Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Baker has accepted the position of president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce in Michigan. Baker will begin his new duties in April. Grand Rapids is located in western Michigan, and is part of the Grand Rapids-Wyoming Metropolitan Statistical Area, pop. 776,000.


Baker's experience in the chamber of commerce field spans more than 23 years, including 17 years in the Quad Cities. He served 16 years as president and CEO of the Illinois Quad City Chamber before taking on the role of president and chief operating officer of the recently-formed Quad Cities Chamber last fall. Prior to arriving in the Quad Cities, Baker was president of the Newton, Iowa, Chamber of Commerce. He began his chamber career in Rochester, Minn., in 1987.


"The merger of the Illinois Quad City and Iowa Quad Cities Chambers amplified the visibility of our region on a national stage and increased the professional marketability of chamber staff. This new opportunity in Grand Rapids came about because of the visibility related to the merger," said Baker. "The offer from Grand Rapids was simply one that I could not turn down. Still, I will leave the Quad Cities with many fond memories and immense gratitude for those whom I've worked closely with over the years."


Tara Barney, Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce CEO, commended Baker. "I wish Rick well in his new community. He is a consummate professional and a great leader. His many years of experience helped pave the way for the chamber's transition to the current regional model; the merger simply could not have happened without Rick's support and guidance. That another chamber came knocking at his door does not surprise me. He is highly respected within our field," she said.


Baker added that he has "every confidence in the new regional model for the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce."


The Grand Rapids Area Chamber has approximately 2,800 members. "We look forward to bringing on a leader who will hit the ground running, building on the base of success we have established at the Grand Rapids Chamber," said Meg Goebel, president, Paul Goebel Group and chairperson of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

The Independent Scholars' Evenings are in session for the 2010-2011 Spring semester. Every Thursday evening at 7.00 p.m.
There is a difference this semester.
The Fifth Avenue door is open.  Convey to the city the wonderful job they have done on Fifth Avenue, please.
Of course the elevator is still through the 16th. street door.
Also, the sessions will be open session untill the evening is to be dedicated to the work of  one specific topic narrowing down through the presentation of  an Independent Scholar.  At which time we will publicise and circulate the presentation.
The evenings are for the presentation of  area Independent Scholars' ongoing work.
We will indicate to you the upcoming work, and you may, if  you are interested,  go over some background information yourself before the session.

For those who wish to schedule, just let us know and we will publicise your presentation. You can email me at this address or let either Lorna Thompson or me know when you come in for the ISE Thursdays.
Upcoming in April by area Independent Scholars:  The Power of  Social Media, by Chris Scott, Social Media Innovations.
and a presentation by Michael Rosenthal on the implications of  2012, as well as the pre-publication, final review of  Conceptual Art by Narveen Aryaputri, the current Carp Sustainable fishing by Michael Grady, export manager at Schafer Fishery.
Exact dates and timings will be circulated at a later date.
In the meantime, doors are open at 6.30p.m. Free snacks and a cash bar are available.
Please use the Evenings for your own work and support them so we can together support encourage and augment the ongoing work produced in our area.
Evenings dedicated to Independent Scholarship and research in the open collective society and outside of  academe are rare.
Bring your friends and your ideas.
The Evenings are free and open to the public.
on behalf  of  the board, co-learners and supports of  the Independent Scholars' Evenings

SPRINGFIELD - February 28, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today sent a formal request to President Barack Obama asking that 60 counties be declared federal disaster areas, in order to help local governments recover from the major blizzard and winter storm that impacted much of Illinois in early February. State and local government expenses related to storm response and recovery are estimated to be more than $64 million.

"Record snowfall and dangerous ice from this major winter storm created significant challenges for local governments earlier this month", said Governor Quinn. "While the snow is mostly gone, the serious financial impacts of the storm remain. Today I am asking President Obama to help these communities recover many of their expenses by approving this request."

In the letter to President Obama, Governor Quinn requested that 60 counties receive federal reimbursement for extraordinary storm-related expenses, including emergency protective measures, debris removal and permanent repair of damages to government-owned facilities and electrical cooperatives. If approved, local government entities could receive reimbursement for 75 percent of their eligible storm-related expenses.

SPRINGFIELD, IL (02/28/2011)(readMedia)-- A Desert Storm Remembrance ceremony was held Feb. 28 at the Illinois State Capitol building to honor the 20th anniversary of the end of the Gulf War.

During the war Illinois lost 14 servicemembers from cities spread out over the state who served in the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.

With the mobilization of reserve components, the Illinois National Guard supplied approximately 10 units and roughly 1,400 Soldiers and Airmen to support Operation Desert Storm.

The 1244th Transportation Company in North Riverside, the 1544th Transportation Company in Paris, the 108th Medical Battalion in Chicago, the 1644th Transportation Company in Rock Falls, the 233rd Military Police Company in Springfield, the 126th Air Refueling Wing and two of its subordinated squadrons all based in Scott Air Force Base, the 182nd Tactical Air Support Group in Peoria and the 933rd Military Police Company in Fort Sheridan were deployed to support the combat efforts in Kuwait.

The Illinois National Guard, Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 32, Gold Star Families were some of the organizations that participated in the ceremony.

IEPA Director Doug Scott to Lead Commerce Commission, Manny Flores to Lead IDFPR Division of Banking

CHICAGO - February 28, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today announced several top appointments to his executive cabinet. Today's actions are the next step in a series of appointments Governor Quinn will continue making throughout the first quarter of 2011 as he continues to fulfill his commitment to creating jobs, recovering our economy and making state government more efficient and accountable to the people of Illinois.

Today Governor Quinn named Doug Scott as chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and Manuel "Manny" Flores as director of the Division of Banking of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. Scott has served as director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) since 2005 and Flores has chaired the ICC since January 2010. Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state's chief operating officer and Lisa Bonnett as interim director of IEPA.

"Throughout their careers, Doug Scott and Manny Flores have proven themselves to be strong advocates for the interests of Illinois' working families," said Governor Quinn. "Today's appointments will allow them to keep fighting for Illinois' consumers by ensuring proper oversight and regulation of utility companies and banks throughout our state."

As director of the IEPA, Scott has protected Illinois' consumers by working to significantly reduce emissions from the state's power plants. He has also worked to support low-emission coal technology, wind power, and other alternative energy and fuel sources. Prior to leading the IEPA, Scott served as mayor of Rockford, and from 1995 to 2001 he served as state representative from Illinois' 67th District. Scott has a bachelor of arts from the University of Tulsa and a juris doctorate from Marquette University.

As chairman of the ICC, Flores worked to ensure consumers received efficient, reliable, safe and fairly-priced utility services. Before leading the ICC, Flores served on the Chicago City Council and as a prosecutor in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. He received his undergraduate degree in political science from Dominican University and juris doctorate from George Washington University Law School.

Lisa Bonnett will serve as the interim director of the IEPA. Bonnett is currently serving as the agency's acting deputy director and previously served at its chief fiscal officer. Bonnett has worked in state government for more than 30 years and lives in Springfield. She has a bachelor's degree and master's degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Today Governor Quinn also named Andrew Ross as the state's chief operating officer. Ross, who for the last two years has served as a deputy chief of staff in the governor's office, will lead efforts to promote continued job growth in Illinois. He will manage efforts in the governor's office and across state government to keep and attract new companies, encourage expansion of the green economy, and spur entrepreneurship and innovation across Illinois. In his previous position, Ross worked on an incentive package to keep Navistar and 3,000 jobs in Illinois, aided implementation of the state's $31 billion capital program and helped overhaul the regulation of the Illinois cemetery industry following the tragedy at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip.


February 28, 2011

City Administrator Malin announced today that Director of Parks & Recreation Seve Ghose has accepted an offer of employment with the City of Longmont, Colorado, and will be resigning his position. Mr. Ghose will remain with Davenport until May 27, and will continue to lead the department's efforts to become accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) prior to his departure. A CAPRA site visit will be conducted in May, as a final review step in the accreditation process.

Mr. Ghose was hired by Davenport from the City of Portland, Oregon, in July of 2008. He has overseen significant expansion of park facilities and recreation programming during his tenure, including re-opening the Quad City Sports Center as the River's Edge, a City owned and operated multi-purpose recreation facility that has exceeded use and revenue expectations in its first year.

Mr. Ghose expressed regret in leaving Davenport, and underscored that the move to Colorado was guided by a desire to be closer to his extended family. Mr. Ghose said "Davenport is a great place to live, but we have some family needs out west. It has been a privilege to work in Davenport for the past few years."

City Administrator Malin expressed gratitude for Mr. Ghose's professional and enthusiastic efforts to advance parks and recreation in Davenport, noting "Seve has done a great job for Davenport, and I hate to lose him. He has set the bar high for his successor."

The City will conduct an open, national recruitment for its next Director of Parks and Recreation.

On Friday, February 18th, students from Orion High School and United Township participated in the Poetry Out Loud regional contest at Quad City Arts. The event was exciting and enriching and all in attendance were edified and entertained by the student recitations.

We are happy to announce the winners of the contest: 1st place was Nathan Walter from Orion HS. Nathan recited "Memory As A Hearing Aid" by Tony Hoagland and "Alone" by Edgar Allan Poe. Runner-up was Amanda Wales from United Township HS. Amanda recited "Fairy-Tale Logic" by A. E. Stallings and "When You Are Old" by W. B. Yeats.  Lisa Amlong from Orion placed third and thus qualified as an alternate and will also attend the State Contest. Lisa recited "A dream Within A Dream" by Edgar Allan Poe and "Fairy-Tale Logic" by A. E. Stallings.

The winners of this competition will now advance to Illinois' State Poetry Out Loud Competition, being held Friday, March 11, 2011, at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield. The State champion will advance to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals on April 28-29, 2011 in Washington, DC, where $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be distributed with the grand prize being $20,000.

The competition, presented in partnership with the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Foundation, is part of a national program that encourages high school students to learn about great poetry through memorization, performance, and competition. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation is honored to provide travel support for regional and state finals of Poetry Out Loud in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.


For further information, call Poetry Out Loud Regional Coordinator, Tracy White at 563-579-7630

Noodles & Company Introduces 'Grown Up' Mac & Cheese Flavors- Available for a Limited Time

BROOMFIELD, Colo. (February 28, 2011) ? Don't feel guilty. We all do it. We can't help but take just one delectable bite from our kid's Mac & Cheese. But you don't have to feel guilty anymore. Noodles & Company in Davenport has just introduced three special Mac & Cheese dishes for grownups...or kids destined to be food critics.

Noodles & Company has always dominated the 'Mac market' with its top-selling Wisconsin Mac & Cheese - a delectable blend of Wisconsin cheeses and fresh cream served over tender elbow macaroni. Now, the fast-casual restaurant is offering three new gourmet versions of the dish that allow adults to feel like a kid again:

Bacon, Mac & Cheeseburger: This hearty dish is a deconstructed version of another classic American comfort food ? the bacon cheeseburger. Think crumbled oven-roasted meatballs, crispy chopped bacon, diced Roma tomatoes and chopped green onions mixed into Noodles' famous Mac & Cheese and topped with house-made toasted breadcrumbs and cheddar-jack cheese.

Truffle Mac with Baby Portabellas: Fine-dining restaurants have recently been featuring upscale versions of Mac & Cheese dishes with a variety of high-end ingredients. Noodles & Company's Truffle Mac with Baby Portabellas rivals what you'd enjoy at any fine-dining restaurant at one-third the price tag. The dish is made with Noodles' signature Wisconsin cheese sauce spiked with white truffle oil, sautéed baby portabella mushrooms, and topped off with shredded parmesan cheese house-made toasted breadcrumbs and parsley.

Southwestern Chili Mac: Take a trip southwest and give your taste buds a little fiesta. It starts with Mac & Cheese smothered in spicy red chili, crumbled oven-roasted meatballs and topped with diced green onion and shredded cheddar-jack cheese. Olé!

"Wisconsin Mac & Cheese has been a menu favorite of kids and adults since the beginning. In fact, last year we sold more than 7 million bowls of Mac & Cheese," said Tessa Stamper, Noodles & Company's chef and Mac creator. "Our guests have already been adding veggies, meatballs and even hot sauce to their Mac dishes, so we figured it was time to give them some new flavors to enjoy."

These limited-time Mac & Cheese dishes are $7.95 for a regular or $6.95 for a small - a side salad or soup can be added for $1. They're now available at all Noodles & Company restaurants. To find a restaurant near you, please visit www.noodles.com. Noodles & Company is open seven days a week and offers convenient carry out, phone-in or fax-in orders.

As the President said during his annual State of the Union address, America is a nation built on big ideas.

There's no doubt our culture embraces the concept that bigger is better. From portion sizes served at U.S. restaurants to the homes we live in and the cars we drive, Americans like to live large.

Considering America's expanding waistline and bulging budget deficits, bigger isn't always better. Washington can't seem to shake its cultural addiction to living high on the hog.

But more spending and more taxes are adding up to big problems. Consider the national debt. There's legitimate concern that by shouldering a $14 trillion-plus national debt, the federal government is on pace to overwhelm the credit market, squeezing access to affordable credit for the private sector and state/municipal borrowers. Servicing the national debt eats up scarce resources. Reckless federal spending is irresponsible and unsustainable. Washington cannot spend its way back to prosperity.

The voters sent a clear message to political leaders in November: Enough is enough.

But when the President in February unveiled his budget proposal, he squandered a big opportunity to lead. Ignoring a basic law of gravity that says "what goes up, must come down," the President sided with the gravitational pull of expediency.

Arguing his budget proposal uses a scalpel instead of a machete to address the federal deficit, the President disappointingly didn't embrace his own State of the Union message.

Instead of using the Presidential bully pulpit to build a national consensus regarding entitlement reform, the President's budget ignored the fundamental issue that will drive America year after year into ditch after ditch of deficits. If we don't change course, the whopping $14 trillion national debt will balloon to $26 trillion in the next decade.

Regrettably, the President effectively rejected months of collaboration produced by his own bipartisan deficit commission. It's little wonder why public cynicism grows when elected leaders punt issues to an appointed commission and then relegate its report to collect dust on the shelf.

In January the President called upon Congress and the American people to think big and make the 21st century America's best one yet. The American people can "out-innovate, out-educate and out-build" the best of the best, but the federal government needs to get out of the way.

Since the era of Manifest Destiny, when the promise of prosperity and the pursuit of happiness put fire in the bellies of pioneers, homesteaders, miners and missionaries, Americans have tested their mettle, employing brain and brawn, to create their fortunes and control their own destiny.

In the 21st century, technology and innovation have reshaped the economic landscape. Big thinkers in America have helped drive a digital revolution that has changed the way the world goes 'round, from commerce to communication to cultural and even political revolutions. Our entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers, scientists and investors are ready to seize their moment to achieve prosperity and live the American dream.

Washington needs to think big. Baby steps won't get us there in time. Washington can help "win the future" by taking giant steps that will address entitlements, curb federal spending, cut burdensome regulations and advance opportunity for the next generation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Q.  Why is fighting fraud in Medicare and Medicaid important?

A.  The federal debt has ballooned to a record $14 trillion, and the deficit this year alone will be $1.3 trillion.  Congress is currently debating whether it will make budget cuts in a short-term funding bill needed to continue federal programs for the remainder of the fiscal year.  Tough decisions need to be made, and cuts will impact many Americans.  Medicare and Medicaid spending is one of the largest expenditures in the federal budget.  Every dollar lost to fraud shortchanges taxpayers and the beneficiaries who rely on the health care programs.

Q. What's the scope of Medicare and Medicaid fraud?

A.  The best estimates are that between five and eight percent of the money spent on Medicare and Medicaid is lost to fraud every year.  The federal government spent $502 billion on Medicare and $379 billion on Medicaid in fiscal 2009.  So, it is estimated between $40 billion and $70 billion was lost to fraud that year.

Q.  What has been done to curb this fraud?

A.  The federal False Claims Act is one of the most effective tools against health care fraud.  I authored a major update of this law, in 1986, with Rep. Howard Berman of California.  Since then, it has recovered more than $28 billion and deterred billions of dollars in additional fraud against the taxpayers.  The qui tam whistleblower provisions that were created by our 1986 update are among the most successful elements of the False Claims Act.  These provisions allow average citizens who learn about fraud to report it and file suit to recover tax dollars that have been lost to fraud.  This year, the False Claims Act brought in $3 billion in recoveries, with $2.5 billion from health care fraud cases, and nearly $2.4 billion of the recoveries thanks to the qui tam whistleblowers provisions.  I've worked repeatedly to fortify and protect this statute.  It's effective and, as a result, there are constant attempts to weaken or even gut the law.

This civil recovery of public dollars that otherwise would be lost to fraud is a great victory in the fight against fraud.  It ought to be buttressed by a robust criminal prosecution.  That effort is falling short.  At the end of last year, I asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to account for the falling number of criminal prosecutions.  Administration leaders promote the value of a special fraud prevention and enforcement task force known as HEAT.  That stands for the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team.  The new health care law dedicates additional federal dollars to HEAT and related efforts.  In fiscal 2009, there were a record number of criminal health care fraud defendants, but the conviction rate for health care violations is flat, resulting in a falling conviction rate.  Of the 803 criminal defendants charged that year, only 583 were convicted or plea bargained.  That's a 72 percent conviction rate compared to past rates that topped 90 percent.  It looks like things are improving since fiscal 2009, but continued oversight of the Justice Department is needed.  To strengthen the ability of government watchdogs to see what's actually happening with tax dollars directed to anti-fraud efforts, more information should be included in publicly available Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Account reports each year.  For example, 75 percent of the discretionary dollars that Congress has directed to HEAT, goes to the Department of Health and Human Services for vague initiatives labeled oversight.  There should be accountability as to how exactly this money is used to achieve criminal prosecutions.

I also want to make certain that qui tam settlements do justice to taxpayers.  They never should be just a cost of doing business for corporations and contractors who were engaged in fraud.  The Justice Department is reluctant to share details of settlements reached under the False Claims Act, despite the taxpayer interest in making this information transparent.  So, I will introduce legislation this year to require the Attorney General to report each year details about the settlements to Congress.  Again, it's a matter of accountability.

Q.  What can be done to prevent fraud in the first place?

A.  I also plan to re-introduce my comprehensive bill to protect health care dollars.  The bill is a package of common sense initiatives to fight fraud, waste and abuse in taxpayer-sponsored health care programs.  As spending on these programs continues to grow, Congress should act quickly to pass these reforms.  A major component of this reform effort of mine would give the government more time to evaluate the legitimacy of Medicare providers before payment is required when there's suspicion of foul play.  Without this change, we're left with a pay-and-chase situation that only enables fraud against the taxpayers.  My legislation would help program officials better detect fraud with new disclosure requirements.  It would enhance coordination among federal agencies responsible for fighting fraud.  And it would make penalties tougher and apply them more broadly than they are today.