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Archive for April 29, 2011

Iowa's Denise O'Brien in Afghanistan

Iowa's Denise O'Brien in Afghanistan


It has been a couple of months since Denise O'Brien reported that she had taken a position with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to serve in Afghanistan as an agricultural adviser. From Atlantic, Iowa, she headed to Nangahar Province, on the Pakistan
border.

Since arriving in country, she started a blog called Afghanistan Adventure. Following is an excerpt from a recent entry:

The first week in Afghanistan was spent at the Embassy in Kabul attending more briefs and training.  The group of people that I trained with in Indiana and DC was still fairly intact so we spent a great week of playing Scrabble and going to the bar Duck and Cover, on the Embassy grounds.

The training included more lectures and the issuance of gear for the field. I stayed in what they call a hootch – another small trailer with bunk beds but at least I had intermittent internet and could Skype home. During the week I got credentialed to be on the grounds of the Embassy – a badge with my picture on it.

The Embassy houses around one thousand people and serves the needs of the people living and working there as well as people like me who transfer through there on their way to the field. It is a mix of military and civilians. There are two official places to eat called DFAC (Dining Facility) and the food is fairly good – lots of fresh fruits and vegetables that I am trying to stick with and then other cafeteria style choices. The food has labels that include the nutritional values – most foods are fairly high in sodium unfortunately…


~ Denise O'Brien lives and works on her farm in southwest Iowa. O'Brien has been a farm activist for over thirty years. Her work has taken her all over the world working on agriculture and women in agriculture issues. Read her blog, Afghanistan Adventure.

Iowa and a Spring Wedding

Iowa and a Spring Wedding


by Paul Deaton

Would give almost anything for a few dry days and a chance to enjoy Spring's warmth. There are a lot of reasons.

Row crop farmers are way behind last year's planting, with corn being about 9% in compared to 46% last year at this time. The wet weather has had a dampening effect on gardening and other outdoors activities for all. In fields near here, some farmers have wheat in, hoping to double crop this year because of high commodity prices. Farming is always full of plans and schemes the outcomes of which are uncertain.

The Iowa Senate called it a week on Wednesday and briefly gaveled in Thursday morning to pray, say the pledge of allegiance and approve Wednesday's journal. House members who weren’t involved in committee work were released around noon on Wednesday. Finishing the budget and some other bills loom, although the clerks last paid day was Thursday. Legislator per diem ended as well. A lobbyist sent a note to Representative Brian Quirk (D-15), and received an automated reply, “The 2011 Legislative Session has come to an end. If you need to contact me please call.” Not quite, Representative Quirk, although some of us believe the government never really began to address the needs of everyday Iowans in the 2011 session.

The wars, embargoes and engagements go on while the administration “shuffles the deck chairs on the Titanic” with the apparent appointment of David Petraeus to head CIA and Leon Panetta to head Defense. On Wednesday the Iowa Chapter of Veterans for Peace met with 2nd District Congressman Dave Loebsack in his Iowa City office and vented a bit, partly about the vagaries of the mission in Afghanistan. Mostly about ending our wars.

With the inclement weather, we tend to stay inside, where Friday the Royal Wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton was taking place via the Royal Channel. In my family's oral history is a story that some of us were loyalists to King George before the American Revolution. There is a familial attraction to the trials and tribulations of Britain's Royals, even if these days, we agree with Christopher Hitchens in asking the question, “Does Kate Middleton Really Want to Marry into a Family Like This?

Prince Charles is scheduled to see a 50th anniversary performance of Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford on Avon Saturday after the wedding. What does that mean to someone who may get bypassed in whatever ambitions he has to be King Charles III? Perhaps he will find remedy for his diminished expectations in the bard. Or maybe a scheme to be employed, like Iowa's farmers planting winter wheat.

This rough spring seems to plague those who care about Iowa's future and even the opulence of a spring wedding is unlikely to cut the bitterness of another week in the post-Reagan society.

~Paul
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. E-mail
Paul Deaton