Quad Cities band - Three Years Hollow - has been voted into the Top 10 Finalists to play the World's Largest Music Festival, Summerfest in Milwaukee in July.  Band members are from the Quad Cities, Geneseo and Milan, Illinois.

The band is competing in the Briggs & Stratton Battle of the Bands, an international online contest on Facebook at briggsbattleofthebands.com.  The Top 10 Finalists are currently being narrowed to the top three and online voting will re-open to determine a winner starting on May 13.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is a requester of a Government Accountability Office report released today that found that the Department of Veterans Affairs has inadequate procedures to protect the safety of veterans who receive care using medical equipment and supplies at Veterans Affairs' hospitals.  Grassley made the following comment on the report, which is available here.

"We were all reminded over the weekend how military men and women risk their lives to protect our safety and freedom.  The Department of Veterans Affairs needs to step up training and institute new procedures to make sure medical equipment is sanitized and used the way it's supposed to be.  The agency has a double duty to take care of veterans' health care and make sure medical practices aren't putting veterans' lives at risk."

WASHINGTON, D.C. - May 3, 2011 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today wrote to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe in opposition to a proposed regulation that would give the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) the right to convert post offices into stations or branches of larger post offices at their discretion.  Once converted, the USPS would then be able to close rural post offices without any consultation with local citizens or concern about the impact on a rural economy.  As Harkin points out in the letter, it appears that the proposed regulations are designed specifically to circumvent current laws to ensure local voices are heard.  Currently in Iowa, many post offices are facing potential closures that would disrupt service.

"Conveniently located post offices and a reliable postal delivery system are essential to keeping communities connected and businesses strong - particularly in rural areas of the country," said Harkin.  "Allowing the USPS to close post offices without listening to local concerns could interrupt reliable service to residents and hurt local businesses, all without consulting those it would most directly impact.  While I strongly believe that we must push for a more cost effective and efficient postal system, this proposed regulation is simply misguided and I urge the Postmaster General to change his course on this issue."

A copy of the letter can be found here.

Additionally, Harkin yesterday joined with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Steve King (R-IA) in writing to the USPS to ask that the Postal Service make public the details of the Area Mail Processing (AMP) Study that is being used by the Postal Service to weigh the move of Sioux City's mail processing operations to Sioux Falls.  A copy of that letter can be found here.

DES MOINES, IA (05/03/2011)(readMedia)-- State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald is asking Iowans to celebrate 529 College Savings Day on May 29 by exploring the benefits of using a 529 plan, such as College Savings Iowa, to save for their loved ones future higher education expenses. "We want parents to know it's never too early to start planning for their child's education," Fitzgerald said. "As a way to raise awareness about 529 plans, families are able to gain a jump start on saving for their child's future education by registering, during the month of May, for the chance to win a free $529 College Savings Iowa account." For more information and to enter the giveaway, please visit www.my529iowaplan.com.

May 29 was nationally declared 529 College Savings Day in order to help bring attention to the fact that saving for college is one of the most significant things families can do for the children in their lives. Those who begin putting away money early and save little by little can, over time, make their college savings add up to a significant amount. Because saving for future educational expenses is so important, everyone is encouraged to open a College Savings Iowa account for a special child in their life.

College Savings Iowa offers families a tax advantaged way to save money for their children's higher education. It only takes $25 to open an account, and anyone - parents, grandparents, friends and relatives - can invest in College Savings Iowa on behalf of a child. Participants who are Iowa taxpayers can deduct contributions up to $2,865 per beneficiary from their 2011 adjusted gross income, and there are no income or residency restrictions.* Investors can withdraw their investment federally tax-free to pay for qualified higher education expenses including tuition, books, supplies and certain room and board costs at any eligible college, university, community college or accredited technical training school in the United States or abroad.** To learn more about College Savings Iowa, please visit www.collegesavingsiowa.com or call 1-888-672-9116.

*Adjusted annually for inflation. If withdrawals are not qualified, the deductions must be added back to Iowa taxable income.

**Earnings on non-qualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state income taxes. The availability of tax or other benefits may be contingent on meeting other requirements.

For more information about the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan, call 888-672-9116 or visit www.collegesavingsiowa.com to obtain a Program Description. Investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other important information are included in the Program Description; read and consider it carefully before investing.

MARION - May 2, 2011. The Office of Governor Pat Quinn today released this statement regarding Illinois ongoing response to flooding in Southern Illinois.

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced its decision to crevasse the Birds Point-New Madrid Levee, an important step to ensure public safety as we respond to this crisis.

Today, Governor Quinn met in Cairo with Gen. Walsh, who is leading the efforts of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Governor continues to monitor the situation and remains in frequent contact with Gen. Walsh, as well as state and local officials working on the ground in flood-affected areas.

On Saturday, the Governor sent a letter requesting that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers complete its plan to crevasse the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway, on behalf of thousands of people across southern Illinois, including the 3,000 citizens of Cairo.

Illinois' preparation began weeks before the crisis, and the Governor continues working to fulfill the needs of those carrying out flood-response efforts.

While visiting Cairo today, Governor Quinn announced the call up of 100 additional National Guard personnel, sending nearly 450 servicemembers to flood-affected areas in Illinois.

Additionally, the Administration today authorized nurses and other medical professionals to assist with an additional range of duties during the crisis to ensure that health and safety concerns of those affected by the flooding are being met.

More information about the state's flood response and flood safety is available on the Ready Illinois website at www.Ready.Illinois.gov.  For information regarding insurance claims related to flooding, visit the Illinois Department of Insurance website at http://insurance.illinois.gov/HomeInsurance/flood.asp or call 866-445-5364."                


Washington, DC - (May 2, 2011) Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to review current Department of Defense policies that deal with sexual assault and domestic violence and use his authority to implement provisions of Braley's recently introduced Holley Lynn James Act.

"Military studies and news reports suggest that therate of sexual assault in the military is unconscionably high, and that as many as one in three military women experience sexual assault during their career in the service. That's unacceptable," said Rep. Braley. "I want to make sure the President recognizes the need to address this crisis, to ensure that charges of sexual assault and domestic violence are treated seriously, and that the rights of victims are protected."

Last month, Rep. Braley introduced the Holley Lynn James Act to improve the oversight of sexual assault and domestic violence policy in the military. The bipartisan bill is named after Holley Lynn James, a constituent of Rep. Braley who was killed by her husband while both were in the service. James had filed complaints against her husband, who was supposed to be restricted to his barracks the night he murdered her.

Reports from the Government Accountability Office suggest that the Department of Defense still has difficulty in tracking and reporting domestic violence cases and has inconsistent practices in addressing these cases.

Rep. Braley also recently introduced the bi-partisan Support for Survivors Act that would require the military to preserve records connected with cases of sexual trauma and assault.

A copy of Rep. Braley's letter is available here: http://braley.house.gov/images/stories/PDF/Braley.Obama.Letter.05022011.pdf


Introduces Andrew Connolly Veterans' Housing Act

Washington, DC - (May 2, 2011) Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) introduced abill to help injured and disabled veterans retrofit their homes after they return from combat. The Andrew Connolly Veterans' Housing Act is named after Andrew Connolly of Dubuque - a constituent of Rep. Braley's who returned from Iraq with a tumor in his spine and is now restricted to a wheelchair. With Rep. Braley's help, Connolly was able to get a grant to move into a home that allowed him to get around in a wheelchair.

"Our soldiers deserve our support on and off the battlefield," said Rep. Braley. "For many young men and women who return from combat with severe life-altering injuries, the fight is far from over. Veterans like Andrew return to a completely new life - with new, special needs. We must ensure that they have the support they need to adjust to their new lives and feel comfortable in their homes."

Many veterans face severe injuries and have special needs after they return fromcombat. Rep. Braley's bill extends a crucial program that helps veterans adapt and modify the homes where they reside to meet these special needs.

Tomorrow, Connolly will testify on veterans' housing grant programs in front of Rep. Braley's Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.

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Davenport, Iowa - May, 2011- Life-sustaining yet also destructive, the transformative properties of water play a crucial role in shaping our physical and cultural landscape. On May 7th, the Figge will celebrate the beauty and power of water in the exhibition Water Views from the Figge Collection. Drawing upon its collection of European, American and Japanese paintings and works on paper, the exhibition offers a broad survey of water imagery and explores the cultural perceptions imbedded in them.  This exhibition will run through August 21, 2011.

Works by renowned artists like Asher Durand, James A. Whistler, Thomas Moran, Paul Signac and Utagawa Hiroshige underscores the strength of Figge's permanent collection and allows us to reflect upon the role of the Mississippi in the Quad Cities.  Works date from the mid-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries and many were part of C. A. Ficke's original gift to the Davenport Museum of Art.

This spring, Thursdays at the Figge programs will highlight themes from the exhibition.  On May 12, Water Views curator Rima Girnius will lead a gallery talk of the exhibition. On May 26, Davenport artists Ralph Iacarino will lead a gallery talk about watercolor works in the exhibition and a live demonstration of the techniques used by watercolor artists.  Dan Malachuck and Figge Curator of Education Ann Marie Hayes-Hawkinson will lead a gallery talk on selected exhibition works and related literature on June 9

On Sundays in May at 1:30pm, public tours will focus on water-themed artwork from the Figge's American and European collection. Guided group tours are also available for the exhibition as well as full museum tours to enhance your visit. Contact the Figge Art Museum at 563.326.7804 or visit online at figgeartmuseum.org for more information.


For the fifth year, Davenport Parks and Recreation and B100 Radio will sponsor Family Fest on Saturday, May 14th from noon to 3pm, at the River's Edge, 700 W River Dr, in Davenport. The event is free!

Family Fest is an exciting event for family members of all ages designed to get families out and in motion. Families will enjoy games, entertainment, crafts, and a variety of group activities on the indoor turf at the River's Edge. Davenport Parks and Recreation instructors and camp counselors will be at the event to offer a sampling of other summer Parks offerings, and will be available to answer any questions about other Parks programs.

After Family Fest, participants are invited to grab their bikes and join the Parks Director for a "Ride with the Director" bike tour along the riverfront trail to hear about parks projects and other upcoming projects that will be completed this season. Helmets are required.

Family Fest is a free family event kicking off Quad City in Motion Week. Quad Cities in Motion Week is a week of activities, May 14-21 to challenge all adults to get active. Everyone is encouraged to walk, bike or bus to work each day during the week. Free bike and bus transportation will be available all week on Transit, CitiBus and Metro. For more information about Quad City in Motion Week, visit

Iowa farmers transitioning to organic systems as well as established organic producers now have an opportunity to apply for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative funding to assist their organic efforts.

The USDA recently announced another $50 million in funding for the EQIP Organic Initiative, which provides a 75% share of the cost of implementing organic conservation measures to those who qualify - 90% for beginning, limited-resource and socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

This is the third year of the Organic Initiative. In 2010, NRCS obligated $24 million nationally with over $1.4 million going to Iowa organic farmers. This year even greater funding is available for Iowa producers to plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns in ways that are consistent with organic production. The deadline for this application period is May 20, 2011.

The Center for Rural Affairs has a long history of assisting family farmers and ranchers in accessing new conservation programs.  We created an EQIP Organic Initiative fact sheet available at - http://www.cfra.org/node/2509 - and we operate a Farm Bill Helpline where producers can call (402) 687-2100, ask for the Farm Bill Helpline and speak to a real person who can help producers receive assistance in accessing new programs like the EQIP organic initiative.

The Farm Bill Helpline can also assist farmers and ranchers with the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnerships Initiative, the Value Added Agricultural Market Development Program and a host of Beginning Farmer and Rancher programs.

By John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs