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Keeping Funeral Costs Affordable PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Steve Burke   
Monday, 14 January 2013 15:04

By Jason Alderman

Anyone who's put a loved one to rest knows that death is not cheap. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average adult funeral cost $6,560 in 2009 (their most current data). That doesn't include such common add-ons as a cemetery plot, headstone, flowers, obituaries and limousine, which can add thousands to the bill.

Because death is a frequently avoided topic, many people aren't armed with information about the many variables – and costs – involved in planning a funeral. Thus, just when survivors are grieving and most vulnerable, they're bombarded by decisions that must be made quickly, often without even knowing what their loved one would have wanted.

The key message for the living is to decide on preferred funeral arrangements ahead of time and to convey those wishes to your family – ideally in your will.

Another important lesson: Know your legal rights and what funeral-related goods and services cost so you – or your survivors – don't feel pressured into buying things you don't want or need. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) oversees "The Funeral Rule," which regulates how funeral providers must deal with consumers. Among its provisions:

  • Upon request, funeral homes must provide an itemized price list of all their goods and services, whether you call (even anonymously) or visit in person.
  • You have the right to choose among their offerings (with certain state-mandated exceptions) and are not required to purchase package deals containing unwanted items.
  • Prior to purchasing a casket or outer burial container from a funeral home, they must share descriptions and prices before showing you stock on hand.
  • Providers that offer cremations must make alternative containers (besides caskets) available.
  • Note: The Funeral Rule does not apply to third-party sellers such as casket and monument dealers, or to cemeteries that lack an on-site funeral home.

If your beliefs don't require following specific funeral protocols, here are a few ways to reduce costs while still honoring the deceased and their survivors:

  • Veterans, immediate family members, members of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and certain civilians who've provided military-related service may be entitled to burial at a national cemetery with a grave marker. Burial is free, but families are responsible for funeral home expenses and transportation to the cemetery.
  • A $255 lump-sum death benefit is available to surviving spouses or minor children of eligible workers who paid into Social Security.
  • For many, cremation is a viable, less expensive option to burial. If you plan to hold a viewing first before the cremation, ask whether you can rent an attractive casket for the ceremony.
  • Some families prefer not to hold a public viewing. For them, "direct cremation" or "immediate burial" may make sense. Because the body is promptly cremated or interred, embalming and cosmetology services are not necessary, which saves hundreds of dollars. Also, with direct cremation you can opt for an unfinished wood coffin or heavy cardboard enclosure for the journey to the crematorium.
  • You can purchase a casket or cremation urn from a source other than your funeral home. The funeral home cannot assess handling fees or require you to be there to take delivery.

The death of a loved one is always upsetting, but you may be able to ease your family's emotional and financial burdens by planning ahead.

 
Honoring Dr. King’s Legacy Through Service PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Vonnie Hampel   
Friday, 11 January 2013 14:44

By Congressman Dave Loebsack 

Each January, we pause to remember the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Best known for his work as a civil rights activist, Dr. King dedicated his life to improving the lives of those in his community and across the nation.  At the core of his beliefs was an unwavering dedication to helping others.  It is in the spirit of this commitment to serving that we mark each Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with a National Day of Service.

Here in Iowa, we have a longstanding tradition of not only helping our neighbors, but also those who we have not met.  In 2011, the Volunteering and Civic Life in America study found that nearly 40% of Iowa’s residents volunteer, making us 3rd in the nation.  All told, Iowans gave over 99 million hours of their time last year serving their communities.

I’m pleased that I was able to honor this tradition by introducing the Volunteer Generation Fund as a part of the bipartisan Serve America Act, which was signed into law in 2009.  This fund builds the capacity of state and local volunteer organizations to recruit, manage, and train volunteers.  Local organizations like the United Way of Wapello County, United Way of East Central Iowa, United Way of Johnson County, and Volunteer Center of Fairfield have already benefited from help to develop and expand their volunteer operations.

I know that as Iowans we will continue to give back and serve others, and this January 21st is a great opportunity to get out and do so.  The Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is a part of United We Serve, a national call to service initiative.  On Monday the 21st, people across America will come together to celebrate Dr. King’s life and contribution to our nation by serving their communities at soup kitchens, schools, community gardens, and even in their own neighborhoods.

I encourage you to find a way to get involved.  You can find local service opportunities or create your own events at www.mlkday.gov.  Here you will find toolkits to help you plan your projects and get inspiration from what others are planning across the country.  You can also register your own project and invite your friends, family and community to participate at www.serve.gov/recruit_mlkday.

If you are unable to join in on January 21st, you can still get involved.  People in our communities need us now more than ever, and any bit of time you are able to give will make a difference.  As January is National Mentoring Month, you might consider becoming a mentor to someone in your neighborhood.  Through the work of organizations like the Iowa Mentoring Partnership, mentoring promotes positive choices and high self-esteem, and shows proven educational and behavioral results.

However you choose to mark this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the National Day of Service, I hope you will pause to remember his legacy and the difference the time you donate can truly make.

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We Need to Start Taking the Guns PDF Print E-mail
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Written by David Fischer   
Friday, 11 January 2013 14:11

"I think we need to start taking them..."

Such were the sentiments of Democratic Iowa State Rep Dan Muhlbauer during an interview with the Carrol Daily Times. Muhlbauer stated he believed in confiscating semi-automatic firearms from Iowans, even those already legally owned by law-abiding citizens.

Will you help the Iowa GOP stand up for gun rights across the state by sending a message to all of Iowa?

“We need to get them of the streets, illegally, and even if you have them I think we need to start taking them.”

That's right, Muhlbauer isn't just talking about banning guns going forward...

He's talking about confiscating them from law-abiding citizens who already own them.

Absolutely nowhere in the Constitution does it give the government the right to confiscate our guns.

That's why I've called on Iowa’s elected officials to reaffirm and defend the constitutionally guaranteed right of Iowans to defend themselves and their families.

In addition, the Republican Party will lead a fervent campaign to reject these extremist views and unseat Mr. Muhlbauer in 2014 and elect a candidate who truly understands the principles of freedom.

That's why I've set a one-day fundraising goal to give us a quick start to challenge Rep. Muhlbauer in 2014.

I know 2014 seems so far away, but I'm furious that Iowans are represented by someone with such disdain for our Constitutional rights.

I want the entire media to know the Iowa GOP is committed to the second amendment and we will do everything we can to unseat this gun-grabber in the next election.

Please help defend our Constitution with a contribution today in our one-day fundraising push.

--

Defending Limited Government,

David Fischer
Iowa GOP Co-Chairman

 
Is Marijuana the Bootleggers’ 21st Century ‘Moonshine’? PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 11 January 2013 14:01
Prohibition Researcher Cites Historic Parallels

Whether they realize it or not, residents of Colorado and Washington have traveled back in time – 80 years, to be exact.

The first two states to decriminalize recreational marijuana are sharing in the national experience of 1933: the end of Prohibition. And the similarities are uncanny, says Prohibition-era researcher and author Denise Frisino.

“As with Prohibition and the criminalization of alcohol production and sales, after marijuana possession was banned in 1937 there were many unintended negative consequences,” maintains Frisino, author of “Whiskey Cove,” (www.whiskeycovebook.com), a novel based on firsthand interviews with Prohibition-era bootleggers in the Pacific Northwest.

“The most obvious is the proliferation of corruption and organized gangs. After Prohibition became effective in 1920, America saw the rise of unprecedented crime.”

And, as was true in the 1920s, increasing crime means a greater need for – and expenditures on – law enforcement and judicial services. Enforcing the Prohibition cost the federal government more than $300 million.

In the interest of learning from history, Frisino cites these additional parallels to Prohibition and our contemporary problems with criminalized marijuana:

• Public safety: During Prohibition, there was no regulatory oversight on the production of alcohol, which meant some illegally brewed and tampered with liquors were downright dangerous. “Bad booze actually killed people,” Frisino says. On average, 1,000 people a year died from drinking tainted alcohol. Marijuana, too, can be dangerous when dealers lace their product with chemicals to make it seem more potent. One benefit of decriminalization is that the quality of substances can be monitored. In Colorado, the growing process is strictly monitored from seed to sale.

• Tax revenues: The federal and state governments lost $11 billion in tax revenues during Prohibition, which was especially painful for states like New York, where nearly 75 percent of revenue came from liquor sales. Today, with the country still reeling from the Great Recession, legalization of marijuana will provide some much-needed extra tax income for Washington and Colorado.

• Medical uses: Like marijuana, alcohol has medicinal uses. Physicians of the early 20th century prescribed it for a variety of ailments. During Prohibition pharmacies could sell medicinal liquor, which led to a spike in the numbers of pharmacies as bootleggers set up shop.

• Common criminals: As with marijuana, outlawing alcohol turned many average Americans into outlaws. During the 13 years of Prohibition, jobs were lost and families crumbled as breadwinners went to jail and became stigmatized as lawbreakers. The number of federal convicts increased 561 percent, according to Mark Thorton’s, “Policy Analysis: Alcohol Prohibition Was a Failure.” In 2004, more than 12 percent of the drug offenders in federal and state prisons were convicted of crimes involving marijuana, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And that’s just prisons – it doesn’t include local jail populations.

The Prohibition era holds valuable lessons about the unforeseen outcome of criminalizing “vices,” Frisino points out. Rather than reducing alcohol consumption, which was the goal, it actually increased from 1929 to 1933, she says. In addition, legitimate jobs and businesses were destroyed and even restaurants and other entertainment businesses suffered.

“History teaches us that going about change by criminalizing certain behaviors can have a very negative impact on society,” Frisino says.

About Denise Frisino

Denise Frisino is an award-winning writer, actress and arts teacher. She has spent her summers playing and working in the numerous islands that define the Pacific Northwest, where her family spans four generations. Frisino and her husband spend time at Hood Canal and reside in Seattle. Her novel, “Whiskey Cove,” is a nominee for the 2013 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award.

 
State of the Judiciary Message — January 16 PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Iowa Judical Branch   
Friday, 11 January 2013 13:57

Des Moines, January 9, 2013— On Wednesday, January 16, 2013, at 10 a.m. in the House Chambers of the Iowa State Capitol, Chief Justice Mark Cady of the Iowa Supreme Court will address a joint convention of the General Assembly on the State of the Judiciary.

Live video of the speech will be broadcast live on the Iowa Public Television .3 Channel (IPTV World) and streamed live on the Iowa Public Television website (www.iptv.org) beginning at 10:00 a.m. The speech will be rebroadcast in HD at 6:30 p.m. on statewide IPTV's main channel.  A summary of the topics that the Chief Justice will address in the speech will be released Tuesday, January 15, 2013.

Members of the media may obtain advance copies of the speech January 16, 2013, at 8:30 a.m. in the supreme court courtroom at the Capitol. The message will be posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch website www.iowacourts.gov at 10:45 a.m.

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