July 5, 2011

Thirteen Indiana citizens and two citizen groups have threated to sue state and federal officials over the proposed Interstate 69 extension unless they cease violating federal laws, including the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts.

Bloomington attorneys Rudy Savich and Mick Harrison filed a Notice of Intent to Sue on July 5 against Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Michael B. Cline, Federal Highway Division Administrator Robert F. Tally and four other federal officials.

July 4, 2011

PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI -- What if one of our notorious Hoosier storms violently destroyed your entire neighborhood, killing scores and leaving you and your neighbors homeless and penniless?

Imagine that the immediate reaction to this disaster was inspiring, with celebrity-packed telethons being broadcast, leaders of state pledging to rebuild, and rich and poor alike donating to your recovery.

But a year and a half later, you are still homeless. You live in a fetid squatter's camp made of plastic sheets, scraps of wood and open sewers. There is no clear plan for you to be relocated to permanent housing, yet you are now slated to be forcibly evicted from even these meager quarters.

You are Haiti.

June 25, 2011

There’s plenty of news these days -- gas prices are down, the Republican presidential field is shaping up, and U.S. troops will soon be leaving Afghanistan. But despite all the political and media spin to the contrary, there’s not much good news in any of this.

While we can all breathe a little easier now that Anthony Weiner has lost his texting privileges, every silver lining has a dark cloud. Here are a few stories behind the news stories making headlines this summer.

Park Police chief's legal victory in January an exception to the rule

June 24, 2011

Teresa Chambers is the luckiest whistleblower in the United States. She lost her job as the first woman chief of the U.S. Park Police after she told the media in 2004 that the department was below the number required to perform the job adequately. She sued, and in January 2011 won her case.

But her victory is a rarity in the 21st century as President Barack Obama, who as an Illinois senator was instrumental in passing legislation to protect government whistleblowers, has effectively criminalized public servants who risk their jobs to speak out and expose waste, corruption and unethical behavior among their colleagues.

June 24, 2011

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood of Indiana (PPIN) is relieved that U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt has granted its motion for a preliminary injunction to halt the enforcement of the new state law that strips Medicaid funding from PPIN. The decision means that PPIN can once again be reimbursed for the preventive health care it provides its 9,300 Medicaid patients.

The Honorable Tanya Walton Pratt agreed with PPIN’s claims that the new law violates federal law and feels that even though administrative review is available, the federal government should be given deference. “To use a sports metaphor, just because the final buzzer has not yet sounded does not mean the Court must avert its eyes from the scoreboard.”

June 16, 2011

Mountains are sacred the world over, and when about a thousand of us gathered at the foot of Blair Mountain June 11, you could feel the spirit rising. For five days, several hundred people had walked single file down roads from Charleston, W.V.'s capital. Now, joined by several hundred more, they staked a claim to the historic site of the Battle of Blair Mountain 90 years ago when a faceoff between United Mine Workers and coal companies reached such a peak that federal forces came in to quell the conflict.

So pivotal was that fight that in 2009 Blair Mountain was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a move that would have protected it from surface mining if coal companies had not succeeded in getting it promptly delisted. We had gathered at the mountain on this hot June day to call for honoring the past by protecting Blair Mountain from mountaintop removal, but we had also gathered to march for the future -- a future, we hoped, when all mountaintops would be safe.

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 13, 2011

Like citizens in Indiana, Hal Suter has been fighting I-69 for more than two decades. He is the chair of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, which covers all of Texas but El Paso, and says widespread opposition has Texas highway advocates “scheming undercover.”

Furthermore, as in Indiana, I-69 in Texas is being constructed incrementally, according to a county official who so stated in an op-ed in the local paper a few days ago. The official provided no timeline for completion of the sections.

June 10, 2011

Some years ago, at a tequila-infused gathering in Boston, an acquaintance recommended I read Don DeLillo's 1985 satire, White Noise. In the intervening years, a number of friends and colleagues have made the same suggestion. Given the novel's setting -- a bucolic but altogether dysfunctional liberal arts college in the American Midwest -- and its jaundiced view of media and technology, I was assured the book would have personal and professional resonance for me. It sure does.

Reading White Noise this summer has been nothing short of revelatory. DeLillo's critique of the dehumanizing effects of mass culture and post-industrial society is chilling, as it is prescient. It's also laugh-out-loud funny. Writing in those halcyon days before e-mail, personalized ringtones and salacious Twitter posts, DeLillo describes the unraveling of the nuclear family, if not the whole of American civilization, on the altar of conspicuous consumption.

Oct. 7 talk will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war

June 7, 2011

Cindy Sheehan, internationally renowned peace activist, will speak in Bloomington at 7 p.m. on Wed., Oct. 5, at the Whittenburger Auditorium on the IU campus.

The title of Sheehan's address is "The War Economy and You."

Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Sheehan, who was killed in action in the Iraq war on April 4, 2004. Since then she has been an activist for peace and human rights.

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