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Physican Payments Sunshine Act delays PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 13:56
Friday, May 4, 2012

Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Herb Kohl, authors of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, today made the following comments on news that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) needs more time to implement the act and will not begin data collection until 2013.  CMS’ statement is available here.

Grassley said, “It’s disappointing that CMS won’t even collect data at all this year.  The process has dragged on long past the statutory deadline for implementation.  Consumers need to know more about the financial relationships between their doctors and drug companies sooner rather than later.   It’s important that CMS get this right in every way, including the usefulness and accuracy of the information.  Given all of the extra time, CMS will have no further excuses for not accomplishing these goals.”

Kohl said, “While I am disappointed by this delay and the timeline, I do look forward to working with CMS to finalize the rules so that data collection can begin in January 2013.”

The senators developed the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which was signed into law in 2010, after revelations of significant under-reporting of the amount of payments received by certain doctors from drug and device companies.  The new law requires public disclosure of the financial relationships between physicians and the pharmaceutical, medical device and biologics industries. The law required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish reporting procedures for applicable manufacturers to submit information, as well as procedures for making that information available to the public, by October 1, 2011. CMS issued the guidance in December after more than a year of pushing for a timely release from Grassley and Kohl.

Grassley and Kohl have written to the acting CMS administrator with questions about implementation, including when CMS will begin data collection.

The text of the Grassley-Kohl April 4 letter to the acting CMS administrator is available here.

The acting CMS administrator’s May 3 response is available here.

 
Public Warned To Avoid Circus Performances Due To Serious Animal Welfare And Public Safety Concerns PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Catherine Doyle   
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 13:55
Circus performing In Illinois is target of federal charges following In Defense of Animals’ complaints

East Moline, Ill. (May 4, 2012) – Following multiple complaints made by In Defense of Animals (IDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has filed numerous charges against the Liebling Brothers Circus (aka Great American Family Circus) for willful violations of the Animal Welfare Act that include inhumane care and unsafe handling that put the public at risk. The circus will be performing this weekend in East Moline and at the Rock Island County Fairgrounds on May 5 and 6.

“The Liebling Brothers Circus has finally been exposed for its flagrant mistreatment of animals and for subjecting families and children to unsafe conditions,” said IDA Elephant Campaign Director Catherine Doyle. “Families that care about being kind to animals should avoid the Liebling Brothers Circus and any other circuses that force wild animals to perform.”

The more than 30 violations cited by the USDA include repeated noncompliance with federal requirements for veterinary care, safe handling, and housing from 2007 through 2011. The charges specifically cite:

•       Failure to provide veterinary care for elephant Nosey’s chronic skin condition, leaving her with thickened layers of dry, cracked dead skin
•       Chaining Nosey so tightly that she could not move or lie down, and keeping her in filthy conditions
•       Handling Nosey in a way that was dangerous to the public
•       The escape of a spider monkey

The USDA has also confirmed that yet another investigation is pending on Liebel, following recent complaints filed by IDA that concerned his children, who are minors, handling a dangerous wild animal in public (the elephant Nosey). This could lead to even more charges being filed. Nosey has a history of aggression, and seriously injured an inexperienced adult handler in 2004.

IDA has been monitoring this circus owned by Hugo Liebel for several years and has filed multiple complaints with the USDA for willful violations of federal animal protection law that endangered the animals and families attending the circus.

“This is just one more example of why wild animals do not belong in circuses, where they are cruelly trained, chained and intensively confined, and forced to travel and perform,” added IDA’s Doyle. “No compassionate family should want to be a part of that.”

For more information, please visit www.HelpElephants.com.

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Bullying the Farm Kid PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Laurie Johns   
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 13:40

It’s a parent’s nightmare; seeing your child bullied for standing up for his lifestyle or what he believes.  When your child is targeted or ridiculed by another child, you see it as an opportunity for intervention; teach appropriate behavior so each child comes to appreciate their differences while hopefully becoming more respectful adults.

But, what do you do if your child is bullied by an adult, an adult who disagrees with your child’s lifestyle or pokes fun at his passion?  That’s what happened to Jamie Pudenz at the recent FFA Convention in Ames.

Jamie, a shy farm kid from Carroll, is one of those rare finds; a teenager who works hard, doesn’t complain and speaks glowingly about his parents, his teachers, his fellow students.  He sets the bar high for himself and constantly strives to push himself.  His passion for the land and livestock is the very quality you hope all future farmers possess.

FFA Advisor Kolby Burch says when this football-playing  junior takes on a new project, he tackles it with the seriousness of a preacher preparing for a Sunday sermon.  It was quite a challenge for him to enter the FFA Public Speaking contest.  His entry, “Unveiling the HSUS and the Need for Animal Agriculture,” was written with passion.   He spent months preparing and practicing out-loud.  He sailed through preliminary contests, but took the stage at state, knowing it was a controversial subject for a wider audience. “I knew going to the state level, I’d face resistance; I put it in the back of my head, just went to the front of the room, took a deep breath and got started,” said Jamie.

According to the rules, the purpose of the FFA Public Speaking event is “to develop agricultural leadership, communication skills and promote interest in leadership and citizenship by providing member participation in agricultural public speaking activities.”  While the rules state that judges don’t need an ag background, they should all be ‘competent and impartial.’  Normally, judges are chosen well in-advance, but because of a scheduling snag, a last-minute FFA alumni from Illinois became the third judge.

As soon as Jamie finished his speech, the volunteer judge, decked out in Birkenstock sandals, white socks, a rumpled cotton shirt and jeans, leaned forward and asked, “Is feeding cattle 100 percent efficient?”   Jamie wasn’t sure at first what to say.  “I closed my speech about livestock and how we feed them corn because they can’t be sustained on grass alone, so I told him we feed them out and it’s much more efficient.  But before he let me finish he said, “No, you’re completely wrong.”

He then proceeded to berate Jamie on how animals are meant to be raised on pasture and raising them indoors is a perversion of nature, horrible for the environment and the cause of all society ills. He then jabbed a finger at him and said, “And, another thing, you call this a ‘Works Cited’ page? Who taught you how to do a ‘Works Cited’ Page? This is a mess!”

Jamie says he was surprised by the harsh tone and unsure of the implications of the comment, so he defended his English teacher who helped him with the ‘Works Cited’ formatting.

FFA advisor Burch says the burly teen held his composure, but was choking back emotion after he left the room, his confidence shaken.

Jamie Pudenz isn’t interested in a career as a public speaker or writer.  He doesn’t dream of being a politician or sportscaster.  He wants to be a farmer, just like his dad.   “We need livestock production around. If I don’t’ start talking about the threats against us now, it’s myself, my friends, my neighbors who will pay. If HSUS shuts us down, I’m out of a job. So are so many other kids like me."

I believe, as most farmers do, that consumers should have a choice when it comes to their food and farmers do their best to provide them.  There will never be a return to the days when everyone farmed the same way and consumers didn’t care for the narrative.  Consumer demand for choice should be the tie that binds Iowa’s incredibly diverse farmers together.    And, choosing one type of food production over another shouldn’t involve ‘shooting the messenger,’  whether that messenger is a consumer, a farmer or a child.  Anything less is, well, being a bully.

But, at the end of the day it seems to me Jamie can already teach a valuable lesson to those who think it’s someone else’s job to ‘do PR.’   He won’t give up.  His quest to tell the diverse story of ag is even bolder because of the resistance he met in a wider audience.   He’s ready for ‘round two.’  How about you?

 
North America’s Lost Boys – What to Do? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 13:37
As Adolescent Male Achievement Declines,
Author Says, ‘Get Outside!’

There is bad news for boys in North America:they are being blown out of the water by girls in academic achievement, and psychologists say young men are becoming more socially awkward, making relationships with young women difficult.

Sidney Gale, a medical doctor and author of Unto the Breach (www.sidneygale.com), an outdoor adventures book for boys, is concerned about the following statistics:

• Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out or flunk out of school. In Canada, five boys drop out for every three girls.

• Boys are underperforming girls at every level, from elementary to grad school.

• Boys are less likely than girls to get bachelor's of arts (44% vs. 56%) and graduate degrees, (45% vs. 55%).

In addition, young men in college are increasingly socially inexperienced, which means they’re less likely go to on dates or otherwise step out of their comfort zone,says Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo. In general, maleswere never as sophisticated as females in verbal and bodily communication, but it’s gotten worse.

Excessive hours of solitary video-game play and internet use likely account for atrophied social skills, Zimbardo says.

“We need to get boys out of their solitary bedrooms and into the sun,” Gale says. “It’s also a good idea to get them reading something other than tweets, texts and the like. They have intellect, and we should encourage them to use it.”

Gale offers ideas to help boys even the achievement and social gap:

• Camp: Summer is a perfect opportunity to consider varied activity for young boys. Gale, an avid seaman, says sailing camps encourage teamwork, physical activity and navigation skills.

• Read novels: Physical isolation has significant effects on one’s mental state and will stymie social skills. While reading is an activity pursued alone, reading novels can be very therapeutic, he says. They take readers beyond their daily lives, illustrate the workings of human relationships and increase language skills. They can also teach social- and problem-solving skills.

• Get social – both boys and parents: Children pick up on parental behaviors. If Mom and Dad do nothing but work and vegetate at home, chances are good that boys are just doing the same. Leave the house, together, when you can. Recreational activities are ideal; however, simply shopping together is an easy way to get boys out. “Talk to them on the way to the store,” Gale says. “It sounds simple, but we are so inundated with technology in every part of our daily lives that an in-person conversation should not be taken for granted.”

Like anything worthwhile, a boy’s development takes time and effort, he notes.

“The old idea of a boy was one who longed for adventure, like Tom Sawyer or the Hardy Boys,” he says. “As with any of today’s issues concerning children, parents need to be vigilant so they can lead their sons to a successful and socially active life.”

About Sidney Gale

Sidney Gale is the penname for Ian Blumer, a physician who has published a number of non-fiction books. He has been a specialty doctor in the Toronto area since 1985. “Unto the Breach” is his first work of fiction.

 
IRS whistleblower office obstacles, explanation sought PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 03 May 2012 14:22

Grassley Seeks Detailed Accounting of IRS Whistleblower Office Obstacles

 

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has asked the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department to answer a detailed series of questions aimed at understanding why the IRS whistleblower office has been so slow in processing cases and making rewards.  Grassley expressed his “extreme disappointment in the management of the program” in a letter to the agency.

 

“The IRS does not have a problem attracting whistleblowers,” Grassley said.  “The IRS has a problem processing whistleblower information and compensating whistleblowers in a timely manner.  I’m hearing frustration from whistleblowers, and my worst fears are coming true.  The lack of progress is demoralizing whistleblowers, and they might stop coming forward.  That would be a bad outcome for the taxpayers.”

 

Grassley’s latest inquiry was prompted in part by revelations that the director of the IRS whistleblower program was a panelist at the Offshore Alert Conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami Beach.  “It seems the whistleblower office director’s time might be better spent reviewing hundreds of existing cases instead of attending a conference that isn’t directed at potential whistleblowers,” Grassley said.

 

Grassley wrote to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to seek a status update on several benchmarks that would indicate progress in the whistleblower program.  The letter is the latest step in Grassley’s oversight of the whistleblower office.

 

Grassley wrote the 2006 law improving the IRS whistleblower office.  He modeled the improvements after the successful 1986 whistleblower amendments to the federal False Claims Act, which have brought back more than $30 billion to the federal treasury and deterred even more fraudulent activity.

 

The text of Grassley’s latest letter is available here.

 

The text of Grassley’s September 2011 letter to the IRS is available here.  The IRS’ November 2011 response is available here.

 

The text of Grassley’s letter to the Treasury secretary in June 2010 is available here.

 

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