Doctor Charged With Falsifying Fen-Phen Claims

Could Receive 260 Years in Prison, Fine of up to $3.25 Million
     By Steve Rensberry
   (RPC) - 12/1/10 - A 77-year-old doctor in Orlando, Florida, named Abdur Razzak Tai has been charged with 13 counts of mail and wire fraud for allegedly submitting fraudulent claims that individuals whom he had tested had suffered heart damage due to the diet drug known as Fen-Phen.
   If convicted, Tai could receive up to a maximum 260 years in prison, a fine of up to $3.25 million, plus three years of supervised release.
   According to the indictment, Tai was asked to review the echocardiograms of more than 1,100 patients in connection with claims they had filed with a trust established by the makers of the diet drug, American Home Products Corporation. The name was later changed to Wyeth.
   United States Attorney Zene David Memeger said in the announcement that they believed Tai had falsely certified that the patients had sustained heart damage, when in fact they had not. The charge also states that Tai had apparently entered into agreement with attorneys representing the alleged victims in the case, for the purpose of determining whether they qualified for compensation.
   Tai is charged with certifying patients that in some cases qualified for settlement benefits of several hundred thousands dollars.
   "For at least one lawyer, Dr. Tai was paid a set fee of $100 for each echocardiogram that he read. In addition, the indictment charges that Tai was to be compensated $1,500 for each claimant who qualified for benefits when that patient’s claim was paid," the announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice says.
   "The indictment charges that Dr. Tai wrote reports and signed certifications attesting that claimants had suffered heart damage on some occasions when he knew that the tests showed that they had not and, on other occasions, when he knew that he had not personally reviewed the test results to determine whether they had suffered heart damage."
   Fen-Phen was composed of a combination of two prescription diet drugs, Pondimin (fenfluramine) and Redux (dexfenfluramine). Wyeth removed both drugs from the market on September 15, 1977, following allegations of negative health consequences and pending lawsuits in both state and federal courts.
   "To resolve that litigation, Wyeth entered into a class action settlement, which established a Trust to pay benefits to persons injured by Fen-Phen with money contributed by Wyeth," the announcement says.
   Investigation into the case was undertaken by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorney Paul Shapiro is the prosecutor.

Tronox Agrees to $270M Settlement Over Liabilities

Bankruptcy Deal to Reimburse EPA for Cleanup Costs, Fund Other Efforts
   WASHINGTON - 11/28/10 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Justice Department and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced on Nov. 23 that Tronox Incorporated has agreed to resolve its environmental liabilities for $270 million and 88 percent of Tronox’s interest in a pending litigation. The bankruptcy settlement will reimburse EPA for past cleanup costs and fund future cleanups at contaminated sites across the country.
    Tronox and 14 of its affiliates filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on Jan. 12, 2009 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. At the time of the bankruptcy filing, the company was potentially responsible for past costs incurred and future response costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, commonly known as Superfund) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) relating to sites throughout the country, as well as for penalties under CERCLA, RCRA, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.
    Under the terms of the settlement, Tronox will pay $270 million in cash. The majority of the funding will be placed in five environmental response trusts for the cleanup of numerous sites, most of which have been contaminated with hazardous substances or waste.
   Non-cash assets, such as insurance and financial assurance assets worth at least $50 million, including property located in Henderson, Nev., will also be provided by Tronox to the environmental response trusts.
    Tronox, a Delaware corporation based in Oklahoma City, Okla., is a multi-national chemical company that makes and sells titanium dioxide and other specialty chemicals used in plastics, paper and inks. The company has customers located in more than 90 countries and operates in North America, Europe, and Australia.
   Tronox was created through a spin-off from the Kerr-McGee Corporation. Several months after the spin-off was completed, Anardarko Petroleum Corporation purchased Kerr-McGee for $18 billion.
    Tronox is currently involved in litigation against Anadarko and Kerr-McGee over allegations that those companies imposed years worth of legacy liabilities, including environmental obligations on Tronox, leaving Tronox insolvent and undercapitalized. The trial is expected to begin in late 2011 or early 2012. Eighty eight percent of any settlement awarded to Tronox, as a result of that litigation, will be used to fund additional cleanup efforts.
    Before being considered by the bankruptcy court for approval, the settlement will be lodged with the bankruptcy court for a period of 30 days to provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment on the settlement.
  Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency

Consumer Confidence Improves During November

   ARLINGTON, Va.- (BUSINESS WIRE) - 11/25/10 - Consumer confidence in the overall economy and in technology spending both improved in November to the highest points of the year, according to the latest figures released today by the Consumer Electronics Association.
   For the fourth straight month, the CEA Index of Consumer Expectations (ICE) improved in November. The ICE, which measures consumer expectations about the broader economy, rose six points to 173.1, reaching the highest level since October 2009. The ICE is also up nearly eight points from this time last year.
   “Consumers are beginning to feel less pessimistic about employment as their overall economic outlook improves,” CEA Chief Economist and Firector of Research Shawn DuBravac said. “While the labor market remains depressed, consumer sentiment is rising.”
    The CEA Index of Consumer Technology Expectations (ICTE) also improved to its highest point since December 2009. The ICTE, which measures consumer expectations about technology spending, increased nearly seven points this month to 86.1. The ICTE, however, remains down from the same time as last year.
    “Expectations to spend more on technology are up in November as consumers begin their holiday shopping,” DuBravac said. “Consumers remain cautious, however, as they continue to guard discretionary spending closely.”
    The CEA Indexes comprise the ICE and ICTE, both of which are updated on a monthly basis through consumer surveys. New data is released on the fourth Tuesday of each month. CEA has been tracking index data since January 2007. To find current and past indexes, charts, methodology and future release dates, log on to:

Survey: Small Businesses Weigh In On Economy

   MCLEAN, Va. - (BUSINESS WIRE) -  11/21/10 - Capital One Small Business Banking recently released the results of its third quarter Small Business Barometer survey.
   The quarterly survey polls small businesses across the nation, gauging their current financial condition and business projections for the next six months.
   Third quarter survey results suggest that many U.S. small businesses are slightly less optimistic about the strength of the economy and their own financial position relative to last quarter. While many small businesses polled report that they are experiencing stable economic conditions and steady financial performance for their businesses, a decreased percentage believe economic conditions are improving and fewer say that their financial position has improved since last year.
   Accordingly, an increased percentage of small businesses surveyed plan to hold spending on business development and investments at current levels rather than increasing spending. On the hiring front, however, an increased number of small businesses report plans to add positions over the next six months.
   “Our survey results for the third quarter of this year suggest that financial performance is stable for many of the small businesses we surveyed, but some respondents have a more cautious outlook about their growth and expectations for the broader economy and their business,” said Robert M. Kottler, Executive Vice President of Small Business Banking at Capital One. “It is a positive sign, however, that most small businesses believe they have access to the credit and financing they need and many are making plans to increase their workforce and begin hiring again.”

Outlook and Financial Performance
   The survey results suggest that the overall economic outlook of U.S. small businesses has continued to weaken slightly. While financial performance remains stable for most small businesses, fewer respondents report improved finances compared to last quarter.
  • In the first quarter, 39 percent of small business owners surveyed said that economic conditions for their business were improving, but this number dropped to 32 percent in the second quarter of this year and 27 percent in the third quarter. Nearly half (49 percent) of small businesses report stable conditions and one-quarter (24 percent) say that economic conditions are getting worse.
  • Thirty percent of small business owners polled report that their firm’s financial position is better than it was one year ago, down seven percentage points since last quarter. On a year-over-year basis, however, this number is up six percentage points. About half (51 percent) of small businesses surveyed say that their firm’s financial position has held steady relative to one year ago. This number increased 8 percentage points since last quarter. Consistent with the last two quarters, only 18 percent of small businesses report that their financial position has worsened compared to one year ago.
Spending and Hiring 
    Most U.S. small businesses polled plan to continue holding off on additional business development and investment spending in the near-term, but the percentage of respondents reporting plans to hire increased slightly.
  • The majority (66 percent) of small businesses say they plan to keep business development and investment spending at current levels for the next six months. Fewer small businesses plan to boost spending this quarter – only 16 percent – compared to 21 percent in the second quarter. Consistent with results from the last three quarters, 15 percent of respondents reported plans to decrease spending.
  • Thirty percent of small businesses polled in the third quarter plan to add employees to the payroll over the next six months, consistent with results from the first quarter of 2010 but 4 percentage points higher than last quarter. Still, 63 percent of small businesses say that they will not hire additional employees during the same period.
Availability of Financing 
    The survey results suggest that most small businesses continue to have adequate access to credit and financing.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of small businesses surveyed report that they are able to access the financing they need while 22 percent say they do not have adequate access to credit and financing.
  • About one-quarter (23 percent) of small businesses in the survey say that securing the capital needed to continue operations will be one of the biggest challenges they face over the next six months.
  • When asked about funding sources for financing their firm’s growth, half (52 percent) of respondents say they will seek financing from a bank or commercial lender, consistent with past results. A slightly increased number of respondents say they will rely on personal savings to finance growth (40 percent compared to 35 percent last quarter).
Gulf Oil Spill  
    Last quarter, the Small Business Barometer survey found that there were significant uncertainties about the potential longer-term consequences of the Gulf oil spill. Results from the third quarter suggest that the impact of the spill has not spread significantly and fewer respondents believe they will be affected long-term.
  • To date, only 11 percent of small businesses surveyed say that their business has decreased since the spill, the same as last quarter. Six percent report increased business.
  • Only 13 percent of small business owners or managers nationally believe the disaster will have a moderate to significant impact on their business, down from 25 percent in the second quarter. Ten percent say that it’s too early for them to predict whether or not their business will be affected, whereas 17 percent of respondents were unsure about the longer-term impact last quarter.
Survey Methodology      
The findings reported in this release are from a telephone survey conducted by the opinion research firm, Braun Research of Princeton NJ. Braun Research interviewed a nationally-representative sample of 1,901 for-profit small businesses in the U.S., weighted to Dunn and Bradstreet counts of all businesses nationwide by employee size and geography. Samples were also taken in New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Texas and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Small businesses are defined as those with less than $10 million in annual revenue. The interviews were conducted from September 14 - October 5, 2010. All interviews were conducted by telephone at their places of business. One respondent per business was contacted. The margin of error is ± 2.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Interviews were monitored at random. Sampling for this study was conducted using a national sample of businesses drawn from InfoUSA. All interviews were conducted using a computer assisted telephone interviewing system. Statistical weights were designed from the United States Department of Commerce to ensure proper inclusion of all SIC codes.

Cybercrime Complaints Suggest Threat is Growing

By Steve Rensberry 
   (RPC) - 11/16/10 - Hitting number 2 million on the cybercrime complaint meter is just one piece of evidence pointing to the growth of online crime, a newly released report from the Internet Crime Complaint Center suggests.
   In an announcement made this week, the center said that it had hit the new high after reaching complaint number 1 million in 2007, seven years after it was formed in early 2000.
   "It took half that time to receive the 2 millionth complain, which illustrates the IC3's increased visibility and the continued growth of cybercrime," the announcement says.
   All told, the IC3 has served as the sounding board for 757,016 complaints in the past 10 years, which it has referred to the appropriate authorities for investigation. It pegs the total financial loss at $1.7 billion.
   "Many complaints involved identity theft, such as loss of personally identifying data, and the unauthorized use of credit cards or bank accounts," the report says.
   But as broad as the criteria is for what constitutes a crime, judging the actual extent of it may be difficult.
   Security software giant Symantec released a study in September that suggested virtually the same thing -- that Internet crime was going gonzo.
   Even with the obvious vested interest, the Symantec study did carry some degree of balance, pointing to malware attacks as the largest and most common form of Internet crime. Given that it is the nature of most malicious software, malware in particular, to replicate and distribute itself automatically, apart from human hands, it may be prudent not to deem each infected computer as a distinct and separate crime. For purposes of definitive trend analysis, the verdict may still be out.
   The full 2010 Cybercrime Report from Symantec is available here:
   The Internet Crime Complaint Center report is available here:
   Still, Symantec does have a point to make, as it states in its preface to the report:
   "Cybercrime has become a silent global digital epidemic," it says. "This disturbing truth is uncovered by this new ground-breaking study into the dangers, financial cost and emotional fallout of unprotected and unethical life online."
   There is also the issue of just how very easy it is to commit crime online. Ordinary people who would never consider taking something that does not belong to them while in a physical store, will and do engage in online piracy -- partly because of the anonymity but largely because of the simply ease in which it can be done. Copy. Paste. Click. Download. It's gone beyond simple.
   The Internet Crime Complaint Center is jointly operated by the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

Illinois' Fall Veto Session Not Free of Controversy

By Mary Massingale
    SPRINGFIELD – 11/15/10 - Just as gamblers count cards to win against the house, some Illinois lawmakers are counting votes to win over the House.
   The election may be finished and the possibility of a conservative Gov. Bill Brady defeated, but lawmakers and advocates pushing so-called “liberal” issues such as civil unions, abolition of the death penalty, and medical marijuana are not veering from their original goal of passage during the November veto session set to begin on November 16.
   The Illinois House in the new General Assembly slated for January will be more socially conservative than the group of lawmakers gathered for the two week veto session or the lame duck session set for the first week of January. The Republican “wave” may have missed Illinois, but the GOP picked up several seats in the House, making it easier for lawmakers to get a controversial vote now rather than later, according to political science professor Kent Redfield.
    “They know what the environment is, I mean, from a lobbying standpoint,” said Redfield, who teaches at the University of Illinois-Springfield. “Because you know the cast of characters, you know where the votes are.”
    State Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, is still counting votes for Senate Bill 1716, a measure granting civil unions to same-sex couples. Gov. Pat Quinn has said he hopes the legislature passes the measure before the end of the year.
    Harris said this month’s election gives credence to the bill’s chances, even among Republicans. He noted that   Brady ran on a socially conservative platform and lost, while U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk campaigned on a socially moderate platform and won.
    “I think that says the people of Illinois are looking for really moderate centrist policies, and I think civil unions fill that description,” Harris said. Harris is one of two openly gay members of the legislature.
    Poll numbers also back up his assertion. A Chicago Tribune survey in August showed 54 percent of Chicago-area voters favor civil unions, while 40 percent support gay marriage. Further, an October statewide poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in Carbondale found two-thirds of voters support civil unions or legal marriage – 33.9 percent favor civil unions and 33.6 percent favor same-sex marriage.
   “Civil unions is something that is a moderate compromise,” Harris said. “It goes down the middle, it does not change the definition of marriage, but it does give people basic relationship rights, like hospital visitation and medical decision-making. And I think most fair-minded people think that’s a fairly good compromise.”
    Jeremy Schroeder is hoping for no compromise on the death penalty. As executive director of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, Schroeder on Tuesday will join State Rep. Karen Yarbrough, D-Broadview, and state Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-Crystal Lake, in unveiling new legislation calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
    Former Gov. George Ryan in 2000 halted all executions following media investigations that uncovered wrongly sentenced Death Row inmates, and instituted a moratorium on the death penalty while possible reforms were studied. Ryan in January 2003 then cleared out Death Row, commuting the sentences of all inmates. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Quinn have upheld the moratorium.
   Schroeder said the timing of the bill coincides with the decade-old moratorium that’s shown voters multiple exonerations and demonstrated the flaws of the death penalty system.
    “It’s not so much ‘why now?’ as because public opinion has changed,” he said. “And that’s what’s really pushing us.”
    An April survey conducted for his organization found that slightly more than 60 percent of Illinois voters favor a life sentence without parole over the death penalty. An October poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, however, offers a contradictory view. The survey found that 56.4 percent of voters want the moratorium lifted, while 36.3 percent want it to stay in place.
    But Schroeder said the state’s struggle with a budget deficit estimated to climb to $15 billion next year often prompts voters to question the $20 million additional annual cost of a death penalty sentence over a life sentence without parole.
    “If you know you have a broken system and we’re putting money into that, it’s a pretty common sense question to say ‘why are we spending money there when we’re cutting things here,’” he said.
    State Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, is hoping common sense prevails regarding Senate Bill 1381, which allows marijuana to be prescribed for medical purposes. The measure passed the Senate in May 2009, but Lang on Friday said he’s three votes short of passage of what he says would be the strictest medical marijuana bill among the 14 states that currently have such laws in place.
    “If everyone would vote their conscience, I’d have 30 votes to spare on this bill, but a lot of people are afraid, and they’re afraid for no reason at all,” he said.
    The bill allows patients diagnosed by a physician with a debilitating condition such as cancer to register with the state Department of Public Health to own no more than six cannabis plants – of which only three can be mature plants – during a 60 day period. The law also sunsets after three years.
The measure is a mixture of compassion and economics, according to Lang.
    “It seems to me that when people are suffering and in pain, and we’re worried about health care, this is health care we can provide to people without a single penny of taxpayer expenditure, and we ought to try it,” he said.
    Sponsors and advocates of these three social issues up in veto session appear ready to gamble on their proposals – to a point.
    All three pieces of legislation have – or will have before a floor vote – no immediate effective date, meaning they must gain only a simple majority of votes to pass, instead of the usual three-fifths majority required of all legislation voted on after May 31. If passed by both chambers and signed by the governor, the proposals would take effect on July 1, 2011.
    “We have a lot of support,” Schroeder said. “We don’t want to risk it, though.”
    Story published courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News.
    Original published date: 11/13/10.

Report: Dioxin Level Low in Burn of BP Oil Spill

   WASHINGTON – 11/12/10 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released two peer reviewed reports concerning dioxins emitted during the controlled burns of oil during the Deepwater Horizon BP spill.
   Dioxins are a category that describes a group of hundreds of potentially cancer-causing chemicals that can be formed during combustion or burning. The reports found that while small amounts of dioxins were created by the burns, the levels that workers and residents would have been exposed to were below EPA’s levels of concern.
   Controlled burning of oil on the surface of the ocean (also called in situ burning) was one method used by the Unified Command during the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill, to reduce the spread of oil and environmental impacts at the shoreline. A total of 411 controlled burn events occurred of which 410 could be quantified, resulting in the combustion of an estimated 222,000 to 313,000 barrels of oil (or 9.3 to 13.1 million gallons).
   With support from the U.S. Coast Guard, EPA conducted sampling of emissions at the source of the controlled burns in the Gulf of Mexico to determine if dioxins were present. The sampling was conducted to identify potential dioxin exposures and determine the potential risks from inhalation to workers in the vicinity of the fires, risks from inhalation to the general population and risks to the general population from consuming fish caught in the area.
   The first report summarizing EPA’s sampling effort indicates that while dioxins were created from the burning of oil on ocean water, they were created at low levels – levels similar to the emissions from residential woodstoves and forest fires.
   The second report, co-authored with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), presents the results of a screening risk assessment for the dioxins emitted from the controlled oil burns. The results indicate that increased cancer risk due to exposure to the dioxins released from the controlled burning of oil was small - less than a 1 in 1,000,000 increased cancer risk. Additional cancer risks for inhalation by workers and onshore residents and fish consumption by residents were lower than risk levels that typically are of concern to the agency. Typically, the agency has a concern when the risk is greater than 1 in 1,000,000.
   Had the spill of oil continued, the results of these measurements would have been used by the Unified Command to determine if burning should continue. However, the well was capped on July 15, 2010 and the last in situ burn occurred on July 19, 2010. Consequently, these results are most useful to inform and improve the agency’s ability to respond to future oil spills.
   EPA and other federal agencies have developed a broad set of questions and answers to provide the public with general information on dioxins, including what they are, where they can be found, and major sources of dioxins. The questions and answers explain the review process for the dioxin reassessment and discuss possible effects of dioxin exposure in humans, including advice about consumption of food that might contain dioxins.
   For further information see:

Barlow Survey: Unemployment to Remain High

   MINNEAPOLIS - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 11/11/10 - With poor past results and weak expectations for the future, small businesses are not preparing to grow employment or capital expenditures. This can be seen reflected in their estimates of when unemployment will return to a more normal level of 5.5 percent.
   Barlow Research’s Fourth Quarter Economic Pulse shows over one-third of small businesses (sales $100K to $10MM) and one in five middle market companies (sales $10MM to $500MM) believe that elevated unemployment is the new normal. For the remaining businesses, the median estimate for a return to a normal level of unemployment is 2013.
   High unemployment could mean continued low interest rates. With many financial institutions using interest rates on government debt as an earnings credit on business deposit accounts, Barlow Research estimates through its Value of the Customer model that a financial institution could see a revenue loss of 25-30 percent annually from the average small business customer when compared to a normal interest rate environment.
   With a loss of 30 percent of revenue, it will be important to discover ways to return the lost profitability. Some banks will recuperate revenues with increases in fees on accounts and transactions.
   These potential fee increases may create opportunities for cost-conscious banks to attract new customers. When small businesses are asked why they plan to change banks in the next 12 months, the top reason was increased fees and rates.
   During Barlow Research’s Economic Pulse web cast, guest panelists were asked how they expect increased profitability in the commercial banking segment.
  “We expect to see consolidation in the industry," Scott Peterson of Deluxe Corporation said. "The four largest institutions (Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citicorp) may not be able to participate due to deposit caps, but everyone else with a solid balance sheet is likely considering consolidation as a strategic option. In a flat economy, cost-driven, scale economies offer a path to profit growth.”

Hariri Sentenced in Historic Hedge Fund Case

Former Executive Gets 18 Months, Fine for Role in Trading Scam
   NEW YORK – 11/9/10 - Ali Hariri, a former executive at Atheros Communications Inc., was sentenced on Nov. 8 in Manhattan federal court to 18 months in prison for his participation in the largest hedge fund insider trading case in history, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced this week. 
   U.S. District Judge Richard J. Holwell, who imposed the sentence, also imposed a two year term of supervised release and a $50,000 fine.
   According to documents previously filed in Manhattan federal court and statements made during Hariri’s guilty plea proceeding, from 2008 to March 2009, Hariri, a vice president at Atheros, engaged in an insider trading scheme in which he obtained material, nonpublic information relating to Atheros.
   Hariri provided this inside information to Ali Far, a hedge fund manager, for the purpose of executing profitable securities transactions Hariri knew that the information he provided to Far was material and non-public, and he disclosed it in breach of fiduciary and other duties of trust and confidence that he owed to Atheros.  In exchange for inside information regarding Atheros, Far provided Hariri with tips to buy and sell the stocks of other technology companies. 
   “Ali Hariri’s sentencing provides another reminder of how pervasive insider trading has become and the lengths to which corrupt insiders will go to misuse confidential information for their own personal gain,” Bharara said. “It should also remind those who might contemplate similar crimes that we will ultimately find you, prosecute you and convict you.  This office is committed to stopping insider trading in its tracks to protect the integrity of our markets.”
   On March 3, 2010, Hariri, 39, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit insider trading crimes Hariri also pleaded guilty to substantive securities fraud. Far has also separately pled guilty to conspiring to commit insider trading crimes and to substantive securities fraud. He is awaiting sentencing.   
Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI.  He also thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Bharara said the investigation is continuing.
    The case is being handled by the office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jonathan Streeter and Reed Brodsky and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Michaelson are in charge of the prosecution.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force .

Economy Trumps Social Issues, Foreign Policy

Candidates Avoid Debates Over Civil Rights, Middle East Conflict
                       By Mike Cyr
   (RPC) - 11/6/10 - As expected, the recent midterm election has elevated the spirits of the populist, relatively-out-of-power political right. The question is, for how long?
   Despite their gains, it's a near certainly that those who consider themselves left wing, centrist or otherwise different from the right will soon find their own spirits becoming energized in near equal proportion, as has been the case throughout history.
   One of many oddities of the Nov. 2 election was noted in a Nov. 5 article by Michael Cooper of the New York Times. That is, even though voters turned over a large number of seats to Republicans they did so with a striking degree of trepidation. If it was a vote for the "lesser of two evils," is was only by the very slightest degree. Exit polls, Cooper points out, showed 53 percent of voters disapproving of the Democrats and 52 percent disapproving of the Republicans. Apparently some weren't afraid to parcel out blame to both in equal measure.
   As pertains to blame, Cooper notes poll results which show voters blaming Wall Street (35 percent), President George W. Bush (29 percent), and President Barack Obama (23 percent). See Debunking the Myths of the Midterm.
   Rather than presenting either major party with a  mandate, the results suggest a public that is profoundly confused, incredible impatient and nearly schizophrenic in some respects. Maybe the economy was beginning to turn around. Maybe not. Either way, today's elected officials--of whatever ideological persuasion--are being asked to govern in an almost lose-lose situation.
   Two addition observations: There was a near total lack of debate in this past election over social issues such as abortion and gay rights, and over foreign policy--issues that are certain to hold sway over the election of 2012. Baring an economic miracle, time may be the only remedy to escape the vicious "get in, get all you can, then get out" political pattern that appears to rule the day.

Illinois Democrats Maintain Control, Despite Losses

               By Kevin Lee
       Illinois Statehouse News
   SPRINGFIELD  –  11/4/10 - The so-called Republican wave was supposed to crash over the entire nation, but Illinois Democrats managed to anchor themselves and weather the Election Day storm.
   Republicans made headway into a couple of the state's Constitutional positions and nabbed some seats in the Illinois General Assembly.
   But overall, Democrats will still have strong majorities in the Illinois House and Senate when the new slate of lawmakers are sworn in come January. And it looks like Pat Quinn will likely continue being governor, though Illinois voters won't know the final election results until sometime later this month.
   "Democratic leaders know they dodged a bullet," said Kent Redfield, a political science professor with the University of Illinois at Springfield. "Two years from now, every seat (in the House) is going to be up (for election) again. So it'll be up to them to turn this around."
   After Tuesday's general election, Quinn holds a lead of less than 9,000 votes over GOP challenger state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, according to an Associated Press report.
   While election results have yet to be finalized as absentee ballots continue to be counted, here are the results from Tuesday's general election:
   Pat Quinn and running mate Sheila Simon are slightly ahead in the race to become Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively, over GOP challengers Bill Brady and Jason Plummer.
   Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Secretary of State Jesse White, both Democratic incumbents, handily won re-election.
   Dan Rutherford, a Republican state senator from Chenoa, was elected Treasurer over Robin Kelly, the chief of staff of current state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.
Judy Baar Topinka, a former state treasurer herself, made a return to statewide politics by being elected comptroller over state Rep. David Miller, D-Dolton.
   Democrats will likely no longer have a majority in the Illinois Senate that is capable of overriding a governor's veto. Democrats will lose two seats in the Illinois Senate, maintaining a majority of 35 to 23. Suzi Schmidt, Chairman of the Lake County Board, defeated state Sen. Michael Bond, D-Grayslake for the 31st District seat. In the 49th District, business contractor Sam McCann unseated state Sen. Deanna Demuzio, D-Carlinville.
   Republicans gained seven seats but will lose one seat in the Illinois House. Illinois Republicans were hoping to take control of the Illinois House but would have needed to get 12 seats to win a majority. As things stand now, Democrats will have a slimmer majority of 64 to 54.
   State Rep. Bob Prtichard, R-Sycamore, doesn't think the Republican seats picked up in the Illinois House will change how Democrats control the legislative agenda.
   "I don't look for it to make a lot of difference," Pritchard said. "They've still got a majority and (Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is a consummate politician. He'll do what he wants to do."
State Rep. Will Davis, D-East Hazel Crest, said on Tuesday that Democrats are going to disregard Republican talking points while launching  forward with the interests of Illinois voters in mind.
   "As Democrats we have a lot to do. We certainly feel that whatever the rhetoric that came out of the other party that caused some of the defeats of today are going to be realized (for their harm) over the next two or four years," he said.
   Democrats will tackle at least one crucial topic in the next year. Every ten years, the state must redraw the boundaries for its legislative and Congressional districts, using U.S. Census data.
   In previous years, redistricting went through a belabored process that called upon judges of the Illinois Supreme Court and, eventually, selections out of a hat to determine who would draw the legislative and Congressional maps.
   But Illinois Democrats can avoid that situation altogether. Democrats could use their majorities to pass proposed maps to Quinn, who could sign them into effect, much like any other legislative proposal.
Democrats could shape legislative and Congressional districts in their favor for the next decade, according to Redfield.
   "I'd expect the (Democratic) leaders and Quinn to work together and get this done before June," Redfield said. "In years past, we've had divided legislatures that led to these long conflicts, but that's not likely to be the case here."
   Reporter Jennifer Wessner contributed to this report.
   Story courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News.

Brady Refuses to Admit Defeat in Illinois Election

      By Benjamin Yount    
  Illinois Statehouse News
  BLOOMINGTON – 11/3/10 - Republican candidate Bill Brady wants to count each vote in Illinois before he gives up his bid to become governor. Even if that takes a month or more.
   One day after Brady again finished within a percentage point of his opponent — this time Democratic governor Pat Quinn – the GOP hopeful from Bloomington said he wants to count each vote and let the process unfold.
   “The people of Illinois have cast over 3.6 million votes in this election," Brady said. "Right now the difference is less than one vote per precinct. We must allow the election authorities to do their job and wait for the official results.”
   The Illinois State Board of Elections has given all counties until Nov. 16 to count those overseas ballots. Because of a delay in sending out some of the ballots, six counties have until Nov. 17. It will then take state officials another few days to certify and finalize the vote total.
    Brady said he’s expecting to wait at least a month.
   “The State Board allows a minimum of 20 days for local officials to certify [the vote total] and a minimum of ten days for them to certify…Realistically we’re think we’re looking at a 30 day process."
    Brady is trailing Quinn by close just over 8,000 votes. There are scattered reports of some precincts that have yet to count their ballots and there is much talk about overseas and military ballots. But it is unclear if there are enough uncounted votes for Brady to overtake Quinn. 
    Brady said from what he’s been told, there may be.
    “We believe…based on what we’ve been given [that] we will win. And it’s important that we let [the review] process take place. We are certainly going to respect Governor Quinn, and I’m sure that he wants the same process to take place. 
    The Quinn campaign said in a written statement that the governor also wants every vote counted.
   “The ballots left to be counted appear mostly to come from Cook County, where the governor held a large margin over Sen. Brady.” said Mica Matsoff, campaign spokeswoman. “We expect to hold our lead and increase it. We do not see a path to victory for Bill Brady.”
    Close races and counting all of the ballots is becoming a habit for Brady. He barely won the Republican primary in February, edging out GOP State Sen. Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale by less than 200 votes. Brady also won a recount in one of his first races back in 1992. 
   Quinn also had a squeaker in the February primary. But his opponent, Democratic Comptroller Dan Hynes, conceded rather than push for a lengthy review and vote count.
   Story courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News.

Race Between Quinn-Brady still too close to call

     By Kevin Lee and Mary Massingale    
               Illinois Statehouse News
   CHICAGO and BLOOMINGTON  –  11/3/10 - After a prolonged election battle lasting the better part of a year, Illinois voters will have to wait some more before knowing who will serve as their next governor.
   The gubernatorial race between Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and challenger State Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, was still too close to call after midnight.
   With 98 percent of the precincts counted, the Chicago Tribune was reporting that unofficial counts showed Quinn with a 8,300 vote lead as both candidates garnered about 46 percent of the vote.
   Independent candidate Scott Lee Cohen garnered about 3.6 percent of voters, Green Party candidate Rich Whitney gained 2.7 percent of voters and Libertarian candidate Lex Green earned just less than 1 percent.
   About four minutes after midnight, Brady and his running mate Jason Plummer appeared on stage to cheers of “Brady! Brady!” The Republican state senator thanked his supporters, and joked about the night’s similarity to the primary, when it took several days to decide his 193 vote win over state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale.
   “As some of you may have realized by now, I have a penchant for close elections,” Brady said. “But it seems to be something that always ends up on the right side.”
But he then said the words that none of his supporters wanted to hear after a long, bitter campaign.
   “With over 3.5 million votes cast, this isn’t  going to be decided tonight,” Brady said. “We are excited and optimistic but we want to make sure every voter in the state of Illinois has a right to have their vote counted, and we’re going to make sure that happens, and we’re going to make sure that this process is done right.”
   That was the first appearance Brady made that night, although he earlier allowed photographers to take photos of him, his wife, Nancy, and running mate Jason Plummer in a fifth floor suite of the Doubletree hotel in Bloomington.
   Following Brady’s speech, Quinn made an appearance before supporters at his campaign headquarters, the Hotel Allegro in Chicago.
   His running mate, Southern Illinois University law professor Sheila Simon, said Quinn could provide a better future for Illinois.
   “That is why we do crazy things like knock on door after door and make phone call after phone call after phone call,” she said to applause. “And that is why we vote and that is why we have voted as we have done today.”
   Quinn then took the podium and told his supporters that he concurred with his opponent’s call to have all votes counted.
   “We want to make sure. We want to make sure every vote is counted. I totally agree with that,” Quinn said. “And I know there are votes out here in Cook County and other counties across the state. So we want to make sure they’re counted and counted fairly. But I think when all is said, we’ll end up on top with the most votes.”
   Election officials were predicting the usual 50 percent turnout of the states 7.4 million registered voters historically found in Illinois’ gubernatorial elections. In the days leading up to Election Day, President Barack Obama made appearances with Quinn and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.
   Illinois Democrats hoped for a carryover effect from the 2008 Presidential election, when Democrats at both the federal and state levels were overwhelming winners in the polls.
   But Republicans hoped to take advantage of voter frustration with a struggling economy and sustained one-party control over state government. Illinois Democrats have had control of all six Constitutional offices and both chambers of the legislature since 2002.
   House Democrats hold a 70-48 edge. For Republicans to gain control of that chamber, they would need to gain 12 seats. In the Senate, Democrats hold a 37-22 edge. Legislative seats are crucial in this upcoming legislative session since the state’s legislative and congressional map will be drawn according to what party is in control.
   About 250-300 supporters joined 30 news media outlets at Brady’s headquarters in a Bloomington hotel. State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon; Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg; Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, and Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady were a few of the notables on hand to support Brady.
   Pat Brady early in the evening predicted a Brady win, saying the new year would see Brady as governor and House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, as Speaker of the Illinois House.
Bivins said if Brady wins, he will draw upon his background as a builder and Realtor.
   “I expect him to run the state like a business,” Bivins said.
   A few hundred supporters gathered at Chicago’s Hotel Allegro, Quinn’s campaign headquarters, awaiting news of the results.
   Political veterans, including U.S Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., as well as several Chicago Democratic state lawmakers, all came to schmooze with supporters and back Quinn.
   One of those supporters was Will Attig of Carbondale. Attig, a military veteran and Purple Heart winner, had served in Iraq and Afghanistan before returning home without a job.
   Attig, now a welder, said Quinn helped veterans like himself get a job.
    “We came home, we had no future, we have no jobs. He’s decided to give us a new pair of boots, work boots, so we could get to work here in southern Illinois. He’s the man for the job,” he said.
   Story courtesy of Illinois Statehouse News.

ADA Urges an Investment in "Corps" Budget

   Washington, DC - 11/03/10 - Americans for Democratic Action urged Congress recently to drastically boost the funding for three federal programs that already train and employ tens of thousands of young adults --  the Peace Corps, the Job Corps, and AmeriCorps.
   Highlighting the nation’s 25 percent youth unemployment rate, the organization is calling for increased appropriations for the three youth-targeted programs.
   These programs provide a refuge, a sturdy first step, for young people emerging from both high school and college into the bleakest job market in 75 years,” ADA National Director Michael J. Wilson said in a letter to members of Congress.
   The Peace Corps allows Americans to serve their country by living and working in developing countries. Job Corps is a proven education and training program that helps young people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a good job. AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that engage Americans in intensive service to meet the nation’s critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment.
   Wilson called the three programs’ proposed combined funding of under $3 billion in next year’s budget “a short-sighted misallocation of resources at a time of pervasive unemployment, which imposes long-term damage not only to the jobless and their families, but to the economy and the very fabric of society.” The programs’ proposed funding represents less than one-tenth of one percent of next year’s proposed $3.8 trillion federal budget.
   "We can’t let the Great Recession steal the hopes and dreams of the next generation. Doubling the funding of these programs would be a boon to the aspirations of young adults across the nation." said Wilson. "Add this with the other job producing plans in Congress and we can provide more than jobs. We can provide service to our citizens and a path to the future."

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