Reading Your Local Paper is ‘Way to Know’ Your Community

•October 5, 2016•

By Layne Bruce
NNW Guest Columnist

Several years ago cyberspace was frenzied over many popular websites going dark for 24 hours to protest a federal bill meant to crack down on video piracy.

The Stop Online Piracy Act – or SOPA – was a controversial and perhaps misguided effort championed by the Motion Picture Association of America to end illegal online sharing of copyrighted material, primarily movies and music.

To protest SOPA and its potential threats to the First Amendment, Wikipedia, Google, Reddit and – heaven forbid – I Can Haz Cheezburger, among many others, all shut down for a 24-hour period to show the web-surfing world what it would be like without its daily fix of photos of cats riding in baby strollers.

SOPA was eventually defeated, but a strong, valid point was made. We had come to rely on those websites for information and entertainment. Their value to internet users was unquestioned. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Federal Courts Manage Much of Illinois Government

Nowlan•October 5, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

This is another in a periodic series of columns on “politics and policy in Illinois.”

I tell my students that policy advocates appeal to any level or branch of government that might be responsive, including the courts.
The Illinois state judiciary has not, however, generally inserted itself into state government policy and management.

As John Marshall Law School professor Ann Lousin observes, “The Illinois Supreme Court has a good sensitivity about the separation of powers.”

“The Illinois Supreme Court is not, for example, going to touch school funding because the legislature won’t touch it,” Lousin notes, to illustrate. “The court avoids making decisions where the branch cannot enforce relief.”

On the other hand, policy advocates in Illinois have been highly successful in the federal district courts, which have approved 80 “consent decrees” since the 1970s, according to a recent count by the governor’s office. Read More

Schools Are So Much Different Now

MikeBrothers•October 5, 2016•

By Mike Brothers
NP Managing Editor

Schools are so much different now.

Maybe that’s because times are so much different now.

For Oh Brother recollections of those early days of elementary school are still imbedded in what little memory I have left.
When I started attending McKinley School in 1957, most schools were located in neighborhoods where our exposure to the real world was limited to the few blocks that surrounded it.

We lived within two blocks of the Dorrisville School District border.

Although inside the city of Harrisburg, Dorrisville was really its own community and had a school that went from kindergarten through the eighth grade.

Uptown Dorrisville had Tuttle’s Market and Arnold’s Market, two laundromats and Katie’s Cafe with a Ford garage on the corner.
Dorrisville was the home of most of the public housing which gave the school a concentration of children most of the other neighborhood schools such as McKinley didn’t have. Read More

Insurance Premiums Will Be Up Next Year

TrudyLieberman-Photo•September 28, 2016•

By Trudy Lieberman
Rural Health News Service

Recently I got a note from a reader of these columns who lives in Warren, Ohio. He had seen conflicting reports about next year’s insurance premiums. The man was skeptical of an article he had read, which reported that insurance premiums are cheaper than they were in 2010, and that the Affordable Care Act will cost $2.6 trillion less than estimated. Somehow that didn’t compute with what he had read about premiums going up.

He was right to be skeptical, and his comments are important because they zoom right in on the spin that’s been circulated by various interest groups that want to portray Obamacare’s upcoming fourth-year enrollment season as a gloom-and-doom disaster in the making or the federal government’s not-to-worry scenario insisting health insurance really is affordable.

There’s been much media speculation about high premium rates, and for the most part, the press has favored the not-to-worry scenario. Media have passed that message along with comments such as this from Anne Filipic, the head of Enroll America, a group that signs up people for Obamacare, who argued high premiums are a predictable course correction and a “one-time resetting.” Or this from Kathryn Martin, acting assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who told reporters, “Headline rate increases do not reflect what consumers actually pay. The vast majority would continue to have affordable options.”  Read More

Understanding Illinois: Chicago: A tale of two or more cities

Nowlan•September 28, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

I took the #20 Chicago CTA bus recently, starting from a canyon of towering office and residential buildings in the central Loop, exuding wealth.

The bus traveled along Madison Street straight west to the depleted Austin neighborhood on the far edge of the city, 60 blocks away but within the long shadow of the Sears Tower, still visible.

I was going to meet my friend Berto Aguayo, a former Latino gang member who went straight, recently graduated from college, probably headed to law school and city politics.

Berto is working for an anti-violence, non-profit group based in the Austin, where violence is part of the routine.

The bus ride was instructive. The prosperous professional class has pushed far west to Western Avenue, 24 blocks west of the Loop. Old brick buildings have been rehabbed into condos, iron balconies newly attached to each unit. Read More

Understanding Illinois: “Nuclear Options” for Political Reform in Illinois

•September 21, 2016•

NowlanBy Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

In the wake of the recent embarrassingly political, 4-3 partisan decision by the Illinois Supreme Court Democratic majority to reject a proposed voter initiative to reduce legislative district gerrymandering, savvy political observer Rich Miller has suggested the “nuclear option” of a voter initiative that would simply abolish the Illinois House altogether!

The idea is not so outlandish as one might think at first blush.

First, such a voter initiative would be constitutional, that is, it would meet the state high court’s wrong-headed requirement that initiatives be both “structural and procedural.”

Second, many democratic governments operate quite nicely with unicameral legislative bodies. Readers probably know that Nebraska has a one-house legislature, which they call the senate. [And that state appears to have avoided the dysfunction for which Illinois has become noted.]

Costa Rica is probably the healthiest democratic society in the Americas south of the U.S., other than maybe Uruguay. When I was that sunny clime some years ago, I visited their unicameral “assembly.” And the 30 states of Mexico also operate with unicameral legislatures. Read More

Growing Up In Sullivan: My First in Flight Emergency

Ginther•September 21, 2016•

By Jerry R. Ginther
NP  Columnist

“San Angelo tower this is Cessna 1-2-9-9 uniform,” I spoke into the microphone unsure of what I would say next.

“Good afternoon, 1-2-9-9 uniform,” came the reply from the air traffic controller in the tower.

What had started out as a routine photography flight was about to get more exciting than routine. We had departed Waco, Tex. earlier in the day with three souls on board, my 12-year-old son, my cameraman and myself. I was piloting the single engine Cessna 172, a high wing, four place, aircraft we used for our photography missions.

The first leg of the flight between Waco and Brownwood was uneventful. The only concern I had was the extremely high temperature which was fast approaching the 100-degree mark. It was a hot summer day, and it was going to get hotter. Checking my logbook, I see it was July 24, 1987.

We decided we would land at Brownwood for fuel and refreshment. The refreshment would include a can of soda for my son Warren who occupied the back seat during the flight. That soda would become part of the excitement not long after our departure from Brownwood.  Read More

Understanding Illinois: “Nuclear options” for Political Reform in Illinois

Nowlan•September 14, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

In the wake of the recent embarrassingly political, 4-3 partisan decision by the Illinois Supreme Court Democratic majority to reject a proposed voter initiative to reduce legislative district gerrymandering, savvy political observer Rich Miller has suggested the “nuclear option” of a voter initiative that would simply abolish the Illinois House altogether!

The idea is not so outlandish as one might think at first blush.

First, such a voter initiative would be constitutional, that is, it would meet the state high court’s wrong-headed requirement that initiatives be both “structural and procedural.”

Second, many democratic governments operate quite nicely with unicameral legislative bodies. Readers probably know that Nebraska has a one-house legislature, which they call the senate. [And that state appears to have avoided the dysfunction for which Illinois has become noted.]

Costa Rica is probably the healthiest democratic society in the Americas south of the U.S., other than maybe Uruguay. When I was that sunny clime some years ago, I visited their unicameral “assembly.” And the 30 states of Mexico also operate with unicameral legislatures. Read More

Thinking About Health: Obesity Rates Fall in a Few States but Are Still Far Higher Than in 1990

•September 14, 2016•

By Trudy Lieberman
Rural Health News Service

Is the message that the nation is getting too fat beginning to sink in?

The answer is “yes but,” says the Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit, non-partisan group that aims to protect the health of communities and make disease prevention a national priority. And a study of healthcare quality and quantity across the nation suggests some reasons why things are not improving uniformly.

Obesity is a disease, and for the last 13 years the Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have monitored obesity rates in the country, focusing on the proportion of a state’s population that is obese. The study designates someone as obese whose body mass index (a measure based on height and weight) is 30 or higher.

This year’s results show that after a decade in which every state’s obese population rose, a few states have finally experienced a decrease.

“We’re seeing the rates plateau albeit at a very high level,” says Richard Hamburg, the interim president of the Trust.  Read More

Depression: Why Do We So Rarely Talk About This?

Nowlan•September 7, 2016•

By Jim Nowlan
NP Guest Columnist

My friend Beth Smith asked me to write about this. Beth is community health educator for the Henry-Stark County Health Department. She has personal family experience with what I discuss.

I feel a bit self-conscious, but here goes.

I have recently begun traveling to Chicago by Amtrak Monday to Friday, where I go to Rush Medical Center for what will be 30 daily treatments for depression.

The transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatments are considered by many psychiatrists a “last resort” therapy for patients who have not responded to medications, talk therapy and other approaches to ameliorating chronic low mood.

The relatively new therapy is FDA-approved and covered by my insurance. I think of the treatment as electro-convulsive shock therapy-lite. In that old treatment, strong electric shocks were administered to the brain to cause a seizure(s) in a patient.

I sit in a chair like that in a dentist’s office, lean back a little and a figure-eight covered coil about the diameter of a baseball is placed against the upper left side of my skull.

The coil zaps me with four electromagnetic pulses per second for 10 seconds, followed by a 20-second breather, then more pulsing, and so on, for 40 minutes. Read More