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People, Politics, and Peace: Reflections from a Holy Land Pilgrimage PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sister Sallyann McCarthy   
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 14:48

“Our visit to the Holy Land has changed everything,” said Carrie Delcourt, Rock Island, Ill., commenting on her recent trip to Israel-Palestine with a group led by Most Rev. Martin Amos, Bishop of Davenport, Ia.

On Thursday evening, December 8, Delcourt and one of her pilgrimage companions, Judith Herold SSND, Davenport, will present a program about their experiences in the Holy Land and the impact the trip has made on their lives and their deeper commitment to peace.

Sister Judy Herold is the Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony Church, Davenport, and Carrie Delcourt, wife and mother of two adult children, is an educator at Black Hawk College, Moline, Ill.

Shortly after returning from the Holy Land, Delcourt attended the Iowa Institute for Social Action in Iowa City, and met with Helene Paharik, Director of Development at the Beit Benedict Peace Academy at Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem. Later in October, she  participated in the Iowa workshop on “US Policy in Palestine-Israel: Engaging the Faith Communities in Pursuit of a Just Peace” in Ankeny.

“The two programs confirmed my desire to do all I can to aid in bringing peace to the Holy Land,” said Delcourt. “Listening to members of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities including Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies, Rev. David Wildman of the Board of Global Ministries UMC, Lynne Pollack of Jewish Voices for Peace, Miryam Rashid of American Friends Service Committee, and Josh Ruebner of the US Campaign to End the Occupation enabled me to gain some understanding of the complex situation that now exists in this volatile region,” she said.

“Sister Judy and I hope that by sharing the fruit of our experiences we can help others to understand the situation in the land where Christ was born,” said Delcourt.

Both women emphasized how their visit has deepened their appreciation and understanding of the role of Mary, mother of Jesus. “Advent seems the perfect time to reflect on our pilgrimage,” added Herold.

Sponsored by Prince of Peace Pax Christi and the Clinton Franciscan Center for Active Nonviolence and peacemaking, the program is free and open to the public. Details available at or at or by calling Sisters of St. Francis,


NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Established at the Library of Congress PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Donna Urschel   
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 14:39

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced today the establishment of the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, housed within the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, to focus on an important area of human inquiry—the cultural, philosophical, ethical and societal implications of astrobiology.

Astrobiology addresses three fundamental questions: “How did life begin and evolve?” “Is there life beyond Earth?” and “What is the future of life on Earth and beyond?”  Before the advent of modern science, these questions were largely in the realm of philosophy, theology and ethics.  Today, the tools of science are increasingly being brought to bear to address these questions.  The NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology represents an opportunity for high-level collaboration in understanding the interface between astrobiology and human society.

This timely and auspicious collaboration between NASA and the Library of Congress owes a great deal to the vision of the late Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, founding member of the Library’s Scholars Council, which advises the Librarian on scholarly matters.  Blumberg, known affectionately as Barry, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1976 for discovering the hepatitis B virus and developing a powerful vaccine to fight it, saving countless lives.

Blumberg held a medical degree from Columbia University and a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Oxford.  His curiosity and interests were wide-ranging.  In 1999 he added a new dimension to his career by becoming the founding director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute.  He also served as president of the American Philosophical Society from 2005 until his death earlier this year.

Billington said of Blumberg and the new chair, “For many years, Barry was a leading figure in the Scholars Council of the Kluge Center in the Library of Congress, who actively promoted research and dialogue between disciplines at a time when he was working so creatively.  This chair is a wonderful expression of his energy and vision in exploring new fields.  It will advance understanding of the implications of this intellectual frontier as well as honor Barry’s broader, enormous contributions.”

The Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology will be a distinguished senior research position in residence at the Kluge Center for a period of up to 12 months. Using research facilities and services at the Library, the holder of the chair is expected to engage in research at the intersection between the science of astrobiology and its humanistic aspects, particularly its societal implications.  Examples of research topics that might be addressed include, but are not limited to, the societal implications of discovering life beyond Earth or discovering that life is rare in the universe; the ways in which astrobiology influences and is influenced by culture; the role of astrobiology in promoting science and technological education and public literacy; ethical considerations arising from in-situ exploration for life on the planets and moons of our solar system; and the role of astrobiology in contributing to and shaping the future of life on Earth and beyond.

The Kluge Center will issue a call for nominations and applications.  Information about the NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology and an application form will be available online at The first chair holder is expected to take up residence in October of 2012.

NASA Astrobiology Institute Director Carl B. Pilcher said, “Public libraries have traditionally provided a public space for discourse on things that matter to a democratic society.  The Astrobiology chair will continue this great tradition, using the unparalleled stature of the Library of Congress as well as its vast resources to promote a dialogue about the significance of astrobiology to our society.”

The Astrobiology chair joins other distinguished chairs in the Kluge Center, including several chairs funded by the Kluge Endowment, the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History, and the Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources, and to interact with policymakers in Washington.  For further information on the Kluge Center, visit

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds nearly 147 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats.  The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at  Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at

The NASA Astrobiology Program supports research into the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.  The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), an element of that program, is a partnership among NASA, 14 U.S. teams, and eight international consortia.  NAI’s goals are to promote, conduct, and lead interdisciplinary astrobiology research, train a new generation of astrobiology researchers, and share the excitement of astrobiology with learners of all ages.

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COMMENTARY -- founding principles at stake in White House initiative PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 13:07

Constitutional Principles at Stake in President’s Actions, Rhetoric

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

President Obama’s latest media campaign is built around the tag line We Can’t Wait for Congress.  Under this banner, he has announced executive actions for everything from mortgage and student loan relief, job placement for veterans, grants for health care workers and stricter funding requirements for Head Start programs.  The new slogan highlights the President’s frustration that Congress did not pass his latest economic stimulus proposal in its entirety.  Instead, Congress has passed pieces of the President’s proposal where there is bipartisan agreement and put forward other approaches.

A President being frustrated with Congress is nothing new.  What’s more remarkable is the notion that the President will act completely independent of Congress.  “Where they won’t act, I will,” he said.

Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution of the United States says, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”  Having had their rights violated by a King, our Founding Fathers intentionally put the power to make laws in the branch of government that is most directly accountable to the citizens.  Under our Constitution, the President’s role is not to make policy unilaterally, but to, “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

So is the President overstepping his constitutional authority?  In some cases, the We Can’t Wait slogan is simply being appended to actions implementing laws already passed by Congress.  For instance, job placement services for veterans have been around for a long time.  The health care worker grants were authorized under the 2010 health care law, and the Head Start reforms the President touted were actually included in a law passed by Congress way back in 2007.  On the other hand, the President’s authority to change the rules for refinancing of certain mortgages and to offer more generous student loan terms to select borrowers is much less clear.  In fact, I wrote a letter to the President asking him to explain to Congress and the American public the legal authority he is claiming to implement the student loan changes.

If the President isn’t usurping the legislative powers vested in the duly elected representatives of the citizens of the 50 states, he’s certainly talking like he is.  The President should show leadership, which has been lacking when it comes to working with Congress on the politically difficult decisions needed to reduce the deficit, such as entitlement reform.  However, no President should even pretend to have the authority to unilaterally implement policies not authorized by law.  This attitude is particularly concerning given this President’s history of bypassing Congress to implement his agenda.

For instance, the House and Senate have considered various proposals to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but no climate legislation was able to achieve sufficient support to pass Congress.  Nevertheless, in the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has moved forward with regulations for greenhouse gases under a law Congress never intended to be used for that purpose.  While a Supreme Court ruling cracked open that door, the fact that Congress pointedly did not authorize this step should have given the administration pause.  The President’s Race to the Top education program is another significant overreach.  Congress bears responsibility for writing a $5 billion check to the Secretary of Education in the 2009 stimulus bill with minimal guidelines attached, but the administration blew past even those broad guidelines to implement an unprecedented federal intervention into state education policy.  The resulting program offered the possibility of big dollar grants to cash strapped states, provided they first changed state laws to implement specific policies favored by the Secretary of Education.  Most states, like Iowa, implemented the Secretary’s preferred policies and applied for the funds yet never saw a dime in return.  In a similar move, with states clamoring for relief from the ever tightening requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, the President has announced that he would grant waivers.  The catch is that states will have to adopt key components of his education reform agenda.  This is despite the fact that Congress is currently considering legislation to update federal education policy and may not adopt all aspects of the President’s proposal.  Moreover, current law allows for waiving existing requirements on a case by case basis, but does not authorize the Administration to add new requirements in return.

We Can’t Wait for Congress isn’t just a bad PR gimmick, it contradicts the philosophy underpinning the American Revolution, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.  It violates the Declaration’s concept of “unalienable Rights” and the principle “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”  By contrast, the French Revolution was inspired by the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who wrote that claims of natural rights must be abandoned in favor of submission to the authority of the “general will” of the people as a whole, as expressed through a ruling elite.  This philosophy allows for a more active government, but has also led to some of history’s worst tyrannies.  Our system of separation of powers, federalism and checks and balances, designed to protect individual rights, results in a more deliberative form of government.  This can be frustrating.  It means that the President cannot expect Congress to just pass his proposals without reading them.  However, America’s founding principles have kept us free for over two centuries and the President shouldn’t blithely dismiss them, whether in word or deed.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Senate Foster Youth Caucus Continues Speakers Series to Highlight Best Practices PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 13:06

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, founders and co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, are sponsoring a speakers’ series event tomorrow, Tuesday, November 29, from 2 to 4 p.m. in SVC 203-02 in the Capitol Visitor’s Center.

The purpose of the speakers’ series, which is a 2011 initiative of the Caucus, is to highlight grass-root practitioners of innovative programs and strategies that improve outcomes for children and youth in foster care and to allow these individuals to share their experiences in the field and their ideas about reforms to the system.  Ultimately, the Senate Caucus plans to release a compilation of best practices.

“A major goal of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth is to help draw out and spread innovative strategies and best practices in the foster care community and focus on making things better for kids in the system and when they leave the system,” Grassley said.  “It’s fitting that the policy community take time right now to focus on what can be done to foster valuable permanent connections for these kids.  These kids often feel even more lonely and isolated during the holiday season.”

“I am happy to continue working with Senator Grassley and the other members of the Foster Youth Caucus to highlight foster care best practices.  I am pleased that the House also recently formed a Caucus on Foster Care to further highlight these issues,” said Sen. Landrieu. “Organizations like Wendy’s Wonderful Kids are achieving remarkable success placing children by implementing innovative practices. This success upends the belief that some children are ‘unadoptable,’ and gives hope for every child in foster care. By spreading the word on best practices, we move closer to finding a home for every child waiting for his or her forever family.”

Landrieu and Grassley will speak at tomorrow’s event.  There will be presentations by leaders in the foster-care community and a discussion of issues associated with adopting older youth and the release of important research on effective methods for increasing successful adoptions of older youth.

Since forming the Senate Caucus in 2009, Grassley and Landrieu have sponsored a series of working sessions with the goal of assembling policy recommendations for child welfare reform.  The Caucus has engaged current and former foster youth in these working sessions.  The senators have said they want the Caucus, which is particularly focused on youth when they age-out of the foster care system, to build on improvements made by the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008.  This law provides additional federal incentives for states to move children from foster care to adoptive homes, expands adoption assistance to all special needs foster youth, allows states to extend care to youth up to age 21, allows for federal reimbursement for kinship care, and makes health and education improvements for youth in foster care.

A listing of the speakers for tomorrow’s event is below.


Gretchen Looney

Adopted from foster care

Age 14

Southern Colorado

In foster care, Gretchen Looney was separated from her siblings, moved many times and suffered a disrupted pre-adoption placement.  Not surprisingly, she was adamantly opposed to adoption when she was referred to the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program in June of 2010.  Gretchen was adopted three months ago by Joseph and Camille Looney, who are both members of the United States Air Force.


Christina Miranda

Foster Care Alumni

Christina Miranda entered foster care at the age of five and aged out at 18 without a permanent connection or place to go.  She lived in over 10 foster homes and attended 10 different schools.  Despite the many unfavorable outcomes and odds that she faced, she graduated from high school and college.  Christina attributes much of her success to Paula, a professor who took her in when she had no place to go during a Christmas holiday break.  Since then, Paula accepted Christina into her family and has provided the unconditional love and support Christina yearned for all her life.  Christina states "... without Paula believing in me, I wouldn't have believed in myself.  There is no such thing as an unadoptable child.  Every human being deserves a loving family to call their own."  Christina is currently a graduate student and continues to be a child welfare advocate in hopes of helping vulnerable children who are in the shoes she once wore.


Angela Gomes

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter

Adoption Rhode Island

Angela is a native of Cape Verde, off the West African coast.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Rhode Island College and has been working in the child welfare field for 15 years.  Her broad range of experience includes therapeutic residential care, supervision, and intake.  For six years, Angela has been the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiter at Adoption Rhode Island.  During that time, Angela has served, or is currently serving, 51 of the state’s hardest to place children and has found adoptive families for 27 of them, with six more in pre-adoptive placements.  Angela says she loves this work, and is honored to be a part of the Caucus presentation.


Rita L. Soronen

President & CEO

Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption

For more than 25 years, Rita Soronen has worked on behalf of abused, neglected and vulnerable children.  Ms. Soronen has provided leadership for local, state and national efforts to improve the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, while striving to assure safe, and permanent homes for North America’s children.  Since 2001 and under Ms. Soronen’s leadership, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national non-profit public charity, has significantly increased its grant-making and awareness commitments, while developing strategic signature initiatives that underscore and act on the urgency of the issue.  In 2010, the Foundation dedicated more than $11 million in privately generated resources to grants and award-winning national awareness activities, including Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, Adoption-Friendly Workplace and the annual 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces list, National Adoption Day, national foster care adoption attitudes research, A Child is Waiting: A Step-by-Step Guide to Adoption, national foster care adoption poster and PSA campaigns and educational videos.  Since 2005, the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program has grown from seven pilot site grants to 122 active sites across the U.S., the District of Columbia and five provinces in Canada dedicated to evidence-based strategies that aggressively and effectively move children from foster care to permanent families.  More than 3,400 children have been adopted or placed in pre-adoptive homes as a direct result of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.  Ms. Soronen serves on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, the Ohio CASA/GAL Association, the Public Education Committee of the National CASA Association and is a fellow of the Jefferson Fellowship for Executive Leadership.  Ms. Soronen is a recipient of the Angels in Adoption Award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, the National CASA Association Kappa Alpha Theta Program Director of the Year Award and the Ohio CASA/GAL Association Statewide Leadership Award.


Hope Cooper

Vice President for Public Policy

Child Trends

Hope Cooper is Vice President for Public Policy at Child Trends.  In this position she develops and directs policy communications strategies to ensure that Child Trends’ research is conveyed in timely and meaningful ways with decision makers.  Ms. Cooper has nearly 20 years of public policy experience.  Prior to joining Child Trends, she served as a senior officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts where she directed Pew’s Kids Are Waiting Campaign and also designed and managed other national initiatives to advance changes in public policy.  Ms. Cooper also spent 10 years working in the U.S. Senate, including as a policy advisor to the Senate Finance Committee, where she was responsible for legislation and oversight of Medicaid, the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, and other income-related health and social service programs.

Facts are STUBBORN Things, Knowledge of the Connection between Agent Terry's Death and Fast and Furious PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 13:01
Senate Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearings with Secretary Janet Napolitano, October 19, 2011, and Attorney General Eric Holder, November 8, 2011

Knowledge of Connection Between Agent Terry’s Death and Fast and Furious

  • Senator Grassley: “Have you had any communications with Mr. Burke about Operation Fast and Furious?”

Secretary Napolitano: “When Agent Terry was killed, it was December 14th, I went to Arizona a few days thereafter to meet with the FBI agents and the assistant U.S. attorneys who were actually going to look for the shooters.  At that time, nobody had done the forensics on the guns and Fast and Furious was not mentioned.  But I wanted to be sure that those responsible for his death were brought to justice, and that every DOJ resource was being brought to bear on that topic.  So I did have conversations in – it would have December of ’09 – about the murder of Agent Terry.  But at that point in time, there – nobody knew about Fast and Furious.”

  • Senator Grassley: “When we met that day [on January 31, 2011], did you know that the guns connected to an ATF operation had been found at the Terry murder scene?”

Attorney General Holder: “I did not.”

  • Senator Grassley: “Documents produced by the department suggest that your deputy chief of staff spoke with U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke about Fast and Furious, shortly after Agent Terry’s death.  Did Mr. Wilkinson say anything to you about the connection between Agent Terry’s death and the ATF operation?”

Attorney General Holder: “No, he did not.  The conversations that they had were about a variety of things.  I’ve looked at the emails.  Now the possibility of me coming out to at some point talk about being engaged in a press conference, other matters, but there was no discussion between them of the tactics that are of concern with regard to Fast and Furious and as a result of that, Mr. Wilkinson did not share information with me about his contacts with former U.S. Attorney, Burke.”


The Attorney General’s Deputy Chief of Staff Monty Wilkinson sent an email to U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke at 11:18 am on December 14, 2010, the day before Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s death.  The email had only a subject line: “You available for a call today?”  On December 15 at 2:14 am, Burke responded: “Sorry for going dark on you.  I was at Navajo and Hopi all day and coverage was weak at best.  I did get your vm.  We have a major gun trafficking case connected to Mexico we are taking down in January.  20+ defendants.  Will call today to explain in detail.”  Documents show that notice of Agent Terry’s death was emailed to Burke an hour later, at 3:31 am.

According to emails produced by the Justice Department, Nathan Gray, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Phoenix Field Division, was at the press conference held that day to announce the death of Agent Terry, and was telling individuals there about the connection to Operation Fast and Furious.  Thus, by the time Secretary Napolitano visited Arizona a few days later, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were clearly aware of the connection.

The emails that have been produced by the Justice Department so far are insufficient to draw any conclusions about what Wilkinson and Burke may have discussed over the phone on December 15.  Whether any follow-up conversation between them included the fact that Fast and Furious guns were found at the scene will remain unknown until Burke completes his testimony, which was interrupted on an earlier date, and Wilkinson testifies for the first time.  Unfortunately, the Justice Department has to this point refused to make other witnesses with first-hand knowledge available for transcribed interviews.

It is clear, however, that multiple officials from multiple agencies knew almost immediately of the connection between Fast and Furious and Agent Terry’s death, including Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler.  The Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security have failed to adequately explain why Attorney General Holder and Secretary Napolitano allegedly remained ignorant of that connection.

Documents supporting the FACTS.

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