General Info
Pick the perfect gift for Mother’s Day and watch your love grow all year. PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Amanda Heitz   
Friday, 08 March 2013 16:01
The Iowa State University Scott County Extension & Outreach Master Gardeners are selling planted containers for Mother’s Day giving. Choose from four flowering pot combinations in either a table top or hanging pot or an herb container.

Each pot is planted by the ISU Scott County Extension & Outreach Master Gardeners with plants from a local greenhouse especially chosen to create a container that blooms all summer long. The cost is $25 per container with deadline for orders and payment by 4pm on April 2, 2013. Call the ISU Scott County Extension & Outreach Office to order: 563-359-7577

Your container will be available for pick up at the Extension Office, 875 Tanglefoot Lane, Bettendorf, IA 52722 on Friday, May 10 from 4:30-6:00 pm or Saturday, May 11th from noon-4 pm. Proceeds from the sale supports horticulture education programs in Scott County.

-30-

 
Branstad releases statement in response to today’s decision on the AFSCME contract PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Office of the Governor of Iowa   
Friday, 08 March 2013 15:24

(DES MOINES) – Today, results of the AFSCME contract negotiations were made known. Key provisions:

  • The contract costs $94 million less than it would have under the contract approved two years ago, providing direct savings to the taxpayers of Iowa.
  • Iowa will continue to be one of only six states in the country where the overwhelming majority of state employees pay nothing toward their health insurance

Gov. Terry E. Branstad today released the following statement in response to today’s decision on the AFSCME contract.

“I want to commend everyone who was involved in negotiating this contract. The negotiations were aggressive and were professionally conducted by all parties.

“We were able to come to an agreement with AFSCME on two of the three major components of the new contract and for the first time in bargaining history there will be no across-the-board pay increases for the duration of the contract.

“I am disappointed that Iowa will continue to be one of only six states where the overwhelming majority of state employees will continue to pay nothing toward their health insurance.  This is simply unfair to the vast majority of Iowans who pay some, if not all, of their own health insurance cost and whose tax dollars continue to fund this expensive benefit for most state employees.

“I will continue to ask state workers to join those in the SPOC union who agreed to pay just 20 percent of their health care premiums, with the opportunity to pay less as they become healthier and participate in life-enhancing wellness programs.  It is right, it is fair, and it will make our state worker population healthier.  Everyone wins when state workers contribute to make their lives healthier. That said, arbitrating an impasse item like health insurance is a part of our system.  We will live with today’s result.

“These negotiations demonstrate that we can obtain fair results.  Unlike two years ago, this administration made sure taxpayers were actually represented in these negotiations.  When Gov. Culver simply took the unions’ first demand, taxpayers were socked with a $202 million bill.  As a result of our efforts, the cost of this contract is $94 million less than it would have been under the previous contract. This is real savings for Iowa taxpayers and I am pleased the unions agreed to these terms.”

# # #

 
NEW CONNECTION CIRCLE FORMING! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities   
Friday, 08 March 2013 15:20

"On Being a UU", especially good for new UU's but also good for those who just want to think more about being a member of this congregation. A sign-up list will be available in the lobby. Please contact John Dunsheath ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) if you are interested or have questions.

It starts the first Wednesday in March, goes for 8 weeks, and will be in the rope room, just at the end of the stairs where the older kids hang out.



Mark Your Calendar!

The next environmental film to be shown is Fresh, on Friday, March 8 at 6:30pm, at the UUQC. Note this is a week later than usual. It also coincides with the regular game night (5:30pm), and new member potluck (6pm), therefore the movie will be shown in the boardroom.

Both an enlightening documentary and a stirring call to action, FRESH outlines the vicious cycle of our current food production methods, while also celebrating the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are reinventing our food system.

  • Starring: Ytit Chauhan, David Ball
  • Directed by: Ana Sofia Joanes
  • Runtime: 1 hour 11 minutes

This movie showing is available thanks to the Eagle View Sierra Club!

 
Passover Fable Provides Metaphor for Conflict PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 08 March 2013 14:35
Time to Stop Israel’s Deadly
‘Khad Gadya’ Machine
Passover Fable Provides Timely Metaphor for Conflict,
Says Prize-Winning Author
By: Michael J. Cooper

“Khad Gadya,” the old Aramaic fable sung at the end of the Passover Seder, is often associated with a sense of relief that the long evening is finally over.  It also helps that it comes after four glasses of wine.

It traces a cascade of events beginning with a baby goat being devoured by a cat. Each verse adds a link to the chain reaction: a dog comes and bites the cat, a stick beats the dog, fire burns the stick, water puts out the fire … and on it goes. Each successive verse gets longer until the fable ends in a final karmic stroke – God kills the Death Angel. It’s part morality-play, part Rube Goldberg device.

It’s also a great metaphor, making its appearance in a painful contemporary poem by Yehudah Amichai.

An Arab shepherd is searching for his goat on Mount Zion
and on the opposite mountain I am searching
for my little boy.
An Arab shepherd and a Jewish father
both in their temporary failure.
Our voices meet above the Sultan’s Pool
in the valley between us. Neither of us wants
the child or the goat to get caught in the wheels
of the terrible Khad Gadya machine…

Amichai’s metaphor – the terrible Khad Gadya machine – is a perfect analogy for the Arab-Israeli conflict, with violence generated and regenerated by self-righteous rage, desperation and vengeance.

The workings of this infernal machine were brought home to me toward the end of a recent medical mission to an East Jerusalem hospital. A graduate of Tel Aviv University Medical School, I’m now a pediatric cardiologist in Northern California, returning to Israel a few times each year to do volunteer work in the occupied territories. I come to help because, due to travel restrictions, pediatric specialty care is relatively unavailable to Palestinian children.

After a day of heart surgery in East Jerusalem, I went to a West Jerusalem hospital to be with my cousin and his family after the birth of his second grandchild. After admiring the new baby and sharing a dinner of two large vegetarian pizzas, I said good-bye and left. Passing through the hospital lobby, I stopped to read a large poster depicting the former medical director of the emergency department, Dr. David Appelbaum.

On Sept. 9, 2003, Dr. Appelbaum was one of seven people killed in a suicide bombing at a café in Jerusalem. Among the dead was his daughter, Nava. They had gone to the café for a father and daughter talk before Nava’s wedding, which was to have taken place the next day. Before the burial, her fiancé placed her wedding ring on the cloth covering her shroud.

And the terrible Khad Gadya machine grinds on …

The very next day, back at the East Jerusalem hospital, I was called to the pediatric intensive care unit to evaluate a quadriplegic 4-year-old Arab girl a month after she was paralyzed by a gunshot wound to the neck. Asil Arara had been playing in a field near her home in Anata, not far from the Separation Wall and the Israeli settlement of Anatot on Oct. 25, 2011.

The Palestinian village of Anata has experienced escalating violence; about a month before Asil was shot, men and women of the village were beaten by Israeli settlers with clubs and pistol butts when they attempted to cultivate their land. And now this – a  4-year-old paralyzed from her neck down, who will require complete and total care every day of her life.

# #

The tragedies of Dr. Appelbaum, his daughter, and Asil underscore the devastating workings of the Khad Gadya machine on both sides – the grinding machinery of an occupation that many Israelis believe must end.

This is not a leftist or defeatist position. This is a practical position, one that’s been promoted by such committed Zionists as David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin, Ami Ayalon and Avraham Shalom. Ayalon and Shalom are both former directors of the Israeli Security Service, the Shin-Bet. These men and thousands of Israelis like them see that it’s impossible for Israeli democracy to survive while trying to ingest and administer the occupied territories.

To quote Shalom; “We must once and for all admit there is another side, that it has feelings, that it is suffering and that we are behaving disgracefully ... this entire behavior is the result of the occupation.”

Isn’t it time to stop the terrible Khad Gadya mahine? Isn’t it time for peace?

About Michael J. Cooper

Michael J. Cooper is the author of “Foxes in the Vineyard,” (www.michaeljcooper.net), an Indie Publishing grand prize-winning novel that explores Israel’s birth through historical fiction. He emigrated to Israel after graduating high school in Oakland, Calif. Living in Israel for more than a decade, he studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and graduated from Tel Aviv University Medical School. Now a clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center and a practicing pediatric cardiologist in Northern California, he returns to Israel several times a year, volunteering on medical missions under the auspices of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

 
Holder Oversight Hearing PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 08 March 2013 14:30

Prepared Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley of Iowa

U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Hearing on Oversight of the Department of Justice

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

 

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today’s oversight hearing focusing on the Justice Department.  It is an important time to discuss the ongoing work of the Department given the President’s reelection to a second term.  I welcome Attorney General Holder.

 

This hearing affords us the opportunity to clear the decks of the many outstanding letters and questions that we have yet to receive from the Department.  For example, we have not received questions for the record from the last oversight hearing held nearly 9 months ago.  We also have questions for the record from Department officials that testified at various hearings that remain outstanding.

 

In addition, there are a number of other inquiries that I haven’t received a response to on important issues.  For example, I haven’t received a response to a letter I sent last week on the impact of budget sequester.  Another letter is outstanding on the failure to prosecute individuals at HSBC for money laundering.  That one was sent in December.  Finally, I have outstanding requests related to the investigation into Operation Fast & Furious, including one that will be outstanding for a year on March 9.

 

It is unfortunate that we always have to start hearings with this same request for the Attorney General to respond to unanswered questions from Congress.

 

Targeted Killing of American Citizens:

 

That said, I have a number of topics I would like to discuss with the Attorney General including the Attorney General’s latest letter to Senator Rand Paul arguing in favor of the President’s ability to use military forces to kill American citizens on U.S. soil without due process of law.

 

This letter is extremely concerning not just in its content, but coupled with the classified memorandums that have been shared with just a few members of Congress, it leaves many questions for Americans about when the government can kill them.

 

This oversight hearing also comes on the heels of an extremely important hearing the House Judiciary Committee held on the topic of targeted killing of Americans using unmanned drones.  This is an issue which Chairman Leahy and I have repeatedly asked the Attorney General about.  Unfortunately, our letters on this matter have often gone unanswered—including our most recent letter to President Obama seeking access to the classified memorandums authorizing the targeted killing of Americans abroad that were produced to members of the Select Committee on Intelligence but not members of the Judiciary Committee.  A couple of weeks ago at a Committee Executive Business Meeting held in the Capitol, I joined Chairman Leahy, Senator Feinstein, and Senator Durbin in discussing the importance of the Judiciary Committee obtaining these memorandums as part of our legitimate oversight function.

 

Despite opinions of this Administration, and the previous one, to the contrary, Congress has a significant role to play in conducting oversight of national security matters.  We have the right to ask for and receive classified information—through appropriate channels and subject to protections—to determine if the activities of the Executive Branch are appropriate.  We have the ability to ask these questions based upon our power to oversee the spending of the Executive Branch and ensure that policies are implemented consistent with Congressional mandates.  As such, in exercising our jurisdiction overseeing the functions of the Justice Department—including the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) which is the likely office that would have issued such memoranda—this Committee has just as much a right to obtain these opinions as those in the Intelligence Committee.

 

This Committee has the precedent of obtaining the most highly classified information in the Government.  For example, in reauthorizing and overseeing the FISA Amendments Act, we obtained, and continue to obtain, highly classified information regarding the operation of this important program.  Similarly, we obtained classified information during the reauthorization of the USA PATRIOT Act and as part of the oversight conducted by the Committee reviewing enhanced interrogation techniques and the role OLC played in issuing those memorandums.

 

Based upon this ample precedent, I call upon the President to answer the letter Chairman Leahy and I sent to him on February 7, 2013.  It is extremely important for us to review these memoranda, especially in light of the public answers provided by CIA Director nominee John Brennan in refusing to categorically deny the possibility of using drones in the targeted killing an American citizen on U.S. soil.

 

In light of the March 4, 2013, letter to Senator Rand Paul where the Attorney General argued that the President could authorize the military to use lethal force on a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil in an effort to protect the U.S. from a catastrophic attack, it is imperative we understand the operational boundaries for the use of such force.  While the letter deals with what is labeled “extraordinary circumstances”, American citizens have a right to understand when their life can be taken by their government absent Due Process of law.  Providing these memoranda for review would go a long way toward complying with the President’s original election promise to have the most transparent Administration ever.

 

Gun Violence:

 

Tomorrow the Committee will begin the task of marking up various legislative proposals for dealing with gun violence.  We have held three hearings on the topic over the past two months and have twice heard witnesses from the Justice Department.  Both times the Department testified, we heard a reiteration of the Department’s support for a ban on semi-automatic rifles with certain cosmetic features deemed “assault rifles”.  However, both times when I asked whether the Department had issued an official opinion determining whether such a ban is constitutional under the Second Amendment in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller, I heard that no opinion has been issued.  Given we will be marking up the bills tomorrow, it would be good to hear from the Attorney General that he will be releasing such an opinion today so members would have time to read it in advance of tomorrow’s mark-up.  Yet, given that we still haven’t responses to questions from the last hearing with Attorney General Holder in June of 2012, I would be surprised if the Justice Department could produce one.

 

That said, there are some areas on the topic of gun violence that the Congress should take up and address.  I continue to believe there is room to discuss a law prohibiting illegal straw purchases and weapons trafficking.  I also believe we must address the Justice Department’s internal procedures for signing off on risky operations where the illegal sale of firearms is sanctioned or coerced by the Justice Department to ensure that these firearms do not fall into the hands of criminals.  This was a significant problem with the ATF’s failed Operation Fast & Furious.  High level officials were not required to individually sign off on these operations and as such, when the ugly details of the ATF allowing nearly 2,000 guns to fall into the hands of bad guys, no one was held accountable for their actions.  Instead, Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, said he never read the affidavit attached the wiretap application referencing the tactics ATF was using, despite the fact that his signature ultimately approved the operation.  This must be fixed to ensure that those sanctioning such conduct are ultimately responsible for ensuring the procedure is used properly and not poorly executed.

 

Aside from legislation specific to firearms, we need to also address mental health, law enforcement responses to gun violence, failures in the current background check system, lack of sufficient numbers of federal prosecutions for gun violence, and the impact violent video games have on mass shootings.  I look forward to tomorrow’s mark-up and future consideration of these topics in the coming weeks on the Senate floor.

 

Failure to Prosecute Banks Deemed “Too Big to Fail”:

 

The Department continues to follow through with an unfortunate policy of continually entering into civil or criminal settlements with large financial institutions that include large fines, but no jail time for the individuals who perpetrate these frauds and wreak havoc on the financial sector and individual lives.  As a result, these companies settle for pennies on the dollar and the cost of these fines simply becomes the cost of doing business for these institutions.  It has led many to believe that financial institutions deemed “too big to fail” by the Treasury Department are also “too big to jail”.

 

What is even more disturbing is that while this distinction was mostly reserved for financial crimes—a position I find flawed in its own regard—this policy appears to have seeped into other misconduct enforced by the Department.  For example, in December 2012, the Department entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with HSBC, a global bank that admitted to violating federal laws designed to prevent drug lords and terrorists from laundering money in the United States.  Let me repeat that, a deferred prosecution agreement for a company involved in money laundering for DRUG LORDS AND TERRORISTS.

 

What’s worse is that the Department publicly proclaimed a “record” settlement in this case where HSBC paid $1.92 billion to the federal government, improved its internal anti-money laundering controls, and submitted to the oversight of an outside monitor for five years.  Despite the fact that this is a “record” settlement, for a bank as gigantic as HSBC, this amounts to less than 11% of HBSC’s profits last year alone, and is a bare fraction of the sums left unmonitored.  Many believe that HSBC may have made a profit from the DPA because it actually made more than $1.92 billion by providing services to drug kingpins and terrorists.

 

I sent a letter to Attorney General Holder expressing my outrage at this DPA on December 13 asking why no employees—not even the ones who turned off the anti-money laundering filters—were prosecuted.  Further, Senator Brown and I sent a letter in January seeking the rationale for why no individuals at these large financial institutions are prosecuted.  The response was woeful and failed to answer our questions, leading us to question whether the Department has something to hide.

 

Simply put, this is a leadership problem and one that needs to be fixed quickly and will be a big part of any effort to confirm a new Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division.

 

Use of Luxury Jets for Executive Travel:

 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report I requested regarding the use of Department luxury jets by Department executives for non-mission travel.  That report found that between Fiscal Year 2007 to Fiscal Year 2011, Department executive’s non-mission travel on these luxury jets totaled 60% of the flight time.  The flights accounted for $11.4 million in taxpayer expenditures for non-mission travel, some of which included personal travel.  The Department executives did reimburse the government for part of the trip, but only the cost of a regular coach fare.  This is significantly less than the tens of thousands of dollars an hour the jets cost to operate.

 

In light of sequester and the general dire fiscal situation the federal government faces, this travel was concerning.  Yet, it was especially concerning given that the justification provided to Congress in 2010 when funds were provided to the FBI to purchase a second Gulfstream G-V was for “counterterrorism missions.”

 

While the Attorney General and FBI Director are now both “required use” travelers, meaning they are required by executive branch policy to take government aircraft for even personal travel, GAO found that until recently, the FBI Director had “the discretion to use commercial air service for personal travel, which he elected to do most of the time to save on the use of government funds.”

 

This GAO report raises a number of troubling questions, especially in light of the proposed spending reductions because of sequester.  Most pressing of which is, should the executives at the Department be using luxury jets for non-mission travel on a jet purchased for counterterrorism missions?

 

Concluding Issues:

 

Time permitting, I would also like to discuss issues related to the ongoing investigation into decisions not to prosecute NASA employees at the Ames Research Center for violations of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR); and the ongoing investigation into the quid pro quo arrangement between the Department and the City of St. Paul, Minnesota where two qui tam False Claims Act cases were declined in exchange for the city dropping a pending case before the Supreme Court.

 

Finally, I would also like to discuss sequester and the Department’s “sky is falling” approach to implementing budget reductions.  I sent a letter to the Attorney General discussing my concerns with the way he planned to implement these reductions asking for a reply in advance of the hearing.

 

I never received a reply.  However, I believe that the way the proposed reductions outlined by the Attorney General in a February 14 letter to the Appropriations Committee, harmed public safety and national security.  These proposals conflict with the principles for implementing sequester that OMB outlined for protecting life, safety and health.

 

I want to know why things like conferences and executive travel weren’t discussed as a source of reductions, yet furloughing special agents in critical violent crime and national security units were.

 

 

Thank you.

 
<< Start < Prev 201 202 203 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 Next > End >>

Page 207 of 452