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Simon to address Girl Scouts’ leadership luncheon on 100th anniversary PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kara Beach   
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 13:33

PEORIA – Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will emphasize the importance of strong female role models and empowerment of young girls on Wednesday at the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois leadership luncheon. The luncheon is part of the Girl Scouts’ “Year of the Girl” celebration that recognizes the organization’s 100th anniversary. The national campaign encourages individuals and community networks to foster growth and leadership opportunities for young girls so they may reach their full potential.

Simon will draw on her own experience as a professor, prosecutor and mother as she delivers her keynote address, outlining opportunities for women and girls to continue to achieve.

"I want my daughters to grow up without perceived limitations of what they can accomplish and achieve in this world," Simon said. "Every young woman should have a strong network of support, and we can help create that environment within our communities."

DATE: Wednesday, September 26

TIME: 11:30 a.m.

PLACE: Peoria Civic Center, 201 SW Jefferson Avenue, Peoria

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ICYMI: Grassley Presses for Accountability in Fast and Furious Scandal PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 26 September 2012 13:30

Wednesday, the Inspector General for the Department of Justice issued his report on ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious.

This report is a significant milestone for the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

He was killed in a firefight with illegal aliens who were armed with illegal guns from Fast and Furious.

Attorney General Holder delayed any discipline for the officials responsible for Fast and Furious until after this report was released.

The time for accountability has finally come.

There are no more excuses for inaction.

The Inspector General’s non-partisan review confirmed virtually everything I heard from whistleblowers over the last year and a half.

The Justice Department tried to push all the blame on the ATF and officials in Phoenix.

But, the Inspector General confirmed that senior officials in Washington ignored red flag after red flag.

Senior officials in both the Justice Department and ATF knew or should have known that Operation Fast and Furious was putting guns into the hands of criminals.

But, they ignored the risks and failed to take steps to protect public safety.

The Inspector General also confirmed that there were major information-sharing failures between law enforcement agencies.

We are still going through the nearly 500 page report, as well as 309 pages of new documents that the Justice Department produced late Wednesday.

However, I was surprised to learn from the report that Attorney General Holder testified that he doesn’t remember the conversation with me about Fast and Furious in my office on January 31, 2011.

I remember that conversation.

My staff told the Attorney General that day what whistleblowers had told us.

Specifically, we discussed in that meeting that two weapons that ATF let go in Fast and Furious were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Terry.

I emphasized that I was personally bringing it to his attention because these were very serious and credible allegations, not a just run-of-the-mill letter.

Yet, even after that meeting, the Department didn’t take it seriously.

The Inspector General’s independent report says so explicitly:

“We do not believe that the gravity of this allegation was met with an equally serious effort by the Department to determine whether ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office had allowed the sale of hundreds of weapons to straw purchasers.”

The Justice Department claimed that its process for writing letters to Congress was sound.

But its February 4, 2011 response was false.

DOJ later withdrew it and claimed it relied on bad information from ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

However, the Inspector General agreed with me that the Justice Department’s response was seriously flawed—and not just the initial response.

The Inspector General also found that the Justice Department knew its initial reply wasn’t true when it reaffirmed the denial of the whistleblower allegations in a May 2, 2011 letter to me.

Instead of acknowledging that it was wrong, the Department repeatedly doubled-down on its denials.

For example, Attorney General Holder said on multiple occasions since November 2011 that the wiretap affidavits authorized by Justice Department headquarters did not put senior leadership on notice that ATF was walking guns.

Most recently, on June 7 of this year the Attorney General went before the House Judiciary Committee.

At this point, many Members of Congress had obtained and read the affidavits, even though the Justice Department did not want us to see them.

Members who reviewed them said that the affidavits contained evidence of gunwalking.

But, Attorney General Holder testified:

“I’ve looked at these affidavits.  I’ve looked at these summaries. There’s nothing in those affidavits as I’ve reviewed them that indicates that gun walking was allowed.”

Well, now the Inspector General has read them too.

His independent, non-partisan conclusion is at odds with the Attorney General.

I quote from his report: “[T]he affidavits described specific incidents that would suggest…ATF was employing a strategy of not interdicting weapons or arresting known straw purchasers.”

In fact, much of the Inspector General’s report is redacted because those affidavits are still under seal.

Chairman Issa and I asked the Justice Department months ago to move to unseal them so the public could decide for themselves.

Now the Inspector General has joined us and is also calling on the Department to ask for permission from the court to release the affidavits.

The Justice Department should have filed that motion months ago.

Unsealing the affidavits will allow the American people and the Terry family to see the whole story.

The details in those affidavits show that senior officials knew or should have known about gunwalking in Fast and Furious.

The Inspector General independently confirmed this point, contrary to Attorney General Holder’s denials.

Those denials by the Attorney General show either incompetence or lack of truthfulness.

Congress created an explicit statutory duty for certain senior Justice Department officials to authorize all wiretap applications.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein, who served directly under Criminal Division head Lanny Breuer, was one of the officials who approved some of those affidavits.

Senior officials like Mr. Weinstein tried to claim that they shouldn’t be held accountable because they only read memos summarizing the wiretaps—not the full wiretap applications.

But, the Inspector General found that Justice Department officials should review more than just the cover memo.

He said that under the statute they have a responsibility to be informed before authorizing wiretap applications.

Yet the Inspector General also found that even “a reader of the ... cover memorandum would infer from the facts that ATF agents did not take enforcement action to interdict the weapons or arrest [straw purchasers].”

So, the memo Mr. Weinstein admits he did read indicated that ATF had walked guns, according to the Inspector General.

Back in September of last year, Attorney General Holder said at a press conference:

“The notion that somehow or other this thing reaches into the upper levels of the Justice Department is something that…I don’t think is supported by the facts.”

Maybe the Attorney General doesn’t think someone who reports directly to the head of the Criminal Division is a senior official, but I do.

As a result of the Inspector General’s findings, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Weinstein has resigned.

Weinstein should be held accountable but he shouldn’t take the fall for more senior officials who are also culpable.

Mr. Weinstein reported directly to Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

When the Justice Department sent its letter to me denying ATF ever walked guns, Breuer knew otherwise.

He knew in 2010 about gunwalking in another case, Operation Wide Receiver.

That was long before the allegations in Fast and Furious.

Yet he waited nine months before emails about Wide Receiver were about to be produced to Congress before he publicly apologized for not doing more about gunwalking in Wide Receiver.

I asked Breuer whether he had seen the draft of February 4 false letter to me.

Breuer testified: “I cannot say for sure whether I saw a draft of the letter that was sent to you.”

Then, a month after Breuer’s testimony, the Justice Department released more documents showing that Breuer was sent five drafts of the letter before it was sent to me.

He forwarded three of them to his personal email account.

Breuer still maintained in written responses that it was “highly unlikely” he had read the letter because he was in Mexico when it was sent.

On this matter, the Inspector General report contained a significant factual error.

The report read: “The OIG found no e-mail messages from Breuer in which he proposed edits, commented on the drafts, or otherwise indicated he had read them.”

That is not true.

In response to one of the drafts Breuer received, he commented that to Weinstein that it was “great work.”

That may not be a proposed edit, but it is certainly a comment.

Thus, Breuer’s statement to Congress is simply not credible.

Emails show that Breuer was very engaged in the process, asking for and receiving updates from Weinstein at each stage of the drafting.

Breuer and Weinstein sent multiple emails to each other on the matter each day, with Breuer asking after a quiet period: “Jason, let me know what’s happening with this.”

Rather than holding him accountable for this evidence, the Inspector General report gives him a pass.

Worse, new emails produced Wednesday show that Breuer was in the weeds about his deputy, Jason Weinstein, coming to brief Senate Judiciary Committee staff a week after the Justice Department’s false letter.

On February 13, 2011, Breuer sent an email about such details as what specific questions my staff asked of Weinstein at the briefing.

Breuer wrote: “The goal – and by all accounts it seems to have worked – was to communicate that ATF’s work in the AZ case and others like it reflected sound judgment and investigative work.”

It is clear that Breuer was in the weeds enough to know that what the Justice Department was communicating to me was undermined by the gunwalking he knew about in Wide Receiver.

He should have come forward in February 2011 and told Congress that he knew ATF had walked guns.

His failure to do so, coupled with his attempt to mislead Congress, are why I have called for him to resign or be fired.

Now Attorney General Holder has been saying for months that he would hold off on any personnel action until the Inspector General report was released.

Mr. Attorney General, it’s time to hold people accountable.

I’d like to close with language from a statement that the family of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry issued:

“The Department’s failures chronicled in the report had deadly and tragic consequences for hundreds of innocent American and Mexican victims of violent crimes.

“And our son, friend, relative and hero, Brian Terry, is dead.

“Questions and concerns should have been raised before the weapons purchased in this failed government sting wound up in the hands of drug dealers and killers, including those who killed Brian.

The focus today should not be on political spin control nor on praise for the DOJ supervisors who chose to resign in light of the report's findings, but rather on the gross negligence of the Department documented in the report and the tragic consequences of that negligence.”

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Governor Quinn Meets with Brazilian Business Leaders and Industry Groups PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Erin Wilson   
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 14:13

Attached are photos featuring Governor Pat Quinn on his trade mission to Brazil holding several productive meetings with Brazilian business leaders and industry groups with the goal of strengthening partnerships that will boost Illinois’ economy and create jobs.

Governor Quinn is shown met with business leaders on Monday from the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo, which is the largest business organization in the country, representing more than 130 industry groups.

For updates on Governor Quinn’s trip, visit www.Illinois.gov or follow him on Twitter at @GovernorQuinn. More information about Illinois trade and business opportunities can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website at www.illinoisbiz.biz.

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NEW AMERICA NEEDS FARMERS WEBSITE OFFERS FUN FACTS ON FOOD, FARMING, FOOTBALL AND CHANCE TO WIN TICKETS TO GAME PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Heather Lilienthal   
Tuesday, 25 September 2012 09:14

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA – Sept. 25, 2012 – In Iowa, fall is a time for touchdowns and tractors as football players and farmers take to their respective fields. And it’s the perfect time to learn about the connection between the two groups at the newly launched www.americaneedsfarmers.org website.

The new website offers visitors a closer look at the legendary America Needs Farmers (ANF) campaign, started by Hayden Fry during the 1980s Farm Crisis, and a better understanding of how farmers raise food, fuel and fiber.

“We know consumers want to know more about where their food comes from and we want to provide as much information as we can,” said Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill. “Farming is a lot different now than it was in 1985 and the refreshed website provides more information to help consumers understand those changes. But one thing hasn’t changed – making sure consumers have safe, wholesome food choices.”

“Growing up in Iowa taught me the value of hard work,” explained Dallas Clark, former Hawkeye great and current receiver with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “No job is too big and no obstacle is too hard to overcome. These are the same values I take to the field every day, just like Iowa farmers.”

Clark is just one player featured at www.americaneedsfarmers.org, which takes a fresh look at the Iowa Hawkeye football and National Football League (NFL) players with ties to farming that many fans will recognize and introduces visitors to Iowa farm families that team up to farm together.

“Farming has always been in our family,” explained Eric Crosman, who raises corn, soybeans and hogs in Boone County. “As a kid, I always wanted to be out on the farm with my dad. Today, I work with him every day. Farming is what we do; it’s who we are.”

In addition, the site offers a chance to win the Ultimate ANF experience package for ANF Game Day Oct. 20 when the Iowa Hawkeyes take on Penn State. The package includes:

• Four game tickets to the ANF Game on Oct. 20.

• Opportunity to watch one quarter from the sideline of Kinnick Stadium.

• Autographed football signed by Head Coach Kirk Ferentz

• ANF Game Day gear

To register for your chance to win, simply fill out the entry form at www.americaneedsfarmers.org. One entry per email address allowed.  All entries must be received by Friday, Oct. 5 and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, Oct. 10.

ANF and Hawkeye fans can also find flair at the America Needs Farmers website. There are buttons, banners and twibbons available for download to add some Iowa character to your Facebook, website or Twitter profile.

For more information about why America needs farmers or ANF Game Day, click on www.americaneedsfarmers.org.

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About Iowa Farm Bureau

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is a grassroots, statewide organization dedicated to enhancing the People, Progress and Pride of Iowa.  More than 153,000 families in Iowa are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve farm and rural prosperity.  For more information about Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit the online media center at www.iowafarmbureau.com.

 
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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