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Americans Can Take Lessons in Surviving the Economy from 1800s Immigrant PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 07:52
A Century Ago, Self-Reliance Wasn’t an Option –
It Was a Requirement, Translator Says

While the current recession continues to hit millions hard, a researcher says the example of our ancestors should inspire us.

“We have become so accustomed to the fruits of our forefathers’ labor that many of us have forgotten just how tough they had it,” says Sigrid Wilshinsky, translator of “My Life in America Before, During and After the Civil War” ( She translated numerous letters from German immigrant Louis Hensel, who wrote about life in the United States throughout the mid-1800s to his German granddaughter, Emma, whom he had never met.

“Reading Hensel’s letters is like peeking through a rip in the curtain of history and seeing through the eyes of one who had experienced so much,” Wilshinsky says.

That includes meeting Abraham Lincoln in the White House while pretending to be a translator to various Native American tribes; life in New York City in the mid 1800s; training the Union Calvary as a master horseman; the adventures of a traveling opera company, and various intimate details of an America that was still untamed yet quickly ascending as a world powerhouse.

Today’s economic troubles are serious and we don’t know exactly where they are heading, Wilshinsky says, “but imagine losing a well-to-do business in France, thanks to a revolution, another in Long Island 10 years later, and yet another in Williamsburg (in Brooklyn) because of illness.”

Wilshinsky provides tips for surviving today’s economic woes via inspiration from Hensel’s example:

• A jump-starter: Hensel writes that many immigrants who landed in New York took a few weeks to settle in, sightsee, and get accustomed to city life in America before seeking work. Not him; he writes that after acquiring comfortable lodgings – procured by a friend -- he immediately walked the streets to find work, which he found at the end of his second day in the United States.

• Capitalize on all your talents: Before fleeing Paris, Hensel had a thriving engraving company. He was able to use this skill to immediately land a job. Hensel continually honed his knowledge in order to work in a variety of capacities, Wilshinsky says. He learned equine veterinary medicine in his spare time, made nightly runs to the fruit and vegetable market in New York for produce sales, joined local theater groups and was hired by the German Opera Company, with whom he traveled the United States during the winters.

• An indefatigable work ethic: For Hensel, not working was never an option. While writing his letters to Emma during his later years – he lived to be 91 – he discussed life as a music teacher to locals, which meant plenty of traveling. Always an active man, Hensel loathed physical inactivity, and work was a way of life for him.

• A helping spirit: Although Wilshinsky says Hensel may have “bragged a bit” about his deeds, he was nonetheless heroic in his aid to others during numerous incidents.

• An open heart/open mind: Hensel naturally gravitated toward well-educated people, and he learned from them. He valued honesty and integrity in his business dealings, which earned him trust, respect and a strong network of friends and colleagues.

About Sigrid Wilshinsky

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1943, Sigrid Wilshinsky’s family escaped into West Germany in 1952. She benefited from a world-class education in Berlin, where she focused on art, and immigrated to the United States in 1962. She has since traveled the world as a stewardess and eventually became a resident of the Pocono Mountains, where she has befriended the local wildlife. Like Louis Hensel, the German-born renaissance man of the 1800s whose letters she translated, Wilshinsky is a multitalented individual with many interests.

Loebsack Calls on Social Security Administration to Reform COLA PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 09:42

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack, in response to the announcement that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries in 2013 will be 1.7 percent, called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reform the way this adjustment is calculated.

“I was raised in poverty by my grandmother, who relied on Social Security survivors benefits to care for my brothers and me, so I understand how difficult it is for seniors to get by on fixed incomes,” wrote Loebsack.  “Particularly in these difficult times, it is imperative that Social Security benefits keep up with inflation.  It is important to remember that the yearly COLA is not a benefits increase, but rather it is intended to ensure that monthly payments keep up with the rising costs of essential expenses.”

The COLA in 2012 was 3.6 percent, after two years of no COLA in 2010 or 2011.  Loebsack urged the SSA to work with Congress to reform the way the adjustment is determined to ensure that benefits keep up with the increase in seniors’ everyday expenses.

A copy of the letter sent by Loebsack can be found here.


Simon announces opening of new training facility PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Justin Stofferahn   
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 13:55

Will improve efforts to train workers for green jobs

CHAMPAIGN – October 16, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon announced the opening of a new facility at the University of Illinois that will help improve training for workers that weatherize homes through a state program that offers low-income residents an opportunity to improve their homes’ energy efficiency.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 6,700 square foot Indoor Climate Research and Training Center, Simon, who serves as Governor Quinn’s point person on education reform, said the center will help better prepare workers for green jobs in the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) through increased hands-on training.

“In order to compete for the jobs of the 21st Century our workers need the right training,” Simon said. “This new training facility will provide workers with the hands-on training needed for jobs in home weatherization, allowing them to ensure families maximize the potential to lower their energy bills and live more comfortably.”

The training facility will provide classroom space and hands-on application areas for trainees completing the Weatherization Training and Certification Program at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center located in Champaign. Graduates will provide weatherization services to low income families that qualify for assistance from IHWAP.

Trainees include weatherization subcontractors and staff from the 35 not-for-profit organizations across the state that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity works with to administer the assistance program. The organizations identify applicants, evaluate homes, determine the scope of work and contract with weatherization contractors to complete work. Contractors use the training they receive to bid for both IHWAP and private-sector weatherization projects.

The assistance program provides free weatherization services including air sealing, attic and wall insulation, furnace repairs or replacements and window and door work to low-income families. Over the last three years the program has weatherized over 42,000 homes, with nearly 20,000 homes weatherized in the past year. Weatherization typically reduces household energy consumption by 12 to 25 percent and improves indoor environmental health and safety, according to DCEO.

“The Indoor Climate Research and Training Center will help put people to work making low-income homes more comfortable for residents,” said David Vaught, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “The program marks an important economic opportunity for the state and prepares workers for jobs in Illinois’ expanding green economy.”

Funding for the training center was provided by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program. The facility will feature props, videos and other interactive materials that will enhance the hands-on training for weatherization assessors and workers, according to Manohar Kulkarni, the director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) at the University of Illinois.

The training currently is offered to ISTC-related subcontractors, but going forward the certificate program will be open to the public, Kulkarni said.

“The ISTC has been proud to partner with DCEO to provide the most up-to-date training for workers providing services for the IHWAP program,” said Kulkarni. “Over the last year we have trained about 300 individuals who took 900 training classes. Over the five years the same numbers are 600 and 2500, respectively. These are impressive indeed and the new facility will allow us to expand upon those efforts including research on indoor human health and comfort issues in buildings.”

The ISTC houses the weatherization training program and is among the five state scientific surveys at the Prairie Research Institute. The other surveys are the Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey and the Illinois State Water Survey.

Following the ribbon-cutting Simon chaired a meeting of the Illinois River Coordinating Council, which works closely with the ISTC to promote the environmental and economic health of the Illinois River and its tributaries. The council is composed of a diverse group of citizens, not-for-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies, and holds quarterly meetings across the state to gather local input on conservation issues.


Grassley, Heller, Amodei Press for Answers on Impact of Reno US Attorney/ATF Rift PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 09:49

WASHINGTON – Senators Chuck Grassley and Dean Heller and Representative Mark Amodei are pressing Attorney General Eric Holder for information about the cases that were not prosecuted during a fall-out between the Reno, Nevada offices of the U.S. Attorney and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).


A recent article in the Reno Gazette Journal indicated that the U.S. Attorney’s office may have declined or dismissed as many as a dozen cases that were submitted by the ATF.


“The Justice Department has yet to respond to any of Congress’ questions about what happened in Reno for more than a year.  It’s an abdication of responsibility on the part of the Justice Department, and if these crimes weren’t prosecuted, whether because of actions of the U.S. Attorney or the ATF, the people of Nevada should know why,” Grassley said.


"This breakdown within the Department of Justice is a threat to public safety. There is no question this problem should have been addressed some time ago. The Department of Justice needs to explain why they allowed this problem to fester. I will continue to work with Senator Grassley and Congressman Amodei to get answers and hold the Department of Justice accountable," said Heller.


"The Department of Justice owes Nevadans an explanation and a solution. That it has failed to provide either, let alone demonstrate a sense of concern or urgency, is disappointing. I will continue to work with Senators Grassley and Heller to ensure this problem receives the attention it deserves," Amodei said.


A copy of the text of the letter is below.  A signed copy of the letter can be found here.




The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530


Dear Attorney General Holder:


We are in receipt of the Department’s October 12, 2012, letter regarding the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Reno.


On September 28, 2012, we understand that ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones and U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden released a public statement, although neither the Justice Department nor ATF took any steps to notify any of our offices about the statement before we learned about it from public news accounts.  In that statement, Acting Director Jones and U.S. Attorney Bogden reportedly said: “The United States Attorney’s Office in Nevada is accepting, for review and potential prosecution, all cases and matters referred to it by ATF.  The United States Attorney’s Office and ATF are reviewing the allegations and will work to address any issues that could impact the effectiveness of their law enforcement efforts to protect the public from violent crime.”


According to recent accounts by the Reno Gazette Journal, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada may have declined or dismissed as many as a dozen cases that had been submitted to it by ATF.[1] Therefore, please provide answers to the following questions:


1)      Is the U.S. Attorney’s Office re-considering the cases that it formerly declined when submitted to it by ATF?


2)      If so, how long will it take to conduct reviews of those cases?

3)      Who within the U.S. Attorney’s Office would conduct the review?

4)      In the course of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s dispute with ATF, how many of the ATF cases declined by the U.S. Attorney’s Office would be barred within the next six months by statutes of limitations?  For each such case, precisely when would the statute of limitations expire?


Please provide a response and produce these documents by Thursday, October 25, 2012.  If you have any questions concerning this matter, please contact Senator Grassley’s staff at (202) 224-5225, Senator Heller’s staff at (202) 224-6244, or Representative Amodei’s staff at (202) 225-6155.



Chuck Grassley

Dean Heller

Mark Amodei



cc:       The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General

U.S. Department of Justice


B. Todd Jones, Acting Director

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives


The Honorable Daniel G. Bogden, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada

U.S. Department of Justice


[1] Martha Bellisle, ATF cases U.S. Attorney’s office in Reno refused to prosecute, Reno Gazette Journal (Oct. 9, 2012), available at

Branstad, Reynolds issue statement on the passing of state Senator Pat Ward PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 08:49

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds issued the following statements today upon learning of the passing of state Sen. Pat Ward:

“I was with shock and sadness that learned of my friend Pat Ward’s passing. She had a wonderful career in public service, and was such a caring and passionate person. As a senator, she was a champion for her district, took the time to get to know the issues, and worked in a bipartisan manner to enact meaningful legislation on behalf of her constituents. She always had a positive outlook on life, even in illness, and her smile would brighten each room she entered. The thoughts and prayers of Chris and I are extended to her large network of family, friends and constituents,” – Gov. Terry E. Branstad

“Having served with Pat in the Senate, I witnessed firsthand her dedication to the state of Iowa, and her incredible work every day on behalf of her constituents. Pat Ward was a dear friend, and the news of her passing is incredibly difficult and painful to hear. I hope all Iowans will look at her example, the way she cared for others and worked to make the world a better place, and remember her significant life and achievements. Our administration will miss her as a policy maker, and we all will personally miss her as a friend.” – Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds


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