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Why Is Iowa GOP Waging War Against Planned Parenthood?

stand with ppThis letter was sent to Republican House Speaker Linda Upmeyer and 23 other legislators, Democrat and Republican, Senate and House. I have heard back from two of the Democratic House members.

Speaker Upmeyer:

I am writing to express my disappointment in learning that the Iowa House Republicans will again attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.

As it is not likely to come to a vote in the Senate, it would seem that this is somewhat of a waste of your time and my tax dollars.

I respectfully ask for a candid answer on why this will be brought up again.

Do you have reason to think that supporters of PP will “come to their senses” this time around?

Are you concerned that the part of your base who are vocal about this are not yet convinced of your sincerity in fighting family planning?

Are you afraid that Christ Himself won’t forgive you or believe that you are personally against abortion?

What has been the depth of conversation about this with your sisters in Christ who do support both the concept of family planning and the work of Planned Parenthood?

Are you aware that less family planning services will cause more abortions in the long-term?

I realize that many people feel that using tax money for this makes them feel complicit in the actual act. Are you offering me the option of defunding or subtracting from my tax bill the cost of programs that I feel disrespect Christ’s call to be the face of mercy to those in need?

We spend extremely unbalanced amounts of money on education versus imprisoning people. What kind of society prefers vengeance for wrongs rather than providing better foundations in the first place?

What kind of society throws the poor and mentally ill under the bus to make room for financial profits?

What kind of society tolerates industries poisoning the common water and soil?

Are you hoping that we who support PP will walk away from our convictions?

Are you looking for points of compromise?

Are you willing to compromise on school funding to achieve defunding PP? Would that be worth 10% allowable growth for the next ten years?

Are you willing to mandate cooperation with the Nutrient Reduction Strategy?

Willing to raise tax revenues on wealthy people and big business?

Speaker Upmeyer, governing requires compromise. Society is better off when women can make appropriate personal choices regarding child-bearing. Society gains nothing from restricting those options.

Please do not feed the wolves of animosity and divisiveness this year for issues that won’t create jobs, or clean the water we drink.

Urging you to consider why Christ did not throw the first stone,

Laura Twing

CAP Action, Progress Iowa to Host Iowa Women’s Economic Security Forum

progress iowa

October 29, 2015


Chelsea Kiene, 202.478.5328,

Matt Sinovic,

ADVISORY: CAP Action, Progress Iowa to Host Iowa Women’s Economic Security Forum

Des Moines, IA — Too many working families are struggling to make ends meet and to respond to the competing demands of work and family. Every day, women and men across Iowa confront impossible choices between ensuring their families are cared for and working in order to get by. What’s more, mothers are the sole, primary, or co-breadwinners in more than 7 in 10 Iowa families. Unfortunately, our public policies have not kept pace with the reality of what women and families need to put economic security within reach and have a fair shot to get ahead.

On Thursday, November 5, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Progress Iowa will host a forum on women and family’s economic security and the concrete solutions needed so that working families can fulfill their obligations at work and at home without putting one or the other at risk. At the forum, state advocates, policymakers, and legislators will announce a legislative agenda and call to action for Iowa women and working families.


Featured speakers:

Sally Pederson, 45th Lieutenant Governor of Iowa (D)

Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress Action Fund

Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder, Chairwoman, and CEO,

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director/CEO and Co-founder of

Additional speakers and panels will be announced in the days leading up to the event.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

9:00 a.m. CT – 3:00 p.m. CT


Central Library

1000 Grand Avenue

Des Moines, Iowa 50309


Click here to RSVP.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at or Matt Sinovic at

Grassley – Is He For Iowa Anymore?

Tom Fiegen

Tom Fiegen

Bob Krause

Bob Krause

Iowa’s own version of Sarah Palin – Joni Ernst – introduced a bill in the Senate to take probably the most reliable health care resource for women away from women when she introduced her bill to defund Planned Parenthood of any federal funds. Planned Parenthood for decades has been the go to resource especially for young and poor women. Planned Parenthood’s mission is to deliver top quality health care to any patient, no matter who it is.

Persuaded by a series of badly produced and edited that made PP appear to be involved in some illegal activities, Ernst quickly threw a bill together to pander to the rabid right wing evangelical base. Despite having major legislation that needs attention such as the budget, Mitch McConnell moved the Ernst bill to the front of the pack so it could be voted on thus allowing every Republican senator to have something to brag about back home during the August recess. As expected every Republican but one voted for the defunding bill.

Because of a new unwritten rule that Republicans used to stop any legislation from the Obama administration the bill failed the now needed 60 vote super majority. Had it been passed, the egregiously gerrymandered US House would have passed it in a second.

With that short history of Ernst’s pandering bill, my curiosity went to what iowa’s senior senator was thinking when he voted for it. In reality I doubt there was much fought that went into his vote.
* Did he think of the thousands of women in Iowa who have at some time in the past used the services of PP?
* Did he at all consider those who are currently using PP services?
* Did he at all consider the families of those women?
* Was their any consideration of what their alternatives were?
* Did his office poll Iowa women on what they would do if PP services were no longer available?
* What would he do about the increased number of unwanted pregnancies that resulted from the lack of access to birth control services?

* PP services have prevented abortions by preventing unwanted pregnancies. What was his answer to the potential increase in abortions?

We all know the answers to these questions. Grassley most likely cast a perfunctory vote with little thought at all. Chuck Grassley is one of only 100 people who have major say on issues that directly affect your lives and the culture in this country. For the past couple years, Grassley appears to be phoning it in and following the dictates of his corporate sponsors.

Mr. Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is the committee that reviews the administrations judicial appointments. It is critical simply because the judiciary is one third of our government and judges must be in place to get the work done. Since he assumed the chair in January, the appointment of judges has pretty much stopped. Why? Because Grassley simply refuses to allow Obama any more appointments in his final 2 years. Grassley wants those seats to remain open until the next president, that he assumes will be a Republican. He is not doing this for the good of Iowa or the country. Grassley is doing this for party and his corporate sponsors.

Mr. Grassley sits on the finance committee that oversees Social Security. His positions on that major plan for seniors is troubling at best. With the amount of money he raises from the various members of the financial sector a person doesn’t need to dig hard to see why. Grassley has hinted at privatizing social security over the years. Grassley is also working hard to gut the post financial collapse reforms of the the Dodd-Franks bill. Think what his positions on these issues mean to your family. Was the Big Recession not enough for you?

Let us not forget Grassley’s stand on foreign policy. It can be summed up by saying that, like many Republicans today, Grassley believes war is good business. He signed that insane threatening letter to the Iranian government earlier this year and recently came out against the Iran deal that the administration negotiated. He is hard line on Iran and ready to send in your children into a fight.

Never forget how he personally fought the ACA. Consider how much the ACA reforms have done for families and individuals. Grassley wants to take all that away, but has no proposal for a replacement. Is this really the kind of representation Iowans want or deserve.

The Democrats do have a couple of candidates criss-crossing the state getting their names out. Tom Fiegan and Bob Krause are both former members of the Iowa legislature. Both are true blue Democrats that would make Iowa proud. Testing the waters at the current time is Rob Hogg, who is a current legislator. All of these candidates would represent real Iowans, not just the ones with the big checkbooks.

Mr. Grassley, 36 years is long enough. Iowa needs a senator who cares about Iowans and who is in touch with today’s problems, not stuck in the 1950s.

Rob Hogg

Rob Hogg

Ernst Embarrasses Iowa Again

joni ernst the perfect Koch investment Planned_Parenthood_Fan_Page_Profile_Photo

Wednesday evening Iowa’s own Joni Ernst proved once more that she neither understands issues nor has any idea what Iowans think when she introduced a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

In a video on HuffPost the commentator says that the bill will redirect the money from Planned Parenthood to other “women’s health services.”

Of course Ernst claims she is doing this as a “mother and a grandmother.” This is to establish her credibility on the issue. Were she to actually listen to women, Ernst would know that most women, including Iowa women, want to have access to quality reproductive health care and counseling. Ernst’s bill is simply another iteration of the right wing’s war on women and the battle called eliminating abortion. It is so sad, but certainly a very cynical political move on the part of the Republican Party to have a woman submit such a bill.

Many women I know have used the services of Planned Parenthood of Iowa at some point in their lives. Planned Parenthood provided them with truthful, high quality medical services for women. They chose to use Planned Parenthood for various reasons but the bottom line is that PP was a trusted partner in their health care. The Republican party and Joni Ernst in particular would love nothing more than to once more take good quality health care away from women. It is shameful, just shameful.

The unspoken issue here is abortion. This is just another one of the constant attacks that right wingers launch on a legal procedure that is of great importance to women. Ernst must see herself as some kind of warrior in this battle and she is. She is just battling against her own interests and those of any female progeny. Abortions are not mandatory. Maybe she doesn’t understand that. But having safe, clean abortions performed by skilled personnel in proper settings available when needed should be the mark of a society that cares about women’s health.

One thing crusaders such as Ernst never bring up is that abortions will not be stopped even if the religious right get their way and clamp down on abortions withe the full force of law enforcement. How do we know this? Well, Abortion was illegal for a long time in the US before Roe v. Wade made it legal in the US in 1973. While there was no way to keep exacting records of those who accessed illegal abortion services, very well founded extrapolations have been made for abortions and their consequences for women. According to the Guttmacher Institute which deals in FACTS:

Illegal Abortions Were Common

Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s ranged from 200,000 to 1.2 million per year. One analysis, extrapolating from data from North Carolina, concluded that an estimated 829,000 illegal or self-induced abortions occurred in 1967.

One stark indication of the prevalence of illegal abortion was the death toll. In 1930, abortion was listed as the official cause of death for almost 2,700 women—nearly one-fifth (18%) of maternal deaths recorded in that year. The death toll had declined to just under 1,700 by 1940, and to just over 300 by 1950 (most likely because of the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s, which permitted more effective treatment of the infections that frequently developed after illegal abortion). By 1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher.

Note that number rounded up is about a million. Now note that recent data pegs the number of abortions annually in the US at about a million. Again from the Guttmacher Institute:

• Some 1.06 million abortions were performed in 2011, down from 1.21 million abortions in 2008, a decline of 13%.

So the number of abortions is still about a million in the US. Note also that the population of the US is nearly twice what it was 50 years back, so the percentage of abortions is much less. Note also that abortions now are performed in safe clean surroundings by trained medical personnel. Much unlike those 50 years ago. Yes, the back alley abortionist using dirty instruments was real. So the deaths, disfigurements and painful complications of botched abortions are a thing of the past. Joni Ernst and her religious colleagues have no problem returning us to those days. You may also note that lack of access to legal abortions will not stop women from seeking out this remedy.

One reason that abortion rates are down is the availability reliable contraception. Providing contraception is one of Planned Parenthood’s biggest contributions. The religious right also opposes access to contraception. Crippling Planned Parenthood would also cripple women’s access to contraception, especially for the young and the poor – those that need contraception services most. If you don’t believe that just think about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case.

Finally, the claim is that the federal money will be redistributed to other women’s health organizations. They will not name specific types or organizations. There is a reason for such ambiguity. You can bet those funds will be going to anti-abortion organizations. Most likely the money will end up in the hands of some anti-abortion religious counseling organization that exists only on federal money under the “faith-based initiatives” program. Faith based initiatives is an unholy alliance between government and religion that our founders feared the most. It should have never come into existence, and when it did should have been declared unconstitutional and aborted soon after.

Let us hope the women of Iowa and those Iowans who have women in their lives don’t forget this affront to women’s health care when Ernst is up for reelection. Her first 7 months have been embarrassing, now she crosses the line to shameful.

Give Planned Parenthood A Hand

planned parentood attack

Planned Parenthood has been one of the top six targets of the right in this country for a long time. Depending on the talking points of the day it shares the bullseye with Social Security, Medicare, the ACA, immigrants and unions. This is a list I just made up on the spot, so you can certainly take issue with this assessment. The point is that the premiere women’s health care provider in this country has had a vendetta against for a long long time.

Unless you live under a rock you have heard that Planned Parenthood has once more made it to the top of the right’s hit list. The driver behind this ascent is a very flawed “documentary” that purports to show a clinic selling fetal tissue. If you want to see it you can look it up yourselves. Of course this is pure hokum, but with a corporate owned media that leans very right this has become a story that has been given legs.

So this is a good time to show Planned Parenthood some support. Please sign this petition and let them know that we have their back. Someone you know and love may be using their services someday.

Thank You!

Another Judicial Retention Fight Next Year?

Iowa Supreme Court photo 2013

Iowa Supreme Court photo 2013

Wouldn’t you have thought that after 3 judges were replaced by the new Terry Branstad that he and his party would pretty much get their way in the Iowa Supreme Court? Thus after appointing all the members of the Iowa Board of Medicine and having them go after telemedicine abortions it truly looked like there would be no trouble making a ruling against telemedia abortions stick.

It is what we like to call rigging the game. Remember when Bob Vander Plaats (R-Heaven) went after the three judges that were up for retention after the marriage equality decision? They only went after the three because that is all the law allowed to be up for a retention vote at one time. The retention vote was also used to drive up right wing voter numbers in an off year election. After a vicious campaign all three judges were escorted unceremoniously from the chambers and shiny new Governor Terry Branstad took to the task of replacing them.

The nomination and confirmation process was relatively uneventful. With a majority of the Court appointed by Branstad it surely might give one to think that Republicans may have a sympathetic ear in the chamber.

They appeared not to count on the integrity of the judges. Well, much as in the marriage equality case, the justices voted 6-0 that if you allow something for one citizen, then you must allow it for all. Oddly, this is in the Iowa Constitution. That is the guideline used by the justices. Always has been.

Here is an excerpt from the Quad City Times that lays the issue out succinctly:

“When Branstad’s appointees to the Iowa Board of Medicine outlawed the practice, Planned Parenthood of Iowa filed suit, claiming the selective ban was aimed squarely at discriminating against women, the only gender that would seek this prescription.

The Board of Medicine never discussed other applications of telemedicine. Its ban focused only on prescriptions of abortion-inducing drugs.

The Iowa Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling agreed with standards from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists affirming the practice safe. The court ruled: “In their view, the medically necessary information a physician needs to determine whether to proceed with a medication abortion is contained in the patient’s history, blood work, vital signs, and ultrasound images—which can be accessed by reviewing the patient’s records remotely or in person.”

Further, the court said Branstad’s board, “imposes some burdens that would not otherwise exist,” for women seeking these services.”

For those who heard a clip of Branstad’s reaction Monday morning he sounded like he had just been cheated by a business partner. He was sounded stunned and betrayed. At the end he brought up the possibility of a judicial retention fight by saying he wouldn’t be looking for judicial fight:

“I do respect the fact that the judiciary is a separate branch of government and the ultimate decision is with the people of Iowa as to whether they want to retain the judges or not,” the governor said. “So the position that I have consistently taken is not to advocate for or against the justices that are up for retention.”

Many folks forget that following the loss of their seats Justices Ternus, Baker and Streit were awarded a John F. Kennedy ‘Profiles in Courage’ award. At the ceremony Caroline Kennedy noted:

The three judges are interesting and courageous on many levels, … Like many of the people who get this award, they don’t consider that they are doing anything particularly courageous, they just feel they’re doing what’s right, they’re doing their job.

Have to wonder if we will have a repeat in 2016.

IDP Statement on Iowa Supreme Court Decision Affirming Women’s Right to Healthcare


For Immediate Release

June 19, 2015

Contact: Josh Levitt

IDP Statement on Iowa Supreme Court Decision Affirming Women’s Right to Healthcare

DES MOINES – IDP Chair Dr. Andy McGuire issued the following statement in response to a ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court this morning upholding a woman’s right to healthcare and expanding access to vital care and services for Iowa women:

“I applaud today’s decision by the Iowa Supreme Court in siding with women’s health care over the needless partisanship of Governor Branstad. All Iowa women, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status, should have access to treatments and services that are vital to their well-being. Today’s decision empowers women with the resources and information needed to take charge of their own health care decisions. That’s a major victory for Iowa women, their families and our state.”

Quick comment: The attempted takeover of the Iowa Supreme Court by Bob Vander Plaats and Branstad seems not to have worked the way they planned.

20 reasons Not To Re-elect Branstad

branstad jobs numbers

A big thanks to Don Paulson of Muscatine for letting me use and combine his two LTTEs to his local paper into one complete list of Branstad “accomplishments.”

We need to elect Jack Hatch as Iowa’s governor! There are a lot of blemishes on the record of our current governor. Here are twenty reasons not to re-elect Terry Branstad-

#20- Branstad’s campaign pulled a dirty trick by creating a fake Jack Hatch website.

#19- Branstad actually hosted the Family Research Council’s “hate fest” in Ames earlier this year.

#18- At a Texas fundraiser Branstad admitted support for “tort reform”.

#17- In an insult to the principle of the separation of church and state, Branstad was an active participant and signed a state declaration for Bob Vander Plaats’s “Day of Prayer and Fasting”.

#16- The renovations at the Iowa Veterans Home are mired in controversy.

#15- Branstad’s Administration gave up a $1 million solar grant.

#14- His corporate tax cut will leave cities and counties short of funds.

#13- The Orascom boondoggle.

#12- With our roads and bridges falling apart, Branstad has shown zero leadership on raising the gas tax.

#11- Branstad has cost the taxpayers over $500,000 in legal fees in trying to unfairly get rid of Christopher Godfrey.

#10- Branstad illegally closed the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.

#9- Branstad illegally closed 36 unemployment offices at the height of the Great Recession.

#8- Iowa’s water pollution and soil erosion are still a huge problem.

#7- Branstad’s Administration took the Chief Administative Law Judge’s position and made it susceptible to political pressure from the Governor’s office.

#6- Branstad still has close ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council.

#5- Branstad has failed to cut the cost of state government. According to a study reported in the 8/31/14 Des Moines Register, state spending has gone up 17.5%.

#4- Another one of Branstad’s big goals was to create 200,000 jobs. So far the net number of jobs created since 2011 is around 74,000.

#3- Another big Branstad goal was to increase Iowa family incomes by 25%. Here was another miserable failure. According to the same Register study incomes have gone up just 0.17%.

#2- Branstad packed the Iowa Board of Medicine with people that did away with Planned Parenthood’s telemedicine arrangement.

#1- Instead of expanding Medicare, Branstad tried to push through a vastly inferior health insurance plan called the “Healthy Iowa Plan”.

#0- A state auditor report has found there have been 42 settlement agreements by this Administration totaling $2.4 million dollars.

These reasons should give everyone pause about re-electing Terry Branstad. Another reason may be his health.

At the first debate, Branstad’s shaking hands and erratic behavior was plainly evident. Does he have Parkinson’s disease or something like that? The rumors persist that if re-elected Branstad will step down after a time and allow the incredibly average Kim Reynolds to become governor without having to go through an election.

I’ve Got A Thousand Million Questions

A line from that Moody Blues song “Question” –
“I’ve got a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war.”

And budgets and the wealth gap and the environment and health care and education and … well many more. Can I substitute for Dean Borg one week? Please?

1) Let’s start with the budget. Once again we appear to be moving to war with no talk of how we will pay for the bombs and the planes and the soldiers so on and so forth. Yet that will not stop us from going to war. However, we have bridges about to fall down, schools that are unsafe, sewer and water lines bursting around the country that are not being addressed. Why do we always have money for war, but no money for infrastructure needs?

2) An add on to the previous question, how will you pay for the next war? Please be specific on added taxes or program cuts and who will be affected.

3) Around the country we have seen corporations create major public damage to common goods like waterways, aquifers, land, health and more yet they walk away from responsibility for those damages. Tell me what you will do to relieve taxpayers of the burden of corporate irresponsibility?

4) As a country we have spent trillions to secure oil from the middle east through wars and standing armies and aid. It looks as though we will be in the middle east as long as we need oil. What are your proposals to get off the oil addiction?

5) who are you largest donors? What will they get for their investment in you?

6) When we go into war, the lives and bodies of soldiers are broken. We have been greatly negligent in repairing those broken lives and bodies. Would you favor a tax to pay for soldier maintenance throughout their lives before we send them into war?

7) Should there be a tax or cost added to products to pay for their impact on the environment?

8) Why do companies get tax breaks when they move jobs and facilities out of the US? What will you do to bring these jobs and facilities back? How will your approach work.

9) There is a new awareness of battered women in this country. What have you done in the past to address this problem and what do you propose that the government can do?

10) Finally – It has been nearly 2 years since the Sandy Hook massacre. We are killing each other as if we are in an internal war. What proposals will you advance to end this slaughter and tell us why they will work?

I could go on and I bet you could also. I really want to hear questions that affect our daily lives and see if the politicians understand what their platitudes mean.

“I’ve got a thousand million questions
About hate and death and war.”

Dangers Of The Hobby Lobby Ruling

Thank You, Mr. President

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Across country there has been a storm of lawsuits. They reflect contested rights as some businesses and institutions ask for express legal permission to use religion to discriminate based on sexual orientation, sex and gender identity.

Just over a month ago, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate could not be applied to Hobby Lobby, a secular, for-profit corporation with religious objections to four of some twenty types of contraception. The Christian-owned craft store operates nearly 600 stores and employs well over 13,000. The company donates ten percent of its profits to charities, and last year it raised the minimum wage for full-time workers to $14 an hour.

A significant portion of the firm’s employees are women. Unfortunately, the ruling means that employees who do not share their employers’ religious beliefs can be denied access to contraceptive coverage. Put another way, the decision means that “faith” can dictate healthcare policy regardless of the impact of that faith on employees.

The court’s decision marks the first time that it has allowed commercial business owners to deny employees a federal benefit to which they are entitled by law based on the owners’ religious beliefs. The company’s religious exemption claim from the ACA contraceptive mandate appears hypocritical. The company went along with coverage of these same contraceptives when they provided private insurance for their employees. The company, then, provided the very kind of health coverage it finds impossible to reconcile with its religious beliefs before the ACA existed.

While filing a lawsuit against the ACA contraception mandate, the company, ironically, also spent millions of dollars on an employee retirement plan that invested in the manufacturers of the same contraception products cited in the lawsuit. The company’s retirement accounts show investment in companies that develop, market, and sell contraceptives.

If the company really wants to ensure that they are anti-abortion in every way, it should provide employees with paid parental leave. This would make the company a corporate leader.

Never before has the court been so firmly divided along partisan lines, with all of the Republican appointees more conservative than all of the Democratic ones. It should be noted, too, that protests to the court’s decision have come from a wide variety of religious denominations.

According to the government, nearly thirty million women receive birth control as a result of the health care law. Critics say the ruling discriminates against women, the vast majority of whom will use birth control at some point in their lives.

The ruling raises other issues, too, by opening the door to all manner of claims that a company can refuse employment and accommodations based on its owner’s religion. Other questions about the startling breadth of the decision come to mind. Doesn’t the decision allow employers to get between women and their doctors? Can LGBT people be denied access to services? Could the ruling harm those who experience domestic violence? What happens now to the line between religion and the state?

Leonard Pitts, Jr., a Miami Herald columnist, called the court’s decision “frightening” because it involves “the imposition of religion masquerading as freedom of religion.” Meanwhile, Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu wrote, “America is a pluralistic nation without a state religion, and the government is not allowed to pick and choose which religions can claim certain rights or exemptions.”

The company has a right to consider certain forms of birth control immoral. It does not have a right to make contraceptive decisions for everyone they employ. Religious liberty properly belongs to individuals and religious institutions, not to for-profit corporations. Religious liberty gives you the right to make decisions for yourself, not for others.

Ralph Scharnau teaches U.S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta. He holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University. His publications include articles on labor history in Iowa and Dubuque. Scharnau, a peace and justice activist, writes monthly op-ed columns for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.