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Put Brakes on Frivolous Lawsuits PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Chuck Grassley   
Tuesday, 06 March 2012 08:01

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley 

 

Against a staggering national debt that’s surged by $5 trillion in just the last three years, voters will decide in November who will take the reins of Washington’s runaway spending.  In the meantime, the fragile economic recovery is struggling to gain traction.  Job creators in the private sector are vulnerable to rising gas prices, expiring pro-growth tax laws and swelling health care costs that influence hiring, investing and spending decisions.

 

Consumer confidence is a primary factor that affects the U.S. economic outlook.  Paying $4 (or more) for a gallon of gas will arguably cause more households to pull back on spending money at their local restaurants, hair salons, retailers and charities.  Higher shipping costs also eat into the profit margins for Main Street businesses, leaving less money for hiring workers.

 

While rising gas prices capture the spotlight in an election year, there’s another burden on the American economy.  The costs of frivolous lawsuits are invisible price tags that add up to higher prices for consumers and another burden for businesses struggling to stay above water.

 

In an era when America is looking for economic growth to take root, billions of dollars are wasted on frivolous lawsuits that siphon money away from job creation.  Frivolous claims also clog an already burdened legal system and delay the resolution of lawsuits that have merit.

 

Attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits today can do so without much fear of any consequence.  These claims force innocent individuals and businesses to choose between years of litigation, court costs and attorneys’ fees, or paying a settlement.  It’s a waste of time, money and resources.

 

A culture of suing at the drop of a hat is an albatross for start-ups and small businesses operating on tight margins.  Small businesses rank the cost and availability of liability insurance as second only to the cost of health care as their top concerns.  While it’s no secret that small businesses are the number one job creators in America, it’s not so well known how frivolous lawsuits block their road to prosperity and their ability to create jobs.

 

The U.S. legal system relies on Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to curb frivolous filings.  Unfortunately, Rule 11 was watered down in 1993.

 

As the Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, I’ve introduced legislation that would help put the brakes on frivolous lawsuits by restoring the strength behind Rule 11.  My bill, the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, would install three reforms to bring more accountability to the U.S. tort system.

 

First, my bill would reinstate mandatory sanctions to deter the offending party from filing a frivolous claim.  Currently, when a judge finds that a lawsuit is frivolous, it’s in the judge’s discretion whether to impose sanctions.

 

Second, my bill would require judges to impose financial sanctions against lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits, including attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the defendant.

 

Third, my bill would reverse a rule that allows attorneys to avoid sanctions for making a frivolous claim by withdrawing them within 21 days after a motion for sanctions has been served.

 

Law-abiding Americans with a legitimate legal grievance are entitled to their day in court.  But unscrupulous attorneys who litigate for jackpot justice stand in the way of that.  Frivolous lawsuits need to be weeded out of the system.  Putting the brakes on frivolous lawsuits that damage the economy and clog the legal system will go a long ways towards balancing the scales of justice, upholding the rule of law, and improving the public good.

 

 

February 28, 2012

 
A Call to Action for Modern Society PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 06 March 2012 07:57
Advocate Offers Tools to End Horrific Practice

In January, MSNBC.com posted a report of its four-month investigation into a slavery network emanating in Eastern Europe. Every year, it says, some 200,000 women and girls are  smuggled out of impoverished former Soviet countries and sent to the Middle East, Western Europe and the United States, where they’re held captive.

In Haiti, UNICEF reported thousands of children were illegally trafficked out of the country following the devastating earthquakes two years ago. Selling orphaned children as slaves is a common problem following natural disasters, it says.

“Modern-day slavery is an even bigger problem than it was during the years of legalized slave trade from Africa to the Americas,” says Lucia Mann, the daughter of a woman who was held as a sex slave in South Africa in the 1940s. Mann, a former journalist, tells a slightly fictionalized version of her family’s story in Rise Above Hate & Anger (www.luciamann.com).

There are ways individuals can help end the suffering and reach out a hand to victims, says Mann, who created the Modern-Day Slave Reporting Centre as a tool to address the problem. Here are details about the reporting center and other resources.

• At The Modern-Day Slave Reporting Centre, www.mdsrc.org, anyone who suspects a person is being held captive, or any person who is being held their will, can file a report. The information will be reported to law enforcement officers and the person filing can request they remain a confidential source. The Web site also includes links to relevant law-enforcement agencies in Canada and the United States.

• At www.slaveryfootprint.org, people can take a short online survey that calculates the number of slaves working for you around the world based on the clothes, cars, electronic items and other consumer goods you own. The number is calculated according to what’s known about slave labor in the regions where the raw materials are produced and the goods are manufactured. (Google Chrome is required to take the survey.)

• At www.chainstorereaction.com, are email prepared letters and surveys to any of 1,566 companies asking what steps they’re taking to ensure no slave labor is used in their supply chains. Companies who complete the survey and go out of their way to describe ongoing and current efforts are tagged with a “Thank You.” Companies that complete the survey are tagged with “View Response.” As of mid-January, 70 companies ranging from Fruit of the Loom to Campbell’s Soup had earned a “Thank You.” Another 25, including Avon and Best Buy, had completed the survey. Most, though, had not responded despite numerous emails. Duracell, for instance, was sent 432 emails and Bounty was sent 221.

• In California, the Transparency in Supply Chains Act became effective Jan. 1. It requires retailers and manufacturers with gross receipts of $100 million to disclose what they’ve done – or haven’t done – to eliminate slavery in their supply chains. While there are no punitive consequences, advocates say the law will raise awareness and allow consumers to reward or punish companies with their shopping choices. Residents of other states can lobby legislators for a similar law.

“There is nowhere in the world now where slavery is legal, and yet more than 27 million people are held captive as forced laborers or sex slaves,” Mann says. “That’s more than twice the number enslaved during 400 years of trans-Atlantic trading.

Raising Americans’ awareness and concern is the first step to ending slavery, Mann says.

“If there is no money to be made from enslaving people, it will end.”

About Lucia Mann

Lucia Mann was born in British colonial South Africa in the wake of World War II and lives in British Columbia, Canada. She retired from freelance journalism in 1998 and wrote Rise Above Hate & Anger to give voice to those who suffered brutalities and captivity decades ago.

 
Fill Desks, Not Cells, Advocate Urges PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 14:34
Move to Privatize Prisons Threatens Genuine Inmate Reform, He Says

The statistics are overwhelming and irrefutable: The less education a person has, the more likely he or she will end up in jail or prison.

Once in prison, the more education an inmate receives, the greater the chance he or she will remain free once released.

“The correlation is so dramatic, I can’t understand why we as a nation are more interested in building and filling prisons than in educating people who haven’t finished high school or could benefit from post-secondary school,” says advocate Adam Young, citing a recent Huffington Post news story about Corrections Corporation of America. The business is attempting to buy prisons across the nation – with the stipulation that states agree to keep them 90 percent full.

Young, www.communityservicehelp.com, partners with charities to help people sentenced to community service get credit for taking classes like algebra and English instead of picking up trash. He says it just makes sense to take advantage of any opportunity to educate people who’ve already had a brush with the law.

“About 40 percent of all U.S. prison inmates never finished high school, and nearly 44 percent of jail inmates did not complete high school,” he says, quoting from a 2003 Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report. “More current data shows that hasn’t changed. In Washington, D.C., for instance, 44 percent of Department of Corrections inmates are not high school graduates. Less than 2 percent had 16 years or more of schooling.

“Isn’t it better for all of us, for both economic and public safety reasons, if we help educate people so they can get jobs?” he asks.

The trend of budget-strapped states looking to economize by selling their prisons to Corrections Corporation worries Young. As the business cuts expenses to boost profits, prison-run GED and college degree programs will likely be among the first on the chopping block, he says.

“If states really want to save money, they should address recidivism through programs that include education,” Young says. “There’s a 2011 Pew Center study that found the 10 states with the highest recidivism rates could save $470 million a year, each, if they lower those numbers by just 10 percent.”

Those states are Alaska, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas.

A widely cited 2006 study of two groups of inmates in three states found that those who participated in education programs in prison were less likely to be arrested again within three years of their release, and more likely to be employed. Of the inmates tracked, 31 percent of those who did not take classes were back in prison within three years compared with 21 percent of those who did study.

Arizona, South Carolina and Nevada all have recently passed laws that allow inmates to cut their sentences or shorten their probation by doing things like taking classes, Young noted.

“In early February, there was an interesting conversation about education and crime on Real Time with Bill Maher,” he says. “Maher said, ‘If you spent the money you were spending to send people to prison on schools, those people wouldn't wind up going to prison.’

“He’s 100 percent correct on that.”

About Adam Young

Adam Young is a longtime internet marketing professional who launched his educational community service alternative in January 2011. He was inspired by a minor brush with the law when he was an 18-year-old; the community service hours he received cost him his job and nearly caused him to drop out of college. Through his website, offenders have logged more than 300,000 hours of self-scheduled schooling that allows them to remain employed while completing service hours. Young advocates education as the most cost-effective tool for rehabilitating offenders.

 
What's ISU Hiding? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ed Fallon   
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 14:29

Monday, Sheree Clark joins Sylvia DeWitt of The Juice Company for our continued conversation on developing a small business. Sheree’s business is called, Fork in The Road. She’s a nutritionist and raw food advocate who gave up her career in advertising to promote a lifestyle of healthy eating. And don't forget the business develop conference this Wednesday (see my events page for details).

Also Monday, I’m excited to have Adam Bolt join us for further conversation about the AgriSol-ISU-Tanzania triangle. Adam’s a producer and editor for Dan Rather Reports and also edited and co-wrote the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job. Dan Rather Reports airs every Tuesday on HDNet at 7:00 pm, available in Iowa via satellite on DIRECTV (channel 306) and DISH Network (Channel 362).

Tuesday, Charles Goldman and I talk politics. One question floating around in our fertile minds is whether or not the remaining Republican presidential candidates are, in fact, happy to see gas prices rise. Will they use it as a campaign wedge issue against Obama in the general election?

Also Tuesday, we talk with Anne Dietrich of Truth in Labeling Coalition about the genetic contamination of our food supply and the push to get Iowa’s U.S. Senators and Congressmen to sign-on to the Boxer-DeFazio Congressional Letter to the FDA, asking the agency to require mandatory labeling of genetically engineered food. For Congressional contact information, please visit my website, and I want to thank Campbell's Nutrition for helping to sponsor the show.

Wednesday, Stephen Toothman with Occupy Des Moines discusses the campaign to expose the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its highly-partisan, right-wing  agenda.

Thursday, we talk with State Rep Dan Kelley (D-Newton) about the week’s activities at the Iowa Statehouse. We also talk with attorney Jonathan Wilson about the erosion of our civil liberties. Check out his excellent commentary on the subject here.

I’d like to thank some of our business supporters, including Community CPA at 3816 Ingersoll Ave in Des Moines. With tax season here, it’d be a good idea to give Ying Sa a call at (515) 288-3188.

So, join the conversation Monday - Thursday from 7:00-8:00 pm at 98.3 FM and online. Call-in at (515) 312-0983 or toll-free at (866) 908-TALK. You can download the Fallon Forum as a podcast, too.

Thanks! -- Ed


EVENTS

February 29 - Small Business: Start, Grow and Succeed (Des Moines)
At Lotus Moments and Events Center, 2134 E Grand Ave from 8:45 am - 1:30 pm. Presentations and one-on-one consultations by local experts for entrepreneurs seeking help getting their business idea off the ground. No charge, but please register by Monday, February 27th. For details, visit BizSourceIowa.com/calendar.

March 1 - Drinking Liberally (Des Moines)
You don't have to be a card-carrying liberal to enjoy political conversation and excellent libations at AJ's, 419 E Court starting at 8:00 pm every Thursday. If the revolution is going to start anyplace, this is probably it. Contact desmoines@drinkingliberally.org.

March 1-3 - Sufi Retreat and Introductory Talk (Des Moines)
Thursday: free informational talk at 7:00 pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 42nd & Ingersoll. Friday and Saturday: retreat sessions with Sufi minister Mudita Sabato Friday at 7:30 pm and Saturday at 10:30 am, 2:30 pm, and 7:30 pm at Friends Meeting House, 4211 Grand Ave. Suggested donation per session of $10. Contact Munira at (515) 491-5489 or Angela at (515) 205-5494, or visit www.muditasabato.blogspot.com.

March 8 – Empowered Women Changing the Planet (Des Moines)
A free event in honor of International Women’s Day. Bring a dish to share at 5:00 pm at the Thoreau Center, 3500 Kingman Blvd. Organized by Oxfam America, Des Moines Area Sisters on the Planet Ambassadors, and League of Women Voters of Metropolitan Des Moines. Bian Li from the World Food Prize will speak about the power of investing in rural women entrepreneurs in developing countries by engaging them as business partners. Register here.

March 10 -  Civic Engagement at the Library (Des Moines)
Citizens have the opportunity to discuss public issues in a moderated forum. The topic for March is The New Challenges of American Immigration: What Should We Do? It's from 9:15 am - 12:00 noon at the Central Library Meeting Room One, 1000 Grand Avenue. To participate, please register at www.dmpl.org (Online Events Calendar), or call (515) 283-4957. Limited to 25 registrants.

March 20 - Irish Jam at Open Sesame (Des Moines)
Discover the fusion of Lebanese and Celtic culture every third Tuesday of the month: belly dancing to Irish gigs and reels, Lebanese cooking washed-down with a pint of Guinness. All musicians patrons welcome, at 313 E. Locust St from 8:30-10:30 pm.

Through March 23 - Environmental Impact Awards Applications (Iowa)
The Greater Des Moines Partnership, Center on Sustainable Communities and Metro Waste Authority established the Environmental Impact Awards to recognize organizations and leaders who exemplify environmentally sustainable practices. Awards will be given to individuals, businesses (large and small), non-profit or community organizations, and for the built environment (residential and commercial). Applications available at www.desmoinesmetro.com/events. Deadline is March 23 at 3:30 pm. Winners will be recognized in an awards ceremony luncheon on May 16 at the Botanical Center.

March 31 - Bishop Dingman Peace Award Dinner (Ankeny)
Join Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (featured in Michael Moore's latest documentary, Capitalism:  A Love Story) and Joshua Casteel, a US Soldier Interrogator at Abu Gharib who is now a conscientious objector and scholar. It’s at Our Ladies Immaculate Heart, 510 E. 1st St at 6:00 pm and is a fundraiser for Catholic Peace Ministry. Tickets are $35 or $280 for a table of eight. Contact Jeffrey Weiss at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (515) 255-8114.

May 12 - Asian Festival (Des Moines)
From 10:00 am - 5:00 pm on the east side of the Iowa State Capitol. Contact Swallow Yan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
DAVENPORT WOMAN WINS $100,000 PRIZE PLAYING FAVORITE SCRATCH GAME PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Amy Garringer   
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 13:32

DES MOINES, Iowa – When a Davenport woman discovered she’d won the very last top prize of $100,000 playing the “Triple Platinum 777” game on her break at work, she couldn’t believe what she saw.

Jolene Ronek, 50, scratched the ticket during her evening break where she works as a machinist.

“I started shaking and I couldn’t believe what I saw,” Ronek said. “I took it to the break room to show all the other guys and I was in tears. They told me to sign it right away.”

Ronek said her head was fuzzy because she couldn’t believe the win was real.

“I kept looking at those zeros and going, ‘No, that isn’t right,’” she said.

Ronek told her family about her big win before claiming her prize Thursday at the Iowa Lottery’s regional office in Cedar Rapids. Ronek said it also put everyone at work in a great mood for the rest of the evening shift.

“One of the guys at work got on the radio and told everyone,” Ronek said with a laugh. “Everybody was just happy that someone they knew won.”

Ronek said she was really surprised to get the big winner, because it was the very first ticket in a new pack of Triple Platinum 777 tickets at the QC Mart, 1402 State St. in Bettendorf.

Ronek said she’s looking forward to using her winnings to become debt-free and also plans to use some to take a trip this summer.

“We travel all over riding motorcycles,” she said.

Triple Platinum 777 was a $10 scratch game. Players scratched the “dollar” symbols and the “bonus box.” If they revealed the “7” game symbol, they won the prize shown for that symbol. If they revealed the “77” game symbol, they won double the prize shown for that symbol. If they revealed the “777” game symbol, they won triple the prize shown for that symbol.  If they got two like symbols in “bonus box,” they won $50 instantly. The overall odds of winning a prize in the game were 1 in 3.11.

Players can enter eligible nonwinning scratch tickets online to earn “Points For Prizes™” points. The point value will be revealed to the player on the website upon successful submission of each eligible valid ticket. There is a limit of 30 ticket entries per day. To participate in Points For Prizes™, a player must register for a free account at ialottery.com. Registration is a one-time process. Merchandise that can be ordered by using points will be listed on the website in the Points For Prizes™ online store. Players can choose from items in categories such as apparel, automotive, jewelry, sporting, tools and more.

Since the lottery’s start in 1985, its players have won more than $2.8 billion in prizes while the lottery has raised more than $1.3 billion for the state programs that benefit all Iowans.

Today, lottery proceeds in Iowa have three main purposes: They provide support for veterans, help for a variety of significant projects through the state General Fund, and backing for the Vision Iowa program, which was implemented to create tourism destinations and community attractions in the state and build and repair schools.

 

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