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Excerpts of editorials published recently in Indiana newspapers

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The Herald Times (Bloomington). July 23, 2015

Progress needed in enriching lives of young and old in Indiana

Two reports released recently show the need for Indiana to make improvements on behalf of the youngest and oldest Hoosiers.

A report released by the Gallup organization last week showed Indiana as No. 46 out of the 50 states for the well-being of people 55 and older. The Kids Count report released this week by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Indiana No. 32 in the country for overall child well-being.

These two reports suggest that policy makers aren't focused on those in the state who need their help the most.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index looked at areas such as sense of purpose and community, social lives, financial stability and physical health. Only Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia ranked worse than Indiana.

The poll showed older Hoosiers in the middle of the pack at No. 24 when it comes to financial stability, No. 35 when it comes to purpose, but in the 40s for social lives, sense of community and physical health.

This suggests the need for more programs that engage older Hoosiers and help them live more healthful lifestyles.

The No. 32 overall rank in the Kids Count state-by-state report certainly is a better ranking, but still solidly in the bottom half of the states. It's troubling that Indiana dropped five places from the 2014 report.

Officials of Indiana Youth Institute, which promotes healthy development of the state's children and highlighted the report, pointed out that Indiana's conditions have not worsened, but rather other states made significant improvements. Indiana improved in 11 out of the 16 indicators in the areas of health, education, economics, and family and community.

That's looking at the glass half full. But No. 32 is worse than No. 27, which means other states have made more progress in problem areas than Indiana has.

This also remains true: about 22 percent of Indiana children, more than 1 out of 5, were living in poverty in 2013, the most recent year for which data was available. There has been no improvement. In overall economic well-being, 30 percent of parents lack secure employment. Alarmingly, that's a higher percentage than in 2008 in the midst of the recession.

Legislators need to focus on the issues of older and younger Hoosiers when they return to Indianapolis.


The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne). July 24, 2015

Leave protection to pros

The shooting rampage that left four Marines and a sailor dead in Chattanooga last week should prompt the Pentagon to revisit restrictions on firearms at U.S. military centers, including recruitment centers like the one the shooter fired on before his fatal attack at the Navy support center. Existing gun regulations don't seem sufficient to keep deadly weapons from the hands of individuals intent on committing evil acts, so it makes sense to allow military personnel - professionally and properly trained - to carry weapons.

It also is far preferable to what's emerged in the wake of the rampage: self-appointed security forces camping outside recruitment centers, including at Glenbrook Commons. Stars and Stripes, a news service covering military issues, reports the armed "guards" aren't welcome.

"I'm sure the citizens mean well, but we cannot assume this in every case and we do not want to advocate this behavior," according to an Army Command Operations Center-Security Division letter, Stars and Stripes reported. The letter went on to say, "If questioned by these alleged concerned citizens, be polite, professional and terminate the conversation immediately" and tell authorities of the exchange.

The Army Recruiting Command letter expressed concern that the civilian forces were making applicants nervous and "disrupting our recruiting operations," according to the Houston Chronicle. Americans "are free to their right of assembly wherever it's lawful," said Brian Lepley of the Army Recruiting Command, but police had asked some volunteers "to stow their weapons." In Lancaster, Ohio, one of the guards accidentally fired an assault rifle at the ground. Fortunately, no one was injured.

The guards are responding to a call from Oath Keepers, a loosely organized group of so-called patriots, to "Protect the Protectors."

When the military politely asks its self-appointed protectors to stand down, they should. We'll trust our military leaders to do what's right to protect the men and women who serve.


South Bend Tribune. July 23, 2015

Saving ethanol plant from scrap heap

It's been nearly three years since South Bend's ethanol plant closed its doors, the victim of high corn prices and a flat demand for gasoline that left the ethanol industry struggling.

Now, with the plant back in production, the city and Noble Americas, a U.S. subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Noble Group, have managed to salvage a facility that was the subject of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late 2012.

Bill Cronin, Noble Group's chief operating officer, said his company invested nearly $100 million to get the plant going again.

Building the ethanol plant was a battle from the beginning. There were times during the process when it seemed the plant would never be built here. It was only through the perseverance of former Mayor Roger Parent, and the considerable influence of former U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and other in Washington, that the plant became a reality in 1984.

When Noble Americas bought the plant from liquidators, the company announced that it planned to resume ethanol production in late 2013 or early 2014. The plant began shipping ethanol within the past couple of the months.

But South Bend also provided some incentive. The city purchased a $2 million corn-oil extractor to cement Noble's interest and provide another marketable product. The dry grain from distillers also is being sold to farmers for animal feed.

Having the plant operational again is good news for neighbors, some of whom have been battling flooding since the plant's closure. The facility pumps so much water out of the ground each day that the plant's shutdown in 2012 caused flooding in nearby residents' basements.

The ethanol industry may not have turned out the way some experts predicted. But having South Bend's plant back on line with new equipment and 70 full-time employees, is a positive step for a community dealing with an idled plant that only a few years ago was better suited for scrap.


The Indianapolis Star. July 24, 2015

Not testing rape kits is failure of justice

The failure to test more than 5,000 sexual assault kits in Marion County since 2000 is an inexcusable injustice for potentially thousands of rape victims and a threat to public safety. Many of those kits must be processed immediately.

Kits contain crucial forensic evidence, such as clothing, fingernail scrapings and swabs from various body parts that can help identify sexual predators and assist in their prosecution.

Explanations and excuses are being bandied about as to why so many kits have gone untested. None is valid. Officials in Marion County say a kit backlog exists because crimes are not being reported to law enforcement, or the victim did not cooperate or declined to move forward with the case. Yet only 29.9 percent of kits connected to a reported crime in Marion County were tested from 2000 to 2014, The Star's analysis found.

It's unclear how many Marion County rape victims are awaiting justice because of unprocessed kits, but denying closure or criminal adjudication to even one person who pursued justice is one too many. Evidence from the kits also could be useful in identifying serial rapists through DNA, and can strengthen criminal cases or clear a suspect of wrongdoing. Unprocessed evidence contributes to rapists staying on the street and finding new victims.

Law enforcement agencies around the country have been lax in prioritizing the testing of rape kits even though Congress approved $41 million earlier this year to target the problem. A USA TODAY Media Network investigation, done in concert with The Star, found that at least 70,000 rape kits nationwide have never been tested, including the 5,000 here.

In light of the investigation, some agencies have finally pledged action, despite limited budgetary resources. What's most unacceptable here is that Marion County officials have no plans to do anything to address the backlog.

It is a miscarriage of justice to allow those rape kits to sit locked in the Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency lab. These rape victims endured an intrusive examination for a purpose. The analysis and DNA profiles, gleaned when the kits are processed, must be entered into state and local databases to aid in the investigation and prosecution of other rape cases.

And when Indiana's General Assembly resumes session in January, legislators must swiftly move to enact mandatory testing laws for all state law-enforcement agencies. Rape victims are robbed of a choice when they are victimized. Processing rape kits should not be optional.

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