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Grassley Seeks FDA Answers on Targeting of Agency Whistleblowers on Medical Devices PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 03 February 2012 15:41

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley has asked the Food and Drug Administration to account for its treatment of a group of agency scientists who questioned approvals of medical devices in communications with Congress and the White House.  The FDA appears to have punished the employees for expressing safety concerns about radiological devices used to detect diseases such as breast cancer and colon cancer.

“The FDA has a poor track record of retaliating against whistleblowers.  This situation appears to be more of the same,” Grassley said.  “Federal law explicitly protects the right of federal employees to provide information to Congress.  I reminded the FDA of the relevant law in January 2009 after this came to my attention.  Still, even after that letter, the FDA appears to have persisted in a long campaign to punish a group of employees for talking to Congress.   I’m pursuing this matter with the FDA to get answers and ensure that whistleblowers aren’t singled out and retaliated against for protected disclosures to Congress.”

Grassley wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, asking for a description of whether each of the staff members involved still works at the agency and if not, for an explanation of the circumstances of the employee’s departure.  Grassley also sought details of who authorized the monitoring of the employees’ e-mail and to what extent such monitoring occurred.  The agency engaged in extensive monitoring of the employees’ email accounts, apparently to try to justify its case for retaliation.

Grassley also reminded Hamburg that any retaliation against whistleblowers “directly contradicts” her promise during her 2009 confirmation hearing that she would protect whistleblowers by “creating a culture that enables all voices to be heard.”

“The FDA has a huge responsibility to protect public health and safety,” Grassley said.  “With all the important work that needs to be done on that front, it’s hard to see how managers apparently thought it was a good use of time to shadow agency scientists and monitor their email accounts for legally protected communications with Congress.”

Grassley also sought answers from Hamburg on what the agency is doing in light of the retaliation inquiry to reassure employees of their right to provide information to Congress.

“Without federal whistleblowers, I wouldn’t be able to perform my constitutional oversight of the executive branch,” Grassley said.  “Whistleblowers come forward to shed light on matters that affect public safety or the public purse.  They expose incompetence and malfeasance and promote reform that leads to better government.  Their perspective has done a lot of good.  I’ve seen this kind of behavior from the FDA before, and it’s troubling to think there might be a pattern.  The FDA needs to make an immediate effort to reassure employees of their freedom to talk to Congress.  Muzzling is inappropriate and illegal.  Retaliation of this kind is intolerable by any federal government agency.”

Grassley, a long-time advocate for whistleblowers, works to strengthen whistleblower protections for all government employees.  Certain employees, including members of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps within the Department of Health and Human Services, are not covered under the Whistleblower Protection Act, which leaves employees vulnerable to retaliation.  This is a loophole in current law that needs to be closed.  Grassley is actively working to ensure that employees of the commissioned corps are given necessary whistleblower protections.

Grassley’s letter to the FDA is available here.  His 2009 letter to the FDA is available here.  Washington Post articles on the matter are available here and here.

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Governor Quinn Announces Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Andrew Mason   
Friday, 03 February 2012 14:40

New Statewide Program Connects Families Facing
Foreclosure with Resources to Help Keep Their Homes

CHICAGO – February 1, 2012. As part of his commitment to affordable housing and foreclosure prevention, Governor Pat Quinn today announced the launch of the statewide Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network (IFPN) in his State of the State address. A multi-agency effort coordinated by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), the IFPN connects struggling homeowners with all available assistance, resources and knowledge to help them keep their homes.

“Helping families stay in their homes is essential in keeping our communities strong and our economic recovery moving forward,” Governor Quinn said. “The Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network will connect families with the resources they need to keep their homes, and get back on their feet.”

The IFPN gathers all assistance and resources available to homeowners to ensure that families facing foreclosure can access the assistance they need in one stop. The IFPN provides access to counseling services, legal advice, mortgage payment assistance programs, foreclosure preven­tion events and tips on how to avoid mortgage fraud.

The IFPN’s resources are available 24-hours a day online at KeepYourHomeIllinois.org, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at the IFPN’s free hotline 1-855-446-6300.

Foreclosures adversely impact too many Illinois families and communities. Illinois is consistently ranked among the top 10 states with the highest number of foreclosures. In 2011, 103,003 homes in Illinois received a foreclosure filing, or one in every 51 homes – ranking the state eighth in the country, according to RealtyTrac.

The Chicago area has been especially affected, with the city of Chicago ranking second in the nation in number of foreclosures. The Chicago area has the nation’s largest inventory of foreclosed homes. According to RealtyTrac’s inventory records, as of December 2011, there were 96,996 properties that were bank-owned or in some stage of foreclosure in the Chicago metro area.

Foreclosure not only impacts a family that loses their home, but has a ripple effect that destabilizes communities and negatively affects the economy at large. Abandoned properties hurt communities by creating blight, attracting crime and reducing the local tax rolls. On average, homes located the same block as a foreclosed property can drop $8,000 to $10,000 in value, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Banks with too many foreclosures on their books limit lending, stifling business growth and consumer spending, which slows economic growth.

The Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network bundles together key foreclosure assistance resources in a centralized location to make it easier for people to find the help they need more quickly, including:

 

  • Qualified, HUD-certified housing counselors, free of charge, throughout the state.
  • Legal clinics that offer foreclosure prevention legal services free of charge.
  • Financial assistance from the Illinois Hardest Hit program, which provides up to $25,000 in mortgage assistance to qualified homeowners having trouble making mortgage payments due to unemployment or under-employment.
  • Targeted foreclosure mitigation events, including the Mortgage Relief Project, with one-on-one counseling, and access to loan servicers who can discuss loan modifications and work out agreements on the spot.
  • Additional information on refinancing options, loan modification options, federal and state resources, including Home Affordable Refinance Program, Home Affordable Modification Program and other programs.
  • Advice on how to avoid mortgage fraud, job search opportunities, financial planning and other counseling services.
  • Additional information on refinancing options, loan modification options, federal and state resources.

 

“Services like counseling are critical to help people keep their homes,” said Mary Kenney, Executive Director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority. “A national report recently found foreclosure counseling nearly doubles chances of mortgage modification and reduces likelihood of re-default by at least 67 percent.”

Under Governor Quinn, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) and Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) partnered to establish this free, one-stop resource of state agencies and nonprofit organizations to help Illinois residents access resources so that they can remain in their homes.

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (www.ihda.org) is an independent, self-supporting bonding authority that finances the creation and preservation of affordable housing throughout Illinois. Since 1967, IHDA has allocated more than $10.6 billion to finance more than 215,000 affordable housing units for the residents of Illinois. IHDA sells bonds independently, based on its own good credit, to finance affordable housing in Illinois.

 

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NRA's Annual Meetings & Exhibits 2012: A Celebration of American Values PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Stephanie Samford   
Friday, 03 February 2012 14:26

St. Louis, Missouri Hosts Several Acres of Guns, Gear & Outfitters

 

Fairfax, Va. – The National Rifle Association (NRA) is pleased to announce this year's Annual Meetings and Exhibits to be held at America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri from April 12-15, 2012.

Members of the news media are welcome to cover this year’s event. For press credentials, please call NRA Public Affairs at (703) 267-3820. Credentials will be available for pick-up in the press office starting Thursday, April 12. Television crews and still photographers should bring necessary equipment and lenses (sports lenses) to cover events from platforms at a distance from the stage. (Please note: Due to limited resources, requests from U.S. media outlets will be given priority over foreign media requests. All foreign media requests will be handled as time and resources allow.)

Over 60,000 attendees are expected at this year’s Annual Meetings and Exhibits, making this one of the largest in NRA’s 141-year history. Leading firearm manufacturers will display the firearm industry’s latest and greatest products. Guides and outfitters, various hunting and shooting accessories, and an extensive private collection displayed by NRA-affiliated gun collector clubs will fill acres of convention space.

The ever-popular NRA’s Celebration of American Values Leadership Forum will take place on Friday, April 13, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. A list of confirmed speakers will be forthcoming closer to the event.

NRACountry, a proud partnership between NRA and country music's brightest stars is pleased to present, in collaboration with Bushnell, NRACountry Jam II at the Ferrara Theatre on Friday, April 13. This year's featured artist will be country music superstar and lifetime NRA member Trace Adkins. Doors will open at 6:00 p.m.

NRA’s 4th Annual Celebration of American Values Freedom Event will take place Saturday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. Glenn Beck, political commentator and host of the Glenn Beck Program, will be the featured speaker for the evening. Guests will also be treated to a rousing performance by award-winning comedian and member of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour, Larry the Cable Guy.

NRA’s Annual Meetings and Exhibits provide a safe and fun atmosphere the whole family can enjoy. The ever-popular air gun range is a top attention-grabber -- both for participants and observers. NRA offers diverse seminars throughout the three-day convention, including methods of concealed carry; hunting; Firearms Law; the Grassroots Workshop; and Refuse to Be a Victim®.

For more information, including event tickets, please visit www.nraam.org.

 

-NRA-
Established in 1871, the National Rifle Association is America's oldest civil rights and sportsmen's group. Four million members strong, NRA continues to uphold the Second Amendment and advocates enforcement of existing laws against violent offenders to reduce crime. The Association remains the nation's leader in firearm education and training for law-abiding gun owners, law enforcement and the armed services.

 
Opinions of the Iowa Court of Appeals PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Iowa Judicial Branch   
Friday, 03 February 2012 14:20

Opinions of the Iowa Court of Appeals will be filed at 8:30 a.m. on the 2012 dates listed below:

January 19

February 1

February 15

February 29

March 14

March 28

April 11

April 25

May 9

May 23

June 13

June 27

July 11

July 25

August 8

August 22

September 6

September 19

October 17

October 31

November 14

November 29

December 12

 

For your convenience, the Judicial Branch offers a free e-mail notification service for supreme court opinions, court of appeals opinions, press releases and orders.

 
Grassley Reacts to New Fast and Furious Report PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 03 February 2012 13:47

Tuesday, January 31, 2011

Senator Chuck Grassley issued the following statement after the minority staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report excusing senior level Justice Department officials from responsibility for Operation Fast and Furious.

Grassley started conducting oversight of the flawed program more than one year ago.  The Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder initially denied gunwalking occurred, but have since withdrawn the denials and admitted that ATF whistlebowers were right to complain about the reckless tactic.  Despite the constitutional responsibility of Congress to conduct oversight of the executive branch, the Justice Department has stonewalled every step of Grassley’s investigation.  In fact, the Justice Department has provided 80,000 pages of documents to the Inspector General, but has provided only 6,000 pages of documents to Congress.  Yet, the department has provided no explanation for withholding each of those 74,000 pages.

“The idea that senior political appointees have clean hands in these gunwalking scandals doesn’t pass the laugh test, especially considering we’ve seen less than 10 percent of the pages that the Justice Department has provided the Inspector General.   They ignored the warning signs and failed to put a stop to it or hold anyone accountable.  Lanny Breuer is a senior political appointee, and he admits to knowing about gunwalking as early as April 2010.  Documents turned over late Friday night indicate he was still discussing plans to let guns cross the border with Mexican officials on the same day the Department denied to me in writing that ATF would ever let guns walk.  He stood mute as this administration fought tooth and nail to keep any of this information from coming out for a year.  It will take a lot more than a knee-jerk defense from their political allies in Congress to restore public trust in the leadership of the Justice Department.  The American people want to see those who failed to act be held accountable.

 
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