Monday, September 28, 2009

What To Do If Your Home Gets Flooded

(SPM Wire) What should you do if water starts seeping into your home or flooding your basement?

There are several steps to get you dry and prevent permanent water damage, according to Stephen Elliott, owner of StructureMedic, a restoration service organization specializing in water damage cleanup:

If water is in danger of reaching electrical outlets, and if it is safe to do so, make your way to the breaker outlet and shut off power.

Remove furniture and other important belongings to a higher, dryer space. The sooner the better to prevent permanent damage.

Drain excess water immediately. Get a few drain pumps that connect to a common hose to get rid of all unwanted water.

After eliminating excess water, dry flooring and carpeting. Get some fans running. Move carpeting to a dryer area and vacuum it to suck up most of the water.

Run a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels down to prevent molding. Don't let water sit in the dehumidifier.

Fight bacteria. Water that comes in from outside is likely to have yard chemicals in it which are poison, as well as animal waste. An anti-bactericide will be needed to fight unwanted bacteria.

If you need to call a professional, make sure they are certified in these areas by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, a nonprofit certifying body in the disaster restoration industry.

For more information on disaster restoration, visit

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Texas Leads Nation in Public School Bible Literacy Courses‏

Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, and South Carolina are runners-up

As the 2009-2010 school year begins, more than 350 schools in 43 states nationwide will be teaching courses on the Bible, according to new data from Bible Literacy Project. The organization publishes "The Bible and Its Influence," the only student textbook designed for public school courses on the Bible. Texas schools have adopted the course in large numbers this year -- more than 50 schools there are teaching the course this fall, in accordance with 2007 legislation mandating that school districts teach about the Bible in the 2009-2010 school year.

Texas is not the only state with widespread use of the groundbreaking textbook. "More than 10% of Georgia public high schools and more than 5% of public high schools in Alabama, Indiana, and South Carolina are using 'The Bible and Its Influence,'" said Chuck Stetson, Bible Literacy Project's Chairman of the Board.

The importance of academic study of the Bible was recently underscored by a "USA Today"
column, "Teach the Bible? Of Course," which argued that "Students who want to do serious study of Western civilization need to know the Bible. They need to know the Bible, even if they do not believe the Bible." In February, the United Kingdom's (atheist) Poet Laureate Andrew Motion called for public school education about the Bible, saying he had struggled to teach Milton's "Paradise Lost" to undergraduates because they had no concept of the fall of man.

John Keeling, a teacher in Whitehouse, Texas, agrees. "Biblical imagery, allusions, references and influences permeate the culture in which we live," Keeling said. "Not to know the basic stories and characters of the Bible is to be at a distant disadvantage when it comes tounderstanding the world around you." Keeling says using "The Bible and Its Influence" helped him respect the First Amendment and the religious viewpoints of his students when teaching about biblical texts in his classroom last year.

During this school year, Bible Literacy Project will be attending 18 conventions nationwide to reach school board members, English teachers and curriculum developers with information about the textbook.

Because only seven states remain in the organization's quest to be utilized in all 50 states,
Bible Literacy Project is offering a free class set of textbooks for the first public school in Delaware, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming ready to teach the course. "When one school implements the course, we quickly make contact with neighboring schools who want to try it too," said Stetson. "We welcome the opportunity to show these remaining states the strength of our program."

To further demonstrate the importance of Biblical literacy, Bible Literacy Project has unveiled a quiz at (
) revealing the impact of Biblical characters and narratives on everyday life.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The 2009 Fall Atlanta Home Show Opens Friday, Sept. 25 at the Cobb Galleria Centre

/PRNewswire/ -- The Fall Atlanta Home Show ( will open its doors to the public on Friday, Sept. 25 at 10 a.m. This annual event showcases the latest and most innovative home remodeling features, products and trends. In addition, homeowners can see new products demonstrated and meet the professionals who offer them. The 2009 Fall Atlanta Home Show will be open through Sunday, Sept. 25-27 at the Cobb Galleria Centre in northwest Atlanta.

The Atlanta Home Show's 2009 theme is "Make Your Home New Again" and the Show will feature exhibits from hundreds of local home improvement companies, along with seminars by well-known experts on a variety of home remodeling topics, as well as cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs. It is a SEMCO production, and sponsors and promotional partners include Viking, Atlanta Home Improvement Magazine, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation.

"Now, more than ever, families are looking for new, affordable home improvement ideas, as well as ways to make their homes more energy efficient. Whether you are beautifying your home for sale, updating your current home to serve the needs of a changing family, or making accommodations for an aging family member, the Atlanta Home Show offers innovative advice and products," said Show Director Michael Schoppenhorst of SEMCO Productions.

Speakers include Shane Tallant and Joe Washington of HGTV, popular Atlanta radio hosts Walter Reeves and Dave Baker and Georgia's only Next Food Network Star finalist Chef Hans Rueffert. A list of exhibitors, along with onsite live radio broadcasts and the daily speakers schedule can be found at

On Friday, September 25 ONLY, professionals who work in the real estate industry will receive free admission by showing their business cards at the door.

The Fall Atlanta Home Show will be open Friday-Sunday, Sept. 25-27, 2009. Hours are 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are available at the door, and are $10 for adults. Children 12 and under and adults 65 and older will be admitted for FREE. The Cobb Galleria Centre ( is located at Two Galleria Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30339. On-site parking is free.

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Candy and Fruit Flavored Cigarettes Now Illegal in United States; Step is First Under New Tobacco Law

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today a ban on cigarettes with flavors characterizing fruit, candy, or clove. The ban, authorized by the new Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, is part of a national effort by the FDA to reduce smoking in America. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in America.

The FDA's ban on candy and fruit-flavored cigarettes, effective today, highlights the importance of reducing the number of children who start to smoke, and who become addicted to dangerous tobacco products. The FDA is also examining options for regulating both menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco products other than cigarettes.

"Almost 90 percent of adult smokers start smoking as teenagers. These flavored cigarettes are a gateway for many children and young adults to become regular smokers," said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. "The FDA will utilize regulatory authority to reduce the burden of illness and death caused by tobacco products to enhance our Nation's public health."

Flavors make cigarettes and other tobacco products more appealing to youth. Studies have shown that 17 year old smokers are three times as likely to use flavored cigarettes as smokers over the age of 25.1

"Flavored cigarettes attract and allure kids into lifetime addiction," said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H. "FDA's ban on these cigarettes will break that cycle for the more than 3,600 young people who start smoking daily."

The FDA is taking several steps to enforce the ban. A letter recently sent to the tobacco industry provided information about the law, and explained that any company who continues to make, ship or sell such products may be subject to FDA enforcement actions.

The FDA has also made available today an advisory to parents on the risks associated with flavored tobacco products.

"Youth are twice as likely to report seeing advertising for these flavored products as adults are," said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a pediatrician and the FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner. "Marketing campaigns for products with sweet candy and fruit flavors can mislead young people into thinking that these products are less addictive and less harmful."

The FDA encourages consumers to report continuing sales of flavored cigarettes through a special tobacco hotline (1-877-CTP-1373) and Web site (

Parents and consumers can learn more about the risks of flavored tobacco products at .


1 Klein SM, Giovino GA, Barker DC, Tworek C, Cummings KM, O'Connor RJ. Use of flavored cigarettes among older adolescent and adult smokers: United States, 2004-2005. Nicotine Tob Res. 2008;10(7):1209-14.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Historic Lawsuit Seeks Larger Congress Under 'One-Person, One-Vote'

/PRNewswire/ -- A lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi today challenging the constitutionality of the current size of the United States House of Representatives. The lawsuit argues that the provision in the United States Code (2 USC section 2a) that freezes the size of the House at 435 members is unconstitutional, egregiously violating the well-established principle of "one person, one vote" affirmed in multiple Supreme Court decisions. At the state level, the implication of "one person, one vote" means that each state must ensure a population variance of less than 1% across all its federal congressional districts so that voter equality is strictly maintained. At the national level, however, this principle has not been applied, and the population variance between the most under-represented congressional district and most over-represented district exceeds 80%. Fortunately, the current disparity and resulting inequity can be remedied by simply adding more members to the House of Representatives.

The five plaintiffs in the case each represent the five most under-represented states and include: Lisa Schea from Delaware, John Tyler Clemons from Mississippi, Jessica Wagner from Montana, Krystal Brunner from South Dakota and Frank Mylar from Utah. Not only do these five plaintiffs suffer from unconstitutionally diminished voting power, but so do all other qualified and registered voters throughout these states. The five most over-represented states are: Iowa, Nebraska, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wyoming. "Our Constitution was crafted around the idea that all citizens deserve an equal voice in the decisions of their government," Clemons said. "If someone's vote in Iowa or Wyoming counts for more than mine, how is that equality?"

Apportionment.US, Inc. is the non-profit organization coordinating the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs. "The foundation of our constitutional form of government in America is defined by 'We the People,' which demands equal representation across our entire Republic," said Scott Scharpen, founder and president of Apportionment.US. He added, "Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent, working to achieve equal representation is the ultimate non-partisan, grassroots effort that is worthy of support from all Americans."

Despite the U.S. population more than tripling in the last 100 years (from less than 100 million to over 300 million people), the number of House representatives over the same time has remained identical at 435 members. Why has this inequity in voting rights and representation never been formally corrected or challenged? Scharpen answered, "It's not clear. While many scholars and political analysts have raised these important issues, this lawsuit is the first of its kind seeking to correct the inequity, which clearly violates the Framers' intent. We are committed to correcting the injustice perpetrated on the residents of these five states, but we are also working to ensure that both current and future generations of Americans across the land have a representative form of government that maintains structural equality for all."

If this lawsuit is successful, the court will require an increase in House membership to achieve appropriate voter equality across America, and bring about perhaps the most significant change in the federal government structure in nearly a century.

Counsel for the plaintiffs includes Michael Farris (Chancellor of Patrick Henry College in Virginia) and the local law firm of Wilson, Hinton & Wood in Corinth, Mississippi.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Comprehensive List of Tax Hikes in the Baucus Finance Committee Draft

/PRNewswire-/ -- Americans for Tax Reform today released its initial assessment of the healthcare plan outlined by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.):

Individual Mandate Tax. If you don't sign up for health insurance, you will have to pay a tax in the following range:

Single Family
100-300% FPL $750 $1500

300+% FPL $900 $3800

Employer Mandate Tax. $400 per employee if health coverage is not offered. Note: this is a huge incentive to drop coverage, as $400 is much less than the average plan cost of $11,000 for families or $5000 for singles (Source: AHIP)

Backdoor Death of HSAs. By requiring that all plans (besides the few that are grandfathered) provided first-dollar coverage for most services, there would be no HSA-qualifying plans available from the Massachusetts-like exchanges

Excise Tax on High-Cost Health Plans. New 35% excise tax on health insurance plans to the extent they exceed $21000 in cost ($8000 single)

Report Employer Health Spending on W-2. This is clearly a setup for the easy individual taxation of employer-provided health insurance down the road.

Cap Flex-Spending Account (FSA) Contributions at $2000. Currently unlimited.

Eliminate tax deduction for employer-provided retirement Rx drug coverage in coordination with Medicare Part D

Medicine Cabinet Tax. Americans would no longer be able to purchase over-the-counter medicines with their FSA, HSA, or HRA

Increase Non-Qualified HSA Distribution Penalty from 10% to 20%. This makes HSAs less attractive, and paves the way for HSA pre-verification

Corporate 1099-MISC Information Reporting. Currently, only non-corporations providing property or services for a business must be issued at 1099-MISC. This would expand the requirement to corporations doing business with other businesses. The amount of reporting needed for an average business would be huge. Paves the way for full information reporting to the IRS.

Various industry tax grabs based on market share. $2.3 billion: PhRMA; $6 billion: health insurance providers; $750 million: clinical labs; $4 billion: medical device manufacturers.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Emory Joins Other Leading Research Universities to Launch

A group of leading research universities has launched Futurity (, an online research channel covering the latest discoveries in science, engineering, the environment, health and more. Emory University is one of 35 partners supporting the project.

Futurity gives the public direct access to exciting research breakthroughs in a way that offers broad appeal, says Nancy Seideman, Emory’s executive director of media relations and associate vice president of communications.

“Futurity allows major research universities like Emory and its peers to build a bridge between the academic community and the public,” Seideman says. “It gives us a dynamic portal with clear writing and a lot of multimedia that communicates the cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research that is shaping our understanding of ourselves and our world.”

Futurity has featured a number of studies by Emory scientists in recent weeks, including a discovery by Emory paleontologist Anthony Martin of dinosaur burrows in Australia. His research was covered by numerous outlets including National Geographic.

Bill Murphy, one of Futurity’s cofounders and vice president for communications at the University of Rochester, says universities are affected by the challenges facing newspapers today. News holes are shrinking, he notes, and coverage of research-related stories has been hit particularly hard.

“In light of this shifting news landscape, universities are looking for ways to share important breakthroughs with the public. Futurity gives our partners an opportunity to communicate in a new and direct way—and to remind the public why research matters.”

Futurity cofounder Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University, says the site serves another vital role. It allows the public to see how federal, state and private funding are being put to use by universities to address critical challenges.

“It’s not often you see high-powered universities working together in such a collaborative way,” says Schoenfeld. “That fact alone indicates the project’s significance. Universities are the world’s laboratories. They host the brightest minds working to answer some of today’s most urgent questions. The breadth and caliber—and the collective force—of the research featured on Futurity is truly extraordinary.”

All of the stories on Futurity are edited to stir the imagination, says Murphy. “We want the stories to engage readers, to raise questions, and to make readers want to learn more—and to come back for more.”

Since launching a beta version in March, Futurity has continued to add membership and readership.

Lisa Lapin, assistant vice president for communications at Stanford University, says Futurity is looking for new ways to extend the site’s reach. “We’re active on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. We’re also in partnership talks with major Internet news providers. Today’s online environment is perfectly suited for this type of direct communication. There’s something very authentic about universities working together to share knowledge.”

Lapin says the site is designed to encourage interaction. Stories include links to published reports and supplemental materials that allow readers to explore topics in more detail. The site is available in a mobile friendly version, and visitors can comment on stories and sign up for a daily e-mail update.

Emory, like all the current partner universities, is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), a nonprofit organization of leading public and private research universities. Lapin says Futurity may revisit membership criteria down the road but needs to keep the numbers manageable while they fine-tune the approach.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Citizens Rising in Defense of the Constitution

/PRNewswire/ -- Citizens fed up with constitutional violations causing devastation to the economy and the Nation, are stepping up to join constitutional activist Robert L. Schulz, Chairman of We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education, to prepare for a modern-day Continental Congress to take place November 8-22, 2009 at the Pheasant Run Conference Center in St. Charles, Illinois. Continental Congress 2009 is not political or partisan and seeks to defend, not amend, the current Constitution.

Billed as the "next appropriate step for the free people of America," planners hope the historic national assembly will inspire the critical mass necessary to restore constitutional governance. 153 citizen-nominated-and-elected Delegates - three from each state and Washington, D.C. -- will convene for two weeks to methodically and factually document constitutional abuses which have taken place over many years, across many administrations, every branch of government and both parties. Delegates will consider specific non-violent, legal civic actions to stop the wrongs.

Citizens are invited to nominate delegates who have a "proven passion for the Constitution," by visiting . "Perhaps you know a great patriot who is a neighbor, a family member, or associate," says Schulz. Delegates will make their own way to Illinois, but room and board will be covered by donations.

Volunteers are busy securing polling places for Delegate Election Day, October 10, 2009. The election will be constitutionally valid using visible and transparent vote counting, an effort planners hope will eliminate the constitutionally invalid general electoral procedures currently in use. Where polling places are not available, a mail-in ballot process will be offered.

To help finance the historic event, volunteers are planning a "Walk Down Main Street" campaign to visit local merchants in hometowns. A .999 pure silver CC2009 commemorative round will be given for each donation of $100.00 or more. Planners are also seeking bigger donors they are calling the "patriotic, brave and wealthy" who "understand what Continental Congress can do for America."

The decision to convene CC2009 comes after fourteen years of filing Petitions for Redress with the federal government for repeated violations of the Constitution by We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education, a national 501 c3 non-profit with headquarters in New York. Schulz says The Right to petition was put in the First Amendment by the Founding Fathers, "who did not want Americans to ever again experience a situation where their individual rights or civil liberties were threatened." To date, this Right has never been recognized by the government nor defined in any court of law. Schulz says it must now be used to hold elected officials accountable to the rest of the Constitution "which will shift the power from the government back to The People where it belongs."

"Americans are waking up to the urgent need to stand strong for the Founding Principles and our Constitution, as every violation further devastates our economy and our way of life," says Schulz. "We all desire the same outcome: restoration of our Nation. Continental Congress 2009 is the only strategy we see that is not political or partisan, does not rely on the electoral process, and can bring peaceful and legal solutions to our current situation. We hope this effort can be the catalyst that brings the freedom-loving people of America together at this critical time," he concludes.

Readers can learn more about We The People by going to For specific information on CC2009, to nominate delegates or volunteer for polling places, go to

We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education * We The People Congress

2458 Ridge Road * Queensbury, NY 12804 * *

National non-political, non-partisan, not-for-profit organizations for The People

We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education is a 501c3 organization that educates The People about the Declaration of Independence, every provision of federal and state constitutions, the sovereignty of The People whose Will the constitutions are designed to express; and the government They are meant to control through their constitutions.

We The People Congress is a 501c4 sister organization of constitutional activists committed to "institutionalizing" citizen vigilance through civic education, monitoring of governments, and organizing grassroots programs of civic resistance to confront and repel tyranny.

Their collective Mission is to resurrect the long-forgotten the First Amendment "Capstone Right" found in the Bill of Rights, as an exercise of the People's natural Right to Sovereignty over their servant governments, believing it is the profound, peaceful and constitutional solution that will save the Republic and restore Constitutional Order in America.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Pass Go" on the Biggest Monopoly Game Board Ever --- the World Map!

Monopoly City Streets Utilizes Google Maps to Introduce a Limited-Time Online Game Allowing Players to “Buy” Real Streets

Have you ever wanted to own the entire street where you live? Aspiring MONOPOLY moguls can take over the globe with MONOPOLY CITY STREETS, a limited-time online free version of the world’s most popular board game that allows players to “buy” streets based on Google Maps, competing against participants all over the world.

The MONOPOLY CITY STREETS instant-play online platform brings MONOPOLY to life by letting competitors play with the actual streets that are special to them. including their very own neighborhood, town or city. Or, players can choose to set up their property empire in a city where they would like to own property.

It’s easy to get started -- players create a profile on and begin to acquire properties each day through purchases and trades. Each player starts the game with $3 million MONOPOLY dollars and earns rent based on streets and properties owned at the time competitors log into the game.

Each street in the world is available for purchase by only one player, increasing the opportunity for trading and interaction among players. Players can instantly set up houses, hotels, skyscrapers and other buildings quickly after acquiring streets to increase property values.

The online game is launching in celebration of the release of MONOPOLY CITY, a new board game where players build a 3-D city in the center of the game board.

For the first time since MONOPOLY was invented in 1935, game play has changed, removing the need to collect an entire property group before players can build structures on their properties, so a city can be built from the ground up from the first roll of the dice. Additionally, just like in real life, the value of property and players’ incomes can rise and fall. Players can build structures to increase property values, such as schools or eco-friendly wind farms, or they can sabotage opponents by building sewage plants or prisons on the competition’s property.

“The online experience for MONOPOLY CITY STREETS emphasizes the exciting dealing and negotiating elements of MONOPOLY,” said Sarah Hoskin, Senior Marketing Manager for U.S. Marketing at Hasbro Games. “Both MONOPOLY CITY STREETS and MONOPOLY CITY bring new creativity to MONOPOLY that goes beyond the traditional property streets, green houses and red hotels.”

MONOPOLY CITY STREETS launched online in English, French, Spanish, Dutch and German on September 9, 2009. MONOPOLY CITY will be available at mass retail stores nationwide in Fall for the approximate retail price of $34.99. The board game includes more than 80 3-D buildings, district property cards, MONOPOLY money, “Chance” and “Dodge Rent” cards, and a Trading unit that requires two AAA batteries.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

World of Coca-Cola Launches New “Cooking with Coke” Series

The World of Coca-Cola will host a new culinary series featuring celebrated chefs who will cook and share their signature recipes inspired by the world’s most loved beverage. This series of one-of-a-kind chef demonstrations and signature tasting events will celebrate the magic of sharing a Coke with friends and family over a meal.

Space is limited for these exclusive events in order to ensure a more intimate, conversational atmosphere. Please visit for complete details and to purchase tickets.

Chef Virginia Willis October 10th at 6 p.m.

An accomplished chef and author of the critically acclaimed cookbook Bon App├ętit, Y’all! Three Generations of Southern Cooking, Chef Willis will inspire you with her authentic, Southern-born recipes featuring Coca-Cola brands as ingredients. Gifted in both culinary techniques and the art of storytelling, Virginia is sure to uplift and entertain the audience throughout the evening.

Chef Richard Blais October 23th at 6 p.m.

Known for his creative, adventurous style, Chef Blais was recently a finalist on BRAVO’s “Top Chef”. He is certain to captivate the audience with his cutting edge techniques and innovative way of putting new twists on classic cuisine.

Paula Deen November 23rd at 5:30 p.m.

One of TV’s most beloved personalities, Paula is sure to entertain! Classic Southern home cooking, delivered with a dose of humor, will be on the menu for this memorable evening.

World of Coca-Cola
121 Baker St., NW
Atlanta, GA 30313

(Directions –

Pricing varies by event. Self-guided tour of the attraction is part of each culinary event and is included in the event ticket price. Tickets will be available for sale Monday, September 14th at 10 a.m. For complete details and to purchase tickets, please visit

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Family Research Council Action to Host National Townhall Webcast on Health Care Reform
"National Townhall on Health Care Reform"
Thursday, September 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET

/PRNewswire/ -- On Thursday, September 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET, FRC Action, the legislative lobbying arm of Family Research Council, will host a special one hour "National Townhall on Health Care Reform" Webcast. FRC Action President Tony Perkins will be joined by Congressional leaders and policy experts to discuss the moral, ethical, and financial dangers of President Obama's health care plan.

Webcast viewers will be able to:
* get their questions answered.
* dissect the dangers inherent in the President's proposed plan.
* and examine the life and death implications this will have for themselves and their loved ones

Who: Tony Perkins, President, FRC Action
Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC)
House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH)
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA)
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)
Ken Blackwell, former Ohio Secretary of State
Cathy Ruse, Senior Fellow for Legal Studies, Family Research Council
Bishop Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
Wesley J. Smith, renowned ethicist
Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel
Dr. David Prentice, Senior Fellow for Life Sciences, Family Research Council
Tom McClusky, Senior Vice President, FRC Action

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GM's Bankruptcy Provides Some Protection for Injured But Falls Short

/24-7/ -- On July 10, the new, largely government-owned GM emerged from bankruptcy, shedding billions of dollars in debt as well as 20,000 US jobs, 2400 dealerships, 14 plants and three brand names.

While much of the attention is on the sleeker company that promises to wisely use American tax-payer dollars and invest in cleaner, more environmentally-friendly vehicles, the stories of thousands of Americans injured by GM manufactured products remain untold. These people have been left behind in bankruptcy court, waiting to hear if they will receive anything from the old company's liquidated assets.

A Limit on the Company's Liability

Much like Chrysler before it, the approved GM bankruptcy plan includes a release from liability for any claims arising from GM-manufactured vehicles before the company emerged from bankruptcy. This means that the new GM cannot be held responsible in a court of law for any injuries caused by its products anytime before July 10.

However, unlike Chrysler, the new GM has accepted liability for any injuries caused by GM vehicles from July 10 onwards, whether the vehicle was manufactured by the old GM or the new GM. Conversely, in the Chrysler bankruptcy, the new Chrysler only accepted liability for defects in vehicles manufactured by the new Chrysler. Anyone with claims associated with vehicles produced by the old Chrysler will not be able to bring them against the new company, regardless of when the injury occurs.

Originally, GM pursued the same limit on liability as was granted to Chrysler. But after the public outrage against the automaker for escaping liability in addition to pressure from consumer advocacy groups, several state Attorneys General and private and public attorneys, GM eventually agreed to accept a greater range of liability than the other car company. However, the GM plan still falls far short of what American consumers not only deserve, but are owed.

Old Claims vs. New Claims

The difference between the attachment of liability for old and new claims has left many scratching their heads, wondering why the bankruptcy court is allowing car manufacturers to pick and choose which legal claims it will accept.

To understand the bizarre nature of this result, one need only consider a hypothetical car accident, wherein someone was harmed as the result of a defective roof design. If this accident occurred last year and the lawsuit was filed before the GM bankruptcy was finalized, the person has no viable recourse against GM. The legal liability would fall upon old GM, which has a long list of creditors and very limited assets.

If instead the exact same accident with an identical vehicle happened tomorrow, the injured person could pursue a legal claim against the new GM. From a pragmatic standpoint for an injured person, this outcome makes absolutely no sense. A person's ability to recover for injuries caused by a defective product should not depend on the point in time when the person is injured.

An Unjust Result for the Injured

This result seems even more absurd when the bankruptcy court had other options to ensure a fairer outcome for Americans injured by the car manufacturer's products. For example, the bankruptcy court could have set aside money from new GM's assets specifically for legitimate product liability claims by consumers. A similar type of victim's compensation fund was created by courts that handled bankruptcy matters for asbestos manufacturers. Although the fund may not have provided full compensation, it would have been better than the nothing victims now are receiving.

To prevent car manufacturers from skirting their financial and moral obligation to pay for injuries caused by their products, Congressman Andre Carson introduced the Jeremy Warriner Consumer Protection Act of 2009 in the House of Representatives at the end of June. If passed, the Act would require certain vehicle manufacturers to carry liability insurance to cover consumer claims. Accordingly, victims with legal claims that otherwise would have been invalidated by the companies' bankruptcies may be able to seek compensation.


Even though GM's bankruptcy provided more coverage for potential future victims of GM-produced vehicles than the Chrysler bankruptcy, the plan still falls far short of what the public deserves. A person's ability to recover for their injuries should not depend on whether they were injured one year ago or one year from today. The bankruptcy court has allowed GM to deny legal rights to consumers who trusted in the company.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Atlanta Braves and ARAMARK announce new gluten-free concession stand at Turner Field

The Atlanta Braves and ARAMARK, the exclusive food and beverage provider at Turner Field, have announced the opening of a dedicated gluten-free* concession stand for fans with Celiac Disease. The location opened Friday, Sept. 4, behind Section 106, and will feature all-beef franks, sirloin beef burgers, chicken sandwiches, chips, popcorn, brownies, cookies, soda, water and gluten-free RedBridge beer.

"In response to increasing requests for healthier and gluten-free options from fans, the Braves and ARARMARK are proud to unveil this new concessions option at Turner Field," said Ron Ranieri, ARAMARK General Manager at Turner Field. "The gluten-free stand is part of the Braves and ARAMARK's overall commitment to offer menu options that allow all fans, regardless of dietary restrictions, to enjoy the ultimate ballpark experience."

The Atlanta Braves is Major League Baseball's winningest franchise since 1991. During that time, Braves teams have earned 14 division championships, five National League pennants and a World Series title. Based in Atlanta since 1966, the Braves franchise is the longest continuously operating franchise in Major League Baseball. Atlanta Braves games are telecast on FS South, SportSouth, and Peachtree TV with radio broadcasts heard in Atlanta on 640 WGST, Project 9-6-1 (96.1 FM) and VIVA 105.7 and regionally on the Atlanta Braves Radio Network.

*Gluten is a protein particle found in wheat, barley, rye and all of their derivatives.

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Tornado Threat Increases as Gulf Hurricanes get Larger

Tornadoes that occur from hurricanes moving inland from the Gulf Coast are increasing in frequency, according to researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology. This increase seems to reflect the increase in size and frequency among large hurricanes that make landfall from the Gulf of Mexico. The findings can be found in Geophysical Research Letters online and in print in the September 3, 2009 issue.

“As the size of landfalling hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico increases, we’re seeing more tornadoes than we did in the past that can occur up to two days and several hundred miles inland from the landfall location,” said James Belanger, doctoral student in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech and lead author of the paper.

Currently, it’s well known that when hurricanes hit land, there’s a risk that tornadoes may form in the area. Until now, no one has quantified that risk because observations of tornadoes were too sporadic prior to the installation of the NEXRAD Doppler Radar Network in 1995. Belanger along with co-authors Judith Curry, professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Tech and research scientist Carlos Hoyos, decided to see if they could create a model using the more reliable tornado record that’s existed since 1995.

The model that they developed for hurricane-induced tornadoes uses four factors that serve as good predictors of tornado activity: size, intensity, track direction and whether there’s a strong gradient of moisture at midlevels in the storm's

“The size of a tropical cyclone basically sets the domain over which tornadoes can form. So a larger storm that has more exposure over land has a higher propensity for producing tornadoes than a smaller one, on average,” said Belanger.

The team looked at 127 tropical cyclones from 1948 up to the 2008 hurricane season and went further back to 1920 modifying their model to account for the type of data collected at that time. They found that since 1995 there has been a 35 percent percent increase in the size of tropical cyclones from the Gulf compared to the previous active period of storms from 1948-1964, which has lead to a doubling in the number of tornadoes produced per storm. The number of hurricane-induced tornadoes during the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons is unprecedented in the historical record since 1920, according to the model.

“The beauty of the model is that not only can we use it to reconstruct the observational record, but we can also use it as a forecasting tool,” said Belanger.

To test how well it predicted the number of tornadoes associated with a given hurricane, they input the intensity of the storm at landfall, it’s size, track and moisture at mid-levels, and were able to generate a forecast of how many tornadoes formed from the hurricane. They found that for Hurricane Ike in 2008, their model predicted exactly the number of tornadoes that occurred, 33. For Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the model predicted 56 tornadoes, and 58 were observed.

The team’s next steps are to take a look to see how hurricane size, not just intensity (as indicated by the Safir-Simpson scale), affects the damage experienced by residents.

“Storm surge, rain and flooding are all connected to the size of the storm,” said Curry. “Yet, size is an underappreciated factor associated with damage from hurricanes. So its important to develop a better understanding of what controls hurricane size and how size influences hurricane damage. The great damage in Galveston from Hurricane Ike in 2008 was inconsistent with Category 2 wind speeds at landfall, but it was the large size that caused the big storm surge that did most of the damage.”

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Counting Katydids on Broadway, Crickets in Central Park

In 1920, New York City native William Davis noticed that the constant whine of katydids that once filled the night air was gone. The katydid, Davis wrote in the Journal of the New York Entomological Society, "is either extinct or nearly so on Staten Island." At first, he suspected that smoke from factories had driven the katydids away. But then he noticed that the insects were also gone from the seashore and "about 50 miles of the most rural parts."

After stumbling across this 90-year-old paper, a katydid researcher has now decided to tackle the unsolved mystery of the vanishing insects by asking New Yorkers to help conduct a cricket census.

The Entomological Society, along with the United States Geological Survey and several other organizations are sponsoring "NYC Cricket Crawl" on the evening of Sept. 11. The researchers are inviting New Yorkers to go to "parklands, undeveloped and neglected areas" and to listen for one minute. These citizen researchers are then being asked to write down the location and a best guess of how many individuals of seven different species of katydids and crickets they hear.

The data should be immediately texted or emailed to the scientists.

While undeveloped areas are more likely to contain the insects, the researchers are looking for data from anywhere in the city. Instructions, counting sheets and other information are available at

By Jim Dawson
Inside Science News Service
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