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Probation Department Works On Reducing Repeat Offendors

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When a criminal offender leaves the Monroe County correctional system and completes her or his probation, the hope is that person won’t be brought before a judge again.

The county Probation Department is especially concerned with the offender’s future behavior: the lower the overall recidivism rate, the better the department is doing its job.

The only problem is the Probation Department right now has few ways of knowing how well it’s doing.

This afternoon, Chief Probation Officer Linda Brady told staff workers, county officials, and circuit court judges how the Probation Department is moving to become what is termed an “Evidence-based Organization.”

It’s a start in the long process of updating information systems so the department can tailor its programs to become more effective in preventing repeat offenses.

“Right now the probation department has three different databases, which we inherited. The main one we use is just ancient. We just got permission from the county council to have one database for the entire department. The system is called QUEST and we can actually measure recidivism. Right now we actually do most of our stats by hand and it’s way too labor-intensive to be able to study recidivism,” Brady says.

Brady says studying various programs to gauge their effectiveness costs more money than the department normally can afford.

The Probation Department did recently receive a federal grant for its drug court program that required it to study the program’s success.

According to Brady, that study revealed that graduates of Monroe County’s drug court program had a recidivism rate 67 percent lower than those who hadn’t participated in it.

The integrated database system should become operational in about two years, Brady says.

The only authoritative assessment of the department’s effectiveness is mandated by the Indiana Department of Corrections.

INDOC partially funds Monroe County’s combined correctional system and Probation Department and requires it to be audited to show how well it adheres to a set of national benchmarks.

Monroe County was audited in March of this year and earned an “A” grade, scoring 93 of 100. Passing this test marks a corrections department as an Evidence-based Organization. To Brady, this is just a start.

“We really feel like we’re getting started in becoming an evidence-based organization. What we’re doing now is really a journey of trying to become a better department and really have an effect on our citizens. It’s a chance to measure what we’re doing and it’s a really exciting time for us,” Brady says.

Some 5680 people were booked at the Monroe County Correctional Center in 2012 with a total of 248 inmates serving sentences there, according to the Sheriff’s annual report.

 

Romanian IU Students Protest Mining Project in Rosia Montana

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The Romanian Student Organization at Indiana University is protesting Friday against an invasive mining project that was supported by the Romanian government in 2007.

The Romanian government has signed their approval for the project to commence. The area that has been affected by this project is Rosia  Montana, Romania.

Alexandra Cotofana, a first-year graduate student in the Anthropology Department and a citizen of Romania, is one of the leaders of the protest. Cotofana told us some history of the project and how it is creating problems for the people in Rosia Montana.

“It got the attention of the media in 2007 because that’s when the people started to rebel. The government kept putting pressure on people to leave their houses. They tried to pay them, but some people didn’t want to leave,”Cotofana said.

This year the Romanian government passed a law that will allow the company to force people out of their homes and this is one of the main reasons why the Romanian Student Organization is protesting against this project.

“This year, the company has raised the percentage of what they are going to pay the state for the whole project, from 4% to 6%. Now, a law has passed that will allow the company to expel residents. This is the part we are most worried about,” Cotofana said.

The Romanian Student Organization is hoping that this protest will give more attention to this issue and bring in more supporters to keep something like this from happening again.

“The media in the country doesn’t say anything about this. They support the project by keeping quiet, but the rest of the world knows. Romanian citizens care about what happens and we know that the next project when the government allows a private company to expel people might set a precedent for these sort of non-democratic acts. This could happen in my hometown next. We want them to know we are aware and we are fighting it even though we are away from home. Home is still home,” Cotofana said, explaining why this protest matters even though it is far from Romania.

The protest will take place Friday at 6 pm at the Sample Gates.

ImagineBloomington Holds Workshop To Hear Back From The Community

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The City of Bloomington Planning Department is holding a workshop on September 12th.

This workshop will help with gathering public input on community goals for ImagineBloomington to help update the Growth Policies Plan.

Senior Long Range Planner, Nate Nickel gave us some background on the Growth Policies Plan.

“Growth Policies Plan is the city’s comprehensive plan and was adopted in 2002. Since it’s been over 10 years, we are undertaking the process to update our GPP. This is an opportunity for the public to tell us what they want to see in the future and help guide us in the future,” Nickel said.

The three topics that will be discussed at the workshop include Economic and Sustainable Development, Government Services and Transportation. During the workshop participants will be able to offer their input and vote on one of their goals for ImagineBloomington.

“What we’ll do after is work closely with our ImagineBloomington committee and start editing our draft goals and moving ahead with the planning process. We think this will go up until 2015 and there will definitely be more opportunities to provide input,” Nickel said.
The workshop will take place on September 12th from 6 to 7 p.m. It will be held at the Monroe County Public Library in room 1C.

Senator Coats Travels To Gather Hoosier Opinions On Syria

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Indiana Senator Dan Coats wants to know what Hoosiers think about any U.S. military intervention in Syria in the near future.

This week he is traveling across the state, talking to citizens about their reactions to the Syrian crisis and soliciting opinions about possible American involvement in that civil war.

Senator Coats has been outspokenly critical that President Barack Obama unequivocally “drew a red line in the sand” with Syria’s possible use of Sarin gas on Syrian citizens, but he does appreciate the president seeking support and approval from‘ congress before deciding on any impending military action.

So far he is finding that Hoosier reactions to U.S. military involvement in Syria for humanitarian or other reasons are mixed. According to Senator Coats’ spokesperson Tara DiJulio:

“We’ve been getting a lot of concern about it. There is a disconnect on what is the objective there. Can we afford it, does it impact our national security and what are the ramifications if we do or do not intervene in Syria?” Dijulio says.
This week’s tour of Indiana by Senator Coats is not meant to be the end of his continual monitoring of Hoosier opinion on either Syria or the ongoing Middle East crisis.

Bloomington May Soon See Drought Conditions

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An area of near-drought conditions is creeping closer to Bloomington, according to the federal drought monitor, a joint effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Nebraska.

A band of parched counties stretches across the center of the state with the “abnormally dry” zone just touching the northern reaches of Monroe County and extending a third of the way into Brown County.

After several years of “exceptional” or “extreme” drought conditions affecting much of Indiana, the spring and summer of 2013 brought a return to more normal groundwater conditions here.

But the last half of the summer has proven to be uncomfortably similar to the arid summers of 2011 and 2012.

The city of Indianapolis has reported a mere one point one-five (1.15)  inches of rain in August, only a third of what’s expected.

The NOAA five-day forecast indicates only a slight chance of precipitation in Bloomington Saturday night and Sunday morning.

 

Daily Local News – September 5, 2013

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This afternoon, Chief Probation Officer Linda Brady announced that the Probation Department is moving to become an “Evidence-based Organization”; The City of Bloomington Planning Department is holding a workshop to gether public input on community goals for ImagineBloomington;An area of near-drought conditions is creeping closer to Bloomington, according to the federal drought monitor; The City of  Bloomington is partnering with the  American Red Cross; Indiana Senator Dan Coats wants to know what Hoosiers think about any U.S. military intervention in Syria in the near future; The Romanian Student Organization at Indiana University is protesting tomorrow against a mining project that was supported by the Romanian government in 2007.

FEATURE
New parking meters mean new costs for downtown street festivals – WFHB news director Alycin Bektesh has the report in today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

VOICES IN THE STREETS
Our weekly public opinion feature Voices in the Street hit the 4th Street Arts Festival.

CREDITS
Anchors: Jalisa Ransom, Scott Weddle
Today’s headlines were written by Mike Glab, Jalisa Ransom, Yvonne Cheng and Anson Shupe
Our feature was produced by Alycin Bektesh
Voices in the Street was produced by Kelly Wherley
Our engineer is Sarah Hettrick
Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh

Daily Local News – September 4, 2013

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Indiana Democrats have responded to a Ball State University study that indicates Hoosiers bring home significantly less per capita personal income compared to residents of other states; The Monroe County Community School Corporation announced last week that its Afterschool Ed-Ventures program will be the recipient of a twenty five thousand dollar grant award from Duke Energy; At a meeting September 3rd, the Bloomington Telecommunications Council heard about continuing  problems getting public, educational and governmental access channels to be carried on AT&T U-verse; A small town in Indiana is making big news about gender equality; Last week the Monroe County Council announced the proposed food and beverage tax will not be added to the agenda of the council’s September 10 meeting.

FEATURE
Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls Reach Playoffs
After 8 challenging seasons, Bloomington’s Bleeding Heartland Rollergirls have reached the playoffs of the Roller Derby World Championships. WFHB Correspondent Jennifer Whitaker has the story for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

CREDITS
Anchors: Cathi Norton, Kelly Wherley
Today’s headlines were written by Casey Kuhn, and Nash Hott
Along with Joe Crawford for CATSweek, in partnership with Community Access Television Services
Jennifer Whitaker produced our feature
Bloomington Beware is produced by Richard Fish, and correspondent Reina Wong
Our engineer is Jim Lang
Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh

Daily Local News – September 3, 2013

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Indiana Governor Mike Pence maintained his resistance to adopting the Affordable Care Act by announcing today that Indiana will remain using the current economic model titled the Healthy Indiana Plan to provide Medicaid health insurance to Hoosiers; A private coalition of environmental groups has forced Duke Energy Indiana to agree to close its old coal fired power plants in Terre Haute; With the inaugural issue of Network Science, a new journal published by Cambridge University Press, coordinating editor Stanley Wasserman brings together scholars from fields across the academic spectrum whose interests converge upon the quickly evolving field of network science;The fall migration will likely bring huge flocks of waterfowl and shore birds to Goose Pond,  the 8,000 acre preserve managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

FEATURE
Protesters Urge No Bombing of Syria
Leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress said today they support the Obama administration’s call for a military strike on Syria. The administration, especially Secretary of State John Kerry, has said the U.S. should attack in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government on August 21st. But as some in Washington continue to make the case for intervention, protesters in Bloomington are calling for diplomacy instead. A crowd gathered outside the Monroe County Courthouse last night to protest military action in Syria. Correspondent Joe Crawford has that story for today’s WFHB feature exclusive.

INS AND OUTS OF MONEY
Unfortunately two of the biggest barriers to an exercise routine are time and money. While we can’t put more hours in your day, Ashley and Sarah can help you keep fitness affordable.

CREDITS
Anchors: Shayne Laughter, Bill Daugherty
Today’s headlines were written by Alycin Bektesh, David Murphy, Yvonne Cheng, and Anson Shupe
Today’s feature was produced by Joe Crawford
The Ins and Outs of Money is produced by Dan Withered, in partnership with the Monroe county public library and the united way of Monroe county
Our engineer is Harrison Wagner
Our theme music is provided by the Impossible Shapes
Executive Producer is Alycin Bektesh

IU Professor Contributes To New ‘Network Science’ Journal

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With the inaugural issue of Network Science, a new journal published by Cambridge University Press, coordinating editor Stanley Wasserman brings together scholars from fields across the academic spectrum whose interests converge upon the quickly evolving field of network science. Wasserman has a Ph.D from Harvard University nd the idea for the journal was launched about four years ago, said Stanley Wasserman, Rudy Professor in the Departments of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Statistics at IU.

“Networks, we have realized are everywhere. From Facebook to traffic, and there are unifying theories that everyone in network science uses,” Wasserman says.

According to Wasserman, in the 21st century, with the recognition globalization of the world along with the growth of the Internet and social media, network methods seem an increasingly fitting and appropriate way to examine many aspects of the social and physical world, and the individuals, organizations and cellular processes within it.

“Networks are individual units that are linked by relational ties. It is very inter-disciplinary, including physics and sociology and psychology and many others,” Wasserman says.

Topics, such as friendship network and social status, network dependencies in international trade, are covered in the first issue of Network Science.

The journal can be viewed online on the website of Cambridge Journal Online.

Duke Agrees To Close Old Terre Haute Coal Power Plants

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A private coalition of environmental groups has forced Duke Energy Indiana to agree to close its old coal-fired power plants in Terre Haute.

The settlement between Duke and the coalition, composed of the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Valley Watch, and Save the Valley, was reached before an Indiana Department of Environment administrative law judge. The settlement requires Duke to cease burning coal at most of its Wabash River coal-fired power plant in Vigo County and to invest in new renewable energy projects.

In return, the environmental coalition will drop its appeal of the air pollution permit issued by IDEM to Duke for its Edwardsport coal-gasification and combined-cycle power plant to the south.

We spoke to Jodi Perras, of the Indiana branch of the Sierra Club, about this settlement, as well as another parallel suit concerning Duke.

She said that Duke agreed to retire their coal-fired units and that there was a commitment from Duke to invest in some clean-energy projects.

The result is that a total of 668 megawatts of coal-fired power will come offline.

Currently, Indiana gets more than 90 percent of its electricity from burning coal.

Besides emitting more green-house gases than other fossil fuels, coal-fired power plants are also the country’s biggest source of mercury, sulfur dioxide pollution, carbon pollution, and many other pollutants that can trigger heart attacks and contribute to respiratory problems.

Duke also agreed to pursue either a new feed-in tariff program to purchase at least 30 megawatts of solar power from its Hoosier customers or to purchase or install at least 15 megawatts of wind or solar generating capacity from new facilities built in Indiana.

A feed-in tariff enables customers to earn money from their own solar panels by selling excess power back to electric utilities.

“Duke said previously that they thought they would retire the units at Wabash river because of the mercury and the toxin rule that’s supposed to go into effect in 2015. Those are old plans from the 50’s or 60’s but the mercury rule is being challenged in federal court. If we were to lose that case, Duke still has to retire those units by 2018,” says Perras.

Four coal burning units are required to close by 2015 and the sixth by 2018. While they have settled this suit, the coalition is still continuing with its parallel suit against Duke before the Indiana Court of Appeals to overturn Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission decisions regarding the Edwardsport plant.

In December of 2012, the IURC approved additional rate increases tied to the Edwardsport coal gasification plant which would allow Duke to pass on rising construction costs to power consumers.

The plant is currently $1.6 billion over budget and still not operating at full capacity after eight years of design, construction, and testing.

“We have briefs that are due on Monday so we have been working on that and there’s an opportunity for the folks involved to do a reply brief. The court of appeals will probably schedule those and it’ll take several months before the court issues a decision,” Perras says.

There are several issue in question in this suit: whether the IURC violated the law by failing to consider the long-term costs to Duke Energy ratepayers of controlling the plant’s carbon pollution.

This issue was raised in testimony by citizens groups and ignored in the IURC’s decision, in violation of Indiana law; whether the IURC should have appointed a Special Administrative Law Judge to conduct a formal investigation into reports of behind-closed-doors communications, undue influence, conflicts of interest, and other misconduct involving high-level officials of Duke Energy and the IURC and whether the IURC failed to act as an impartial judge by directing Duke Energy to hire an outside consultant to monitor problems at Edwardsport and report to the IURC on its progress, and then refusing to place the reports into the public record.

This scandal involving conflict of interest between state regulators and Duke has resulted in several firings and transfers but no reversal of the resulting tainted regulatory rulings.

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