Steven Higgs

Do Kentuckiana toxic releases cause developmental disability in Ohio River Valley children?

July 8, 2011

A new study of California twins with autism strengthens the case that the epidemic that has swept the nation in the past three decades is related to environmental pollution. The damage, its authors suggest, occurs in the womb and during the earliest days of life.

"Increasingly, evidence is accumulating that overt symptoms of autism emerge around the end of the first year of life," say the authors of the study, which was released online July 4 in the Archives of General Psychiatry. "Because the prenatal environment and early postnatal environment are shared between twin individuals, we hypothesize that at least some of the environmental factors impacting susceptibility to autism exert their effect during this critical period of life."

June 15, 2011

It's official. Per capita, Indiana politicians are the second most venal in the nation, at least when measured by the proverbial "revolving door," through which former elected politicians pass to gorge themselves on corporate cash by lobbying their former lawmaker friends.

According to an ongoing project from the online news site Talking Points Memo (TPM), seven former U.S. representatives and senators from the Hoosier state now lobby for corporate interests in Washington. That ranks Indiana sixth nationally in terms of raw numbers. But only one of the top five -- Louisiana with nine former pols feeding at the corporate trough -- has a smaller population than Indiana.

June 4, 2011

Southern Indiana citizens will pay dearly for cuts in Medicare proposed by House Republicans and supported by Reps. Todd Young, R-9th, and Larry Buschon, R-8th, according to House Democrats.

For example, according to a district-by-district analysis prepared by Democratic staff for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce called "Impacts of the Republican Medicare Plan," Young's constituents between the ages of 44 and 54 will have to save between $182,000 to $287,000 per individual to pay for increased cost of health coverage over their lifetimes. Younger residents of the district would have to save even more.

May 29, 2011

I waited until now to publicly thank Mayor Mark Kruzan for his May 13 vote against Interstate 69 because a private note I sent him came back saying he would be out of e-mail range until month's end. I know the mayor read my piece calling him out on the issue last November. We communicated about it. So, in the interest of journalistic proportionality, equal play for his courage is required.

Besides, the fallout from the mayor's stand against the corruption, abuse of power and anti-democratic forces behind the sociopathic, $4 billion taxpayer mugging is falling hardest around him and the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) now. For example, with a lack of self-awareness worthy of The Office's Michael Scott, newspaper editors in Evansville called local MPO members "clowns" in a May 22 editorial. (More on that below.)

May 13, 2011

For a variety of reasons -- among them a 60th birthday and news that three more significant figures from my life didn’t reach that milestone -- I’ve been contemplating that most foreboding of subjects: life expectancy.

My curiosity is driven by events and informed by an observation made several years ago in a story by a student journalist. An IU Health Center source said her generation -- the student’s -- due to lifestyle and environmental factors, would be the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents.

MacNeil's 'Autism Now' honest, enlightened, public-interest journalism

April 30, 2011

After an involuntary hiatus, it's always invigorating to re-engage with the "real work" (Beat poet Gary Snyder's words), especially when the initial reconnect is celebratory in nature. Especially when the celebration involves an institution at the heart of the mission, in this case journalism.

And so, with a bow to journalist Robert MacNeil, I begin this summer's phase of my investigation into the twin epidemics of autism and developmental disabilities. His investigative report Autism Now, which aired on the PBS NewsHour in April, reacquainted me with the issues I'm exploring in the Ohio River Valley, where the rain is toxic and data show the kids just aren't quite right, developmentally speaking. Three years' into this project, I've not found a more honest or enlightened media report.

April 15, 2011

After seven years of struggling with Monroe County officials over polling places that violate federal laws governing access for citizens with disabilities, Randy Paul filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., to force action.

In an e-mail, Paul said he did not file the complaint specifically against Monroe County after meeting with the County Commissioners.

"I agreed not to file a complaint against them if they agreed to never again approve a polling site that violated HAVA when an alternate is available that complies with HAVA," he wrote, referring to the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

Wild Indiana events celebrate backcountry in April

April 2, 2011

The history of the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area southeast of Bloomington can be officially traced to 1964 and the Wilderness Act. Or to 1973, when Congress directed the U.S. Forest Service to examine every acre of the National Forest System in the east for wilderness potential. Or to 1982, when Congress created the 12,982-acre Deam.

More compelling, however, are the stories of the extraordinary people who made the wilderness happen, some of whom will gather at 5:30 p.m., April 20, at the Lilly Library on the Indiana University campus, to remember a time when reasonable citizens could effect positive change for the benefit of all. Participants who will share Deam Wilderness memories include Jeffrey Stant, Bill Miller, Bill Hayden and Jeffrey St. Clair.

Study links environment with male reproductive problems, cancer

March 17, 2011

A new Finnish study linking environmental toxins to reproductive problems in young men reminded me of the ongoing, three-decade-old toxic assault on children's health and a speech I gave in 1995. The place was the annual meeting of the Indiana Environmental Institute (IEI) in downtown Indianapolis. The occasion was the release of my first book. The topic was sperm.

Before the talk, I figured I would never again have the undivided attention of the cream of the state's environmental stakeholders -- leaders from Indiana industry, government, academia and citizen groups, almost all white males. So I decided targeting their testicles might get their attention and be something they just might remember. I built the speech around an article the New Yorker had just published about worldwide declines in sperm counts.

March 13, 2011

State Rep. Vernon G. Smith (D-Gary) has called out Gov. Mitch Daniels for hyposcrisy after the emerging presidential candidate embraced Republican legislation that would allow non-licensed, non-trained educators in the classrooms. In 2009, Daniels vetoed a bill relaxing requirements for teachers who took the Praxis I test, because it “lowered standards” for teachers, Smith said in a news release.

“This is a dramatic turnaround and, for some reason, Gov. Daniels does not think anyone will notice the hypocrisy of his veto claims two years ago in contrast to his active support of initiatives that will put unqualified people into schools, people who will be called teachers and superintendents. The governor vetoed the bill I authored two years ago that would have established a testing waiver for teachers who scored slightly under the PRAXIS examination cutoff score.

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