Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Archivist of the United States Announces Establishment of the National Declassification Center

/PRNewswire/ -- Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero announced today the establishment of the National Declassification Center (NDC) within the National Archives and Records Administration.

The creation of the NDC is specified in the new Executive Order on Classified National Security Information signed by President Obama on December 29, 2009. Specifically, the NDC is charged with streamlining declassification processes, facilitating quality assurance measures, and implementing standard training for declassification reviewers.

In making the announcement, Mr. Ferriero said, "The Federal government has reached a watershed moment in records declassification. The current backlog is so huge that Americans are being denied the ability to hold government officials accountable for their actions. By streamlining the declassification process, the NDC will usher in a new day in the world of access, allowing the National Archives to make more records available for public scrutiny much more quickly."

Initially, the NDC will be located at the National Archives College Park, MD facility and focus on clearing the backlog of referrals in reviewed documents both in Federal records and in Presidential materials. Dr. Michael Kurtz, Assistant Archivist for the Office of Records Services, Washington will serve as Acting Director of the NDC pending the selection of a permanent director. The NDC will be advised by an inter-agency Policy Planning Group made up of senior managers from the Departments of State, Defense, and Energy as well as the Central Intelligence Agency, Director of National Intelligence, the Information Security Oversight Office, and the National Archives.

"The establishment of the NDC provides a unique opportunity for the National Archives and its agency colleagues to create new strategies to protect essential national security and release hundreds of millions of pages to researchers and the public," said Dr. Kurtz

In anticipation of the establishment of the NDC, an inter-agency Program Management Team that has begun examining current declassification review processes throughout the government. The National Archives is working with the Defense Change Management Organization to conduct a study to determine how processes can be improved by reducing process cycle time, defects and costs. The recommendations from this effort will be incorporated into the new NDC processes.

Public input, questions and comments may be sent to NDC@nara.gov . Information about upcoming forums and NDC initiatives may be found at the NDC website: http://www.archives.gov/declassification.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Facebook to charge for service? Not true...

Does Facebook’s Business Plan Include Premium Memberships?

The world’s largest social network sometimes gets flack from bloggers and industry pundits for not having much of a business model. It’s true that for now, Facebook is more focused on growing its number of users – which passed 200 million this week – than its bottom line. But the company is generating revenue from advertising, as chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg pointed out in her talks with BusinessWeek editor-in-chief Stephen Adler on Apr. 7:

There is a lot of like, “What is the business? What is your business model?” And it’s a really simple answer, which is that our business is advertising. We’re not waiting to find our business, but we found it and it’s actually working very well.

http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2009/04/does_facebooks.html

Thanks to Amy Allen for sharing this article.

Big Whoppers of 2009 from FactCheck.org

/PRNewswire/ -- Double check what was said by Lori Robertson, managing editor of FactCheck.org. Ms. Robertson is frequently in over her head, especially when she purports to know the contents of federal legislation. That's why FactCheck.org's "Whoppers of 2009" is not to be believed.

Robertson admits that she does not read the bills in their entirety and has no training in analyzing legislation beyond her BA in advertising. What she does is spot check, not fact check.

Ms. Robertson writes that Betsy McCaughey "falsely claimed that the stimulus bill required that doctors follow government orders on what medical procedures can and can't be performed." What McCaughey actually said was that the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology would "monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and 'guide' your doctor's decisions" (442, 226 of the bill). Robertson, who admitted in a telephone interview that she had not read the entire stimulus bill, had difficulty locating the provisions on health information technology and confused them with another section of the bill that addresses comparative effectiveness research. But it is the health information technology that establishes the framework for guiding doctors' decisions.

Dr. David Blumenthal was appointed by the President to head the system of computer-guided medical care as National Coordinator of Health Information Technology. In March, Blumenthal settled the debate on whether the system will control doctors' treatment decisions. In an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (April 9, 2009), he stressed that the real importance of computers is to deliver "embedded clinical decision support." He predicted that if controls are too tight, physicians may resist the government encroaching on their treatment decisions: "many physicians and hospitals may rebel -- petitioning Congress to change the law or just resigning themselves to...accepting penalties." Dr. Blumenthal's article corrects Robertson, who insisted incorrectly that nothing in the stimulus legislation indicated "the government is going to tell your doctor what to do."

Robertson is wrong again on what HR 3200 said about end-of-life counseling. She claims the bill "merely called for Medicare to pay for voluntary counseling sessions." If this were the case, it could have been accomplished with a line or at most a paragraph. Instead, the end-of-life section went on for six pages and was highly prescriptive, detailing what doctors "shall" discuss. That should be left to the doctor and patient. Medicare billing codes already permit doctors to bill for time spent counseling patients and families.

Robertson fails to mention the penalties against doctors for non-compliance. "Quality" measures of a doctor's performance would be determined in part by the percentage of patients who created living wills, and the percentage of those documents that were adhered to.

Fortunately, members of the House heard the concerns expressed by me and countless Americans, and removed these alarming requirements before voting on the health bill. FactCheck.org should rely on more qualified analysts than Ms. Robertson to critique lawmakers and policy experts.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Guess Who Hasn't Read the Health Care Reform Bill He Voted On?

This story is priceless. The good Congressman suggests that immediate help will be available to Americans with the passage of the Health Care Reform Bill. Guess he didn't read the part about paying for it starting in 2010 and benefits not until years later.

Rep. Fattah Thanks Senate Democrats and Predicts Healthcare Reform Will Bring Immediate Help in 2010

/PRNewswire/ -- Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) releases the following statement upon Senate passage this morning of comprehensive healthcare reform legislation:

"Senate Democrats deserve our thanks and congratulations for their extraordinary vote this morning. We have work to do, but I am confident that the House and the Senate will soon work through our differences. Early in the new year we will be sending President Obama a final bill that meets his objectives and brings immediate help in 2010 for Americans who have been asking for, and waiting for, comprehensive, historic healthcare reform for far too long."

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Historic Expansion of Health Insurance Coverage Cedes Control to Medical/Insurance Industries

/PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Senate bill's historic expansion of health care coverage cedes control of a much greater portion of the health care system to the medical and insurance industries. This sweeping legislative act creates a responsibility for federal and state governments to monitor and police these industries and fix failures as they occur. For example:

* While the legislation requires every American to buy coverage under threat of tax fines, provisions requiring health insurers to justify rate increases are insufficient checks on insurance companies seeking to use the mandate as a profit enhancer. Government must ensure that coverage is affordable by requiring insurers to seek "prior approval" of health insurance rate increases, as auto insurers are required to do under California's Proposition 103. The Senate bill's requirement that insurers spend 80% or 85% of the premiums they collect on health care services will--absent strict rate regulation--perversely encourage insurers to raise their premium rates. In the same way that a Hollywood agent who gets a 20% cut of an actor's salary has an incentive to seek the highest salary, insurers will have incentive to increase health care costs and raise premiums so that their 20% cut is a larger dollar amount.

* The "essential health benefits" called for under the mandated policies are left undefined in the legislation. Those benefits must be robustly defined in order to ensure that Americans get the coverage they pay for, rather than the current cycle of delay and denial of care.

* Weak employer penalties may create incentives for employers to drop coverage, pushing workers into the state exchanges where they would be forced to buy individual policies that offer less care for more money. Employers must be required to pay their fair share of the cost of health care.

* The Senate bill's new "multi-state" plans and interstate "compacts" allow insurance companies to override more protective state patient laws. "Exchange" policies will also weaken more protective state laws by forcing state budgets to fund the cost of additional protections. Minimum federal standards should set a floor, not a ceiling, on state health care protections. States have traditionally been the laboratories of innovation in health care and have a greater ability to respond quickly to local needs.

* The bill provides no legal accountability for insurers when employers pay for health coverage. Patients who have health coverage paid for in part or full by employers will not be able to hold insurers legally accountable for denying medically necessary treatments. 132 million Americans with private employer-paid health coverage cannot recover damages against an insurer even if the company's failure to approve treatment kills a loved one. The legislation does not fix this loophole denying patients justice that was created by a 1987 Supreme Court decision in the case of Pilot Life v. Dedeaux even as it requires individuals and employers to share in the cost of health coverage or face tax penalties. If government requires the purchase of health insurance policies it should guarantee access to justice when insurers wrongfully deny treatment to patients.

"If Congress is going to cede such a huge increase in control over our health to the insurance industry, it is incumbent upon Congress to fix the major consumer protection problems with the bill," said Jerry Flanagan of Consumer Watchdog. "The Senate bill will provide health insurance for roughly 30 million Americans and allow those with coverage more freedom to switch policies if they choose. However, by requiring most Americans to buy health insurance policies or face stiff tax penalties without adequate constraints on what insurers can charge for coverage, the bill looks more like a health insurer holiday present than a consumer protection bill."

The Senate bill's additional requirements of transparency--for instance, on the costs for common treatments, use of simple language in insurance documents, studies on coverage denials by insurers, and disclosures of insurer claims and payment practices--are beneficial. They will certainly lead to greater public awareness. But regulators must also respond by using the information to improve the system, said Consumer Watchdog.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Worst Scandal of 2009: Big Money in Politics

/PRNewswire/ -- The following is being released by Common Cause and Public Campaign:

What was the biggest scandal of 2009?

Blagojevich trying to sell a Senate seat? Senators, governors, and their mistresses? Allegations that lobbyists were lining up defense earmarks in exchange for straw donations?

No, the biggest scandal of 2009 was that the entire pay-to-play system that dominates Washington and occupies Congress' time and attention sidetracked bold policies.

One year after President Obama was swept into office on a ticket of change, a wall of big money from the health interests, banks, and Big Oil thwarted, slowed, or deep-sixed legislation in Washington. Special interests were on track to spend $3.3 billion to shape policy outcomes, according to a recent story in Politico. Despite the voters' mandate for change, the underlying problem of Washington - what author and Washington Post reporter Robert Kaiser calls "too damn much money" - remained unaltered and in many ways, more powerful than ever before.

The bottom line is that America will not see the significant change that a majority of people are demanding until we change the way we pay for political campaigns by getting special interests out of the business of paying for our elections.

"Yes we can" has been blocked by "no you don't."

Here are some facts to consider:

-- The health care debate is a perfect example of all that is wrong.
Everyone agrees health care must be made more affordable, and that
more people need coverage. But with the health care industry spending
more than $1 million a day this year to lobby for their bottom line,
and contributing more than $200 million to candidates for Congress in
the 2008 election cycle and first nine months of 2009, it's not a
surprise that reform proposals were watered down.
-- At the beginning of December, the U.S. House passed legislation to
reform the financial regulatory industry. The vote came fifteen months
after the collapse of the financial sector and the $700 billion
bailout of Wall Street banks. Reform of Wall Street shouldn't have
been so hard -- these firms exploited a weak regulatory regime to
wreak havoc on our economy -- but throughout 2009, financial, real
estate, and insurance interests poured $85 million in campaign
contributions into Washington, D.C. They succeeded at watering down
sections of the House bill, and have declared all out war on the
Senate bill.
-- As the climate change conference in Copenhagen comes to a close,
President Barack Obama's hands were tied not just by China and India's
unwillingness to negotiate far-reaching agreements. He was also hemmed
in by the politics of passing climate legislation through the U.S.
Senate - and the stranglehold that Big Oil and coal companies have
over our elected officials. The energy sector has contributed more
than $4.5 million to Senators just this year - an off-election year.
Senators like Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) have declared that any action on
climate change in the Senate faces an uncertain future. Inhofe has
received more than $1.2 million in contributions from oil and gas
interests during his career.


The swamp of special interest money is rising in Washington and Congress needs a way out.

The Solution: The Fair Elections Now Act

One year later, it's become clear that change doesn't come simply with the election of a new president or new members of Congress. To dramatically change the way Washington works we need to change the way campaigns are financed in this country.

It's time for the Fair Elections Now Act (S. 752, H.R. 1826), legislation that would sever the ties between big money campaign contributors and members of Congress. With Fair Elections, candidates would be able to run a competitive race for congressional office with a blend of small dollar donations and limited public funds. Sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), this voluntary system would put people in office unencumbered by special interest influence. In addition to Rep. Larson, the House bill has the broad bipartisan and cross-caucus support of 124 members.

There have been a lot of political scandals and intrigue in Washington this year, but the worst of them all is the sordid impact of money in our political process. The scandal is what is legally permitted day in, day out, in Washington, D.C. It is time to change the system and pass the Fair Election Now Act.

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Comprehensive Immigration Reform introduced in Congress

Note: This is a press release, as are many of the things I add in here. Just 'cause it's here, doesn't mean I support it... agree with it... or like everything or anything... use this to blog, act, get involved...

24-7 - On December 15, 2009, Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) introduced the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act" (CIR ASAP) in the U.S. House of Representatives. In keeping with the Obama Administration's campaign promise to bring badly needed immigration law reform to the table early in its first term, the CIR ASAP proposes sweeping changes to the broken US immigration system that will help to protect the borders, protect US workers, unify families and legalize the status of millions of "undocumented" immigrants already in the US. Congress will likely move on the CIR ASAP very quickly, as the Act's name alone reflects Congress' recognition that change is needed urgently: CIR ASAP: "As Soon As Possible!"

Over the past 13 years since Congress passed the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act" (IIRIRA), a hastily passed and extremely damaging "immigration enforcement first" overhaul of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) little has been done to ameliorate its harsh effects. Families have been torn apart, employers have been forced to wait several years for specialty workers in short supply, including nurses, and millions of "undocumented immigrants" have been forced to remain in the US due to the dreaded "3 and 10 year bars" IIRIRA implemented, that effectively keep undocumented people in the US, for fear that if they leave, they will not be able to return for up to 10 years!

Although many politicians have noted the absurdity of the visa backlogs and notion that the US could somehow deport all 15 million or so "undocumented immigrants" in the US, few have risen to the occasion and introduced legislation for fear that they be labeled a supporter of "amnesty." "Amnesty" has been a politically unpopular word for many years as Conservative politicians throughout much of the U.S. have used "undocumented immigrants" as scapegoats for many of the nation's problems, including crime, budget deficits and high unemployment. The situation has gotten even worse over the last couple of years, as the economic crisis has forced even moderate politicians to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to the immigration debate in order to secure reelection.

With the commitment of the new administration and a Democratic majority in both houses, however, the stage is set for the sorely needed reforms the CIR ASAP will bring. CIR ASAP contains four main sections to address Border Security and Enforcement, Employment verification, Visa reforms and the Legalization of Undocumented Immigrants.

The Border Security provisions will create a security task force among Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies to thwart violence along the Mexican border and provide additional manpower, training and support for all Customs and Border Patrol agents throughout the US. The ports of entry to the US will be studied to identify security risks and necessary improvements and modernization to reduce threats to our national security, among other upgrades.

The CIR ASAP creates a comprehensive Employment Eligibility Verification System to replace the obsolete patchwork system established in 1986, which will eventually become mandatory for all employers and their newly hired workers. This entirely computerized system will include enhanced penalties for employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers, while forbidding employers to discriminate against workers on the basis of nationality.

In the area of Visa Reforms, the bill will alleviate the extreme backlogs in the family and employment-based categories, allowing the "recapture" of previously unused visa numbers from 1992-2008 and allowing such unused future numbers to be "roll over" to the following year. Beneficiaries of employment-based petitions (I-140) will be issued work authorization while waiting for their priority date, instead of being ineligible to work regardless of their employer's needs under the current system. US educated foreign nationals in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields will be exempted from the skilled worker visa quota altogether and Nursing occupations, which are pre-certified as "Shortage Occupations" by the US Department of Labor, will be exempt from the current numerical quotas the current system inexplicably includes them in, despite their "Shortage Occupation" status.

The Visa Reforms will also create a special "Prevent Unauthorized Migration" (PUM) Visa for citizens of currently oversubscribed countries facing the longest backlogs, which could include the Philippines and Mexico. The law will allow issuance of 100,000 PUM visas annually, to selected individuals present in the US with college degrees and no other means to immigrate. After three years in PUM status, such individuals may apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR) status in the US.

Perhaps the most urgently needed, and most controversial, of the bills proposals is the program to Legalize Undocumented Immigrants. The CIR ASAP will allow qualified applicants to obtain conditional immigrant status for a period of 6 years, after which they may obtain permanent resident or green card status. To be qualified, an applicant must establish that he or she was illegally in the US prior to December 15, 2009; has made contributions to the US through employment, education, military or other volunteer and community service; and pay an application fee plus a fine of $500.00. Criminals, including any felon or person with three or more misdemeanors, will be permanently ineligible.

The Bill will also make the long-awaited Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act "DREAM Act" law. The new version of the DREAM Act will allow people who were brought to the US while under the age of 16 to apply for legalization in the US in accordance with the general legalization rules. The DREAM Act provision, however, will allow for speedier LPR status for these applicants upon their graduation from High School, completion of two-years of college, military service, or employment. These applicants will become eligible for Naturalization in the US three years from the date they acquire their LPR status, as opposed to the usual 5-year wait.

While the CIR ASAP presents many laudable and necessary reform provisions, there is a long and hard-fought battle ahead as the US Congress undertakes debate over the bill early next year. Before CIR ASAP becomes law, it must pass in the House, pass in the Senate and be signed into law by the President. As for now, undocumented immigrants and students in the United States who feared that attending college in the US was an impossibility should remain hopeful.A chance to work in the US, attend college at one of this nation's fine institutions and live the American dream may be just around the corner.

Article provided by Hanlon Law Group, P.C.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Michael Jackson Investigative Files Released

In response to Freedom of Information Act requests, the Bureau has released its investigative files on the late entertainer Michael Jackson, who died earlier this year.

The records total 333 pages, divided into seven files. They detail the FBI’s investigation of a man who threatened to kill Jackson, as well as various forms of assistance to California authorities in two cases involving allegations that Jackson had abused children. It should be emphasized that none of these allegations were ever proven in court.

The files are available on the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy website, but here is a quick rundown of what they contain.

The first file—9A-LA-142276—was opened by the Los Angeles FBI office when it was asked to lead a federal case against a California man already under arrest for sending numerous threatening letters. The man—who falsely claimed to be the son of mobster John Gotti—had staked out Jackson's house and threatened to kill him, the U.S. president, and others. He was ruled incompetent to stand trial and sent to prison for two years.

The second and third files—62D-LA-162715 and 62D-LO-11779—involve the Bureau’s support of local law enforcement. In 1993, the Los Angeles and the Santa Barbara Police departments formed a task force to investigate an allegation that Jackson had molested a young boy. FBI field divisions in Los Angeles and New York—as well as Bureau overseas offices in Manila and London—provided assistance in that case. Investigators gathered public records on Jackson, interviewed a potential witness, and followed various other leads. The FBI assisted Los Angeles Police Department detectives who traveled to the Philippines to interview possible witnesses and shared news reports from London about a potential victim. The U.S. Attorney declined to pursue a federal investigation, including a possible violation of the Mann Act (transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes), and no charges were filed by the state.

The fourth file—95A-HQ-1148159—concerns a 1995 request by a U.S. Customs agent in Florida that the Bureau examine a VHS videotape connected with Jackson to see if it contained child pornography. Forensic specialists discovered that the tape was a “poor quality third or fourth generation recording” and informed the Customs Service of their findings.

In 2003, Jackson was charged by the state of California with molestation and other counts. The final three files—62D-LA-236081, 252B-IR-6808, and 305B-LA-239205—detail the Bureau’s support to local law enforcement during the ensuing investigation. The first of these files describes an FBI response to a Los Angeles Police Department request to analyze computers and digital media obtained from Jackson's home under court warrant. The second involves a request by the Santa Barbara County District Attorney for help and guidance from behavioral analysts in the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group. In the last of the three files, an FBI agent from Los Angeles traveled to New York to interview a potential witness. The agent found this individual unwilling to cooperate and closed the matter. The case went to court in 2005, and Jackson was acquitted of all charges.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Group Offering 'Hypocrisy Offsets' to Carbon-Spewing Climate Conference Attendees

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Center for Public Policy Research is showcasing the hypocrisy of the carbon-emitting travels of global warming activists at COP-15 in Copenhagen by offering conscience-clearing "hypocrisy offsets" to attendees.

The hypocrisy offsets parody carbon offsets sold and traded allegedly to allow people to live carbon-neutral lives. The hypocrisy offsets also highlight the insincerity of world-traveling, energy-guzzling COP-15 delegates.

"Many of those in attendance to press for additional commitments for carbon reductions traveled thousands of miles and used substantial amounts of carbon-emitting jet-fuel just to get to the conference," said David Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "We are exposing the hypocrisy by offering them 'hypocrisy offsets' to alleviate their green guilt. As one who is skeptical of the necessity of draconian carbon cuts, I plan to do my part to ensure plenty of hypocrisy offsets are available. I'll refrain from reducing my own personal carbon footprint."

"Environmentalists are in Copenhagen demanding global limits on emissions, but they don't want to follow the very rules they are proposing for the rest of the world," said Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "Their participation may earn them some media coverage, but it is having no effect on an agreement. In fact, the United Nations mostly banned them from even entering the conference, so their voluntary contribution to carbon emissions -- emissions they insist imperil the planet -- from this unnecessary travel is a stunning act of hypocrisy. Because we know they must be feeling very guilty about what they've done, and in most cases intend to continue doing indefinitely, we invented hypocrisy offsets as a humanitarian act."

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Reid Bill and What We Know: Higher Taxes and Less Capital - Higher Health Costs and Red Tape for Small Business

/PRNewswire/ -- A leading advocacy group for small businesses said that the secrecy and manipulation that has come to define health care reform in the Senate is not only fueling widespread opposition to the legislation, but also undermines the confidence that is desperately needed to get the economy back on a solid growth track.

According to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council), what is already known about the bill will be harmful to small business, job creation and the health care system. What we don't know could prove to be more harmful to the economy, as the covert approach to legislation being crafted creates more uncertainty and public distrust. This, in turn, is making business owners more nervous about the disconnect Democrat leaders continue to flaunt in the face of U.S. fiscal and economic conditions that are rather perilous.

"Business owners can't afford any new burdens imposed on them by Washington. Yet, and in stunning fashion, the Democratic leadership continues to push legislation that will take more capital and resources away from small firms. Entrepreneurs can't create jobs when Congress is planning to take more of their capital, and they certainly can't afford the higher health premiums and new business costs that will result from the Reid bill. Moreover, they are waiting for the other shoe to drop regarding the secret measures that Senator Reid refuses to make public. We are flabbergasted that members of the Senate are actually announcing support for a bill when they have not seen its details," said SBE Council President & CEO Karen Kerrigan.

This failure in leadership is appalling, according to Kerrigan. Business owners and the American people are watching the political circus in disbelief. The overwhelming majority wants reforms that bring down the cost of health insurance and improves the quality of the system, but they see a massive tax and spending bill that will make their own personal situation much worse.

"Legislation that revamps one-sixth of the economy should not be secretly designed by a small band of partisans who are merely trying to get to sixty votes," said Kerrigan. It is no surprise, she added, that public support for the health care bill is tanking.

SBE Council has urged the Senate to start the legislative process over, and include small business reforms within the core bill. The group has long advocated a national marketplace for health care, robust tax incentives for businesses and individuals, the expansion of health savings accounts, tax parity for the self-employed, medical liability reform as well as support for local and state programs that are helping to deliver health care and insurance to those who lack access. Such market reforms and tax incentives will do far more to cover the uninsured -- and at far less cost to taxpayers -- than the $2.5 trillion Reid bill, according to SBE Council.

SBE Council is a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting small business and promoting entrepreneurship. For more information, please visit www.sbecouncil.org.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nations Capping Carbon Emissions Mocked as 'Suckers' at Climate Change Conference... With Suckers

/PRNewswire/ -- Hundreds of candy suckers are being distributed at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark today to mock nations that are imposing harsh limits on their carbon emissions at great economic cost for little or no environmental benefit. The group distributing them is the Washington, DC-based free market National Center for Public Policy Research.

The suckers bear the caption "Sucker for CO2 Limits."

"They say a sucker is born every minute, and looking around here, I'd have to say they're right," said David A. Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. "In the midst of the worst global economic downturn in decades, delegates are actually pressing for additional commitments for carbon reductions that would sap economic strength further."

The National Center contends that efforts to reduce emissions have not only proven expensive, but ineffective in reducing emissions.

"Despite spending many billions on their climate programs, Europe's emissions steadily rose until the global recession hit. In fact, they grew by 1.6% between 2003 and 2006 while the U.S.'s grew by just .6% during the same period," said Ridenour, who is leading the group's delegation to the conference. "Making matters worse is that the scientific house of cards upon which these climate policies were built seems to be collapsing following revelations that some key scientists were cooking the books."

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Make Wall Street Washington's partner

By Armstrong Williams

If President Barack Obama truly wants America's financial community to help accelerate the recovery, he should stop publicly blaming it for the recession and unemployment.

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-a-budget/72331-make-wall-street-washingtons-partner

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Senate Democrats Face Moment of Truth on Obama Tax Pledge

/PRNewswire/ -- The Senate will vote today on an amendment which would send the healthcare bill back to the Finance Committee to strip out its numerous tax hikes on families making less than $250,000 per year. The vote sets up a showdown for Senate Democrats as President Barack Obama has made a "firm pledge" not to raise "any form" of taxes on these families. The amendment was offered by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

"A vote in favor of this amendment would allow Obama to keep his tax pledge. Any Senator who votes against this amendment believes that Obama knowingly lied his way into office," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR).

Obama's promise remains for all to see at the Change.gov website: "no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase."

But the Senate healthcare bill is loaded with taxes that would break Obama's pledge if signed into law:

Health Insurance Mandate Taxes on Working Families

Individual Mandate Tax (Page 324/Sec.
1501/$8 bil): Starting in 2014, anyone
not buying "qualifying" health insurance
must pay an income surtax according to
the following schedule (capped at 8
percent of income):
Single Single +1 Single +2<

2014 $95 $190 $285
2015 $350 $700 $1050
2016 etc. $750 $1500 $2250

Exemptions for religious objectors,
undocumented immigrants, prisoners,
those earning less than the poverty
line, members of Indian tribes, and
hardship cases (determined by HHS).

Employer Mandate Tax(Page 348/Sec. 1513/$28 bil): If an employer does not offer health coverage, and at least one employee qualifies for a health tax credit, the employer must pay an additional non-deductible tax of $750 for all full-time employees. Applies to all employers with 50 or more employees.

If the employer requires a waiting period to enroll in coverage of 30-60 days, there is a $400 tax per employee ($600 if the period is 60 days or longer).

Small business owners pay their taxes on their owners' personal tax returns. Since this provision does not exempt business owners making less than $250,000 per year, this employer mandate tax will violate President Obama's promise in some cases.

Tax Hikes on Healthcare Spending Accounts

Medicine Cabinet Tax (Page 1997/Sec. 9003/$5 bil): No longer allowable to use health savings account (HSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement (HRA) pre-tax dollars to purchase non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin).

HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike(Page 1998/Sec. 9004/$1.3 bil): Increases additional tax on non-medical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10 to 20 percent, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10 percent.

FSA Cap(Page 1999/Sec. 9005/$14.6 bil): Imposes cap on FSAs of $2500 (now unlimited).

Tax Hikes on Medical Spending for Those Making Less Than $250,000

Raise "Haircut" for Medical Itemized Deduction from 7.5% to 10% of AGI(Page 2034/Sec. 9013/$15.2 bil): Waived for 65+ taxpayers in 2013-2016 only.

Tax on Cosmetic Medical Procedures (Page 2045/Sec. 9017/$5.8 bil): New 5% excise tax on elective cosmetic surgery to be paid by the surgery patient.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Hurry! We Have to Save the Planet Now! Oh, We Can Wait for a Few Years

All the chatter about how we have to cut greenhouse gas emissions today is about to be put on hold for at least six years at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Guess the world isn't quite ready for the "gotta make a decision this instant"....


Copenhagen stalls decision on catastrophic climate change for six years

The key decision on preventing catastrophic climate change will be delayed for up to six years if the Copenhagen summit delivers a compromise deal which ignores advice from the UN’s science body.

World leaders will not agree on the emissions cuts recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and are likely instead to commit to reviewing them in 2015 or 2016.....http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/copenhagen/article6955237.ece

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Supplemental Notification of Authors and Publishers About Google Book Search Settlement Begins Today

/PRNewswire/ -- Distribution of the Supplemental Notice in the Google Book Search Settlement is now taking place. The Supplemental Notice summarizes the principal changes from the Original Settlement to the Amended Settlement. The Court overseeing the case preliminarily approved the Amended Settlement, and approved the Supplemental Notice, on November 19, 2009.

Please visit http://www.googlebooksettlement.com/ for detailed information, including the Supplemental Notice and revised key dates. The website is available in 36 languages.

The Court will hold a hearing on whether to grant final approval of the Amended Settlement on February 18, 2010.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Tell Him to Keep His Change

"Don't look now but here they come...."

"Tell him to keep his change..."

Tap your toes and sing along-- after all, it's Friday! Just love this song.....




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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tea Party Nation to Host National Tea Party Convention

/PRNewswire/ -- Tea Party Nation is pleased to announce the First National Tea Party Convention. The convention is aimed at bringing Tea Party representatives together from around the nation for the purpose of networking and supporting the movements' principle goals.

Sarah Palin, Governor of Alaska (2006-2009) and the 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee will be the guest of honor and keynote speaker.

Rep. Michele Bachmann will be a breakfast speaker at the convention. Also speaking at the convention are Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore.

Other participants include: Phil Valentine (Nationally Syndicated Conservative Talk Radio Host), Bruce Donnelly (President, SurgeUSA), Ana Puig, Dr. B. Leland Baker (author of Tea Party Revival), Mark Skoda (The Memphis Tea Party), Keli Carender (aka Liberty Belle), Dr. Rick Scarborough (author of "Enough is Enough"), Lori Christenson (The Evergreen Conifer Tea Party), David DeGerolamo (NC Freedom Tea Party), Walter Fitzgerald (Tea Party Nation - Emergency Preparedness), The Leadership Institute, Judicial Watch, SurgeUSA, FAIR, National Taxpayers Union, American Majority, Smart Girl Politics

Topics to be covered:

How to Defeat Liberalism via the 2010 Elections (Panel Discussion with Q&A)

Where Does the Tea Party Movement Go From Here? (Panel Discussion with Q&A)

Correlations Between the Current Administration and Marxist Dictators of Latin America and How to Stop it

Grassroots on the Ground

Using New Media for Conservative Activism

How to Do Voter Registration Drives and Where to Find Conservative Voters

Women in Politics

Fundraising

How to become a Precinct Committee Chairperson

Collaboration in the Cloud-Applied Technology in the TEA Party Movement

How to Unite State Tea Party Groups

How to Organize a Tea Party Group

Emergency Preparedness

How to stop Illegal Immigration Legislation

*topics subject to change

Website: www.nationalteapartyconvention.com


About Tea Party Nation (www.teapartynation.com):


Last February, Judson Phillips organized a tea party in downtown Nashville, TN for a crowd of 600. On April 15, he joined forces with other tea party organizers across the nation and held a second Tea Party in downtown Nashville, drawing a crowd of 10,000. He founded Tea Party Nation that April hoping to be a connecting thread between conservatives and those involved in the Tea Party movement.

Since that time, Tea Party Nation has grown and continues to grow into a force to be reckoned with in the 2010 and 2012 elections. Tea Party Nation is a user-driven group of like-minded people who desire our God-given individual freedoms written by our founding fathers. We believe in limited government, free speech, the Second Amendment, our military, secure borders and our country. We are doing together what we could not do alone, to preserve that which we value.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

FAIR's New Report Takes Administration to Task

/PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) released a first of its kind, comprehensive report detailing the numerous areas where the Obama administration has deliberately weakened the ability of the United States to enforce its immigration laws.

The Road to Amnesty provides an in-depth examination of the Obama administration's record on immigration policy and enforcement during its first year in office. Refuting Secretary Napolitano's claims of more a pragmatic approach to immigration enforcement, The Road to Amnesty shows that effective enforcement strategies have been systematically dismantled. Instead the administration has vigorously pursued its political goal of a mass illegal alien amnesty.

Among the key findings of The Road to Amnesty are:
-- Effective worksite enforcement - including the removal of illegal
workers and prosecution of employers - has been gutted. This strategy
has been replaced by paperwork audits that result in minor penalties
or inconveniences to employers, while illegal workers are allowed to
remain in the country.
-- The effective federal/local immigration enforcement program known as
287(g) has been limited to the removal of dangerous criminal illegal
aliens.
-- Implementation of E-Verify protections for American workers was
repeatedly delayed, despite soaring unemployment. The administration
refused to back a permanent extension of the program.
-- The administration undermined the REAL ID Act, which would make
American identity documents more secure, and is aggressively
advocating that Congress replace it with the much weaker PASS ID bill.
REAL ID enacted the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.


"After nearly a year in office, it is clear that enforcement of U.S. immigration laws is not a goal of the Obama administration," said Dan Stein, president of FAIR. "On the contrary, their actions are all geared toward building pressure for a mass illegal alien amnesty program.

"The administration has pursued its amnesty agenda at great harm to American workers and great expense to American taxpayers," Stein continued. "At a time of skyrocketing unemployment and huge government deficits at all levels, the administration has consistently placed the interests of illegal aliens and their advocates ahead of those of the American people.

"Based on its record so far, there is little reason for the American people to have any confidence that promises of future enforcement in exchange for mass amnesty would be fulfilled, as the administration promotes its version of an immigration overhaul in 2010," concluded Stein.

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No Cap and Trade to Pass? Not to Worry, EPA will Regulate

Now if this doesn't just make you feel warm and cuddly all over, then I just don't know what will. It would appear that the White House will have its cap and trade, either by legislation or by the strong arms of the EPA. Interesting.

Control' Regulation Over Emissions
FOXNews.com
The Obama administration is warning Congress that if it doesn't move to regulate greenhouse gases, the Environmental Protection Agency will take a "command-and-control" role over the process in way that could hurt business.....http://ow.ly/167Q8N

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Black Activists Condemn Senate Leader Harry Reid Playing the Race Card in Health Care Debate

/PRNewswire/ -- Race-related comments by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are offensive and historically inaccurate, says the Project 21 black leadership group.

"Harry Reid has resorted to the most shopworn trick in the liberal playbook. He deployed the race card in the ugliest way while debating health care reform," said Deroy Murdock, a Project 21 member and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. "It is astonishing and outrageous to equate those who seek the defeat of Reid's 2,074-page, $2.5 trillion legislative monstrosity with those who were happy to keep blacks in chains, unpaid for their back-breaking labor and traded back and forth like cattle. The fact that Reid would use such deplorable, insulting and insensitive rhetoric indicates that he is out of credible arguments to defend his own proposal."

Murdock added: "The Senate's top Democrat owes an immediate apology to Republicans on Capitol Hill, the 39 House Democrats who voted against Obamacare on November 7 and the 51 percent of Americans from coast to coast who a Rasmussen survey recently found are against Obamacare. If Reid believes these Americans who object to his high-cost, low-quality legislation also hold warm feelings for slavery, he is further removed from reality than anyone so far has feared. If he does not believe this, he should stop cynically firing rhetorical mortar shells at decent Americans who merely disagree with his spendthrift, Big Government approach to health care."

Reid's comments are historically inaccurate, as his own Democratic Party stood in the way of slavery abolition and civil rights legislation in the past.

"Why is history so confusing to Harry Reid?," asked Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie. "Six of the nine original planks of the Republican Party at its inception in 1856 were based on opposition to slavery and promoting civil rights. Did Reid also forget what party Lyndon Johnson worked with to get the Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only passed but to even get it through committee and onto the floor for a vote? One of the Democratic opponents - Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), a former Klansman - is still serving today and is third in the presidential line of succession as the President pro tem. Reid's daring to brand opponents as racist is indicative of how far liberals are willing to go in order to control Americans from the cradle to the grave."

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

In Fayette County? Rumors of Strange Sightings?

Gotta tell ya that this caught my eye. I know the area of Lee's Mill Rd and I even know some fine people who live on that road. Lee's Mill Rd has a bunch of homes along its route, and there are even more trees and woods along it than homes. Bigfoot sighting? In Fayette County? Gee, I guess I must have missed that one. Interesting, but then I've always loved a good mystery......

On the Trail of the Georgia Bigfoot...Latest Sighting-Fayette County


The Georgia Bigfoot, other than being the title of my next book, is also an ongoing mystery in the Peach State. With sightings dating back to the early 1800s in Georgia, and ranging from the mountains to the coast, there is much to be said for the possible existence of the elusive creature in Georgia....http://georgiamysteries.blogspot.com/2009/12/on-trail-of-georgia-bigfootlatest.html


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Friday, December 4, 2009

Rep. Nadler, 9-11 Widows, Distinguished Military Leader Take Stand Supporting Federal Trials in NYC

/PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Brigadier General (ret.) James P. Cullen and four 9/11 widows who were largely responsible for the establishment of the 9/11 Commission that examined the tragic events of that day say efforts to block federal trials for the men accused of plotting the attacks threaten national security and delay justice for thousands of victims' family members in New York and across the nation. The group will hold a conference call on Friday, Dec. 4 at 1 p.m. to discuss their concerns and urge that the facts be put before fear-mongering as the trials approach.

This conference call comes just one day before the 9/11 Never Forget Coalition plans to gather at the federal court house, a site that is within Rep. Nadler's New York City district, to protest the trials. Participants on the call say that coalition, which has close ties to Liz Cheney's Keep America Safe organization and was joined by ultra-conservative "Tea Baggers" during a press conference last week, does not speak for all elected officials, national security experts or 9/11 victims' family members - many of whom support Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to hold suspected 9/11 terrorists accountable in federal courts. They note that federal courts are the only venue that has successfully tried such cases and that bringing these common criminals before military commissions threatens soldiers overseas who face an enemy that uses "special courts" as a recruiting tool.

WHAT: Congressman, Retired General, 9/11 Widows Support Federal Trials in NYC

Say fear-mongering tactics threaten national security, justice for suspected terrorists

WHEN: Friday, December 4 at 1 p.m. EST

WHO: U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Brigadier General (ret.) James P. Cullen
Lorie Van Auken, 9/11 Widow
Monica Gabrielle, 9/11 Widow

CALL INFO: 800-894-5910; Code: Human Rights First

ABOUT THE PARTICIPANTS:


U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler represents New York's Eighth Congressional district. The Eighth, one of the most diverse districts in the nation, includes Manhattan's West Side below 89th Street, Lower Manhattan, and areas of Brooklyn including Borough Park, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Sea Gate, Bay Ridge, and Bensonhurst. Congressman Nadler was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 after serving for 16 years in the New York State Assembly. He was re-elected to his seventh full term in 2004 with a resounding 80 percent of the vote. Throughout his career he has championed civil rights, civil liberties, efficient transportation, and a host of progressive issues such as access to health care, support for the arts and protection of the Social Security system. He is considered an unapologetic defender of those who might otherwise be forgotten by American law or the economy, and is respected specifically for his creative and pragmatic legislative approaches. Rep. Nadler is an Assistant Whip and a senior member of both the House Judiciary Committee and the House Transportation Committee.

Brigadier General (ret.) James P. Cullen is a retired Brigadier General in the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General's Corps and last served as the Chief Judge (IMA) of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals. He currently practices law in New York City. Cullen was among the military leaders who stood with President Obama in the Oval Office as he signed Executive Orders ending the use of torture and ordering the closure of the Guantanamo detention facility and joined dozens of military leaders urging Congress to stay the course toward closure of the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and to see past the fear-mongering tactics designed to delay the Administration's efforts to close the facility and bring those held there to justice.

Lorie Van Auken knows first-hand why the federal trials in New York City are important to 9/11 widows. Van Auken, the mother of two, lost her husband Kenneth Van Auken in the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Lorie is one of the "Jersey Girls" who, along with Kristen Breitweiser, Mindy Kleinberg, and Patty Casazza, advocated for a commission to investigate the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Monica Gabrielle is a 9/11 widow who fought for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center. She was also an advocate for the commission to investigate the September 11 terrorist attacks.

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Legion to Support WWII Veteran's Fight for Flagpole

/PRNewswire/ -- The American Legion has joined the fight being waged by a Medal of Honor recipient against a Virginia homeowner association's demands to remove a flagpole.

Col. Van Barfoot, 90, a World War II and Vietnam veteran, was ordered by the Sussex Square Homeowner's Association to remove the flag pole from his front lawn after he flew the U.S. Flag on Labor Day and Veterans Day. The association is claiming that the flag pole is not "aesthetically appropriate."

"The association underestimated the fight left in this elderly veteran and now they have to contend with the determination and persistence of Col. Barfoot's 2.5 million friends in The American Legion," said National Commander Clarence E. Hill. "Col. Barfoot has hired legal counsel. The American Legion is prepared to help with the expenses and fight these disgraceful actions by the association. Where is the common sense here? Is this anyway to treat any American, much less a true hero like Col. Barfoot?"

Fighting for the flag is not new to The American Legion, the nation's leading authority on flag etiquette. Since 1989, The Legion has been fighting for a constitutional amendment that would grant Congress the authority to protect Old Glory from desecration.

"The flag is a symbol of our country," Hill said. "People should fly it proudly. That's all Col. Barfoot wants to do. If he were desecrating the flag, instead, the association couldn't do a thing to stop him. We proudly stand with Col. Barfoot and say 'enough already!' Let him keep the flagpole and fly the flag as often as he wants. He certainly earned that right."

"What the association is doing is especially disgraceful given the fact that our president has ordered another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in defense of our freedom," added Joseph Caouette, The American Legion's Chairman of Americanism. "I wonder what they think of all of this."

With a current membership of 2.5-million wartime veterans, The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Federal Insurance Office Proposal, Allowing Treasury to Preempt State Insurance Laws, Sullies House Financial Reform Package

/PRNewswire/ -- Legislation to undermine state insurance protections, including laws requiring insurers to hold enough money to pay all claims, passed the U.S. House Financial Services Committee today. Insurance deregulation should not be part of a financial re-regulation package, said the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, who called on members of Congress to reject preemption of state insurance laws when financial reform legislation reaches the House floor.

"A plan to roll back oversight of the insurance industry does not belong in the financial re-regulation package," said Carmen Balber, Washington Director for Consumer Watchdog.

The bill, H.R. 2609 (Kanjorski, D-PA), would undermine state insurance protections by empowering a new Federal Insurance Office in the Treasury Department to preempt state capital, solvency, and other prudential measures on behalf of foreign insurance firms. International agreements made by unelected federal officials would allow foreign regulators to set their own rules for companies selling insurance in the United States, said Consumer Watchdog.

"This bill is part of the insurance industry's ongoing push to deregulate insurance by limiting state regulators' authority and is sure to weaken consumer protection. It is a real disappointment that Congress would move to weaken state insurance oversight when the failures of bank deregulation are all too obvious to every American who lost a job, home or business in the financial meltdown and its economic aftermath," said Balber.

Legislation creating a Consumer Financial Protection Agency to improve oversight of consumer financial products, approved by the Financial Services committee in October, similarly allows for preemption of some state banking consumer protection laws.

"Members of Congress should stand strong against any efforts to weaken state protections through federal preemption as the financial reform package comes to the House floor next week," said Balber.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Douglass Descendants Declare War on Human Trafficking - Modern-Day Slavery

/PRNewswire/ -- "Slavery exists today and it is time to educate ourselves about the brutal exploitation people in our own communities are experiencing."

These are the words of Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., but they echo those of a famous ancestor who escaped slavery at age 20 and went on to become a defender of human rights and one of America's greatest leaders. The family of the great Abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, wants your help in ending all forms of modern-day slavery and human trafficking. "It's the world's second most profitable illegal industry, yet the buying and selling of people is a crime that's poorly understood, " says Mr. Morris, President of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation.

Students from middle schools and high schools across the country have been selected to help the foundation launch an awareness campaign beginning December 2nd. The campaign, being touted as the beginning of a new Abolitionist Movement, happens in concert with the United Nations' International Day for the Abolition of Slavery which commemorates a 1949 UN convention to end human trafficking and the exploitation of people everywhere in the world.

How can you help? On December 2nd, young people all over the USA will communicate the message of Abolition Day to friends, family and as many people as they can reach through the Internet and the media. Non-profit organizations and government agencies that deal with this issue will use December 2nd as a day to talk about the work they do. The foundation also asks:

-- Parents to learn: how their children could become victims of human
trafficking and discuss it openly with the entire family (go to
www.fdff.org/adproject for ideas),
-- Community and church leaders to host: open forums about human
trafficking,
-- Law Enforcement to visit: schools and create programs in which
students can participate.


The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation's Chairwomen, Nettie Washington Douglass, says that, "Women and children are most frequently the victims of these tragic crimes." Mrs. Douglass is the great great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass and she is the great granddaughter of Booker T. Washington. Mr. Morris is her eldest son.

The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation is a 501(c)(3) public charity. For more information about the Abolition Day project go to www.fdff.org/adproject. For information about the foundation contact Robert Benz at 702-523-4845 or email rbenz@fdff.org.

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