- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. June 9, 2016

Availability of police data makes city more secure.

The Dalai Lama said, “a lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”

If that’s true, and we believe it is, Bloomington has just become more trustworthy and more secure.

Easy access to Bloomington Police Department data has been made accessible through the city’s participation in the White House Police Data Initiative. Simply, Bloomington police operations have become more transparent.

The initiative came out of President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. One task force recommendation encouraged police departments to share data with the public to build community trust through transparency.

The Bloomington Police Department officials were eager to take part because they believe the department does many things right when it comes to community policing. The announcement this week that 10 areas of data are available for all to see shows the eagerness in practice. The information is from the first quarter of 2016, and subsequent quarterly reports will follow.

Included is information on officer-involved shootings; use of force by police; reports of hate or bias-based offenses and crimes; citizen complaints against an officer and the disciplinary measures taken; nuisance complaints reported to police; traffic citations; calls to the police for service; employee demographics; officer training; and requests made to the police for things like speaking at schools or neighborhood meetings.

Each area of information helps describe and explain the work of the police department and how it interacts with the greater community. It should help show the department as a part of the community, not an organization to be set apart from it. That’s a good thing.

The information is worth examining. It can be found at https://data.bloomington.in.gov/group/public-safety .

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The (Munster) Times. June 9, 2016

Veterans need quick health care.

Carlos Villarreal’s case shows why so many veterans and politicians have choice words for the Veterans Choice program run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The disabled Marine veteran from Hobart tried for months to get an open MRI to assess nerve damage from a mortar attack in in Iraq. The Jesse Brown VA Medical Center on Chicago’s West Side, where he normally gets his health care needs met, doesn’t have an open MRI machine. Villarreal, 31, said he is claustrophobic as a result of his post-traumatic stress disorder.

That makes him a perfect example of why the Veterans Choice Act was passed. Unfortunately, he’s also the perfect example of how poorly implementation has gone.

The idea behind the Veterans Choice Act is to allow veterans to get health care locally if the nearest VA center either can’t provide the care soon enough or, as in Villarreal’s case, doesn’t have the necessary facilities to provide that care.

Villarreal finally got the MRI he needed, but only by stopping in at a VA medical center while he was on vacation in Puerto Rico that had an open MRI.

“I got it done in less than a day,” he said while headed to the Chicago VA hospital recently.

His quest to get the MRI began last July. He spent hours on the phone trying to schedule the test. It was like being in customer service purgatory, descending toward hell.

The Veterans Choice program was set up quickly in response to VA waits that were so horrific that dozens of veterans in Phoenix had died while waiting for care. Congress was furious, and impatient.

The resulting Veterans Choice program set up by the Northwest Indiana vendor, Health Net Federal Service, is not robust. The vendor said it is hiring additional customer service representatives, signing up more health care providers and taking other steps to improve access to care for veterans.

U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., has been vocal about this issue. He recently co-sponsored the Veterans First Act, which is aimed at streamlining payment and provider signup processes under the Veterans Choice program.

Meanwhile, Region veterans don’t have the easy access they need and deserve.

Villarreal said he was so impressed with the VA hospital in Puerto Rico he has considered moving there.

The VA said 83 percent of veterans were able to make same-day appointments at the VA Caribbean Health Care hospital in Puerto Rico compared to 54 percent at Jesse Brown. Patient satisfaction ratings reflect that difference; they’re 10 percent to 30 percent higher in Puerto Rico than in Chicago.

It’s a travesty when a veteran has to go to Puerto Rico to get a test done, because the VA isn’t able to provide local care for a disabled Marine. The Veterans Choice program must be improved to offer more alternatives for local veterans.

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(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star. June 8, 2016

Ancestry, heritage no cause for Trump attacks.

GOP candidate’s conduct toward judge unfortunate, unfair

Donald Trump’s behavior indicates that he identifies others, foremost, by the ways they differ from him.

At its sourest level, that trait corrodes the cornerstone beliefs of American democracy. Trump displayed such ignorance and paranoia in attacking a Hoosier-born and -educated federal judge as unqualified to handle two class-action lawsuits against the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s defunct real-estate school, Trump University.

Trump’s reasoning? U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, as Trump put it, “happens to be, we believe, Mexican.”

If that were true, and it is not, Trump said the judge could not rule fairly because, “I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest.” The “wall” he mentioned is, of course, Trump’s proposed 35-foot-tall concrete barrier across 1,000 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent people from south of the border from illegally entering this country.

As for the “inherent conflict of interest,” that accusation by Trump involves no activism by the judge related to U.S.-Mexico policy nor any public stances taken by Curiel against the ex-reality TV star’s wall idea. Instead, Trump’s attack is based solely on Judge Curiel’s ethnic background as a Latino. In Trump’s race-obsessed thinking, any judge with a Latin-American heritage will be incapable of presiding without bias over a lawsuit against Trump’s unaccredited, for-profit education company because the defendant also wants to build a wall along the Mexico border.

First of all, Judge Curiel happens to be an American. A courageous American, who as a federal prosecutor withstood a death threat for dismantling a Mexican drug cartel. The 62-year-old was born in East Chicago, the son of legal immigrants who moved to the United States 70 years ago. His father followed a cousin to Indiana to land a rugged job in a steel mill. The future judge’s parents raised four kids in a diverse neighborhood. Gonzalo and an older brother later graduated from Indiana University as lawyers.

“We were made in America, using the tools of hard work and education and opportunity open to everyone willing to earn it,” Curiel said in a commencement address two years ago at IU.

Trump apparently holds a different, suspicious view of Curiel. Rather than seeing the judge as an American and a Hoosier, Trump sees Curiel as an outsider with allegiances to Mexico and who is willing to unfairly apply the law in a court case involving allegations that the billionaire’s college defrauded students. Trump affirmed that conclusion after Curiel ordered 1,000 pages of Trump’s internal company documents released.

Last weekend, as criticism from inside his own party mounted, Trump remained defiant and upped his racial tone. On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” he insisted that a Muslim judge would also be inherently biased against him, because of his plan to temporarily ban people of that religious faith from immigrating to America.

Trump needs to listen to his Republican critics, including House Speaker Paul Ryan who called Trump’s attacks on Judge Curiel “the textbook definition of racist comments.” Ryan is correct.

Trump also needs to explain a glaring contradiction in his attitude toward Americans of Latino descent. In the Trump University case, he wants the legal system to believe that Curiel cannot preside in an unbiased manner because his Latino heritage would automatically compel the judge to work against Trump. Yet in his presidential campaign, Trump often asserts, as he did after winning the Nevada Republican Caucus, that “the Hispanics love me.” If the latter is true, the judge cannot be presumed to be biased.

In reality, Curiel is merely conducting the case as the well-regarded judge that he is - recipient of the American Bar Association’s highest rating, unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate, and born and raised in Indiana. Apparently, the best Trump can do in retaliation is to attack the Hoosier judge’s ancestry.

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Kokomo Tribune. June 10, 2016

Addressing sex assaults.

A national analysis of sexual violence by the Centers for Disease Control found 15 percent of high school-age females in Indiana reported having forced sexual intercourse in 2009.

It was the second-highest percentage in the nation and 3 percentage points higher than the rest of the country.

The Indiana Youth Institute’s annual Kids Count report, released in February, shows the percentage of Indiana girls who were raped or sexually assaulted is now 14.5 percent - still the second-highest rate among high school girls in the U.S.

And experts say the sad fact is the actual number might be even higher because up to half of sexual assaults never get reported.

Indiana University researchers who analyzed the 2009 findings said the available data don’t explain why Indiana ranks so poorly. They say the state’s best approach, though, is to raise awareness of the issue, and the Indiana State Department of Health is prepared to do just that.

The health department issued a five-year plan to fight sexual assault Wednesday, The Associated Press reported, and its aim will be on prevention and education - an approach recommended by the IU researchers.

State health officials told the AP their plan will strengthen local policies concerning sexual assault and push social behavior that would reduce it.

IU researchers have recommended school corporations create more effective and age-appropriate programs and improve training of school staff. They also call for better ways to track, create and fund community-wide sex education programs.

None of these steps will come without cost, but surely our children are worth the expense.

The national Sexual Violence Resource Center in Pennsylvania says 1 in 5 women will be a victim of sexual assault by the time she finishes college. The best way to lower that number, the center says, is by raising awareness - as the state health department plans to do - and by holding the perpetrators responsible for their actions.

Sexual assault isn’t an easy subject to discuss. Most of us just aren’t comfortable bringing it up.

But this statistic should be enough to spur all of us to action: According to February’s Indiana Youth Institute’s Kids Count report, nearly 1 in 6 high school-age Hoosier girls reported being raped.

That’s a number we simply can’t tolerate.


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