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Veteran Writers Win at The Iowa Review

First in 2012 then every two years, The Iowa Review hosts a creative writing contest open exclusively to U.S. Veterans and active-duty service members. The 2016 winners’ submissions are published in the magazine’s Spring 2017 issue. Cash awards are funded by the Jeff Sharlet Memorial Award with an additional grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to sweeten the pot.

Soldiers who are banally thought of as one-dimensional stoic warriors are offered an opportunity to next inspire artistically by writing in whatever form (fiction, non-fiction, poetry), and on any subject.

[Lynne] Nugent [Managing Editor of TIR] says that the magazine didn’t want to put the writers in a box. Their work does not have to be specifically about their experiences in the military, though most of the submissions are.  Additionally, the contest does not filter for particular ideological messages.

“I want readers to be impacted and I want them to not forget,” says [Jason] Arment [runner-up], who plans to publish a memoir in the fall. “Maybe if we proliferated what is actually going on, more people would have a good, genuine, or accurate idea of what to understand.”

The tri-annual magazine dedicates a “web-home” to exhibit veterans’ writing and as a resource for veteran writers to find writing workshops, and publications and contests to submit their work.

TIR will host the next veteran’s competition in 2018.


ICYMI: Puerto Rico’s hot mess

In the past two weeks, the US territory’s Medicaid program was secured by the latest budget, averting a healthcare crisis. They filed the largest municipal insolvency claim in US history. Their tap water is at unprecedented unsafe proportions. And, 179 schools are closing and consolidating in part to manage debt and pension obligations.

First, Puerto Rico’s weak governance has mostly itself to blame for its fiscal cliff. Greece is the word some are using, equating the two government’s austerity in overdrive.

The omnibus spending package recently passed by Congress included a near $300 million infusion of funds to shore up the Caribbean island’s Medicaid shortfall – principally created by Obama’s un-Affordable Care Act. Where mainland states are matched dollar for dollar by the federal government, Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program per Obamacare legislation receives only 14% of matching funds leaving the already economically depressed territory worse off still.

While states receive a federal matching percentage for every dollar they spend on Medicaid enrollees—a  match rate that is enhanced for enrollees under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion and adjusted for the poverty rate in each state—the match rate for Puerto Rico and the other territories is much lower, and there is a global cap on the amount of funds they can receive every year, which was $329 million for Puerto Rico in 2015, good for only 14 percent of total costs that year.

The US island territory filed for bankruptcy protection on May 3rd after accumulating a $74 billion debt to bondholders and $49 billion in pending pension outlay. If granted under Title III of PROMESA, it will exceed even Detroit’s $18 billion debt as the single largest default in US history. An in-court dispensation is set for Wednesday, May 17th.

Simply put, the bankrupt island can’t pay everything it owes, so creditors are taking aim at each other as they squabble over who will get what’s left. But the debt’s size and the tangled process invented to rescue Puerto Rico mean there’s no established rule book to shape what comes next.

To add insult to injury, as the economy has collapsed so has its infrastructure. In a recently cited 2015 review of the commonwealth’s tap water, it outlined tens of thousands of violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

In 2015, 99.5 percent of Puerto Rico’s population, or more than 3.4 million people, was served by community water systems in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Many of these violations are longstanding. In fact, from 2005 to 2015, there were a total of 33,842 violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act in Puerto Rico, including violations of health-based standards, monitoring violations, and reporting violations.

Further, over the past decade as the detached colony spiraled into its current predicament, its US citizenry left their native homes and sought greener pastures stateside.

“The economic factor is the main factor pushing people towards leaving Puerto Rico,” demographer Raul Figueroa, who works as an independent consultant, told CNN. Unemployment, the lack of opportunities, especially for the youth, and quality of life are major factors, he said. Puerto Rico, now 10 years into a recession, is deep in debt and often compared to Greece and Detroit.
Attrition by fiscal irresponsibility has contributed to island side decline in school enrollment predictably forcing some schools to close and others to consolidate.
But there has been an exodus of families from Puerto Rico in the face of its economic collapse.
… in part, to help Puerto Rico battle debt and pension obligations of $123 billion.
Puerto Rico’s future is anyone’s guess.
Amid this melee, Puerto Rico’s federal overseers will have to choose between paying U.S. hedge funds everything they’re owed or keeping schools, water and electricity running.
“There just isn’t enough money,” said Matt Fabian, a partner with Municipal Market Analytics Inc. in Concord, Massachusetts, who foresees a chaotic brew of lawsuits, federal interventions and politics. “Nobody has any idea what’s going to happen.”

Moms tweet the darndest things


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