Peace and justice summit focuses on grass roots organizing

April 1, 2011

This year’s Midwest Peace and Justice Summit, the seventh annual, bristled with ideas for social justice activists. It took place March 26 on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis and was sponsored by the IUPUI chapter of Students for a Democratic Society.

The all-day, free summit began with a plenary session on grassroots organizing: from the Middle East to the Midwest, by two state activists, Omar Atia, president of Bridge, and Allison Luthe, community activist with Central Indiana Jobs with Justice, with Carl Davidson, a long-time activist and writer from western Pennsylvania, moderating.

April 1, 2011

A few weeks ago, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to defund NPR. The good news is that the Democrat-led Senate is not expected to pass the measure. For the time being, it seems, NPR has survived this latest ideological assault.

Nevertheless, this episode raises important questions about the future of US public media. For instance, could public radio survive without federal funding? The short answer to that question is yes: NPR could survive without public financial support. However, it would be a greatly diminished service -- one that caters to relatively affluent audiences and without the national reach, let alone the relevance, that it can and should have.

Union, I-69 protesters picket governor, Chamber of Commerce

March 31, 2011

Jean Smith holds one end of a 7-feet-long poster that first entered the protesting scene five years ago. It should be a third longer, she said.

“It’s the cost of I-69 expressed in millions,” the longtime opponent of the Interstate 69 extension from Evansville to Indianapolis via Bloomington said, looking down at the small numbers. “When I printed this, the state said it cost $1.8 billion, but we estimated that it cost $3 billion. The state now admits that it’s $3 billion."

Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR) has calculated the cost to be $4 billion, so the poster should be longer.

March 29, 2011

A national expert who was instrumental in unraveling the Enron accounting scheme has filed testimony with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) opposing the murky, risk-shifting plan for a coal-gasification plant proposed for Rockport by New York-based Leucadia Corp.

Robert McCullough’s testimony revealed a complicated “derivative” scheme based on the price of various commodities over time. Customers are not paying for service, or a natural gas substitute, but instead are paying for a financial hedge to cover the losses and share in the profits, if any, that the plant’s owners might make. McCullough’s testimony shows that if the contract were in place today, it could lead to a loss to ratepayers of as much as $500 million.

March 18, 2011

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s plain to see just how anemic and irrelevant much of what passes for “news” is these days. In times of crisis, the public needs a robust, independent press willing and able to “speak truth to power.” Problem is, the art and craft of journalism is in crisis.

Neither you nor I have time for a lengthy treatise on the sorry state of the Fourth Estate. After all, it’s spring break. Here, then, are five unmistakable signs of shoddy journalism.

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 16, 2011

The following is a statement about changes in the Farmers Market made by Megan Hutchison, District 5 City Council Candidate, at a news conference on March 12, 2011.


I called this press conference Thursday after learning about changes to the Saturday Market at City Hall. On Thursday morning, I attended a Citizen’s Breakfast hosted by City Council President Susan Sandberg, County Council President Julie Thomas and County Council, District Four Representative Sam Allison. The breakfast is held monthly and offers residents a welcoming environment to discuss issues of importance to them.

At the breakfast, we were all surprised to hear the new rules regarding tabling for community groups at the Farmers’ Market. A member of a nonprofit organization that frequently tables at the market learned that there would be fees to set up tables near the market. In the past, local organizations were able to participate in the Farmers’ Market to inform and engage community members for no cost. It’s a great way for farmers’ market customers to learn more about community events and how they can get involved in issues and organizations they are interested in.

March 14, 2011

Many people apply lawn chemicals on their properties to achieve the much-touted gorgeous, green, weed-free lawn. Lawn chemicals, however, can be deadly.

“The entire U.S. population is exposed on a daily basis to numerous agricultural chemicals, some of which are used in residential and commercial landscaping,” according to the latest edition of a report called Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, by the President’s Cancer Panel.

March 12, 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.

Nonprofits bring respect back to an ailing profession

March 5, 2011

News about the news media has been chilling for longer than any self-respecting journalist would care to admit. Last fall, public trust reached a historic low, when Gallup pollsters found 57 percent of respondents did not trust the news media to report stories “fully, accurately or fairly.”

In an era when Brian Williams, Katie Couric and Bill O’Reilly are considered “journalists,” the public’s cynicism is unarguably well-deserved. But commercialized news is only part of the story. The best traditions of American journalism are alive, if not necessarily well, at nonprofit outfits like the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ), whose chief reporter and Web producer visited Bloomington from March 1 to 4.

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