Wednesday, December 30, 2009

DGA Statement on MI Representative Fundraising off Attempted Terror Attack

/PRNewswire/ -- Nathan Daschle, Executive Director of the Democratic Governors Association, issued the following statement in response to Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra using an attempted terrorist attack to fundraise for his gubernatorial campaign.

"We're deeply disappointed that Rep. Hoekstra would use an attempted terrorist attack to fundraise for his gubernatorial campaign," Daschle said. "That's a shallow political ploy at a time when Americans need leaders who will take our national security seriously - not as opportunities to build a campaign war chest. Michiganders deserve a governor who cares more about serious issues than about politics, and today Rep. Hoekstra showed that he's more interested in the politics of the past than showing true leadership."

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Congress Passes Commercial Space Launch Indemnification Extension

/PRNewswire/ -- Congress has taken a major step for the U.S. commercial space launch industry by extending government indemnification of launches for another three years.

"Elimination of government indemnification would have driven launch business overseas," said AIA President and CEO Marion C. Blakey. "In 2008, only six of the 28 worldwide commercial launches were conducted by U.S. companies, and America can't afford to lose more of that business."

The indemnification regime, set to expire on December 31, helps protect U.S. commercial launch services providers against catastrophic third-party liability claims resulting from FAA-licensed launch activities. Payment of claims is not automatic and no funds are committed to this regime. Congressional approval is required for any payment.

"As space launch capabilities have been developed by other nations our share of commercial launches has decreased significantly," Blakey said. "Further loss of our commercial launch share could impact civil and national security payloads because the same U.S. companies also launch under government contracts."

While today's passage marks a very important step, AIA looks forward to working with Congress to make the indemnification regime permanent. Since launch manifests can extend out for several years, the regime maintains continuity in the business environment and strengthens U.S. international competitiveness.

"The indemnification regime provides a level playing field in a very competitive global space launch market, since every other space faring nation provides some form of government indemnification to commercial launchers," said Blakey.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

New Concord Coalition Paper Discusses 'End Game' Fiscal Considerations for Health Care Reform

/PRNewswire/ -- With the House having passed its version of health care reform (H.R. 3962) and the Senate on the verge of passing its version (H.R. 3590), the outline of a final bill is beginning to take shape. In its new Issue Brief, The Concord Coalition looks ahead at the fiscal considerations that will likely be the subject of conference committee discussions and "end game" negotiations. These include the cost of expanding coverage, the methods used to prevent that cost from adding to the deficit, and the prospects for systemic reforms to reduce cost growth over time.

This issue brief gives The Concord Coalition's perspective on how the bills measure up, what the risks are and how these risks could be lessened. We conclude that:

-- Both bills establish an important benchmark by achieving deficit
reduction according to official cost estimates by the Congressional
Budget Office (CBO). However, the fiscal outlook remains on an
unsustainable track even with the modest deficit reduction achieved
under either plan.
-- There are clear risks that some of the methods used to achieve deficit
reduction in the official scores may not hold up over the long-term.
-- The revenue package in the Senate bill holds more promise to reduce
the deficit than the House version because its largest component --
the high-cost insurance excise tax -- will better keep up with the
growth rate of health care spending, and will also work to lower
health care costs.
-- Both bills contain many promising reform strategies to achieve
long-term cost control. However, these strategies remain unproven and
cannot be counted on to produce timely, reliable savings without a
strong cost control mechanism such as the Senate's proposed
Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).

The "Fiscal Risks" mentioned in the discussion include:

-- Doing Nothing
-- Spending offsets that are not maintained over time
-- "Curve benders" that don't pan out or are not adopted more broadly
-- Failure to include an effective cost control mechanism
-- Lagging revenue increases
-- General revenue bailout of the CLASS provision
-- Inadequate premium subsidies, weak penalties, and a poorly designed
exchange


In the conclusion, Concord discuss the possible changes that could be added to the legislation to lessen these risks and further promote fiscal responsibility.

To read the full issue brief, go to: http://www.concordcoalition.org/issue-briefs/2009/1223/health-care-reform-end- game-fiscal-considerations

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The 'Big 3' Fixes for the Weakened Senate Health Reform Bill to Block Full Insurance Co. Take-Over of Health System

/PRNewswire/ -- Consumer Watchdog condemned the removal of the Medicare buy-in provision for those over 55 and the public option from the U.S. Senate health reform bill. But the group said that the Senate must still make three essential fixes to the greatly weakened bill to prevent ceding the entire health care system to the insurance industry.

Without the changes, said the consumer advocacy group, the legislation will fail even to provide basic consumer protections of cost containment, access to necessary care, and protection against bankruptcy when patients get sick and need coverage the most.

Consumer Watchdog said that it is essential that the bill be fixed now because there is a growing belief that a conference committee will be bypassed altogether, and instead the House of Representatives will be pushed to approve the Senate bill with no amendments. The three key fixes, detailed below, are:

1. Remove Provisions that Would Pre-empt More Protective State Laws
2. Bar Insurers From Placing Annual Limits on Medical Payments
3. Make Health Insurance Rate Regulation Real


"If health care reform is really about consumers and patients, then Senators must make these fixes before they pass the bill," said Jerry Flanagan, health policy director of Consumer Watchdog. "Current provisions of the Senate bill requiring Americans to buy insurance policies, while gutting state laws and ineffectively capping what insurers can charge for bare bones coverage, add up to a dream bill for insurance companies."

"Eliminating the public option, pre-empting state health benefit laws and avoiding tough rate oversight is an insurance company hat trick - the top three legislative goals of the insurance industry of the last twenty years," said Flanagan. "If health reform is going to be worth anything to consumers, Senators must fight back on these three points. Without them, health reform is little more than a scheme for health insurers to increase profits at the expense of patients and taxpayers."

The three changes that the U.S. Senate must make to HR 3590 are:

1. Remove Provisions that Would Pre-empt More Protective State Laws


For 60 years, states have been responsible for the oversight of health insurance. States have traditionally been the laboratories of innovation in health care and insurance reform. States also have a greater ability to respond quickly to local needs.

However, provisions in the current bill could replace hard-fought "Patients Bill of Rights" laws with new, weaker federal protections.

For example, section 1333 on page 219 of the Senate bill allow health insurers to avoid strong state patient protection laws under so-called "nationwide plans" and multistate "compacts." Under these provisions, health insurers that sell policies in more than one state would only be regulated by the state where the policy was "written or issued." Therefore, if an insurer "issues" all of its policies from Wyoming, then the laws of Wyoming would control policies sold to consumers in states with more protective laws like California, New York, Texas or Virginia.

Insurers would certainly elect to issue their policies from the states with the weakest laws. As a result, new federal minimum coverage requirements would become the norm. Coverage of AIDS/HIV testing, reconstructive surgery, home health care services, and child delivery and mastectomy minimum hospital stays, for instance, would likely be lost.

The Senate health reform bill should be modeled on existing federal health care laws, which provide for a federal-state partnership rather than federal pre-emption of more protective state standards. Minimum federal standards should set a floor, not a ceiling, on state health care protections. Read Consumer Watchdog's analyses of the pre-emption provisions and the group's letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at:


http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/patients/articles/?storyId=31197

Read the Los Angeles Times coverage of the pre-emption provisions:
http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/patients/articles/?storyId=31200

2. Bar Insurers From Placing Annual Limits on Medical Payments


A cornerstone of national health reform is to ensure that patients get the care their doctor prescribes when they are sick and need treatment the most. An essential element to reach that objective is to bar insurance companies from placing annual limits on how much health care a patient can receive.

Current caps mean that patients with serious illnesses, including many cancers, can be left without coverage in the midst of treatment. As a result, patients face bankruptcy even though they have insurance. In fact, a Harvard Medical School study released this year found that 62% of U.S. bankruptcies were caused by big medical bills, while 78% of those declaring bankruptcy had insurance.

A loophole in the Senate bill would allow health insurers to impose unspecified "reasonable" annual limits on the annual dollar value of benefits that patient can receive this year. This is a major departure from previous version of the Senate bill, and the House legislation, which bar any annual caps.

The Senate bill cites section 223 of the Internal Revenue Code, which regulates Health Savings Accounts. That section does not define "reasonable" annual limits. As a result, health insurers will be left to define "reasonable" as they see fit. However, for an insurance company, a "reasonable" limit on annual health care costs is one that increases shareholder profits by cutting off access to necessary care.

3. Make Health Insurance Rate Regulation Real

Requiring insurance companies to justify rate increases and seek "prior approval" for those increases are essential components to controlling skyrocketing health insurance premiums, deductibles, and other out-of-pocket costs.

Page 37, section 2794 of HR 3590 provides some additional transparency on insurance premiums and takes some first steps toward limits on insurance company gouging, but does not provide real protections for Americans by, for instance, requiring insurers to seek approval before imposing premium and rate increases.

Consumer Watchdog, which pioneered the most successful insurance premium regulation law in the nation, Proposition 103, calls on the Senate to adopt amendments reflecting key provisions of California's landmark insurance reform law, including:

-- Mandatory justification of any rate increase (including premiums,
deductibles, co-pays), not merely justifications of "unreasonable"
premium increases.
-- Mandatory prior approval, which means requiring insurers to seek
permission from government regulators, in addition to justifying rate
increases, before imposing rate increases. Since 1988, California's
Proposition 103 has saved drivers $62 billion while fostering a
competitive and profitable insurance market.
-- An intervenor system that provides consumers a forum to challenge
unnecessary or excessive rate increases. Since 2003, Consumer Watchdog
has saved the state's consumers $1.7 billion by challenging
unnecessary premium increases using the public intervention process.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Congressional Support for Right to Repair Reaches 51

/PRNewswire/ -- Congressional support of the Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act (HR 2057) has reached 51, it was announced today by Kathleen Schmatz, president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA).

Reps. Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Donna Christensen (D-VI), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Collin Peterson (DFL-MN) and Laura Richardson (D-CA) are the most recent co-sponsors of the Right to Repair Act, which has gained steady support since its introduction.

"We applaud these seven members of Congress for backing this critical piece of pro-consumer and pro-small business legislation," said Schmatz. "Every single person who owns or operates a vehicle stands to suffer economically if the Right to Repair Act is not passed."

A new study conducted by John Dunham and Associates for the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) and the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE) shows that consumers greatly benefit from a competitive vehicle repair marketplace. According to the study, independent auto repair shops save American consumers nearly $26 billion annually or $360 per family. The data is available not only by state, but by congressional district, and can be viewed at www.guerrillaeconomics.biz/righttorepair.

"This new study shows that the automotive aftermarket and its independent repair shops are a central part of the U.S. economy. With the significant dollars at stake, it's not hard to figure out why the car manufacturers want to retain control of the non-proprietary repair information, tools and software needed by independent repair shops to service late model vehicles," said Ray Pohlman, president of the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality (CARE). "Passage of the Right to Repair Act will prevent a vehicle repair monopoly by ensuring that consumers have safe and affordable choices when it comes to auto repair."

About Right to Repair:

The Motor Vehicle Owners' Right to Repair Act, which was introduced by Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and George Miller (D-CA), would require car companies to make the same service information and tools capabilities that they provide to their franchised dealer networks available to independent repair shops. The legislation further provides car companies with strong protections for their trade secrets unless that information is provided to the franchised new car dealers. The bill clarifies the responsibilities of the Federal Trade Commission in enforcing the bill's requirements. For more information about the Right to Repair Act, visit www.righttorepair.org.

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Congress Passes Funding for Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative

/PRNewswire/ -- The United States Senate yesterday passed a package of spending bills for FY 2010, which included a historic new investment in efforts to prevent teen pregnancy. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill includes a total of $114 million for a new evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program. This funding is the first and only large scale federal investment dedicated to preventing teen pregnancy through proven, effective efforts. The House of Representatives approved the spending bills last Thursday, and the President is expected to sign it into law by Friday, December 18th.

The teen pregnancy prevention initiative provides $75 million for programs that have been shown through rigorous evaluation to positively affect teens' behavior, and $25 million for research and demonstration on promising models and innovative strategies. The provision also includes $10 million for technical assistance, training, and other supportive activities to assist the department in effectively running the program, and an additional $4.5 million for program evaluation. The funding will be administered by a new Office of Adolescent Health in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The initiative is very similar to what President Obama proposed in his FY 2010 budget.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, DC, released the following statement regarding the teen pregnancy prevention funding:

"We applaud leaders in Congress and the Administration for making teen pregnancy prevention a funding priority for the coming year," said Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

"Given the recent increase in the teen birth rate, it is more important than ever to invest in interventions with evidence of success, and the bill Congress has passed does just that. At the same time, the initiative also focuses on research and innovation, which will continue to grow the number of effective approaches available to states and communities, as well as help find fresh new strategies to prevent teen pregnancy.

"We look forward to continuing to work with Congress in the coming years to ensure that this critical issue remains on its agenda, and that this country continues the progress it has made on reducing teen pregnancy. We also look forward to working with state and local organizations to use the available funding in a timely and productive way."

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Friday, December 11, 2009

New Healthcare Amendment Will Preserve Access to Care for Millions of Patients

/PRNewswire/ -- Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) today proposed a new amendment to the current healthcare reform bill which will preserve access to care for millions of Medicare patients seen by a medical specialist.

Senate Amendment 3163 would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to delay for one year implementation of its decision to eliminate consultation codes for specialists. A survey of its members recently conducted by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) indicated that if the consultation codes were eliminated four out of five endocrinologists would be forced to drastically reduce or eliminate the number of Medicare patients seen in their practices.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) fully endorses the Specter Amendment. AACE has opposed the CMS ruling since it was originally announced. In a letter sent August 26, 2009, AACE cautioned CMS that the result of the ruling "will be a significant reduction in the quality of care received by older Americans when they need it the most." The CMS rule, which goes into effect on January 1, 2010, would no longer allow endocrinologists and other specialists to bill for consultations provided for patients referred to them by primary care physicians.

"The Specter amendment will enable Medicare patients, the major segment of our population that is most vulnerable to serious illness, to continue to have access to specialists," AACE President and Chief of Endocrinology at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, Dr. Jeffrey R. Garber said. "It will also give CMS and Congress a chance to critically re-examine this flawed proposal."

In addition to AACE, the amendment is being endorsed by: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), American Academy of Neurology (AAN), American Medical Group Association (AMGA), American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), American College of Cardiology (ACC), American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), American College of Rheumatology (ACR), American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), American Medical Association (AMA), American Psychiatric Association (APA), American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE), American Urological Association (AUA), Coalition of State Rheumatology Organizations (CSRO), Heart Rhythm Society (HRS), Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), Joint Council of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (JCAAI), North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society (NANOS), Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) and The Endocrine Society (TES).

AACE is encouraging all medical specialists and their patients to write their Members of Congress asking them to support the Specter Amendment and to sign an online petition to reverse the elimination of these codes at www.keepthecodes.com.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snowe, Landrieu Introduce Legislation to Bolster Small Business Participation in International Trade

/PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Chair Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) last night introduced two bipartisan measures to strengthen and improve support for American entrepreneurs seeking opportunities to expand their business, create new jobs and compete in the international market. The Small Business Export Enhancement and International Trade Act (S. 2862) and the Small Business Trade Representation Act (S. 2861) will ensure small businesses have access to the resources and tools needed to explore new export opportunities in emerging markets or expand their current export business.

"Small businesses face particular challenges in exporting, and the bills that Chair Landrieu and I have introduced will take great strides toward ensuring their greater participation in international trade," said Ranking Member Snowe. "By improving and bolstering critical Small Business Administration (SBA) lending and assistance programs, we will be giving our nation's entrepreneurs a helping hand in surviving, diversifying, and competing effectively in the international marketplace. Additionally, the Small Business Trade Representation Act would once and for all establish an Assistant United States Trade Representative for Small Business, a critical position that will help ensure American small businesses are at the forefront of trade policy considerations."

"Building upon legislation that I have introduced in the last three Congresses, including, S. 1196 the Small Business International Trade Enhancements Act of 2009 that I introduced in June of this year, this bipartisan legislation will ensure that small businesses seeking to export their goods and services will have access to the resources they need to successfully expand into foreign markets," Chair Landrieu said. "With health premiums increasing more each year and cash registers at home not ringing like they used to, exporting has become a practical solution for small firms. Expanding opportunities for small business trade is not only vital to the financial security of our entrepreneurs, it is vital to the recovery of our economy."

The Small Business Export Enhancement and International Trade Act contains several crucial provisions, including ones to:

-- Establish an SBA Associate Administrator for International Trade to
carry out the Agency's international trade programs and formulate its
trade and export policy;
-- Bolster the number of SBA export finance specialists assigned to
Export Assistance Centers;
-- Raise, from $2 million to $5 million, the maximum amount of an
International Trade Loan or Export Working Capital Program loan;
-- Establish in statute an Export Express program and expand the maximum
loan size from $250,000 to $500,000; and
-- Create a State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Program to
increase the number of small businesses that export and increase the
value of the exports by small businesses.


Additionally, the Small Business Trade Representation Act would create an Assistant United States Trade Representative for Small Business whose responsibility would be to ensure that small businesses are represented in trade negotiations and in U.S. trade policy.

The provisions in these bills come from both S. 1208, the Small Business Export Opportunity Development Act, introduced by Senator Snowe, and S. 1196, the Small Business International Trade Enhancements Act of 2009, introduced by Senator Landrieu.

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Members of Congress Urge Obama to Adopt 350 Carbon Target

/PRNewswire/ -- As President Obama prepares to travel to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, 14 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have sent a letter urging the President to seek agreement with world leaders on the need to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million.

Climate scientists, led by Dr. James Hansen of NASA's Goddard Space Institute, warn that global temperatures will rise to dangerous levels if the concentration of CO2 remains above 350 ppm for a sustained period of time.

Hansen has said, "If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted... CO2 will need to be reduced... to at most 350 ppm."

Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) initiated the letter, which advises the President, "there is one singular goal around which all nations must align in order to avert disaster, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We urge you to... seek agreement with fellow leaders in Copenhagen on the ultimate goal of lowering and maintaining the level of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere at 350 parts per million."

"If we are serious about combating global climate change we must agree to set a goal that will represent our best shot at averting the worst effects of climate change. The best science tells us that goal is 350 parts per million," said Congressman Kucinich.

Marshall Saunders, Founder and President of Citizens Climate Lobby, urged decision-makers to adopt legislation and policies that will achieve the 350 goal.

"Unfortunately, most of our legislators are operating under the assumption that we can allow CO2 levels to rise to 450 ppm. That would be a disaster. We've crossed the 350 threshold. We're at 390 and we're seeing glaciers recede at an alarming rate and summer sea ice disappearing from the North Pole."

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AUL Action Urges the Defeat of Omnibus Bill Over D.C. Abortion Funding

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. House will vote today on H.R. 3288, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010. While in Fiscal Years 1996-2009, Congress prohibited the use of all Congressionally appropriated funds for abortions in the District of Columbia (except in cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother), H.R. 3288 only prohibits the use of "federal" funds for abortions in D.C. (Division C, Section 814). This modification allows funds which are Congressionally appropriated for the D.C. budget to be used for elective abortions.

Americans United for Life Action President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest stated, "This appropriations bill guts a longstanding prohibition on using public funds to pay for abortions in the District of Columbia. The bill also provides millions of dollars for international 'family planning' that could be directed to organizations that pay for and promote abortions. A majority of Americans do not support the use of their tax dollars to pay for abortions."

The bill also appropriates $648.5 million for international family planning funding, an increase of $103 million from Fiscal Year 2009, without the constraints of the Mexico City Policy to prevent these dollars from being provided to organizations that promote and perform abortions (Division F, Section 7060). Finally, the bill increases funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which has an admittedly pro-abortion agenda, to $55 million, a $5 million increase from FY09 (Division F, Section 7078).

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

U.S. Department of Labor unveils new 'Open Government' efforts

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of Labor today announced a broad array of efforts designed to improve the public's accessibility to its agencies and ensure the department can function more effectively. The work is part of the Obama Administration's continued commitment to improved accountability, transparency and service to the American public.

"True progress is not something that happens to people. It happens because of them. And, it all begins with information that can be shared in a timely and effective manner," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "People deserve to know what their government is doing on their behalf, and what they can do to participate actively in that work. I am proud of the steps we are taking to make that possible, and I look forward to broadening our efforts further."

Previously, only the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration posted worker fatality data on its Web site. Now, the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also systematically publishing employer-specific information about occupational fatalities online and making these data available for easy download. Comprehensive, weekly reports on this topic are now available at https://www.osha.gov/dep/fatcat/dep_fatcat.html. Employers with reported fatalities will have an incentive to take steps to improve safety and prevent future accidents. In addition, responsible employers will be able to use the database to identify dangerous conditions and take precautions.

Other agencies at the department are also making additional information available to the public. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is contributing a vast array of new information to http://www.data.gov/, enhancing its already impressive searchable databases. The Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, meanwhile, recently launched a Web-based competition at http://www.dol.gov/challenge. It enlists entrepreneurs and technology firms, workforce professionals and the public to help identify the best online tools to enable America's job seekers to quickly and easily connect with jobs.

The department's commitment to enhance participation also extends to the regulatory arena. On Monday, Dec. 7, the department rolled out its regulatory agenda entirely online. All of the information -- including more than eight hours of Web chats with the secretary of labor and other Department of Labor officials -- can be viewed at http://www.dol.gov/regulations. The Web page also contains links to resources and testimonials, and it even helps visitors submit comments to specific regulations.

"As a legislator, I always felt it was essential for people to take part in the processes of their government. As a regulator, I feel exactly the same way," added Solis.

The department also has launched an extremely successful weekly e-newsletter, which offers readers the latest details in everything from the department's enforcement and compliance assistance to job openings at its various agencies. Not content with one-way communication, however, the department is also using social media tools to engage the public online -- and tapping into the power of crowd sourcing. In fact, the Department of Labor's presence on Facebook and Twitter is already helping to link knowledge communities together and speeding up the sharing of valuable information among the department, state workforce agencies, a variety of stakeholders and, most importantly, the American public.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Obama Rates Favorably with Americans in Bloomberg National Poll

/PRNewswire/ -- President Barack Obama receives high marks for his foreign policy while most Americans disagree with his handling of health care and the budget deficit, according to the Bloomberg National Poll, a quarterly survey of Americans.

While most Americans polled generally support Obama with a job-approval rating of 54 percent, he receives negative marks on many domestic issues. More than 50 percent of respondents say they disapprove of his plan to overhaul the health care system and even more, 57 percent, criticize his management of the federal budget deficit. In contrast, he receives strong support for his approach to foreign policy, 62 percent of Americans approve of his decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and 59 percent approve of the way he is managing relations with other countries.

The economy is still the country's top concern with 8 out of 10 Americans rating joblessness as a high risk to the economic performance in the next two years, outranking the federal budget deficit, which was cited by 7 out of 10.

Despite concerns with Obama's handling of the economy, health care and the deficit, Americans appear to still be allowing him a honeymoon period to address these issues, with 60 percent saying the nation's economic problems are mostly the result of decisions he inherited, according to the Bloomberg National Poll, which interviewed a random sample of 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18 or older, for a snapshot of Americans' thoughts on Obama's administration and the economy.

The Bloomberg National Poll was conducted by Selzer & Company, whose survey of Iowa Caucus voters in 2008 was the only one to accurately predict Barack Obama's victory. The firm has conducted surveys for more than two dozen major newspapers in the U.S., and was named the best of 32 polling firms ranked by polling Web site FiveThirtyEight.com. Poll results are available at www.bloomberg.com.

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U.S. Mayors Praise President Obama for Supporting Fiscal Relief for Local Governments and States, Targeted Infrastructure Investment, Small Business

U.S. Mayors Praise President Obama for Supporting Fiscal Relief for Local Governments and States, Targeted Infrastructure Investment, Small Business Capital

/PRNewswire/ -- The following statement from Tom Cochran, USCM CEO and Executive Director, was released today:

"The President and his advisors have been meeting with U.S. mayors. The President understands the jobs and fiscal crisis happening in America's cities, and he is calling for action," Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran said today following President Obama's jobs address.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has developed A Call to Action which highlights the ongoing jobs crisis in America's cities -- predicted to last for years -- and the need for more targeted investments in cities and local infrastructure to create jobs.

One of the key action items called for by mayors is "Targeted Fiscal Relief for High Unemployment Cities and Metro Areas." Cities all across the country have faced significant layoffs and budgetary cutbacks this summer, with dire local revenue projections in the coming years. ARRA provided significant fiscal assistance to states, but none to local governments. The recession is now having drastic effects at the local level. Therefore, mayors are calling on the Administration and Congress to develop a fiscal assistance program targeted to cities with high rates of unemployment and budget shortfalls. This is needed to prevent even deeper layoffs in critical areas such as public safety and public works, and help cities promote private sector job creation through local infrastructure projects.

In his address today, the President said, Congress should extend "relief to states and localities to prevent layoffs." And during the recent White House Jobs Summit on December 3 -- attended by five mayors -- the President said, "As tough as this financial crisis or recession has been on the federal budget, it has in some cases been worse on state and local government budgets... Usually, state and local government revenues lag the recovery as a whole. They may need some more help from the federal government... If you see a complete collapse in state and local government spending on basic needs, that could create a very bad business climate for all of you."

The President also called for more targeted infrastructure investment in programs such as TIGER grants and public transit, as well as support for small business lending -- all strongly supported by mayors.

The Conference of Mayors is working closely with both the Administration and Congress to ensure that in this jobs bill, more resources and infrastructure projects go directly to cities and local areas -- ensuring they are not stalled in state bureaucracies - so that more jobs can be created now.

"Mayors can be the catalyst for creating public and private sector jobs quickly, which is exactly what this economy needs now," Cochran added.

A copy of the USCM report A Call to Action is available at usmayors.org.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,139 such cities in the country today, each represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the Mayor.

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Attorney General Holder, Secretary Salazar Announce Settlement of Cobell Lawsuit on Indian Trust Management

/PRNewswire/ -- Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced a settlement of the long-running and highly contentious Cobell class-action lawsuit regarding the U.S. government's trust management and accounting of over three hundred thousand individual American Indian trust accounts. Also speaking at the press conference today were Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli and Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes.

"Over the past thirteen years, the parties have tried to settle this case many, many times, each time unsuccessfully," said Attorney General Holder. "But today we turn the page. This settlement is fair to the plaintiffs, responsible for the United States, and provides a path forward for the future."

"This is an historic, positive development for Indian country and a major step on the road to reconciliation following years of acrimonious litigation between trust beneficiaries and the United States," Secretary Salazar said. "Resolving this issue has been a top priority of President Obama, and this administration has worked in good faith to reach a settlement that is both honorable and responsible. This historic step will allow Interior to move forward and address the educational, law enforcement, and economic development challenges we face in Indian Country."

Under the negotiated agreement, litigation will end regarding the Department of the Interior's performance of an historical accounting for trust accounts maintained by the United States on behalf of more than 300,000 individual Indians. A fund totaling $1.4 billion will be distributed to class members to compensate them for their historical accounting claims, and to resolve potential claims that prior U.S. officials mismanaged the administration of trust assets.

In addition, in order to address the continued proliferation of thousands of new trust accounts caused by the "fractionation" of land interests through succeeding generations, the settlement establishes a $2 billion fund for the voluntary buy-back and consolidation of fractionated land interests. The land consolidation program will provide individual Indians with an opportunity to obtain cash payments for divided land interests and free up the land for the benefit of tribal communities.

By reducing the number of individual trust accounts that the U.S. must maintain, the program will greatly reduce on-going administrative expenses and future accounting-related disputes. In order to provide owners with an additional incentive to sell their fractionated interests, the settlement authorizes the Interior Department to set aside up to 5 percent of the value of the interests into a college and vocational school scholarship fund for American Indian students.

The settlement has been negotiated with the involvement of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. It will not become final until it is formally endorsed by the court. Also, Congress must enact legislation to authorize implementation of the settlement. Because it is a settlement of a litigation matter, the Judgment Fund maintained by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury will fund the settlement.

"While we have made significant progress in improving and strengthening the management of Indian trust assets, our work is not over," said Salazar, who also announced he is establishing a national commission to evaluate ongoing trust reform efforts and make recommendations for the future management of individual trust account assets in light of a congressional sunset provision for the Office of Special Trustee, which was established by Congress in 1994 to reform financial management of the trust system.

The class action case, which involves several hundred thousand plaintiffs, was filed by Elouise Cobell in 1996 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and has included hundreds of motions, dozens of rulings and appeals, and several trials over the past 13 years. The settlement funds will be administered by the trust department of a bank approved by the district court and distributed to individual Indians by a claims administrator in accordance with court orders and the settlement agreement.

Interior currently manages about 56 million acres of Indian trust land, administering more than 100,000 leases and about $3.5 billion in trust funds. For fiscal year 2009, funds from leases, use permits, land sales and income from financial assets, totaling about $298 million were collected for more than 384,000 open Individual Indian Money accounts and $566 million was collected for about 2,700 tribal accounts for more than 250 tribes. Since 1996, the U.S. Government has collected over $10.4 billion from individual and tribal trust assets and disbursed more than $9.5 billion to individual account holders and tribal governments.

The land consolidation fund addresses a legacy of the General Allotment Act of 1887 (the "Dawes Act"), which divided tribal lands into parcels between 40 and 160 acres in size, allotted them to individual Indians and sold off all remaining unallotted Indian lands. As the original holders died, their intestate heirs received an equal, undivided interest in the lands as tenants in common. In successive generations, smaller undivided interests descended to the next generation.

Today, it is common to have hundreds -- even thousands -- of Indian owners for one parcel of land. Such highly fractionated ownership makes it extremely difficult to use the land productively or to provide beneficial use for any individual. Absent serious corrective action, an estimated 4 million acres of land will continue to be held in such small ownership interests that very few individual owners will ever derive any meaningful financial benefit from that ownership.

Additional Information is available at the following sites: www.cobellsettlement.com. The Department of the Interior website: www.doi.gov. The Office of the Special Trustee website: www.ost.doi.gov.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

CCH Briefing Details House Estate Tax Measure

/PRNewswire/ -- Following passage by the House of Representatives on December 3, 2009 of the Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers, and Small Business Act of 2009, CCH has issued a Special Tax Briefing on its provisions which, if adopted by the Senate, will provide certainty for estate taxes and estate planning, largely by freezing the status quo as of this year. Read the Briefing at http://tax.cchgroup.com/Legislation/2009-Estate-Tax-Relief.pdf.

"The House bill provides for a $3.5 million estate tax exclusion with no portability, a top estate tax rate of 45 percent, a continuation of stepped-up basis and ratifies the permanent repeal of the state death tax credit," said CCH Senior Estate Planning Analyst Bruno Graziano, JD, MSA.

The measure moves on to the Senate, where the bill's lack of indexing for inflation may pose a difficulty, but many observers believe some kind of estate tax "fix" is imperative this year.

"Without some new legislation in place, 2010 would see the complete abolition of the estate tax - for that year alone - but also a move to a 'modified carryover basis' system for valuing inherited assets that could increase the income tax burden of beneficiaries and would be very difficult for executors and accountants to deal with," Graziano said.

The Briefing also details the impact of the House bill on the gift tax and generation-skipping transfer tax.

CCH Tax Briefings

To read the Briefing, visit http://tax.cchgroup.com/Legislation/2009-Estate-Tax-Relief.pdf. Timely, current analysis of this and other tax legislation can be found at CCH Tax Legislation Coverage (http://tax.cchgroup.com/Legislation/Briefings).

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to Leave Department of Justice

/PRNewswire/ -- Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden announced today that he will leave the Department on February 5, 2010 to return to private practice. Prior to joining the Department as Deputy Attorney General in March, Ogden chaired the Obama Administration's transition team for the Department of Justice.

"David Ogden has been an invaluable leader for the Department of Justice and for this Administration," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "From leading the transition team that established early goals for the Department to spearheading major initiatives such as our effort to fight health care fraud, he has been an effective and diligent advocate for the American people. Through his work here, he has helped reinvigorate the Department's traditional missions, restore its reputation for independence, and make the country safer and more secure. I am sorry to see him go, and I thank him for his service to the Department and to the nation."

Prior to his confirmation, Deputy Attorney General Ogden was a partner at the law firm of WilmerHale, which he joined in 2001. He previously served in senior positions at the Department of Justice during the Clinton Administration.

Deputy Attorney General Ogden made the following statement:

"I took a leave from my practice of law thirteen months ago on Election Day to lead the Department of Justice transition for President Obama. My hope then was to identify the goals for a successful transition at a critical time for the Department, when its credibility was under attack and when its traditional law enforcement missions had suffered. During the transition, President-elect Obama and Attorney General-designate Holder asked me to serve as the Deputy Attorney General, which gave me the opportunity to complete the transition process and see the Department solidly on a path to achieving those goals. I accepted that challenge, with the intention of returning to my practice as soon as I felt the Department was firmly on that path.

"I believe the objectives established over a year ago have been accomplished. In order to afford the President and the Attorney General sufficient time to identify my successor and to ensure a smooth transition, I have agreed to continue to serve until February 5, 2010, when I will step down to return to private practice.

"The Department today is on the path we first set out over a year ago. First, we have reinvigorated the Department's traditional law enforcement mission with new resources and new initiatives. I am proud of the work we have done in establishing a Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to fight financial crime, leading a Health Care Prevention Task Force that has already pursued major prosecutions, establishing a Border Working Group to combat Mexican cartels, and attacking international organized crime through increased intelligence sharing with our partners. We have implemented new policies to stem the terrible tide of violence against women and children in Indian Country, crafted budgets that will provide critical new funding for law enforcement, civil rights and our nation's prison system, and we will soon make key recommendations for reforms of sentencing and corrections policy. I appreciate the Attorney General's having asked me to lead these initiatives and am proud of the progress we have made.

"Second, we have taken significant steps to ensure that we vigorously protect our national security consistent with the rule of law, including working closely with the FBI and the Intelligence Community on major counter-terrorism investigations, working on closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and bringing perpetrators to justice in federal courts or military commissions, and developing a new policy for effective and lawful interrogations.

"Third, we have substantially restored the Department's historically strong relationship with state, local, and tribal law enforcement through outreach and inclusion on the Department's major initiatives including the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force and HEAT.

"And finally, we have put in place a terrific senior management team that under the Attorney General's leadership will build on this foundation. Through our work in each of these areas, the goals I hoped to achieve when I accepted this position either have been or soon will be fulfilled. The Department is in good hands, and I feel I can now return to the private practice I have missed these thirteen months.

"It has been a singular privilege to work alongside the Department's dedicated career professionals, whose commitment to the national interest and the cause of justice is an inspiration to me. I am very grateful to President Obama and Attorney General Holder for the opportunity to serve my country and the Department of Justice in this Administration, and I will continue to assist them in any way possible."

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Libertarians opposed to new war plans for Afghanistan

The Libertarian Party (LP) today expressed its opposition to the Afghanistan war plans announced by President Barack Obama last night.

Wes Benedict, Executive Director of the LP, said, "Rush Limbaugh should buy Obama a nice cigar. The liberal president has done exactly what the conservative leader wanted: escalate the war."

William Redpath, Chairman of the Libertarian National Committee (LNC), commented, "This is further evidence that the differences between Republicans and Democrats are, at most, rhetorical. This president, whose votes made him the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate, has just announced an escalation of a foreign war. His campaign promise of 'Change' now sounds a lot more hollow."

Redpath continued, "Some congressional Democrats may make a rhetorical show of opposing Obama's decision, but that is all it will be. Obama is guaranteed to get the additional troops and funding that he wants."

Redpath continued, "Instead, Congress should re-assert its authority in matters of war, by passing legislation that terminates the president's authorization to make war in Afghanistan, and that calls for an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan. If the president vetoes it, Congress should override the veto."

In September 2008, the LNC adopted a resolution calling for a military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Benedict commented further, "One problem with the president's strategy is that it demonstrates a hyperinflated fear of terrorists. When we act worried and threatened, we make the terrorists feel like they're having their intended effect, which encourages them to keep doing what they're doing."

Redpath continued, "According to the Cato Institute, 'the U.S. military's counterinsurgency doctrine says that stabilizing a country the size of Afghanistan would require far more troops than the most wild-eyed hawk has proposed: about 600,000 troops.' President Obama is proposing to put a total of about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, which won't come close to accomplishing anything."

Redpath concluded, "The president's speech was surprisingly content-free. The speech was nearly all platitudes, which is typical for politicians, particularly presidents. Will someone please restore substance to American political discourse?"

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Snowe, Landrieu Introduce Legislation to Make Permanent Critical Small Business Tax Deduction

/PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Chair Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.) today introduced legislation to make permanent the enhanced Section 179 expensing limits enacted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Specifically, the bill will aid small businesses by allowing them to deduct up to $250,000 of the cost of qualifying property in the year it is purchased, rather than to recover such outlays through depreciation deductions over a number of years.

"Small businesses continue to struggle as a result of the current recession, and many are having trouble finding capital to make job-creating new investments," said Ranking Member Snowe. "Our bill will permanently allow small businesses to expense up to $250,000 of new investments, enabling them to acquire vital new facilities and equipment. By permitting small businesses to deduct more of their equipment purchases today, they will retain substantial savings instead of waiting a period of years to recover their costs through depreciation. Additionally, this change would simultaneously save small firms the vital time currently required to comply with complex and confusing depreciation rules."

"The $250,000 expensing limit put into place in the Recovery Act has produced a positive economic impact for the nation's small businesses," Chair Landrieu said. "By making this limit permanent, small business owners will have a valuable incentive to make investments in business assets critical to business growth and important to remaining competitive in the global marketplace."

The ARRA signed into law in February set the maximum amount that a taxpayer may expense in 2009 at $250,000. Subsequently, under current law, the maximum amount that may be expensed will be approximately $133,000 in 2010 and $25,000 in 2011. The Snowe-Landrieu bill would permanently set the maximum amount at $250,000.

Ranking Member Snowe has previously introduced legislation to raise the expensing limit to $200,000 in both 2007 and 2008. Both she and Chair Landrieu successfully advocated for the language that was included in the ARRA.

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US Secretary of State Clinton Statement on Kenyan Consideration of a New Constitution

(APO)/ -- Hillary Rodham Clinton

US Secretary of State

The United States welcomes the publication of the new draft constitution by Kenya's Committee of Experts. On my visit this summer, I urged Kenya's people and leaders to move forward with the reform agenda that is so important to Kenya's future. I am pleased that they have taken this step, which represents a major milestone in that process.

I encourage all Kenyans to use the 30-day comment period to engage in a constructive and substantive dialogue on a new constitution. This is an opportunity for the Kenyan people to help determine the content of the constitution and come together to build a system of government that serves and protects the interests of all, regardless of political affiliation, ethnic group, or faith.

This is also a time for President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga to demonstrate their leadership and commitment to a peaceful future by working together to support a constitution that will serve the national interest for generations to come. I hope Parliament will act expeditiously, and with a sense of shared purpose, when the draft is formally presented to it.

The United States is committed to supporting the Kenyan people's efforts to implement their reform agenda. Development and ratification of a new constitution will provide a solid foundation for a more peaceful, prosperous, and democratic future.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Justice Department to Monitor Election in Georgia

/PRNewswire/ -- The Justice Department today announced that it will monitor polling place activities for compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 during the Dec. 1, 2009, municipal run-off election in Union Point, Ga.

The Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race. It also allows voters who have difficulty reading or who have a disability to receive assistance from persons of their choice, with the exception of their employers or union officials. Attorneys from the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. To file complaints about discriminatory voting practices, including acts of harassment or intimidation, voters may call the Voting Section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931. More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Senate Mandatory Health-Insurance Bill Infringes on Choice and Privacy

/PRNewswire/ -- The Senate's newly released health-reform bill ("Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act") infringes on Americans' health-insurance choices and medical privacy, says Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom (IHF) -- a patients' rights group in Washington, D.C.

The bill would (among many other provisions):

-- Require nearly every legal resident to buy government-sanctioned
health insurance;
-- Increase Medicare payroll taxes on individuals earning over $200,000
per year and couples earning over $250,000 per year (raising $54
billion in taxes over 10 years);
-- Slap a new tax on "Cadillac" health plans (high-cost plans offered by
employers to their employees) -- raising $149 billion in taxes over 10
years (2010-2019); and
-- Finish laying the building blocks for a computerized "Nationwide
Health Information Network" (NHIN) without patients' consent.


Section 937 of the bill, titled "Dissemination and Building Capacity for Research," includes the following provision:

''(f) BUILDING DATA FOR RESEARCH.--The Secretary [of Health and Human Services] shall provide for the coordination of relevant Federal health programs to build data capacity for comparative clinical effectiveness research, including the development and use of clinical registries and health outcomes research data networks, in order to develop and maintain a comprehensive, interoperable data network to collect, link, and analyze data on outcomes and effectiveness from multiple sources, including electronic health records." [Emphasis added.] (See pages 1683-684 of the bill.)

Dissemination of the collected data will be governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) privacy rule, which actually permits patients' personal health information to be shared among more than 600,000 organizations without patients' consent. "Combining a mandatory national electronic medical-records data network with the so-called HIPAA privacy rule means patients will lose control over the flow of their personal health information," says Robin Kaigh, an attorney and medical-privacy advocate. "The only way to ensure that patients control their personal health data is to make sure patient consent is obtained before data can be shared."

IHF points out that Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health, recently stressed in U.S. News & World Report:

"...[T]he doctor-patient relationship was never meant to be other than confidential and privileged and solely for the benefit of the patient. Patients expect it, or they would not be forthcoming. And doctors take the Hippocratic oath, pledging to hold sacred their patients' secrets. This pledge of confidentiality, however, is now challenged by a world where computers rule and health information falls into many hands. One might well ask whether medical privacy is just too outmoded a concept for today's information-hungry world. We had better decide...."

Do you really wish to have your personal health information become part of a Nationwide Health Information Network without your consent?

IHF is encouraging citizens to call their Senators as soon as possible and tell them to "vote no on a motion to proceed" on Senator Reid's mandatory health-insurance bill, because it infringes on patients' choice and privacy.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

New Reid Bill Funds Abortion: Excludes Bipartisan Stupak-Pitts Amendment

/PRNewswire/ -- Last night, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the Senate Democrats introduced a new Senate version of health care reform that includes government funding for elective abortion. The "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" authorizes the Secretary to include elective abortion in the public option and subsidize health plans in the government run exchange that cover elective abortion.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins made the following comments:

"Senator Reid's new health bill does not include the Stupak-Pitts amendment that was designed to prevent federal funding for abortion-on-demand. Instead, he chose to include a version of Rep. Lois Capp's abortion funding language which has already been rejected by the House in favor of the Stupak-Pitts language.

"The Reid bill authorizes the Secretary of HHS to fund abortion in the public option, now called the 'community health insurance option.' The bill provides tax credits for private plans that cover abortion-on-demand, mandates plans across the country to cover abortion-on-demand and strips important conscience protections for providers who refuse to perform elective abortion.

"The Stupak-Pitts amendment adopted with 240 votes in the House would prevent federal funding for abortion or subsidies for plans that cover abortion. It also makes clear that individuals or groups are not prevented from providing coverage that includes abortion as long as federal funds are not used.

"Clearly the straightforward language of the Stupak-Pitts amendment is not what Senator Reid and his pro-abortion colleagues want. Rather they want government funding of abortion-on-demand.

"Pro-life senators, including Senators Ben Nelson and Bob Casey, must denounce the Reid abortion funding provisions and make every effort to include the Stupak-Pitts amendment in the Senate bill in order to prevent the establishment of a government funded abortion program for the first time in over three decades."

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Democratic Senators Discuss Reforms for Small Business Health Care

/PRNewswire/ -- Five Democratic Senators today gave back-to-back speeches on the Senate floor discussing the need to focus on small businesses when considering health care reform. Without the right reforms, small businesses will pay nearly $2.4 trillion over the next ten years in health care costs for their workers, according to a report by the Small Business Majority. The Senators made the following comments:

"Without the worry of high health costs, small businesses will be able to get back to what they do best: creating jobs, encouraging entrepreneurship, growing our economy and keeping our nation competitive in the global arena," U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu of Louisiana said. "Today, it is more important than ever for us in Congress to work together to bring about these needed health care reforms and help small businesses."

"If we do nothing, small businesses are going to see this escalator of costs go up for health insurance. Small businesses should be able to negotiate with insurance companies to drive down the costs of their health plans," Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington said. "That's why we need to give small business the same kind of negotiating power that large companies have to negotiate for benefits."

"Small businesses are essential to our economy, and we must control health care costs and relieve the financial burden facing so many small businesses in New Hampshire and across the nation," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. "I urge my colleagues to work together to pass comprehensive health reform legislation because employers should not have to choose between keeping their doors open and offering health care to their employees."

"If we do not pass health insurance reform, small business owners will continue to see the cost of providing healthcare coverage to their employees eat away at their bottom line. In my home state of Colorado, premium costs for small businesses are projected to more than double over the next decade," Sen. Udall of Colorado said. "These unsustainable cost increases not only harm current businesses, but they also prevent the growth of new ones. Enacting meaningful health reform is necessary for ensuring productive small businesses, new American jobs, and a strong economy."

"Today, small businesses are the only group who still pay retail for their health care coverage," said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia. "With fewer employees, they lack the bargaining power of large firms and pay as much as 18 percent more for the same health insurance as larger companies. But if we do health care reform right, it will give small businesses and their employees more affordable options."

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Planned Parenthood and ACLU Obstruct People's Rights with Lawsuit against Personhood Nevada

/Standard Newswire/ -- Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have filed a lawsuit against the sponsors of a Nevada ballot initiative defining the term "person."

The simple, one-sentence amendment states, "In the great state of Nevada, the term 'person' applies to every human being."

Blogger Emmily Bristol, the woman participating in the lawsuit, seems to admit on her blog that the measure is easy to understand. She claims, "It is designed to leave voters scratching their heads and saying, 'Well, duh, a person is a person.' "

"Exactly," answered Keith Mason of Personhood USA. "It's simple, easy to understand, and if even the folks behind the lawsuit can see that it's that simple, the voters shouldn't have any trouble. Every human being is a person. Period."

"Children in the womb today have fewer rights than dogs or cats," continued Mason. "Planned
Parenthood, the ACLU, and Emmily Bristol are seeking to keep it that way."

Nevada's personhood amendment was filed on October 21, 2009. An amendment much like this one was introduced in Colorado and was found to be a single-subject issue. In 2007, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU teamed up to try to defeat the Colorado Personhood Amendment, but failed even up to the Colorado Supreme Court.

"This is clearly a single subject issue, easy to understand, and simply recognizes the rights of every human being," stated Keith Mason, of Personhood USA. "Planned Parenthood's lawsuit is not only stifling the people's right to a ballot initiative, but it appears desperate. Once personhood is properly recognized, Planned Parenthood stands to lose over a billion dollars in annual profit."

"This is now the third time that the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have ganged up to silence the voice of the people, and their right to ballot initiatives," concluded Mason. "In Colorado, they failed. They are trying to silence us, and to keep the vote away from the people. The citizens have a right to ballot initiatives, and human beings have a right to live."

Personhood USA is a grassroots Christian organization founded to establish personhood efforts
across America to create protection for every child by love and by law. Personhood USA is committed to assisting and supporting Personhood Legislation and Constitutional Amendments and building local pro-life organizations through raising awareness of the personhood of the pre-born.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine Releases Statement in Honor of Veterans Day

/PRNewswire/ -- Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tim Kaine issued the following statement in recognition of Veterans Day:

"Today, we honor those Americans who have served throughout our nation's history - from the wars on our own shores to the beachheads of Europe, from the rice fields of Southeast Asia to the deserts of the Middle East, and from across the world's oceans and seas to those who serve stateside - and take the time to thank them for their unflinching courage and service.

"In the wake of the tragedy at Fort Hood, and as we work to wind down our operations in Iraq and determine the way forward in Afghanistan, renewing our promise to America's veterans is just as important as ever - not just today, but every day.

"Providing for our veterans is critical, not only because we have a moral obligation to recognize those who have sacrificed on our behalf, but because our servicemen and women are a tremendous resource who can help lead the way as we continue our pursuit of a more peaceful and prosperous world.

"President Obama and our Democratic Congress have demonstrated a strong commitment to our country's veterans, taking several steps in just the last 10 months to expand economic opportunity, strengthen veterans' health care services, and improve benefits for our troops and military families. Through the post 9/11 G.I. Bill - the most generous education benefit since the original G.I. Bill of 1944 - more than 250,000 veterans will attend college in just the next two years. President Obama and Congress have worked to strengthen the VA health care system by transforming it into a 21st century organization that prioritizes community-based services, promotes prevention and takes on the injuries unique to modern warfare, including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. And President Obama requested, and Congressional Democrats approved, a 16 percent increase in the 2010 budget for the Department of Veterans affairs, the largest one-year increase in 30 years.

"Veterans and their families are the only ones who can fully understand the toll of their sacrifice. But we can, through our every day actions, do our best to see that they receive the very best service, care and respect from their country. Today we thank our brave men and women for heeding the call to duty, and we honor their selfless service."

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bauer Says Voters' Feeling 'Buyers Remorse'

/PRNewswire/ -- Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer said Tuesday night as election results revealed major shifts in the electorate since 2008 that voters are experiencing "buyers' remorse" and clearly want more "conservative change they can believe in."

Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, made the following statement after Virginia voters chose Republicans for the top three seats with double digits margins:

"Barack Obama in 2008 carried Virginia, carried New Jersey and won the 23rd House District in New York. His party now has massively lost Virginia and is fighting for its life in strongly Democratic New Jersey and in New York. Clearly voters are feeling buyers' remorse and are returning to their right of center political viewpoint.

"This should be a wake-up call to the Congress. Democratic members are getting ready to force another big government budget-busting bill misnamed health care 'reform' on the American people. This comes on the heels of failed bailouts that didn't protect jobs and proposed food and energy taxes that will bust family budgets. With 2010 around the corner, Democrats may find themselves unemployed like their fellow Americans if they continue their support for such gluttonous, big-government proposals."

Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, was one of the first conservatives to endorse Doug Hoffman in his bid to take the New York house seat. Bauer's Campaign for Working Families committed tens of thousands of dollars in contributions and independent expenditures in Virginia and New York to promote conservative candidates and mobilize conservative voters. The Campaign is one of the largest pro-family, pro-life political action committees in America.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Democratic Senators, Congresswoman, Small Business Owners Discuss Impact of Health Insurance Reform on Small Businesses

/PRNewswire/ -- Democratic Senators Tom Harkin and Mary Landrieu and Congresswoman Debbie Halvorson joined Mike Draper, a small business owner from Des Moines, Iowa; Gwendolyn Barnes, a small business owner from Shreveport, Louisiana; Dr. Ken Brantley, a small business owner from Richmond, Virginia; and other small business owners from across the country at a press conference this morning to discuss how health insurance reform will benefit small businesses. Recent studies indicate that small businesses are likely to see their premiums rise 15% in the coming year, double the rate of last year's increase. Small businesses employ roughly 40% of the private labor force in America, making it crucial that we work to ensure affordability of health coverage for this central part of the American workforce.

"The status quo in health insurance spending for America's small businesses is intolerable and it is unsustainable," said Harkin. "Today, we have a simple message for small business owners across America: help is on the way and it comes in the form of a health reform plan that puts a stop to the discriminatory insurance industry practice of jacking up premiums for small businesses by up to 200 percent when an employee gets sick or because the business hires a woman. Our bill will end the practice of denying coverage based on preexisting conditions or increasing premiums based on health status, gender, or industry. As I have said many times, the biggest winners in a reformed health system will be small business owners and their employees."

Landrieu said: "Small businesses are suffering from skyrocketing health insurance premiums that are eating into their bottom lines and threatening their survival. As we continue to make progress toward comprehensive health care reform, Democrats are working to address the health care needs of small businesses. And while we may not yet completely agree on everything, one thing we can all agree on is that doing nothing is simply not an option."

"Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and right now health care costs are simply too much to bear," said Halvorson. "If we truly want our small businesses to help lead us out of our current economic troubles, we must act to reform health care. Small business owners and their employees are depending on it. We must act now."

Draper said: "We try to be flexible, but it's an expensive way to do it. Right now, health insurance is a volatile commodity such as oil -- the price swings, the price increases, and it takes up a larger portion of a company's budget. If the government were to provide a more stable option and take the market out of things, it would help settle business's books, it would help them better predict the future. As a business owner, I wouldn't have to worry about finding policies, knowing what is covered, what isn't covered and how much the company will end up paying."

"We started off with everybody on a group plan, but as the premiums continued to climb and climb, my employees had to start dropping out, so we switched to individual plans," said Barnes. "But one of my employees was denied for a pre-existing condition. And we've had trouble with the insurance company -- when my daughter needed a surgery, they mysteriously took her off the surgery schedule. That's not right. It's time to fix health care -- for small businesses like mine and for the communities we serve."

Brantley said: "The lack of affordable health insurance hurts millions of small-business owners like me. I would love to hire several highly skilled staff to work with me. This would balance the workload, expand our care, and create more jobs. It is virtually impossible, however, to find qualified applicants who will accept a job offer without health insurance benefits. The high cost of health care hurts my ability to create new jobs here in Virginia and retain skilled employees. Without competition and meaningful health care legislation, we will continue to see rising health insurance premiums each year that harm businesses and squeeze families."

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Gary Bauer Expects "Change Conservatives Can Believe In"

/PRNewswire/ -- Former Presidential Candidate Gary Bauer on the eve of mid-term elections Monday said that the electorate seems poised to make "change Conservatives can believe in." Bauer is available for election analysis and commentary as one who played key roles in the races receiving significant attention.

Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, was one of the first conservatives to endorse Doug Hoffman in his bid to take the New York house seat. Bauer's Campaign for Working Families committed tens of thousands of dollars in contributions and independent expenditures in Virginia and New York to promote conservative candidates and mobilize conservative voters. The Campaign is one of the largest pro-family, pro-life political action committees in America.

Bauer said, "Whatever happens tomorrow, Virginia seems to be headed back to the Republican column, and Democratic state New Jersey has an incumbent Democratic governor who clearly will not get 50 percent of the vote even with Barack Obama's help. And in New York's 23rd House Race, a grassroots rebellion threatens to put a Conservative Party candidate into the Congress. It's definitely going to be must see TV tomorrow, and as one who has been very active in the races, I do believe that change is coming."

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pelosi, Boehner Statement on Security Breach Relating to Confidential House Materials

/PRNewswire/ -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader John Boehner released the following statement today on a security breach relating to confidential House materials:

"In response to a recent data breach associated with the use of peer to peer applications on a non-House computer, we have directed the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer's (CAO) Information Security Department to perform an immediate and comprehensive assessment of the policies and procedures for handling sensitive data. CAO Information Security Policy prohibits the use of peer-to-peer applications on House Computers. We are working diligently to provide the highest level of data security for the House in order to ensure that the operations of House offices are secure from unauthorized access."

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Westmoreland: Opponents of Government Takeover Will Have Voices Heard

Today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats unveiled their final 2,000-page health care plan (HR 3962) after weeks of Democrat-only, closed-door negotiations.

“Apparently, because this is health care legislation, the House Democrats thought doctor-patient confidentiality rules should apply to their secret negotiations,” U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland said. “The voices of those opposed to a government takeover of health care have been shut out of this debate. We got a taste of how strongly people feel on this issue during the August town halls, and I think those voices that Pelosi ignored will be heard loudly in the coming days.”

Westmoreland took issue with House Majority Leader’s Steny Hoyer’s assertion that the legislation meets an “urgent” need.

“Republicans and Democrats agree that we have too many uninsured Americans and too many family tragedies related to health care costs,” Westmoreland said. “But let’s be clear: This legislation won’t meet those needs urgently. In fact, benefits don’t take affect for three more years. The only thing that the Democrats think is ‘urgent’ enough to enact immediately are the tax hikes and mandates that will kill off even more jobs in this ailing economy.”

Westmoreland cites several tenets of the bill as problematic:

· $500 billion in cuts to Medicare, which Westmoreland sees as either ‘phantom cuts’ that will never take place or catastrophic for seniors’ health care coverage.

· Bill contains the word “shall” 3,425 times – that’s a lot of government mandates.

· Expanding eligibility for Medicaid, which will hike costs for budget-strapped state governments.

· Tax hikes on small business owners, whom we’re relying on to create new jobs in this economy.

· Mandates on business to provide coverage to all employees or face penalties, creating a “tax on jobs” that will lead to fewer jobs.

· A government-run ‘public option’ that will eventually crowd out private plans, causing many Americans to lose their current coverage.

· The legislation’s financing will cost much more than advertised, placing yet another burden on our national debt. The legislation comes in below $1 trillion over 10 years only because 1) Democrats moved the cost of paying Medicare fees to doctors (more than $200 billion) into another bill and 2) they count 10 years of revenues but only seven years of expenses.

Westmoreland points out that, contrary to Democratic claims that the Republicans are simply the “Party of No,” the GOP has offered an alternative called the Empowering Patients First Act. This legislation, HR 3400, would 1) make access to coverage affordable for all Americans; 2) make coverage truly owned and controlled by the patient; 3) improve the healthcare delivery structure; and 4) rein in out-of-control costs, including through robust liability reform.
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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Taxpayer Group Launches Petition to Ask Sen. Ben Nelson to Keep His Pledge

PRNewswire/ -- Today, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) continued its pressure on Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) by releasing an online petition asking him to oppose the Senate healthcare bill because it violates the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

The petition, found at www.nohealthcaretaxes.org, urges Sen. Nelson to be a "no" vote on any procedural votes and/or final passage votes on this anti-taxpayer piece of legislation. The petition also reminds him that a failure to do so would be a breach of trust between him and the people of Nebraska.

"Sen. Nelson has shown the courage of his convictions. He is alone among Senators to have taken the Pledge as a Democrat," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "The pressure is building now to break that Pledge, however. Majority Leader Harry Reid is pressing his caucus to deliver a healthcare bill, and it appears more and more likely he will not have a single Republican to lend a 'bipartisan' label to the government healthcare bill. Sen. Nelson needs encouragement to know that he's not standing alone in the face of this pressure."

The petition follows up on ATR's recent launch of a series of television ads encouraging the Senator to oppose the healthcare bill. The ads will run on both local and national news and commentary broadcast for three weeks, reflecting the significance of Sen. Nelson's vote to prevent tax increases as part of the healthcare bill.

"It's clear with Harry Reid's decision to include the public option in any healthcare legislation going to the floor that every Democrat vote is required to pass cloture. Now is the time for Sen. Nelson to follow through on the promise he made to get elected and stand by the Taxpayers," continued Norquist.

Americans for Tax Reform is a non-partisan coalition of taxpayers and taxpayer groups who oppose all tax increases. For more information or to arrange an interview please contact John Kartch at (202) 785-0266 or by email at jkartch@atr.org.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Libertarians pleased by new federal marijuana policy

The Libertarian Party (LP) today expressed its approval of the Obama administration's new, more laissez-faire policy toward medical marijuana. The policy appears to end the practice of federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Wes Benedict, LP executive director, commented, "This is a small step in the right direction. The federal government currently wastes tremendous resources in the War on Drugs, creating a huge, vicious, violent black market. This new policy will reduce the damage and destruction, and it will hopefully end some of the unjust prosecution of peaceful medical marijuana providers and patients."

The LP has long called for the repeal of laws that criminalize the medicinal or recreational use of drugs.

Benedict added, "We urge the Obama administration not to stop with this small step, but to take further steps to end the destructive, unjust, unconstitutional War on Drugs."

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Massachusetts Becomes First State to Challenge Legality of DOMA

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v United States

This past July, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the federal Defense Against Marriage Act (DOMA). While there have been several legal challenges against DOMA, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts v United States is the first suit filed by a state.

The lawsuit specifically alleges that the federal definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman is unconstitutional and that DOMA has interfered with the state's "sovereign authority" to define and regulate marriage. The complaint also alleges that DOMA has resulted in a denial of rights and benefits to same-sex couples in Massachusetts, including employment and retirement benefits, social security payments and health insurance coverage.

Massachusetts became the first state to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry in 2004. Since that time, the state has granted approximately 16,000 same-sex marriages.

Currently, only three other states recognize and grant same-sex marriages: Connecticut, Iowa and Vermont. New Hampshire will begin recognizing and granting same-sex marriages in January 2010. Maine may soon join the group as well, depending on the outcome of a November vote. New York and Washington, D.C. also recognize same-sex marriages from other states, but at present do not grant them.

The Defense Against Marriage Act (DOMA)

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law. The Act served two purposes:

-- It provided a legal definition of "marriage" under federal laws as a union between one man and one woman and defined "spouse" as a husband or wife of the opposite sex

-- It provided that states did not have to give recognition to same-sex marriages granted by other states

DOMA was introduced into Congress following a 1993 decision by Hawaii's Supreme Court that held the state's decision to ban same-sex marriages might be a violation of the Hawaiian Constitution. Other states feared that if Hawaii legalized same-sex marriages, they would be forced to recognize those marriages in their own states under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution.

The Full Faith and Credit Clause requires states to give "credit" to the laws and judicial decisions of other states. For example, the federal government has held that this clause requires states to enforce protection orders and support orders issued by other states.

There also was a fear that if same-sex marriages became legalized in one state, other states and the federal government would have to provide the same type of protections and benefits to same-sex spouses as they currently do to traditional married couples, including Social Security benefits and income tax credits.

In order to prevent these outcomes from occurring, DOMA was quickly pushed through Congress and signed into federal law. Following the law's passage, many states adopted "mini DOMAs" that defined marriage as between a man and woman and explicitly stated that the state would not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Currently, 37 states have mini DOMA laws in place.

Challenges to DOMA

The Massachusetts lawsuit against the federal government is only the first of many recent attacks on DOMA. In fact, the constitutionality of DOMA has been questioned since its passage. The law has been attacked as a denial of equal protection and due process rights under the federal and state constitutions. It has been argued that the federal government does not have a rational basis for denying marriage to same-sex couples and that the distinction between same-sex and heterosexual couples is arbitrary and discriminatory.

DOMA also has been attacked as an invasion of state rights by the federal government. The Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution leaves all powers not specifically granted to the federal government to the state governments. Traditionally, this has included legal decisions regarding family law issues and eligibility for federal entitlement benefits.

In February 2009, a 9th Circuit judge ruled that DOMA's prohibition of federal recognition of same-sex spouses legally married under state law was unconstitutional. In the Matter of Brad Levenson, the federal appellate court ruled that a court employee's same-sex spouse was entitled to be a named beneficiary on the employee's health insurance and other benefits under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Act (FEHBA).

In addition to the 9th Circuit case, there was another case filed in California challenging Section 2 of the Act, which permits states to disregard same-sex marriages granted by other states. In Smelt v United States, same-sex couple Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer argued that their marriage should be recognized in other states. Their case was dismissed in August due to a filing error, but is likely to be re-filed in federal court.

There is also another case out of Massachusetts challenging the federal definition of marriage under DOMA. Gill v Office of Personnel Management et al was filed last March and the government's response to the case is expected in mid to late September.

The federal government's reply to the criticisms and legal challenges against DOMA has been mixed. President Obama has long been critical of the federal law, but the Department of Justice has continued to defend any legal challenges against the Act. Some political commentators believe that the only way DOMA can be reversed is through the court system because of the potential political implications for any president who took direct action to repeal the federal law.

Whether or not Massachusetts' current challenge to DOMA will be successful has yet to be seen. Regardless of the outcome, it is unlikely that the legal challenges against DOMA will stop anytime soon.

Article provided by David M. Gabriel & Associates

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Friday, October 2, 2009

South Fulton: Christian City to Host Candidates’ Forum

Event to be Held at Christian City on Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 4 PM

Robert L. Crutchfield, President/CEO of Christian City, announced today that there will be a candidates’ forum on Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 4 PM in Christian City’s Sparks Inn Auditorium. All residents of Christian City and Union City are welcome to attend.

The agenda will feature candidates for the following offices:
· Union City Mayor
· Union City council
· State Senate District 35

The meeting will begin promptly at 4 PM.

The forum will take place in Christian City's Sparks Inn Auditorium at 7290 Lester Road, Union City, Georgia 30291. The Sparks Inn Auditorium is the assisted living facility located in the heart of the Christian City campus.

Christian City is a non-profit, non-denominational organization. On our 500+ acre complex we help meet the needs of approximately 1,100 people in our Children’s Village, Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Friendship Place (Alzheimer's Care), Sparks Inn Assisted Living/Personal Care facility, and Retirement Homes and Apartments.

Christian City invites the public to this event.

For more information on the event or Christian City, please contact
770-703-2636 or via e-mail at ccity@christian-city.org. Visit Christian City’s website at www.christiancity.org.
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