December 13, 2009

High-cost, unregulated private student loans are just one example of why we need a strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA). Indiana's Democratic Senator Evan Bayh sits on the Senate Banking Committee and is a key vote to create a robust new watchdog that would keep an eye on the loan market for students and set strong rules for fairer private student loan marketing and terms.

As someone who will graduate with about $70,000 in private loan debt from IU Bloomington, I urge the senator to create the CFPA.

We've been told since we were young that a college degree is the key to our future. Now that I've been in college for a few years, I also understand how society benefits from our education. We are challenged to form a vision for impacting the world, and we get the training and tools necessary to do it.

December 13, 2009

News Release
Indiana Forest Alliance

Using wood as a fuel to supply electricity to the nation is not the panacea that some want it to be. There are major problems for both environmental and public health that people need to know about.

The public will have just such an opportunity on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009l when Bill Sammons, M.D., will present a talk on biomass plants and their costs to the environment and public health at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington, 2120 Fee Lane.

December 6, 2009

The dogged pursuit of the unanswerable question, "What causes autism?" could be considered a health hazard. It requires poring over reams of studies, most of whose contents could reasonably be expected to induce paranoia. Mental fatigue from considering the studies' considerable contradictions is a distinct possibility. And the energy with which the proponents of these competing conclusions defend the arguments could lead to high blood pressure for all concerned.

The most emotional dimension of the autism debate, the proposition that mercury in childhood vaccines is linked to the increasing diagnosis rates of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), is a case in point. Jenny McCarthy and Amanda Peet have offered point-counterpoints all over the Web and on mainstream media, like National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

November 29, 2009

Editor's note: The Indiana stretch of the Ohio River Valley is one of the most toxic environments on Earth. On Nov. 24, I took a road trip to Evansville and Mount Vernon to interview John Blair, president of the environmental group Valley Watch, and Marcella Piper-Terry, an autism care provider who has collected extensive background data on her clients' environmental exposures. This story is the first in a series on autism and the Southwest Indiana environment. - sh


EVANSVILLE, IND. - John Blair readily agrees that Southwest Indiana is the perfect laboratory in which to explore the connection between industrial pollution and the increasing incidence of autism and other developmental disabilities. He has witnessed both sides of the equation in his three decades as president of the environmental group Valley Watch.

"We have distinct problems down here with neurological diseases," he says during an interview in his Evansville office on a cloudy, crisp November day. "... And we are under assault from almost every kind of toxic chemical there is."

November 29, 2009

A dozen protesters bore witness to the Nov. 19 sale of logging rights to 3,082 trees on 306 acres of the Morgan-Monroe and the Yellowwood State Forests for an average of $51.14 a tree.

"We are here to protest the increased amount of commercial logging on Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests," said David Haberman, president of the Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) board of directors. "We believe that the state forests belong to the public and that the public should have a major voice in what happens to these forests."

November 29, 2009

When the Indiana Gasification (IG) plant was proposed for Rockport by the Mitch Daniels administration in November 2006, the price of natural gas was on the rise at around $9 per million BTUs (mmbtu). Suddenly taking coal's hydrocarbons and converting them to usable "syngas" (synthetic gas) seemed to make sense, at least until you got to the details.

That is, presumably, why the legislature passed a law telling the state's gas utilities that they had to negotiate 30-year contracts with IG on a "take-or-pay" basis that forced Indiana ratepayers to use its syngas no matter what the cost.

Then, while negotiations were still taking place, IG trotted before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) with its proposal. Sadly for them, the utilities soon discovered that even with prices for natural gas on the rise, the required price for syngas was just too high to be competitive with even volatile natural gas, which by early 2008 had risen to $13-plus.

November 29, 2009

It's time for the oldest and dirtiest power plants to clean up their act. Fossil fuel-fired giants have dominated our electricity for decades and have been allowed to pollute without license. In order to stop global warming and reap all the benefits of clean energy, we must require old clunker power plants to meet modern standards for cutting global warming pollution.

The Gibson Generating Station in Gibson County near the Wabash River is the dirtiest power plant in Indiana based on carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution, ranking as the fourth dirtiest plant in the country for 2007, according to a new analysis of government data released this month by Environment America.

Power plants currently do not have to meet any global warming pollution standard, meaning that they are unchecked contributors to global warming. In fact, power plants are the nation's single largest source of global warming pollution.

November 29, 2009

Janet McCabe, executive director of Improving Kids' Environment (IKE), has been tapped by the Obama administration to become principal deputy administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) Agency Office of Air and Radiation. IKE, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary as Indiana's leading advocate and educational source for healthy environments for children, is seeking a new executive director to lead the organization into its next decade.

IKE works to prevent lead poisoning and reduce asthma in children and promote healthy homes, schools and childcare facilities. IKE's general approach is to work within current systems to bring about important policy changes that protect children.

With the support of its board of directors and a cadre of volunteers and contractors, IKE works with stakeholders that include elected officials, government staff, businesses and other public interest organizations to find solutions that work. IKE maintains a Web site, publishes a newsletter, participates in numerous workgroups and committees, hosts the annual Indiana Lead-Safe and Healthy Homes Conference, conducts action-oriented research and supports legislative and regulatory efforts.

November 29, 2009

News Release
d'Ippolito Campaign 2010

Tamyra d'Ippolito has announced that she will independently mount a campaign against Sen. Evan Bayh in the 2010 election. A tireless community organizer and small business entrepreneur in Bloomington, she has announced her candidacy through social networking on Facebook, Twitter and Indiana's political blogs.

The candidate's Web site acts as an information portal for her biographical information and political platform.

November 28, 2009

Editor's note:A group of area artists have banded together to resist management changes and fee increases at the John Waldron Arts Center. On Nov. 23, they sent the following letter to Bloomington Area Arts Council Board President Ashley Fisher and Executive Director Rob Hanrahan.


Dear Ashley and Rob,

We the undersigned represent 21 performing arts organizations in Bloomington who have come together to form the Bloomington Performing Arts Coalition (B-PAC). The primary concern of our organization is the recent increase in the rental rates and fees of the Waldron Arts Center, a building donated to the BAAC by the City of Bloomington for use as a "community arts center."

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