Grant Wood Scholar to Talk about the Man behind the Artist

 Join us at the Figge Art Museum Thursday November 4th at 7 PM for a lecture and reading by R. Tripp Evans, author of Grant Wood: A Life.  Ever since Wood's now-iconic American Gothic caught the nation's attention in 1930, his work has become a blank canvas for audiences?who see what they will in his dream-like landscapes, unconventional history paintings, and forbidding portraits, with little sense of the man who created these images. In his lecture, Evans will discuss some of the sources for Wood's powerful imagery?including a number of important examples from the Figge Museum's extensive collection?and will examine Wood's public image as an uncomplicated "farmer-painter," a persona that has often obscured the far more interesting dimensions of Wood's life; his sexuality, artistic identity and relationship with his family.

R. Tripp Evans, PhD is Professor of Art History at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. He is the author of Romancing the Maya: Mexican Antiquity in the American Imagination, 1820-1915 (2004). He received his doctoral degree in the history of art from Yale University and has served as a visiting lecturer at Yale, Wellesley College, and Brown University.

Evans will be signing books in the store prior to his lecture; beginning at 5:30 pm. Copies are currently on sale in the Museum Store. Admission to the museum and lecture is $7. Admission is free to members, college professors and students. The Figge Arts Café and Bar will be open before and after the lecture.


Intercity Rail Project will Create 2,100 Jobs, Boost Regional Economy

MOLINE - October 27, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today highlighted $230 million in federal funds to build passenger rail service between Iowa City, Moline and Chicago. Service between Chicago and Moline is expected to begin in 2013 with full service to Iowa City to follow in 2015. The project is expected to create more than 2,100 jobs in Illinois. Governor Quinn was joined at today's announcement by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, U.S. Representative Phil Hare and Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig.

"Passenger rail is important to our state's continued economic recovery, creating jobs and stimulating economic development throughout the region for many years to come," said Governor Quinn. "I want to thank Senator Durbin and Congressman Hare for their leadership in helping make this project possible."

Awarded jointly to Iowa and Illinois on Monday through a competitive process, the $230 million will fund the development of a new corridor of rail service and mark the return of passenger train service to the Quad Cities for the first time since 1979.

In addition, Governor Quinn is investing $45 million from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program for the line's construction and Iowa is contributing $20.6 million. Last week, Governor Quinn, Senator Durbin and Congressman Hare announced $16.6 million for a new multi-modal station in Moline, which will serve as a stop along the new corridor.

"This new train line is just the beginning," said Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). "The route from Chicago to the Quad Cities will pave the way for new train service across the Midwest and give us the opportunity to show the world that we can build our trains and locomotives right here in America. I thank Secretary LaHood, Governor Quinn, Congressman Hare and the Iowa Delegation for seeing the potential in this route becoming an integral part of the Midwest rail network."

Nicknamed "The Green Line," the new corridor will set the standard for environmentally-friendly rail service, including the use of biofuels and soy-based lubricants produced in Illinois and Iowa.

"The good news keeps pouring in for the Quad Cities. This funding will effectively complete the Quad Cities-Chicago Amtrak route," Representative Hare said. "This project is a winner for our entire community. It will create jobs, spur economic development, and provide a safe and convenient transportation alternative. I couldn't be prouder to have played a role in making this a reality."

In addition, the Chicago-to-Detroit corridor will receive $161 million to rehabilitate tracks on a portion of the route to allow for high-speed service to Detroit. The Midwest also received funding to improve travel times and reliability on both the Chicago-to-Milwaukee and Chicago-to-St. Louis corridors.

The Midwest system has received more than $3 billion in competitive federal awards in 2010. When completed, the system will connect more than 40 of the largest cities in the Midwest with passenger rail, including 60 daily roundtrips out of Chicago.


Benefit included in Health Care Reform Bill

Washington, D.C.?Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) announced today more than 2500 First District seniors have received $250 checks to help cover the cost of prescription drugs when they fall into the Medicare Part D "donut hole." These checks were included in the health reform bill, the Affordable Care Act, which was passed earlier this year, and is one of the first immediate benefits of the law.  As of October 1, 2010, 2,520 seniors in the First District have received a $250 check to help cover the cost of their prescription drugs.  By the end of this year, an additional 8,480 First District seniors are expected to fall into the "donut hole" and receive the benefits. 

"One of the greatest benefits of the health care bill is that Iowa's seniors will no longer be left hanging in the Medicare Part D 'donut hole,'" said Braley.  "By the end of the year, more than 11,000 seniors across the First District will receive these checks,  helping them defray the costs of life-saving drugs. The Medicare Part D donut hole put a terrible burden on many Iowa seniors and I'm proud to have supported this legislation that provides a direct benefit to Iowa's seniors."

The numbers were released Monday as part of a report issued by the House Committee on Energy & Commerce. Braley is a member of the Committee. The report is available here.

Beginning in January 2011, all seniors in the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs. These discounts will save seniors in the First District $5.8 million next year.  The discount on brand-name drugs increases to 52.5 percent in 2013 and to 55 percent in 2015. The savings continue to grow until the donut hole is completely eliminated for both brand-name and generic drugs in 2019.

For more information, visit



Report Highlights Need for Better Accountability and Transparency
in Private Investment Firm Ownership of Nursing Homes

Washington, DC - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health Chairman Pete Stark (D-CA) released a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report today on the need for greater transparency regarding companies' ownership of nursing homes.  Baucus, Grassley and Stark requested the report, titled "Complexity of Private Investment Purchases Demonstrates Need for CMS to Improve the Usability and Completeness of Ownership Data."  The report highlights the increasing rate at which private investment firms are purchasing nursing homes and the lack of transparency in nursing home ownership arrangements that often results.  The lack of clear ownership information makes it difficult for consumers and regulators to know who owns the nursing home and who bears responsibility for decision-making affecting quality of care and to hold those responsible parties accountable.  Baucus, Grassley and Stark have long worked to improve the accountability of nursing home owners across the country in an effort to protect Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and taxpayer dollars.  The lawmakers have requested a subsequent GAO report that will evaluate the relationship between these corporate structures and the quality of care provided to nursing home residents.

"Nursing home residents and their families deserve to know the full story about who is ultimately responsible for their care," said Baucus.  "Federal health care officials need full and detailed information so they can properly oversee these nursing homes and hold the correct parties accountable for keeping patients safe and well-cared for.  The new health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, works to address some of the problems highlighted in today's report by significantly increasing transparency and shedding light on the ownership and safety of nursing homes.  We will continue to keep a close eye on the implementation of these transparency measures to ensure we have a clear picture of who is accountable for the quality of care in nursing homes."

"I've been fighting for greater transparency and accountability for nursing home residents and their families for more than decade," Grassley said.  "This report provides further evidence of what we already knew - that the federal government needs to do a better job giving nursing home residents -- including Medicare beneficiaries - complete, accurate and timely information so they can make the right choices when choosing a nursing home.  I'll continue my vigorous oversight to hold the system accountable.  We owe that to nursing home residents."

"This GAO report found that a handful of private equity firms have been buying up nursing homes over the past decade - leaving seniors and their loved ones in the dark about who is making the decisions about their care," said Stark.  "New disclosure requirements in the health reform law will shed light on who owns nursing homes, who is making care decisions, and how these facilities are being run.  I intend to monitor CMS's progress in implementing the law, and look forward to a future report on the relationship between ownership and quality of care."

The GAO report details how private investment firms acquired 1,876 nursing homes from 1998 to 2008, with ten large firms accounting for 89 percent of the purchases. According to the report, then-current law did not require sufficient disclosure of information on multi-home chains and led to a lack of accountability across the industry.  The three lawmakers noted that provisions enacted into law in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provide CMS an opportunity to address these shortcomings and may be the solution to problems identified in the GAO report.  Specifically, the Affordable Care Act requires nursing homes to provide information to state and federal health officials about the facility's ownership, governing body and organizational structure.  The new law also increases transparency of information related to nursing home staffing, certifications, complaints, criminal violations and expenditures, including wages and benefits for staff.  This increased transparency will help improve patient care by making clear who is ultimately responsible for keeping patients safe and well cared for.    The three lawmakers will be monitoring CMS's efforts to improve transparency as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and as recommended in the GAO report.  Today's GAO report is available here.



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French-inspired Nouveau wine tradition becomes a 26-year tradition in Galena, Illinois

GALENA, Ill. - "Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!" Simply translated, "Wine lovers: get ready, get set, go!" The third Thursday of November marks the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau, and the opportunity to be the first to sample the new, shortly fermented wine, previewing the current year's fall harvest.

In France, this tradition began well over a century ago. In Galena, Illinois, it kicked off at the hands of Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery in 1985. Today, it's grown to be a full-blown community celebration inviting epicureans of all levels to enjoy all things wine.

The weekend officially kicks off Friday, November 19 at 2:30 pm when the familiar "clip clop" of horse hooves will be heard throughout Galena's downtown. On board the horse-drawn wagons sporting revelers is a celebrated guest that will have the entire town in merriment all weekend?Galena Cellars' 2010 Nouveau wine.

Local restaurants embrace the celebration, offering traditional Nouveau-inspired luncheons and wine tastings, live music and receptions. Throughout the weekend, wine lovers can also enjoy vineyard tours (Galena boasts three area vineyards), winemaker dinners, wine-inspired pampering such as spa and shopping specials and lodging packages.

New to this years' celebration is a Grand Tasting offering a sampling of more than 200 wines. A great value at only $30 per person ($35 at the door), the Grand Tasting takes place on Saturday, November 20 from 3:30-6 pm at Galena's Convention Center (900 Galena Square Drive).

Advanced tickets purchase (recommended), as well as a complete list of weekend happenings and offerings are available online at Additional area offerings and visitor information may be found at the Galena/Jo Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau at or by calling (877) Go-Galena. While in town, visit the CVB's Old Train Depot Visitor Information Center at 101 Bouthillier St. (corner of Park Avenue) for on-site assistance and countywide information.

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On Saturday, November 6th at 11:00 A.M. a Fall Tree Hike is planned at the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center. Participants will enjoy a fall stroll exploring the Wapsi woods and learning about our local trees.  Learn how to identify them by leaves, bark, seeds, nuts and fruits.  Bring a friend, a picnic lunch and stay for the afternoon program as well!

Following the fall tree hike, at 1:00 P.M., the program Rustic Residents will take place at the Wapsi River Environmental Education Center. Participants will see how seeds, nuts and twigs can be "magically" transformed into people and creatures.  Guaranteed fun for the whole family!  Supplies are limited, so please pre-register at (563) 328-3286.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, today made the following comment on a report released from the Government Accountability Office, "Tax Debt Collection: IRS Could Improve Future Studies by Establishing Appropriate Guidance."  The report is available here.  Grassley has written to the IRS regarding private contractors for debt collection. The March 5, 2009, IRS response to Grassley is available here.  The May 6, 2009, IRS response to Grassley is available here.

"According to this report, the IRS used a flawed study to justify ending its contracts with private agencies to collect owed taxes that the IRS wasn't collecting on its own.  The IRS knew the study was flawed because the GAO told the IRS how to do the study.  But the IRS didn't implement the GAO's recommendations to fix the study, even though it agreed with them.  The IRS used the results from the defective cost-effectiveness study to defend its decision to terminate the use of private collection agencies, even though that wasn't the primary purpose of the study.

"Union advocates, including members of Congress, Obama administration officials and the taxpayer advocate, tried to tell the public that IRS employees could collect the tax debts cheaper and better than private employees.  Yet, the IRS' own information shows that the fledgling pilot program was returning money to the Treasury and that private employees' quality ratings were consistently higher than that of IRS employees.  Union supporters' successful disinformation campaign ultimately hurts other taxpayers, as private agencies were collecting dollars that the IRS wasn't and isn't going to collect anyway."

"The IRS used a poor study to secure a task it said it could perform but hasn't.   As of the most recent fiscal year, unpaid tax debts equal $328.1 billion. Only $120.4 billion of that amount is deemed potentially collectible and IRS is not actively pursuing $27.4 billion that it says is collectible. These are significant increases from when GAO first started tracking these numbers.  So, not only has the IRS made no progress in reducing unpaid tax debt, but also we're worse off every year."

"Private collection agencies were supposed to help the IRS collect debts that it couldn't or wouldn't collect on its own. And, despite the IRS' announcement last year that it would be dedicating IRS resources to working cases that the private agencies would have worked, GAO tells us today that that isn't the case. At the same time, the number of hours IRS employees dedicate to union activity at the office, on the taxpayer's dime, is significant.  Those IRS employees should spend more time doing the government's work and less time protecting their jobs."

2009 college grads carried an average of $24,000 in student loan debt, up 6% from the previous year, according to The Project on Student Debt's report, Student Debt and the Class of 2009, released this month.  Statewide average debt levels for the Class of 2009 vary widely; Iowa makes the list as the fourth highest, with an average debt of $28,883 (behind the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, and Maine). In addition, 74% of Iowa graduates report having debt, which ranks Iowa second, only behind South Dakota (78% of grads with debt).  In the current economic climate, college grads face unique challenges in paying back student loans, and substantial debt can limit career options and make it difficult to save for a home, a family, a retirement, or their own children's educations.

Rivermont Collegiate, the Quad Cities' only private, independent, nonsectarian college-prep school, boasts 100% graduate acceptance to four-year colleges and universities.  Furthermore, over 90% of Rivermont grads earn four-year renewable merit scholarships (valued at $1.4 million in 2009).  The value of these scholarships is substantial, particularly given rising student debt and its potential consequences.  Over 35% of Rivermont students qualify for need-based tuition assistance while at Rivermont, proving that a private PS-12th education can reap future benefits both academically and financially, while still being affordable.  In fact, Rivermont works hard at fundraising to keep itself affordable and is committed to a diverse population of students.

What are you waiting for?  Explore the Rivermont approach to learning!  Join us for Open Tours the first Tuesday of every month.  The next Open Tour will be held Tuesday, November 2nd from 8:30-10:00 a.m.  No appointment necessary!  Drop in to explore our philosophy and curriculum, take a tour of campus, see our teachers in action, and get answers to all your questions about Rivermont.

For additional information on The Project on Student Debt, including the full Student Debt and the Class of 2009 report, visit

For additional information on Rivermont Collegiate or Tuesday's Open Tours, contact Cindy Murray at (563) 359-1366 ext. 302 or


WASHINGTON - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 - Sen. Chuck Grassley is expressing concern over whether the National Cancer Institute unfairly disciplined its ethics director for trying to make sure agency travel complies with federal law and procedures, including those set by the institute's parent agency, the National Institutes of Health.  The travel at issue is sponsored by non-government sources, such as corporations and other private entities.

"Some government agencies have more travel than others.  They should be used to transparency and scrutiny to make sure they follow the rules," Grassley said.  "National Cancer Institute executives appear to have taken issue with the scrutiny to sponsored travel given by their then-chief ethics officer.  It's important to get to the bottom of whether the ethics officer was retaliated against just for doing her job."

 Grassley wrote to the director of the National Institutes of Health and the director of the National Cancer Institute, seeking details of National Cancer Institute employees' sponsored travel.  He asked the National Cancer Institute to conduct an internal review of whether it has furnished all required information to the Office of Government Ethics and copied the Office of Government Ethics.  Grassley also reminded the National Cancer Institute that interfering with federal employees' rights to furnish information to Congress is a violation of federal law.

 Grassley's letter is available here.

INDIANAPOLIS (October 26, 2010) - Wartime veterans of Clinton have a better outlet through which to serve the community.  The American Legion, the nation's largest veteran's organization, is inviting all wartime era veterans in the area to join them in revitalizing American Legion, Post 190 to better to provide service to the community and veterans of Clinton.

Officers and staff members of the Indianapolis-based American Legion National Headquarters and Des Moines-based State Headquarters will be in town to kick off this community and veteran service campaign.

Additionally, an open house and "Welcome Home" event for all veterans, present and past, will be held at the Wild Rose Hotel in the conference center on Tuesday, November 2nd from 4-8 pm and on Wednesday, November 3rd from 2-6 pm.  The meetings will be designed to answer questions about The American Legion, VA issues, i.e. benefits, claims, problems, veterans' rights and survivor rights.  State and County Veterans Service officers will be on hand to assist with VA claims or questions.

In keeping with the 92-year tradition of The American Legion, the Clinton American Legion Post is dedicated to refocusing on community service and assistance to veterans.  The scope and nature of the Post's community service will be determined by its members and inputs from local civic and community officials.

"Service!  That's what The American Legion is all about," said Jerry Sebben, Department Commander, The American Legion, Department of Iowa.  "We exist to help each and every veteran, their families and the communities they live in.   Clinton is an ideal place to strengthen partnerships between the veterans and the community.  The people here care about their community and practice good citizenship every day.  Now, wartime veterans have a special place from which they can make a difference."

Since its inception in 1919, The American Legion has been a key advocate for veterans' benefits, children & youth, patriotic American values, a strong national defense and quality-of-life issues for those serving in today's armed forces.

The organization, which spearheaded the original GI Bill, has been advocating reform of the veteran's health care system under its GI Bill of Health.  Creation of the federal forerunner of the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the agency's ascent to cabinet-level status is due in part to The American Legion's advocacy.  The American Legion was also instrumental in the establishment of the Veterans Home Loan, veterans hiring preference and just compensation to veterans suffering from illnesses related to their military service, including those whose ailments stem from exposure to Agent Orange and mysterious Persian Gulf origins.

Equally aggressive are The American Legion's efforts to instill values in young people through numerous programs, including American Legion Boys State, American Legion Boys Nation, Junior Shooting Sports, the National High School Oratorical Contest, American Legion Baseball, Teenage Suicide Prevention, Child Health and a McGruff Safe Kids Program.  The American Legion has supported Scouting since 1919.  Many American Legion Posts also support Junior ROTC high school units, fund-raising for handicapped children, the Children's Miracle Network and partnerships with other nonprofit organizations such as Special Olympics.

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