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Grassley hold on FCC nominees over LightSquared PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 09 December 2011 15:14
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011

Sen. Chuck Grassley made the comment below about his request for documents from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about its dealings with the firm, LightSquared.

Grassley has been seeking information from the agency as part of his effort to understand why the agency has allowed the company to move forward with its plans for a terrestrial 4G network, despite serious concerns of interference with the GPS systems used widely in military, aviation and emergency response venues.  The agency has refused to provide the public with insight into its approval process.

Months ago and subsequently, Grassley asked the FCC to provide documents regarding its interactions with LightSquared and LightSquared’s parent company, Harbinger Capital Partners.  The FCC has refused to comply with Grassley’s request.

Earlier this month, Grassley announced that he would place a hold on Senate action on two FCC nominees when the nominations are placed on the calendar for floor consideration until the FCC provides information, saying the public’s business ought to be public.

In October, Senator Grassley wrote separate letters to the top investor in and the chief executive of the company, seeking related information.

The Commerce Committee today is holding a hearing on the FCC nominees.

Grassley comment:

“There’s nothing new on whether the FCC will provide the information I requested.  The FCC hasn’t made any move to provide the information.  As a result, my intention to place a hold on the FCC nominees, should they reach the floor, stands.  The FCC needs to make itself accountable to Congress and the American people.  An agency with control over a major piece of the economy can’t be allowed to operate as a closed shop.”

Colder temperatures draw NFPA warning on fire hazards PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Lorraine Carli   
Friday, 09 December 2011 15:12

NFPA’s simple tips to stay safe and warm this winter

 November 30, 2011 – ‘Tis the season for rosy cheeks, button-down coats, and cranking up the heat. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), it’s also the time of year when home fires peak, many of which are caused by heating equipment.

“Half of all home heating fires occur during December, January, and February, when we are fully utilizing our heating systems” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of communications for NFPA. “The public can reduce their risk of getting left out in the cold by following NFPA’s safe heating behaviors.”

Dan Doofus highlights the importance of home heating safety.

In NFPA’s report “Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment,” in 2009, heating equipment was involved in an estimated 58,900 reported home structure fires, 480 civilian deaths, 1,520 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. Stationary and portable space heaters accounted for one-third (32 percent) of reported home heating fires, but nearly 80 percent of the home heating fire deaths, two-thirds (66 percent) of associated civilian injuries, and half (52 percent) of associated direct property damage.

Overall, fires, injuries and damages from fires involving heating equipment were all lower than in 2008 and fit into a largely level trend over the past few years.  The number of deaths from heating equipment was virtually unchanged.

As temperatures begin to drop, here are some safe heating behaviors to follow:

●     All heaters need space.  Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.

●     Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters.

●     Never use your oven to heat your home.

●     Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions.

●     Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.

●     Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.

●     Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel-burning space heaters.

●     Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.

●     Test smoke alarms monthly.

In an effort to reduce winter fires, NFPA is partnering with the U.S. Fire Administration on a special campaign – Put a Freeze on Winter Fires. For more information, visit NFPA’s website at

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education. Visit NFPA’s website at for more information.

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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

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