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Friday, 08 June 2012 12:58

East Moline resident, local author and former Quad City Times film and book critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson and Dispatch columnist was awarded the IWPA (Illinois Women's Press Association) Silver Feather trophy on Saturday, June 2, 2012, at the Union Club in downtown Chicago by the Chicago branch of IWPA (Illinois Women's Press Association).[See .jpeg, attached, of  Connie Wilson, l, and Contest Organizer Diedre Sommerville, R, with trophy.]

Wilson's entries in a variety of journalistic categories were selected by an independent panel of journalists. Her articles, both print and online, and the 4 books she published this year, as well as her own blog entries at and Yahoo, where she is a Featured Contributor, will go on to national competition at the NWPA (National Women's Press Association) level. Wilson was film and book critic for the Quad City Times for approximately 15 years, from 1970 into the early 1980s.

Since 2003, Ms. Wilson has published 14 books as Connie Corcoran Wilson, one of which (The Color of Evil) was recently awarded the Gold Medal in the E-Lit book competition by the Jenkins group. [*All  books are available locally on the shelves of the Book Rack in Moline and Bettendorf, and through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, in both paperback and E-book versions.]

Wilson will be a presenter at the Hawaii Writers' Conference, now known as Spellbinders Writers' Conference (, from August 31 through September 3rd in Honolulu, Hawaii. Presenters include 1992 Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley (A Thousand Acres), special guests Garry Marshall and John Travolta,  Jon Land (the Caitlin Strong series), F. Paul Wilson (the Repairman Jack series), Heather Graham (The Unseen), Jacqueline Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean), Gary Braver, and GaryWhitta (The Book of Eli), among others, along with literary agents from many New York City agencies. Wilson also will be in attendance at ITW (International Thriller Writers) Thrillerfest in New York City July 10th-14th, and has written author interviews for the ITW newsletter.

Strengthen Plants This Season with a New Tool for Gardeners PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Diana Paul   
Friday, 08 June 2012 12:49

By gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers

As gardeners well know, there are plenty of challenges our landscapes will face throughout the growing season. Heat, drought, pests and disease can all take their toll on our plants, causing wilting, brown leaves, damaged plants and even plant death.  Fortunately, gardeners now have an exciting new organic tool for growing healthy, productive, and beautiful landscapes all season long.

Researchers have discovered that when some plants are stressed they produce certain molecules that help them better tolerate environmental stresses as well as insect and disease attacks. They isolated the molecules and applied them to other plants. This improved the treated plants’ own natural defenses, much like immunizations do for us.

All natural plant strengtheners, like JAZ Spray, were developed as a result of these findings. Plant strengtheners immunize plants against environmental stresses such as heat and drought, while building their defenses against insects and diseases.

They are not fertilizers that provide nutrients, nor are they pesticides that kill the insects and disease organisms. This new tool can help gardeners deal with gardening challenges that are beyond their control.  By using a plant strengthener you are proactively boosting a plant’s immune system before environmental stresses hit and ultimately helping it thrive as it faces serious challenges throughout the season.

Because these natural plant-derived products improve plant health and resilience by strengthening their resistance to plant stressors, including heat, drought, over-watering, insects and disease, they’ve become a valuable and must-have tool for both beginning and experienced gardeners especially given the variable and unpredictable weather patterns we’ve experienced in recent years.

They can also increase gardening success when busy schedules, vacations or lack of experience get in the way of providing ideal care.

Begin treating established plants from the start of the season to help build their natural defenses. Treated plants will be more robust, suffer less damage, and recovery more quickly from stress. Plant strengtheners are also effective when applied at the first sign of stress or when moving plants indoors for winter, since the lower light and lower humidity conditions can be very stressful on these plants.

Prepare your plants for the growing season by arming yourself with this exciting new line of organic products that are safe for pets, kids and the environment.

And always remember that proper soil preparation, plant selection, and care are also critical in growing beautiful, productive and healthy plants.  Monitor your plants’ health throughout the growing season.  Uncovering problems early may be the difference between a little clean up and the need to treat.  And, if treatment is needed, look for the most eco-friendly products available.

Investing a bit of time and energy now to lay the foundation for a healthy and productive landscape will surely pay off with low maintenance, beautiful gardens for years to come.

For more gardening tips visit

Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening , Month-by-Month Gardening in Wisconsin and The Garden Book for Wisconsin. She hosts the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment segments which air on over 110 TV and radio stations throughout the U.S. and Canada. She is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and writes the twice monthly “Gardeners’ Questions” newspaper column. Melinda also has a column in Gardening How-to magazine.  Melinda hosted “The Plant Doctor” radio program for over 20 years as well as seven seasons of Great Lakes Gardener on PBS. She has written articles for Better Homes and Gardens and Fine Gardening and was a columnist and contributing editor for Backyard Living magazine.  Melinda has a master’s degree in horticulture, is a certified arborist and was a horticulture instructor with tenure.  Her web site is


Grassley Seeks Full Transparency of Public Housing Authority Salaries PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 08 June 2012 12:47

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is urging the Department of Housing and Urban Development to make public the salary data it collected from public housing authorities across the country under pressure from Grassley and amid numerous salary scandals.   The Administration made only aggregate information public in announcing a salary cap proposal this week.

“Making only a handful of the information public is a missed opportunity,” Grassley said.  “We’ve seen several significant gold-plated compensation packages at housing authorities. The abuses have grown in the absence of oversight.  My review has shown that the housing authorities that go off the rails count on a lack of transparency to do what they want.  If salaries are public, there’s a deterrent for abuse.”

This week, HUD released aggregate salary data from 2010 from the nation’s housing authorities and announced a proposal to cap the federal part of housing authority salaries.   The limited information released is available here.  Coverage of controversial housing authority directors’ salaries this week in Atlanta and Providence, Rhode Island, is available here and here.

Grassley has been scrutinizing abuses by certain public housing authorities since 2010, working to hold HUD accountable for the way federal housing dollars are used and to protect those dollars from wasteful and abusive spending.

In addition to seeking transparency of the existing salary data, Grassley said he intends to look at the Administration’s salary cap proposal to make sure it closes the many loopholes around compensation caps.   A cap on federal funding for salaries does not apply to local funding, so salaries could still be high if the local agencies choose to supplement the salaries, another reason for transparency, Grassley said.  Housing authorities sometimes give bonuses and significant perks such as vehicles, accrued vacation pay, and rolling contracts that make it expensive to remove the top employee.

The federal government spends roughly $6 billion to $7 billion per year on public housing.  Another $4 billion was provided by the 2009 economic stimulus legislation.  More than 3,000 public housing authorities nationwide manage public housing programs.  “The federal government needs to pay a lot more attention to what happens at local housing authorities,” Grassley said.  “Taxpayers are paying for safe, clean public housing for those in need.  HUD has to make sure the services are delivered and that the taxpayers’ money is spent as intended.  Better transparency would be a good start.”

Grassley’s letter to the HUD secretary is available here.


Parents: Character-Building Tips for Your Kids PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 08 June 2012 12:37

A recent rash of news stories highlights the positive in society’s youngest members: “Child Saves Kids from Bus Crash;” “Child Saves His Brother from Possible Abduction;” “Child Saves Family from House Fire.”

But all too often, the news involving children indicates a dangerous lack of morality: 7- and 8-year-olds stealing cars; a 9-year-old’s recent shooting of a school classmate; a 12-year-old charged with armed robbery. A particularly bad one nearly 20 years ago shocked sisters Debbie Burns and Patty Cockrell. Two 10-year-old truants abducted a toddler in England, tortured the little boy and beat him to death.

It prompted the women to begin work on Tukie Tales: A New Beginning for a Better Tomorrow (, a series of five children’s books designed to help parents teach young children important values.

“There is something especially senseless in reading about small children committing sadistic crimes,” Burns says. “We wanted to be part of a ‘positive push’ in the right direction.”

The younger the child, the more impressionable they are, she says. We wanted to help busy parents scrambling to make ends meet teach children empathy, compassion, environmental awareness and other values.

“I don’t think parents are bad,” she says. “But with all the economic worries, the job losses and home foreclosures, many are focused on working and worrying. It’s hard to also be thinking, ‘What value will I teach my child today?’ ”

Burns and Cockrell offer tips for parents to help positively shape children:

• Promote a love for nature: Are your kids outdoors much? Parents who are busying shuttling their sons and daughters from one building to another may overlook the benefits of the great outdoors. Wilderness, however, has a therapeutic effect on indoor dwellers. Spending time in nature also helps children learn about their place in the world and the value of all the life that shares space with us.

• Show the value of teamwork: Working together toward a common goal doesn’t always come naturally to children – or adults. Many youngsters learn teamwork through sports, which is good but almost always includes a competitive element. It’s important for children to experience the added benefits of creating, problem-solving and getting chores done as a team. Parents should look for opportunities to point out their children’s great teamwork.

• Make sure they appreciate safety: No good parent wants to unnecessarily frighten their children, but carelessness leads to bad habits, injuries and opportunities for others to do them harm. The best medicine for any problem is prevention. Remember: Don’t take for granted that your young child knows what’s safe and what’s not. Some years ago, someone taught you that stoves can burn your hand – even though you can’t remember who or when it was.

• Build their confidence with at least one skill: Remember what it’s like to be 4 years old? Very young children come into this world with no previous experience, which means their brains are hungry for know-how. Knowledge and skills to a child are like water for a thirsty man in the desert.

• Kindness counts: It is one thing to teach kids the old idiom that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar. But children should also know that people who make kindness a habit tend to be happier; there is an inherent joy in helping others.

“I understand parents are busy earning a living to support their children,” Cockrell says. “But who you raise in the process makes all the difference to the future world.”

About Debbie Burns & Patty Cockrell

Burns and Cockrell are sisters and best friends. They were determined to instill honest and wholesome values in their children after establishing their families. Deeply affected by the bad news of the world, they decided to promote a better experience for children. The “Tukie Tales” series is written with compassion and love for all of the world’s children in the hope of making a positive difference.

Grassley Seeks Explanation for Agency Preference for Paper Over Email PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 08 June 2012 12:03

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley is asking the Department of Homeland Security to explain an apparent preference for providing Congress with paper rather than electronic documents, an irony given the agency’s interest in boosting its cybersecurity funding and expertise.

“It’s ironic that the agency striving for expertise on cybersecurity is reluctant to send emails to Congress,” Grassley said.  “It would be like if CBO presented estimates to Congress with an abacus or if the transportation secretary rode around town in a horse and buggy. The purpose of the letter is to find out what’s behind the apparent preference for paper over email.”

Grassley, with Rep. Darrell Issa, wrote to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to ask why the agency tells members of Congress that it is unable to produce documents to Congress electronically.  The apparent preference for paper is in contrast with the President’s executive order asking agencies to use electronic documents when possible and the Administration’s interest in increasing funding for Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity programs by $300 million.

Grassley’s encounter with the Department of Homeland Security’s apparent preference for paper responses is related to his December 2011 request in the Operation Fast and Furious inquiry.  The agency is beginning to respond, and the responses are coming in paper form and will result in thousands of pages if the entire request is fulfilled.  Agency representatives have told Grassley’s office that the paper preference is a policy, and the Grassley-Issa letter seeks verification and details.

The text of Grassley’s December 2011 request to the agency is available here.  The text of the Grassley-Issa letter to the agency this week is available here.


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