Don't miss your opportunity for a story, snack, and new friends!  It's all happening at Rivermont Collegiate on Tuesday afternoons!  Children ages 3-5 and an accompanying adult are invited to join Rivermont Junior Kindergarten Teacher and Librarian, Shalar Brown, for a story and snack on select Tuesdays from 1:30 - 2:15 p.m.  Reading aloud to young children is one of the best activities to stimulate language and cognitive skills and builds motivation, curiosity, and memory. In fact, it is the single most important activity parents and teachers can do to build the knowledge required for eventual success.  Story Time is a terrific opportunity to explore Early School (preschool and junior kindergarten) at Rivermont!

Ms. Brown's Best Books: Story Time at Rivermont

Tuesdays - April 19th and 26th

1:30 - 2:15 p.m.

Media Center - Rivermont Collegiate Campus

1821 Sunset Drive - Bettendorf, IA 52722

(located directly off 18th Street, behind K&K Hardware in Bettendorf)

Early School at Rivermont Collegiate provides children with their first step in formal education and, through a developmentally sensitive approach, weaves experiences throughout the day that foster creativity, self-confidence, and critical thinking in a family-like learning environment.  Visit us online at!

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate or the Story Time events, contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or

MILWAUKEE, WI - TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) announced another banner year of weight-loss success.  Members of the nonprofit, weight-loss support organization lost a total of 435.63 tons of weight in 2010.  They credit their successes to the TOPS formula of a healthy lifestyle, group support, wellness education, and motivational tools.

"With a continued focus on obesity in this country, we are proud of our members for their collective huge accomplishment," said Barb Cady, president of TOPS.  "It is our goal to help people on their journey to lifelong health, and we are amazed by the amount of weight lost each year."

Through TOPS, members learn that weight loss is about more than numbers.  Recognition and on-going support are also important components to successful weight loss.

TOPS reported these weight-loss statistics as their 'Fabulous Figures' for 2010:

• Total weight lost was 871,265.68 pounds - or 435.63 tons.

• The average weight lost per chapter equaled 100.03 pounds - an increase of more than 3% compared to 2009.

• A total of 154 members each realized a weight loss of at least 100 pounds, earning them Century Award recognition.

Weekly chapter meetings, awards programs, and regional events comprise a system of recognition and positive reinforcement for TOPS members on the wellness journey.  Goal weights are set in consultation with members' health care professionals.  When TOPS members reach their weight-loss goal, they are dubbed KOPS (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly).  These members maintain their weight - one of the most challenging parts of successful weight management - and continue to benefit from the accountability and support provided at chapter meetings and online.  TOPS' members-only section of its website features message boards, weight-loss tools, recipes, wellness videos, e-cards, and more.

TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success.  Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, visit or call (800) 932-8677.


Friday, April 15, 2011

WASHINGTON - In anticipation of the upcoming debate to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known in its current form as No Child Left Behind, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania introduced legislation last night which would make sure that federal education policy no longer overlooks the needs of high-ability students.

The new proposal is called the TALENT Act, or the To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation's Teachers Act.

The senators said the provisions in their bill, S.857, are designed to correct the lack of focus on high-ability students, especially those students in underserved settings, including rural communities, by including them in the school, district, and state planning process that already exists under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  The bill would raise the expectation that teachers have the skills to address the special learning needs of various populations of students, including gifted and high-ability learners.  It would provide for professional development grants to help general education teachers and other school personnel better understand how to recognize and respond to the needs of high-ability students.

The legislation also retools and builds upon the goals and purpose of the existing Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act so that education policy makers would continue to explore and test strategies to identify and serve high-ability students from underserved groups.  The senators said that these strategies should then be put into the hands of teachers across the country.

"America can no longer afford to ignore the needs of our brightest students and, by doing so, squander their potential.  Our legislation would make the modifications needed to federal education policy to develop and encourage the high achievement that's possible for so many gifted and talented students and, in turn, enhance the future prosperity of our nation," Grassley said.

"We must train our teachers to identify and encourage gifted and high-ability learners, particularly in underserved communities," said Casey.  "The potential of our children must be maximized for their sake and for the sake of our long-term economic growth."

Casey serves on the Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee, which is currently working through a bipartisan committee process to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Grassley has been a leading advocate in Congress for gifted and talented children.  Among other efforts, he sponsored legislation that became part of the original No Child Left Behind Act to expand the availability of gifted education services.

Friday, April 15, 2011

As hundreds of millions of Americans zeroed in on highly publicized negotiations in Washington to avert a shutdown of the federal government, tens of millions of people from around the world were riveted by a live video stream coming out of Decorah, Iowa. Nestled 80 feet above ground in a cottonwood tree, three eaglets fascinated their online audience by hatching one-by-one under their parent's 24-hour supervision.

The close-up has fascinated classrooms of students and households across the country, enriching curriculum and showcasing the uncommon stateliness and regal beauty of America's national emblem.

While the hatchlings feasted on trout, carp and carrion brought to the nest by their parents in northeast Iowa, the budget debate ramped up in Washington.

How did Washington reach the brink in the first place? The Democratic-controlled Congress failed last year to pass a budget by the September 30 deadline. In the meantime, the federal government had been kept open with seven temporary spending bills.

So when the 112th Congress opened for business in January, it needed to hammer out a budget for the current fiscal year already underway before starting work on a budget for 2012.

After a week of showdowns, even a veto threat, that brought unnecessary uncertainty to hundreds of thousands of Americans, including military families and federal workers, the leadership in the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate reached a last-minute agreement with the White House. It will cut nearly $39 billion from the federal budget that will finance the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year.

Although a relatively small victory for taxpayers considering the size of the deficit, the spending reduction represents a positive shift in the debate over the cost and size of the federal government. It's a victory for taxpayers because it established a new bottom line for future budget negotiations:  Washington needs to champion policies that grow the economy and create jobs, not defend ways that grow the government.

Although a resolution was achieved, the debate sets the stage for what is sure to be even more intense debate in the months ahead.

That's because the federal government still faces an unprecedented $14 trillion national debt. By mid-May, the United States will reach its legal debt ceiling.

For too long, the federal budget has ridden the rails of Washington's spending spree, picking up even more speed over the last two years with federal bailouts, stimulus handouts and new entitlement spending that have ratcheted up deficit spending and dug a bigger hole for American taxpayers to fill.

It's time for Washington to come clean with the American public. The federal government cannot borrow-and-spend our way to prosperity. The growing national debt poses serious risk to the long-term economic health of the United States.  It puts a heavy burden on taxpayers who will have less take-home pay to save, spend and invest if they have to send more money to Washington.

The recent budget stalemate is actually overshadowed by the much graver fiscal cliffhanger looming on the horizon. The national debt and unsustainable entitlements pose serious challenges to America's long-term prosperity.

Let's hope Washington gets serious about shutting down deficits and reforming entitlement spending. By doing so, Congress and the White House will go a long ways towards strengthening the U.S. economy and America's safety nets for retirees and the disabled.

Lawmakers and the President might find inspiration from the eagles nesting in Decorah. For 235 years, America has served as a beacon of hope and opportunity and for freedom and prosperity. Chosen by America's Founders to symbolize freedom, strength and longevity, the eagle graces the Seal of the United States. With widespread wings, the eagle carries a scroll in its beak inscribed with "E Pluribus Unum." The Latin phrase translates "Out of Many, One."

The president and 435 members of Congress collectively represent many different constituencies across the ideological, political, geographic and demographic spectrum. Although representing many, we all can work to make America an even better place for posterity. If we continue to live beyond our means, we'll push future generations over a fiscal cliff of no return. That's why Washington must clamp down on new spending and shrink the national debt.

WASHINGTON, April 15, 2011 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack traveled to Shenandoah, Iowa, today where he spoke about building a cleaner, safer, and more secure energy future - one that ultimately breaks our dependence on foreign oil and moves our nation toward a clean energy economy that creates jobs and keeps America competitive.

At the grand opening of the BioProcess Algae Bioreactor Project - a facility owned by Green Plains Renewable Energy - Vilsack said USDA was focused on stimulating growth, creating jobs, and setting in place a framework for a robust future for the rural economy, which includes support of next-generation renewable energy, such as alternative feedstocks.

"USDA is helping our nation develop the next generation of biofuels to grow jobs and generate energy from new, homegrown sources," said Vilsack. "In the past two years, USDA has worked to help our nation develop a national biofuels economy and make that vision a reality. This cutting-edge facility here in Iowa, and others like it across rural America, is using waste heat, water and carbon dioxide from ethanol production and looking at advanced technologies which could eventually be used as energy. It is the kind of innovation we need to build an economy that continues to grow and out-compete the rest of the world."

President Obama is committed to reducing our net imports of oil by one-third by 2025. The United States holds only 2 percent of proven oil resources, and we consume about 25 percent of world's supply. The production of cleaner and more efficient fuels, produced domestically, will help to make America's energy supply more secure by permanently reducing our dependence on oil. USDA is doing research into new biofuel production methods and has established five regional research centers working on the science necessary to ensure biofuels can be produced profitably from a diverse range of feedstocks. And USDA is offering support to build the infrastructure needed to deliver the fuel to consumers at the gas station.

In Shenandoah, Vilsack also spoke at the Shenandoah Chamber and Industry Association's Annual Meeting, where shared rural America's vision for a strong economic future that relies on home-grown energy to power America's cars and trucks. The domestic biofuels industry, said Vilsack, has produced hundreds of refineries, pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the American economy and created hundreds of thousands of jobs in our rural communities.

May is Older Americans Month.

Q.  What is Older Americans Month?

A.  Each May, we celebrate Older Americans Month.  Whether you're currently enjoying or are still looking forward to the next phase of life and retirement, this is a time to celebrate the contributions of the current generation and past generations of older Americans.  This year's theme, "Connecting the Community," highlights the ways in which older Americans bring the community together, and celebrates the many ways that technology helps older Americans live longer, healthier, better-quality lives.

Q.  What have you done to ensure younger workers have financial security when they retire?

A.   Workers who have yet to retire should think ahead to ensure they are financially able to give themselves options.  Employer-provided pensions are no longer as common as they once were and, in recent years, some employers who offered pension benefits were exposed as having promised more than they could deliver.  In 2006, after the Enron and United Airlines retirement savings and pension debacles, among others, Congress enacted the most sweeping pension legislation in more than 30 years.  As one of the authors, I was glad to help stop the game playing by which corporations indicated that their pensions were in better shape than they really are.  In addition, the law made permanent the increased amounts that people can put away in their 401(k) and Individual Retirement Accounts and provided for more portability between these types of accounts when workers change employers. Other provisions made permanent are the savers credit for low- and middle-income taxpayers and the ability for individuals over the age of 50 to make "catch up" contributions to increase their retirement income security.   For some helpful tips on preparing for retirement, please visit

Q.  What have you done to help improve the lives of seniors?

A.  It's important to protect vulnerable citizens, including those who require care from a family member or live in a nursing home.  In 1984 and 2000, I authored updates to the Older Americans Act, including a new program that offers support to family caregivers, including those who care for older family members.  As chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging in the late 1990s, I conducted oversight on the quality of care provided in nursing homes.  Predictably timed inspections and lax enforcement of care standards allowed abuse and neglect to flourish in too many cases.  It takes ongoing persistence to make sure quality standards are enforced.  Making inspection information more transparent helps keep nursing homes on their toes.  Beefing up the Department of Health and Human Services' Nursing Home Compare website has helped to empower consumers to choose the right facility.  The Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act that Senator Herb Kohl and I got enacted last year will build on prior transparency efforts to give consumers more information about individual nursing homes and their track record of care and give the government better tools for enforcing high-quality standards.

The whistleblower updates of the federal False Claims Act that I first sponsored in the Senate in 1986 and have worked to safeguard and fortify ever since help to ensure that tax dollars meant to care for seniors aren't lost to fraud.  Whistleblowers have helped to recover billions of dollars to the federal Treasury.  In 2003, I authored and helped shepherd through Congress the first-ever Medicare prescription drug benefit.  The drug benefit program has cost 37 percent less than originally estimated and, today, 90 percent of eligible Medicare beneficiaries have prescription drug coverage.  Additionally, a bill which I authored became law last year and will require that, beginning in September 2013, payments by pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers to doctors be made public online.  Transparency of the financial relationships between drug and device makers and physicians will inform consumers and establish accountability.  Every day, advanced technology is improving the quality of life for all Americans, including older Americans, as we mark Older Americans Month.

ROCK ISLAND, IL (04/15/2011)(readMedia)-- The Augustana Department of Theatre Arts, which includes several students from the local area, will end its 2010-11 theater season with a performance of Thorton Wilder's classic American play, Our Town. The play will run two consecutive weekends beginning Friday, April 29 and ending Sunday, May 8. All performances are in the Potter Theatre at the Bergendoff Hall of Fine Arts (3701 7th Ave.)

Our Town is set in the fictional town of Grover's Corners, New Hampshire, in the early 1900s and follows the everyday joys and trials of the town's citizens. The main character of the stage manager, who serves as the narrator, makes comments on the action and plays roles as needed within the town. The play was first performed in 1938 and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama that year.

Jacqui Schmidt, a theatre arts and English writing major, is excited to play the role of the stage manager. The character is interesting because he-or she, in the case of Augustana's production-directly interacts with the audience and the characters onstage. "I sometimes have to present a male character," Schmidt said. "This allows a contemporary take on what the gender roles would have been during the early 1900s in a small town like Grover's Corners."

Students from the local area who will perform in the play include :

Greg Donley, a sophomore from Silvis, IL majoring in general studies. Donley will play the role of townsperson in the production.

Kayla McKay, a first-year from Moline, IL majoring in general studies. McKay will play the role of townsperson in the production.

Augustana's production presents some new twists to the timeless play. Whereas the stage manager is usually a contemporary of the play's characters, the Augustana stage manager will be observing the play from a modern perspective. "The narrator's commentary is not just nostalgic reflection," said Jeff Coussens, the play's director and the chair of the theatre arts department. "We ask the audience to look at the past through a contemporary lens."

Our Town is the last production in Augustana's 2010-11 theater season, Reflections. In keeping with the season's theme, the production will invite the audience to reflect on how times change, yet how much remains the same. Simple lighting, minimal scenery and timeless costumes will emphasize this theme. Members of the 1989 cast of Our Town at Augustana also will return for the April 30 performance to discuss the changes in the production since they performed it more than 20 years ago.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 29, Saturday, April 30, Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7; and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 1 and Sunday, May 8. Tickets are $11 for the general public and $9 for senior citizens (age 60+), students and children. For ticket information, please call (309) 794-7306 or visit

Washington, DC - Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement after the House of Representatives voted on the House Republican budget:

"Fixing our economy is about shared responsibility - and that includes some shared sacrifice. But there's no sharing on this budget. Seniors and middle class families are being told to bear the whole burden while Wall Street pays nothing.

These are people who worked hard, who played by the rules all their lives. They paid into Medicare and it was supposed to be there for them. But politicians in Washington want to change the rules in the middle of the game - and now they want to eliminate Medicare for millions of Iowans for years to come. I won't let that happen.

Let me be clear, my constituents in Iowa didn't create this deficit or double the debt. The disabled single mom in Waterloo who receives modest Social Security benefits did not cause this recession. Grandparents in Davenport who need to see their doctor didn't crash the stock market. Yet that's what the Republican budget says to Iowans and other middle class families.

What really got us into this fiscal mess was letting Wall Street run wild, fighting multiple wars for a decade at a time, and giving the wealthiest Americans every possible break. But instead of fixing any of that, the Republican budget eliminates Medicare and gives more tax breaks to the wealthy. There's nothing shared or responsible about that."


All bills must pass the House and Senate with the exact same language before it is sent to the governor.  Thus far, the House and Senate have passed separate versions on all budget bills except two.  The two which made it through to the Governor's desk were vetoed.  Think of running bills through the Legislature like running the Bix 7; the House has reached the finish line but can't cross until it joins hands with the Senate and receives permission from the Governor.  In a scenario like this, joining hands and gaining permission to take the last step may be more difficult than running the previous seven miles.

The main issue in the Senate is making sure enough runners stay on the track to find the finish line.  Over the last two years when the Senate was divided at 32-18 with Democrats in control, Majority Leader Gronstal could move forward even when some members deviated.  This year with the Senate Democrats having a 26-24 majority, any one member has the same power as the Majority Leader.  If one person walks on any issue, 25 votes does not make a majority.  Delays in the Senate are not due to partisan politics.  In fact, it is the exact opposite.  Senate Republicans are more than willing to help Senate Democrats end this session as soon as Senate Democrats finalize what bills they want to run.

One issue that no politician can shy away from is the budget.  Picture the General Fund as a bucket which only so much money can flow into.  When the bucket overflows, money falls into the Cash Reserve Fund and when that bucket overflows money ends in the Economic Emergency Fund.  The real debate between the House and Senate right now is over how many items can be stuffed into the General Fund and whether or not some items should be paid out of the Economic Emergency Fund and Cash Reserve Funds.  At the core of this debate is whether or not additional ongoing expenditures for items like education should be funded out of one-time money from accounts like the Economic Emergency Fund.  Here is a bigger question, if we do this, how do you pay for emergencies when the Mississippi and Wapsi flood?

Throw redistricting into this marathon we're running and let's hope some don't just walk off the track.  The redistricting plan, which passed the Senate on Thursday, immediately put thirty-one Senators up for re-election.  Attitudes and personalities change when politicians are thrown into the same district and are facing a new campaign season.  This is becoming the opposite of the "not in my back yard effect."  Nearly everyone has shopped at least one time at Wal-Mart, yet not very many people want Wal-Mart in their backyard.  In this scenario politicians are asking themselves, "What do I get in my back yard?"  At the end of the day, there will be districts and a representative form of government and politicians should stop worrying.

Thank you for letting me represent you at the Capitol.

Shawn Hamerlinck
State Senate District 42

Amana - Celebrate the bonds of friendship as The Old Creamery Theatre presents The Dixie Swim Club, opening on the Main Stage Thursday, April 28 at 3 p.m.

Friends since their college swim team days, Sheree, Dinah, Lexie, Jeri Neal and Vernadette gather each year to reminisce and catch up with one another on their diverse lives. Join them as they travel through the years and talk about marriage, divorce, raising children, careers and growing older. These five funny ladies will make you laugh like only your old friends can as together they face all that life throws their way.

Written by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten, The Dixie Swim Club is directed by Sean McCall of Marengo. The cast consists of Krista Neumann of Iowa City; Gwendolyn Schwinke of Cedar Falls; Kristy Hartsgrove of Iowa City; Marquetta Senters of South Amana; and Licia Watson of Overland Park, Kansas.

The Dixie Swim Club runs through May 29 and is rated Theatre PG.

Tickets are $27 for adults and $17.50 for students. Call the box office at 800-35-AMANA or for more information or to purchase tickets. Money-saving season tickets packages are available through June 1, 2011.

The Old Creamery Theatre Company is a not-for-profit professional theatre founded in 1971 in Garrison, Iowa. The company is celebrating 40 years of bringing live, professional theatre to the people of Iowa and the Midwest. We thank KGAN and Fox 28, our 2011 season media sponsor.