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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

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News,Science and Technology

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Times, Munster. June 17, 2013.

Rehabilitated criminals need second chance

Getting and keeping a job can help keep reformed criminals out of prison. The honest income makes a difference. But a criminal record can be a barrier to employment. Some employers are naturally skittish about hiring ex-convicts.

So beginning July 1 Indiana will offer thousands of Hoosiers the opportunity to have their criminal records expunged.

Employers doing background checks wouldn't be able to see crimes like drunken driving and drug dealing once the records have been scrubbed. More serious crimes might be marked as expunged but remain public record.

Most of the crimes eligible for expungement are nonviolent. Sex crimes and misconduct of a public official are not eligible to be scrubbed from a criminal record.

However, police would still be able to view these past offenses. That's important for obvious public safety reasons.

There are strict requirements for expungement, including a court hearing and judicial oversight. Ex-convicts must have a clean record for at least five to eight years, depending on the crime.

Expungement is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, too. No one is allowed to submit a second petition.

It is good to see so many safeguards in place, and that police will still be able to see criminal records.

This should not be seen as being soft on crime. Rather, it is about bringing stability to the ex-convict's life and strengthening public safety as a result.

Having a job strengthens not only the individual's economic prospects, but of society as well.

When the crime was minor, especially nonviolent, and there is proof that the criminal has changed his or her ways, expungement can be a good option.

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The Tribune, Seymour. June 16, 2013.

Institute puts state in bioscience forefront

Some of Indiana's top life sciences companies and research universities have banded together to form a new biosciences institute. The nonprofit Indiana Biosciences Research Institute, incorporated just a couple of weeks ago, is the nation's first industry-led organization of this sort.

Gov. Mike Pence predicted the initiative will spur scientific innovation and lure new jobs, investment and leading scientists to the state. He said the arrangement will allow the group's collaborators to "respond to market signals" more effectively than similar institutes around the U.S. while tapping into "the deep reservoir of lab-based experimentation and innovation" at the state's universities.

Pence said Indiana's about 2,000 life sciences companies, which together contribute about $50 billion to the state's economy annually, will receive a boost in the years ahead as the institute ramps up its collaborations between industry and academia and attracts top scientists to the state.

"When we have a red hot sector of our economy that creates the kind of jobs we need more of we've got to pour gas on it, and that's exactly what we're doing with this institute — we're pouring gas on the bright flame of our life sciences sector," Pence said during a news conference announcing the initiative.

The institute is a collaboration involving Eli Lilly and Co., Dow AgroSciences, Roche Diagnostics, Cook Group, Biomet Orthopedics, Indiana University Health and the life sciences industry group BioCrossroads.

Purdue University, Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame also have joined the institute, which will help turn scientific discoveries made at those schools into commercial products.

The institute has received $25 million in startup funding from the state legislature and is seeking another $25 million from industry and philanthropic sources — money that will go to recruiting a nationally recognized CEO for the group and attract research fellows.

In the years ahead, the institute will seek an estimated $360 million in corporate and philanthropic funding to carry out its various research initiatives. A board of directors representing the life sciences industry, the state, academia and nonprofit donors already has been chosen to oversee the group, which aims to have the first commercialized technology developed from its collaborations in the marketplace within five years.

This is an exciting venture that has tremendous potential for the state both in terms of expanding existing enterprises and in attracting new ones. It is a clear demonstration of the state's place in the forefront of the field. The combined intellectual and technical power represented can be put to work solving medical and other bioscience problems.

We celebrate the creation of the institute and share the governor's excitement at its creation. It's a solid example of how government, education and private industry can work together effectively to bolster the economy and enhance one of its increasingly key sectors.

As Jack Phillips, president and CEO of Roche Diagnostics, put it: "This is an initiative we can absolutely get passionate about and do something about."

Creation of the nonprofit Indiana Biosciences Research Institute clearly will position the state to be a leader in this emerging field.

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The Indianapolis Star. June 15, 2013.

Pervasiveness of child hunger demands broad community action

How can it be? How can we have so many hungry children -- 80,000, according to a recent national study -- living in the Indy metro area? Even more important, how can we change that reality for our community?

As columnist Erika D. Smith documents, the answers to those questions aren't simple. Child poverty and the overall poverty rate shot up dramatically during the recent deep recession that severely punished Indiana and the nation. Yet, even before the recession hit, Indiana suffered under the long-term erosion of its manufacturing base and the loss of family-sustaining jobs that came with it. For years before the recession, the state had among the highest rates of personal bankruptcies and home foreclosures in the nation, and Indiana's per capita income fell to 14 percentage points below the national average. The state workforce remains among the least educated in the nation, at a time when training beyond high school is more essential than ever to land good jobs.

All of those factors have combined to create an economic climate in which many Hoosiers struggle to afford basic necessities, even something as essential as food for their children. With the recession, the financial pressures grew even more severe. And so the food lines are long -- not just in the urban center of Indianapolis but also in suburban counties such as Hamilton, Hendricks and Johnson.

For the long haul, Indiana must surmount its twin challenges of building a better-educated workforce and creating higher-paying jobs so that more families can better support themselves. In the interim, as a community we must rise to a higher level in confronting such widespread ailments as hunger and poverty.

Despite the overwhelming scope of the problem, there's reason for hope. Thousands of dedicated individuals are helping meet their neighbors' needs by volunteering at places such as Gleaners and Midwest food banks, through service at scores of church and community center food pantries, and with donations to the many nonprofits working to feed people in need.

Still, a large gap remains between what hungry people, including one in five Central Indiana children, need and the supply of food they're able to obtain. A study commissioned by Feeding America, a national anti-hunger organization that includes a network of more than 200 food banks, found a gap of more than 50 million meals a year in Central Indiana.

The good news is that between Gleaners and other programs there's now the logistical capacity to fill that gap. In addition, the Indy Hunger Network, a coalition of nonprofits and businesses dedicated to eradicating hunger, is working to streamline the distribution system and make sure that donations are targeted where they're needed most.

But much work remains. Businesses. Individuals. Nonprofits. Places of worship. State, local and federal governments. All must step forward to help at higher, more sustained levels. Must we accept that 80,000 kids are hungry in our community? Not at all. This problem can be solved. It's time to answer the call.

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Evansville Courier & Press. June 14, 2013.

Snowden showed up gaps in NSA security

First it has to be said — without getting into the morality or legality of its actions — that the National Security Agency's technical prowess was truly impressive in creating programs that vacuumed up information about phone calls originating in the United States, including who called whom and for how long, but also emails, documents, photos, files and contact lists from domestic and foreign computers linked through nine major U.S. Internet companies.

For the time being, we will take the leaders of the intelligence communities' word that these highly intrusive and invasive programs have yielded invaluable information in identifying and heading off terrorist attacks. Now that the programs are publicly known, we trust that more concrete proof of such information than has surfaced so far will come to light.

And we hope that the same skill and perseverance the intelligence agencies put into monitoring their own country is being applied to cyber espionage and cyber warfare, and that our intelligence agencies are not sitting idly by while China and other nations steal our trade secrets, product, particularly weapon, designs and financial information.

However, the ease at which Edward Snowden, 29, a civilian contractor, scooped up some of NSA's most closely guarded secrets indicates an institutional carelessness that shows the security apparatus has learned little from the Bradley Manning case.

Manning was the Army private with a trouble personal history that should have raised all kinds of red flags. In 2010, Manning downloaded some 250,000 classified diplomatic cables and 500,000 military war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and turned them over to the foreign-operated WikiLeaks website, an outlet ostensibly devoted to transparency and full disclosure, actions for which he is now standing trial.

Both Snowden and Manning had egos, or else an exceptional ability to rationalize, that evidently allowed them to presume that it was solely up to them to inform the American people what the U.S. government was doing in their name. And in Snowden's case, especially, they seemed to be able to do so through an almost criminal lack of supervision and controls. According to The Washington Post, Snowden said in a video on the British newspaper Guardian's website: "Any analyst at any time can target anyone. ... I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I'd had a personal email."

Snowden fled his home in Hawaii, and from Hong Kong, where he seems reasonably safe from swift extradition, he pronounced, "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," the Guardian quoted him as saying.

Indeed, he seems to feel he has done the American people a favor, saving them from "massive surveillance." Perhaps so, but that is not his decision to make, and it is a defect in our intelligence system that he was in a position to do so.

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