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Morthland Passes Bill to Toughen laws against Human Trafficking PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rep. Rich Morthland   
Monday, 02 April 2012 07:41
Springfield, IL…Yesterday, State Representative Rich Morthland’s (R-Cordova) bill on Human Trafficking passed the Illinois House on a vote of 82-32.

House Bill 5482 would make Class 1 felony of human trafficking or involuntary servitude convictions a non-probationary offense.  In metropolitan Chicago, 16,000 to 25,000 women and girls are involved in the commercial sex trade annually. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, because of its strategic location and importance, is considered a highly used transit location by traffickers to transport victims and disperse them as needed to other cities and states.

“We must be tough on crime,” Morthland stated. “Illinois remains a hub for human trafficking, especially in the Chicago area. With this bill we toughen our laws against human trafficking criminals.“

Currently, only Human Traffickers who are convicted of Class X Human Trafficking felonies are denied the possibility of parole. Because of the centrality and importance as a regional transportation hub, victims in many surrounding states are trafficked through Illinois. Apart from sexual exploitation, victims in Chicago are also trafficked for forced begging, domestic servitude, and forced labor.
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Niabi Zoo Tiger Found Dead PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Marc Heinzman   
Monday, 02 April 2012 07:31
Coal Valley, IL – March 29, 2012 - Niabi Zoo was saddened to discover their Bengal tiger had died this morning.

The tiger, a 12 year old female named Asia, was found dead in her exhibit this morning while a zookeeper was doing a regular morning check on the zoo’s animals. The tiger’s death was unexpected to Niabi Zoo staff.

“We are all very saddened and shocked by Asia’s sudden death,” said Interim Zoo Director Marc Heinzman. “Asia was beloved by the entire Niabi Zoo staff, zoo volunteers, and countless zoo visitors. Her charming personality and friendly demeanor quickly charmed any person she met. Asia will be missed.”

A necropsy and pathology report will be conducted to determine the cause of death.

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Increased Stress Puts More Teens at Risk PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 12:52
Spot Early Signs of a Struggling Young Adult

Adolescence is difficult in the best of times. It’s doubly stressful for kids today; they’re experiencing the same worries and insecurities as adults in this troubled economy, and with far fewer coping skills. From families struggling with joblessness and foreclosure to increasing competition for college admissions to the normal fears associated with impending adulthood, they’re particularly vulnerable.

“Teens who are overwhelmed by stress often are unable or unwilling to ask for help,” says noted psychologist Dr. Gregory L. Jantz, (www.drgregoryjantz.com), author of When Your Teenager Becomes…The Stranger in Your House.

“But the longer they continue to flail and struggle emotionally, the greater the chance they’ll develop more serious problems like clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, dependence on alcohol or drugs and, sadly, suicidal tendencies,” Jantz says. “It’s up to parents and other adults to recognize when a teen is struggling and intervene.”

So how do you know when typical teen characteristics, such as moodiness, have moved beyond “normal?” Jantz offers these tips:

• Arguing is normal; constant anger is not. Sometimes teens argue just to argue. It allows them to let off steam, express their displeasure about life in general and test boundaries. The occasional dramatic meltdown is to be expected. But it’s not normal for a teen to be angry and hostile all the time, constantly fighting and yelling.

• Withdrawal from parents is normal; pulling away from family and friends is not. Expect your teen to start pulling away from you – unless she wants something – and occasionally from their friends, as well. Sometimes, they just need to pull back for a few days, even from friends. But when they appear to isolate themselves for weeks, spending weekend after weekend alone in their room, they may be struggling with depression. Socializing with friends is one of the first things to go as depression sucks the joy out of life.

• Anxiety is normal; feeling constantly overwhelmed is not. Teens have a lot to be anxious about – the prospect of independence is both exhilarating and terrifying, so some worrying is to be expected. But a teen who seems to be, or says he is, struggling daily with stress needs help. Two types of kids are especially vulnerable to developing generalized anxiety disorder, a heightened, constant state of anxiety: The worker bee perfectionist who crams his schedule with activities, responsibilities and tasks, and the kids who worry so much over anything, they can’t get anything done.

• Being upset for days after a bad experience is normal; more than two weeks is not. Teenagers tend to react dramatically when things go wrong – their boss chews them out, they fail a test, they get in an argument with their sweetheart. Adults know from experience that these things aren’t the end of the world and all will be well again, but teens lack that perspective. It’s normal for them to be in a bad mood about it for a few days, but to dwell on the problem for more than two weeks indicates they’re struggling.

The most recent data available, which is about 3 years old, puts suicide as the third-leading cause of death for teens after unintentional injuries (such as car accidents) and homicide, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. More than 2 million teens attempt suicide each year.

“I suspect new data will put suicide as the second and possibly even the leading cause of death for that age group, because depression is the biggest risk factor,” Jantz says. “We’re seeing more teenagers suffering from depression in recent years because of the economy and overstimulation by technology.”

Visit www.aplaceofhope.com for an online survey to see if you or your teen is showing signs of depression (click “Depression” and then “Depression Survey” in the drop-down menu).”

About Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D.

Gregory Jantz has more than 25 years experience in mental health counseling and is the founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, near Seattle, Wash. The Center, “a place for hope,” provides comprehensive, coordinated care from a treatment team that addresses medical, physical, psychological, emotional, nutritional, fitness and spiritual factors involved in recovery. He is the best-selling author of more than 20 books on topics from depression to eating disorders.

 
Simon-supported math bill approved by Senate committee PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kara Beach   
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 12:51

Statewide curriculum aims to increase college completion

 

SPRINGFIELD – March 27, 2012. Illinois middle and high schools could use a state recommended math curriculum come 2013, if a bill that passed a state Senate committee today with Lt. Governor Sheila Simon’s support is adopted.

 

SB 3244, sponsored by Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign), authorizes the Illinois State Board of Education to design curriculum models that illustrate how to teach state standards in middle and high school math. Schools could opt to follow the state-recommended scope and sequence of study for math and math equivalent courses through a student’s final year of high school, or continue to follow local curricula.

 

Within four years of the bill’s effective date, the state board and P-20 Council will measure the effectiveness of the statewide curriculum based on test scores and math remediation needs at colleges. The aim is to recommend a standard curriculum that is proven to boost college readiness and reduce the expensive and time-consuming remedial math needs at colleges and universities.

 

“Students learn locally, but they compete globally,” Simon said. “Colleges and employers are telling us that too many of our students are not competing in math. Our goal is to recommend math content and teaching techniques that educators across the state, in all zip codes, can build on so that more of their students graduate from high school ready for college and careers.”

 

In 2011, 42 percent of high school graduates met the math college readiness benchmark, according to ACT. More than one-third of recent high school graduates who transitioned as full-time community college freshmen between 2006-08 enrolled in at least one remedial math course (17,527 out of 48,328 students), according to the Illinois Community College Board. Students who enroll in remedial courses are more likely to drop out or graduate late.

 

Simon said the optional statewide curriculum moves away from simply requiring “seat time” to promoting use of that time wisely. It could be most helpful to teachers in districts that cannot afford curriculum directors or curriculum committees. It will also provide guidance to districts that otherwise rely on textbook manufacturers that claim their materials are aligned with state standards.

 

SB 3244 passed 10-0 and awaits a vote by the full Senate. Simon’s written testimony can be found here.

 

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6 Ways to Cut Your Homeowner, Car Insurance Costs PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 12:21
Financial Planner Offers Premium Solutions to Gas Price Pain

There is nothing that makes your wallet squeal louder today than pulling into the gas station and dropping $50. Gasoline prices have risen more than 12 percent over the past 12 months, and some experts are predicting they’ll reach $5 per gallon in the next six months.

The average household now spends $50 per month more on gasoline than last year, notes financial planner Rick Rodgers, author of The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning (www.TheNewThreeLeggedStool.com).

“But that’s not the whole picture,” Rodgers says. “Higher fuel prices affect a lot of other expenses in the family budget, from heating to food. The government estimates the average household is spending $150 per month more this year because of higher oil prices.”

You can try to ease the pain at the pump by using your car less, but you should also look for other places to offset that extra $150. Car insurance is a good place to start.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the national average auto insurance premium is $850 per year. Can you reduce that? Rodgers says you probably can. He offers six ways:

• Shop around regularly. Your insurance agent doesn’t have a lot of incentive to reduce your premiums.  I recently met a consumer who told me he had been with the same agent for 15 years. After he shopped his insurance with another agent, he saved $1,600 on his premiums for all his coverage. The internet makes it easy compare costs for the same coverage, or you can get an independent insurance agent to shop for you. Contact the Independent Agents Association at (800) 221-7917. (Be sure the company you go with has a good credit rating and claims-paying history.)

• Bundle your coverage. Bundling is combining different types of policies (auto, homeowners, liability, etc.) with the same company. The theory is that the company will discount the premiums if they have all of your business. The most common combination is packaging your auto insurance and homeowner’s policies together.  Or, find companies that will bundle auto insurance with renter’s or tenant’s insurance.  Bundled packages usually result in a 10 to 15 percent savings.

• Ask for discounts. You may qualify for discounts, but you won’t know until you ask. They’re commonly offered for good driving records, anti-theft devices, vehicle safety features (anti-lock brakes, air bags, automatic seatbelts), low annual mileage and insuring more than one car. The spunky Flo from Progressive claims discounts are also available for buying your policy online, paying in full up front, and being a loyal customer.

• Take a defensive driving class. Even if you’ve been driving for years, you can learn a lot from driver education and most insurance companies recognize the value of a refresher course, which can help you avoid accidents. The amount of discount varies by insurance company and from state to state, although most insurers offer a 10 percent discount on your premium for three years.  AARP offers a driver safety program for those over age 50, and it’s available online.

• Increase your deductible. Do your auto and homeowners policies have low deductibles?  If so, you may be able to reduce your premiums 15 to 30 percent by raising the deductible on your collision and comprehensive coverage.  Make sure you have an emergency fund set aside to cover the cost of repairs before you make the change. But your homeowners policy may be the first place to consider raising the deductible, since statistics show the average homeowner files a claim only once every nine years. Be sure to check with your mortgage holder first; some specify maximums.

• Change Cars. This is probably the most difficult savings tip to implement but may have the largest impact on your premium.  Used cars are cheaper to insure than new ones (excluding antiques); sports cars are more expensive to insure than minivans. Insurance companies like cars with safety features and low repair costs.  Insure.com surveyed 900 vehicles in the 2012 model year and lists the rankings from the most expensive to least expensive on their website.  Six of the 10 cheapest were minivans.

About Rick Rodgers

Certified Financial Planner Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa. He’s a Certified Retirement Counselor and member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers. Rodgers has been featured on national radio and TV shows, including “FOX Business News” and “The 700 Club,” and is available to speak at conferences and corporate events (www.rodgersspeaks.com).

 
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