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Iowa Farmers, Gardeners Battle Dry Conditions, Japanese Beetles as Crops, Plants Feel the Heat PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Heather Lilienthal   
Friday, 20 July 2012 13:13

IOWA FARMERS, GARDENERS BATTLE DRY CONDITIONS, JAPANESE BEETLES AS CROPS, PLANTS FEEL THE HEAT FROM MOTHER NATURE

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – July 18, 2012 – Gardeners and farmers across the state aren’t only worrying about the effects of the scorching sun on their plants, they’re also taking stock of the damage caused by hordes of iridescent insects that are chewing away produce and profits.

The culprit: Japanese beetles. They’re taking a bite out of Iowa gardens and farmers’ fields.

According to Iowa State University (ISU) Extension (http://www.extension.iastate.edu/article/yard-and-garden-japanese-beetles-0), the beetles feed on 300 different types of foliage and they are difficult to control. For gardeners with small plots, one of the best ways to combat the bug is to shake them off of the plants. ISU Horticulturalist Richard Jauron says the best time to physically remove Japanese beetles is early morning when the beetles are sluggish. Collect or shake beetles into a bucket of soapy water and discard the carnage.  If that doesn’t work, using an insecticide is the next step.

For farmers with hundreds of acres of soybeans, the small insects represent an even bigger problem. Steve Swenka, a farmer in Tiffin, says the Japanese beetles are a result of the dry conditions.

“If we had plentiful rains, those insects would be knocked down from the plants and washed away. Plus, it would encourage new plant growth to replace the damage caused by the beetles,” says Swenka. “This season’s dry weather has compounded that problem.”

Dustin Sage farms near Dunkerton and says the beetles are showing up in his corn and soybean fields, too. He says farmers are carefully applying insecticide to their fields in an effort to curb the damage. Protecting the crops will keep the plants healthy.

ISU Extension says Japanese beetles are present for about six to eight weeks every summer. Adult beetles usually begin to emerge from the ground in mid-June and new adults continue to appear through July. Each beetle lives from 30 to 45 days.

Farmers and gardeners alike are definitely counting down those days.

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Advocate Offers Tips to Prevent & Spot Child Sexual Abuse PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 20 July 2012 13:07

Instances of child abuse increase during the summer, with some shelters and child advocacy centers actually doubling their caseloads, according to anecdotal reports.

While these tragedies include everything from neglect to beatings, child advocate  Michelle Bellon, author of The Complexity of a Soldier (www.MichelleBellon.com), says parents and caregivers should be especially alert to one of the most easily hidden and underreported crimes: child sexual abuse. Her novel centers on this epidemic, and aims to raise awareness about it.

“Children may be less supervised during the summer, or they may be in the care of extended family members so their parents can save money on child care,” she says. “Both situations put children at risk; the former for obvious reasons and the latter because 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know the offender.”

Child predators are terrorists, Bellon says. Like the terrorists we deploy armies to battle overseas, they prey on innocents and subject them to physical and emotional torture. The consequences can be devastating and lifelong, including post-traumatic stress disorder and separation anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association reports.

“Does this sound like anything else we have heard about since 9/11? To me, it is very similar to what victims of terrorism face, and what soldiers face after fighting wars,” Bellon says. “I think child predators should be called what they are – domestic terrorists.”

Bellon shares these guidelines from a number of sources, including the Centers for Disease Control, to keep children safe this summer.

• When choosing a summer program, ask about employee (and volunteer) screening and how interactions are monitored. A criminal background check is not sufficient to ferret out sexual abusers, since many have never been charged or convicted. Instead the program should look for warning signs in written applications and interviews. For instance, some predator adults spend all of their time with children and have no significant adult relationships. Policies on interactions between adults and children should include examples of appropriate and inappropriate conduct, and definitive steps for both monitoring and addressing concerns and complaints.

• Ask about the training. Staff and even temporary volunteers should undergo training to recognize signs of sexual abuse and to learn when it’s appropriate to report concerns. There should be a designated person to handle reports. Training should be required for staff and volunteers who come on board midway through the summer. Policies should include procedures for handling not just potential abuse, but also violations of the code of conduct for interactions.

• Ask about interactions between older and younger children. Some programs allow older children to serve as “junior counselors” or activity assistants. Ask about the guidelines for these situations, including whether and how long children may be unsupervised by an adult.

• Make sure children understand “personal boundaries.” Teach children the importance of recognizing and respecting the invisible barriers that separate them from other people. They should be able to recognize their comfort zone – and that of others! – and know that they can and should speak up about setting limits. Start at home by respecting a child’s right to say “no” to physical contact, such as tickling and hugs. Never force a child to kiss a relative.

• Recognize signs of a problem. Children often won’t or can’t tell you what’s happening, but there are signs to watch for, including changes in behavior such as withdrawal or unprovoked crying, night terrors, bedwetting, eating problems, unexplained injuries, suddenly avoiding a particular person, and unusual interest in or knowledge of sexual matters.

About Michelle Bellon

Michelle Bellon earned her associate degree in nursing, and lives with her husband and four children in Olympia, Wash. She is the author of four novels, including “The Complexity of a Soldier,” which deals with the issue of child sexual abuse.

 
Governor Quinn Signs Laws to Increase Protections for Consumers PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Nafia Khan   
Friday, 20 July 2012 13:05

New Laws Protect Consumers from False Charges, Help them Resolve Billing and Credit Issues and Increase Utility Choice

CHICAGO - July 18, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today continued his long history of fighting for consumers by signing four new laws that will increase protections for consumers. The new laws ban false phone charges known as “cramming,” lower utility costs for consumers and help them resolve billing and credit issues to improve their credit scores. The governor was joined by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, legislators and members of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), the consumer rights watchdog group founded by Governor Quinn 30 years ago.

“When everyday people work together for the common good, we can improve our state,” Governor Quinn said. “We need to keep fighting for consumer rights in Illinois and ensure those rights are protected from those who would take advantage of them.”

House Bill 5211, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Burke (D-Evergreen Park) and Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), would ban third-party vendors from charging customers for unwanted services, a practice known as cramming, starting Jan. 1, 2013. The bill was an initiative of the Attorney General’s office, which found vendors using deceptive sales pitches and placing unauthorized charges on consumers’ phone bills for things they never intended to buy including calling cards, voice mail service, credit repair services, extended warranties and toll-free numbers for free long distance service.

Most often, these charges range from $10 to $45 dollars and go undetected because consumers do not pay attention to all the details in their phone bills. According to the Attorney General’s Office, phone bill "cramming" is a $2 billion a year business. An estimated 15 to 20 million American households receive at least 300 million third-party charges on their bills each year. Only about one out of every 20 cramming victims becomes aware of the charges.

“Today we can finally put an end to a pervasive scam that has allowed phone companies to rake in $2 billion a year by ‘cramming’ charges on subscribers’ bills for unwanted and unused services,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Far too many consumers have opened their monthly phone bills to find bogus charges they never authorized. I applaud the governor for his support of this law to stop to our phone numbers being used as credit cards by scammers.”

“This is an important measure to save consumers from hassle,” said Rep. Burke. “This new law will prevent lots of businesses, nonprofits and everyday citizens from encountering this practice.”

“No one should have to pay for services they don’t want and didn’t order,” said Sen. Koehler.  “The fact that ‘cramming’ scam artists target seniors and other vulnerable Illinois residents makes me especially proud that we are outlawing this practice.”

Governor Quinn also signed three additional laws to require utilities to notify credit-reporting bureaus when billing issues have been resolved and allow townships to aggregate power purchasing, which will increase competition and lower costs. The new laws are designed to lower utility costs for consumers and help them resolve billing and credit issues.

House Bill 5025, sponsored by Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago) and Sen. John Mulroe (D-Chicago) will help consumers resolve negative action on their credit scores by requiring public utilities to notify credit reporting agencies when a customer has paid off their outstanding balances in full. This measure will allow utility customers to be more quickly relieved of pressure from collection agencies and help them improve their credit scores. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

Senate Bill 3170 sponsored by Rep. JoAnn Osmond (R-Antioch) and Sen. Suzi Schmidt (R-Lake Villa), allows townships to participate in electrical aggregation the same way counties and municipalities can under current law. Aggregation allows for greater group energy purchasing, which increases competition and lowers costs for consumers. According to the Illinois Commerce Commission, more than 90 municipalities have become power aggregators since 2010, which has allowed for greater consumer savings. The law goes into effect immediately.

Senate Bill 3811, sponsored by Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) and Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) protects the ability of certain groups to continue to benefit from “net metering,” which allows customers who generate their own renewable energy to sell excess power back to an electricity provider. The new law takes into account the increased aggregation and alternative energy sources more Illinois communities are now using. The measure provides that net metering customers will be treated equally regardless of the competitiveness of their local energy market. The law goes into effect immediately.

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Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty Hails 34th Senate Signature Rejecting L.O.S.T. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Travis Korson   
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 08:41
Washington, D.C., July 18, 2012- The Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty applauds the announcement that opponents of Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) have secured enough votes to block ratification. The count of 34 votes rejecting the treaty was reached when Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) signed onto letter of opposition circulated by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), and Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) issued their own letter publicly expressing their opposition to the treaty.
The victory comes after a culmination of efforts by Americans across the country, Congressional leadership as well as the Coalition and other military, business and conservative leaders, to express their concerns that LOST’s ratification would prove inimical to both the national security interests and sovereignty of the United States.
On June 14th a group of senior retired U.S. military leaders – who had earned among them a total of 33 stars – released a letter through the Coalition voicing serious concerns regarding LOST. This letter was sent on the day Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, convened a hearing on LOST featuring six currently serving U.S. military commanders – what he has called his “24-star panel” – who argued in favor of ratification. Since then, several additional military leaders, including two former Chiefs of Naval Operations - for a total of three - have signed on as well.
On June 28th a group of oil and gas industry leaders also sent a letter to Committee Chairman John Kerry, to provide an alternate opinion to a business hearing for the treaty where only proponents of the treaty were allowed to testify. Their letter expressed serious concerns about the net effect this accord would have on U.S. national, as well as commercial, interests.
The 34 Senators who have expressed opposition to the treaty are as follows:
  • Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH)
  • Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
  • Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
  • John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
  • John Boozman (R-Ark.)
  • Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
  • Dan Coats (R-Ind.)
  • Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
  • John Cornyn (R-Texas)
  • Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)
  • Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)
  • Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
  • Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
  • Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
  • John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
  • Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)
  • Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA)
  • Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)
  • Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)
  • Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)
  • Mike Lee (R-Utah)
  • Jerry Moran (R-Kansas)
  • Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
  • Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • Jim Risch (R-Idaho)
  • Pat Roberts (R-Kansas)
  • Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
  • Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
  • Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)
  • John Thune (R-S.D.)
  • Pat Toomey (R-Penn.)
  • David Vitter (R-La.)
  • Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. of the Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty said:
Today’s announcement that the Senate opponents of the Law of the Sea Treaty have secured sufficient commitments to block ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty is a great victory for American sovereignty. Despite Senator Kerry’s efforts to present a selective rendering of this treaty the truth about LOST emerged - due in large part to the tireless efforts of a team of legislators and their staff and public spirited citizens who aroused their countrymen to the perils associated with LOST. The country owes a debt of gratitude to these patriots. The decision clearly shows that when the public is presented with an unadulterated perspective on the issues, they will arrive at the proper conclusion.
Military leaders who expressed their opposition to LOST through the Coalition include:
  • Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, USA (Ret.), former Commanding General, U.S. Army Special Forces Command; former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
  • Adm. Bruce Demars USN (Ret.), former Director Naval Nuclear Propulsion
  • Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, USN (Ret.), former Chief of Naval Operations
  • Admiral Jim Holloway, USN (Ret.) former Chief of Naval Operations
  • Adm. Frank Kelso USN (Ret.), former Chief of Naval Operations
  • Adm. G.E.R. Kinnear II, USN (Ret.), former U.S. Member of the NATO Military Committee
  • Gen. Richard L. Lawson, USAF (Ret.), former Deputy Commander-in Chief, Headquarters U.S. European Command
  • Adm. James “Ace” Lyons, Jr., USN (Ret.), former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
  • Lt. Gen. Thomas G. McInerney, USAF (Ret.), former Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, USAF
  • Vice Adm. Robert Monroe, USN (Ret.), former Director of Navy Research, Development Testing and Evaluation
  • Gen. Carl E. Mundy, Jr., USMC (Ret.), former Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Adm. Leighton “Snuffy” Smith, USN (Ret.), former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Navy Forces Europe and NATO Allied Forces Southern Europe
Business leaders who expressed their opposition to LOST through the Coalition include:
  • Raul Brito, President, Brito Oil Company
  • Steve Dillard, Vice President, Pickrell Drilling Company
  • Mike Dixon, Owner, Dixon Oil and Gas, Inc.
  • Hon. Dennis Hedke, Owner, Hedke Saenger Geoscience Ltd.
  • Bill Johnson, Partner, McCoy Petroleum Corporation
  • A. Scott Ritchie III, President, Ritchie Exploration, Inc.
  • Scott Stewart, Owner, Bird Dog Oil LLC
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FDA whistleblower spying scandal PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 15:46

Floor Speech of Sen. Chuck Grassley

FDA Whistleblower Spying

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I rise today to speak about a federal agency that has forgotten that it works for the American public.

This is an agency that has gotten too big for its britches.

Some of its officials have forgotten who pays their salaries.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is supposed to work to protect the American people.

Except lately, the only thing the FDA bureaucrats seem to have any interest in protecting is themselves.

According to whistleblowers and published reports in the Washington Post and New York Times, the agency in charge of safeguarding American public safety has trampled on the privacy of its employees.

The FDA mounted an aggressive campaign against employees who dared to question its actions and created what the New York Times termed an “enemies list” of people it considered dangerous.

The FDA has been spying on this “enemies list.”

The FDA has been spying on the personal emails of these employees and everyone they contacted.

That includes their protected communications with Congress.

We would not have known the extent of the spying if internal FDA documents about it had not been released on the Internet, apparently by accident.

We would not have known how the FDA intentionally targeted and capture confidential, personal emails between the whistleblowers, their lawyers, and Congress.

In these internal documents that FDA never wanted the public to see, it refers to the whistleblowers as “collaborators.”

FDA refers to congressional staff as “ancillary actors.”

FDA refers to the newspaper reporters as “media outlet actors.”

These memos make the FDA sound more like the East German Stasi than a consumer protection agency in a free country.

At the beginning of Commissioner Hamburg’s term she said whistleblowers exposed critical issues within FDA.

She vowed to create a culture that values whistleblowers.

In fact, in 2009, she said, and I quote, “I think whistleblowers serve an important role.”

I wanted to believe Commissioner Hamburg when she testified before the Senate during her confirmation.

I wanted to believe her when she said she would protect whistleblowers at the FDA.

However, the facts now appear very different.

In this case the FDA invaded the privacy of multiple whistleblowers.

It hacked into their private e-mail accounts and used sophisticated keystroke logging software to monitor their every move online.

When an FDA supervisor was placed under oath in the course of an equal employment opportunity complaint, he testified that the FDA was conducting “routine security monitoring.”

That is false.

This monitoring was anything but routine.

It was targeted specifically at five whistleblowers.

It intentionally captured their private emails to attorneys, Congress, and the Office of Special Counsel.

The internal documents show that this was a unique, highly sophisticated, and highly specialized operation.

According to the Office of Inspector General, the FDA had no evidence of any criminal wrong-doing by the whistleblowers.

This massive campaign of spying was not just an invasion of privacy; it was specifically designed to intercept communications that are protected by law.

The Office of Special Counsel is an agency created by Congress to receive whistleblower complaints and protect whistleblowers from retaliation.

The law protects communications with the Special Counsel as a way to encourage whistleblowers to report waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, or threats to public safety without fear of retaliation.

The FDA knew that contacts between whistleblowers and the Office of Special Counsel are privileged and confidential.

But, the James Bond wanna-be’s at the FDA just didn’t care.

In the end, the self-appointed spies turned out to be more like the bumbling Maxwell Smart.

Along with their own internal memos about the spying, the fruits of their labor were also accidentally posted on the Internet.

It’s tens of thousands of pages of emails and pictures of the whistleblowers’ computer screens, containing some of the very same information that the FDA bureaucrats were so keen to keep secret.

When I started asking questions about this, FDA officials seemed to suffer from a sudden bout of collective amnesia.

It took them more than six months to answer my letter from last January.

When I pushed for a reply during those six months, FDA told my staff that that the response would take time to make sure it was accurate and complete.

When I finally got the response on Friday, it doesn’t even answer the simplest of questions, such as who authorized this targeted spy ring.

Worse than that, it is misleading in its denials about intentionally intercepting communications with Congress.

When I asked them why they couldn’t just answer some simple questions, they told my staff that the response was under review by the “appropriate officials in the Administration.”

The non-answers and double-speak would have fit right into a George Orwell novel.

Of course, when my staff dug deeper and asked if the response was being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, FDA responded, no.

FDA refused to identify who within the Administration was holding up the FDA’s response to my letter.

FDA refused to say how long it had been sitting on that person’s desk or why it had to be approved by political officials outside the FDA.

Who is this shadowy figure conducting some secret review of FDA’s response to my questions?

Why was there all of the sudden interest in exerting political control over the correspondence of this supposedly independent Federal agency?

We need answers and we need them now.

I have been demanding answers for six months.

For the past six months FDA has been telling me to be patient.

FDA has been telling me that they have “a good story to tell.”

Apparently, though, there’s someone in the Obama Administration who didn’t want them to say anything for as long as possible.

I finally got Commissioner Hamburg on the phone in June.

Commissioner Hamburg personally assured me that the FDA was going to fully cooperate with my investigation.

Yet – the FDA has provided me with nothing but misleading and incomplete responses.

The FDA has failed to measure up to Commissioner Hamburg’s pledge of cooperation.

The FDA buried its head in the sand in hopes that I will lose interest and go away.

That’s not going to happen.

I don’t care who is in charge of the executive branch, Republican or Democrat, I will not stop demanding answers.

When government bureaucrats obstruct and intercept my communications with protected whistleblowers, I will not stop.

When government bureaucrats stonewall for months on end, I will not stop.

When government bureaucrats try and muddy the waters and mislead, I will not stop.

I will get to the bottom of it.

I will continue to press the FDA until we know who authorized spying on whistleblowers.

Someone within the FDA specifically authorized spying on private communications with my office and with several other Members of Congress.

Someone at FDA specifically authorized spying on private communications with Congressman Van Hollen’s office.

Someone at FDA specifically authorized spying on private communications with staff at the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Someone at FDA specifically authorized spying on private communications with the Office of Special Counsel.

These whistleblowers thought the FDA was approving drugs and treatments that it shouldn’t.

These whistleblowers thought the FDA was caving to pressure from the companies that were applying for FDA approval.

They have a right to express those concerns without fear of retaliation.

But after doing so, two of them were fired.

Two more were forced to leave FDA.

And five of them were subjected to an intense spying campaign.

Senior FDA officials may have broken the law.

They authorized the capturing of personal email passwords through keystroke logging software.

That potentially allowed them to log in to the whistleblowers’ personal email accounts and access emails that were never even accessed from a work computer.

Without a subpoena or warrant, that would be a criminal violation.

After six months, FDA finally denied that occurred.

However, that denial was based on the word of one unnamed information technology employee involved in the monitoring.

We need a more thorough investigation than that.

I have asked the FDA to make that person and several other witnesses available for interviews with my staff.

We will see how cooperative FDA plans to be now.

I will continue to press the FDA to open every window and every door.

Eventually enough sunlight on this agency will cleanse it.

FDA gets paid to protect the public, not keep us in the dark.

Secret monitoring programs, spying on Congress, and retaliating against whistleblowers—this is a sad commentary on the state of affairs at the FDA.

I know there are hard-working and principled rank and file employees at FDA who care very much about their mission to protect the American public from harm.

Unfortunately, all too often those rank and file employees are unfairly tarnished by others such as those involved in this spy ring.

This is a sad commentary on President Obama’s promise to the American people that this would be the most transparent Administration in history.

The American people can’t lose faith in the FDA.

Unfortunately, after this debacle, I think that I have.

FDA has a lot of work to do to restore the public’s trust.

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