By Kelly Sargent
Ah, the Holidays . . . a chance to overeat, usually several times, and enjoy a little time off from work.
When we think of winter holidays, most of us think of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice and New Year’s. However, there are so many other winter celebrations, festivals and traditions you’ve most likely never heard of. Check these out.
On Christmas Eve in Norway people hide their brooms before they go to bed so that witches and other evil spirits won’t have anything to zoom around on to disturb innocent sleepers.
In the Czech Republic and Slovenia, a single woman who wants to find out if she’ll be getting married in the coming year stands with her back to her house on Christmas Eve and tosses a shoe over her shoulder at the house. It’s bad news if it lands with the heel toward the house and toe pointing away; she’ll stay single another year.
Wearing Bear Suits
Carolers don bear costumes and dance on New Year’s Eve in Romania to drive away evil spirits. That’s dancing bear, not dancing bare — although who knows, maybe there’s a festival somewhere for that too.
Plunging in Icy Water
Polar bear plunges are held in January in many parts of the US and Canada. Frequently hosted to benefit a charity or bring awareness to a cause, participants jump into a lake or river in often sub-zero temperatures wearing nothing but an ordinary swim suit.
As the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve, people in many Spanish-speaking countries eat 12 grapes, one to bring good luck to each month of the coming year.
In Denmark smashing a plate against a friend’s door is supposed to bring good luck to your friend in the year ahead. The bigger the pile of shattered dishes on the welcome mat, the luckier the recipient will be next year.
In Cuba and other Latin American countries, throwing a bucket of water out your door or window signifies a fresh start. Extra points if someone who slighted you in the last year is standing below. (Just kidding about the extra points.)
In many Latin American countries, the underwear you choose to wear on New Year’s Eve will influence the upcoming year. Yellow is thought to bring good fortune, red brings good luck in love and black is bad luck.
Held in February, the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous Winter Festival, also known as Fur Rondy or just Rondy, bills itself as the largest winter festival in North America. Events include a snow sculpture competition, figure skating show, dog sled races, a beard and mustache competition, the annual Frostbite Footrace, an outhouse race and the World Championship of ice bowling. What’s not to love?
Speaking of unusual competitions, since all of us are cooped up indoors for a while longer, here’s an entertainment recommendation from Paul and me. If you happen to subscribe to Netflix, check out We Are the Champions. Narrated by Rainn Wilson from The Office, it’s a six-episode, reality TV show that takes you to a different strange competition each episode. From chasing cheese to dancing with dogs, we give it an H+ for hilarious. You’re welcome.
By Rob Tucker
In 2017 the Iowa Legislature changed Iowa's Workers’ Compensation laws. One of the significant changes was the classification of a shoulder as a "scheduled" body part instead of “body-as-a-whole”.
If that elicits a “huh?” and a blank stare on your part, I don’t blame you, but bear with me because it was a meaningful change.
(Click here for an earlier article with a more in-depth explanation of the 2017 changes.)
If a body part is scheduled, it means it’s on a list with a maximum amount of compensation that can be awarded in the event of an on-the-job injury to that particular body part . . . whereas body-as-a-whole injuries aren’t subject to a pre-set limit.
The problem was that the legislature didn’t specifically define “shoulder." At first glance it might seem obvious what a shoulder is, but it’s more complicated than that.
In one of the first shoulder cases evaluated by the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commission interpreting the new statute (Chavez v. MS Technology, LLC), my daughter Erin Tucker argued that the legislature’s ambiguity in drafting the new statute meant that rotator cuff injuries should not be limited because they do not fall within the general and previously-understood definition of shoulder: the joint between the arm and the trunk of the body.
The Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioner agreed and held that the injured worker was not limited to the scheduled amount of benefits because her injury was to her body as a whole, and only an injury to the shoulder joint itself would be governed by the scheduled, and much more limited, amount of benefits.
It was the first case deciding this issue in favor of the injured worker.
As expected, the insurance company appealed this finding. The Iowa Association of Business and Industry filed a brief in support of the insurance company’s position.
On September 30, 2020 the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, Joseph Cortese, reversed the lower judge’s decision and concluded that the injury was, in fact, a “shoulder” injury, limiting the worker to far less benefits; subsequent cases have gone the same way.
This issue is expected to come before the Iowa Supreme Court in the near future. In the meantime, it's an area of contention that your attorney needs to be thoroughly familiar with. The reality is that shoulder injuries are currently awarded fewer benefits than before the law change, but carefully-crafted arguments taking into account the new law’s ambiguities can result in maximizing the amount injured workers recover.
By Kelly Sargent
Well, we did it again; we made national news for awful weather. In Ankeny, where Rob, Erin and I live, we had a blizzard that dumped 8 inches of snow on us October 19, and just eight miles north of us Polk City got 9.2 inches.
ABC, The Washington Post, Forbes, Fox News and others all covered it.
My husband Paul, who is a bit of a weather geek, knew that colder weather was expected, so he hurried to get the grass mowed, the leaves picked up and the gutters cleaned while it was still reasonably comfortable to work outside. But nobody expected snow, for goodness sake . . . and so much of it!
Although the official start of winter isn’t until December 21, given what we’ve already experienced, perhaps we should share this list of cold-weather-driving and driving-in-snow tips from AAA with you now, just in case. With coronavirus, a derecho and an mid-October blizzard, apparently we need to be prepared for anything.
Cold Weather Driving Tips
Tips for Driving in the Snow
By Erin Tucker
My goodness, the number of coronavirus cases keeps going up and up! We don’t want you to end up a statistic, so take every precaution you can. According to the CDC, the three basics remain: wear a mask, stay six feet apart when you're with anyone but your live-in family and wash your hands thoroughly and often.
Speaking of precautions, sometimes no matter how careful you are, injurious things happen that aren’t your fault. Because that’s true, in spite of the pandemic, we’re still helping people receive just compensation who have been hurt or unfairly treated.
We’ve successfully resolved on-the-job injury cases such as
And bad faith insurance cases such as
We're here to help you through good times and bad . . . coronavirus or not.
By Kelly Sargent
Having left a $4 billion path of destruction in Iowa alone, the storm on August 10 was one for the books. Like many of you, nobody here at Tucker Law had heard of a derecho . . . that is until we were almost blown away by one.
Although we're hoping you escaped damage, some of you may still be in the process of trying to find a tree service, roofer or contractor to help you put things to rights.
Here are a few tips and red flags from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller to keep in mind when you consider hiring someone to do the work.
Be wary of storm chasers.
Be suspicious of tree removal, cleanup and home repair workers who show up at your door unbidden. They might be storm chasers — individuals who are constantly on the move from one disaster to another. Some of them might be trustworthy, but the problem is they're transient. You're likely to be unable to reach them if the work turns out to be unsatisfactory . . . if their 'fix' needs a fix.
Do your homework before doing your home work.
Research reputable, local businesses before you contact them. Even if it's not a long-established business, a local company will be much more motivated to do what you've hired them to do to protect their reputation because they live here.
Check out whoever you're considering.
Ask for and check local references before you sign a contract give anyone any money. You can check on complaints through Attorney General Miller's office and with the Better Business Bureau and check to see whether whoever it is you're considering has been sued by customers through Iowa Courts Online. You can also check on a contractor’s registration and bonding at the Iowa Division of Labor website. Ask for a copy of the contractor's liability insurance certificate.
Make sure you have verifiable contact information.
Get the company's address, phone number and email. Contractors who don’t provide a local phone number and a local physical address (not a post office box) are probably not local. Check the numbers by calling. It's also not a bad idea to write down the license plate number and vehicle description, or take a picture of the vehicle and plate, and keep the information for your records just in case.
Getting several written estimates.
The cost of work can vary considerably from company to company, so get more than one estimate, Compare and choose the best one for you which may mean taking more than just the price into account, factors such as availability, materials and guarantees.
Get a contract in writing.
Before work begins, get a written contract and don’t forget to read it — detailing the price, payment terms, exact scope of the work, brand and/or specifications of the materials to be used, who is responsible for permits, start and completion dates and remedies if the contractor fails to meet deadlines. For example, the contract could be nullified if the contractor doesn't start on time.
Understand your insurance.
If you’re filing an insurance claim to cover the costs of damages, negotiate the details with your insurance company directly and not through a contractor. Understand what your insurance provider will cover before you sign a contract.
Explore financing options.
It’s usually safer and a better deal to get financing through your local bank or credit union rather than a contractor.
Know your right to cancel.
If you sign a contract somewhere other than the contractor's regular place of business, such as at your home, you have three business days to cancel the contract without penalty.
Avoid paying large sums or the entire job up front.
If you need to make a partial advance payment for materials, make your check out to the supplier and the contractor. Insist on a "mechanic's lien waiver" in case the contractor fails to pay others for materials or labor.
As always, we're just a phone call away. Let us know if we can help.
By Kelly Sargent
I'm an National Public Radio fan; one of the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis is Science Friday. When I popped in my earbuds Friday night, August 21, I was surprised to hear the derecho in Iowa featured and Iowa Public Radio reporter Kate Payne being interviewed about it. Kate describes the ways that victims of the derecho in Iowa, might be suffering more than past hurricane survivors, and having spent time in Florida covering hurricanes, she has a basis for comparison. I've attached a link to the podcast. It's worth a listen.
Dealing with the Aftermath of Iowa's Devastating Derecho
By Kelly Sargent
It felt like a hurricane, but it was on dry land.
Some news sources called it a category 4 inland hurricane, others referred to it as an F3 tornado, but meteorologist and Forbes senior science contributor, Marshall Shepherd, says the correct word is derecho. I’d never heard of it either.
A derecho is a line of intense, widespread, straight-line windstorms that moves across great distances with forces rivaling those of rotating hurricanes and tornadoes.
Whatever you call it, it was destructive. With sustained winds of 70 to 140 miles an hour, it cut a swath 1000 miles long from eastern Nebraska, through Iowa and into parts of Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.
But the worst of it was right here in Iowa.
It came on so fast! The storm-alert sirens started blowing, but we couldn't figure out why. At that point it still looked like a regular day outside. Boy were we wrong.
It started to rain, but then it started to blow. The power was on and off three times in the space of about a minute at our house, and then it was out permanently. We took ourselves and the furry children to the basement to wait it out. It blew and blew and blew. Later we learned that Ankeny, where we live, had been hit by 100 mile an hour winds.
Erin’s privacy fence was decimated — 4” X 4” posts set in concrete snapped off like match sticks. At Rob’s, a big tree was toppled behind his house, but fortunately did no damage. When we walked outside at our house, it looked like a bomb had dropped.
Our behind-us neighbor had a row of seven, tall pine trees along the property line between his backyard, ours and our next door neighbor’s. Three of those trees were snapped in two. Our backyard looked like a bomb had gone off, but we were lucky: our garage, house and vehicles were all undamaged. Unfortunately for our next door neighbor, one of those downed pine trees impaled his garage in four places and took out our power line that traverses his back yard.
Below are four photos of our backyard in the aftermath. Below that are two pictures of our backyard neighbors.
Altogether some 800,000 households were without power across the Midwest, 330,000 were in Iowa, and of those nearly 101,000 were in Des Moines and suburbs, including Ankeny.
Rob was only out of power a day. Erin was without power four days. We were out from Monday until Friday night, five long days and nights, and a power surge fried my laptop and it’s backup drive.
Comparatively, though, we were spared. Cedar Rapids had sustained winds of 140 miles an hour, flipping over large RV homes, blowing semi trucks off the road and onto their sides, and damaging most structures at least to some extent, some severely. In Marion, six miles northeast of Cedar Rapids, 90% of the homes and buildings sustained damage. In Linn County, where both CR and Marion are located, 97% of households lost power, and as of today, August 21, 16,000 people are still without power there.
Ten million acres of corn and soybean were destroyed or damaged. The Cedar Rapids Gazette reported that the preliminary estimate of damage is nearly $4 billion.
We feel for our friends and neighbors. If there’s any way Tucker Law can help, call us or write to us via email.
We’ll be back in a few days with suggestions from Attorney General Tom Miller on how to avoid being scammed by storm chasers . . . sketchy tree removal and home repair contractors who suddenly materialize after disasters.
By Kelly Sargent
You've probably heard on the news that coronavirus cases have risen dramatically around the world. Here in the US the seven-day new case average has tripled since mid-June. As of July 25 almost 4,200,000 Americans have been infected and at least 146,000 have died.
We're all tired of having to wear masks, constantly washing our hands and not being able to go out to restaurants, theaters and social events without fear of getting sick. It's important not to let down your guard now, though. Infections are surging, the disease is still potentially fatal, and many who contract it find they're left with serious, long-term negative health consequences.
Although a recent analysis by the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that most patients exhibit one of three symptoms: fever, cough or shortness of breath — coronavirus symptoms are wide-ranging.
To help you remember, here's the list of symptoms we shared with you in April.
Graphic credit: City of Lincoln, Nebraska
The World Health Organization reported that 88% of individuals infected with COVID-19 experienced a fever. But what temperature qualifies as having a fever? The 98.6 degree Fahrenheit benchmark we've grown up memorizing as 'normal' was arrived at in the mid-1800's, and it's been gradually dropping throughout the population ever since. It's now the exception rather than the rule. In fact 75% of us have a normal body temperature lower than that, so it's important to know what 'normal' is for you. Most adults are considered feverish when their temperature hits 100 F. Fever often elevates in the late afternoon or early evening which makes that an ideal time to check.
2. Difficulty breathing
Although shortness of breath isn't usually the first symptom of coronavirus infection, it's an extremely serious one. Medical experts say that it's important to seek medical attention if you can't breathe deeply enough to take in a normal breath or if you experience persistent pain or pressure in your chest.
3. Dry Cough
A persistent cough is another prevalent warning sign, but doctors say that it's not just any cough; it's not a tickle in your throat or the urge to clear your throat. It's a dry cough that feels as though it emanates from deep inside your chest.
4. Chills and body aches
It may be difficult for those with less pronounced symptoms to distinguish coronavirus chills and achy muscles and joints from flu symptoms. One gauge: if your symptoms don't improve after about a week, but get worse instead, it may be a sign that you're dealing with the coronavirus and not the flu.
5. Extreme fatigue
A World Health Organization study found that nearly 40% of COVID-19 patients experienced extreme fatigue. Journalist Chris Cuomo said he was so exhausted that he would he would take what he thought was a 10-minute nap when it had actually been three and half hours.
6. Inability to wake up
The CDC warns that sudden confusion or the inability to wake up to full alertness, especially in conjunction with other critical signs such as bluish lips and fever, has a high probability of being a medical emergency. Call 911.
7. Loss of smell or taste
A recent review of eight studies found that a loss of smell and taste is often one of the earliest signs of COVID-19. A loss of smell in particular may be an indicator of a mild case, but for your sake and that of those you may be exposing, it's important to take this early symptom seriously.
8. Digestive issues
In the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic, diarrhea and other digestive symptoms didn't seem to be warning signs. But as the infection has spread yielding more cases and more data, a study revealed milder cases in which the initial symptoms were digestive issues without a fever.
9. Headache, sore throat and congestion
A WHO report also found that almost 14% of the confirmed COVID-19 cases they analyzed suffered headache, sore throat and nasal congestion, symptoms that can be difficult to distinguish from a cold or flu, so consider the totality of how you're feeling.
10. Pink eye
Researchers found that about 1% to 3% of those infected with COVID-19 had conjunctivitis, a highly contagious condition also known as pink eye.
By Rob Tucker
This year, once again I had the pleasure of serving on the Rotary Club of Des Moines college scholarship committee. One winner is chosen from each of Des Moines' six high schools — East, Hoover, Lincoln, North, Roosevelt and Scavo — to receive an $8000 scholarship. If you're doing the math, that's $48,000 in scholarship money.
Teammates Kelly Sargent, Mark Lyons and I have been responsible for selecting the East High winner for at least the last 10 years. School counselors narrow the field to four semi-finalists, and we reviews their applications, transcripts, activities, personal essays and in the last step of the process, interview them to select the winner.
Invariably, it's a rewarding and heartening undertaking to visit with these exceptional young people, but the flip side of that is that they're each and everyone so deserving that it makes our job very difficult.
Normally we would have interviewed the four finalists at East High on a given day, but since classes at all Des Moines public schools were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the interview process was a bit more challenging. Mark persevered, however, contacted our finalists and set up Zoom interviews, and it all went smoothly.
Our three runners-up were Jasmine Dao, Sunya Hardi, and Rachel Puok, who will each receive a $100 gift Target gift card to buy items they might need for college. The winner of the $2000 a year ($8000 total) scholarship is Priscilla Macias.
Priscilla plans to attend Iowa State University to pursue a degree in science. She ranks eighth in her class of 469 at East with a weighted GPA of 4.23. Her school activities include cross country, National Honor Society, Science Bound and Link Crew which gives incoming freshman advice on acclimating to high school. She also serves as class secretary.
Outside of school, Priscilla works 16 to 20 hours a week at HyVee to contribute to the income in her single-parent household. She mentioned in her application that her parents endured a difficult domestic dispute a couple of years ago. When we asked her how she dealt with that, her answer was “I just persevere.”
Good advice for all of us today.
Rotary Club of Des Moines scholarship winners
Top row from left to right: Nicole Marinero Cea (Lincoln), Jessica Cruz Hernandez (Hoover), Ruth Bropleh (North). Second row from left to right: Priscilla Macias (East), Emily Adams (Scavo), Nyana Robinson (Roosevelt)
By Kelly Sargent
Perhaps you've heard of Juneteenth, but like a large swath of the citizenry, you may not know much about it. Here's a primer.
Juneteenth is an unofficial — and in some states an official American holiday observed on June 19. Also called Liberation Day, Black Independence Day, Freedom Day, and Jubilee Day, it commemorates the 1865 adoption of the Emancipation Proclamation in the last remaining state to which President Abraham Lincoln's proclamation and executive order applied.
Although President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 declaring slaves free people, it didn't actually end slavery since it only applied to the 11 states at war with the Union. As the most remote of the Confederate states with only a small presence of Union troops, Texas simply chose to ignore it.
Lincoln recognized that it would require amending the US Constitution to abolish slavery and permanently emancipate the millions of men, women and children enslaved in America, and worked toward that end. In April of 1864 the US Senate passed a proposed Constitutional amendment banning slavery, but it languished in the House of Representatives. Nine months later the House barely passed the amendment with the required two-thirds majority, and the next day, Lincoln approved a joint resolution of Congress submitting it to the state legislatures for ratification.
Meanwhile, in spite of General Robert E. Lee's surrender of his Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox on April 9, 1865, the Civil War wasn't over. Other contingencies of Confederate troops remained active including Colonel Rip Ford in Texas, and the necessary number of states had yet to ratify the 13th Amendment.
Juneteenth, marks the day that Union Army Major General Gordon Granger asserted Union authority and read an official order in Galveston, stating in part: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves."
The first celebration of Juneteenth took place the following year, 1866. What began as local church gatherings evolved into larger community events that spread across Texas and throughout the South. Juneteenth is now celebrated in most major US cities, and 48 of the 50 states recognize it in some way, but only Texas has designated it as a state holiday . . . so far.
Yesterday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order making it a paid holiday for state workers, and an ongoing campaign to declare Juneteenth a Federal holiday has recently gained renewed momentum.
Happy Juneteenth everyone. Black lives matter.
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