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Governor Pat Quinn Statement on SB1849 House Vote PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Tuesday, 29 May 2012 14:02

SPRINGFIELD – May 23, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today issued the following statement regarding the House’s passage of SB 1849.

 

“It’s ironic that on the very day that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announced his resignation, the Illinois House would pass a gambling bill that continues to have major ethical shortcomings.

 

“This new bill falls well short of the ethics standards I proposed in my framework last October. Most importantly, it does not include a ban on campaign contributions as lawmakers in other states have done to keep corruption out of the gambling industry and out of Illinois. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and bordering states like Iowa, Michigan and Indiana have all approved such bans.

 

"It does not provide the Illinois Gaming Board with sufficient time to make critical licensing and regulatory decisions. This bill also does not provide adequate oversight of the procurement process. It does not ensure clear oversight of the proposed Chicago casino.

 

“As long as I’m governor, I will not support a gambling bill that falls well short of protecting the people of Illinois. It is clear that this gaming bill still needs significant improvement.

 

"Finally, Illinois cannot gamble its way out of our fiscal challenges. I urge the members of the Illinois House and Senate to pay close attention to the most pressing issues that we must address by next Thursday, May 31 –pension reform and Medicaid restructuring."

 

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Is The Bible The Ultimate Financial Guide? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 29 May 2012 14:01

Financial how-to books come and go – they’re published by the hundreds every year. But Peter Grandich, dubbed “The Wall Street Whiz Kid” by Good Morning America’s Steve Crowley, says the one he relies on has been around for nearly 2,000 years.

“I get my financial guidance from the Bible,” says Grandich, author of Confessions of a Wall Street Whiz Kid (www.confessionsofawallstreetwhizkid.com). “Money and possessions are the second most referenced topic in the Bible – money is mentioned more than 800 times – and the message is clear: Nowhere in Scripture is debt viewed in a positive way.”

Grandich, who says his years as a highly successful Wall Street stockbroker left him spiritually depleted and clinically depressed, says the Bible is an excellent financial adviser, whether or not you’re religious.

“The writers of the Bible anticipated the problems we would have with money and possessions; there are more than 2,000 references,” he says. “Our whole culture now is built on the premise that we have to have more money and more stuff to feel happy and secure. Public storage is the poster child for what’s wrong with America. We have too much stuff because we’ve bought into the myth fabricated by Wall Street and Madison Avenue that more stuff equals more happiness.”  He adds, “That’s the total opposite of the truth, and the opposite of what it says in The Bible.”

What’s Grandich’s No. 1 most important biblical rule of finance? “God owns everything. You may have bought that house, but He gave you the money to buy it, so it’s His.”

Some other lessons from the ultimate financial guide?

• Do put money aside for investing: “One of the most revealing parables is Jesus’ story about a wealthy master who left three servants in charge of his financial affairs when he went away on a long journey,” Grandich says. “When he returned, two of the servants had multiplied the coins for which they were responsible. The third buried his to keep it safe.” That last servant ended up out on his ear. The story is a lesson: We must invest our money – and invest wisely.

• Debt’s not prohibited, but it should be avoided: The Bible clearly warns that the borrower will be a servant to the lender, but it also instructs us to lend money. That suggests that there are times when it’s OK to borrow, but it should not become a way of life. The Bible also instructs us to repay what we’ve borrowed.

• The more you make, the more you should give: This is a hard one for people caught up in buying bigger and better things, but there are numerous references to charitable giving. The Bible says that it’s quite all right to buy the bigger house – but the more you make and spend on yourself, the more you need to give to others. That doesn’t include tithing, another very clear demand: God expects you to give 10 percent of your wealth to your place of worship.

• Don’t focus on acquiring possessions: There are many, many warnings that accumulating stuff is dangerous. Material things are fleeting and they’ll do you no good in the long run. What you put your effort into, that’s where your heart will be, Grandich says.

About Peter Grandich

Peter Grandich became renowned in the financial industry when he predicted market crashes and rebounds in The Grandich Letter, a newsletter he created in 1984. It’s currently a blog featuring his commentary on the world’s economies and financial markets as well as social and political topics. Grandich is co-founder, with former New York Giants player Lee Rouson, of Trinity Financial Sports & Entertainment Management Co., a firm that specializes in offering guidance from a Christian perspective to professional athletes and celebrities.

 
Senate debate on the FDA user fees bill PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 29 May 2012 13:50

Mr. President, today we will be considering a vital piece of legislation that not only includes all four user fee agreements, but also includes policy proposals to improve the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) review and approval of medical products, particularly in the pharmaceutical supply chain.

 

In 2008, Senator Kennedy and I introduced the Drug and Device Accountability Act.   This legislation was largely in response to the extensive oversight I conducted of the FDA.  During these investigations, I identified serious problems at the FDA that included:

•           Severe weaknesses in the inspection process;

•           Delays of informing the public of emerging safety problems; and

•           Lack of enforcement authority

 

Based on these findings, our legislation included provisions to ensure the safety of drugs, including foreign manufactured drugs:

•           It would have expanded FDA's authority to inspect foreign manufacturers and importers on a risk-based schedule;

•           It would have required all manufacturers to register with the agency so we can properly identify the number of manufacturers and where they are located. This would have ensured that when a crisis occurs we can quickly locate the questionable facility; and

•           It would have increased civil and criminal penalties with respect to violations.

 

Unfortunately, we never had an opportunity to debate this legislation let alone cast a vote on it.  However, roughly a year ago, Senators Harkin and Enzi forged a bi-partisan working group to address these challenges.

 

The group has worked tirelessly to produce a bi-partisan bill that modernizes FDA’s authority to ensure that drug products coming into the United States are safe for American patients.

 

This bill incorporates many provisions introduced in the Drug and Device Accountability Act Senator Kennedy and I introduced.

•           It increases penalties for knowingly and intentionally counterfeiting drug products; and

•           It requires electronic submission of certain key information by a drug importer as a condition to grant entry.

 

I would like to have seen additional enforcement tools included in the legislation.  For example, granting FDA the authority to destroy unsafe products that are refused admission into the United States would enhance FDA’s ability to protect the public from tainted products.

 

Likewise, granting FDA subpoena authority would bring FDA up to par with all other federal agencies’ enforcement authorities.  Currently, FDA lacks subpoena authority and as such must go through the Department of Justice, which is time consuming and burdensome.

 

Ultimately, this legislation is a needed step in the right direction toward securing our supply chain.

 

This legislation did not address a top priority of mine, ensuring whistleblowers have adequate protections.

 

Four months ago my office learned of the abusive treatment by the FDA on whistleblowers due to protected communications with Congress, more specifically, with my office.   Once the agency learned of the communication, it began actively monitoring and observing employees personal email accounts for two years until the agency was able to have the employee fired.

 

Regrettably, I was not shocked to learn that FDA was mistreating whistleblowers within its agency, as it has done so on more than one occasion in the past.

 

What makes this example different and worse is that FDA intentionally went after an employee because it knew that employee was not covered by the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA).  The employee in question was a member of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and because of a decision from the Court of Federal Claims, these employees, along with other members of the uniformed services, are not covered by federal employee whistleblower protections.

 

In 2009, the Court of Federal Claims held in Verbeck v. United States, that an officer in the Public Health Service’s commissioned corps is a member of the uniformed service and as such, is not covered under the civilian Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) or the Military Whistleblower Protection Act.  This same logic extends to the commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  So, under this precedent, the officers of both the PHS and NOAA currently have no whistleblower protections under federal law.

 

This is particularly problematic when you consider that PHS and NOAA officers can be detailed to agencies like the FDA or CDC.  There, they work side-by-side with civilian employees doing critical work to review and approve drugs, oversee medical devices, and even work on infectious diseases.  However, unlike their civilian colleagues sitting next to them, if these employees uncover wrongdoing, waste, fraud or abuse, they can be retaliated against by the agency and have no recourse for it.  This is wrong and needs to be fixed.

 

Whistleblowers point out fraud, waste and abuse when no one else will, and they do so while risking their professional careers.  Whistleblowers have played a critical role in exposing government failures and retaliation against whistleblowers should never be tolerated.

 

For this reason, I offered an amendment that expands whistleblower protections for uniformed employees of the Public Health Service.  It corrects the anomaly pointed out by the Court of Federal Claims and ensures that Officers in the Public Health Service have some baseline whistleblower protections.  It expressly includes the commissioned corps of the PHS within the protections of the Military Whistleblower Protection Act.  This is consistent with the structure of the commissioned corps functioning like a military organization and matches the fact that these officers receive military like benefits and retirement.

 

Unfortunately, this amendment, which I was able to get into this legislation, only covers employees of the Public Health Service.  It does not address the commissioned corps of NOAA because of other senators’ concerns that it is not related to the underlying bill.   I hope that we can address this remaining gap in whistleblower protections in the near future so that all employees of the federal government are covered.

 

All federal employees should feel comfortable expressing their opinion, both inside the Agency and to Congress.   The inclusion of this language will ensure those opinions receive appropriate protections.

 

I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for Senators Harkin and Enzi and their commitment and efforts over the years to reform and improve the FDA.

 

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Kids Help Create Program to End Bullying PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 12:20
‘I Choose’ Starter Kits Available Free to Schools And Communities

A new youth-driven campaign aims to end bullying where it begins: with kids and the choices they make.

“I Choose” (www.WhatDoYouChoose.org), available free to schools and communities, asks children and teens to adopt and embrace one of five words representing powerful social concepts: friendship, kindness, respect, compassion, love. In teacher-guided discussions, they analyze the meaning of their word and then strive to use it in daily interactions. When confronted with a choice involving peer relationships, they’re asked to choose their word to put into action.

A Lance Armstrong “Livestrong”-style bracelet imprinted with “I choose (their word)” serves as both a reminder and a message to others.

“‘I Choose’ was developed with the help of the youth community at Yoursphere.com (kids-only social networking site). We asked who they thought could end bullying and 98 percent of respondents said ‘kids can,’ ” says Mary Kay Hoal, the website’s founder and president. “When we asked about the choices they thought would be effective in helping them end bullying, they chose these five.”

The education initiative is the first for Yoursphere’s non-profit arm, The Yoursphere Media Foundation and Coalition for Internet Safety Education and Reform (FCISER).

“Bullying is a global issue and cyber-bullying is at an all-time high,” says Hoal, an Internet safety expert. “Unfortunately, a lack of funding and awareness has left many schools and communities without a solid bullying education program.”

School and community representatives can apply for a free Anti-Bullying Challenge Starter Kit at WhatDoYouChoose.org. They’ll receive an information packet, poster (“Bullying is a choice”) and the “I Choose” bracelets.

“After the initial implementation of the challenge, we tell teachers and youth group leaders to periodically follow up with their students to analyze the impact that the program is having in their life at school and at home”, Hoal says. “Have the students noticed a shift in the school or classroom culture? Did they stand up for someone they normally wouldn't have? This follow-through can be very empowering because it not only reinforces the fact that their choices matter, but it proves to the students that they can have a real impact."

The need is made painfully clear at the whatdoyouchoose website, where students can share stories and videos about their own experiences with bullying.

Maddie, 15, remembers bullies starting to leave nasty notes in her locker and binder when she was in seventh grade. They called her “fat,”“ugly,”“worthless.” It got worse the following year, she writes.

“I started to believe them. … So I stopped eating, not completely but to the point where I would eat so little a day, I was very very light-headed and sick by the end of the school day. …I started wearing more makeup than I already was wearing and I was just a mess,” she writes.

“To try to forget about the hurt and pain those people caused me, I turned to cutting myself. Not a good idea. I never told my parents because they were in the middle of getting divorced.”

Maddie’s doing better now, she writes, but the experience taught her how intensely painful and isolating life is for the victims of bullies.

Adults and children who’ve already chosen their words also have a place to share on the site. Nine-year-old Gladys chose kindness.

“I choose Kindness because it’s like Love. Love shows up when Kindness comes around. So Kindness is like niceness and Love merged together,” she writes.

“It’s also like Friendship. If you’re kind, people want to be your friend, right? … It’s also like Respect. … If you’re showing Respect, that is a sign of Kindness. And last, it’s Compassion. If you’re helping others, isn’t that showing Kindness? Friendship, Respect, Love, and Compassion, ALL started with Kindness.”

It’s that kind of critical thinking that helps children remember they have a choice – and that with their choices they have the power to change people, Hoal says.

“‘I Choose’ is an important reminder to children that their choices do matter,” Hoal says. “We want them to stop, think and remember.”

About Mary Kay Hoal

Mary Kay Hoal is a nationally recognized Internet safety expert who provides technology tools and tips for parents at www.YoursphereForParents.com. She’s the founder and president of www.Yoursphere.com, a social network site for ages up to 17 and social media outlet for youth-oriented organizations. Yoursphere Media Foundation and Coalition for Internet Safety Education and Reform is the website’s charity arm. The ‘I Choose’ Anti-Bullying Challenge is its first education initiative.

 
Finding Heaven at Home PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 11:00
Biblical Scholar Offers Tips for Believers & Non-Believers

Americans believe in heaven -- since 1997, the numbers have fluctuated from 72 to 80 percent, according to Gallup polls.

But what is heaven and what does it look like?

“Too often the popular idea of heaven is a place where you’ll have nothing to do but tell a jealous God how good he is over and over for all eternity—and that wouldn’t be much better than hell,” says Charlie Webster, former senior engineer for NASA, Bible scholar and author of Revitalizing Christianity (www.NewCenturyMinistries.com).

“That’s not Jesus’ picture of heaven,” he says.

Heaven will be a place with exciting challenges against a background of caring love from everyone and to everyone.

“But you don’t have to wait ‘til you die to experience some of the most important benefits of heaven,” Webster says. “Anyone can create a real foretaste of heaven wherever they are. And you don’t even have to believe in God to experience part of this—though it certainly works better if you let God help you.”

“Caring about and helping with the needs and pains of others brings real joy,” Webster says.

It’s the same thing Jesus said two millennia ago: When you focus on yourself, you are the only one interested in helping you, he says.

“Even in places of worship, most folks are asking, ‘What can God do for me?’ instead of ‘What could I do to make this world the caring place God wants it to be?’”

Here are three ways Webster says anybody, regardless of creed, can get a taste of heaven here on Earth:

• Forgiveness: When you forgive a hurt or transgression, there’s a great sense of relief—a weight has been lifted. Animosity eats at the bearer. But how to forgive? It takes both faith and sympathy — “faith that if the transgression needs to be punished, it will be, and sympathy because you can’t know what caused someone to anger you,” Webster says. “Take a road-rage scenario—some speeding motorist almost kills you. Your immediate reaction is anger. But do you know the reasons behind his risky driving? Maybe it’s just that he thinks everybody should get out of his way. God will deal with that. But maybe he’s responding to a genuine emergency that you might have handled the same way. If you turn the matter over to God, you can arrive home stress-free. Better yet, offer a prayer for the offender. Whatever the cause, he needs prayer.

• Helping Others: Rather than stressing over time, money and travel logistics for a vacation focused on pampering yourself, Charlie suggests helping others in the form of a mission trip –- an all-around win. Volunteers often see a new part of the world; but more importantly they come home with wonderful new friends and the knowledge that they’ve made the world a better place. And you can usually find a trip that’s already planned and priced at reduced rates. When your mission vacation is over, you’ll truly be recharged and refreshed and you’ll have memories you could never get on a vacation focused on yourself.

• Having a Marriage that Works: By far the best marriages are the ones in which couples have asked themselves “how can I make his/her life better” rather than saying “I want him/her because he/she satisfies my needs.” Such marriages almost never end in divorce, Webster says. “Even couples who never go through a ceremony can experience this. God never demanded a ceremony—he demands the unselfish love that he knows will bring us true joy.”

“In the end heaven is really more about relationships than where you are,” Webster says. “It’s not fluffy clouds, scratchy robes, and awkward wings. The heaven Jesus taught about is an active life in an environment of unselfish caring — the kind of environment that builds strong bonds.”

“If you accept that the after-life taught by Jesus is real, then doing this in your daily life prepares you for an eternity of ever-greater joy. It’s a life of unselfish caring that brings the kind of joy that will make heaven, heaven.”

About Charlie Webster

As an engineer, Charlie Webster headed NASA projects for several years; as a Bible scholar, he has taught biblical studies at the college level. Webster has a son and daughter, and was widowed in 1999. He has been happily remarried since 2000.

 
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