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Fabulous Christmas card giveaway
It’s that time of year again, and the fabulously talented Amanda Jane Jones is offering a “Year in Review” Christmas card giveaway. I absolutely love her designsand her blog, and it would be amazing to win!
An examined vagina is a happy vagina

By Taysha Murtaugh, Courtesy photo: Georgia O’Keeffe

This is my first opinion column. It appeared in the Iowa State Daily January 21, 2011.

I’m lying spread-eagle on an exam table with my feet in some stirrups, as a doctor peers into my vagina. She runs her fingers down my clitoris, labia and vaginal opening before inserting a cold metal speculum — a tool resembling a duck bill — which she uses to pry open my love hole and look at my cervix.

Yes, I’m getting a pelvic exam. And as if donning a ridiculous flowered hospital gown and showing a stranger my cooch isn’t humiliating enough, I’ve decided to describe it here to potentially thousands of readers.

So why would I risk becoming known as “that girl who wrote about her lady parts in the Iowa State Daily?” Because sexual health is important, and getting a pelvic exam or a Pap smear is all part of being a woman. Through an annual exam, your gynecologist can detect things like ovarian cysts, STDs, uterine fibroids or early-stage cancer. Think you’re safe from STDs because you haven’t experienced any symptoms? You’re wrong. One in four college students has an STD, and 80 percent of people with an STD experience no noticeable symptoms. This means many cases go undetected and untreated.

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An unlikely atheist teaches others

By Taysha Murtaugh, Photo by Bryan Langfeldt

This story appeared in the Iowa State Daily November 9, 2010.

Hector Avalos doesn’t drink. He doesn’t smoke or gamble, either.

Avalos, professor of philosophy and religious studies, has been studying the Bible since he was a child. In fact, he was a child evangelist preacher.

He’s also atheist or agnostic, depending on how one defines the word “God.”

"Most people would say I look a lot like a conservative Christian," Avalos said. "[I’m] not what they would expect an atheist to [look like]."

With a master’s degree in theological studies and a doctorate in biblical studies from Harvard University, Avalos describes himself as a positive person who loves to learn and teach. He believes the purpose of all knowledge is to help people and said his favorite thing to do is spend time with his wife.

Avalos is the founder and faculty adviser of the Atheist and Agnostic Society on campus. He has written eight books on three topics: violence in religion, religion among Latinos and medical patients in the ancient world.

While growing up, Avalos’ zealous belief in God ignited an intense study of the Bible.

"I started by trying to defeat the arguments of the other side," Avalos said, "and in the process I realized that my own arguments were not very good."

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The colors of peace

By Taysha Murtaugh, Courtesy photo: Bedor al-Obaidi

This story appeared in the Iowa State Daily October 10, 2010.

To know Amer al-Obaidi is to spend a day with the Iraqi refugee and artist, now of Des Moines, surrounded by the things he loves.

Step into his mind through the swirls of deep hues he skillfully paints into a canvas.

See into his heart through his confident daughter, Bedor, and beaming wife, Sawsan, whose wheelchair is evidence of the hardship the family endured in their former life in Baghdad.

Sit at al-Obaidi’s table, sipping dark Turkish coffee that provides a striking contrast to his silver-white hair. Follow the deep-cut lines of his face and settle on his eyes — eyes that have seen some pain.

As a well-known painter in the Middle East, al-Obaidi is the former director of the National Museum of Modern Art in Baghdad and the national director for fine arts in Iraq.

The Museum of Modern Art was looted during the war, and a roadside bomb killed al-Obaidi’s son, Bader. Shrapnel from the bomb hit Sawsan, leaving her permanently disabled and partially blind.

After receiving a bullet in the mail with a threat attached, al-Obaidi and his family were forced to leave Baghdad and fled to Syria in 2006. Their neighbor drove the al-Obaidis on the 11-hour trip, and by luck, they passed through all the military checkpoints.

The al-Obaidis took only what they could carry. They left nearly everything else behind.

"[Iraq] is my country," al-Obaidi said. "I lived in my country all my life. I have a family; I have a house in Iraq. I have a big farm in Iraq. My friends are in Iraq. Now I feel it’s very good for safe and quiet life in America, but I feel sometimes I am alone."

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Sex workshop opens up sex topics for students

By Taysha Murtaugh

This story appeared in the Iowa State Daily October 7, 2010

ISU students crammed into a conference room Thursday night at Martin Hall to talk about relationships and sex.

"Is there any better way to spend a Thursday night than pizza, sex and relationships?" said Tom Klaus, program director of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiatives at Advocates for Youth.

Advocates for Youth is a Washington, D.C.-based organization working to empower young people to make decisions for their own sexual health.

Klaus teamed up with Teresa Downing-Matibag, assistant professor of sociology, to conduct a workshop promoting the quality of youth relationships and its impact on sexual health.

"Not only does the quality of a personal relationships have a lot to do with sexual health in general," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, "but it can also be an important defense against relationship abuse and violence. The more people are empowered to expect quality relationships, the quicker they are to recognize abusive ones."

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Dinkey Bridge destruction distresses local artists

By Taysha Murtaugh, Photo by Logan Gaedke

This story appeared in the Iowa State Daily August 29, 2010.

The painted wooden ties of Dinkey Bridge lay in a colorful heap at the end of North Riverside Drive. Looming 40 feet over Squaw Creek, the 206-foot-long skeleton of steel beams behind the pile gave the impression of a bird stripped of its feathers. The removal of these boards, covered in designs and poetry by local artists, was the first step excavating contractor Mike Howard took in the destruction of the bridge, which began at noon on Friday.

"What’s your story?" read one board. Smoky swirls of paint spread across several of the ties, and an 18-line poem covered one side of a beam.

Howard had been hired by Union Pacific Railroad, owner of Dinkey Bridge, to tear it down. He was instructed to haul all the pieces to a landfill, but instead had been saving some of them.

"There are some that are too good to throw away," Howard said. "The time and the brain power that went into them."

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Subject to interpretation

By Taysha Murtaugh

This story appeared in the Iowa State Daily February 17, 2010.

The typographical error in the Senate Faculty handbook’s new open meeting policy sums up the discrepancy the issue has generated among ISU faculty. This revision, approved at the Faculty Senate meeting on Feb. 9, stated that “although the university promotes the principle of open meanings, state law does not require that university committee meetings be open to the public.”

The word “meaning” where “meeting” should be “is kind of hilarious, because in a way, what we’re arguing about here is that this policy could be open to lots of different meanings,” said Executive Director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition Charles Davis. “Three or four or five different people could read this document and come up with three or four or five different meanings for this document.”

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The Iowa State Daily is an independent student news organization established in 1890. It is written, edited, and sold entirely by students.