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The Christmas Hope: A To-Do List for a Better World PDF Print E-mail
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Written by John W. Whitehead   
Monday, 22 December 2014 14:59
“The Christmas hope for peace and good will toward all men can no longer be dismissed as a kind of pious dream of some utopian. If we don’t have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power. Wisdom born of experience should tell us that war is obsolete. We must either learn to live together as brothers or we are going to perish together as fools.”—Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Christmas Eve sermon, 1967

As a child, my Christmas wish list came right out of the Sears and Roebuck catalogue—toys, board games, bikes, action figures, etc. My parents, like so many in their day, belonged to the working-class poor, so while I never lacked for the necessities of life, many of the items on my wish list never came to be. Even so, I was no worse off for it.

I wish the same could be said of those still unfulfilled items on my adult Christmas wish list. Each year, I wish for the same things—an end to war, poverty, hunger, violence and disease—and each year, I find the world relatively unchanged. Millions continue to die every year, casualties of a world that places greater value on war machines and profit margins than human life.

I’ve seen enough of the world in my 68 years to know that wishing is not enough. We need to be doing. It’s not possible to solve all of the world’s problems right away. For most people, putting an end to world hunger, poverty, disease and the police state may seem too insurmountable a task to even tackle. But as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, there are practical steps each of us can take to hopefully get things moving in the right direction. Here’s what I would suggest for a start:

Tone down the partisan rhetoric, the “us” vs. “them” mentality. Politicians frequently perpetuate a “good” versus “evil,” “us” versus “them” rhetoric which pits citizen against citizen and allows the politicians to advance their personal, political agendas. Instead of wasting time and resources on political infighting, which gets us nowhere, it’s time Americans learned to work together to solve the problems before us. The best place to start is in your own communities, neighbor to neighbor. After all, at the end of the day, it makes no difference what politician you voted for—Republican, Democrat or otherwise—politics will never be the answer. Politicians have mastered the art of creating dissension, but they’re all the same. Grassroots activism is the only kind of change you can count on.

Turn off the TV and tune into what’s happening in your family, in your community and your world. Read your local newspaper. Attend a school board or city council meeting. Get involved with a nonprofit that works in your community. Whatever you do, reduce your intake of mindless television and entertainment news. The only reality programming worth taking notice of is the one playing in your home and community.

Show compassion to those in need, be kind to those around you, forgive those who have wronged you, and teach your children to do the same. Increasingly, people seem to be forgetting their p’s and q’s—basic manners that were drilled into older generations. I’m talking about simple things like holding a door open for someone, helping someone stranded on the side of the road, and saying “please” and “thank you” to those who do you a service—whether it be to the teenager bagging your groceries or the family member who just passed the potatoes. As author Robert Heinlein observed, “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot...”

Talk less, listen more. Take less, and give more. If people spent less time dwelling on and attending to their own needs and more time trying to help and understand those around them, many of the problems we currently face could be eliminated.

Stop acting entitled and start being empowered. We have moved into the Age of Entitlement, where more and more people feel entitled to certain benefits without having to work for them. There’s nothing wrong with helping those less fortunate, but as my parents taught me, there’s a lot to be said for an honest day’s work.

Remember that all people are endowed with inalienable rights. I’ve heard a lot of chatter in recent years in favor of torturing detainees and denying basic rights to non-citizens, but doing so not only goes against everything that the U.S. is supposed to stand for, but it also goes against every principle common to all world religions—forgiveness, charity, nonjudgmentalism, nonviolence, etc. America cannot continue to lambast terrorist groups for their contempt for human life and dignity when our own nation violates these same principles time and again.

Stop being a hater. Increasingly, we as a society have come to reflect the hostility at work in the world at large. This is so even in such a virtual microcrosm as Facebook, where “unfriending” those with whom you might disagree has become commonplace. How can we ever hope to curb the hatred and animosity that have spurred global terrorism over the past few decades if we can’t even forgive the human failings of those in our immediate circles?

Learn tolerance in the true sense of the word. There’s no need to legislate tolerance through hate crime legislation and other politically correct mechanisms of compliance. True tolerance stems from a basic respect for one’s fellow man or woman. And it should be taught to children from the time they can understand right from wrong.

Treat women like people, not things. If pop culture and the media are any reflection of how women and girls are viewed today—primarily as sex objects—then one can only wonder what exactly the women’s rights movement has been doing in recent years. The use of sex and its impact on young girls is particularly troubling. As professor Henry A. Giroux observed: “Market strategists are increasingly using sexually charged images to sell commodities, often representing the fantasies of an adult version of sexuality. For instance, Abercrombie & Fitch, a clothing franchise for young people, has earned a reputation for its risqué catalogues filled with promotional ads of scantily clad kids and its over-the-top sexual advice columns for teens and preteens; one catalogue featured an ad for thongs for ten-year-olds with the words ‘eye candy’ and ‘wink wink’ written on them. Another clothing store sold underwear geared toward teens with ‘Who needs Credit Cards ...?’ written across the crotch. Children as young as six years old are being sold lacy underwear, push-up bras and ‘date night accessories’ for their various doll collections. In 2006, the Tesco department store chain sold a pole dancing kit designed for young girls to unleash the sex kitten inside.”

Value your family. The traditional family, such that it is, is already in great disrepair, torn apart by divorce, infidelity, overscheduling, overwork, materialism, and an absence of spirituality. Despite the billions we spend on childcare, toys, clothes, private lessons, etc., a concern for our children no longer seems to be a prime factor in how we live our lives. And now we are beginning to see the blowback from collapsing familial relationships. Indeed, more and more, I hear about young people refusing to talk to their parents, grandparents being denied access to their grandchildren, and older individuals left to molder away in nursing homes. Yet without the family, the true building block of our nation, there can be no freedom.

Feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and comfort the lonely and broken-hearted. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Take part in local food drives. Take a meal to a needy family. “Adopt” an elderly person at a nursing home. Support the creation of local homeless shelters in your community. Urge your churches, synagogues and mosques to act as rotating thermal shelters for the homeless during the cold winter months.

Give peace a chance. So far, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have cost American taxpayers more than $4 trillion, and that doesn’t even begin to approach the human cost in lives lost—military and civilian—and families rent asunder. The military industrial complex has a lot to gain financially so long as America continues to wage its wars at home and abroad, but you can be sure that the American people will lose everything unless we find some way to give peace a chance. We can start by bringing all of our men and women in uniform home.

Start your own teaspoon brigade. You don’t have to solve all the world’s problems single-handedly, nor do you have to solve them overnight. Little by little, you’ll get there, but you have to start somewhere. It is up to each of us to do our part to make this a better world for all. As the legendary singer, songwriter and activist Pete Seeger once remarked to me:

I tell everybody a little parable about the “teaspoon brigades.” Imagine a big seesaw. One end of the seesaw is on the ground because it has a big basket half full of rocks in it. The other end of the seesaw is up in the air because it’s got a basket one-quarter full of sand. Some of us have teaspoons, and we are trying to fill it up. Most people are scoffing at us. They say, “People like you have been trying for thousands of years, but it is leaking out of that basket as fast as you are putting it in.” Our answer is that we are getting more people with teaspoons every day. And we believe that one of these days or years—who knows—that basket of sand is going to be so full that you are going to see that whole seesaw going zoop! in the other direction. Then people are going to say, “How did it happen so suddenly?” And we answer, “Us and our little teaspoons over thousands of years.”

 
Victories for Iowa PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rep. Dave Loebsack   
Monday, 22 December 2014 14:34

As we approach the end of the year, we are also closing out the 113th Congress.  While this Congress as a whole has left many things to complete, I have been busy working across the aisle to overcome the Washington gridlock and advance legislation to benefit the people of Iowa.  A summary of some of those achievements are below.

Growing Iowa’s Economy

SECTORS Act

Large portions of my SECTORS Act were passed as part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  The SECTORS Act will ensure workers have the training they need to secure good jobs and employers have access to a workforce with the skills that are needed for them to expand, boost our economy, and out-perform the global competition.

Water Resources Reform and Development Act

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) authorizes Corps of Engineers funding for improvements to ports, waterways and projects tied to flood protection, drinking water, dams and levees and environmental restoration.  This bill also contained my legislation to protect Cedar Rapids from future flooding.

Strengthening Rock Island Arsenal

I have continued my efforts to drive more workload to the Rock Island Arsenal, which will help both the Arsenal and the Quad Cities’ economy remain strong.

Cleaning Up Congress

There is no doubt that the American people have lost faith in Congress.  That is why I have fought to hold Congress accountable for its actions by fighting for legislation to cut Member’s pay for the first time since the Great Depression and permanently ban all Member’s from becoming lobbyists.

Fighting for Rural Iowa

Farm Bill

The long-term farm bill that passed Congress this year is essential for farmers and rural communities to be able to invest and plan for the future.  The new farm bill makes important reforms, gives our farmers strong risk management tools, strengthens our rural communities, and creates job well beyond the farm.

Renewable Fuels Standard

We all know the importance of biofuels to Iowa’s economy, which is why I have been leading the fight in Congress against the EPA to reverse its announced Renewable Fuels Standard proposal.  The proposal that the EPA announced last fall is flat-out unacceptable and would have dire consequences to Iowa’s economy.

Production Tax Credit

The PTC has helped the still growing wind energy industry employ 80,000 Americans, including thousands of Iowans.  Living in Iowa, I understand how important renewable energy is to our state, to our country’s future, and to our economy.

On January 6th, when the new Congress is sworn in, I will have the honor of serving on the Energy and Commerce Committee.  This new position will allow me to have a greater say on issues that are important to Iowans, including job creation, growing the economy, making sound investments in renewable energy such as wind, solar and biofuels and growing the Middle Class.  I have been honored to serve as your voice and look forward to continuing that in the New Year.

Congressman Dave Loebsack

 
Senior Star at Elmore Place Wins 2015 Best of Assisted Living Award from SeniorAdvisor.com PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Christina L. Maggio-Kellerstrass   
Friday, 19 December 2014 15:46

DAVENPORT, IA (December 19, 2014) – Senior Star at Elmore Place is pleased to announce today that they have won a 2015 Best of Assisted Living Award for receiving consistently high ratings from residents, families and visitors in the past year on SeniorAdvisor.com, the premier ratings and reviews site for senior care and services nationwide.

Now in their second year, the Best of 2015 Awards celebrate the best of the best in American senior care and are only given to communities and agencies that have consistently received outstanding feedback from residents and families on the SeniorAdvisor.com website.  This exclusive designation places the winners in the top one percent of senior care providers nationwide according to those who matter most – their residents and families.  Of the nearly 100,000 providers listed on SeniorAdvisor.com, only 879 were recognized with this award including two of Senior Star’s 13 communities across the United States.

To qualify for a SeniorAdvisor.com Best of 2015 Award, winners must have an average overall rating of at least 4.5 of 5 stars and a minimum number of reviews.  Additionally, winners must offer at least one of the following types of care:  assisted living, Alzheimer’s care, independent living, low-income senior housing, skilled nursing or in-home care.  Further details and a complete list of award winners can be found on SeniorAdvisor.com.

“To be in the company of other elite senior care providers by winning a Best of 2015 Assisted Living Award given by SeniorAdvisor.com is an honor,” said Marc Strohschein, Senior Star at Elmore Place executive director.  “Knowing that this award comes from the important critique and opinions of our residents and their families means a great deal as they are what makes us strive for excellence and the reason why we have the mission of providing quality senior housing programs.”

For more information about Senior Star at Elmore Place or to schedule a tour, call 563.484.5114 or visit the website at www.seniorstar.com.

About Senior Star at Elmore Place

Senior Star at Elmore Place, a Senior Star community, features 236 modernly decorated apartments spanning across 20 acres of beautifully landscaped property with many customized amenities to offer its residents three distinctive living experiences:  independent living, assisted living and memory care.  For more information, visit www.seniorstar.com.

About SeniorAdvisor.com LLC

SeniorAdvisor.com is the premier consumer ratings and reviews site for senior living communities and home care providers nationwide.  The innovative website provides easy access to the information families need when making a senior care decision and features trusted reviews and advice from local residents and their loved ones.  For more information, visit www.senioradvisor.com or call 1.800.805.3621.

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Rutherford Institute Defends 4-Year-Old Pre-Schooler Who Was Handcuffed, Shackled and Transported to Police Station for Allegedly Acting Up in Class PDF Print E-mail
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Written by John W. Whitehead   
Friday, 19 December 2014 15:04

STANARDSVILLE, Va. — The Rutherford Institute has come to the aid of a four-year-old Virginia student who, after allegedly acting up in class, was turned over to police, who handcuffed and shackled the preschooler and transported him to the sheriff’s office. While at the sheriff’s office, the police forced C.B., the four-year-old, to speak with prison inmates in an apparent attempt to “scare straight” the preschooler. The child was left in handcuffs or shackles for about 20 minutes.

Pointing out that handcuffing and shackling a four-year-old is excessive, unwarranted, and unnecessarily traumatizing, attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have asked that public school officials take steps to assure the child’s family and the rest of the community of parents and concerned citizens that what happened to C.B. will not happen again to him or other students of similar age. Specifically, Institute attorneys have asked that protocols be established to guide school personnel and allow them to deal more appropriately with students who are acting up or have become upset, preventing such incidents from escalating to the point where use of law enforcement is considered an option.

The Rutherford Institute’s letter to Greene County Public Schools is available at www.rutherford.org.

“That it was a sheriff’s deputy and not a public school official who handcuffed and shackled this four-year-old does not detract from the fact that this mother entrusted her son to the care of school officials, trusting them to care for him as she would, with compassion, understanding and patience,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State. “That such extreme restraints would even be contemplated in a case such as this points to a failure by those in leadership to provide the proper guidance to school personnel in what forms of restraint and force are appropriate when dealing with students, especially the youngest and most vulnerable.”

The incident occurred on October 16, 2014, while four-year-old C.B. was in one of the pre-Kindergarten programs at Nathanael Greene Primary School. According to school officials, C.B. was removed from the classroom after allegedly becoming agitated and throwing several items onto the floor. School personnel then telephoned C.B.’s mother, Tracy Wood, who indicated she would come and get the child. Although school personnel knew C.B.’s mother was en route to NGPS, they called in the school’s resource officer, a Greene County deputy sheriff, to confront the preschooler. The sight of the law enforcement officer reportedly only served to agitate C.B. further. Instead of employing positive reinforcement, a bear hug or some other method of control appropriate for children, the officer escalated the situation by treating the 4-year-old as if he were being arrested: handcuffing C.B. and transporting him in a police car to a Greene County Sheriff’s office. Upon arriving at NGPS, Ms. Wood was stunned to learn that her son had been transported to the Sheriff’s office.

After a frantic trip to the police station, Ms. Wood arrived to find her son traumatized and in leg shackles, like an inmate being transported for a court appearance. To her dismay, Ms. Wood learned that not only had the 4-year-old been handcuffed and shackled for about 20 minutes, but that the police officer had forced C.B. to speak with persons who had been arrested in an apparent attempt to “scare straight” the preschooler. Incredibly, C.B. was held in handcuffs or shackles for about 20 minutes. Rather than recognizing the imprudence of treating a young child like a hardened criminal, school officials and the sheriff’s office not only defended their actions but actually suspended C.B. from the pre-K program and instructed his mother to seek “homebound instruction” for him. In coming to C.B.’s defense, Rutherford Institute attorneys have asked that school officials rescind the suspension, remove any indication of the incident from C.B.’s records, and implement policies making it clear that handcuffing, shackling and other similar excessive restraint techniques are never appropriate when dealing with children of tender years.

 
Harkin Statement on Senate Passage of Resolution to Honor Child Labor and Education Activists PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Tom Harkin   
Thursday, 18 December 2014 10:00

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today released the following statement on the passage of his U.S. Senate resolution to honor Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai. The resolution is Harkin’s final legislative effort of his career and was the last item passed by the U.S. Senate in the 113th Congress. Harkin is a longtime champion for ending the scourge of child labor around the world and ensuring the right of children to an education. Harkin first nominated Mr. Satyarthi for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work in India and internationally to eradicate the worst forms of child labor.

“I am pleased that the Senate has recognized these two amazing advocates for the rights of children,” said Harkin. “Their efforts have not only saved thousands of childhoods, but have also inspired countless others to take action in this critical fight. I hope that this leads to new emphasis from governments, civil society organizations, and all individuals on eliminating child labor and promoting education for children around the world.”

The text of the resolution is below.

Whereas, on October 10, 2014, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai; 

Whereas the International Labour Organization estimates that, worldwide, 168,000,000 children are exploited financially, with 85,000,000 children working in very hazardous environments and deprived of an education; 

Whereas the United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that 101,000,000 children  are not in school; 

Whereas Kailash Satyarthi and his organization, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, have rescued more than 82,000 children from the worst forms of child labor;

Whereas Malala Yousafzai has promoted education for girls in Pakistan since she was 11 years old and is an advocate for worldwide access to education; 

Whereas Kailash Satyarthi has endured threats on his life as a result of such rescue efforts; and 

Whereas the Taliban attempted to kill Malala Yousafzai on October 9, 2012, as a result of her efforts to encourage more girls to attend school: Now, therefore, be it resolved

 

That the Senate — 

(1) recognizes Nobel Laureates Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai as symbols of peace and advocates for ending the financial exploitation of children and for the opportunity of all children to have access to education; 

(2) commends all individuals working around the world to end the scourge of child slavery and to advance education for all children; 

(3) recognizes the challenges that remain in ending the financial exploitation of children and providing access to an education for all children; 

(4) urges all governments, civil society organizations, businesses, and individuals to unite in the common purpose of protecting children from losing their childhoods as well as   their futures; and 

 

(5) recognizes the dedication and commitment to freedom, the rights of children, and the endurance of the human spirit, demonstrated by all individuals who make sacrifices to build a more peaceful world.

 

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