Author: Dean Close

The President’s indefensible word, and its undeniable truth around the world

By Dean Close, Editor Breaking news: President Trump has said something crude, offensive and racially and culturally insensitive — again. Unless you have been in a manhole for the past 24 hours, you have heard that Mr. Trump allegedly (according to an unnamed aide working for the other party) used an 8-letter word that describes a hallowed-out spot in specific location where one may, in certain geographic areas lacking plumbing, deposit solid waste expelled from the digestive tracts of living creatures. President Trump, according to this still-unnamed source, specifically mentioned Africa and Haiti as these kinds of geographic areas. The President, denied it, writing in a tweet: “This was not the language used.” That 8-letter word caused much consternation in well, just about everywhere between Venus and Mars. “Not helpful” is how one of the President’s most powerful allies put it. That was by far the nicest characterization. “A new low,” declares Time Magazine. “The world is furious.” “New rock bottom,” chimes in CNN. I could go on an on, but you get it: Mr. Trump did what Mr. Trump is known for doing: Opening his mouth and making us forget about everything else. I don’t recall ever defending any words of Mr. Trump, and that is certainly not the goal of this column. Consider, however, this statement from the 2016 annual report of the World Toilet College: “2.4...

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VSMS Lego League teams to take on lead poisoning, water parasites at State competition

Two Vinton-Shellsburg Middle School Lego League teams, the seventh grade members of the H2OFros and the sixth grade team, Aquatic Alliance of Pufferfish, are preparing for this weekend’s Lego League State competition at the ISU campus in Ames. While the name Lego League makes most people think of the electronic vehicles moving through a unique course, the contest is much more than that. While the robotics portion is part of the team score (and for many, the most fun part of Lego League), the competition also includes a presentation about a specific topic, as well as a question-and-answer session with...

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ISAC leader urgest citizens to contact legislatures concerning ‘backfill’ funding for counties

From the Iowa State Association of Counties This year’s state budget raises a critical issue that affects all Iowans. Will the state maintain its backfill of lost property tax dollars that helps to provide for safe and desirable communities through law enforcement, mental health and disability services, parks, road maintenance and repair, and many other important local government services? “Iowa’s county governments are essential to the daily lives of Iowans,” said ISAC President and Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek. “The county you live in is responsible for many of the services Iowans need – keeping our communities safe, providing services to our most vulnerable citizens, fixing potholes, plowing snow, and offering parks to enjoy with your family and friends.” In 2013, Iowa state law was changed resulting in a reduction in the tax revenue that local governments receive from commercial and industrial properties. This loss of revenue is paid back to local governments by the state with funds called the backfill. “It’s essential to Iowa county governments that the backfill remains intact and whole,” ISAC Executive Director Bill Peterson said. “Without these funds, many counties could be faced with a tough choice: raise property taxes on their residents or cut services on which they depend.” Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds included full funding of the backfill in her proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 that was released today. ISAC commends...

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Viking baseball alum Bratten named new head coach

Henry Bratten, who played catcher and pitched for Jim Struve as a VS Viking baseball player, will replace Struve as head coach when the 2018 season begins. The Vinton-Shellsburg School Board approved Struve’s recommendation to hire Bratten, a 2008 VS graduate, during its meeting on Monday. “It’s a lot to take in. I have some big shoes to fill,” says Bratten, who played for two years at Ellsworth Community College before finishing his college career at Mount Mercy, where he was also a pitcher and catcher. Between 2009 and 2016, Bratten was an assistant coach in the VS baseball...

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Sage and Zach: Special Olympians inspiring teammates while competing with varsity swimmers

“Let’s do this!” With those three words, VSHS freshman swimmer Sage Holmes ended the pep talk he was getting from coach Rob Levis, and his parents, Jeff and Angie, and headed toward his teammates. This conversation took place Tuesday at the IBSSS pool, where Sage became he second Special Olympian to participate in an event in a Vinton-Shellsburg/Center Point Urbana varsity swimming event. Inspired by his friend, Zach Kramer, who continues to participate in varsity events, Sage told his parents he would like to join the swim team before the season began. It was a year ago, January 2017,...

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Remembering ‘MO 45:’ Monica’s teammates, friends recall how she filled a room with her smile and put others first

For the first time ever, Andrea Robertson Knaack, said, she was standing on a gym floor in Vinton, without her friend and teammate, Monica Huelman Zaruba, at her side. Speaking Tuesday during half-time of the Vinton-Shellsburg Vikette’s varsity game vs. Benton Community, Knaack spoke first during a memorial to Monica, who died Dec. 10, at age 40. “Monica and I shared many things over the years, and one of them was a passion and love for the game of basketball. It brought us together as both friends and teammates, but it also taught us so much more about the...

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Snow-making weather: Below-zero temps inspire water experiments

While most people preferred to stay inside when the temperature was well below 0 degrees F, a few hardy souls ventured outside for a variety of reasons. Among those: Weather experiments. While some showed how quickly bubbles would freeze, others demonstrated how hot water quickly turned to ice and snow when tossed into the frigid air. Randy Scheel was among those. See a video of that experiment...

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‘Beat Cancer:’ Vikettes continue Pink Night tradition on basketball court

The Vinton-Shellsburg girls basketball team continued its tradition of honoring breast cancer survivors on Friday, with its annual Pink Night. The Vikettes wore pink uniforms with the message “Beat Cancer” on the front, and escorted survivors to the court before the varsity game. “We have been able to donate over 10,000 dollars to help the women of Benton Country and surrounding areas,” says Vikette coach Aaron Zuspann. “Breast Cancer is effecting a high number of women in our county.  By donating to the Gifts of Hope Fund we are giving our girls Hope that sometime in their life time...

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‘Barbed Wire Wings:’ Vinton vet Gualtier’s WWII story featured in book written by youth

The connection between Vinton veteran John Gualtier and Iowa students that began in the classrooms of Vinton-Shellsburg is continuing to expand. The latest project is a book about Gaultier written and illustrated by teenage girls as part of the A BOOK by ME project. Called “Barbed Wire Wings,” the book shares Gaultier’s experience as an Army medic in WWII, and the victims of the Holocaust he saw in person. The author of the book is Imi Duchesneau; the illustrator is Alyssa Landi. They worked with the leader of A BOOK by ME, Deb Bowen. All three are from the...

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Hall of Fame: Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association to induct Viking coach Jim Struve

Long before his 600th win, or the State Tournament appearances and 1998 State Championship; long before coaching his two sons through the VS baseball program, long before seeing some of his young players go on to play and coach at all levels; long before the weekend announcement that he will join the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in the organization’s 50th year; Jim Struve demonstrated that he had something special as a coach, even before he was a head coach, says Desi Druschel. Druschel, who is now the pitching coach at the University of Iowa,...

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Hall of Fame: Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association to honor Viking coach Jim Struve

Long before his 600th win, or the State Tournament appearances and 1998 State Championship; long before coaching his two sons through the VS baseball program, long before seeing some of his young players go on to play and coach at all levels; long before the weekend announcement that he will join the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in the organization’s 50th year; Jim Struve demonstrated that he had something special as a coach, even before he was a head coach, says Desi Druschel. Druschel, who is now the pitching coach at the University of Iowa, clearly recalls the Sub-State game of 1991, when he was a Viking player. Struve was at that time an assistant coach for the Vikings, helping with varsity and also coaching sophomores. He would become head coach the next year. Druschel described what happened as the Vikings prepared for that ’91 game against Albia: While preparing to play that game, Struve called a special practice, so the team could work on first-and-third drills. “He had seen them play and he knew we needed to work on this,” recalls Druschel. The players spent a long time in that practice session, figuring out how to best respond if Albia had runners on first and third base, and tried to score via a double-steal. The very next day, in the Sub-State game, the Vikings...

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Mother-Son Nerf War: VPRD inspires competition, laughter

Face it, boys: When it comes to Nerf guns, Mom rules. That was the general result on Saturday at the VPRD Mother-Son Nerf Wars. In most of the contests, the moms captured more flags while evading foam projectiles than their sons did. The event at the Vinton Skate Center, led by VPRD’s Brad Barker, Matt Boggess and Allan Merchant, included several rounds of moms vs. boys battles, as well as a variety of target practice events. There was ice cream, as well. The participants also had the chance to decorate bandannas and paint their faces with eye black. See...

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