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Grassley Asks FDA to Explain Instructions to Contractor on Documents PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 13:33

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is asking the Food and Drug Administration to explain a purchase order with a contractor certifying that 80,000 pages of employee communications posted online did not contain sensitive or personally identifiable information.

“The documents contained screen shots of employees’ personal email and their email addresses,” Grassley said. “That’s personally identifiable information by common-sense standards, and it’s protected by the Privacy Act.  It appears the purchase order certifying there was no personally identifiable information was incorrect, and the FDA needs to account for that.”

Grassley is investigating the FDA’s email surveillance of a group of whistleblowers who are concerned about the safety and effectiveness of certain medical devices.  A government contractor, Quality Associates, Inc., and the FDA put 80,000 pages of documents related to the whistleblowers on the Internet in the process of archiving them, raising questions about violations of privacy protection laws.

Grassley wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg to seek an explanation of the purchase order.  His letter is available here.  Last week, Grassley wrote to Hamburg, seeking information about the scope of the surveillance project and who exactly authorized it.  That letter is available here.

Grassley also wrote to other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, that had documents made publicly available through the same contractor.

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Top U.S. Energy Department Official Visits Iowa, Calls on Congress to Extend Clean Energy Tax Credits PDF Print E-mail
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Written by U.S. Dept of Energy   
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 13:25

Under Secretary of Energy (Acting) David Sandalow Toured Keystone Electrical Manufacturing Company and ACCIONA, Windpower Highlighting Importance of the Production Tax Credit to Iowa’s Economy

WASHINGTON – Today, Under Secretary for Energy (Acting) and Assistant Secretary for Policy & International Affairs, David Sandalow traveled to Iowa to highlight President Obama’s strategy to develop every source of American energy.  During his trip, Under Secretary Sandalow toured Keystone Electrical Manufacturing Company in Des Moines and ACCIONA Windpower’s wind turbine generator assembly plant in West Branch, Iowa – two companies in the wind energy supply chain that are benefitting from federal tax credits for renewable energy generation.  The Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of the year, provides an important tax credit to utility-scale wind producers in the United States.

"Iowa is at the forefront of America's growing clean energy economy," said Under Secretary Sandalow. "To continue creating jobs and expanding this important industry, President Obama is calling on Congress to extend clean energy tax credits for renewable energy and manufacturing. These tax credits are supporting thousands of jobs in Iowa and have played a key role in nearly doubling renewable energy in the last four years nationwide."

The two companies Under Secretary Sandalow visited are part of the wind energy supply chain in Iowa. Acciona Windpower produces 1.5 MW and 3.0 MW wind turbines.  At its West Branch assembly plant, the company sources over 80 percent of its components from domestic suppliers.  Keystone Electrical Manufacturing Company manufactures systems for the electricity industry, with 22 percent of their business’s gross sales coming from power control systems for the wind industry.

“Wind energy is powering manufacturing here at ACCIONA Windpower and all the suppliers we work with across the U.S.,” said Joe Baker, CEO of ACCIONA Windpower North America. “Stable policies are critical to the growth of any business, and the wind industry is no exception.”

“Many of our customers are developing alternative plans that significantly reduce the number and size of wind projects in the coming years.  If Congress fails to extend the Production Tax Credit, jobs will be lost as early as the first quarter of next year,” stated Mr. Fred Buie, President of Keystone Electrical Manufacturing Company.

In 2011, Iowa generated nearly 19 percent of its total electricity from wind energy, making it one of America’s wind energy leaders.  According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Iowa’s wind industry supported 4,000 to 5,000 direct and indirect jobs in 2010. Nationally, the wind industry projects that nearly 30,000 jobs will be lost next year if the PTC expires, including direct jobs as well as those in the wind energy supply chain.

Extending the PTC has broad support from industry, along with a bipartisan group of congressional members, who recognize the tremendous role stable tax policies play in creating jobs and keeping America’s wind industry competitive.

“The Wind Energy industry is very pleased with the Obama Administration’s support of extending the Federal Production Tax Credit.  This credit has been an instrumental part of the growth of the wind energy industry nationally and in Iowa since its inception in 1992.  With another extension, the wind industry will continue to grow, create thousands of jobs and contribute to our nation’s energy independence,” said Iowa Wind Energy Association Executive Director Harold Prior.

“I welcome Under Secretary Sandalow’s visit to Iowa to highlight the innovation and potential our state possesses in domestic energy production,” Congressman Leonard Boswell said. “In order to build on this progress, Congress needs to extend the Production Tax Credits to give the wind industry in Iowa and across the country some certainty to continue investments and job creation.”

The Obama Administration has called for the extension of clean energy tax credits to ensure the U.S. leads the world in manufacturing the clean energy technologies of the future.  As part of his “All-of-the-Above” energy strategy, the President has made it clear that investing in energy, innovation and American infrastructure are critical for creating high-quality domestic manufacturing jobs and building an American economy that lasts.

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Milan Resident Rewarded Free Fuel for Good Deed PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lilly Chow   
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 13:19

ST. PAUL, Minn., July 19, 2012 — One local resident has received a special thank you for her contributions to the community. Christine Engebrecht of Milan, Ill., was selected to receive free fuel from Tanks of Thanks™, a new program that rewards people who do good deeds to help make their community just a little bit better.

The Tanks of Thanks program from Cenex®, the CHS energy brand, encourages people to nominate friends, family and neighbors for free fuel as a way to say thank you for doing good in the community. Each month, 100 nominees are randomly selected to receive free fuel from the Tanks of Thanks program. Engebrecht was nominated for being an active Meals on Wheels volunteer. She also directs her church’s youth choir. Earlier this month, Engebrecht was selected to receive a $50 Tanks of Thanks gift card redeemable at any Cenex location.

“There are people doing good things in every local community, and these acts of kindness do not go unnoticed or unappreciated,” explains Kayte Haaland, CHS refined fuels brand marketing manager. “Congratulations to Christine Engebrecht, and thank you for your contribution to the community.”

According to Haaland, Tanks of Thanks is a multiyear program, so there is still plenty of time for others to nominate someone they know for free fuel.  “Nominating someone for Tanks of Thanks is easy, and anyone can nominate or be nominated for any act of kindness – big or small.”

To make a nomination, visit TanksofThanks.com and briefly describe why someone deserves a Tank of Thanks.

About Tanks of Thanks
Tanks of Thanks™ is a multiyear program offered by Cenex, the CHS energy brand, and encourages people to nominate others for free fuel as a way to recognize and reward their contributions to the community. Each month, 100 nominees are drawn at random to receive a Tanks of Thanks gift card worth $50 redeemable at any Cenex-branded retail location. In addition to the monthly drawing, Cenex retailers can also give away Tanks of Thanks gift cards to reward individuals they see doing good in their local communities. By the end of 2012, it is anticipated that Tanks of Thanks will have recognized more than 2,500 people. Visit TanksofThanks.com to make a nomination and read stories from communities across the country.

CHS Inc. is the nation’s leading cooperative, owned by farmers, ranchers and co-ops across the United States. A diversified global energy, grains and foods business and a Fortune 100 company, CHS is committed to helping producers and member cooperatives grow their businesses through its domestic and global operations. CHS supplies energy, crop nutrients, grain marketing services, livestock feed, food and food ingredients, along with business solutions including insurance, financial and risk management services. The company operates petroleum refineries/pipelines and manufactures, markets and distributes Cenex® brand refined fuels, lubricants, propane and renewable energy products.

 
Hearing on Judicial Independence and Civics Education, with testimony from Justice Sandra Day O'Connor PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 08:45

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thank you for holding this hearing, Mr. Chairman.  And I extend hearty greetings to Justice O’Connor for being with us today.  You were not only the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court.  You were the first Justice whose confirmation I voted for.  Your performance justified the confidence that the Senate placed in you.

We would like to believe that our judges, whose independence is guaranteed by the Constitution, rule based only on the Constitution and not on their policy preferences.  Judicial independence was established to make the courts independent of the other branches and independent of popular views.  It is not designed to make the judges independent of the Constitution so that they can impose their policy preferences.  We hear that if only our citizens properly understood the role of the courts, unprecedented attacks on judicial rulings would vanish.

This view is at odds with both current reality and the history of our country.  In fact, the leading reason for the so-called attack on judicial independence is the judges themselves.  Only last week, The New York Times reported that only a few weeks before the Court’s health care decision, the public approved of the Supreme Court’s performance by a 44-36 margin.

But the article reported that after the ruling, as many Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court as approve of its performance.  That decision, which some have speculated was issued, at least in part, to reduce political opposition to the Court, appears to have accomplished exactly the opposite result.

The article states that most Americans believe the decision was based mainly on the justices’ personal or political views.  Only about 30 percent of Americans say the decision was made mainly on legal analysis.  For myself, I respect the decision, even if I am disappointed by it.  And I question no one’s motives.  But I do not think that the poll results would be different if only the public had a better understanding of the Court.  In fact, I think the poll reflects that the public does have reason to suspect that politics enters into some Justices’ decisions.  They accept them anyway, as shown by the polling on 18 earlier major cases presented in the article, two-thirds of which were unpopular with the population when they were decided.

Although unfortunate, this perception should not be a cause for alarm, so long as it does not lead to threats of violence, threats of impeachment, or threats to imprison judges for their rulings.  Much more serious threats to judicial independence have occurred regularly in our history when the citizens were convinced that what courts presented as law was not constitutionally sound, such as when Andrew Jackson refused to be bound by the Supreme Court’s opinion of the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States or its rulings on Indian rights.  Or, when Abraham Lincoln said that the Dred Scott decision was “erroneous” and refused to accept it as a precedent because it reflected “apparent political bias.”  Or, when Theodore Roosevelt ran the most successful third party candidacy in our country’s history on a platform of “restriction of the power of the courts [so] as to leave to the people the ultimate authority to determine fundamental questions of social welfare and public policy,” including the ability of voters to overturn constitutional rulings of state courts.  And, when Franklin Roosevelt tried to “pack” the Supreme Court because of its rulings striking down New Deal legislation.  So let us keep perspective.

It is not a violation of judicial independence for a senator to criticize court rulings that he or she believes are incorrect   It is not a violation of judicial independence for a senator to conduct legitimate oversight of the judiciary.   Those are appropriate ways of ensuring accountability.

But judicial independence could be jeopardized when a President at the State of the Union misstates the holding of a Supreme Court case in front of Justices when they cannot respond.  Judicial independence could be threatened when, after a pending case is briefed or argued, the President publicly misstates the process of judicial review and claims that the Court’s legitimacy, and a particular Justice’s legacy, will be tainted unless the Court decides that case as the President wants.  And judicial independence is certainly weakened if Justices give in to those attacks, rather than decide based on the Constitution, or appear to do so.

Finally, I appreciate Justice O’Connor’s work in advancing civic education.  I believe that all citizens in a democracy benefit from the participation of informed and active citizens.  I think the ICivics site is a good one, although I wish CourtQuest told students that citizens can challenge laws on constitutional grounds in state as well as federal courts.  It should also say that a trial held for violation of a state criminal law claimed to violate the federal Constitution would be held in state and not federal court.  And, although I have supported federal efforts to promote greater understanding of our constitutional system, I do not believe that the federal government should develop and mandate civics standards.  And I do not think the Framers of the Constitution thought they had given Congress the authority to impose such standards.

Justice O’Connor, I look forward to your testimony.

 
The ‘Musical Chairs’ Spiritual Trend PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 14:33
Polls Show More Non-Denominational Believers; Commingling Disparate Traditions is Good, Author Says

Growing numbers of Americans are changing their relationship with religion, recent Pew Research Center polls indicate.

Consider the stats:

• Forty-four percent of U.S. adults have either switched religious affiliation, or report “no affiliation”

• More than 16 percent report they are unaffiliated with a religion; that includes those who are spiritual but not religious, and agnostics and atheists

• Twenty-eight percent have switched from the religion in which they were raised

“A full-bodied understanding of the truth does not necessarily come neatly packaged in the form of a church or a scientific theory,” says Eli Just, former physics teacher and author of Manny Jones and the Place (www.elijustsupernaturalwriter.com), which links quantum theory, biblical stories and the Mayan precession.

With science developing new concepts about the nature of reality; changing attitudes in institutional religions, and widespread sharing on the internet, more believers are creating their own spiritual narrative -- one that makes more sense to them, he says. Scandals involving sex and money in Christian denominations, which account for more than 78 percent of the faithful in America, have contributed to religious shifting, Just adds.

A recent Pew poll on religion reveals that nearly 40 percent of Americans say there is “too much” religious talk in politics. Many respondents think politicians use religion as a tool for their own benefit, which may serve to increase alienation to religion for the average American, Just says.

Despite wariness on some religious issues, most respondents polled say spirituality plays a significant role in their lives.

“Type in ‘new religious movements’ in Wikipedia and you’ll see the hundreds of religions that have popped up since the 1800s, and those are just the registered ones,” Just says. “As a man of science and faith, and I don’t think the truths of these two traditions are mutually exclusive. After all, Newton was a fervent Christian.”

One of the more recent registered religions was created in 2000 and is called Jediism – a movement based on the philosophical and spiritual ideas posited by Jedi characters in the “Star Wars” movies. Jedi churches often incorporate beliefs from mainstream spiritual traditions including Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and Stoicism.

“Everything is connected, which is probably why so many people come up with such a variety of spiritual perspectives,” Just says. “Personally, however, I don’t think the interconnectivity of everything gives license to the notion that all religions are the same.”

In addition to the new and fascinating data coming from sources like the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, it’s important to remember ideas that are still alive after thousands of years, he says.

“Old religions like Christianity have withstood the test of time,” Just says. “That’s why the majority of Americans remain spiritual and religious in a traditional sense.”

About Eli Just

Eli Just is the author of several books including the popular “Manny Jones” series and “The Eddy.” He has a master’s in history from Southeastern Louisiana University and is a self-taught student of physics, which he taught at the high school level. As a Christian, Just enjoys exploring themes involving physics and its relationship to religion. He lives in northern Georgia.

 
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