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Religious Embrace Helping Fuel Support for Gay Marriage PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 06 August 2012 14:11

For the first time, a new poll shows more Americans “strongly support” same-sex marriage than “strongly oppose” it, a finding that could be attributed to changes occurring within organized religions, says a Presbyterian elder and lay preacher.

“For 2,000 years, religion has been the genesis of antipathy toward homosexuals, but now, three major American denominations have approved ordination of openly gay clergy,” says Paul Hartman, a retired PBS/NPR station executive and author of The Kairos (www.CarpeKairos.com), a novel that imagines Jesus as gay.

“Gay has become the civil rights issue of the 21st century,” he says.

The May survey of more than 1,000 adults found a dramatic reversal from earlier surveys: more adults now “strongly support” same-sex marriage rights (39 percent) than “strongly oppose” them (32 percent).  Over all, Langer Research Associates says, 53 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriages should be legalized – up from only 36 percent just six years ago.

“Episcopalian, Lutheran and Presbyterian denominations have overturned centuries of tradition in welcoming openly gay clergy,” Hartman says. “There’s a growing realization that religion can and should help lead us all toward a more mature understanding and acceptance of minority sexual orientations.”

In 2012, he says, there is a new human rights landscape in the United States. He cites these additional recent developments:

• The U.S. military joined 43 other countries when it repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and allowed openly-gay service members.

• Same-sex marriages are now legal in six states and the District of Columbia. Three other states -- Washington, Maryland and California -- have same-sex marriage under active consideration. Eleven more offer “civil union”-type status for same-sex couples.

• A federal appeals court in Boston recently struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as “one man, one woman”), making consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court almost certain.

• Dr. Robert Spitzer, one of the last nationally-respected scholars whose studies lent credence to “gay reparative” therapies, recently offered a retraction and apology to the gay community.

“Unfortunately, the occasionally hateful crowd still resonates with a very small group of people, including those headed by preacher Fred Phelps and congregants, who continue to make news as they picket the funerals of soldiers and celebrities,” Hartman says.

Western cultures’ condemnation of same-sex love appears to have originated from Judeo-Christian scriptures, but contemporary biblical scholarship amends old interpretations, he says.

“That’s why I wanted to tell a religion-based suspense story about homophobia,” Hartman says. “It addresses fear of all kinds, because in passage after biblical passage, scripture tells humans who are facing change, sickness, alienation, death, and everything else: ‘fear not.’  It applies to homophobia, as well.”

About Paul Hartman

Paul Hartman is a retired PBS/NPR station executive with a passion for biblical history. He is a Presbyterian elder, a lay preacher and a Dead Sea Scrolls aficionado. Hartman, a father and grandfather, confesses he is a lifelong fear-fighter.

 
Legislation to Protect Premium Cigars from FDA Surpasses Majority PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kyle Whalen   
Monday, 06 August 2012 14:08

Washington, DC- Representative Jon Runyan (R-NJ-3) and Representative Tom Price (R-GA-6) have officially co-sponsored H.R. 1639, putting the number of cosponsors at 219 and surpassing the majority in the House of Representatives. The bill, along with its companion bill S. 1461 in the Senate, seeks to protect premium cigars from FDA regulation.

 

Thanks to the efforts of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association (IPCPR), the Cigar Rights of America (CRA), and countless others, H.R. 1639 has surpassed a representative majority. This will encourage the bill's discussion in session and lead to potential enactment to protect premium cigars.

 

Industry-wide support from the IPCPR, CRA, retailers, producers, consumers and fellow premium cigar enthusiasts led to this distinctly bipartisan majority. The concentrated effort included significant grassroots support, online petitions and personal trips to legislators in D.C. and in their home districts to educate them on the importance of the premium cigar industry.

 

“The simple fact remains that premium cigars are enjoyed by adults, not marketed to nor affordable by underaged youth, and are simply celebratory in nature - not addictive.  The typical premium cigar smoker may smoke 1-2 cigars a week, or even less. If the FDA were to gain the jurisdiction over premium cigars they could potentially destroy this artisan industry,” said Bill Spann, CEO of the IPCPR.

 

Without these bills, the FDA could potentially have the authority to: ban walk-in humidors; limit advertising, including the very word cigar or tobacco; require manufacturers to submit their blends for testing; impose new fees; and nearly wipe out any flavored tobacco products at their discretion.

 

Spann later added “The struggle to protect premium cigars and premium tobacconists continues. We must continue educate the FDA and our legislators on the cigar industry and its importance.  There are 85,000 American jobs at stake in this storied industry.  In the current economy, our representative government should be doing everything in its power to protect jobs, not regulate them out of existence,” said Spann.

 

While this is a significant step in protecting cigars and mom-and-pop tobacconist shops throughout the country, there is still a need for action. The IPCPR urges tobacco enthusiasts to continue reaching out to their legislators to drive more support to these two bills, crucial to the health of the industry.

 

With the support of the representative majority, the IPCPR looks forward to the bill’s continued progress in the legal system.

 

This article was written by Kyle Whalen. Kyle is the Public Relations Manager for the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association and can be reached at   This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . More information can be found online at www.ipcpr.org.

 

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Governor Quinn Signs Housing Bills to Support People with Disabilities and Protect Homeowners from Mortgage Fraud PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Nafia Khan   
Monday, 06 August 2012 09:01

Announces up to $50 million for permanent supportive housing

 

CHICAGO – August 3, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today signed two new housing laws to provide people with disabilities with more access to affordable rental housing, and to further protect homeowners from mortgage fraud. The supportive housing law makes $10 million in rental housing subsidies available over 15 years to eligible landlords. In addition, the governor announced the commitment of up to $40 million in Illinois Jobs Now! capital funds for developers of permanent supportive housing. These laws build on the governor’s strong commitment to providing more housing options for people with disabilities, and to protecting consumers from predatory lenders.

“I am committed to strengthening Illinois’ communities and our economy,” Governor Quinn said. “Thanks to these new laws, more people with disabilities will have a safe and comfortable place to call home and homeowners will be better protected.”

House Bill 5450, sponsored by Rep. Esther Golar (D-Chicago) and Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago), enables grant funding to be designated for people with disabilities under the Rental Housing Support Program, one of the nation’s largest state rental assistance programs, which is administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA). The new law and the Illinois Jobs Now! funding commitment will significantly increase opportunities for people with disabilities to access affordable rental housing throughout Illinois. The new law takes effect immediately.

“I was able to work with IHDA on this new law, which allows grant funding to develop housing opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Sen. Delgado, Chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee.  “The previous law stated that to qualify for these grants a person had to have a specific disability, the new law will allow all with disabilities to qualify for assistance.”

Also today, Governor Quinn signed House Bill 4521, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) and Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago), which raises fees for mortgage company licensees and significantly increases fines penalizing mortgage fraud to better protect homeowners. The new law also strengthens the ability of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s Division of Banking to investigate and prosecute mortgage fraud throughout the state. The new law is effective immediately, with one provision taking effect Jan. 1, 2013.

“Exercising vigilant oversight in the areas of loan modifications and short sales will be particularly beneficial as we work to slow the rate of foreclosure and protect distressed homeowners from financial exploitation,” said Sen. Collins.

Earlier this year, Governor Quinn launched the Active Community Care Transition (ACCT) Plan to increase the number of people with developmental disabilities and mental health conditions living in community-based care settings across Illinois. The ACCT Plan also will help the state save hundreds of thousands of dollars per year while providing good care for people with developmental disabilities.

“Supportive housing makes a difference in the lives of people with disabilities by empowering them to live independently as part of a community,” said IHDA Executive Director Mary R. Kenney. “Under Governor Pat Quinn’s leadership, IHDA has financed approximately 1,300 units of supportive housing to enable people with disabilities to live independently.”

With House Bill 5450, landlords providing supportive housing units may apply for subsidies under the Long Term Operating Support (LTOS) portion of the Rental Housing Support Program. The LTOS program is funded through a $10 fee collected from real estate document recordings, and the new round of funding will help an estimated 150 households headed by a person with a disability.

In addition, today’s Illinois Jobs Now! commitment will spur the development of approximately 200 new supportive housing units through a new round of the state’s Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Development Program. Governor Quinn’s historic capital program included $130 million for affordable and supportive housing to further create opportunities for people with disabilities to live independently. The first round of the PSH Program financed 122 units of supportive housing.

IHDA is currently accepting applications from landlords and developers for the LTOS and PSH programs.  Applications and information are available at www.ihda.org.

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Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds release statements on Alliant Energy’s announcement PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Office of Governor Terry Branstad   
Monday, 06 August 2012 08:40

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, today, issued statements commending Interstate Power and Light Company, a subsidiary of Alliant Energy Corporation for the announcement of their four-part energy resources strategy. The strategy includes reducing emissions, increasing efficiency, a new purchase power agreement, and construction of a new natural-gas facility in Marshalltown.

Governor Branstad released the following statement:

“In order to meet our goal of growing Iowa’s economy and creating 200,000 new jobs in five years, Iowa needs a diversified energy portfolio that features low cost, reliable energy. Safe and reliable energy is a key point for economic development in Iowa and assists in attracting new businesses and jobs to the state. Today’s announcement will benefit Iowans for many years to come,” said Branstad.

“I applaud Alliant Energy for their commitment to the state of Iowa and choosing to construct a new $650 million facility in Marshalltown. This expansion helps drive Iowa’s economy and creates good paying, quality jobs in our state.”

Lt. Gov. Reynolds released the following statement:

“Alliant Energy has a smart and focused blueprint to provide safe and reliable energy for Iowa today and for future generations. A well-balanced energy strategy that includes a commitment to the development and use of energy efficiency programs is a key component to a business’s decision to move to Iowa. The Alliant Energy announcement is yet another example of Iowa’s growing economy through the creation of new and quality jobs.”

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Leahy, Grassley Introduce Legislation to Implement Patent Law Treaties That Will Help U.S. Businesses Obtain Patent Protections Overseas PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 06 August 2012 08:32

WASHINGTON (Thursday, August 2, 2012) – U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced legislation today to implement two patent law treaties that will help American businesses expand into foreign markets by reducing obstacles for obtaining patent protection overseas.

“In this global economy, it is not enough to have an effective domestic patent system; we must also help American inventors and businesses to protect their inventions and thrive in markets around the world,”  said Leahy following the bill’s introduction.

The Hague Agreement Concerning International Registration of Industrial Designs allows American industrial design creators to apply for design protection in all member countries by filing a single, standardized, English-language application at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.  The Patent Law Treaty limits the formalities different countries can require in patent applications, removing barriers that currently burden U.S. patent holders.  The treaties, which were signed under President Clinton and submitted to the Senate by President George W. Bush, received unanimous support when the Senate voted to approve ratification in 2007.  Enactment of the legislation will allow the State Department to ratify the treaties so they can go into effect.

“American businesses and inventors will benefit from harmonized applications, reducing the cost of doing business and encouraging U.S. innovators to protect and export their products internationally,” said Leahy. “I urge the Senate to act quickly on this final step so that the treaties can be ratified and American innovators and businesses can benefit from them as U.S. products continue to thrive on the global stage.”

“The patent system needs to keep up with the 21st century, global economy,” said Grassley.  “This legislation will help facilitate protection of American inventors’ research, engineering and creativity in the international arena.”

A copy of the Senate legislation can be found online.

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