Saturday, April 2, 2011

U.S Census Worker Bullies Couple For Refusing To Fill Out Survey

The first few requests were tolerable. A Census Bureau worker would knock on John and Beverly Scott's door and ask them to fill out an American Community Survey. The McKinley Park couple would politely decline.

But as the days passed, the visits became more frequent and the requests more urgent.

Some evenings, the doorbell would ring at dinnertime, then again at 10 p.m.

"I'm generally a nice guy. I didn't want to shut the door in her face," John Scott said. "I said, 'I'm not going to answer your questions.' She kept saying, 'You've got to, you've got to.' I shut the door, and she kept ringing the doorbell and tapping on the window."

t isn't that the Scotts are anti-government or are philosophically opposed to the census. The couple filled out their decennial form last year, answering every question.

But they're not too keen on the American Community Survey, a more in-depth, ongoing questionnaire the Census Bureau conducts to compile information on area demographics, consumer patterns and economic issues.

In particular, the Scotts did not want to answer questions they found too personal, such as inquiries about their income, when they left for work and their health.

"The new questionnaire has gone way over the line," Scott said. "We have told the representative that we are not going to answer private questions, but they continue to come to our door at all hours of the day and night."

Scott said the requests had become so repetitive and annoying, the couple began pulling the old "out-of-candy-on-Halloween trick."

"I work afternoons, and I'm not home," Scott said. "My wife has to sit with the lights off because she doesn't want to be bothered."

Often, even that doesn't work.

"They knock and knock and knock and ring and ring and ring," Beverly Scott said. "Knocking longer is not going to make me answer the door, and it's not going to help if we're not here."

The final straw, John Scott said, was when a Census Bureau employee told him he would be fined $2,000 if he did not fill out the 48-question survey.

Upset, he e-mailed What's Your Problem?

"If they come up with a fine, let's go to court. I don't care," he said. "I just want them to stop coming. That's my main focus. Leave me alone."

The Problem Solver called Jack Walsh, survey supervisor with the American Community Survey's Chicago regional office. Walsh said the survey is required by law and helps determine such things as the Consumer Price Index and how federal funding is allocated.

Although residents can be fined for not participating in the survey, he said that is not the government's goal.

"Those fines exist, but we instruct the field staff that their job is to try to obtain the information through pleasant means, by stressing the importance of the survey," Walsh said. "They're not law enforcement officers."

Walsh said the Scotts will not be fined if they choose not to participate in the survey.

"Realistically, we're not interested in prosecution," he said. "We're interested in obtaining information."

Walsh said households are selected randomly, and the information provided is kept confidential. Information is gathered in three-month cycles, meaning the Scotts would have received their survey in the mail in January, gotten telephone follow-ups in February, then been visited at home by regional field staff in March.

The cycle was scheduled to end within days, but Walsh said Tuesday that he would instruct the field staff to quit visiting the Scotts' home immediately.

Read More From Chicago Tribune

Signs Of Hope In Face Of Possible U.S Govt. Shutdown

Washington (CNN) -- With a deadline looming at the end of next week, leaders in both parties sent hopeful signals Friday that they can pass spending legislation to avert a U.S. government shutdown.

"We know that both sides are close. We know that a compromise is within reach," said President Barack Obama.

"We are on the doorstep of a deal," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Senate Democrat.

"I am not preparing for a government shutdown," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters.

"Let's all be honest, if you end up shutting the government down, it will end up costing more than you save because you interrupt contracts, there are a lot of problems with the idea of shutting the government down. It's is not the goal, the goal is to cut spending," said Boehner.

Still, exactly how Democrats and Republicans will decide on which government programs to cut remains to be seen.

The current funding measure keeping the government running expires on April 8. The legislation under consideration would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

While negotiators agreed tentatively earlier this week on a compromise to slash $33 billion in federal spending, there are still big differences over where in the budget to cut.

Read More From CNN

Wisconsin Prisoners Wrongly Given Unemployment Benefit Funds

Posted: Apr 01, 2011 4:43 PM EDT
MADISON (WKOW) -- A new audit finds Wisconsin prison inmates were wrongly given federal unemployment benefits.

According to a report released by the Legislative Audit Bureau Friday, more than $12 million in benefit payments and other problematic charges were made in the 2009 fiscal year.

The biggest chunk of them is a nearly $10 million overpayment in unemployment benefits, part of which went to prison inmates in Wisconsin.

Audit Committee co-chair Sen. Robert Cowles says it is irritating that money was wrongly sent to inmates and it must stop. The audit says the money should be recovered from those who got it.

The audit says in general, state agencies meet federal grant requirements in the process of administering $15 billion in aid, including $3.5 billion in stimulus money.

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Widow To Lose Home Because Bank Wants To Talk To Dead Husband

SONORA, CA - A widow who is losing her home to foreclosure said she's willing and able to make her house payments, but the bank insists on dealing with her dead husband.

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Ohio Church To Build New Home For Family In Need

Published : Thursday, 31 Mar 2011, 10:55 PM EDT

MAUMEE, Ohio (WUPW) - As part of the Home for Hope community outreach, church volunteers will build a new, 1,200-square foot home over the next few months. The prospective homeowners are expected to pitch in.

"We want to make sure we select a family who views it as a gift from God and be very appreciative of it," said Pastor Tony Scott of The Church on Strayer.

The Church on Strayer will only accept applications from families who qualify during the Easter weekend services on April 22-24. Applicants must attend one of the Easter services in order to receive an application.

Easter services are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday April 22, 4:30 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 23, and April 24 Eastern morning at 9 and 11 a.m..

“Everything about the church is the message of Jesus Christ," Pastor Scott said. "We just want to get the message out. We do the same thing with the Noel Project at Christmas. We share the message of Christ. We try to lead people into a relationship with him and we do follow up."

Applicants must have been employed for at least a year, be a U.S. citizen, have lived in Lucas County or Sandusky County for at least a year, make at least $12,000 annually, and be HUD eligible.

A list of qualifications can be found on the church’s website, at No information will be given out over the phone.

The new home owner will be announced in early May. Plans are for the home will be complete and ready to be moved in to by July 4.

Read More From Fox

U.S To End Air Support Of No Fly Zone In Lybia NATO To Take Over

The Pentagon is about to pull its attack planes out of the international air campaign in Libya, hoping NATO partners can take up the slack.

The announcement Thursday drew incredulous reactions from some in Congress who wondered aloud why the Obama administration would bow out of a key element of the strategy for protecting Libyan civilians and crippling Muammar Qaddafi's army.

"Odd," ''troubling" and "unnerving" were among critical comments by senators pressing for an explanation of the announcement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that American combat missions will end Saturday.

"Your timing is exquisite," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said sarcastically, alluding to Qaddafi's military advances this week and the planned halt to U.S. airstrikes. "I believe this would be a profound mistake with potentially disastrous consequences."

Gates and Mullen, in back-to-back appearances before the House and Senate armed services committees, also forcefully argued against putting the U.S. in the role of arming or training Libyan rebel forces, while suggesting it might be a job for Arab or other countries. The White House has said repeatedly that it has not ruled out arming the rebels, who have retreated pell-mell this week under the pressure of a renewed eastern offensive by Qaddafi's better-armed and better-trained ground troops.

"My view would be, if there is going to be that kind of assistance to the opposition, there are plenty of sources for it other than the United States," Gates said.

The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said he saw no contradiction between Gates' remarks and President Barack Obama's statement that "he has not ruled it in or out." As yet, none of Obama's top advisers have publicly advocated a significant expansion of the U.S. role aiding the opposition.

Gates and Mullen were early skeptics of getting involved militarily in Libya, and Gates made clear Thursday that he still worries about the possibility of getting drawn into an open-ended and costly commitment. That explains in part his view that if the rebels are to receive foreign arms, that task — and the training that would necessarily go with it — should not be done by Americans.

Gates said no one should be surprised by the U.S. combat air pullback, but he called the timing "unfortunate" in light of Qaddafi's battlefield gains. He noted that the air attacks are a central feature of the overall military strategy; over time they could degrade Qaddafi's firepower to a point that he would be unable to put down a renewed uprising by opposition forces, he said.

The other major source of U.S. firepower during the two weeks of combat in Libya has been the Navy's Tomahawk cruise missile, launched from ships and submarines in the Mediterranean. None was fired overnight Thursday, U.S. defense officials said Friday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss such details.

It was not clear whether the U.S. would continue attacks with Tomahawks beyond Saturday.

The number of U.S. Navy ships involved in the campaign had shrunk to nine as of Friday, compared to 11 at the start of the operation, and it is likely to shrink further in the days ahead, other defense officials said. Among targets struck in western Libya overnight Thursday by U.S. Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighters were a radar site and a military vehicle that transports and elevates missiles into firing position, one of the defense officials said.

Mullen and Gates stressed that even though powerful combat aircraft like the side-firing AC-130 gunship and the A-10 Thunderbolt, used for close air support of friendly ground forces, will stop flying after Saturday, they will be on standby. Mullen said this means that if the rebels' situation become "dire enough," NATO's top commander could request help from the U.S. aircraft. The U.S. also has used Marine AV-8B Harrier attack jets as well as Air Force F-15 fighters and B-2 and B-1 long-range bombers.

As of Sunday, France, Britain and other NATO countries will handle the task of conducting airstrikes on Libyan military targets, Mullen said. The remaining U.S. role will be support missions such as aerial refueling, search and rescue, and aerial reconnaissance.

U.S Pastor Burns Quran Brings Protests To Afhanistan Leaves 5 Dead

Anger over the burning of the Muslim holy book erupted into deadly violence for the second straight day Saturday in Afghanistan, with demonstrators setting cars and shops ablaze in a riot that left at least five civilians dead, officials said.

The desecration of the Koran at a small Florida church has outraged millions of Muslims and others worldwide, fueling anti-American sentiment that only further strains ties between the Afghan government and the West.

Underscoring the tensions, two suicide attackers disguised as women blew themselves up and a third was gunned down when they attacked NATO base on the outskirts of Kabul.

The Koran was burned on March 20, but many Afghans only found out about it when Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the desecration four days later. Protests broke out on Friday in Kabul, Herat in western Afghanistan and thousands flooded the streets of Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh province in the north.

Hundreds of Afghans, carrying long sticks and holding copies of the Koran over their heads, also marched through Kandahar, the largest city in southern Afghanistan and the cradle of the insurgency. The crackle of gunfire could be heard throughout the city, which was blanketed by thick black smoke.

Security forces shot in the air to disperse the crowd, said Zalmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the provincial governor. It's unclear how the five protesters were slain, he said.

Daud Ahsam, a doctor in the emergency room at Kandahar's Mirwais Hospital gave the death toll and said 53 people also were hurt. Shops and restaurants throughout the city were shuttered and routes leading into the city were blocked by security forces.

An Associated Press photographer estimated the crowd at a few thousand and said demonstrators had smashed his camera and roughed up other journalists.

The bloodshed came a day after Afghans protesting the Koran burning stormed a U.N. compound in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, leaving four Afghan protesters and seven foreign U.N. employees dead, including four Nepalese guards. The other three were identified by officials in their home countries as: Joakim Dungel, a 33-year-old Swede; Lt. Col. Siri Skare, a 53-year-old female pilot from Norway; and Filaret Motco, a 43-year-old Romanian who worked in the political section of the U.N.

Karzai's office said the president spoke on the telephone Saturday morning with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Karzai asked the secretary-general to extend his condolences to the families of the slain U.N. workers. He also called on the U.N. to help promote religious tolerance throughout the world to ease friction between people of different faiths. Karzai said Afghan officials were investigating the U.N. attack and would bring the perpetrators to justice.

In Florida, Wayne Sapp, a pastor at the church, called the events "tragic," but said he did not regret the actions of his church.

"I in no way feel like our church is responsible for what happened," Sapp said in a telephone interview on Friday.

Afghan authorities suspect insurgents melded into the mob outside the U.N. compound and they announced the arrest of more than 20 people, including a militant they suspect was the ringleader of the assault. The suspect was an insurgent from Kapisa province, a hotbed of militancy about 250 miles (400 kilometers) southeast of the city, said Rawof Taj, deputy provincial police chief.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid sent a text message to The Associated Press on Saturday denying that the insurgency was responsible for killing the U.N. workers.

Demonstrators have alleged that the four protesters were killed by Afghan security forces. Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said Saturday that a delegation of high-ranking Afghan officials was being sent to the city to investigate the what happened during the demonstration in which seven vehicles, including a police vehicle, were burned.

"When the demonstration started, the number of people increased every minute to around 5,000," Bashary said. "The police did take action, but we are investigating how these casualties occurred. Were the steps and actions by police adequate or not?"

Bashary also gave reporters details of Saturday's attack on Camp Phoenix, a base on the east side of Kabul that's used to train Afghan security forces.