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Violence in Central America PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 22 September 2011 14:51

Feinstein, Grassley Release Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Report on Central America Violence

Outlines strategies for Congress, administration to help reduce violence, improve security in Central America

Washington—U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today released Responding to Violence in Central America, a new report outlining key steps that the United States can take to support Central America to help reduce escalating drug-related violence.

The murder rates in Central America last year were significantly higher than Mexico. In 2010, there were 18 homicides per 100,000 people in Mexico. In comparison, there were 50 murders per 100,000 people in Guatemala, 66 in El Salvador and 77 in Honduras.

“Violence in Central America has reached crisis levels as drug trafficking organizations, youth gangs and other illegal criminal groups take advantage of weak governance and underperforming justice systems,” said Senator Feinstein. “Like Mexico, Central America’s location between the world’s largest producers of illicit drugs in South America and the world’s largest drug consuming nation in the United States makes it particularly vulnerable to drug traffickers. It will only escalate if we do not take action.”

“The violence in Central America is beyond what anyone can imagine,” said Senator Grassley. “This report recognizes the proliferation of the Mexican drug cartels seeking to expand into Central America and the impact that has on the citizens in Central America, Mexico and the United States. In addition, the report discusses steps that the United States can take to help the Central American nations stand on their feet to combat the drug cartels that are seeking to expand into areas where the governments are unable to respond. It’s also important to recognize the economic situation facing our own country, so we pay special attention to focus on ways where we can have great influence with as little fiscal effect as possible.”

The report recommends:

Expand Vetted Units

•           Expansion of vetted law enforcement units which work with the Drug Enforcement Administration—known as Sensitive Investigative Units—to all seven countries in Central America.

•           Vetted units provide a trusted partner to U.S. law enforcement in countries where corruption is often rampant.

Speed up Security Assistance

•           Speed up the arrival of security assistance by the State Department to Central America by changing it from being managed remotely by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to allowing it to be managed directly by each of the U.S. embassies in Central America.

Increase Drug Traffickers’ Extraditions

•           Increase the extradition to the United States of Central America nationals who are involved in international drug trafficking.

•           Currently, Panama, Honduras and Costa Rica will not extradite their nationals to the United States.

•           Extradition from Mexico to the United States has been a critical tool in combating Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Bringing these fugitives to the United States for prosecution ensures that they cannot evade justice through bribes or threats of violence in their home countries.

Support Witness, Judge and Prosecutor Protection Programs

•           Use existing State Department and USAID funds to provide support for witness, judge and prosecutor protection programs in Central America.

•           Far too often, witnesses in Central America are afraid to testify at hearings because of corruption in the judicial system and fear of retaliation. Judges and prosecutors are equally afraid to pursue cases against high-profile criminals.

Map Sources of Violence

•           Map the causes and sources of violence in the region. Without a clear understanding of the causes and sources of violence, it will be difficult to provide relevant solutions to the security situation in Central America.

Reduce the U.S. Demand for Drugs

•           Senators Feinstein and Grassley and have asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of drug prevention and treatment programs in the United States.

•           Drug consumption in the United States fuels violence in Central America. The United States continues to be the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs. The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 22.6 million Americans aged 12 or older were current illegal drug users.

The report is endorsed by all seven members of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and makes several recommendations based on information gathered through visits to Guatemala and Honduras, briefings, interviews and a review of documents from government and non-government experts.

The entire report can be found by clicking here.

 
Google testifies before Congressional subcommittee PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 22 September 2011 08:27

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights

"The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Chairman Kohl and Senator Lee, I appreciate you holding this antitrust oversight hearing this afternoon.  I know that people back in my home state of Iowa are following what is going on in this committee room with interest.  That’s because in rural Iowa, many companies – both big and small – depend on open and fair access to the internet to reach potential customers and to expand their businesses.

I’ve heard from Iowans who are concerned that Google is unfairly using its market power to manipulate internet search and drive web traffic to its own sites to the detriment of small businesses and consumers.  They are frustrated by business practices that are not transparent or fair.  They are concerned that Google is engaging in anti-competitive behavior that is thwarting a competitive marketplace.

However, I’ve also heard from Iowans who are extremely supportive of Google’s products and services.  These people rely on those products and services to access customers and grow their businesses.  They are concerned that the federal government is being overly aggressive, and will place burdensome rules and regulations on a company that is creating good jobs and innovative consumer tools for Iowans.

I agree that we should not be penalizing successful companies that are innovating, providing cost-effective and productive services, and creating the jobs of the future.  I agree with those constituents that tell me that “it is important to let the free market continue to work, and for consumers to be able to freely choose which online services they use” because “this is a better way to provide additional entrepreneurship and job growth.”

However, I also believe that companies should not take unfair advantage of their market power, use their dominance to quash worthy competitors, and engage in deceptive business practices that negatively impact the marketplace, small businesses and consumers.  The government should not be imposing burdensome regulations or “picking winners and losers.”  Yet, the antitrust laws have a role to play in ensuring that there is a level playing field for all.  I don’t have a problem with companies being fierce competitors – however, all companies must play by the rules.  Companies should employ open, fair and transparent business practices that do not harm competition or impede consumer choice.

So I come to this hearing to ask questions from both sides.  I’m here to listen and ask questions raised by my constituents.  I’m here to make sure that the voices of Iowans are heard in this discussion.  Thank you.

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Great Iowa Treasure Hunt Gearing Up for Fall Publication PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Karen Austin   
Thursday, 22 September 2011 08:27

DES MOINES, IA (09/21/2011)(readMedia)-- Fall is a busy time of year in Iowa. Students are returning to school, and farmers are beginning to harvest their fields. State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald is also hard at work preparing the fall publication of the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt.

"I encourage everyone to search for their name in the paper," said Fitzgerald. "This publication has the most up-to-date unclaimed property listings in the Great Iowa Treasurer Hunt, so make sure to search, even if you've checked before. You may also search for your name by visiting www.greatiowatreasurehunt.com. Checking the paper or visiting us online is well worth the short time it takes."

The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt program has returned over $135 million in unclaimed property to more than 314,000 properties has been paid out since Fitzgerald started it in 1983. Unclaimed property refers to money and other assets held by financial institutions or companies that have lost contact with the property's owner for a specific period of time. State law requires these institutions and companies to annually report and deliver unclaimed property to the State Treasurer's Office, where it is held until the owner or heir of the property is found. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed checks, life insurance policies, utility security deposits, and safe deposit box contents.

"My job is to return unclaimed property to the rightful owners," Fitzgerald said. "It is very rewarding to be able to reunite people with their lost money."

For more information about the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, visit www.greatiowatreasurehunt.com. Interested individuals can also correspond by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or by contacting the treasurer's office at the following address: Michael Fitzgerald, State Treasurer, Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, Lucas State Office Building, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Please include the name(s), maiden name(s), current and previous address(es) of those people you would like searched.

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Mississippi River Distilling Company Launches New River Pilot Vodka PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ryan Burchett   
Thursday, 22 September 2011 08:04

New Iowa Made “River Pilot” Vodka Debuts September 23

Le Claire, Iowa, September 20, 2011 – Mississippi River Distilling Company is excited to announce the release of their latest product River Pilot Vodka on Friday, September 23.  Building on the local distillery’s line of award winning white spirits, River Pilot is a crystal clean smooth vodka.

River Pilot Vodka is the fourth product released under the Mississippi River Distilling Company (MRDC) label.   The new vodka is made from 100% corn and is distilled to be a traditional smooth vodka with little to no flavor or aroma.  River Pilot is the second vodka made by Mississippi River Distilling Company.  The first, River Baron Vodka, has a unique sweet flavor that highlights the locally grown corn and wheat used to make it.

“We have a beautifully unique product in our River Baron Vodka.” said distiller Garrett Burchett.  “We know there are a lot of vodkas out there.  But to drink something that is handmade, high quality and completely local is something totally different.  We already knew that we could make a spirit as smooth as anything on the market.  So it wasn’t a big jump to polish the flavor out and create a second vodka. ”

River Pilot Vodka uses a blend of local ingredients.  First, vodka is distilled using corn harvested just outside LeClaire.  That vodka is blended with a neutral corn spirit distilled at a local corn processing plant.  The two spirits are combined and then run through a carbon polishing filter.  Finally, the blended spirit is redistilled for the ultimate in smoothness.

Distiller Ryan Burchett says the blend is meant to showcase a booming, but little known Iowa industry. “Iowa is the number one beverage alcohol producing state in the country.  Literally hundreds of brands of vodka worldwide are made with spirits distilled at Iowa corn processing plants.  Because it isn’t bottled in Iowa, people don’t know about the industry.  We sell our alcohol byproducts to a local processor who redistills them into alcohol fuels.  When we found out they also made spirits, we thought it might be interesting to blend their spirits with ours to make another great local product.”

The name of the spirit is meant to highlight the local history of LeClaire, Iowa, the home of Mississippi River Distilling Company.  The image on the bottle is a likeness of Philip Suiter, LeClaire's first licensed River Pilot. These famous river pilots were instrumental in opening the upper Mississippi River to trade.

To be one of the first to taste River Pilot Vodka, join distillers Ryan and Garrett Burchett at “It’s On The River” in Port Byron, IL on Friday, September 23.  Stern Beverage, MRDC’s distributor in the Illinois Quad Cities, is hosting a River Pilot Preview Party from 5:30-7:30 PM.  The evening will feature samples of River Pilot Vodka and drink specials.  Full bottles will also be available for purchase.

Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire is open from 10 AM to 5 PM Monday through Saturday and from 12 to 5 PM Sundays.  Free public tours are offered daily on the hour from 12 to 4 PM or by appointment.  The tour takes isitors through the entire distilling process and ends in the Grand Tasting Room with free samples for patrons over 21 years old.

 
Grassley works for permanent, loving homes for kids facing the foster-care system PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 20 September 2011 12:01
WASHINGTON --- September 20, 2011 - Legislation authored by Senator Chuck Grassley today won unanimous approval of the Finance Committee as part of a larger proposal to extend federal child and family services programs.

Grassley’s initiative involves regional partnership grants which are competitively distributed by the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The grants are used to improve the safety, permanency and well-being of children who are not in their homes or are likely to be removed from their homes because of substance abuse by their parents.  The proposal advanced today by the Finance Committee reauthorizes the grant program for five years along with Grassley’s provision that would allow current grant recipients to pursue a two-year grant extension.  He said this would help to prevent any lapse where the program is making a positive difference.

“In the many years that I’ve been working on child welfare issues, especially for children in the foster care system, so many young people have told me what they want most of all is a mom and dad and a permanent, loving home,” Grassley said.  “These grants help to keep families together, when possible, so that children are not subjected to the many difficulties that they face in the foster care system.”

Since the regional partnership grant program was last reauthorized in 2007, 53 grants have been awarded to partnerships covering 29 states and six tribes.  More than 8,000 adults and 12,000 children have been served by the grants.  The grants support family treatment drug courts, better system-wide collaboration, family-centered treatment, evidence-based practice approaches, parent advocates, and drug treatment monitoring.

The Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families has said that the grants help to discharge children from the foster care system at a faster rate because families are more likely to be reunified within 12 months and are more likely to stay that way after 12 months.

Grassley said his legislation this year also includes a five percent cap on administrative expenses for the grants.

“These grants have helped to bring back together families torn apart by substance abuse,” Grassley said.  “Substance abuse is one of the leading reasons why children are forced into the foster care system.  Long term, those kids benefit tremendously if foster care can be avoided or, at the very least, be a short-term detour, with family reunification and, when necessary, adoption.”

The legislation included in the overall package passed in the Finance Committee today was part of a bill that Grassley introduced in June, the Partners for Stable Families and Foster Youth Affected by Methamphetamine or Other Substance Abuse Act (S.1234).  The regional partnership grants were created by legislation Grassley authored and moved through the Finance Committee as Chairman in 2006, the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Act.

“Passage of the law in 2006 was a big step forward in efforts to help the young people in the foster care system,” Grassley said.

 

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