General Info
Claims Filing Period for Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers Who Claim Past Discrimination at USDA to Open on September 24, 2012 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 07:53
Those Eligible Must File Claims No Later Than March 25, 2013

Espanol

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2012- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers who allege discrimination by the USDA in past decades can file claims between September 24, 2012 and March 25, 2013.

"Hispanic and women farmers who believe they have faced discriminatory practices from the USDA must file a claim by March 25, 2013 in order to have a chance to receive a cash payment or loan forgiveness," said Secretary Vilsack. "The opening of this claims process is part of USDA's ongoing efforts to correct the wrongs of the past and ensure fair treatment to all current and future customers."

The process offers a voluntary alternative to litigation for each Hispanic or female farmer and rancher who can prove that USDA denied their applications for loan or loan servicing assistance for discriminatory reasons for certain time periods between 1981 and 2000.

As announced in February 2011, the voluntary claims process will make available at least $1.33 billion for cash awards and tax relief payments, plus up to $160 million in farm debt relief, to eligible Hispanic and women farmers and ranchers. There are no filing fees to participate in the program.

The Department will continue reaching out to potential Hispanic and female claimants, around the country to get the word out to individuals who may be eligible for this program so they have the opportunity to participate.

Call center representatives can be reached at 1-888-508-4429. Claimants must register for a claims package (by calling the number or visiting the website) and the claims package will be mailed to claimants. All those interested in learning more or receiving information about the claims process and claims packages are encouraged to attend meetings in your communities about the claims process and contact the website or claims telephone number.

Website: www.farmerclaims.gov

Phone: 1-888-508-4429

Claims Period: September 24, 2012 - March 25, 2013.

Independent legal services companies will administer the claims process and adjudicate the claims. Although there are no filing fees to participate and a lawyer is not required to participate in the claims process, persons seeking legal advice may contact a lawyer or other legal services provider.

Under Secretary Vilsack's leadership, USDA has instituted a comprehensive plan to strengthen the Department as a model service provider and to ensure that every farmer and rancher is treated equally and fairly as part of "a new era of civil rights" at USDA. This Administration has made it a priority to resolve all of the past program class action civil rights cases facing the Department, and today's announcement is another major step towards achieving that goal. In February 2010, the Secretary announced the Pigford II settlement with African American farmers, and in October 2010, he announced the Keepseagle settlement with Native American farmers. Both of those settlements have since received court approval. Unlike the cases brought by African American and Native American farmers, the cases filed by Hispanic and women farmers over a decade ago were not certified as class actions and are still pending in the courts as individual matters. The claims process provides a voluntary alternative to continuing litigation for Hispanic and female farmers and ranchers who want to use it.

Audio and video public service announcements in English and Spanish from Secretary Vilsack and downloadable print and web banner ads on the Hispanic and women farmer claims process are available at: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=PSAs_Print_and_WebBanner_Ads.xml

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).


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What is a 21st Century Feminist? PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 07:52
Women’s Author Says She (and He)
May Look A Lot Like You!

With all the talk of a “war on women” during this explosive election year, the notion of feminism is once again in the news – and open to debate. Especially among women.

Nothing illustrates that better than the rash of commentary following the recent death of sexual-revolution era author Helen Gurley Brown, says Heather Huffman (www.heatherhuffman.net), a 35-year-old author whose newest book, “Devil in Disguise,” continues her tradition of upbeat romances featuring strong female protagonists.

“Some writers took her to task for advocating sexual freedom for women,” Huffman says. “They say she wasn’t a ‘feminist’ because she was all for promiscuity, not women’s rights, and her actions led to an explosion of single moms and STDs.

“Others viewed her as the ultimate ‘feminist,’ a heroine who chopped through a cultural thicket to break down repressive social mores.”

The truth is, Huffman says, that Brown did important work on behalf of women.

“While I don’t advocate promiscuity, I do acknowledge that Gurley Brown’s boundary-pushing stance brought the topic of women’s rights to the forefront, paving the way for change,” she says.

The problem is, she says, that when people hear the word “feminist,” they picture a woman from another time, like Helen Gurley Brown. They don’t see themselves at all.

“I hear some women say, ‘I’m not a feminist!’ They think a feminist is a strident, angry man-hater who gets up in arms over any perceived slight,” Huffman says. “That’s too bad, because the world needs feminists as much as it needs any group that advocates for human rights.”

Feminism changes with the times, she says. So what is a 21st century feminist? Huffman offers her observations:

• She (or he) supports a woman’s right to be a mom – or not. When women won acceptance and equal rights in the workplace, we were released from one box and plopped right into another one. “We went from raising children to raising children and working. Too often, that’s the expectation now,” Huffman says. Feminists support a woman’s right to choose her life’s direction, whether that’s staying at home and being mothers, choosing never to become mothers, or some hybrid of work and motherhood.   “Having equal rights is having the freedom to choose our life’s direction without being subjected to discrimination because of what other people expect our role to be,” Huffman says.

• Supports removing double standards. “You still see, in the workplace and at home, the tough guy gets praised, and the tough woman, well, she’s a ‘witch’ or worse,” Huffman says. More smart, savvy women have earned respect professionally – Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Madeleine Albright – and that’s progress, but we still have work to do. “Professional women still get criticized about their hair style, their fashion choices.  Rarely are professional men snubbed for these things.”

• Understands what rights are being legislated and by whom. We all know the hot-button “values” issues that polarize voters. “The reality is a politician’s party affiliation doesn’t paint an accurate picture of who they are or what they stand for. Voting records, corporate associations, and actions are much more telling. As citizens, as women with a voice, we must do our homework to ensure our values are being reflected in Washington. And, in truth, feminism is more than a political movement – it’s the empowerment of women to live the life they were created for.”

About Heather Huffman

Heather Huffman is a women’s advocate, writer, former human relations specialist and mother of three. She and her family are currently homesteading 10 acres in the Ozarks. Huffman is the author of seven novels, including “Throwaway” and its prequel, “Tumbleweed.” A portion of proceeds from sales of her books benefit groups fighting human trafficking.

 
Final passage of reform bill, controls on government charge cards PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 24 September 2012 14:56

Bill to Prevent Abuse of Government Charge Cards on Way to President’s Desk

WASHINGTON – A bill that will require federal agencies to put new controls on government charge cards and enforce more stringent penalties for violations by federal employees is on its way to the President for his signature, following final passage by Congress over the weekend.

The reform measure was sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and it first won Senate approval in July 2011.  The House of Representatives passed it during the summer.  The Senate needed to act again for final passage, which it did very early Saturday morning.

“This bill is about accountability,” said Grassley.  “The public trust has been violated by abusive use of government charge cards.  By putting some common-sense controls into the law, we can make certain the federal bureaucracy improves the way it responsibly manages the use of these cards.”

“Government charge cards create numerous efficiencies by allowing federal employees to make small, official purchases without a mound of paperwork.  But over the years, the Government Accountability Office and the Inspectors General have identified many examples of fraudulent or illegal use of these charge cards.   Even at the General Services Administration, which administers the charge card program for the entire federal government, a high-ranking employee was able to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenditures on a government charge card.  This legislation would impose stricter controls on charge cards to help reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.  It’s a common-sense way to keep the government accountable for taxpayer dollars,” said Lieberman.

“This bill would require agencies to ensure that purchase and travel cards are used only for approved spending and to take action for misuse of cards.  While purchase and travel cards have been important tools in meeting the government’s procurement needs in a timely and cost-efficient manner, their use often has been subject to some malfeasance and inappropriate purchases by individual card holders.  American taxpayers get the bill for these federal credit cards and they deserve complete assurance that their money is going to legitimate business purposes," said Collins.

The senators’ effort to codify new controls and penalties responds to outrageous accounts of purchases made with government charge cards, as well as independent analysis which found inadequate and inconsistent controls within government agencies.  At issue are purchase cards, which are used by authorized federal employees for small-scale items needed for official business, such as office supplies, as well as travel cards, which are issued to federal employees to pay for official travel expenses.  When purchase cards are misused, taxpayer money is wasted.  When travel cards are misused and the bills aren’t paid, the government risks losing millions of dollars in rebates.

Grassley has put the spotlight on problematic use of these cards for many years, first at the Department of Defense and then also at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Forest Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, and elsewhere.

Over the years, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has documented fraudulent, questionable and overly expensive purchases made by federal workers with government purchase and travel cards, including kitchen appliances, jewelry, gambling, cruises, and even the tab at gentlemen’s clubs and legalized brothels.

Below is a summary of the reform legislation.  The Senate also had passed the reform measure in 2009, but it was never taken up by the House of Representatives

Summary of the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act

The bill would require all federal agencies to establish certain safeguards and internal controls for government charge card programs, and to establish penalties for violations, including dismissal when circumstances warrant.  The bill would also increase oversight by providing that each agency Inspector General periodically conduct risk assessments and audits to identify fraud and improper use of government charge cards. These reforms are based on the experience of Grassley and other members of Congress, the GAO, and agency Inspectors General in investigating the weaknesses in agency policies and procedures that have lead to instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in government charge card programs.

The required safeguards and internal controls include:

  • performing credit checks for travel card holders and issuing restricted cards for those with poor or no credit to reduce the potential for misuse
  • maintaining a record of each cardholder, including single transaction limits and total transaction limits so agencies can effectively manage their cardholders
  • implementing periodic reviews to determine if cardholders have a need for a card
  • properly recording rebates to the government based on prompt payment, sales volume, etc.
  • providing training for cardholders and managers
  • utilizing effective systems, techniques, and technologies to prevent or catch fraudulent purchases
  • establishing specific policies about the number of cards to be issued, the credit limits for certain categories of cardholders, and categories of employees eligible to be issued cards
  • invalidating cards when employees leave the agency or transfer
  • establishing an approving official other than the purchase card holder so employees cannot approve their own purchases
  • reconciling purchase card charges on the bill with receipts and supporting documentation
  • reconciling disputed purchase card charges and discrepancies with the bank according to the proper procedure
  • making purchase card payments promptly to avoid interest penalties
  • retaining records of purchase card transactions in accordance with standard government record keeping polices
  • utilizing direct payments to the bank when reimbursing employees for travel card purchases to ensure that travel card bills get paid
  • comparing items submitted on travel vouchers with items already paid for with centrally billed accounts to avoid reimbursing employees for items already paid for by the agency
  • submitting refund requests for unused airline tickets so the taxpayers don’t pay for tickets that were not used
  • disputing unauthorized charges and tracking the status of disputed charges to proper resolution

 

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New Allegations Emerge of White House Involvement in Secret Service Prostitution Scandal PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 21 September 2012 14:51
WASHINGTON – In light of recent press reports of White House personnel involvement in the Colombia prostitution scandal that plagued the Secret Service last spring, Senator Chuck Grassley is pressing for answers to previous inquiries that the White House has ignored.

 

Grassley sent the White House a letter on April 23, 2012 asking questions about the review conducted by the Office of the White House Counsel into allegations of involvement of White House staffers in the prostitution scandal.  Grassley has yet to receive a response from the President.

 

In a new letter sent to the White House late yesterday, Grassley renewed his original request and posed several more questions, including inquiries about contacts that White House personnel has had with the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General conducting a review of the Secret Service’s involvement in the scandal.

 

Here is a copy of the text of Grassley’s letter.  A signed copy can be found here. The April 23, 2012 letter can be found here.

 

September 20, 2012

 

Via Electronic Transmission

 

Kathryn H. Ruemmler

Assistant to the President and White House Counsel

Office of the White House Counsel

Executive Office of the President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington D.C., 20500

 

Dear Ms. Ruemmler:

 

I write to follow up on a letter dated April 23, 2012 (attached), that I sent to you regarding the
“review” conducted by the Office of the White House Counsel into allegations of the involvement of White House staffers in the prostitution scandal that occurred in Colombia in April 2012.  In my letter, I sought information in response to statements by the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, that your office had reviewed these allegations and concluded that there was “no indication of any misconduct” by White House staffers.[1] Mr. Carney failed to elaborate further about the “review” conducted by your office.

 

In my letter, I asked you detailed questions regarding how you conducted this “review” and what specific conclusions you drew about White House staff involvement in this scandal.  I have yet to receive a response.  However, the White House spokesman quickly told the public, without further explanation, that he was confident that there was no such involvement.

 

Now more allegations have arisen regarding White House personnel procuring prostitutes during the President’s trip to Colombia.  Yesterday, an article on Foxnews.com quoted an unnamed “high-ranking Secret Service official” as stating, “Three U.S. delegation members that stayed at the Hilton brought prostitutes back as overnight guests.  One of them was ours [Secret Service] and the other two were White House staffers.”[2] Furthermore, according to the article, multiple law enforcement sources speculate that the forthcoming report to be issued by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS/OIG) has been delayed in order to cover up this involvement by White House staff.

 

Accordingly, I request you respond to my questions in the April 23 letter, and also respond to the following additional questions:

 

1.      Has the White House been in contact with the DHS/OIG? If so, what has been the nature of that contact?

 

2.      Has the White House seen a copy of the draft DHS/OIG report?  Whether or not the White House has seen a copy of the report, is the White House aware of the findings of the report, specifically regarding the allegations of involvement of White House staffers?

 

3.      Has the White House had any input into the drafting of the report, including providing edits to the final version? If so, provide information regarding the nature of the edits.

 

4.      Was any contact between the White House and the DHS/OIG, including review and editing of the report, responsible for the delay in the DHS/OIG’s meeting his target date of July 2, 2012 for release of the report?

 

5.      Has your office or any other office in the White House conducted a new review of the allegations in response to any findings by the DHS/OIG? If so, what did that new review consist of? What were its findings?

 

6.      Was the U.S. Secret Service aware of the alleged involvement of the White House staffers?  Have you been in contact with the U.S. Secret Service regarding these allegations? Has the U.S. Secret Service provided the DHS/OIG any information regarding these allegations?

 

7.      What will happen to these staffers if they are in fact found to have procured prostitutes while on official travel?

 

8.      If the report includes the findings that are being reported, how did your initial review fail to uncover the involvement of these staffers?  Do you concede that your initial review was performed in haste and without sufficient care?

 

9.      If the report includes the findings that are being reported, will Spokesman Carney issue a retraction or correction to his public comments denying any White House staff involvement?

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. I would appreciate your response by September 27, 2012.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member

 

Attachment

 

[1] Steven T. Dennis. “WH Finds No Staff Involved in Secret Service Scandal.” Roll Call.   April 23, 2012.

 

2 Jana Winter, “Probe of Secret Service Prostitution Scandal May Cite White House Advance Staff Involvement,” Fox News.com, Sept. 19, 2012, available at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/19/probe-may-cite-white-house-advance-team-involvement-in-prostitution-scandal/?test=latestnews.

 
Five Top Volunteers Honored by Community Foundation with 2012 Quad City Caring Awards PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Natalie Anderson   
Friday, 21 September 2012 14:27
BETTENDORF, Iowa – It was not easy for the citizen committee to select just 5 Quad City
Caring Award winners this year – a good problem to have.

“We wish we could give out 41 Caring Awards this year because each nominee was so great,”
said a reviewer.

In the end, five outstanding volunteers were selected who have demonstrated selflessness and
a long-term commitment to the betterment of our community, and whose efforts have made a
significant impact.

The 2012 Caring Award recipients are:
• Mark Bawden, nominated by the Putnam Museum / Giant Screen Theater
• Julia Field, nominated by Hand In Hand
• Greg Lundgren, nominated by the Davenport Public Library
• Tommy Miller, nominated by HELP Legal Assistance
• Travis “Rusty” Unterzuber, nominated by Quad City Arts

“The Caring Awards allow us to say a big thank you to dedicated volunteers who make a real
difference in our community,” said Susan Skora, President and CEO of the Community
Foundation of the Great River Bend.

Mark Bawden has helped to ensure the Putnam Museum will be available to citizens of the
Quad Cities for years to come. After 3 years serving as the Board of Trustees Chair, Mark
assumed the role of Chair for the Theater Task Force, and led the charge to raise $12 million to
construct the new Giant Screen Theater. In addition, Mark served as interim Museum Director,
Team Leader of the newest Sustainable Funding initiative, and is the current chairman of the
Development Committee. He and his wife Rita have invested personal and financial support in
the Putnam Museum to ensure the future of this local treasure is bright.

Julia Field is the recipient of the Youth Award, presented each year to an outstanding volunteer
under the age of 21. Hand In Hand CEO Mark Smith, describes Julia Field as “the cheerleader
which every organization needs.” Julia began volunteering at the nonprofit organization for
children with special needs in 2005, when she was in the second grade. She demonstrates a

natural ability to be compassionate and caring with the participants of Hand In Hand. This year,
Julia will take on the role of Student Director for the bowling program. This includes coordinating
weekly bowling schedules, recruiting volunteers, and planning the end of year bowling banquet.
In addition, Julia will continue her volunteer work during the summer camp program. Julia sees
and believes in the power of being the difference for others. The world is in good hands with
young leaders like Julia.

Greg Lundgren, a long-time supporter of the Davenport Public Library, has been a member of
the Davenport Public Library Board of Trustees since 1996. He served as President from 2000-
2006. During his time on the Board, Greg assisted in hiring a new Library Director and was a
primary advocate for the Library to the City Administration and City Councils for the Fairmount
and Eastern Avenue Branch Libraries. In addition, Greg served as the Chair of the Library’s
Building and Grounds Committee from 2004-2012. Greg’s passion and devotion to the
Davenport Public Library continues – he returned as President in July of this year.
Attorney Tommy Miller of Davenport has worked at law offices of HELP Legal Assistance since
the fall of 1979. She first joined as a volunteer, then as a staff attorney for more than twenty
years. After her retirement in 2004, Tommy again returned to HELP Legal Assistance as a
volunteer. Her work has spanned the full range of civil legal cases, from housing and consumer
work to complex education and family law matters. On a daily basis, she has helped thousands
of low-income and senior clients find the light of equal justice.

Travis “Rusty” Unterzuber joined Quad City Arts Board of Directors in 2007 and chose to
volunteer for the Performing Arts Committee, becoming chair of that committee in August 2009.
He and his wife, Doris, also volunteer at the Festival of Trees, Quad City Arts’ major fundraiser.
For years the couple has hosted an annual VAnguard Quad City Arts subscription series party
and invited a Visiting Artist to perform. The Visiting Artist Series brings professional performing
artists to our region for free or low-cost performances. In November 2011, Rusty took on the role
of interim Performing Arts Director. In addition, he oversaw the selection of Visiting Artists for
the 2013-2014 season. Quad City Arts has found a gem in the intellect, passion, and dedication
of Rusty Unterzuber.

The 2012 Quad City Caring Award winners will be recognized at the Community Foundation’s
Annual Celebration on September 25, 2012. The event will be held at the Waterfront Convention
Center in Bettendorf.

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