Online poll to identify needs, promote statewide access

CARBONDALE - February 15, 2012. As a statewide voice for Southern Illinois, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon is urging rural residents to participate in a new online survey about high-speed internet usage that launched today and will help create jobs, improve medical care and enhance educational opportunities.

Unlike past surveys that simply looked at internet access, this statewide poll will reach out to households, farmers, businesses and anchor institutions, such as community colleges and hospitals, to learn how they put broadband to use now and their needs moving forward.

The 20-minute survey includes questions about preferred internet devices, frequent web activities such as research, workforce training and buying or selling of goods, and the importance of broadband to job retention and expansion.

"Rural Illinoisans need affordable, high-speed internet access to land new employers, expand educational opportunities and improve health care," said Simon, who chairs the Governor's Rural Affairs Council. "I encourage my neighbors in Southern Illinois to participate in this research project to ensure that we are a part of the state's broadband strategy and can compete in the 21st century economy."

The survey is being conducted by Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a Springfield nonprofit, enlisted by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) as part of the High-Speed Internet Services and Information Technology Act of 2007 to guide local, state and federal policymakers. The results will be used to develop broadband plans in several categories: agriculture, energy and the environment, economic development, education, health care, public safety and government performance.

Illinois is already working with its federal and private sector partners to improve current broadband infrastructure. In his State of the State address, Governor Pat Quinn announced the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge, a $6 million statewide competition funded by the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program. It will provide seed money to private and public organizations that expand broadband networks and connect at least 1,000 end-users to ultra-high speed Internet.

Simon said it is crucial for rural Illinoisans to compete in the challenge and complete the survey, as they represent the communities that can benefit most from high-speed internet. Nearly one-fifth of the land area in Illinois lacks any broadband access, and eight of the 10 counties with the least access to broadband in the state are in Southern Illinois. Many suffer from slow speeds.

Similar surveys have been conducted recently in Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia. A 2010 North Carolina survey of 6,266 businesses showed that 17.5 percent of new jobs created over a 12-month period were attributed to the use of the internet and that 32 percent of those businesses consider access to mobile internet essential to their operations.

Partnership for a Connected Illinois, also known as Broadband Illinois, is working with organizations such as the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University and state agencies such as DCEO and the Illinois State Board of Education to distribute the survey to internet users throughout the state.

"A major goal of this survey is to ensure that residents of rural Illinois will have access to better broadband," said Drew Clark, executive director of Partnership for a Connected Illinois. "By developing a statewide strategy for better broadband, we're creating a future that includes enhanced economic opportunities, increased availability of educational tools, and higher-quality health care for Illinois residents."

The online survey is open to the public and can be accessed at


No More Roughing It: International Expeditions Makes Getting Off the Beaten Path Luxuriously Simple

HELENA, Ala., February 15, 2012 - More and more travelers are craving destinations that offer under-the-radar appeal, active excursion options and authentic connections to the local people and environment. In fact, adventure travelers now constitute 26% of the traveling population, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association's Adventure Tourism Marketing Report, and are more likely to seek out new destinations before mainstream travelers. Appealing to this increasing demographic of discerning and adventurous explorers, nature travel pioneer International Expeditions is offering travel to remote destinations like Guyana, Madagascar and beyond.

"Many travelers who used to be comfortable with a 'do-it-yourself' approach to travel planning have discovered the value in allowing a tour operator like IE to handle all of the logistical details involved with exploring remote destinations," said Bill Robison, IE's Director of Program Development. "The backpacker generation of the 1970s still want an authentic sense of discovery, but they now have less time and higher standards ? no more bunk beds and hostels!"

For 2012, International Expeditions is expanding their line-up and pioneering upscale travel to spot exotic wildlife, hike through pristine trails and sample tantalizing cuisine in destinations where few tour operators go. Plus, IE takes care of details such as airport transfers, most tips and the entire pre-trip planning process to ensure a seamless adventure. IE's hallmark is its comprehensive itineraries featuring engaging activities, authentic encounters with the local people and passionate world-class naturalist guides who enhance each experience with their knowledge of the destinations visited.

On IE's Guyana & Trinidad tour, travelers combine Guyana's pristine nature with three days at Trinidad's world famous Asa Wright Nature Center. Guests on this rustic adventure journey deep into the heart of one of Earth's last untouched tropical rainforests and have the chance to spot more than 800 bird species. Chartered flight to and from remote Kaieteur Falls set this itinerary apart from what travelers can arrange with scheduled flights.

"The scheduled flight to Kaieteur is unreliable and is often just cancelled altogether if enough seats aren't sold," said Robison. "Traveling with a seasoned tour operator provides a safety net if unexpected changes occur."

Island life takes on new meaning as travelers set foot on Madagascar, where lemurs cavort in the shade offered by lush forests and charming Malagasy people welcome guests to Earth's oldest island. On IE's new Madagascar safari, guests spend 17 days on naturalist-guided hiking and boating excursions looking for unique endemic wildlife. Accompanying IE guests is Cassiano "Zapa" Zaparolli, a seasoned expedition leader who has guided for such groups as National Wildlife Federation and Smithsonian. Joining Zapa will be a Malagasy expedition leader and local naturalists.

"Frankly, travel to Madagascar can be difficult if you aren't in the hands of an experienced travel provider," said Robison. "Flight delays and last-minute changes are part of traveling there, but IE guests travel with an expedition leader and guides who look after them every step of the way. "

International Expeditions can also help travelers harness their inner "backpacker" with a fully customized trek on the Salkantay Trail. A less-touristy alternative to the Inca Trail, Salkantay passes through stunning Andean scenery before ending at Machu Picchu. Although the excitement and surroundings are reminiscent of rugged mountain climbs, the accommodations are anything but rustic. After a day of guided hiking along the trail, IE guests spend their evenings at boutique mountain lodges, where warm showers and cold drinks greet them at day's end.

Celebrating 32 years of nature travel, International Expeditions specializes in small-group journeys to Earth's most exhilarating destinations. For more information or a brochure, call IE at 1-800-234-9620, e-mail, or visit


WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2012- TOMORROW, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host American and Chinese officials and private sector representatives for the first U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa. Vilsack traveled to China for the second time as Agriculture Secretary in November to continue to strengthen bilateral trade relations and support the American brand of agriculture throughout the Asia Pacific region. During the visit, Vilsack and Chinese officials developed the U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium as a key forum to expand their discussions into 2012 and beyond. The all-day forum will feature a morning program of remarks by U.S. and Chinese officials, followed by discussions on four main topics: sustainable agriculture; food security; food safety; and the role of the private sector in agriculture in the United States and China. USDA anticipates about 100 guests for the Symposium, including high-level U.S. and Chinese officials.


Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012

9-9:45 a.m. CST


WHAT: Remarks by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu, and other officials.


WHERE: World Food Prize Hall of Laureates

100 Locust Street

Des Moines, IA 50309

Braley will be joined by Iowa Veterans' Home's Dr. Douglas Steenblock

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) will hold his weekly press conference call with Iowa reporters this morning at 10:30am CST.

Braley will discuss the introduction of legislation that will expand veterans' access to quality healthcare by helping the Veterans Administration recruit more qualified health providers to America's rural communities.  Braley will be joined on the call by Dr. Douglas Steenblock, the Director of Mental Health Services at the Iowa Veterans' Home, who initially came to Braley with the idea for the legislation.

WHAT: Bruce Braley's weekly press call with Iowa reporters

WHO: Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01)

Dr. Douglas Steenblock, Director of Mental Health Services, Iowa Veterans' Home

WHEN:                 TODAY, Wednesday February 15th, 2012

11:30am EST // 10:30am CST

CALL-IN:               866-704-2208

PASSCODE:         2414543#


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Art Program Planned

On Saturday, February 25 at 11:00 A.M. the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center will be hosting a natural charcoal art program. Have you ever wanted to make your own drawing charcoal?  Well, now you can!  Join Aaron Askelson to learn how to create our own charcoal and put it to the test by drawing your own winter outdoor scene.  Please bring paper and BYOM - Bring Your Own Mug.  Please call (563) 328-3286 to register.


The Wapsi River Environmental Education Center can be found 6 miles south of Wheatland or 1 mile northwest of Dixon, Iowa by taking County Road Y4E.  Then turn north at 52nd Avenue and follow the signs for about 1 mile.



Maple-Syruping Demonstration Planned

On Saturday, February 25 at 1:00 P.M. the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center will be hosting a maple-syruping demonstration. Join Tom Greene as he discusses the history and procedure of tapping trees for syrup.  Handouts and where to find tapping equipment will be provided to participants.  Please call (563) 328-3286, if you are interested in attending.


The Wapsi River Environmental Education Center can be found 6 miles south of Wheatland or 1 mile northwest of Dixon, Iowa by taking County Road Y4E.  Then turn north at 52nd Avenue and follow the signs for about 1 mile.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2012-The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today 27 grants to local organizations to build community food systems and fight hunger and food insecurity. The awards were made by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through its Community Food Projects program. The new projects, totaling $4.8 million in funding, include a teen-run community kitchen incubator, faith-based community food assessments, a program to help indigenous people return to healthful eating, and a youth-led food security movement. Community Food Projects have been funded in nearly 350 communities in 48 states in the program's 15-year history.

"Hunger remains an important issue in the United States. Last year, 17.2 million households faced food insecurity?meaning they lacked consistent access to adequate food," said Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon. "The grants supported by the Community Food Projects empower local organizations to respond to food and nutrition needs in their own communities."

The primary goals of the Community Food Projects program are to (1) meet the food needs of low-income individuals; (2) increase the food self-reliance of low-income communities; (3) promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm and nutrition issues; and (4) meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs, including needs relating to infrastructure improvement and development, planning for long-term solutions and the creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers.

Fiscal Year 2011 awards include :

  • Juneau Cooperative Christian Ministry, Juneau, Alaska, $93,825
  • International Sonoran Desert Alliance, Ajo, Ariz., $163,807
  • Developing Innovations in Navajo Education, Inc., Flagstaff, Ariz., $116,863
  • Uncommon Good, Claremont, Calif., $300,000
  • North Oxnard United Methodist Church, Oxnard, Calif., $24,884
  • Urban Tilth, Richmond, Calif., $300,000
  • North Coast Opportunities, Inc., Ukiah, Calif.; $300,000
  • Las Animas Helping Hands, Las Animas, Colo, $25,000
  • Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services, Honolulu, Hawaii, $25, 000
  • Matthew 25 Ministry Hub, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, $25,000
  • Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, Kansas City, Kansas, $124,587
  • Good Shepherd Food-Bank, Auburn, Maine, $25,000
  • Cultivating Community, Portland, Maine, $300,000
  • United Teen Equality Center, Lowell, Mass., $297,767
  • Regional Environmental Council, Worcester, Mass., $300,000
  • Youth Farm and Market Project, Minneapolis, Minn., $299,660
  • Rio Puerco Alliance, Santa Fe, N.M., $25,000
  • Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and Bedford Stuyvesant History, Brooklyn, N.Y., $197,500
  • PathStone Community Improvement of Newburgh, Newburgh, N.Y., $25,000
  • Why Hunger, New York City, N.Y., $250,000
  • Community Food Security Coalition, Portland, Ore, $250,000
  • Friends of Zenger Farm, Portland, Ore., $187,860
  • Urban Tree Connection, Philadelphia, Pa., $300,000
  • Women's Community Revitalization Project, Philadelphia, Pa., $269,317
  • Staunton Creative Community Fund, Inc., Staunton, Va., $25,000
  • Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Community Center, Madison, Wis., $298,930
  • Growing Power, Milwaukee, Wis., $250,000

USDA's Household Food Security in the United States, 2010 report found that the percentage of very low food security declined from 5.7 percent of households in 2009 to 5.4 percent in 2010. The USDA study indicates that in 2010, 17.2 million households in America had difficulty providing enough food due to a lack of resources. The number of food insecure households in 2010 was relatively consistent with statistics released in 2008 and 2009.

The report also indicates that 59 percent of all food-insecure households participated in one or more of the three largest nutrition assistance programs near the time of the survey. In fiscal year 2010, these programs provided much needed food assistance to millions of individuals, children and families in need:

In an average month of fiscal year 2011, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provided benefits to 44.7 million people in the United States.

In fiscal year 2011, the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) provided meals to an average of 31.8 million children each school day.

In fiscal year 2011, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) served an average 9 million participants.

Food insecurity rates were substantially higher than the national average for households with incomes near or below the current federal poverty line ($22,350 for a family of four), households with children headed by single women or single men, and black and Hispanic households. Food insecurity was more common in large cities and rural areas than in suburban areas and other outlying areas around large cities. The media briefing kit can be obtained at

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit


SPARTA, IL (02/15/2012)(readMedia)-- Deployment ceremony


• 662nd Engineer Fire Fighting Team in Sparta


• A deployment ceremony is scheduled for approximately 10 Soldiers who are scheduled to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom this winter.


• Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Sparta armory fire station, 1803 N. Hillcrest Drive in Sparta.


• The 662nd will provide fire department emergency response services for deployed forces in the Operation Enduring Freedom theater of operations. Potential missions include, but are not limited to: fire prevention and protection, structural and aircraft fire fighting, vehicle rescue, emergency medical and hazardous materials incident response.

• Additionally, the team will be involved in the Rescue Air Mobile Squad (RAMS) mission, providing personnel rescue capabilities in tactical situations. During a RAMS mission, the team is transported via helicopter to a remote emergency incident and will perform rapid technical rescue and medical stabilization measures for U.S. and coalition personnel who are entrapped and/or otherwise injured as a result of enemy action.

For more information, contact the Public Affairs office at or call 217-761-3569.

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PELLA, IA (02/15/2012)(readMedia)-- The following students were named to the fall 2011 dean's list at Central College:

Katelyn Baker of Davenport, a senior business management major, daughter of Bill and Nancy Baker

Patricia Braun of Davenport, a senior biology major, daughter of Michael Braun and Elizabeth Braun

Jessica Emard of Bettendorf, a senior German studies and English major, daughter of Douglas and Karen Emard

Samantha Fink of Bettendorf, a senior elementary education major, daughter of Rodney and Sandi Fink

Briana Haycraft of Eldridge, a junior , daughter of Scott and Kimberly Haycraft

Emily Huegel of Bettendorf, a junior elementary education major, daughter of Tony and Debra Huegel

Justine Jackovich of Eldridge, a junior biology major, daughter of Vincent and Denise Jackovich

Melanie Louis of Davenport, a senior biology major, daughter of Robert and Diane Louis

Maaike Mielenhausen of Davenport, a junior elementary education major, daughter of Steve and Belinda Mielenhausen

Alison Miller of Davenport, a senior exercise science major, daughter of Greg and Debra Miller

Ashley Ramker of Davenport, a sophomore , daughter of Michael and Linda Ramker

Allison Redman of Davenport, a junior elementary education major, daughter of Michael and Ann Redman

Samantha Scheckel of Long Grove, a junior art major, daughter of Marty and Jane Scheckel

Kelly Spavin of Bettendorf, a junior English major, daughter of David Spavin and Lori Spavin

Victoria Turley of Eldridge, a graduate English major, daughter of Jim Turley and Sherri Bain

Hanna Wilson of Wellman, a junior elementary education major, daughter of John and Lynda Wilson

The honor is awarded to full-time students who achieve a 3.5 grade point average or higher on a 4.0 scale while taking 12 or more graded credit hours for the semester.

Central College is a private, four-year, residential liberal arts college in Pella, Iowa. Central's academic program offers 39 majors leading to a bachelor's degree, along with pre-professional programs and advising. Central was recognized in the 2011 U.S.News & World Report's annual rankings of the best liberal arts colleges in the nation.

Area Students named to Illinois College Dean's List

JACKSONVILLE, IL (02/17/2012)(readMedia)-- The following students were named to Illinois College's Fall 2011 semester dean's list.

Kathryn Pierce, a junior, is the daughter of Julie Pierce of Belle Plaine. She is a graduate of Belle Plaine High School.

Taylor Brien, a first year student, is the daughter of Barbara Mansholt of Bettendorf. She is a graduate of Bettendorf High School.

Hannah Oak, a sophomore, is the daughter of Kevin and Cynthia Oak of Taylor Ridge. She is a graduate of Rockridge High School.

Candidates for the dean's list must complete at least 14 semester hours and post a grade point average of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale. All grades must be C or better, and no more than one C grade is allowed.

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success.


ST. LOUIS, MO (02/14/2012)(readMedia)-- The following students were named to the Dean's List for the fall 2011 semester at Washington University in St. Louis.

  • Ryan Mitchell Kelly of Bettendorf, IA (52722), was named to the Dean's List for the fall 2011 semester. Kelly is a graduate of Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf, IA, and is enrolled in the university's College of Arts & Sciences. To qualify for the Dean's List in the College of Arts & Sciences, students must earn a semester grade point average of 3.5 or above and be enrolled in at least 14 graded units.
  • Amanda Thuy Trang Phan of Bettendorf, IA (52722), was named to the Dean's List for the fall 2011 semester. Phan is a graduate of Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf, IA, and is enrolled in the university's College of Arts & Sciences. To qualify for the Dean's List in the College of Arts & Sciences, students must earn a semester grade point average of 3.5 or above and be enrolled in at least 14 graded units.

Washington University is counted among the world's leaders in teaching and research, and it draws students and faculty to St. Louis from all 50 states and more than 110 nations. The total student body is nearly 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students.


Mary DePauw Makes UW-Platteville's Chancellor's List

PLATTEVILLE, WI (02/15/2012)(readMedia)-- Mary DePauw from Port Byron, IL, earned academic honors for the fall 2011 semester at the University of Wisconsin- Platteville. DePauw made the Chancellor's List by earning a 4.0 grade point average during the semester. Attainment of the Chancellor's list represents the highest academic achievement at UW- Platteville.

UW-Platteville is settled in a historic mining town near the Iowa and Illinois borders and enrolls nearly 8,000 students. It is an institution whose mission is to produce intellectually astute individuals who will participate in society as competent professionals and knowledgeable citizens. For more information on the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, visit


  Jordyn Elizabeth O'Rourke, a Nursing Undergraduate student from Davenport, has been named to the Dean's List at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for the Fall 2011 semester. UWM is the second largest university in the State of Wisconsin, with more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students.



Future Chinese leader tours America, engages in multiple press events to improve China's image with stops in DC, Iowa, and California

WASHINGTON, Feb. 14, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- As Chinese Vice President Xi embarks on a five-day tour of the United States, which includes trips to the District of Columbia, Iowa, and California, Generation Opportunity is highlighting results from its national poll demonstrating how America's young adults view threats to America, American national security, and its relationship to federal spending. The poll focuses specifically on young Americans ages 18-29 and reveals the opinions of young Americans on issues such as indebtedness to China, U.S. debt, and a variety of economic challenges.

Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to assume control of the Chinese Communist Party later this year and to then become president of China in 2013.

The poll reveals that 76 percent of young American adults view China as either an economic or military threat, 62 percent believe the top American national security issue is the U.S. debt -- followed by energy dependency and indebtedness to foreign powers -- and over 70 percent indicated very big concerns about America's deficit.

"Young Americans are very strong in their belief that America is an exceptional nation, but they believe that our growing debt, our indebtedness to foreign powers, like communist China, and our dependency on foreign sources of energy pose a threat to our national security. As vice president Xi tours America, he should understand that the overwhelming majority of young Americans view the Chinese government as an economic or military threat and that they are committed to increasing American economic and energy independence so that the United States remains a global leader.

"It is hard for Americans, especially young adults, to be impressed by foreign leaders who deny their citizens the basic human freedoms of speech and religious expression, especially in the age of social media and global commerce," said Paul T. Conway, president of Generation Opportunity and the former Chief of Staff of the U.S. Department of Labor under Secretary Elaine L. Chao. Conway has also served as an official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is an alumnus of the Senior Executives in National and International Security program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

To reduce these vulnerabilities and manage America's national security challenges, young Americans believe elected officials in Washington, D.C. need to get the country on more stable economic footing by cutting federal spending rather than raising taxes. They also believe the U.S. needs to increase the production of domestic energy sources such as oil, natural gas, and coal.

Generation Opportunity commissioned a poll with the polling company, inc./WomanTrend (April 16 - 22, 2011, +/- 4 percent margin of error) and highlights some of the results below.

The China Threat:

  • 76 percent of Young Americans view China as a danger:
    • 48 percent as an economic threat
    • 28 percent as both an economic and military threat.

American National Security:

  • Top 3 greatest threats to American National Security: National Debt (62 percent), Energy Dependency (61 percent) and Indebtedness to Foreign Powers (50 percent). The threat of terrorism at (39 percent) followed as the fourth major national security concern.
  • 71 percent indicated very big concerns about America's "deficit."
  • 70 percent (net) would increase production of domestic energy sources like oil, natural gas and coal.

American Exceptionalism:

  • 56 percent -- more than half -- indicated their agreement with "American Exceptionalism" -- described as an ideal of freedom and democracy exclusive and unique to the United States.

Young Americans Views on Washington Leaders and the Economy:

  • 69 percent say political leaders do NOT reflect the interests of young Americans.
  • Only 31 percent approve of President Obama's handling of American youth unemployment.
  • 76 percent of overall Millennials would favor a decrease over an increase in federal spending from its current level if given the chance to set America's fiscal priorities.
  • 69 percent prefer reducing federal spending over raising taxes on individuals in order to balance the federal budget.
  • 59 percent of overall Millennials agree the economy grows best when individuals are allowed to create businesses without government interference.
  • 53 percent of overall Millennials agree if taxes on business profits were reduced, companies would be more likely to hire.

Generation Opportunity is a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (c)(4) organization that seeks to engage everyone from young adults, to early career professionals, college students, young mothers and fathers, construction workers, current service men and women, veterans, entrepreneurs, and all Americans who find themselves dissatisfied with the status quo and willing to create a better tomorrow.

Generation Opportunity operates on a strategy that combines advanced social media tactics with proven field tactics to reach Americans 18-29. The organization's social media platforms -- "Being American by GO" on Facebook and "The Constitution by GO" on Facebook -- have amassed a total fan base of more than 2.3 million. Both pages post links to relevant articles and reports from sources ranging from the federal General Accountability Office (GAO), to The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Brookings Institution, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and The Heritage Foundation.

Read about Generation Opportunity here; visit "Being American by GO" on Facebook here and "The Constitution by GO" on Facebook here.

For our Spanish-language page -- Generación Oportunidad -- click here.