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Earth Day 2014

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First established in 1970, today marks the 44th annual Earth Day, and this weekend an organization called Earth Day Indiana will hold its 25th annual celebration of the planet. Summer Keown, the executive director of Earth Day Indiana, gives a history of the organization.

Sponsors of this weekend’s event include some of Indiana’s top manufactures and biggest employers such as Eli Lilly, Cummins Inc, and Allison Transmission, along with statewide conservation groups like the Sierra Club of Indiana and the Hoosier Environmental Council.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the event, this year representatives from NASA will be bringing a rare experience to Indianapolis.

The festival is this Saturday from 11am to 4pm featuring entertainment, more exhibitors, and educational opportunities for children.

Parking has been reserved for those attending the earth day festivities at the IUPUI river walk garage and there is also bicycle parking areas at the event. More information about the event, including volunteer opportunities are available online at earth day indiana DOT org. The event runs from 11am to 4pm at White River State Park located at 801 W Washington Street in Indianapolis.

The Strike Mic – Slut Walk 2014

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This week on The Strike Mic: About two hundred people showed up yesterday to support this year’s Slut Walk, an annual event aimed to fight against those who shame, and sometimes blame, victims of rape and sexual assault.

Tune in every Tuesday for a new edition of The Strike Mic, a weekly update from your friends and neighbors working to strengthen the voice of IU students and staff.

Registration Closing in for Two Local Filmmaking Events

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Two filmmaking events are coming to The Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington this October, and the registration deadline for both is next week. The first, called Bloomington Cycles, will feature a screening of the 1979 film Breaking Away. Executive Director Danielle McClelland explains the rest.

Five days later The Buskirk will host The 2nd Annual Mix-Off: Bloomington’s Ultimate Bartender Showdown. McClelland details the unique competition.

The director says both events aim to raise awareness for their BCT Movie Partner Project, which allows rent-free use of the theater space on Saturday afternoons and evenings for film screenings. She says the project is important in keeping film programming a major part of the theater’s role in town.

Bloomington Cycles is scheduled to screen on October 5th, and The Mix-Off on October 10th. The registration deadline for both is next Wednesday, April 30th.

Richard Lugar Visits IU to Discuss Why “Ukraine Matters”

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Richard Lugar, a professor of practice in the Indiana University School of Global and International Studies and former United States Senator for Indiana, will give a talk tomorrow titled “Ukraine Matters – A Vital Opportunity for Constructive United States-European Action.” During his 36 years in the Senate Lugar concentrated on foreign policy, and Maria Bucur-Deckard, associate dean for the school of global and international studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, says he is the ideal person to give tomorrow’s speech, the final installment of the Global Perspectives Speaker Series this semester.

Bucur-Deckard explained that there are layers of complications within the rising conflict in Ukraine. She says that within the regional conflict there are human rights issues for both Russian and Ukrainian nationals, but added to that is the global conflict of how the United States and other countries react to the injustices.

Bucur-Deckard says that the educational focus of the School of Global and International studies provides a level of cultural understanding that is needed in this type of complicated foreign policy.

“Ukraine Matters – A Vital Opportunity for Constructive United States-European Action” is tomorrow at 4 pm in the Whittenberger Auditorium, in the Indiana University Memorial Union.

IU’s Global Change Center receives prestigious language award

Indiana University’s Center for the Study of Global Change has received the 2014 Paul Simon Award for the Promotion of Language and International Studies. The award, created in 1982, is named for the late Illinois Senator Paul Simon who supported international education and foreign language learning.

It was given specifically to the project called “Bridges: Children, Languages, World,” which offers exploratory language and culture classes such as Arabic, Chinese, Mongolian, Russian, and Zulu. Deborah Hutton, assistant director at the Center for the Study of Global Change, says the award really belongs to their many partners across campus.

“It isn’t just for the global center to brag on it,” Hutton says, “It’s hard for people outside to differentiate the partners but we do run it and we put it on our grant.”

Bridges classes are taught by undergraduate students at IU. The project’s mission is to expose youth to less-commonly taught languages while also helping those who serve as instructors and volunteers gain professional experience.

“We added a language coordinator grad student who helps the volunteer instructors with their lessons,” Hutton says, “This is a good idea and we can even switch things around and she can help the students themselves.”

The project is run by the donation of classroom facilities and materials, and the granting of work-study money and course credit. Hutton says the project gives people in Bloomington a unique and important learning opportunity.

“We’re so proud of what an unusual, large partnership this is to make it work,” Hutton says, “And our students are studying Chinese so well and they are excited and not intimidated by these languages and cultures.”

The Center for the Study of Global Change is one of eleven federally funded Title VI area studies centers in the School of Global and International Studies at IU Bloomington.

Income tax may raise to support juvenile services

The Monroe County Council showed support for raising a local income tax April 8. But the council pushed for the tax to cover even more expenses than it already does, raising questions that led the council to delay a vote on the issue. The tax is known as the Juvenile County Option Income Tax. It originally supported only the county’s Youth Services Bureau.

But in recent years the county has also used the tax to pay for juvenile probation officers. Now, Council President Geoff McKim said the council would also like to use the tax revenue for maintenance and other expenses.

“We decided to broaden the scope of the expenses that we would consider could be paid out of the juvenile county option income tax,” McKim says, “I created a committee to work with courts, YSB and the commissioners office to come up with a more accurate accounting of the costs of running our juvenile facilities.”

At a recent work session, Circuit Court Judge Steve Galvin asked the council to increase the tax. But he said his request, which would have brought the tax as high as .085 percent, needs to be increased even further.

“We presented what we thought were the bare budget amounts necessary to provide for juvenile services,” Galvin says, “However we didn’t include amounts for utilities, repairs, maintenance, security and other one-time expenses over the next five years. So we added those in and suggested a rate, but the rate is entirely up to the council.”

If the council agreed to Galvin’s request, it would nearly double the rate for that particular tax. Under the proposed rate, a county resident who earns $30,000 next year would pay $28.58 towards the juvenile services.

Contractor for I-69 section through Monroe County announced

The Indiana Department of Transportation has announced the winning contractor to finance, build, and maintain section 5 of the new interstate running through Monroe County. Section 5 of I-69 stretches from the south side of Bloomington to Martinsville. Sections 1 through 3, connecting Evansville with the Crane Military base, is complete and in operation. Section 4, from Crane and intersecting with State Road 37 just south of Bloomington, is under construction. The contracting consortium for Section 5 is called I-69 Development Partners. Will Wingfield, from the Office of Communications at the Indiana Department of Transportation, elaborates on the contract.

“The lead company is from Spain and has partnered with local contractors to do the work necessary to build and maintain I-69,” Wingfield says.

Isolux Infrastructures is part of Isolux-Corsan, a multi-national, privately-held company based in Spain, with operations primarily in Latin America but also in the U.S., and several billion euros in annual income. Now Indiana will add to these receipts.

“The private company will finance the product,” Wingfield says, “The idea behind that is that it allows us to do the project more quickly and realize the benefits of it. I know there’s been a concern about safety in Bloomington once I-69 opens and some of those payments are towards overpasses in that area.”

According to the Associated Press the contract for Section 5 stipulates that the state will make an initial $80 million down payment to the contractor and, once complete, pay it $21.8 million a year for 35 years, for a total of $407 million. The estimated cost to the contractor for Section 5 is $325 million. Wingfield did not confirm or deny these figures, but stated that the final terms of the deal are still to be worked out. None of the three sub-contracting firms are based in Bloomington or Martinsville, the anchors of Section 5.

“There were some local companies that submitted proposals, but our reason for a competitive proposal process is to get innovative ideas, the best technical solutions, and of course to get the lowest cost,” Wingfield says, “The highest scoring proposal was the lowest cost proposal that also met all the requests.”

Wingfield says he is unaware of any local companies that may be included in the construction contract. He anticipates that construction on Section 5 of I-69 will begin later this year, and open for traffic by the end of 2016.

Today is first day of early voting!

Today is the first day to vote early in this year’s primary elections. Party representation on the ballots ranging from school board and townships offices to the state and federal level are up for election. Voters who want to cast their ballots before the formal primary election day, Tuesday, May 6, can do so on non-holiday weekdays and the last two Saturdays from today until May 6th. A few changes in the voting process have been instituted this voting season. One is a change of location, moving from the Curry Building to a couple blocks west at 401 West 7th Street. Linda Robbins, Monroe County Clerk and the person overseeing local voting, explains the reason for the move.

“The location’s changed but we really hope people come out and see us there and vote,” Robbins says.

Over the last few election cycles, the county has been under pressure to make the primary voting site, as well as all of the local regular voting locations, fully accessible to the physically impaired, as required by the 2002 Help America Vote Act. Receiving your ballot should also be a faster and smoother process.

“I think it will be much easier for people to come vote,” Robbins says, “We have a few new features, for example we can scan your driver’s license if that’s your form of ID and enter that. We also have new e-poll books that won’t change much for the voter, but anyone working the polls will notice a big change.”

The newly adopted E-poll books will also allow for immediate access to find out who and how many people have voted. Early voting will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, except for Good Friday, May 18, and Monday, May 5, the day before the May 6 regular voting day, when it will close at noon, as well as from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the two Saturdays before May 6. If you have any questions, you can phone the County Clerk’s office at 812-349-2071.

The Strike Mic: Conference Unites Faculty & Students From Across the Country

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This week on The Strike Mic, a conference brings together faculty and students from across the country to talk about common struggles and their plans for the future.

Opponents of Duke Energy’s Edwardsport Plant Lose Battle As Duke Increases Monthly Charges

Opponents of Duke Energy’s Edwardsport coal gasification plant have lost another battle in the fight to keep Duke from passing on plant development costs to consumers.

Last week, the Indiana Court of Appeal unanimously upheld an Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ruling in 2012 to allow Duke to increase by 16  percent its monthly charges to its 790,000 Indiana customers to cover increases in costs of its Edwardsport plant.

The appeal to the courts to overturn the IURC deal with Duke was launched by several environmental and consumer groups.

The 618-megawatt plant near Edwardsport had an original 2007 cost estimate of $1.9 billion, but that eventually ballooned to about $3.5 billion. In a 2012 settlement between Duke and the IURC, the commission limited Duke to passing on $2.6 billion of construction costs to its customers. This settlement included the 16 percent rate increase that was the subject of the court appeal.

Duke had been applying this increase to it customers bills since then and, with the court ruling, will continue to do so.

Kerwin Olson of the Citizens Action Coalition say they appealed and are waiting on the ruling.

“We have every intention of taking this as far as we can,” Olson says.

Olson estimates that Duke’s Indiana customers are paying about 15 dollars monthly for the plant which went online last summer.

Since then, it has operated between 10 and 60 percent of capacity.

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