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Firework Safety PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Shelly Chapman   
Monday, 20 June 2011 12:53

The Village of Milan welcomes all area residents to the annual Fireworks Celebration, planned for July 3rd at Camden Park. In keeping with state laws and as a matter of safety; fireworks of any sort will not be allowed in the park.

Safety is of the utmost importance due to the crowds normally experienced at this event. Additionally, it is against Illinois state laws to ignite fireworks, bottle rockets and other explosive devices without the proper certificates and permits. Sparklers are of a great concern, given the large number of children that attend this event, and therefore will not be allowed.

Blackhawk Fire Department does not issue firework permits for public displays of fireworks. These may be obtained by following the regulations of the County of Rock Island. Information is available on their website, www.rockislandcounty.org.

Your assistance in getting this information out to the public is greatly appreciated.

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Braley Denounces Senate Vote to End Support for Ethanol PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Alexandra Krasov   
Monday, 20 June 2011 12:27

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after the Senate voted to end support for the U.S. ethanol industry:

“I’m very disappointed that the Senate took this action today. Thousands of good-paying Iowa jobs depend on ethanol, and this industry is crucial to our state’s economy. But ethanol is important to families across the country because it’s a clean, domestically produced fuel source that lowers the price of gas. Today’s vote is just another example of Washington politicians siding with big oil companies and foreign interests instead of standing up for a clean, domestic fuel source and the family farmers who produce it.” 

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Facts about the ethanol tax incentive PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 13:16

Floor Statement of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley 
regarding the Coburn amendment to eliminate the ethanol tax incentive
Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mr. President,

I’d like to speak in opposition to the amendments that we’ll be voting on at 2 o’clock today.  The first, an amendment by Senator’s Feinstein and Coburn would repeal the incentive for domestically-produced ethanol.  The second, offered by Senator McCain, would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture from using funds for the installation of blender pumps.  These amendments won’t lower the price of gasoline at the pump.  These amendments won’t lessen our dependence on foreign oil.  They won’t create a single job.  They’ll do exactly the opposite.

Most importantly, these amendments also won’t save the taxpayer any money, because they stand little chance of being enacted.  Even if the amendments were to pass today they won’t get out of this chamber.  This bill is not likely to be taken up by the House.  If a revenue amendment is attached to this bill, it will be blue-slipped by the House.  The Constitution requires that revenue measures originate in the House.  So, this bill, with these amendments, is dead on arrival.  It’s also dead on arrival at the White House.  They indicated in a statement that President Obama opposes repealing the incentives and is open to new approaches that meets today’s challenges and saves taxpayers money.  The votes at 2 o’clock today are a fruitless exercise.  This is political theater.  We’ve already had this vote, and it was defeated 40 to 59.

Oil is hovering near $100 a barrel and unemployment is at 9.1 percent.  Why is the Senate taking a full week and voting twice on the same amendment that will increase prices at the pump, increase dependence on foreign oil, and lead to job losses?  We should be having this debate in the context of a comprehensive energy plan.  This debate should include a review of the subsidies for all energy production.  We shouldn’t be singling out ethanol.  Nearly every type of energy gets some market distorting subsidy from the federal government.  An honest energy debate should include ethanol, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydropower, wind, solar, and biomass.  When the oil and gas subsidies were targeted last month, the president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association stated:  “Targeting a specific industry or even a segment of that industry is what we would consider punitive and unfair tax policy, and it is not going to get us increased energy security, increased employment and certainly not going to lower the price of gasoline.”  The same is true for the vote we’re scheduled to have today.

In December 2010, Congress enacted a one-year extension of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, or VEETC, also known as the blenders’ credit.  This one-year extension has allowed Congress and the domestic biofuels industry to determine the best path forward for federal support for biofuels.  As a result of these discussions, Senator Conrad and I introduced bipartisan legislation on May 4 that is a serious, responsible first step to reducing and redirecting federal tax incentives for ethanol.  Our bill will reduce and phase out VEETC over a period of a few years.  It also would extend, through 2016, the alternative fuel refueling property credit; the cellulosic producers’ tax credit; and the special depreciation allowance for cellulosic biofuel plant property.  Earlier this week, I joined Senator Thune and Senator Klobuchar in introducing another bipartisan bill to immediately reduce and reform the ethanol tax incentive.  It includes many of the same features as the bill I introduced last month, but it enacts the reforms this year.  Senator Thune’s approach also leads to significant deficit reduction.  The legislation we’ve introduced is a responsible approach that will reduce the existing blenders’ credit and put those valuable resources into investing in alternative fuel infrastructure, including alternative fuel pumps.  It would also make significant investments in advanced and cellulosic ethanol.  It’s a forward looking bill that deserves widespread support. The Thune-Klobuchar bill would responsibly and predictably reduce the existing tax incentive, and help get alternative fuel infrastructure in place so consumers can decide which fuel they’d prefer.  We shouldn’t pull the rug out from under this industry that has made these enormous investments.  We need to provide a transition.

I know that when American consumers have the choice, they will choose domestically produced, clean, affordable renewable fuel.  They’ll choose fuel from America’s farmers and ranchers, rather than oil sheiks and foreign dictators.  Both of the ethanol reform bills I mentioned are supported by the ethanol advocacy groups.  In an almost unprecedented move, the ethanol industry is advocating for a reduction in their federal incentives.  No other energy industry has come to the table to reduce their subsidies.  No other energy lobby has come to me with a plan to reduce their federal support.  The best way to get deficit reduction that gets to the President’s desk is a responsible transition, like the one offered by Senator Thune.  Otherwise, this exercise today is a waste of time. This vote will simply put many members of this body on the record in support of a $2.4 billion tax increase.  I would encourage those who want to reduce the incentive and save taxpayer money to work with Senator Thune and Senator Klobuchar, and the rest of us on a responsible transition that has a chance of being enacted.  I therefore urge my colleagues to oppose these two amendments and to consider this fact check on statements that the sponsor of the amendment has made on the Senate floor:

Senator Coburn’s statement:

“We can save $3 billion if we eliminate the VEETC blending subsidy.”

In fact:

There are a lot of numbers thrown around about how much this incentive costs and how much Senator Coburn’s amendment would save.  I have a letter from the Joint Committee on Taxation with a score of Senator Coburn’s amendment.  The fact is, the amendment, if enacted on July 1, 2011, would increase revenue to the federal treasury by $2.4 billion.  Not $3 billion as the author has stated.  Again, the Coburn amendment, if enacted on July 1, would save $2.4 billion.  That’s from the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Senator Coburn’s statement:

“All the blenders of gasoline in the United States – all of them – have called and written and said:  We do not want the $3 billion for the rest of the year.”

In fact:

I have a letter from the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America or SIGMA, to the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, opposing efforts to prematurely or abruptly eliminate the blender’s credit.  That letter states, “As the leading marketers of ethanol-blended fuel at the retail level, SIGMA’s members and customers are the beneficiaries of VEETC.  Simply put, SIGMA opposes recent moves to prematurely or abruptly end the subsidies without any consideration for future fuel and fuel-delivery costs.  To end this incentive immediately would no doubt result in an immediate spike in consumers’ fuel costs.”

I would also like to point out another fact to the Senator from Oklahoma about the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, which sent him the letter calling for a targeted tax hike on ethanol production.  This organization, which is lobbying for the repeal of the ethanol incentive, also led the charge against raising taxes on the oil and gas industry just last month.  The president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association stated: “Targeting a specific industry or even a segment of that industry is what we would consider punitive and unfair tax policy, and it is not going to get us increased energy security, increased employment and certainly not going to lower the price of gasoline.”  He could have just as well been referring to the targeted tax increase on ethanol use.

Senator Coburn’s statement:

“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 40 percent of last year’s corn crop was utilized, converted to ethanol.”

In fact:

One bushel of corn produces nearly 3 gallons of ethanol and 18 pounds of high value animal feed.  In 2010, 4.65 billion bushels of corn were used to produce 13 billion gallons of ethanol.  But, ethanol production uses only the starch from the corn kernel.  More than one-third, or 1.4 billion bushels of dried distiller’s grain was available as a high-value livestock feed.  On a net basis, ethanol production used only 23 percent of the U.S. corn crop, far less than the 40 percent that Senator Coburn claims.  According to USDA, feed use consumed 37 percent of the U.S. corn supply, much more than the 23 percent consumed by ethanol production.

Senator Coburn’s statement:

“The American people ought to take into consideration when they go buy a gallon of fuel today – you already have $1.72 worth of subsidy in there.  It does not have anything to do with oil and gas drilling.”

In fact:

I believe Senator Coburn is referring to a report from the Congressional Budget Office.  For the record, that report relied on the questionable assumption that only a tiny fraction of ethanol consumption is attributable to the ethanol tax credit.  Regardless, I’m glad he raised this point about subsidies and oil and gas drilling.  Our colleagues may be interested to learn of the hidden cost of our dependence on foreign oil.  A peer-reviewed paper published in Environment Magazine in July 2010 concluded that "...$27 to $138 billion dollars is spent annually by the U.S. military for protection of Middle Eastern maritime oil transit routes and oil infrastructure, with an average of $84 billion dollars per year."  Milton Copulos, an advisor to President Ronald Reagan, a veteran of the Heritage Foundation, and head of the National Defense Council Foundation testified before Congress in 2006 on the “hidden costs” of imported oil.  Mr. Copulos stated that by calculating oil supply disruptions and military expenditures, the hidden costs of the U.S. dependence on petroleum would total up to $825 billion per year.  This military expenditure is equivalent to adding $8.35 to the price of a gallon of gasoline refined from Persian Gulf oil.  There is no hidden U.S. military cost attributable to homegrown ethanol.

Senator Coburn’s statement regarding oil and gas subsidies:

“There is a big difference between a subsidy that is a tax credit and allowing someone to advance depreciation because they are going to write it off anyhow.  The net effect to the Federal Government’s revenue, if you take all of those away, is still zero.”

In fact:

A September 2000, report by the Government Accountability Office concluded that the federal government has granted tax incentives, direct subsidies and other support to the petroleum industry.  They describe tax incentives as federal tax provisions that grant special tax relief designed to encourage certain kinds of behavior by taxpayers or to aid taxpayers in special circumstances.  According to the Government Accountability Office, the tax break allowing for the expensing of intangible drilling costs began in 1916.  The percentage depletion allowance was enacted in 1926.  The GAO estimated that these two tax incentives led to a revenue loss of as much as $144 billion from 1968 until 2000.  That’s a far cry from the zero revenue affect that Senator Coburn claims.  These are GAO’s words and figures.  They refer to them as tax incentives that resulted in the loss of more than $100 billion dollars to the federal treasury over that 32 year period.  I’ve heard Senator Coburn on the floor on many occasions talking about the dire fiscal situation our country is in.  Yet, on this issue, it sounds like he’s arguing about semantics.  One is a “subsidy” yet the other is a “legitimate business expense.”  I’m not sure that this argument over terminology will give our children and grandchildren much comfort when they’re picking up the trillion dollar tab over the next couple decades.

Senator Coburn’s statement:

“Corn prices are at $7.65 a bushel.  They are 2½ times what they were 3½ years ago.”  Ethanol “has been, this last year, the significant driver.”

In fact:

Grain used for ethanol accounts for approximately 3 percent of the world’s course grain.  And, because of increased corn production, the amount of grain available for non-ethanol use is growing.  In 2000, there was 2.4 billion metric tons of grain available for uses other than ethanol.  Even with the growth in the ethanol industry, last year there was 2.6 billion metric tons of grain available for uses other than ethanol.  It’s also important to review the cost of corn in retail food prices.  At $7.40 a bushel, the corn cost in a gallon of milk is about 46 cents.  The cost of corn in a pound of chicken is 34 cents.  One pound of beef takes 92 cents worth of corn.  One pound of pork requires 39 cents.

 

 
Risky Gun Walking Strategy was a Conscious Decision by Senior Officials PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 12:59

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck. Grassley
Before the United States House of Representatives
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
“Operation Fast and Furious: Reckless Decisions, Tragic Outcomes”
Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thank you, Chairman Issa, for calling these important hearings and for the great work you and your staff have done. I am grateful to Agent Brian Terry’s family for being here today and wish to express my sympathies for their loss.  I hope we can get them the answers they deserve. I also want to thank the federal agents who will be testifying from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.  I know they are here to tell the unvarnished truth.  I also know that can be tough, since they still work for ATF.  These agents already risk their lives to keep us safe.  They shouldn’t have to risk their jobs too.  Any attempt to retaliate against them for their testimony today would be unfair, unwise, and unlawful.

When I became Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee in January, this was the first oversight issue to land on my desk.  Several other Senators’ offices contacted my office to pass along these allegations about an ATF case called “Operation Fast and Furious.”  At first, the allegations sounded too shocking to believe.  But sadly, they turned about to be true.

ATF is supposed to stop criminals from trafficking guns to Mexican drug cartels.  Instead, ATF made it easier for alleged cartel middlemen to get weapons from U.S. gun dealers. Agents were ordered to stand by and watch these middlemen — these straw purchasers — buy hundredsupon hundreds of weapons.  Agents warned that inaction could lead to tragedy, but management didn’t want to listen.  We will hear from some of those agents today.

Inaction would be bad enough, but ATF went even further.

ATF encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw buyers.  Emails prove that at least one dealer worried prophetically about the risk.[1] He wrote to ATF about his concern that a border patrol agent might end up facing the wrong end of one of these guns.[2] ATF supervisors told the dealer not to worry.  So, the agents said it was a bad idea.  And, the gun dealers said it was a bad idea.

Who thought it was a good idea?  Why did this happen?

The President said he didn’t authorize it and that the Attorney General didn’t authorize it.  They have both admitted that a “serious mistake” may have been made.  There are a lot of questions, and a lot of investigating to do.  But one thing has become clear already — this was no mistake.

It was a conscious decision by senior officials.  It was written down.  It was briefed up to Washington, D.C.  According to an internal briefing paper, Operation Fast and Furious was intentionally designed to “allow the transfer of firearms to continue to take place.”[3]

Why would the ATF do such a thing?

Well, the next line in the brief paper tells us.  It was, “to further the investigation and allow for the identification of additional co-conspirators[.][4] So, that was the goal.  The purpose of allowing straw buyers to keep buying was to find out who else might be working with them — who else might be in their network of gun traffickers.  Of course, that assumes that they are part of a big, sophisticated network.  That kind of assumption can cause you to start with a conclusion and work backwards, looking for facts that fit.  Until you figure out that you’ve got the cart before the horse, you’re probably not going to get anywhere.

Professor of Criminology Gary Kleck recently published an article in the Wall Street Journal called “The Myth of Big-Time Gun Trafficking.”[5] Professor Kleck said that according to his study of national crime data, ATF handles only about 15 operations each year that involve more than 250 guns.[6] According to his study, a typical trafficking operation involves fewer than 12 guns.[7] 

So why would the ATF make it a priority to identify large networks of traffickers?  Why would senior leadership decide to explicitly elevate that goal above ATF’s traditional work of seizing weapons that were illegally purchased?

On October 26, 2009, emails indicate that there was a meeting of senior law enforcement officials at the Justice Department.[8] It appears to have included the heads every law enforcement component of the Department, including directors of the FBI, the DEA and the ATF.[9] It also included the U.S. Attorneys for all the Southwest border states, the Director of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, and the Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee.[10]

Sounds like a pretty big, important meeting, doesn’t it?

On the agenda at that meeting was a document describing the Department’s strategy for combatting the Mexican cartels.  In a section called “Attacking the Southbound Flow of Firearms,” it says:

Thus, given the national scope of this issue, merely seizing firearms through interdiction will not stop firearms trafficking to Mexico.  We must identify, investigate, and eliminate the sources of illegally trafficked firearms and the networks that transport them.[11]

The message was clear.  Trying to identify networks of traffickers is more important than seizing weapons.  This document was transmitted to the head of the Phoenix Field Division on October 27, 2009.[12]

Four days later, the Phoenix Field Division began investigating Uriel Patino on suspicion of being involved in a gun trafficking ring.  Ten days after that, Patino was assigned his own case number.  In the first 24 days that the ATF was on to him, Patino bought 34 guns from dealers cooperating with the ATF.  That’s nearly three times more than the typical gun trafficking operation, according to the study in the Wall Street Journal I mentioned earlier.

But that was just the beginning.

Since the dealers were cooperating, ATF received notice of each purchase right away.  Analysts entered the serial numbers into ATF’s Suspect Gun Database, usually within days of the purchase.  On November 20th, one of the 34 guns Patino bought turned up in Mexico — just 14 days after he bought it in Phoenix.  ATF learned of the recovery through a hit in the suspect gun database on November 24th.[13] That same day, Patino brought Jaime Avila into a cooperating gun dealer and they bought five more guns.[14] ATF had real-time notice from the dealers and agents rushed to the store to follow them, but arrived too late.

Over the next six weeks, Avila bought 13 guns at dealers cooperating with the ATF.[15] The dealers notified the ATF of each purchase right away.  Analysts entered the serial numbers into the ATF database, usually within about 2 days of the purchase.

Yet ATF did nothing to deter or interrupt the straw purchasers.  Avila went back to the cooperating dealer and purchased three more AK-47-type weapons on January 16, 2010.[16] ATF simply put the serial numbers in its database.  Still, ATF did nothing to stop Avila and Patino.

11 months later, two of those three rifles were recovered at the scene of Agent Terry’s murder.[17] During those 11 months, Avila purchased another 34 firearms.  Patino purchased 539.

Again, cooperating gun dealers notified ATF of each purchase. It usually took about 5 days to enter the serial numbers into ATF’s database.  But ATF often had real-time or even advanced notice of the purchases from the dealers.

ATF even specifically approved particular transactions. 

For example, in August of 2010, a gun dealer cooperating with the ATF asked for guidance.  Patino wanted 20 more weapons, but the dealer only had 4 in stock.[18] The dealer told ATF that if he were to sell the guns, he would have to “obtain the additional 16 specifically for this purpose.”[19] An ATF supervisor wrote back, “our guidance is that we would like you to go through with Mr Patino’s request and order the additional firearms[.]”[20] At this point, ATF already knew that he bought 673 guns from cooperating dealers and that many had already been recovered at crime scenes.  I want to be clear that we don’t know whether this particular order was actually filled.[21]

However, these new emails support what agents and dealers have been telling us for months.  According to them, dealers notified ATF whenany of the straw purchasers bought guns — either before, during, or shortly after the sale.

We don’t know what the exact totals are.  But, we know the Suspect Gun Database had at least 1,880 guns related to this case.[22] At least 30 of them were high-power, .50 caliber rifles.[23] The straw purchasers bought 212 guns in just six days in December 2009.[24] 70% of all the guns in the database were bought by just 5 straw purchasers.[25] If ATF agents had been allowed to stop just those five buyers, most of the guns in this case would not have fallen into the wrong hands.

Finally, I want to say something about the politics of gun control.  This investigation is not about politics.  It is about getting the facts.  No matter what side of that issue you are on, the facts here should be disturbing.  There will be plenty of time for both sides to argue about policy implications of all this at some point.  But I hope we can do that another day.

Today is about these agents not being allowed to do their job.  Today is about the Terry family and their search for the truth.  Too often, we want to make everything about politics.  We pick sides and only listen to what we want to hear.   At least for today, let’s just listen to what these agents and this family has to say.  Let’s hear their stories.  Then let’s work together to get answers for this family and the other families who may have suffered.  It’s time to get to the truth and hold our government accountable.

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Help Children Cope with a Disaster PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Joy Venhorst   
Thursday, 16 June 2011 12:21
AMES, Iowa -- Coping with a disaster can be difficult for children and their families, says Lesia Oesterreich, a family life state specialist with Iowa State University Extension.

Children may have many different reactions. “Children may become upset or cry easily, get angry or act out, become restless or have difficulty paying attention,” she said. “Some children may be quiet and withdrawn, while others can’t stoptalking about the experience.”

The ISU Extension specialist noted that changes in a child’s behavior may be signs or symptoms of distress or discomfortfollowing a disaster.
Young children may feel vulnerable, Oesterreich said. “They don’t understand what is happening and have trouble communicating how they feel. Older children also may have a hard time expressing their feelings.”

Oesterreich said following a disaster, some children may be afraid of the disaster recurring, or become anxious when thereis rain, storms, sirens or other reminders.
Such changes in behaviors are common in children who have been through a disaster, and are natural responses to stress. Some of these symptoms may last for weeks or months, but should diminish over time.

Help children cope
Parents can help their children cope, Oesterreich said. She recommends the following actions:

Keep children informed. Responding to a crisis limits time for conversation, but parents should make an effort to talk regularly with children. A one minute chat throughout the day can make a world of difference in a child’s level of understanding.

Speak simply and honestly about the situation. Explain to your children what is happening to your family. Use simple words they can understand. Be honest. Keep children informed of a problem that will directly affect them.

Make time to comfort and reassure your children. Just a moment of your time, a gentle hug or a reassuring word may be all children need to feel safer and more secure in an emotional situation. Involve children in the family’s efforts to prepare for or recover from a disaster. Remember to keep assigned tasks safe and age-appropriate. Let them know you appreciate their efforts to help the family. Pulling together through adversity will strengthen the family in ways that will last long after the crisis is resolved.

Help young children understand the disaster. Young children sometimes think they are responsible for causing a disasteror that the disaster is some kind of punishment for something they did. You can explain how tornados, storms or floods happen, and how these are unusual but natural patterns of weather.

Reassure children about the family safety. Because young children sometimes have difficulty understanding complexsituations, they can easily exaggerate their normal fear of being separated from their parents.

Maintain routines or rituals of comfort. Dinnertime at the kitchen table or a story or a favorite teddy bear at bedtime may provide young children with a sense of security.
Talk with children about how you feel and suggest a positive response. Say something like, “Mommy feels very sad about leaving home. That is why I am crying. Come and give Mommy a hug.” Giving children something to do makes them feel a part of the family response to the adversity.

Put words of acceptance to your children's feelings and experiences. Say something similar to “Yes Tommy. It’s OK to cry. Taffy (the family pet) will come back to our house when we return too. For now, Uncle Ned will take good care ofher.” Be a good listener and supporter.

Show children models of courage, determination, coping and support. “Daddy was up all night putting sandbags around the house. Our neighbors are doing the same. We are all working together.” Point out ways of coping that you use. “WhenI feel sad I think of the good times we have had and remind myself that things will be better soon.”

Seek professional advice if needed. Contact your physician or mental health agency if you are worried about your child showing symptoms that are severe or lasting too long. You also can call ISU Extension’s Iowa Concern hotline, 1-800-447-1985, or contact your ISU Extension county office.

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