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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against Indiana’s Appeal to Ban Same-sex Marriages

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Today, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not hear an appeal from the state of Indiana, together with four other states, to district court rulings against same-sex marriage legal bans in these states. In Indiana’s case, Attorney General Zoeller had appealed to the Supreme Court against the September 4th ruling of the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals which, in turn, had upheld the June 25 ruling in Southern District of Indiana Court, which struck down the state law banning both marriage in Indiana for same-sex couples, and recognition of same-sex marriages performed outside the state. Southern District Judge Richard Young had ruled that dual prohibitions violated due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ken Falk, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and a member of the legal team that mounted the original appeal against the Indiana prohibitions responded to today’s decision…

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New Consumer Protection Laws Proposed

Yesterday Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced new proposals to strengthen consumer protection laws in Indiana.  Among the top complaints are those dealing with home repair and construction scams.  Often home repairs are needed immediately because of weather or emergency-related events.  In these cases, homeowners often feel they don’t have time to examine all the alternatives and this leaves them more susceptible to dishonest contractors. Zoeller is proposing a voluntary registration system for contractors available to the public online.  This would simplify homeowner access to information about reputable contractors.  To be listed a contractor would be required to post a bond to cover customers in case the contractor violated Indiana’s consumer protection laws.

Another big consumer complaint concerns debt-collection practices, especially when the debt is not legitimate.  Zoeller is proposing new protections requiring debt collectors to increase transparency during the initial contact with the consumer by immediately identifying themselves as a debt collector and disclosing from whom the debt was purchased.

Zoeller is also supporting extension of the Senior Consumer Protection Act to include additional protections for veterans and the disabled.  These proposals will be taken up by the next Indiana General Assembly which convenes in January.

Indiana State Department of Health releases hospital’s mistake records; No Local hospitals cited

This past week the Indiana State Department of Health released statistics based on the Indiana Medicine Error Reporting System which tracks hospital’s medical mistakes, everything from bed sores to surgical implements accidentally left in patients’ bodies after surgery. According to Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. William VanNess: “The purpose of the Medical Error Reporting System is to identify sources and significant opportunities to improve quality of care for Hoosiers. This is part of the Indiana State Department of Health’s continuing efforts to improve health and care for Hoosiers.” In 2006 Indiana became the second state to adopt the reporting standards of the National Quality Forum’s 28 Services Adverse Effects Survey, In 2013 the survey of 293 Indiana hospitals, birthing centers and abortion clinics found 111 incidents of health malfeasance. These included 45 severe bed sores reported; 27 incidents of a foreign object retained in a patient’s body after surgery; 18 surgeries performed on the wrong body part; and 12 falls in the hospital resulting in a death or serious disability. No local hospitals  – neither IU Health Bloomington Hospital nor Monroe Hospital, were listed in the 2013 data as having any “preventable errors.” It was Monroe Hospital’s fourth straight year of a perfect record and IU Bloomington Hospital’s second time in three years.

October is National-Adopt-a-dog Month

Bloomington Animal Shelter joins shelters across the United States in recognizing October as National Adopt-a-Dog Month.  Special events are planned where adoptable dogs will be present at locations around Bloomington on Saturdays.  Locations include Bryan Park, the library, Upland Brewery and the Farmer’s Market.  During the month of October the dog adoption fee is reduced to $40, which includes vaccinations, spaying or neutering, microchipping and heartworm testing.

According to Laurie Ringquist, Director, City of Bloomington Animal Care & Control, October is usually the most successful month for dog adoptions.  Last October 104 dogs were adopted compared to an average of 60-80 dog adoptions for other months.

Animal Rights Group Stages Monthly Protest At Bloomington Chiptole

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On Saturday, September 27 an animal rights activist group named Direct Action Everywhere staged a protest at Bloomington’s Chipotle Grill on Kirkwood street.

Jeff Melton, the local organizer for Direct Action Everywhere, says he and another protester went to Chipotle to protest their business practices and claims.

Melton says that the group takes issue with all fast food chains for their source of factory farmed meat products, but that businesses like Chipotle and Whole Foods that brand themselves misleadingly are a high concern. The protest matches others nationwide as part of a larger month-long effort by Direct Action Everywhere against species-ism.

Species-ism is defined as the exploitation of nonhuman animals for their meat, skins, their labor, or in scientific experiments. Melton says that they did not receive the hostility that protesters elsewhere have received, and that some people approached the protesters after the demonstration to gain more information.

Chipotle advertises its offerings as “food with integrity” and offers information on their website about the benefits to “naturally” raised farm animals. They also state that “Though the process is more complex, we are trying to find suppliers who can provide us with pasture-raised poultry and pork. Eventually, we want all of our meat to come from suppliers who meet these standards. We’re definitely working on it. Stay tuned.”

Direct Action Everywhere estimates that more than 100,000 animals are killed to be eaten each  minute world wide, and points out that undercover investigations have shown factory farms to terminate animals in cruel ways while they are still conscious.

Melton says that he chooses to demonstrate support for animals because they can not advocate for themselves.

Correction: IU investment in Central Heating Plant

Yesterday the Daily Local News inaccurately reported that Indiana University has recently decided to invest $34 million in the Central Heating Plant, including the addition of higher efficiency coal burning systems. This information was taken from an outdated press release. We strongly regret this error.

IU Professor Dr. Jonathan Raff Honored with Faculty Early Career Development Award By The National Science Foundation

Jonathan Raff, an associate professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) and an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, is the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s five-year Faculty Early Career Development Award.  He has been awarded $649,000 which will be used to support research and teaching.  Dr. Raff’s research involves the chemistry of air pollution and how it impacts climate.  He is also interested in science education and will use part of the award to develop learning modules based on ozone monitors installed at Indiana high schools.

Dr. Raff joined the faculty of SPEA in 2010.

“Rise Above the Mark” Showing Tonight at Bloomington North

“Rise Above the Mark”, a documentary film focusing on Indiana’s struggles with public school reform will be shown tonight at 6:30 at Bloomington High School North.  The film was produced by the West Lafayette Community School Corporation.  The film looks at issues of school choice, standardized testing, the A-F grading system of schools and the role of politics and legislatures in education policy.

The film is narrated by Peter Coyote.  Rocky Killion, the superintendent of West Lafayette Community School Corporation, will introduce the documentary.  Judy DeMuth, superintendent of Monroe County Community School Corporation, Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the IU School of Education, and Erika Peek, a teacher from Summit Elementary School, will also be present for a discussion following the movie.

The showing is sponsored by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education and the IU School of Education Graduate Student Association.

Open Streets Event Gains Approval

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Organizers of an open streets event got permission September 23rd to move forward with their plans, but not without a struggle. Open Streets Bloomington asked the city’s Board of Public Works to let them shut down half a mile of Seventh Street, from the Banneker Community Center to the B-Line Trail. The event is scheduled for October 5th. One of the organizers, Beth Rosenbarger, described Open Streets as an opportunity to use the street for unconventional activities such as promotion for local businesses and community meetings.

This is the second annual Open Streets event in Bloomington. Some residents told the Board they objected to the street closure. John Bavender lives on West Seventh. He also owns other houses on the street. He objects that the event would prohibit him from doing his routine property maintenance.

Only two of the three members of the Board were present. Both of those members, James McNamara and Charlotte Zietlow, said they should have been consulted earlier in the process. McNamara said he felt pressured to approve the street closure because the event is so soon. He ultimately did not want to deny the event to those who took time to put it together on such short notice.

Throughout the U.S. and Canada there have been more than 100 Open Streets events since 2010. A local architect, Marc Cornett, told the Board that these kinds of projects typically have opponents at first.

The Board later voted in favor of the event with the caveat that organizers must work with city staff to determine the hours for the closure. McNamara said he won’t support Open Streets in the future.

Further coverage of the decision for the Open Streets event can be found here.

Open Streets Event Under Consideration As An ‘Inappropriate Use Of Streets’

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An event meant to examine the use of streets to encourage healthy living and community may be denied a permit based on inappropriate use of streets. The Open Streets Bloomington event, scheduled to be held on Sunday, October 5, will be heard at the Board of Public Works meeting September 23, and is expected to face opposition.

Board member Charlotte Zietlow says that the first annual open streets event, held last fall, had a slight bit of opposition, and tonight the three member board will also voice their concerns.

This is the first time the event is coming in front of the board this year, and the final opportunity for approval since the board does not meet again before October 5.

Miah Michaelson, assistant director for the arts for the city of Bloomington economic and sustainable development department, is the supporting staff member for the project.

Michaelson says typically organizations would present their proposals well in advance of their scheduled event.

The proposal for the event includes closing 7th street from the B Line into the near west side neighborhood at Elm Street to traffic for the majority of the day.  Open street organizers expressed concern today through Facebook postings and a message that went out to the near west side neighborhood association that there event would not get approved, and that the board might not understand exactly what it is the event is trying to do.

“They’re proposing to close those streets off and as I understand it the idea is to get cars off the streets and use the streets as a type of playground,” Zietlow says, “I gather that the intent is to see what we could do if there were no cars on the streets. So the question arises is ‘Why do we have streets?’”

The open streets website differentiates the international open streets movement, from other events that typically block streets like art fairs, charity runs, and parades, stating the benefits of an open streets event to be about encouraging physical activity, broadening transportation choices, and encouraging economic development.

Michaelson said she could not think of a direct economic impact the event would have as it is not a ticketed event and there are not good being sold.

Zietlow also mentioned that the event does not support a charity the way other street closure events tend to do. The afternoon media campaign by the organizers of open streets seemed to already be having an effect, Zietlow said she was starting to hear from the public in support of the event.

“I’ve gotten three or four emails supporting it, and this is unusual for the things we act on,” Zietlow says. “There are other questions asking if this is a legitimate use of streets because there’s not charitable group this event is raising money for.”

The open streets event is set to coincide with a day long celebration of cycling at the Buskirk Chumley Theater, and was the recipient of the proceeds that came from the $12,000 raised at the clips of faith film festival in Bryan Park this summer.

The hearing regarding the open streets events will take place at the board of public works meeting September 23.

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