Five Ideas

Sunday, June 3, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:44 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

[1] Iran-U.S. Break Silence

The U.S. and Iran held an official meeting together for the first time in more than a half century on Monday. The meeting was held in Iraq, inside the heavily fortified Green Zone and was hosted by the Iraqi government.

Officials were hoping to get talks started between the two longtime enemies.

During the meeting, Iran suggested setting up a three-country party to help discuss possible means to end the violence in Iraq.

The Iraqi government spokesman was pleased and emphasized that the country be included in any such discussion, but the U.S. ambassador was less warm to the idea.

He said that any decision to create the proposed trilateral mechanism would have to come from Washington and that he did not see how it differed from the purpose of Monday’s meeting.

But the overall feedback about the meeting from the envoys was positive.

Both the U.S. and Iran stated their support for a stable, democratic federal Iraq that is in control of its own security.

How do you think diplomatic efforts with Iran will help or hurt the United States’ position in the Middle East?

[2] Suing the Boss

A judge ruled last week that food servers and other tipped employees were due a pay raise after Missouri’s minimum wage rose this year.

The ruling could result in hundreds of dollars in back pay for each tipped employee if their boss relied on the faulty interpretation of the minimum wage law after it was raised this year.

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said minimum wage for servers in Missouri was $2.13 an hour. But Gov. Matt Blunt declared that the department had gotten it wrong and said that tipped employees were actually due $3.25 an hour.

So restaurants sued the department for the mistake and asked to be exempt from the back pay owed to their employees.

The judge said that the restaurants took advantage of the initially incorrect advice from the department, but the attorney representing the restaurants said that the ruling would be appealed.

Do you think that the restaurants should be held liable for the back wages in this case? Why or why not?

[3] Veteran Stress

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., met with war veterans last week to discuss health care and benefits provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The visit was one stop on a four-day, 15-city tour to hear about the quality and accessibility of medical and mental health treatment for veterans in the state’s VA facilities.

One of the veterans she met in Columbia was Cpl. Stephen Webber, a 2001 Hickman High School graduate who served two tours in the Marine Corps in Iraq. Eight of his friends were killed.

Before coming home, Webber and his fellow Marines were asked to fill out a form as part of a study on post-traumatic stress disorder.

He said that it was generally understood among the troops that if they indicated they were showing possible signs of the disorder, they would be taken for treatment upon returning to the States and would not be able to see their families immediately.

McCaskill seemed taken aback by Webber’s account. She said that since arriving in Washington she has noticed a “systematic chipping away of veterans’ benefits.”

Do you think the military takes the mental health of its soldiers seriously?

[4] Police Opposition

The City Council recently approved the annexation of land off U.S. 63 where two mobile home parks sit. But Columbia police are opposing the proposal to bring the area into the city because they say they don’t have the staff to respond to the amount of calls from there.

From January 2006 to May 2007, calls from the area drew Boone County sheriff’s deputies there more than 700 times.

Together, the two parks totaled more than 1,000 calls.

The property owner said that the data compiled by the police is misleading. Many of the calls were only requests by a landlord or resident for the Sheriff’s Department to drive through the area. He estimates that most of the 700-plus calls were of this nature.

The property owner says he wants the land annexed to allow residents easier access to public transportation and reduce the amount of injuries they incur crossing dangerous roads to travel into the city.

Do you think the police have a legitimate concern about crime in this area?

[5] Disease and border patrol

The government is investigating how a Georgia man with a rare form of tuberculosis was able to drive into the country after his name was placed on a watch list and given to U.S. border guards.

Infection specialists say that it shows how vulnerable the nation is to hazardous and deadly germs because of its outdated quarantine laws.

The infected man was tracked down by agents from the Centers for Disease Control while he was in Rome and was told not to get on an airplane. But the man seemed determined to come back and traveled to six countries before making it to Canada where he then drove south and entered the country through New York.

Government officials said the case shows that something is wrong with the training and oversight of border agents. They are worried about what could have happened if the man was infected with something more contagious, or worse, if he was a terrorist.

What do you think the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol can do to keep this from happening again?

— Compiled by Alex Lange

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