Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Senators Urge Action for Energy Security and Job Creation

WASHINGTON - Saying that ethanol offers the most effective alternative to foreign oil and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs in the United States, Senators Chuck Grassley and Kent Conrad have gathered signatures for a letter to Senate leaders urging action this year on legislation to extend renewable fuel tax and tariff provisions.

The senators said immediate action is warranted to "provide stability and certainty for producers and consumers of renewable fuels."

"Ethanol has proven its value as a homegrown, renewable fuel and, in light of the hundreds of billions of dollars shipped abroad as a result of foreign oil dependence, ethanol is a relative bargain," Grassley said.

"Our country is spending over $730 million a day on imported petroleum this year, money that often ended up in the hands of unstable or unfriendly governments," Conrad said.  "This is not the time to reduce the supply of a domestic source of fuel and place at greater risk the thousands of well-paying jobs that the renewable fuels industry has created."

The senators said that ethanol is the only renewable fuel that is substantially working to reduce U.S. dependence on oil.  Domestically produced ethanol displaces millions of barrels of imported oil every year from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Nigeria and now accounts for almost 10 percent of the U.S. fuel supply.

Last April, Conrad and Grassley introduced a bill to extend, through 2015, the volumetric ethanol excise tax credit, or VEETC, which is also known as the blenders' credit; the small ethanol producer tax credit; the cellulosic producer tax credit; and the ethanol import tariff.

Ethanol is good for rural economies, and a recent study found that the failure to extend the VEETC credit and the secondary tariff would result in the loss of more than 100,000 jobs nationwide and reduce ethanol production by nearly 40 percent.

The lapse of the separate tax credit for biodiesel, which expired at the end of 2009, has cost nearly 23,000 jobs. "We can't risk a repeat performance with ethanol, where 112,000 jobs are at stake," Grassley said.  Of the ethanol tariff, he said, "the United States already provides generous duty-free access to imported ethanol under the Caribbean Basin Initiative, but the CBI cap has never once been fulfilled.  In fact, last year, only 25 percent of it was even used by Brazil and other countries."

Grassley and Conrad are longtime advocates for tax incentives for biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.  Grassley is Ranking Member of the tax-writing Finance Committee.  Conrad is a senior member of the Finance Committee and Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.  Grassley is a senior member of the Budget Committee.

The text of their letter is below.  It also was signed by Senators Tom Harkin, Kit Bond, Ben Nelson, Amy Klobuchar, John Thune, Sam Brownback, Byron Dorgan, Tim Johnson, Al Franken, Mike Johanns, Mark Kirk, Debbie Stabenow and Claire McCaskill.

November 30, 2010

The Honorable Harry Reid

Majority Leader

United States Senate

S-221 United States Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20510


The Honorable Mitch McConnell

Minority Leader

United States Senate

S-230 United States Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

We are writing to ask that you make an extension of renewable fuel tax and tariff provisions a high priority on the Senate's legislative agenda for the remainder of the year. Allowing the provisions to expire or remain expired would threaten jobs, harm the environment, weaken our renewable fuel industries, and increase our dependence on foreign oil.

Our country is spending over $730 million a day on imported petroleum this year, money that often ended up in the hands of unstable or unfriendly governments. The price tag for our dependence on foreign oil is likely to rise even higher as the economy recovers. This is not the time to reduce the supply of a domestic source of fuel and place at greater risk the thousands of well-paying jobs that the renewable fuels industry has created. Congress should demonstrate that it continues to recognize the need to develop domestic, renewable sources of fuel.

Next year the Senate will be in a position to debate alternative legislative proposals for developing renewable fuels, including proposals to invest in biofuel infrastructure. In advance of this debate, we believe that, in an effort to provide stability and certainty for producers and consumers of renewable fuels, Congress must act to extend biofuels tax and tariff policies for the longest term possible. We ask that you place such an extension high on the Senate's upcoming agenda.


Kent Conrad

Chuck Grassley

Kit Bond

Tom Harkin

Amy Klobuchar

Ben Nelson

Sam Brownback

John Thune

Tim Johnson

Byron Dorgan

Mike Johanns

Al Franken

Debbie Stabenow

Mark Kirk

Claire McCaski

Pigford II Funding Agreement Clears House

WASHINGTON -- Senator Chuck Grassley praised the quick action of the House of Representatives after it passed legislation to fund the Pigford II settlement.  The Claims Resolution Act of 2010 resolves claims against the government related to the Cobell class action lawsuit, the Pigford class action lawsuit, as well as tribal water rights claims for the White Mountain Apache, Crow, Taos Pueblo, and Aamodt Tribes.  The legislation is fully paid for, and contains additional safeguards to better fight fraud in the program.  The bill cleared the Senate on November 19.

"When I first started working on this issue, I had hoped to resolve these civil rights issues through the administrative process.  I knew that if we had to pass legislation, it would take years," Grassley said.  "As we've seen, the legislative process did take years, but these farmers who were wronged by our own federal government agency will now, once President Obama signs the bill, finally be able to plead their case in front of a neutral party and be judged on the merits."

Grassley led the effort to ensure fair treatment for African American farmers who were denied the opportunity have their case heard for the Pigford v. Glickman settlement, which ended a discrimination lawsuit between African American farmers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Approximately 75,000 black farmers filed their claims of discrimination through the Pigford consent decree process past the deadline for their claims to be evaluated on the merits.  As a result, thousands of victims of discrimination continue to be denied an opportunity even to have their claims heard.

Grassley worked to put in place a process where these African American farmers can have the opportunity to plead their case based on the merits.  He introduced legislation in 2007 and pressed for it to be included in the 2008 farm bill.

The Pigford II settlement includes several substantial changes from Pigford I in order to better fight fraud.  Changes have been made to the settlement agreement that will enhance the Department's ability to fight fraud including requiring adjudicators to be a truly neutral party; allowing that neutral adjudicator to ask the claimant for additional documentation if he or she suspects any fraud; requiring the claimants' attorneys to certify that there is evidentiary support for the claims; and requiring the Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the Department's internal controls and audit the process in adjudicating the claims.



The Bon-Ton Stores Semi-Annual Community Day Event Generates Donations

Milwaukee, Wisc. (November 30, 2010) - The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. is pleased to announce today that the Company raised over $6.5 million for local non-profit organizations and agencies through its semi-annual Community Day event held on Saturday, November 13, 2010.

To kick-off the holiday giving season, The Bon-Ton Stores, under its eight nameplates: Bon-Ton, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Bergner's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's, Younkers and Parisian (Detroit-area), held its signature Community Day event on November 13. Through this charitable-giving event, organizations raised donations for important projects and causes in their communities.

The event provides an opportunity for local 501(c)(3) organizations and schools to raise donations needed to support their mission. By selling $5 discount savings booklets and retaining 100% of the donation, local non-profit groups raise money for their charity. In return for their donation of $5 to the organization, customers receive a $10 coupon and multiple discounts to be used on Community Day. Over the past twelve years, The Bon-Ton Stores have helped thousands of local non-profit groups raise over $80 million through the successful Community Day event.

"The Community Day event allows us to make a meaningful impact on thousands of organizations in the markets in which we operate," said Bud Bergren, President and CEO, The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. "We thank our customers and associates who contributed. We know that fundraising is a crucial activity for local non-profit groups, regardless of their size, and we are honored to support them through this program."

The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc., with headquarters in York, Pennsylvania and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, operates 277 stores, including 11 furniture galleries, in 23 states in the Northeast, Midwest and upper Great Plains under the Bon-Ton, Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's and Younkers nameplates and, under the Parisian nameplate, stores in the Detroit, Michigan area. The stores offer a broad assortment of brand-name fashion apparel and accessories for women, men and children, as well as cosmetics and home furnishings.  The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc is an active and positive participant in the communities that it serves.


Historic Overhaul will Help Prevent Food Contamination, Improve Illness Outbreak Response

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) hailed today's Senate passage of legislation to better protect Americans against contaminated food and food-borne illness.  The measure passed by a vote of 73 to 25.  Harkin, who is Chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), is a lead sponsor of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, and has worked closely with a bipartisan group of Senators over the past year to establish a broad coalition of support for the bill.

"For too long, we've allowed trips to the grocery store to be a gamble for American families," said Harkin.  "The bipartisan bill passed by the Senate today will give our citizens some long-overdue peace of mind in the supermarket aisles, establishing tough new protections against contaminated food.  By working with our colleagues across the aisle, today we've scored an important victory for the American people.  I hope this will serve as an example of what we can do to improve the lives of citizens across the country by working together."

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will:

  • Improve prevention of food contamination through identification of hazards before food becomes contaminated.
  • Allow the FDA to issue mandatory recalls in the event that businesses do not voluntarily recall harmful foods.
  • Require grocery stores and other food retailers to notify consumers if they have sold food that has been recalled.
  • Improve disease surveillance so outbreaks can be discovered earlier.
  • Allow FDA to respond more quickly when food-borne illness does occur by improving the ability to trace contaminated food back to its source.

A summary of the legislation is below:

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act

Recent outbreaks of food-borne illness and nationwide recalls of contaminated food from both domestic and foreign sources highlight the need to modernize and strengthen our nation's food safety system. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act is a bipartisan plan that provides new food safety tools and updates food safety standards to ensure the safety of our food supply.

Improves Our Capacity to Prevent Food Safety Problems

  • Hazard analysis and preventive controls: Facilities must identify, evaluate, and address hazards and prevent adulteration via a food safety plan. In certain circumstances, gives FDA access to these plans and relevant documentation.
  • Access to facility records: Expands FDA access to a registered facility's records in a food emergency.
  • 3rd party testing: Provides for laboratory accreditation bodies to ensure U.S. food testing labs meet high quality standards and, in certain circumstances, requires food testing performed by these labs to be reported to FDA. Allows FDA to enable qualified 3rd parties to certify that foreign food facilities comply with U.S. food safety standards.
  • Imports: Requires importers to verify the safety of foreign suppliers and imported food. Allows FDA to require certification for high-risk foods, and to deny entry to a food that lacks certification or that is from a foreign facility that has refused U.S. inspectors.

Improves Our Capacity to Detect and Respond to Food-borne Illness Outbreaks

  • Inspection -Increases the number of FDA inspections at all food facilities.
  • Surveillance - Enhances food-borne illness surveillance systems to improve the collection, analysis, reporting, and usefulness of data on food-borne illnesses.
  • Traceability - Enhances tracking and tracing of high-risk foods and directs the Secretary to establish a pilot project to test and evaluate new methods for rapidly and effectively tracking and tracing food in the event of a food-borne illness outbreak.
  • Mandatory Recall - Allows FDA to initiate a mandatory recall of a food product when a company fails to voluntarily recall the contaminated product upon FDA's request.
  • Suspension of Registration - Allows FDA to suspend a food facility's registration if there is a reasonable probability that food from the facility will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.

Enhances U.S. Food Defense Capabilities - Directs FDA to help food companies protect their products from intentional contamination, and calls for a national strategy to protect our food supply from terrorist threats and rapidly respond to food emergencies.

Increases FDA Resources - Authorizes increased funding for FDA's food safety activities, such as hiring personnel, and includes targeted non-compliance fees for domestic and foreign facilities.

Regulatory Flexibility - Modernizes our food safety system without being burdensome. Provides training for facilities to comply with the new safety requirements and includes special accommodations for small businesses and farms. Exempts small businesses from certain aspects of the produce standards and preventive control requirements.

Without action, two million Americans will lose coverage

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today joined 28 senators in calling for a vote to preserve unemployment insurance for another year.  Without action, benefits for workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own will begin to expire on Tuesday, November 30.  In a letter sent to Senate leadership, the senators urged a continuation of the unemployment benefits program through December 31, 2011.

The senators wrote: "Currently, the national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent.  At the current rate, without a reauthorization, we would cut the life line that millions of Americans use to stay afloat.  Equally importantly, we would endanger our fragile economic recovery by reducing the amount Americans spend on groceries, utilities and other basic needs."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if Congress fails to take action, two million workers will lose their unemployment benefits this December.   Each month after that, over one million more would fall off the rolls.  By April 2011, six million workers would be without benefits.

Preserving unemployment benefits will not only provide vital assistance to laid off workers and their families, it will have a significant benefit to the economy.  Goldman Sachs has said that an expiration of unemployment benefits would cause economic growth to fall by half a percentage point.  The Economic Policy Institute has said that extending benefits would increase the gross domestic product by 0.7 percent and create the full-time equivalent of 723,000 jobs.  A U.S. Department of Labor report commissioned by the Bush Administration found that unemployment benefits in the recent recession saved 1.6 million jobs per quarter and lowered the unemployment rate by 1.2 percent.

The letter is signed by Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roland W. Burris (D-IL), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Robert Casey (D-PA), Christopher J. Dodd (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY), John F. Kerry (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The text of the letter sent to the Senate Majority Leader and Chairman of the Finance Committee is below:

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate
S-221, U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Max Baucus
Chairman, Finance Committee
United States Senate
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Chairman Baucus,

We are writing to urge a reauthorization of the current federal unemployment benefits programs through December 31, 2011.  As our nation continues to battle high unemployment rates, we must act immediately to continue vital safety net coverage for those most in need.

With nearly 15 million Americans unemployed and the number of unemployed expected to remain high beyond 2011, a long-term renewal of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and full federal funding of the Extended Benefit programs are necessary to keep our economy on the road to recovery, as well as to keep food on the table and a roof over the head of families across America.  

For the past six decades, Congress has provided federally funded unemployment insurance benefits during every recession.  Further, federal unemployment insurance benefits have always been provided until the economy was on a stable path of growth.  In fact, the highest unemployment rate at which federally funded unemployment benefits were not extended was 7.2 percent.  Currently, the national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent.  At the current rate, without a reauthorization, we would cut the life line that millions of Americans use to stay afloat.  Equally importantly, we would endanger our fragile economic recovery by reducing the amount Americans spend on groceries, utilities and other basic needs.  A reduction in consumer spending would cause a direct negative impact on the economic recovery.  Goldman Sachs has estimated that if federal unemployment benefits are allowed to expire, growth would fall by half a percentage point.  An end to this vital safety net program would not only harm millions of Americans, it would also be counterproductive in spurring economic growth.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if Congress fails to take action, two million workers will lose their unemployment benefits this December.   Each month after that, over 1 million more would fall off the rolls, and by April 2011, 6 million workers would be without benefits.  When there is a single job for every five unemployed workers, ending federally funded unemployment insurance programs will only send more Americans on the path to poverty.  

We understand the fiscal concerns that arise when debating a continuation of unemployment insurance programs.  However, a broad spectrum of economists has stated that these benefits have a significant stimulative effect and a greater impact on gross domestic product than most other federal programs.  In fact, the Economic Policy Institute has stated that an extension of federally funded extended benefits would increase gross domestic product by 0.7 percent and save or create the full-time equivalent of 723,000 jobs.  A U.S. Department of Labor report, commissioned during the Bush Administration, has found that unemployment benefits during the most recent recession saved 1.6 million jobs per quarter, lowered the unemployment rate by 1.2 percentage points, and reduced the decline in gross domestic product by 18.3 percent.  Based on this information, now is not the time to end federally funded unemployment benefits.

Federally funded benefits will begin to expire on November 30th.  Due to the impending date, we request action be taken immediately to reauthorize these important benefits through December 31, 2011.  We thank you for your consideration of our request.  As we recover from the worst recession since the 1930s, we are committed to ensuring our constituents are able to properly provide for their families.   

Amana - If it' s laughter you crave this holiday season, venture with us into the mind of best selling author David Sedaris as The Old Creamery Theatre Company presents his Santaland Diaries. Not your warm and fuzzy tale, but sure to make you laugh, The Old Creamery Theatre' s production opens Thursday, Dec. 9 on the Studio Stage at 3023 220th Trail in Middle Amana.

Featuring The Old Creamery' s Nicholas Hodge, this one-man show tells of the unique adventures of an actor working as an elf in Macy' s Santaland during the holiday season. Based on Sedaris' true experiences The Santaland Diaries debuted on National Public Radio' s Morning Edition.

The Santaland Diaries is rated theatre R and runs through Dec. 19. Show times are Thursdays, and Sundays at 3 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $22.50 for adults and $15.50 for students. Reservations are recommended but walk-ins are always welcome if seats are available. Call the box office at 800-35-AMANA or visit the website at for tickets or more information.

The Old Creamery Theatre Company is a not-for-profit professional theatre founded in 1971 in Garrison, Iowa. The company is celebrating 39 years of bringing live, professional theatre to the people of Iowa and the Midwest. We thank KGAN and Fox 28, our 2010 season media sponsor.

Launches Annual Holiday Card Drive for Wounded Troops, Urges Support for Homeless Veterans at Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony

CHICAGO - November 29, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today joined local schoolchildren to light the state of Illinois' annual holiday tree and launch the Illinois Heroes holiday card drive. Governor Quinn encouraged schoolchildren from across the state to take part in the annual drive by making holiday cards for servicemembers at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany. Governor Quinn will personally deliver the cards during a visit to troops at LRMC later this year.

"We want every servicemember who is spending the holidays at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to know that we are all thinking of them and are grateful for their courage and sacrifice," said Governor Quinn. "I encourage everyone in Illinois to join me in supporting our servicemembers and Veterans this holiday season."

This year will mark the sixth time that Governor Quinn has visited Illinois troops and their families at LRMC. The center is the largest American hospital outside of the United States. For more information on how to participate in the Illinois Heroes holiday card drive, please visit

Governor Quinn was also joined at the tree lighting ceremony by Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs (IDVA) Director Dan Grant and representatives from a number of Veterans' organizations to encourage residents throughout the state to support homeless Veterans during the holidays. The IDVA operates the Prince Home for Homeless and Disabled Veterans, a facility that has become a national model for supportive housing and therapeutic services for homeless Veterans.

"Everyone always asks what they can do to help Veterans, especially at this time of the year," said Director Grant. "Supporting the organizations that are providing essential services for homeless Veterans and helping them to rebuild their lives is one of the best ways you can do it."

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that approximately one-third of the nation's adult homeless population is made up of Veterans, with many suffering mental illness and alcohol and/or substance abuse problems. In Illinois, nearly 10 percent of the homeless population is made up of Veterans.

Governor Quinn was also joined at the tree lighting ceremony by the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center Inspirational Choir and Chase Bernardi, a formerly homeless Iraq War Veteran.


Independent Scholar's Evening

Thursday, December 2nd @ 7.00 p.m.

We will continue with our entries in

"Life on the Mississippi - The New Millennium."

We will have archival pens handy.

Free flowing entries are welcome in addition to.

Scholars making entries of their poetry and thoughts.

2nd Floor of

The Moline Commercial Club

513 16th Street

Moline Il 61265

Wine, beverages and light refreshments are hosted.

Cash bar is available at 6:30 pm.

The Independent Scholars' Evenings are sponsored by

The Institute for Cultural and Healing Traditions, Ltd.

A 501(c)3 organization at state and federal levels incorporated in 1996

The event is free and open to the public

URBANA - Tony Franklin was recently named University of Illinois Extension Director for the multi-county unit comprised of Henry, Mercer, Rock Island, and Stark counties.

"While there will be many challenges as we transition into the multi-county system," Franklin said, "the initial challenge will be to establish relationships with key stakeholders and volunteers, but it's one I'm really looking forward to."

Franklin was Associate Dean of Students at Knox College before joining University of Illinois Extension in 2001. He has served on numerous regional and statewide committees.

My vision for Unit 7 is to provide quality high impact programs that address critical issues and provide public value.  Goals and program initiatives will be implemented by a team of Educators in the following subject areas:  4-H Youth Development and Military Youth; Family and Consumer Sciences; Horticulture; and Community Development.  Specific programs will be determined based on local needs

The change in leadership came as the result of a restructuring of Extension due to a reduction in state funding.

"Even though Units are larger, we want to reassure everyone that the help you need from Extension will be just as accessible as it has been in the past" said Robert Hoeft, Interim Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach.  Hoeft says "People can still call the same phone numbers or use the same emails they have in the past to reach their local Extension staff."

The Extension educators who have been also been named are:  Jennifer Garner, Community Development; Cheryl Geitner, 4-H Youth and Military; Martha Smith, Horticulture; and Janice McCoy, Family Life.

An educator in Expanded Food and Nutrition Education has yet to be named.

For more information about how to find your local Extension office or personnel, visit


CHICAGO - November 24, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today approved 20 and denied 48 clemency petitions. This action marks another step in a series of clemency decisions aimed at ending a massive backlog of nearly 2,500 cases that built up during the previous administration.

The 68 clemency petitions acted upon by Governor Quinn are from the October 2003, January 2004, April 2004 and July 2004 dockets.  Each person granted clemency has recently undergone a criminal background check through the Illinois State Police's Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS).

Since taking office, Governor Quinn has acted on 810 clemency petitions. Governor Quinn has granted 317 pardons, authorized eight persons who had already received pardons to seek expungement of their convictions, granted one commutation and denied 425 petitions.

For further information on the approved clemency cases, please contact the Prisoner Review Board at (217) 502-0948.