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Illinois Ranks Number 2 for Thanksgiving Day Cooking Fires PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Missy Lundberg   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 13:50
Nov 15, 2011 — Based on data from insurance giant State Farm, more cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. In fact, grease and cooking-related claims more than double on Thanksgiving Day compared to an average day in November.
With the popularity of turkey frying increasing, more people than ever are at risk for fryer related fires and injuries. U.S. fire departments are responding to more than 1,000 fires each year in which a deep fryer is involved. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says deep fryer fires result in more than $15 million in property damage each year and hot oil splatter can cause serious burns to an adult or life threatening injuries to a child.
According to State Farm Insurance claims data, the top 10 states for grease and cooking-related claims on Thanksgiving Day (2005-2010) are as follows:
  1. Texas                       36
  2. Illinois                       24
  3. Ohio                          21
  4. New York                  17
  5. Pennsylvania             17
  6. Michigan                    15
  7. Florida                       14
  8. Minnesota                  14
  9. Indiana                      13
  10. Louisiana                   12
Most turkey fryer fires are preventable. Recognizing common mistakes is a critical step in reducing your risk of a fire or potentially fatal burns.
  • More than one-third of fires involving a fryer start in a garage or patio. Cook outdoors at a safe distance from any buildings or trees and keep the fryer off any wooden structures, such as a deck or patio.
  • Avoid a hot oil spill over by first filling the pot with cold oil and then lower the thawed turkey into the pot to determine how much oil should be either added or removed.
  • Shut off the fuel source or flame when adding the turkey to the hot oil to prevent a dangerous flare-up if oil does spill over the rim.
  • Make sure your turkey is properly thawed before lowering it slowly into the pot.
  • Never leave a hot turkey fryer unattended.
  • Do not use ice or water to cool down oil or extinguish an oil fire.
  • Keep an extinguisher approved for cooking or grease fire nearby.
To warn people about the dangers of turkey fryers, State Farm has teamed up with actor William Shatner to produce a short video dramatizing an actual accident where the celebrity was burned in a turkey fryer mishap on Thanksgiving.  Viewers of the video are encouraged to support “Shatner’s Fryers Club” by simply liking or commenting on the video and agreeing to stay safe when frying or cooking turkey.

 
FBI Whistleblower Claims Process Broken, One Case Has Languished Nine Years PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 13:39
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley is questioning Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole regarding their commitment to FBI whistleblowers while one case continues to languish for nine years and a second case sits in limbo for more than four years.

“Whistleblowers are key to unlocking many of the secrets hidden deep in the closets of the federal government.  Allowing a case to sit in limbo for more than nine years shows a lack of commitment to resolving issues for these courageous people,” Grassley said.  “The excessive time to make a judgment on these cases indicates that the process for adjudicating FBI whistleblower claims is broken, and needs to be fixed.  The Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General have significant say over the speed at which these matters are addressed, and the recent decision by Deputy Attorney General Cole to remand a nine year old case for further proceedings is mind boggling and calls into question his commitment to help support whistleblowers.”

In a letter today to the Attorney General, Grassley cited Agent Jane Turner who in 2002 filed a whistleblower complaint with the Justice Department Inspector General after discovering that FBI agents removed items from Ground Zero following the attacks of 9/11.  Due to the Inspector General’s delayed decision, Agent Turner was forced to file an appeal with the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, which ordered the FBI to issue back pay, attorney’s fees and other relief.  After an FBI appeal, the Deputy Attorney General remanded the case for further proceedings and it now continues to languish nine years after Agent Turner’s original complaint.

Grassley also cited the case of Robert Kobus, a 30-year non-agent employee of the FBI who more than four years ago disclosed time and attendance fraud by FBI agents.  The Inspector General substantiated his claims of retaliation for protected whistleblowing, yet his case has been sitting with the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management for four years.

Grassley noted that both the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General have testified before Congress that whistleblower retaliation will not be tolerated and that they would work to ensure that safeguards are in place so that whistleblowers are provided all the protections afforded by the law.

A long-time advocate for whistleblowers, in addition to co-authoring the 1989 whistleblower protection law and subsequent updates, Grassley sponsored changes made in 1986 to the President Lincoln-era federal False Claims Act to empower private sector whistleblowers.  Since the 1986 amendments were signed into law, the False Claims Act has brought back more than $27 billion to the federal treasury, and has deterred even more fraudulent activity. In 2009, in coordination with Senator Patrick Leahy, Grassley worked to pass legislation to shore up whistleblower protections in the False Claims Act that had been eroded by the courts after years of litigation by defense and healthcare contractors.

Grassley is also the author of legislation that would give the same whistleblower protections to employees in the legislative branch as provided already to employees of the executive branch of government.  In addition, in October, a Grassley-sponsored amendment to give whistleblower protection to employees in the Judicial Branch was added to a federal judgeships bill that was being debated in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

A copy of the text of the letter can be found here.  A signed copy can be found by clicking here.

 

November 14, 2011

Via Electronic Transmission

 

The Honorable Eric H. Holder

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20530

 

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I write to express my concerns regarding the perpetual delays for resolving Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) whistleblower cases at the Department of Justice (DOJ).  As you are well aware, I am a long-standing advocate for whistleblower rights.  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 failed government operations such as Operation Fast and Furious, and retaliation against whistleblowers should never be tolerated.  Thus, I am concerned about the treatment of whistleblowers at the FBI, specifically in the cases of Jane Turner and Robert Kobus.  The process of resolving whistleblower claims appears to be broken.

Jane Turner was a career FBI agent with an outstanding record for conducting investigations involving missing and exploited children.  Agent Turner filed a whistleblower complaint with the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General (OIG), in 2002 when she discovered that FBI agents removed items from Ground Zero following the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  Unfortunately, Agent Turner was forced to file an appeal to the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) due to the OIG’s delayed decision in their investigation.  Ultimately, the OARM substantiated her allegations in May, 2010, and the FBI was ordered to provide Agent Turner back pay, attorney’s fees, and other relief.  It is my understanding that the FBI filed an appeal to the Deputy Attorney General concerning the issue of back pay, despite the FBI’s failure to raise the issue of back pay during previous OARM proceedings, and the case was remanded, in part, back to OARM for further review of the back pay issue.  Consequently, a final resolution to Jane Turner’s reprisal case against the FBI is now further delayed by the Deputy Attorney General’s curious decision.  Given the already excessive delays in this case, the ruling by the Deputy Attorney General postpones a judgment that should have come much sooner.  I remind you that Agent Turner initially filed her complaint approximately 9 years ago, and she has yet to receive a final decision.  Any reasonable person would agree that 9 years is extreme and unacceptable.

Robert Kobus is a 30 year non-agent employee of the FBI who disclosed time and attendance fraud by FBI agents.  The OIG also conducted an investigation into these allegations and substantiated that he was retaliated against for protected whistleblowing.  The FBI management not only demoted Mr. Kobus to a non-supervisory position, but they even went so far as to move him from his office to a cubicle on the vacant 24th floor of the FBI’s office building.  Nevertheless, the OIG’s findings were referred to OARM for adjudication and Mr. Kobus’ case has now languished in bureaucratic red tape for approximately 4 years.

I’m confident you would agree that a cumulative 13 years is an excessive amount of time to complete two whistleblower investigations.  You previously stated during your testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that you will “ensure that people are given the opportunity to blow the whistle and they will not be retaliated against, and then to hold accountable anybody who would attempt to do that.”[1]  You also stated that, “I have seen their [whistleblowers’] utility, their worth, and, frankly, the amount of money that they return to the Federal Government.  And they serve a very, very useful purpose.”[2] The Deputy Attorney General, in his responses to congressional “Questions for the Record”, asserted he would “work with the Judiciary Committee and the independent Office of Special Counsel, which investigates and prosecutes violation of law, including reprisals against whistleblowers, to provide timely and accurate information to the Congress.”[3] He further pledged he would “not tolerate unlawful retaliation against any Department of Justice employee, including FBI employees” and he would “work to ensure that there are adequate safeguards so that whistleblowers receive all of the protections to which they are entitled by law.”[4] I would ask that you honor these statements and ensure these cases, and others like them, are investigated and decided in a reasonable timeframe.

Given your previously stated support for whistleblowers, I presume that you would agree that DOJ is sending the wrong message to whistleblowers by taking an inordinate amount of time to issue final declarations for Agent Turner and Mr. Kobus.  The excessive time the OARM has taken to issue a final judgment, which is further exacerbated by the Deputy Attorney General’s recent decision in Agent Turner’s case, has cast your department in a dubious light regarding your stated support for whistleblowers.  These excessive delays indicate that the process of adjudicating a FBI whistleblower claim is broken.  Consequently, I ask that you review these matters and ensure that the OARM and the Deputy Attorney General conduct their respective reviews in a transparent and expeditious manner.  While I appreciate that allegations of fraud, waste, and abuse must be properly investigated, Agent Turner and Mr. Kobus deserve transparency in the process and finality to their cases.

Thank you for your cooperation and attention to this important matter.  I request you provide a written response to this letter no later than November 18, 2011.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member

 
DOCUMENTS FROM LINCOLN'S NATIONAL GUARD SERVICE FOUND PDF Print E-mail
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Written by readMedia   
Tuesday, 15 November 2011 12:50

Before his Presidency, Lincoln Served in the Illinois Militia During the Black Hawk War

SPRINGFIELD, IL (11/10/2011)(readMedia)-- Before Abraham Lincoln's name became synonymous with the Civil War, he slogged his way around the state during the Black Hawk War as a volunteer Soldier in the Illinois Militia, known today as the Illinois National Guard.

Elected by his peers to the rank of captain, Lincoln will forever be linked to the history of the National Guard, which will celebrate its 375th birthday on Dec. 13. Lincoln is one of 19 Presidents to serve in the National Guard, one of two from Illinois. The other is Ulysses S. Grant, who would go on to command all Union Armies under President Lincoln.

Previously unknown Black Hawk War documents written and signed by Capt. Abraham Lincoln while on duty in 1832, and an affidavit signed by Lincoln in 1855, have recently been discovered at the National Archives in Washington, D.C and their authenticity confirmed by researchers at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) in Springfield, Ill.

"Few documents survive that detail Abraham Lincoln's service as a Company Captain in the 4th Illinois Mounted Volunteers in the 1832 frontier disturbances collectively known as the Black Hawk War," said Daniel Stowell, editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln at the ALPLM. "This discovery reminds us that many U.S. presidents, including Lincoln, answered their country's call to duty long before becoming Chief Executive, and that service had a formative effect on their future careers. Lincoln always said he was more gratified by being elected an officer by his men than any position he held afterwards."

Private researcher Anne Musella recently brought a previously discovered Certificate of Discharge signed by Lincoln to the attention of Papers of Abraham Lincoln staff who are working at the National Archives Building in downtown Washington. That led Assistant Editor David Gerleman to delve further in the Bounty Land Warrant files at the National Archives where he found two more Certificates of Discharge written and signed by Lincoln.

Together with other documents previously discovered, it appears that Lincoln, like other officers, filled out and signed dozens of these Certificates of Discharge. Given to soldiers as they mustered out to return home, the veterans later submitted these documents as proof of service when they claimed the bounty lands allotted to them by Congress. The certificates located at the National Archives more than double the number of surviving discharge certificates written and signed by Captain Abraham Lincoln, and likely others still await discovery.

Twenty years after the end of the conflict, changes in bounty land laws gave several of Lincoln's company the chance to claim up to 160 acres of federal land. To do so, they had to provide evidence of their service, and so Lincoln was once again called upon to confirm that they had indeed enrolled in his company. An additional document discovered by Gerleman in the Bounty Land Warrant Files was an affidavit signed by Lincoln and Thomas Moffet in 1855 attesting that former First Corporal Charles R. Pierce had honorably served and therefore was entitled to make a land claim.

Like Lincoln's service, Soldiers and Airmen in the Illinois National Guard have protected their communities from during natural disasters and other domestic emergencies, while also answering their nation's call during war and national emergencies. From the communities around the state to the sands of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, the Illinois National Guard has made their mark. The echos of the past live on today in the men and women of the Illinois National Guard, whose Joint Force Headquarters unit patch features a silhouette of Lincoln.

 
Jared Gothard of Long Grove, Iowa, Helps MSOE Take First Place in Construction Competition PDF Print E-mail
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Written by JoEllen Burdue   
Monday, 14 November 2011 14:52

MILWAUKEE, WI (11/10/2011)(readMedia)-- Students from Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) traveled to Downers Grove, Ill., in October to compete in the Associated Schools of Construction Region III Student Competition. For the tenth consecutive year, at least one of MSOE's teams took first place. This year, the Preconstruction Team and the VDC (Virtual Design and Construction) Team took first place in their respective competitions, and the Design Build Team took third place. They competed against large universities, including Texas A&M University, Brigham Young University, Purdue University, Ball State University and Michigan State, in the various events.

Jared Gothard, a construction management major from Long Grove, Iowa, was part of MSOE's Preconstruction Team, which was asked to submit a proposal for preconstruction and construction services for a $20-$25 million hospital expansion project. They had 30 hours to create their proposal and deliver a presentation to competition judges from Pepper Construction. The Preconstruction Team was coached by Dr. Jeong Woo, assistant professor in the Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management Department. Team members are:

  • Matt Bakke, construction management major, Elkhart Lake, Wis.
  • Chris Dublinski, construction management major, Naperville, Ill.
  • Jared Gothard, construction management major, Long Grove, Ill.
  • Josh Halvorsen, architectural engineering and construction management double major, West Dundee, Ill.
  • Cate Scholfield, construction management major, Wausau, Wis.
  • Nick Zamorski, architectural engineering and construction management double major, Waukesha, Wis.
  • Theodore Bulinski (alternate), construction management major, Minneapolis
  • Bryan Makatura (alternate), construction management major, Pen Argyle, Penn.

MSOE's VDC Team had to submit a proposal for the virtual design and construction services for a Laboratory/Data Center building located in Milwaukee. They had 30 hours to create their proposal and deliver a presentation to competition judges from Mortenson Construction. The VDC Team was coached by Dr. Jeong Woo, assistant professor in the Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management Department.

MSOE's Design Build Team submitted a proposal for design build services for a $30 million student dorm at a private university in St. Louis. They were responsible for creating a proposal that included the complete architectural design, a detailed construction estimate, a construction schedule and a site logistics plan. They had 30 hours to create their proposal and deliver a presentation to McCarthy Building Company executives, the Design Build competition sponsor. The Design Build Team was coached by Robert Lemke, associate professor in the Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management Department.

MSOE offers bachelor's degrees in architectural engineering, construction management and a five year freshman-to-master's degree in civil engineering. The architectural engineering program prepares graduates for careers in the design and construction of buildings and building systems. Lecture and laboratory courses-led by industry-experienced faculty-integrate theory and the practical application of design principles, practices, methods and materials.

The construction management program educates students to direct building construction project activities from the owner's conception of the project until completion. Learning focuses on the technical process and resource management skills essential to construct commercial, institutional and industrial buildings on time, within budget, of high quality and safely.

Students in MSOE's civil engineering program will receive both a bachelor's and master's degree in civil engineering after five years. MSOE is the first and only university in the state of Wisconsin to offer a five-year, freshman-to-master's degree in civil engineering.

MSOE is an independent university with about 2,500 students. MSOE offers 18 bachelor's degrees and 10 master's degrees in the engineering, engineering technology, building and infrastructure engineering, health-related engineering, computer, business and nursing fields. The university has a national academic reputation; longstanding ties to business and industry; dedicated professors with real-world experience; and extremely high placement rates and the highest starting salaries of any Wisconsin university according to PayScale Inc. MSOE graduates are well-rounded, technologically experienced and highly productive professionals and leaders.

 
Braley Statement on Veterans Day PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Monday, 14 November 2011 14:51

“Every day should be Veterans Day” when it comes to our nation’s commitment to vets 

 

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement regarding Veterans Day, which is tomorrow, November 11th:

“As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.  The unemployment rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is three times higher than the national average.   Thousands of veterans have been left with physical and mental injuries that will be with them for the rest of their lives.  Rates of veteran suicide are on the rise.

 

“Veterans Day is observed on November 11th, but every day needs to be Veterans Day when it comes to our nation’s commitment to the men and women who have fought to ensure our freedom.  Keeping our nation’s promises to our veterans isn’t a partisan issue, it’s the right thing to do.”

 

Braley is a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and is the highest-ranking Democrat on the Veterans’ Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

Braley participated in the first-ever Andrew Connolly Day of Service yesterday, which honored the legacy of the late Andrew Connolly, a Dubuque native and Iowa National Guard veteran who never stopped urging others to “pay it forward” in every aspect of their lives.  Volunteers helped remodel the new Veterans’ Freedom Center in Dubuque.

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