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The ‘Musical Chairs’ Spiritual Trend PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 28 August 2012 14:45
Polls Show More Non-Denominational Believers; Commingling Disparate Traditions is Good, Author Says

Growing numbers of Americans are changing their relationship with religion, recent Pew Research Center polls indicate.

Consider the stats:

• Forty-four percent of U.S. adults have either switched religious affiliation, or report “no affiliation”

• More than 16 percent report they are unaffiliated with a religion; that includes those who are spiritual but not religious, and agnostics and atheists

• Twenty-eight percent have switched from the religion in which they were raised

“A full-bodied understanding of the truth does not necessarily come neatly packaged in the form of a church or a scientific theory,” says Eli Just, former physics teacher and author of Manny Jones and the Place (www.elijustsupernaturalwriter.com), which links quantum theory, biblical stories and the Mayan precession.

With science developing new concepts about the nature of reality; changing attitudes in institutional religions, and widespread sharing on the internet, more believers are creating their own spiritual narrative -- one that makes more sense to them, he says. Scandals involving sex and money in Christian denominations, which account for more than 78 percent of the faithful in America, have contributed to religious shifting, Just adds.

A recent Pew poll on religion reveals that nearly 40 percent of Americans say there is “too much” religious talk in politics. Many respondents think politicians use religion as a tool for their own benefit, which may serve to increase alienation to religion for the average American, Just says.

Despite wariness on some religious issues, most respondents polled say spirituality plays a significant role in their lives.

“Type in ‘new religious movements’ in Wikipedia and you’ll see the hundreds of religions that have popped up since the 1800s, and those are just the registered ones,” Just says. “As a man of science and faith, and I don’t think the truths of these two traditions are mutually exclusive. After all, Newton was a fervent Christian.”

One of the more recent registered religions was created in 2000 and is called Jediism – a movement based on the philosophical and spiritual ideas posited by Jedi characters in the “Star Wars” movies. Jedi churches often incorporate beliefs from mainstream spiritual traditions including Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and Stoicism.

“Everything is connected, which is probably why so many people come up with such a variety of spiritual perspectives,” Just says. “Personally, however, I don’t think the interconnectivity of everything gives license to the notion that all religions are the same.”

In addition to the new and fascinating data coming from sources like the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, it’s important to remember ideas that are still alive after thousands of years, he says.

“Old religions like Christianity have withstood the test of time,” Just says. “That’s why the majority of Americans remain spiritual and religious in a traditional sense.”

About Eli Just

Eli Just is the author of several books including the popular “Manny Jones” series and “The Eddy.” He has a master’s in history from Southeastern Louisiana University and is a self-taught student of physics, which he taught at the high school level. As a Christian, Just enjoys exploring themes involving physics and its relationship to religion. He lives in northern Georgia.

 
Braley Op-Ed: Paying it Forward – One Year Later PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Amanda Bowman   
Tuesday, 28 August 2012 14:12

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since Andrew Connolly, a Dubuque veteran, passed away from a rare form of cancer in his spinal cord after returning home from his service in Iraq. That day I lost a friend, his wife Jenny and son Brody lost a wonderful husband and father, and Iowa lost one of its greatest sons.

Andrew faced incredible challenges, but throughout it all, he still focused on helping others – “Paying it Forward,” as Andrew would say. When he came back from his tour of duty in Iraq, the apartment he, Jenny, and their son Brody who has special-needs, were living in could no longer accommodate their family’s needs. They knew that Brody would need a handicapped-accessible living environment for the rest of his life.  As Andrew’s cancer spread, it became apparent that there were two members of the household who needed more accessible housing.

They pursued a VA housing grant to help build a handicapped-accessible home, but ran into the same bureaucratic mess that many Iowans experience when dealing with the government.  The Connollys ended up connecting with me, and we worked together to finally secure a VA housing grant for the family.  With the help of that grant, local businesses, and union shops around Dubuque, Andrew and his family were able to stretch their resources and build an accessible home.

This is what Iowa is all about.  Business leaders and union leaders worked together.  Government funding worked with private funding.  Simply put, neighbors came together, and a home was built.

But neither Andrew nor I could understand how wounded men and women returning home from fighting for our country could not even end up with proper housing to accommodate service-connected disabilities.   So Andrew and I worked together to make a change. We introduced a bill called the Andrew Connolly Veterans Housing Act. Andrew testified in the Veterans Affairs Committee in Congress, and together we convinced Democrats and Republicans that our disabled veterans should not go without housing that accommodates their physical needs.

After a lot of work and bipartisan support, the Andrew Connolly Veterans Housing Act was signed into law by President Obama on August 6, 2012 – just a few days after what would have been Andrew’s 29th birthday. The bill extends the adaptive housing grant program for disabled veterans for ten years, through December 31, 2022, and increases the total adaptive housing grant limit from $63,780 to $91,780. This will help many disabled veterans afford necessary, and often very expensive, changes to their home in order to live a fully functional life.

This bill passed because Andrew worked for it, and he even made some of the most unlikely neighbors – Republicans and Democrats in Congress – come together.  He is deeply missed, but he Paid it Forward every day. And although he’s gone, the law bearing his name will continue to Pay it Forward for our wounded warriors for years to come.

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Governor Quinn Signs Law to Detoxify Dry Cleaners PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Erin Wilson   
Tuesday, 28 August 2012 12:59

Use of “perc” now subject to tougher safety measures

CHICAGO – August 24, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law to impose tougher safety measures on the use of perchloroethylene (a solvent commonly known as “perc”) by dry cleaners. House Bill 4526 requires dry cleaners to use “best management practices” while using the solvent. The law is backed by the dry cleaning industry, environmentalists and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

“If improperly handled, dry cleaning solvents can seep into our groundwater and skies, and pose a threat to workers,” Governor Quinn said. “This new law will help protect our drinking water and we salute the dry cleaning industry – and especially the Korean American Drycleaners Association - for partnering with environmental advocates to get this done.”

Sponsored by Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Summit) and Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), this legislation includes improved control and containment systems, better training, and more comprehensive reporting. The law will require all new dry cleaning machines, beginning in 2013, to have “primary and secondary” control systems to reduce the concentration of perc, and to have sealed containment structures to contain leaks or spills by 2014.

“This legislation will significantly reduce future contamination of wells used for drinking water through improved handling and disposal of perchloroethylene through practices that are reasonable and affordable to the thousands of drycleaners across Illinois, many of which are small, family-run businesses,” said John Kim, Interim Director of the Illinois EPA.

"We've known about the dangers of perc for years, so, as an elected official, an Illinois resident and a parent, I am glad we could produce an agreement among small business owners, the Illinois EPA and the General Assembly to protect Illinoisans from this potentially harmful chemical,” said Rep. Zalewski, who helped lead the negotiations.

Under the new law, each dry cleaning facility will be required to have at least one person trained in “best management practices” to be present when operating dry cleaning machines. The training must be approved by the Illinois Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund Council. Proof of training must be available at the dry cleaning facility and a refresher course must be taken every four years.

“Protecting the purity of our state’s drinking water is a serious duty,” said Sen. Steans, Vice-Chair of the Illinois Senate Environment Committee. “This law will modernize the dry cleaning industry and prevent perchloroethylene from reaching our faucets.”

Perc - used for dry cleaning since the 1930s - was the first chemical to be classified as a carcinogen by a federal agency. Wellwater tainted by perc in the Village of Crestwood put the issue front-and-center in 2009. Of the 47 public health warnings issued by the Illinois EPA and Department of Public Health, 36 were due to detection of perchloroethylene.

"This bill is an example of what can happen when people in the dry cleaning industry, environmental advocates and concerned elected officials come together with a common solution,” said Sung Kang, Chairman of the National Drycleaners Institute and past-President of the Korean American Drycleaners Association. "This new law provides protections to both the environment and the industry.”

The new law requires more reporting and transparency. Dry cleaning license renewals must include certification that all hazardous waste is being stored and transported lawfully. Manufacturers of perchloroethylene and other solvents sold in Illinois will be required to provide the Illinois EPA with information so that the Agency can determine if such chemicals are posing a health risk to the environment.

“We were able to bring all stakeholders to the table and arrive at a triple win for Illinois: protecting public health, preserving the environment and bringing economic stability to the dry cleaning industry,” said Melville Nickerson, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, who led negotiations on behalf of environmental groups.

"This bill will help prevent the hazardous dry cleaning chemical perc from contaminating groundwater, while also helping vet safety of new dry cleaning chemicals that may come along to replace perc," said Max Muller, Program Director at Environment Illinois. "We applaud Governor Quinn, the Illinois EPA staff, and the dry cleaning industry for their leadership on this."

There are 994 licensed dry cleaning facilities in Illinois. Last year, about 45,000 gallons of perchloroethylene were purchased in Illinois. The Illinois Drycleaner Environmental Response Trust Fund Council has classified only three dry cleaning solvents as being “green”: carbon dioxide, Propylene Glycol (“Solv-Air”) and “Green Earth.”

Proponents include the Illinois EPA, Korean American Drycleaners Association, National Drycleaners Institute, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Illinois Environmental Council, Environment Illinois, Sierra Club and others. The law is effective immediately.

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Davenport Man Sentenced on Crack Cocaine and Weapons Charges PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Val Quast   
Tuesday, 28 August 2012 12:55
DAVENPORT, IA - On August 23, 2012, Leon Darnell Pye, age 33, of Davenport, Iowa, was sentenced to 219 months imprisonment, having previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine base and possession of a firearm as a felon, announced United States Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt. Chief United States District Court Judge James E. Gritzner also ordered Pye to serve five years of supervised release and pay $100 towards the Crime Victims Fund.

Two co-defendants, Marzel Jones and Robert Ferguson, have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

A police/federal investigation revealed that from approximately September 2009 to January 30, 2011, Pye and others conspired to distribute in excess of 2.8 kilograms of crack cocaine. Pye obtained quantities of crack from multiple sources and distributed the drugs in the Davenport area. Pye stored and cooked crack at the Davenport residence of co-defendant

Ferguson and elsewhere, and Pye stored weapons at Ferguson’s residence. On January 30, 2011, police found Pye’s Uzi .380 caliber pistol and Tech 9 pistol at Ferguson’s residence. This case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Division of Narcotics Enforcement, and the Davenport, Iowa, Police Department. The case was prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

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Governor Quinn Signs Law to Increase Protections for Online Dating PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Erin Wilson   
Tuesday, 28 August 2012 12:44

CHICAGO – August 24, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law to strengthen protections for people who participate in online dating services. Senate Bill 2545 creates the Internet Dating Safety Act, which puts new safeguards in place for those using an Internet dating service. Today's action is the latest by Governor Quinn to increase public safety in Illinois.

“With online dating becoming increasingly popular in the 21st century, it is important to make sure its participants are safe and aware of potential risks,” Governor Quinn said. “This new law will help keep Illinois citizens both financially and physically safe from predators they may unknowingly encounter when using an Internet dating service.”

Sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) and Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg), Senate Bill 2545 requires Internet dating services to let users know if they do or do not conduct criminal background screenings. If they do conduct screenings but continue to allow members with criminal convictions access to services, the service must state that screenings are not “foolproof.” The law also requires Internet dating services to provide a safety awareness notification to its members.

The law is effective immediately.

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