteenies," and freshly made salads.

While these meals meet federal nutrition standards, O'Tool said they're not particularly good for students overall. And she's trying to change the way the Bettendorf Community School District feeds its children.

 
The Speakeasy of Dancing: A. Rhythmic Time Hosts Its Second-Annual Swing-Dance Workshop Weekend PDF Print E-mail
Dance
Written by Mike Schulz   
Friday, 07 May 2010 06:00

A. Rhythmic Time's Brenda and Rick ThamesA note for future first-time visitors to the A. Rhythmic Time dance studio: If you find yourself nearing your destination but are pretty sure you're lost, don't panic. You're probably right where you're supposed to be.

"When we got this place," says Rick Thames, who co-owns the Moline studio (at 5447 Third Avenue) with wife Brenda, "we finished renovations in the winter [of 2008], when it was too cold to paint the outside of the building. And, you know, it's an industrial area, and you have to come down an alley, and there's a dumpster outside ... . So we'd just tell people, 'Look for the blue door.'"

Yet when you do find that blue door to the Thameses' converted-warehouse space, don't be afraid to walk in: Despite the venue's somewhat off-putting exterior, inside you'll find a lovingly designed, 35-foot-by-100-foot, honest-to-goodness ballroom.

 
Follow the Character: Author Daniel Woodrell, April 15 at Augustana College PDF Print E-mail
Literature
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 08 April 2010 08:59

Daniel WoodrellOne thing you might notice picking up Daniel Woodrell's novel Winter's Bone is how thin it is -- less than 200 pages.

And when you start reading, you might be struck that it's been carved incredibly lean. While relatively plainspoken, the sentences are dense, with a mix of dialect from the Ozarks and artfully turned idioms that feel instantly right. One has to sip Woodrell's language.

"I do like to make it apparent to the reader that you need to probably read everything," Woodrell said in a phone interview this week, promoting his reading at Augustana College on April 15. "'I won't put in any flab, but you have to read what's here' is kind of my deal with the reader. ... Pay attention to the sentences."

 
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