Friday, August 28, 2009

Time for a Sound of Music break... this is so cool

Even if you don't care a thing for the Sound of Music you'll love this one. Take a break, enjoy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The American Legion Calls VA's so-Called Death Book an 'Awkward Attempt to Help'

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Commander of The American Legion says the so-called "death book" posted on the Department of Veterans Affairs website may be well-intentioned, but needs to be reconsidered.

"We share a mission with the VA to work always in the best interests of our military veterans, "said the Legion's National Commander, David K. Rehbein, "and we are certain that the Department of Veterans Affairs made this controversial publication available with the best of intentions.

"However," Rehbein continued, "elements of the booklet 'Your Life, Your Choices' - in our opinion - can be easily misconstrued and appear insensitive. Somewhat like the improperly vetted Department of Homeland Security report to which we objected strongly some months ago, the release of this publication demonstrates poor planning, no matter how well intentioned it was."

The controversial booklet, "Your Life, Your Choices" has been dubbed "the death book" by some commentators due to its subject matter and method of presentation in advising veterans on end-of-life decision-making. "While The American Legion does not believe this publication is in any way designed to influence veterans to end their lives prematurely," said Rehbein, "we can understand how some might interpret it that way, At best, it is an awkward attempt to help."

"Your Life, Your Choices" is not an official publication of the Department of Veterans Affairs, but it has been made available in printed and electronic formats by the VA.

Commander Rehbein made his remarks in Louisville, Ky. where The American Legion is in the second day of its 91st national convention.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Details of Condoleezza Rice Visit to Georgia Southern Announced

Former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will speak at Georgia Southern University’s Hanner Fieldhouse Sept. 8, 2009 beginning at 7 p.m. Rice will speak to the student body about leadership, followed by a short question and answer session.

There are a limited number of seats available to the public for this event. Complimentary tickets will be distributed to the public on Aug. 31, Sept. 1, and Sept. 2 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Hanner Fieldhouse on the Georgia Southern campus. The box office will only remain open until all tickets are distributed on a first come, first served basis.

Tickets will not be available at the door the evening of the event. Those planning to attend the event should also note that doors will close at 6:45 p.m. and no one will be admitted to Hanner Fieldhouse after that time.

Rice served as United States secretary of state from January 2005 to 2009. Prior to her position as America’s chief diplomat, she served as national security advisor from January 2001 to 2005.

Rice is now the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution and professor of political science at Stanford University. She also serves as a member of the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. In addition, she is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Rice’s visit to Georgia Southern University is sponsored by the Office of the Vice-President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement. The program is sponsored by AT&T with support from Target.


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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests are a-Twitter!

The birds in the trees are not the only creatures twittering these days on the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests. In an effort to share up-to-date information with forest visitors, U.S. Forest Service personnel are now posting updates on Twitter, the internet service that enables information to be instantly published on the web and to mobile devices.

Forest Supervisor George Bain said, “We realize that there are a number of different tools that allow us to talk with people these days. Setting up a twitter account will allow us to communicate with forest users and share up-to-date information about the national forests in Georgia.” While most of the ‘tweets’ will be informational in nature, there are times when having access to immediate information can be critical. Bain stated, “We have discussed using this tool when fighting wildfires, for example, to allow concerned citizens to get frequent updates on the status of the fire.”

Anyone interested in following the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests can do so at twitter.com/ChattOconeeNF. There is also a link on the Forest Service website at www.fs.fed.us/conf.

“I’m really interested in feedback on this service,” stated Bain. If you would like to find out more about the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest or provide ideas for tweets, please contact Mitch Cohen at (770) 297-3095.

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Cash for Clunkers Finishes, Dealer Stimulus Program Begins

/PRNewswire/ -- Cash for Clunkers is coming to an end. National Automobile Dealers Association officials asked the government to suspend the cash-for-clunkers program because a survey by the group found that the $3 billion fund has been exhausted, NADA Chairman John McEleney said.

While the Cash for Clunkers program is coming to an end manufacturers and dealers are concerned that their business will return to pre-clunker levels. To address this concern, some of the leading U.S. Automotive Retailers are participating in a privately funded stimulus program to help consumers who were left behind by the government's plan. Due to the restrictions of the government's program, over 90% of consumers were not eligible. As a result, some of the largest retailers in the country are promoting a new dealer funded stimulus program that gives consumers up to $4500 of additional trade-in value towards the purchase of a new or used vehicle. See Program details at www.AutoStimulusPlan.com. The new stimulus plan is more inclusive because all trade-ins older than 2007 are eligible regardless of their current MPG and consumers can purchase or lease any new or used vehicle with an improved fuel economy of 2MPG. This is a contrast to the government program which excluded trade-ins with more than 18MPG, used cars and short term leasing and some vehicles needed to get at least 4MPG improvement to qualify.

"The business that came from the Cash for Clunkers program started off very strong and it has since leveled off," said Vince Sheehy from Sheehy Automotive Group in Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland and Baltimore. "But we did not expect it to end so fast." While clunker business began to slow down, dealers participating in the New Stimulus Plan have seen their sales continue to rise because they are helping the larger group of consumers that were left behind by the government program. In fact, according to Brian Benstock, General Manager and Vice President at Paragon, has helped them rise from 17th in new vehicle sales to #4 in the nation. In addition, the used vehicle component of the new stimulus plan has helped them become the #1 certified pre-owned Honda and Acura dealer in the world this month. "This is our best used vehicle month ever," said Benstock.

Paragons results since the New Stimulus Plan took effect have led to a historic month:

-- They are on pace for 600 new vehicles to be sold and 300 used
vehicles. This represents a 100% increase in new car business and a
50% increase in pre-owned business.
-- 900 vehicle sales created estimated sales tax revenues of $2,000,000
for the month.
-- 900 unit sales created $24,000,000.00 in gross sales.

John Malishenko, Director of Operations for Germain Automotive, another participating dealer in the Stimulus Plan, is reporting that his dealership just had their second best three day weekend of the year. "We've seen a 40% increase in unit sales versus July and we are currently pacing $45,000,000 of sales for the month. While other dealer's business has been falling off we are picking up." The program has worked well because it has focused on the majority of the people that were not eligible for the government plan.

In the wake of the government's program dealers are running low on cash and their inventories are lopsided with most of the new vehicles that qualify selling out while they still have a surplus of other vehicles that don't qualify. "The new dealer stimulus plan will help us sell the cars that are left over and help us build up our used vehicle business," said Brian Benstock from Paragon Auto Group, one of the participating dealers in New York City.

Used vehicle inventories have shrunk because the clunkers have to be destroyed. "We have to buy more used cars at auctions for higher prices," said John Malishenko, Director of Operations for the Germain Automotive Group who owns dealerships in Ohio, Arizona, Florida and Arkansas. "I would prefer to give customers 20 percent more for their trade-in to earn their business rather than paying more to Manheim Auction. If I overpay under the new stimulus plan I still sold a car and I have a customer who will service with me over the long term."

The dealer-funded Auto Stimulus Plan includes used vehicles and allows dealers to resell the trade ins. "Letting consumers buy a used vehicle or lease a new vehicle makes it affordable for a lot of people who could not participate otherwise," said Scott Gruwell from Courtesy Auto Group in California and Arizona, one of GM's largest dealers and a participating dealer.

"We needed to do something to help out all the customers who were upset that they could not participate," said Rick Case, owner of Rick Case Automotive Group in Florida, Georgia and Ohio. "Consumers love it because the new stimulus saves them a lot of money on their purchase and reduces their gas and repair bills."

The Auto Stimulus Plan is a private sector program promoted by retailers to provide incentives to consumers that will help the economy and the environment at the same time. To qualify for an incentive a consumer must select a new or pre-owned vehicle with a 2MPG improvement over their current vehicle, which is the same requirement the government program has for SUV's, but it applies to all vehicles under the dealer's plan.

"The MPG requirements are lower because our primary goal is to help consumers that don't qualify for the government's program and to stimulate the economy through improved sales, jobs and spending," said Gruwell. "As a result, the environmental benefits may not be as big as the government program but it will help more customers get into more fuel efficient vehicles."

"If a consumer does not have a trade, they can benefit from the extraordinary manufacturer incentives that are out today," added Case. "In addition to the stimulus, our dealership is offering up to $4500 of savings to consumers."

Consumers can learn more about the program and begin connecting with participating retailers by visiting: www.AutoStimulusPlan.com.

The Auto Stimulus Plan gives consumers up to $4500 of additional trade-in value towards the purchase or lease of a new or used vehicle with improved fuel economy. The program has fewer rules, easier paperwork and no minimum MPG requirements for trade-ins.

Below is a summary of the program Requirements:

PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS

Current Vehicle Requirements

-- Vehicle must be older than 2007
-- Vehicle must be in working condition
-- Vehicle has been owned and registered for at least 6 months
-- No minimum MPG requirements
-- Vehicles that are not eligible are: salvaged vehicles and vehicles
with floor or frame damage

Replacement Vehicle Requirements

-- Replacement vehicle must have a minimum of 2MPG improvement
-- New and Used Vehicles Qualify
-- All makes and models
-- No minimum MPG requirements
-- No price restrictions
-- This plan is not valid in combination with the government's C.A.R.S.
program

The plan varies based on the year, make and model of the eligible vehicle. The plan may also vary in some states due to state laws that regulate automotive advertising and promotion. The Auto Stimulus Plan was planned to end when the government's program expired but they have extended it to November 1st. Visit www.AutoStimulusPlan.com for details.

The organization informs consumers that they should be patient if they cannot get through to the website, www.AutoStimulusPlan.com, on their first try. During the program's launch there was an overwhelming level of traffic resulting in periods of interruption. Consumers are advised to visit at a later time if the site is not functioning properly.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Other Eiffel Tower

After 120 years, the famous landmark's original design gets another look

For pictures of its other look:
http://www.aip.org/isns/reports/2009/090818_eiffel.html

By Jason Bardi
Inside Science News Service

A new engineering analysis of the Eiffel Tower in Paris shows what the famous landmark would have looked like if its builder had constructed the tower to take into account more realistic wind profiles.

The design was revolutionary 120 years ago, incorporating engineer Gustave Eiffel's newly patented methods for constructing freestanding structures of great height. His method eliminated the need for diagonal truss elements to resist the bending due to an oncoming wind.

The Eiffel Tower was to be his masterpiece -- a testament to engineering progress and the centerpiece of the 1889 Exposition held in Paris on the centennial of the French Revolution. Eiffel wanted to make sure that the thousands of tons of iron used to erect the tower would never collapse in a strong wind.

Like all scientists and engineers of his generation, Eiffel did not completely understand the physics of turbulent wind flow over rough landscapes like urban Paris. Because of this, he did not properly model the wind shear his tower might experience in a strong storm.

By the time construction on the 1,000-foot-tall tower began in 1887, Eiffel had introduced more liberal factors for safety. In order to err on the side of caution, his final design made the tower wider on its lower half than originally intended. The fact that the tower remains intact over the past 120 years is testament to his insight to include substantial factors of safety.

P. D. Weidman, a mechanical engineer at the University of Colorado, Boulder was the first to find the mathematical equation for the skyline shape of the tower according to Eiffel’s patented method of construction. A few years ago, he showed that the shape of the tower is exponential when one assumes, as did Eiffel, that the oncoming wind is uniform with height.

In a paper published last month in Physics of Fluids, Weidman shows what the skyline tower profile would be if it were designed and constructed for a realistic "turbulent boundary-layer" wind profile over Paris. The breakthroughs that allowed engineers to model realistic wind profiles were not discovered until after 1908 -- two decades after the tower was completed.

The end result is that the tower for a realistic atmospheric wind would be wider and have less curvature than the existing tower. According to Weidman, the existing tower is "far more elegant" than the tower designed specifically for a turbulent wind.

The attractive thing about this study, said Jim Brasseur, a Pennsylvania State University professor who was not involved in the research, is that it combines history, architecture, fluid dynamics and beauty. "What more can you ask for?" he asked.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

A Look Inside The Latest Health Care Proposals (H.R. 3200)

Note: One of the end results of this proposed health care bill is the increase of taxes. The increase would likely be felt by individuals and by companies. Hence, let your representative know your thoughts on the subject.


/PRNewswire/ -- With so much turmoil surrounding the federal government's health care initiatives, the Federation of American Consumers and Travelers (FACT) is attempting to create a summary of key provisions. The goal is to condense incredibly lengthy and convoluted language into something which all consumers can digest so that they can then decide which way they want their legislators to proceed.

Some initial findings:

A tax surcharge would be imposed on individuals who earn more than $350,000.00. The surcharge would start at 1% and would increase up to 5.4% for those who have a modified adjusted gross income that exceeds $1 million.

A non-compliance tax would be imposed on individuals who do not acquire an "acceptable health insurance policy" (as determined by a government committee) for themselves and their families. This proposed non-compliance tax would be 2.5% of adjusted gross income, which would be effective after December 31, 2012. (Certain persons, including nonresident aliens, would be exempted from individual taxes.)

A non-compliance tax would be imposed on employers who do not provide their employees health care coverage which meets government-specified minimum coverage requirements. This noncompliance tax would equal 8% of the gross wages; it would be in addition to the social security tax and there would be no wage base limitation. (The Ways and Means Committee proposes an exception for small businesses that have an employee payroll of less than $400,000.00.) Coverage requirements would be mandated by a government committee, headed by a Health Commissioner who would be appointed by the president.

The Commissioner would be empowered to establish qualified health benefits plan standards, establish and operate a Health Insurance Exchange and conduct compliance audits at random. (The person or entity being audited would be required to cover the Commissioner's expenses.) The Commissioner also would be free to collect data for purposes of carrying out his or her duties.

Individual states could establish health exchanges of their own, subject to providing "timely and reasonable notice to the Commissioner." Such exchanges could be terminated at the Commissioner's discretion.

A public health insurance option would be established under the auspices of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Secretary would collect "such data as may be required" to establish premiums and "to reduce racial, ethnic, and other disparities in health and health care." Premiums would be geographically adjusted and would comply with the premium rules established by the afore-mentioned Commissioner.

The Treasury would appropriate "such sums as necessary" to cover the first 90 days worth of claims reserves based on projected enrollment.

A physician or health care practitioner who agrees to participate in both Medicare and the public health insurance option would receive payments which are 5% greater than the rates paid to nonparticipating practitioners.

Vicki Rolens, managing director of FACT, says, "HR 3200 as drafted may or may not be passed into law. We just feel that people are entitled to know what the bill contains and that they should make their feelings known to their congressmen. The matter is far too important to be treated in a haphazard fashion by our elected officials, but without a strong public voice there is always a danger of that happening."

Citizens can find out how to reach their respective lawmakers by visiting http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Members of Over 71 Million U.S. Households Ignored by Universal Healthcare

/PRNewswire/ -- The following is being issued by PetMedicationCard.com, Inc.:

Here are the facts, most Americans have health care insurance (140 million have either Medicare or Medicaid plus 110 million are in private payer insured plans, which equal 250 million insured), and only 10 million of the estimated 50 million uninsured which have uncovered healthcare claim expenses. Put in terms of percentages, 20% of the 50 million claimants (or 3.25% of the entire population of the United States) don't have health insurance and don't pay their healthcare expenses.

On the other hand, more than 71 million U.S. households have livestock and pets that have no health care plan, no insurance and no prescription drug coverage. These uninsured animals are many times original sources of disease and illnesses such as mad cow disease, aids, swine flu, bird flu and other diseases. To humans these uninsured animals' healthcare is a vital component of maintaining the health of mankind. The case for universal health coverage for livestock animals and pets is therefore a compelling one. Universally covering our livestock animals and pets first would allow the government to work out real savings in healthcare for citizens.

"The primary reason human healthcare costs are so high for the insured population is cost shifting," says Rex Bowden, President of PetMedicationCard.com. "Cost shifting occurs when Medicare, Medicaid and the under-insured shift real costs to the private insured. Put another way, 60% of all medical expenses which are caused by the cost shifting groups are paid based on the federal government's payment schedule (meaning they are paid at less than the actual cost). The discrepancies in these costs are then shifted to the private sector and result in 110 million insured Americans paying their own medical costs and the cost of care not paid by the government's reduced payment schedule for Medicaid and Medicare. The proposed universal healthcare bills on both sides of the aisles will increase costs, increase government controls, shift the cheese to a different group, reduce medical miracles and sadly will not improve healthcare in America." In an example of health care run by governments, the MRI wait time in Canada can be up to 6 months for humans, but if your animal needs a MRI it is scheduled for the same day as ordered.

The 2009 / 2010 National Pet Owners Survey exposes the breadth of the healthcare problem for pets and livestock (and therefore the Americans in contact with them) -- 71.4 million households would have at least one uninsured pet, animal, or livestock. Universal healthcare for these animals would save human consumers money by reducing transmission of animal borne illness. It is estimated humans currently spend $12.2 billion annually on pet vet expenditures (according to the American Pet Products Association). By implementing some of the proposed cost savings ideas proposed for humans on animals many of these expenses could be reduced thereby reducing the source of illness and the associated costs.

One of the proposed ideas for humans for cost saving mandated by the federal government is to get end of life savings reductions by counseling people not to go through the all out life saving methods and expenses when humans lives are coming to an end. This is called euthanasia in the animal kingdom, and instant death administered by the veterinarians which has saved pet owners and all livestock owners money. However, this methodology has also shortened the lives of many animals and pets. The case for universal healthcare for these animals is that with universal coverage, the quality of that life would have been better, and they would have lived longer healthier lives.

"Universal coverage would allow for better preventative care," says Bowden. "We think about good health practices such as keeping our blood pressure in check when it comes to ourselves, but we owe it to our pets and livestock to keep them healthy as well. Sometimes pet medications just aren't affordable. Would we place our kids or our parents to the curb for getting sick? Unlikely, but that's exactly what happens to sick pets when their owners can't afford to get them the medications they need -- or worse.

The CDC's National Center for Infectious Diseases gives Americans reason to visit www.PetMedicationCard.com. In "Healthy Pets Healthy People, they remind citizens that even an innocent-looking favorite pig, chicken, cow and even my cat can carry the plague. Unlikely," says Bowden, "but sometimes a little bit of reality-based fear is exactly what people need to realize the dangers of doing nothing. By not thinking about healthcare costs for the millions of pets out there, people are potentially putting themselves at risk for minor to serious conditions, disease and infections -- and isn't prevention a priority in cutting our own healthcare costs?"

Americans can start protecting their pets immediately with a free pet medication card from www.PetMedicationCard.com. The free card can be printed from the website after filling out a short form, and is eligible at more than 52,000 pharmacies nationwide. With savings as high as 75% on retail prices of prescription pet medications, Americans may wonder exactly what Washington is waiting for when their pets can get better, and cheaper, coverage than themselves. Or they can stop wondering and use the free card for their own (human) prescription drugs as well, saving an average of 40% without enrolling in any complicated or costly programs.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Appropriate Next Step for the Free People of America: Location and Dates Announced for Modern-Day Continental Congress

GG Note: It's been a long time since a Continental Congress was assembled. Did you know that the US Constitution is the oldest and the shortest still in use today? It took less than 100 days to for the 55 delegates to draft it back in 1787. The US Constitution celebrates its 222th anniversary in September. Have you taken the time to read it?

/PRNewswire/ -- Constitutional activist Robert L. Schulz, chairman of We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education, Inc and We The People Congress, Inc, today announced plans to move forward with a Continental Congress, a national assembly of citizen-nominated and elected delegates representing The People of the fifty states and D.C., to convene from November 9-22, 2009 at the Pheasant Run Conference Center in St. Charles, Illinois. Attendees will establish a formal historical record that documents, before a worldwide audience, the record of constitutional violations which have taken place over many years, crossing all branches of government and both political parties, and are devastating America. Delegates will collaborate, debate and develop real-world strategies and civic actions to restore Constitutional obedience. Continental Congress 2009 is to defend, not amend the current Constitution.

The decision to organize CC2009 comes on the heels of more than fourteen years of Petitioning the Government for Redress of repeated violations of the Constitution by Schulz and members of We The People Foundation, along with an increasing number of Americans who are demanding constitutional accountability from their government officials. Schulz has established a long and thorough legal record of those violations and government's refusal to respond when obligated to do so under the accountability clause of the 1st Amendment -- the People's CAPSTONE RIGHT.

Volunteer groups in each state are being organized to inform and invite citizen participation leading to the Continental Congress. Delegates to the meeting will be elected from a national pool of American citizens required to have a proven passion for the Constitution. Schulz and others associated with the event hope the seats will be filled with "America's best" as constitutional scholars, authors, activists and champions of popular sovereignty, nominated by their fellow citizens. Nominations are now taking place through the event's "state pages" which can be found through www.givemeliberty.org or www.cc2009.us

Preparation is underway for a National Delegate Election to take place on Saturday, October 10, 2009. State coordinators and volunteer teams are in the process of identifying appropriate Voting Centers in all fifty states. The election will be significant in its constitutional validity, using visible and transparent vote counting, an effort planners hope will restore valid electoral procedures for elected office.

"Continental Congress is not a political or partisan event," said Schulz. "It is a rallying cry for Americans to step up and embrace the Gift given to us through our Declaration of Independence, our Constitution and Bill of Rights, documents which transcend politics, parties and personalities, if only we would obey them. Each time we ignore the philosophy, principles and order of Rights which they represent, we suffer more," he continued. "Few Americans realize what our country would be like - in the most positive sense of the word - if we would fully embrace our Constitution. At this time in America, thousands of educational and civic-minded organizations have prepared templates for civic action. Continental Congress can be the catalyst to bring everyone together so our voice will be heard at this defining moment in our history."

Information about Continental Congress 2009 can be found at www.cc2009.us or www.givemeliberty.org.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Opinion: The Losing Battle Over Indigent Defendant Rights in Georgia

In 1963, the US Supreme Court held in the landmark case Gideon v Wainwright that the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution requires state courts to provide attorneys to any criminal defendant who is unable to afford one. In the past 46 years, however, many states have been unable -- sometimes even unwilling -- to meet this important obligation.

Right now Georgia is facing a crisis in the funding of its public defender program. The state has been unable to pay attorneys representing indigent clients, simply because the funds are not there. Many are quick to point their fingers at the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, which is in charge of allocating the money set aside by the state for appointed lawyers. Some argue the Council has made unwise funding decisions and poured too much money into too few cases.

Proponents of this view point to the Brian Nichols case. In 2008, Nichols was sentenced to a life sentence without the possibility of parole for murdering four people and brutally beating a guard at the Fulton County Courthouse where he was on trial for rape. The capital murder case quickly ate up more than $1.5 million of the annual $4.5 million dollar budget for indigent defense. It was later revealed that the judge appointed to the case, Senior Judge Hilton Fuller, signed a secret order in 2007 that earmarked for the Nichols case the remainder of the state's budget for defending death penalty cases -- leaving the fund penniless for other defendants facing death penalty charges for the remainder of the 2007-2008 fiscal year.

Others point to the overzealous state prosecutor in charge of bringing the case against Nichols for running up the costs of his defense. The case was supposed to be a "slam-dunk" case, complete with a taped confession to the murders by Nichols. But the Fulton County District Attorney assigned to the case, Paul Howard, brought more than 50 charges against the defendant and had 400+ witnesses, all of which dramatically increased the costs of the appointed defense team representing Nichols.

One thing is certain: the state has not allocated enough money to provide indigent people charged with crimes the legal representation that they not only deserve, but are entitled to under the US Constitution. As a fundamental right under the constitution, the right to council must be held above the vagaries of partisan politics and held to a higher standard than other funding decisions such as deciding to spend more or less on road repair.

To date, the battle for acquiring the necessary funding has not been successful. In 2008, the Governor proposed an additional $3.6 million for indigent defense. The state senate, however, eventually only approved a little over $500,000. In fact, the amount of money allocated for indigent defense in Georgia has steadily decreased over the last four years. In 2005, the state allocated $9 million for the fund. By 2007, this amount had been reduced to $4.5 million.

And these numbers are expected to decline further as the tough economic conditions force the state to choose where cuts must be made. Unfortunately, one of the areas where some legislators have been more than willing to make these concessions is the indigent defense fund. One state senator in particular, Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome), has been a vocal advocate against indigent defense and has worked hard to ensure additional state money is not allocated to this important cause.

The problems facing Georgia are not unique. States throughout the country are having difficulty providing sufficient funding for public defenders. As a result, public defenders are being forced to take more cases than they can handle at one time, meaning defendants may wait weeks before meeting with their attorneys, if they meet with them at all. According to the Southern Center for Human Rights some criminal defendants in Georgia have waited as long as 6 months before having an attorney assigned to their case. Currently, there are on-going lawsuits in several states where the lawyers are claiming the state is violating indigent defendants' rights to an attorney.

Additionally, public defenders are asking the courts to be removed from cases because they are not being paid and cannot afford to adequately prepare a defense for their clients for free. Private attorneys who once would agree to take indigent clients are now refusing to do so because they know the state has no way to pay them.

As legislators fight over money, the constitutional rights of those who cannot afford their own legal representation are completely forgotten in the struggle.

These rights are not dependent on whether the defendant is wealthy or poor, has the most expensive defense attorney in town or a state appointed public defender. Georgia has a constitutional obligation, moreover a moral obligation, to ensure that every single criminal defendant who is unable to afford an attorney will have one provided to them.

Garland, Samuel & Loeb, P.C.


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