____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Speaker of the House Brian Bosma pounded his gavel six times to start yet another meeting in which nothing could happen.This was the second meeting he’d tried to open today, even though Democrats announced over the weekend that they wouldn’t be back to continue legislative business.The gallery had been filled with foreign exchange students, parents of House Republican interns, third graders and an AARP tour group at the first attempted meeting a few hours earlier. Along with the rumble of 200 booing protesters, he said this made the House chambers feel more like a football game than a legislative session.So, in his second attempt, Bosma did the only thing he could do — turn the floor over to Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville, one of the only Democrats in the room, to screams of delight from the protesters sitting cross-legged in front of the chamber’s viewing window.“Representative Goodin, your fans would like to hear from you,” Bosma said.For the 14th straight day, Democrats remained absent on the House floor, preventing the chamber from reaching the 67-member quorum it needs to conduct business.Their exodus continues at the Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana, Ill., where they’ve been hiding since Feb. 22.But yesterday, for the first time, each empty seat cost $250. Last week, Republicans voted to charge daily fines on the missing members, one of the few tools they have to counter the quorum-dodging. Democrats have said fines are no deterrent.Only three Democratic representatives have been present each day. One is Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, the only representative declining to take part in the boycott. The other two rotate daily — on Monday, Goodin and Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, were the party’s designated spokespeople.Bosma stood on a platform just behind the podium where Goodin declared Democrats would be committed to compromise if Republicans opened a debate on the bills. But he said the current climate was too divisive.“We won’t pretend we’re making a difference by sitting here and voting ‘no,’” he said. “We want true compromise. We have common ground.”While Goodin spoke, Bosma rolled a wad of gum over his teeth with his tongue and pecked at his iPhone, blinking hard any time Goodin chastised Republicans.He continued checking his phone as Welch took the podium.Welch said she struggles with extemporaneous speaking, so she instead turned to a W.C. Fields quote she found in an e-mail: “There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”“Sometimes, stuff comes out when you grab that tail that’s not very pleasant,” she said.Welch noted that many of the Republicans criticizing the walkout have used the same measure themselves when they’ve been in the minority.Bosma was all smiles and supportive nods as Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion, said Republicans were ready for debate and compromise, too.“We will be respectful,” he said, “but only if you’re on the floor of the House.”Bosma’s patience wore thin as Goodin continued to interject during the meeting, spurting out motions to correct points in another Republican representative’s speech and add himself to the list of representatives facing fines just before Bosma rapped his gavel to close the session.“You’re present, so you cannot be added to the list of absent members,” Bosma said, closing his eyes and resting his elbows on the podium. “Motion denied. The House will stand adjourned.”
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____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Speaker of the House Brian Bosma pounded his gavel 6 times to start another legislative session in which nothing could happen.For the fourteenth straight day, he’d be unable to do much more than take attendance and call on people.At the day’s first attempted meeting a few hours earlier, the gallery was filled with foreign exchange students, parents of House Republican interns, third graders and an AARP tour group. Along with the rumbles of 200 booing protesters just outside, Bosma said this made the session feel more like a football game.So, in his second attempt, Bosma did the only thing he could do—turn the floor over to Rep. Terry Goodin, one of the only Democrats in the room, to screams of delight from the protesters sitting cross-legged in front of the chamber’s viewing window.“Representative Goodin, your fans would like to hear from you,” Bosma said.Democrats remained absent on the House floor again Monday, preventing the chamber from reaching the 67-member quorum it needs to conduct business.Their exodus continues at the Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana, Ill., where they’ve been hiding since Feb. 22.But yesterday, for the first time, each empty seat cost $250. Last week, Republicans voted to charge daily fines on the missing members, one of the few tools they have to counter the quorum-dodging. Democrats have said fines are no deterrent.Only three Democratic representatives have been present each day. One is Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, the only representative declining to take part in the boycott. The other two rotate daily — on Monday, Goodin and Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, were the party’s designated spokespeople.Bosma stood on a platform just behind the podium where Goodin declared Democrats would be committed to compromise if Republicans opened a debate on the bills. But he said the current climate was too divisive.“We won’t pretend we’re making a difference by sitting here and voting ‘no,’” he said. “We want true compromise. We have common ground.”While Goodin spoke, Bosma rolled a wad of gum over his teeth with his tongue and pecked at his iPhone, blinking hard any time Goodin chastised Republicans.He continued checking his phone as Welch took the podium.Welch said she struggles with extemporaneous speaking, so she instead turned to a W.C. Fields quote she found in an e-mail: “There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.”“Sometimes, stuff comes out when you grab that tail that’s not very pleasant,” she said.Welch noted that many of the Republicans criticizing the walkout have used the same measure themselves when they’ve been in the minority.Bosma was all smiles and supportive nods as Rep. Eric Turner, R-Marion, said Republicans were ready for debate and compromise, too.“We will be respectful,” he said, “but only if you’re on the floor of the House.”Bosma’s patience wore thin as Goodin continued to interject during the meeting, spurting out motions to correct points in another Republican representative’s speech and add himself to the list of representatives facing fines just before Bosma rapped his gavel to close the session.“You’re present, so you cannot be added to the list of absent members,” Bosma said, closing his eyes and resting his elbows on the podium. “Motion denied. The House will stand adjourned.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Urbana, Ill. — At 7 a.m. on day five of the House Democrats’ self-imposed exile to Illinois, the only noise in the Comfort Suites hotel is Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb.”“And I, I gotta be strong, just keep pushing on...”The lobby and breakfast room are empty. The biscuits and gravy, advertised on a dry-erase board outside the door, sit untouched next to stacks of single-serving Raisin Bran boxes and apples. “SportsCenter” plays on mute on the flat-screen TV.The parking lot is full of cars with Indiana plates, but the hotel lobby is dead. It’s finally Sunday, and the Democratic representatives who have been camping out here all week are taking a few moments to breathe.The only sign of guests at the hotel is stashed in a corner: a stack of “Vote Democrat” signs. On any other Sunday morning at home, Rep. Peggy Welch, D-Bloomington, would be at Wee Willie’s by now, taking her first bites of her usual Sunday breakfast — bacon, two eggs over easy and grits.She and her husband would have just left the 9:30 a.m. service at Sherwood Oaks Christian Church. Other churchgoers would, as always, be approaching her with policy critiques and pleas. She’d thank hem politely and urge them to call her later in the week to have a longer talk.Instead, she’s grabbing only a cup of coffee before going back to her hotel room to answer some e-mails. She came and went from a church service Saturday night without being noticed. She walked the few blocks back to the hotel, checked her e-mail and went to sleep.Her party made the decision to leave the state Tuesday to deny the Republican-controlled House of Representatives a quorum. Only three of the 40 Democratic representatives showed up to vote this week, which put the total count of legislators under the two-thirds threshold required to do business.Last Monday, a “right-to-work” bill, which would prohibit companies from requiring new employees to join unions as a condition of their job, came up for debate. However, the Republican majority only allotted two hours for discussion of the bill, despite the bill’s controversy. Democrats felt it wasn’t enough time for the public to learn about the potential consequences.So, on Tuesday morning, rather than show up for a vote on the bill, the Democrats fled to Urbana. They knew it was an easy city to get to from Indianapolis, just a straight shot on Interstate 74. Even better, a Democratic governor would help protect them from extradition.However, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has promised he won’t send state troopers to collect the legislators.They’ve promised to stay in Illinois until the right-to-work bill and 10 others, including education bills on vouchers and charter schools, are killed.“We can’t necessarily defeat all the bills,” she said, “but we’ve given the public the opportunity to learn about them, and they’re rallying.”As their holdout continues, they’ve commandeered the breakfast room as their caucus room, even though it perpetually smells like waffles from the griddle in the back corner.Though most representatives are here alone, care packages from home come in the form of meals cooked and delivered by their families. In any moment of downtime, Welch is responding to e-mails from people all across the state. Most of the ones from Bloomington and her district are positive. It’s the e-mails from everywhere else that call her a coward, demanding to know, “Would you pay me to walk out?” “I hope to God I never get you as a nurse because you’ll walk off the job.” Welch said that one stung the most — she works as a nurse when the legislature isn’t in session, and she says she’d never leave a patient’s side.“It’s hurtful, but I get why they do it — they’re just reacting to what they hear,” she said. “I don’t want to develop a thick skin, though. I try to think of myself as a duck — I just shake my feathers and let it roll right off.”She considers everything she does as a calling, not work. And when your calling tells you to go to Urbana, you go to Urbana.“I don’t feel like I’m not doing my job,” she said.Just like at home, she is always in politician mode, ready to discuss policy decisions at a moment’s notice (with the help of several trips to the Circle K across the street for a Mountain Dew Polar Pop). And she has mystery novels on her Kindle any time she wants to unwind.Along with the rest of her party, she’s ready to camp out as long as she needs to.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Outside the doors to the almost-empty Indiana House of Representatives chambers, a crowd swelled.All of the pro-union protesters had been directed to wait outside of the House chambers for a press conference late Wednesday afternoon. They were prohibited from entering the chambers, but they could watch through the windows, and speakers had been turned on in the hallway so everyone could hear.They waited mostly in silence, and people started shushing anytime the group got too loud. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma was slated to make a short statement and answer questions.“Let him have his moment to talk,” one man instructed the crowd.As Bosma spoke, he reiterated that no legislative business could take place until House Democrats returned from fueling the Illinois economy by taking sanctuary in the Comfort Suites hotel in Urbana. “We will make no concessions,” Bosma said, tacking on a demand to his Democratic counterparts: “Come back to work.”The crowd erupted instantly in noise. Booing drowned out screams of “You piece of shit!” But slowly, they rallied around one chant: “Hear our voices.” Though the press conference continued, it was impossible to tell from the outside. The screaming was insistent. Five minutes passed, and the volume only increased.Republican representatives inside darted anxious looks at the crowd, which appeared to be right up against the glass despite a state trooper-imposed three-foot barrier. They may as well have been inside — Bosma kept having to ask reporters to speak up or repeat their questions over the roar.Wednesday was the third-straight day of protests at the Statehouse. The debate centered around House Bill 1468, which would prohibit employers from requiring their employees to join unions as a condition of employment. House Democrats fled the Statehouse on Monday because of this and 10 other bills they felt were doomed to pass in the Republican-controlled legislature, including pro-school voucher and charter school legislation. They hid in Illinois to avoid extradition back to the capital by state police.Since then, Gov. Mitch Daniels has pledged to drop debate on the right-to-work bill, but Democratic leaders said they’ll stay out of the state until the rest of the bills are dropped, too.Indianapolis is one of several state capitals, including Madison, Wis., and Columbus, Ohio, that has been flooded with union protesters because of similar bills.“People were well-aware this would happen,” said Nancy Guyott, president of Indiana’s American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. “I couldn’t have held it back even if I wanted to.”She said she intended to stay at the Statehouse as long as she needed to.Several union members, including Jeff Barton of the Lafayette United Steelworkers chapter, said they knew immediately to come to the Statehouse to begin protests once the bills were up for debate.“If I’d had to take vacation days, I would do it.” Barton said. “They need to leave us alone, period. This is our future we’re fighting for.”On the other side of the rotunda, the crowd’s noise was muffled by the whir of turning gears. It was the Engineering/Technology Educators of Indiana’s yearly Rotunda Day, and groups of middle and high-school students from across the state had assembled at the Statehouse too.From balconies on the second and third floors, protesters in hard hats and tan canvas jackets watched a robot designed by a team from Huntington, Ind., spit a soccer ball back at one of its creators, high-school senior Grace Fowler. She said union workers had been visiting her stand all day.“They understand what we’re doing, like the electrical stuff, and they’re really interested,” she said. “The legislators who come by usually just ask questions about education.”While taking a break in their all-day presentation, students wandered to the other side of the Statehouse to listen to longtime union members declaring their intent to stay as long as it took in between singing “This Land Is Your Land” and “Blowin’ In The Wind.”State troopers were on hand to keep the noisy but peaceful crowd under control. Most of the troopers stayed near the entrance to the House Chambers, where only a few Republican members were in their assigned seats for the scheduled session. Since they were unable to debate legislation without a quorum present, they checked e-mail and stole peeks at Facebook pages.When the conference started, they filed to the front of the chambers and stood silently behind the podium while Bosma spoke. After it ended, any remaining representatives snuck out a back exit to avoid the angry crowd.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>In the practices leading up to the 2009 conference championships, Greenwich High School hockey coach Bob Russell drilled then-senior Brian Macken on one thing: shooting low.Macken had been a top scorer for the Greenwich, Conn., Cardinals all season long, and his plan was to shoot high into the top corners of the net. Up until this point in the season, the plan had worked perfectly.It was Macken’s senior season — the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference title was one game away and he’d be off to IU in the spring where he wouldn’t be playing hockey. The team was facing the Trinity Catholic High School Crusaders in the second-to-last game of the tournament, and they were the best team in the conference, mostly because of their goalie. Against an expert goalie, you shoot low and hope for the rebound. In the last moments of the game, the score was 0-0 and Macken broke through several defenders with the puck. He accelerated into the attacking zone and headed straight for the goal.“Shoot low,” Russell thought. “Shoot low, Brian.”He shot low. The puck was deflected to his teammate, Ross Lawson, who shot it back in for the game-winning goal. The Cardinals went on to win the entire tournament.“Brian was unselfish and giving,” Russell said. “They were able to win that game together.”Macken died Tuesday following an incident at Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity house Friday, but Russell and friends like Dave Snopkowski will always remember Macken as an energetic, loving and loyal guy who cared about everyone like family.While walking across Wright Quad at the start of his freshman year at IU, Snopkowski remembered seeing Macken from afar.They had gone to high school together and though they weren’t close, it was nice to see a familiar face. Almost instantly, they became inseparable.“We were so different,” Snopkowski said, “but we had that bond.”They watched a lot of TV and played video games together in the early weeks of college. But they first bonded over music.Macken was a musical ambassador, especially when it came to jam bands. Sophomore Michael Reagan, who lived on Macken’s floor freshman year, said they always talked about classic rock and jam bands and argued about which were best.He also took suggestions, like when Snopkowski shared his love of jazz while Macken introduced the Grateful Dead and Phish to him.Soon, Macken was trying to find a car he could borrow so he could take Snopkowski to his first Phish show, a two-night set in Cincinnati. They sped there and booked a hotel on the road the day of the concert after borrowing a car from a friend of a friend.“Those two shows were some of the best moments of my life,” said Snopkowski, who no longer attends IU.Macken was always spontaneous like that, Snopkowski added. Like how they ended up getting obsessed with badminton.In high school, they were told that anyone who could beat the gym teachers in badminton would get an automatic A, an impossible feat.So Macken and Snopkowski decided to spend their freshman year at IU getting better at playing.Unintentionally, they fell in love with the sport. They played often at the Student Recreational Sports Center, recruiting random people to play them in doubles. Snopkowski said they became good, but not good enough to go back and beat the teachers.Macken always had a strong connection to his home, as well as his team. He called the seven other hockey players he graduated with his family, and he talked constantly to them and about them. He loved his brothers, too, who are now playing for the Cardinals.His team felt the same way about him. Russell said each time Macken scored, one of the assistant coaches would lean over to him and say, “I love that kid.”And Macken’s loyalty to the people who cared about him was unwavering, Snopkowski said. His number-one priority in life was to be there for his friends. Snopkowski always turned to Macken whenever he had a bad day — Macken could always brighten a room.Bear hugs were his specialty. Friends, acquaintances, people who lived down the hall — everyone always got a huge hug. “He had all the love in the world,” Snopkowski said, “and he’d share it with everyone. And I loved him for that.”— MaryJane Slaby contributed to this report.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Three days after the IU Police Department responded to a call for medical assistance for a non-member at Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity’s house, the Interfraternity Council maintained it had no comment about the incident and its details.The decision was made out of respect for the family of the man found Friday, IFC Vice President of Communications Josh Vollmer said.IFC executive officers met with Phi Sig president Andrew Silk on Monday, but Vollmer said he didn’t have more information after the meeting and was unable to confirm the man’s name or if he was an IU student.“I want to make something official as soon as possible,” Vollmer said, adding that he needs facts from the family and a few other parties.On Friday, the man was transported from Phi Sig to Bloomington Hospital, IUPD Chief of Police Keith Cash said in an e-mail.Later that evening, a decision to postpone all greek social events because of the incident was made by Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Association officers, Vollmer said. Three days after that decision, Vollmer said the details of the incident and the man’s condition were still unknown to IFC members. IU spokesman Larry MacIntyre said he was unaware of the incident until Sunday morning and maintained that the University had no comment beyond what IUPD had released. Because the case is still under investigation, Cash said in an e-mail that he couldn’t comment on the man’s identity. However, he did say there appeared to be no signs of foul play. Cash added that he believed the man was still in the hospital’s care Sunday. On Monday, Bloomington Hospital said there was no information for the man brought in Friday.As rumors swirled, the only thing the greek community could confirm was that bid week events had been postponed. The week began with bid day, followed by sisterhood events. Delta Gamma members watched “Country Strong.” Alpha Delta Pi had a spa night.On Thursday, the pair events began, such as Kappa Kappa Gamma’s bowling party with Delta Tau Delta.But then, everything stopped.Women in these and the other 16 sororities on campus gathered Friday and Saturday to hear that the weekend’s pair parties had been postponed. They were given vague information about the incident at Phi Sigma Kappa — no names, no details.In each house, the meetings had the same results. “It would be more respectful to him and his family,” said freshman Liz Zubrenic, who received a bid to Kappa Delta last week.Women in other houses agreed and said the chapters were focusing on bonding as sisters instead of attending pair events. Zubrenic said the sisterhood events would continue through the week, and she’d heard pair events might start up again by Saturday.Dean of Students Harold “Pete” Goldsmith said in an e-mail that although he wasn’t involved in the decision to postpone social events, he thought the executives of PHA and IFC showed great leadership.“I think the decision demonstrates concern and respect, and I applaud it,” Goldsmith said.He added he had no details to release.“What we had was a medical transport,” Goldsmith said. “I don’t know what else could have been shared.”— Victoria Summers contributed to this report.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Theresa Malone sits in a teal lawn chair in her backyard on a September afternoon, slowly petting the chicken perched on her lap.She drags her fingers along JoAnn’s sandy feathers, and the chicken clucks quietly. She’s serene compared to Ruthie and Bobbie, Theresa’s two other hens scampering across the patches of grass, surrounded by thick tangles of flower beds.In Theresa’s, and seven other backyards in Bloomington, chickens squawk.They’re the new vogue in locavorism: an animal producing food each day within sight of the kitchen.A 2009 article in The New Yorker dubbed them “The It Bird.” Coops have made cameos in PBS documentaries and episodes of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” BackYardChickens.com, an online forum for owners, boasts more than 75,000 users.No farmers’ market can compete with a backyard chicken’s farm-to-table distance.“We talk about sustainability all the time in Bloomington,” Theresa says. “Aren’t chickens perfect for that?”She sighs and goes back to petting JoAnn.“They’re such stupid animals.” She fiddles with a feather on JoAnn’s tail. “But they’re such good company.”Though she dotes on the hens like they’re her own feathered, helpless infants, the chickens are all named after strong women in Theresa’s past. Ruthie and Bobbie are named after aunts and share their human counterparts’ curiosity and easygoing demeanor. Ruthie even has black-and-white feathers to match her namesake’s salt-and-pepper hair.And JoAnn? She’s named after Theresa’s mother and has the attitude to match.JoAnn pecks at just about anything — an exposed stripe of skin between socks and pants, a dangling forearm. It feels like being poked with a dull pencil.“You’ve just gotta kick her away when she does that,” Theresa explains and mimes — just a quick tap at chicken-breast height with the top of her foot. Not to hurt her. Just to shoo.As if on cue, JoAnn torpedoes her beak toward Theresa’s shoulder.“Ow! God.” She gently sets JoAnn back on the grass.“God, she’s just like my mother,” Theresa says, laughing. “She’s such a bitch.”JoAnn responds with a reprimanding nip at Theresa’s ankles.“Go away!” Theresa shoos.*****Veda Stanfield is worried.Overnight, Bloomington has been dipped in snow and that includes her chicken coop and run. It was the first snowfall in December. Her three hens have never seen snow before, and they’ve been antsy all morning. She knows chickens hate snow. She’s heard the stories of them cowering from massive snows under trees and porches, of frozen chickens being resuscitated from cold and shock with CPR from desperate owners.She’s been trying to soothe Betty, Lacy and Lil with treats: some grasses her husband found during a morning walk, a plate of grapes and flaxseeds in the afternoon. She stands inside their run, watching them peck at their snack. She checks their indoor nests for eggs — none right now. She makes sure they have enough water and that their heating lamp is working.But she won’t look at their feet. They’re prehistoric-looking, a nod to their dinosaur ancestors. They look cold, clammy and scaly. They creep her out.She focuses on finding intricate patterns in their feathers, on sweeping snow off of the straw lining of their run, on scanning the skies for the hawks that will occasionally perch on top of the pen and stare hungrily at her hens.She thinks back to the New York Times article that gave her this idea in the first place. The documentaries she’d seen on abused chickens with their beaks cut off, the idea that she’d be able to save at least a few of them from a life of forced feedings and layings. The day, six months ago, when she ordered eight chicks off of MyPetChicken.com and waited an excruciating 36 hours for them to be delivered. The 7 a.m. call from the post office that she needed to come immediately to pick up a peeping, rustling package.She remembers opening the box to see eight black-and-yellow 3-day-old balls of fluff, quietly cheeping. She lifted each one, inspected it and dipped its beak in a bit of food and water — their first meals.For the first few months she nurtured them in a box in her backyard art studio, watching them as she worked. She only had to shoo Giacomo, her dog, away from them one time before he learned to sit quietly beside the box and protect them.By the time they were ready to go out to their coop, she was down to four hens — she’d given the rest away to friends.In addition to the three she had now, she had Roxy, who she thought was a rooster (and had originally named Rocky) but turned out to actually be an excessively aggressive female who intimidated and bullied Lacy. Lacy wouldn’t eat. She wouldn’t lay eggs. Eventually, one of Veda’s friends offered to take Roxy.Since then, things have been perfect. She’s been able to focus on raising the hens in organic and humane conditions.She’d always been an animal lover; as a little girl, she used to try to get neighborhood cats to follow her home so she could care for them. She hated imagining a world where animals were unhappy.Giacomo is proof of this. When her neighbors, his previous owners, ignored and left the dog chained to a tree outside for hours at a time, she’d hear his whimpers and break a little inside.She told her husband they’d either have to rescue the dog or move. Now, she says Giacomo and her hens are spoiled.“I get to give these three a decent life,” she says, smiling down on her babies. “They don’t spend their life tied to a box.”Veda picks up the plate of grapes. She doesn’t want to indulge them any further, plus they’d already had their favorite fattening food that morning — spaghetti.She closes up the coop and coos at the hens one more time, focusing on their glossy feathers.Anything to keep from looking at their feet.********For four months, Theresa wasn’t sure if she’d have hens.She can’t remember now what gave her the idea to set up a coop in the first place. One of her friends must have mentioned it in passing, or she must have seen an article about it. Something.But she does remember her grandmother’s chicken coop and playing with her barred rock hens every time she visited.She remembers living on a farm with her husband years ago, tending to a pack of goats every day after she came home from work. If she couldn’t have goats (though she knows exactly how she would house them and care for them if Bloomington ever allowed it), she’d go for chickens.So, in November 2009, she decided to try it. That’s when it got complicated.Three years before, the Bloomington City Council met to decide whether backyard chickens would be a good fit for the city. After councilman Steve Volan arrived at that meeting wearing a full-size, yellow-feathered chicken costume to show his support for the cause, the measure quickly passed.Chickens could come to Bloomington. But there were a few regulations that Theresa and any other prospective chicken owners would have to follow.First, no roosters. They’re aggressive, stubborn and loud. They were out of the question, which was fine with Theresa.Second, the council decided that five would be the maximum number of hens any one person could have. They worried any more than five would turn flocks from pets to potential business.Finally, the approval process for homeowners would be rigorous.Theresa started with a preliminary pen in her yard built with chicken wire and gates gathered from friends and a coop built with some extra plywood she had laying around. Just something to appease the Animal Control inspector, who would ensure that the pen gave the chickens enough room and was safe.But Theresa failed this first inspection. Her gate wasn’t secure enough, the inspector said. The chickens could escape.In March 2010, almost four months after her first application, she tried again, this time with real, stable fencing.She passed the animal control inspection, which would turn out to be the easiest part.Because the next part was getting approval from the city planning board. During this process, Theresa and her husband learned that their backyard’s actual fence didn’t comply with city laws.They also learned that the chicken pen had to be at least 15 feet away from their neighbors’ property lines. Of course, they failed this part, too. Yet again, she was denied.At this point, Theresa was infuriated.“They’re just stupid chickens,” she repeats. Just birds, quieter than her dogs and more contained than her cats.She just wanted to have something to putter with, something to fill her empty nest now that her kids were grown and gone. Something to look forward to taking care of when she came home from work as a literacy coordinator for the Monroe County Community Schools.The city was keeping her from having this, and that wasn’t fair.So she got in her car, drove to Mooresville, Ind., and bought three hens anyway. She decided she would keep them until someone from the city told her to get rid of them. Until then, she would let her contraband hens roam around her yard and hope nobody complained.And then, a mysterious piece of mail came — a permit for hens from the city of Bloomington.Theresa still has no idea how or why this happened. The city had technically said “no.” But now she had paper proof to support her chickens.Her hens were safe. *****Veda’s hens were a little easier to obtain. But her chickens’ home is borderline elegant.It’s larger than some college dorm rooms. She commissioned one of her neighbors to build it by hand. It features individual nesting spots for each chicken and a large sand pit for taking dust baths. It was also expensive. Veda jokes that, including the cost of the chickens, coop and pen, the first dozen eggs she collected cost about $255 apiece. She went from petition to permit in about a month.Her neighbors loved the idea of backyard chickens. They would come and sit like an audience in a row of lawn chairs, petting Giacomo and watching the hens. It felt nice to sit and spy on them waddling and scratching the ground for seeds. It was like meditation.A psychologist friend dubbed the voyeurism “chicken observation therapy.”Veda read obsessively about chickens while her neighbors visited. She feels she’s read almost every book written on the birds. She can hold her own with any chicken expert on any topic except for determining the gender of newborn chicks — you need special training for that.She now knows how closely her chickens are related to a T-rex and how their nitrogen-rich droppings are perfect additions to compost piles. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of her three breeds.Every day, she comes outside for at least 10 minutes to check on and talk to her hens. She lets them out of their coop, asks them how they’re feeling and makes sure the pen isn’t getting too dirty. When she comes inside and takes off her boots, she passes by a frame with pictures of her chickens and her grandson holding them as chicks. She can’t believe how much they’ve all grown.She just wants them to be happy. And she knows they are.*****In Theresa’s backyard, Ruthie is the flock’s escape artist. Chickens love to be perched up high, and Ruthie is no exception. She discovered she could climb almost three feet up a small tree next to their house.Before long, she learned that if she climbed to just the right spot, she could fly.She could just barely soar over the top of the chain-link fence next to their driveway. Theresa thinks she’s drawn to the solid metal bar at the top of the fence. And then, if she sees some interesting seed on the other side of the fence, she’ll go investigate.Freedom. That is, until Ruthie realizes she has no way to get back over the fence.Theresa has found Ruthie post-jailbreak, pacing back and forth next to the chicken-wire wall. But Ruthie will never make a run for it. She doesn’t want to be separated from her friends. So, each time Ruthie accidentally escapes, Theresa scoops up the black-and-white bundle of feathers and places her back down inside the enclosure.The last time Ruthie escaped, Theresa decided she must be trying to send a message. Clearly, Ruthie just wanted to see what was outside her pen and her yard. She just wanted to see the neighborhood.Theresa obliged. She picked Ruthie up and took her for a walk around the block, letting her absorb the world outside her familiar hen house and dust-bathing spot. Then, she brought her back home and placed her back on the ground with the other hens. Within seconds, Ruthie was back to work obsessively nudging the soil for seeds, back to scurrying around the yard with JoAnn and Bobbie.She missed her flock.They’re family, just like their namesakes.That’s why, even when the hens stop laying eggs in about a year, they won’t end up on Theresa’s dinner table. “I can’t kill my mother and aunts,” she says.The sun is setting—an instinctual signal of bedtime for JoAnn, Ruthie and Bobbie.Their bodies are synced with the sun, so as the sky is coated in darkness, theywander toward their nighttime home.Theresa watches them mosey to their beds like she used to watch her kids. Shesmiles.Ruthie’s the first one in, naturally looking for the best perching spot. Then Bobbie picks a warm corner.JoAnn likes to spread out, though, so she heads for her favorite spot: on theentryway to the house, her head facing outward, keeping watch over the yard.No more clucking. The yard is still and quiet, except for the distant jangling of a collar as Theresa’s dog Arlo plods around the screened-in porch.Silence. That is, until tomorrow morning, when the sun cracks through the clouds and trees and the chickens and Theresa can’t help but wake up and go outside.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Three and a half years ago, I would never have guessed that the girl I’d be sharing an apartment with right now would be the same girl I shared a room with freshman year. I would never have guessed that we would live together (or at least next door to each other) for all four years of college.But life has a way of surprising you like that.We were randomly assigned to live together in Read Center for our freshman year. I had moved in a day early, so I waited anxiously on my lofted bed for my roommate to show up. I knew very little about her – just that she was from Chicago and we had a few classes together. I wasn’t sure how well we’d get along, because on paper, it seems we shouldn’t.Despite being a part of the same Freshman Interest Group, our interests were starkly different.She is a business major. I’m in journalism.She can do magical things with an Excel spreadsheet. I’d much rather be editing audio clips.Last night, I had roasted spaghetti squash with sauteed vegetables for dinner. She had crab rangoon.She lives for the Chicago Bears. I bleed for the Cleveland Browns. She is immaculately neat, with a perfectly made bed each morning. I keep my door closed in the morning so my room isn’t embarrassed to be near hers.We shouldn’t make good roommates. But somehow, we’ve made it work and have managed to stay close through four different living situations.In May, when we move out of our apartment for good, we will probably never be roommates again, and I’m dreading saying that goodbye. But hopefully I’ve learned some strategies to make my next living experience just as fantastic.As you prepare to step outside of campus housing, follow these tips to make sure you and your roommates are still on speaking terms by the time the lease runs out.Take responsibility. I know when I’ve made a mess in the kitchen or when the contents of my book bag seem to have spewed projectiles around the living room, and I always know it’s my responsibility to clean that up. Though that seems obvious, it’s easy to lose track of messes between classes, work and everything else. Take ownership of what you’ve done. Then, take care of it.Take turns. We have an unspoken agreement — if I take out the trash this time, she’ll get it the next time. The same goes for the dishwasher and cleaning up the bathroom. It’s much easier when we both take the time to care for common areas.Take some space. When you live with your best friends, the temptation to spend all your time together is potent. But if you don’t spend some time apart, you’ll be miserable by the time midterms roll around. There is such a thing as spending too much time together, and you don’t want to hit that wall early in the year. My roommate spends time with her boyfriend, and I’m often off with my friends that I’ve met through the Indiana Daily Student. Don’t feel guilty for doing your own thing.Take time to enjoy yourselves. We developed a ritual this year. Since we’re both steadfast NFL fans, we try to at least watch part of the Sunday night game together. We swap stories from our weekends, pick at our respective dinners and vent about how inappropriately heavy our workloads are for the week.And we talk about how much we hate the Packers, Vikings, Steelers and Patriots.We might be nearly opposites, but at the end of the day we are able to appreciate one another's differences and relish the similarities we do share.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Courtney Litchfield approached the door, pausing twice to look back, knit her brows and pout at her supervisor.“You’re fine,” he said, smacking his hand against the stack of “Hoosiers for Hill” flyers that they’d be passing out. “Just knock.”She ran her hands through her short blonde hair a few times and placed her hands on her hips. She pouted. Huffed.She was terrified of this part. She faced the door again and knocked softly. Once more, she turned back. A nervous smile.“I’m about to lose my canvassing virginity.”Courtney wrung her hands and looked expectantly at the front door. She waited. Nothing.The pattern continued for close to 20 minutes as she wandered from door to door on Bloomington’s south side on the September afternoon. She knocked, waited. Nothing.She just needed to talk to someone. Someone just needed to answer the door so her stomach could settle, so she didn’t have to worry if she sounded stupid anymore. She needed the success.Finally, she stood face-to-face with her final door. One last chance for someone to answer. She knocked.She drummed her fingers against her clipboard and chewed absently on a pen. Footsteps. This time, the door opened and a woman answered.Courtney took a deep breath and smiled.“Hi, I’m Courtney from the Indiana Democratic Party. I wanted to ask you a few quick questions. Are you planning to support Baron Hill?”“Yeah.”“What about Brad Ellsworth for U.S. Senate?”“Um….yeah.”“And how about our third candidate, Vop Osili, running for Indiana Secretary of State?”A confused look.“Is he a Democrat?” Courtney nodded. “Well, then yeah, I’ll vote for him.”“Okay, great. Thanks. Don’t forget to vote November 2.”The woman thanked them and closed the door. Courtney was smiling. A success.“I didn’t stutter, did I?” she asked her supervisor. “I feel like I stuttered. Because I stutter when I’m nervous. Was I stuttering?” He shook his head. “No. You were fine. You did it.”****On Friday, a month later, Courtney is settled on a chair in the Monroe County Democratic Party headquarters on Third and Grant streets. Her legs are outstretched and she nibbles on the cap of the bright pink highlighter in her left hand.She has a phone wedged in between her ear and shoulder, and she’s using her right hand to peck a text message into her own cell phone.With election day looming Tuesday, the party is calling on all of their volunteers and interns to contact as many voters as possible to remind them to somehow get to the polls.Courtney, a freshman, will work more than 20 hours during the final four days. She’s exhausted and stressed, but she said it’s worthwhile work — she believes in the Democratic party.All around her, the office is exploding. A group of three campaign workers standing behind her chair hash out how many volunteers still need to sign up to work during the weekend. They’re short on people to canvass during their four-day “Get Out The Vote”campaign leading up to the election.Another group of volunteers are discussing a story someone saw on CNN about a ninja murderer in Florida while neatly stacking Brad Ellsworth flyers.Boxes and stacks of paper covering the floor have turned the office into a labyrinth. There are flyers everywhere, bundles of yard signs lining the walls.Courtney doesn’t notice. She’s focused on the ringing from her phone as she waits for someone to answer. She can’t waste any time.There’s a tight election days away, and she has a list of 650 people she needs to call by Tuesday. In the three hours she volunteered Friday, she hoped to call 150 people.And most of them won’t even answer. On a good day, she’ll talk to one of every three people she calls. On her worst day, she made 56 calls and only four people picked up.But she’s calm.Her nerves have subsided since her first canvassing trip. She’s comfortable. Sort of.****In September, during her first week as an intern, Courtney was stationed in front of a computer in the party’s headquarters. She was alone on those nights, except for another occasional volunteer and a life-size cardboard cutout of Barack Obama leaning casually against the back wall of the office. She took the job because she likes to argue, Litchfield said. It’s her first year at IU and her first year away from Fort Wayne, where, in high school, she felt like the only enlightened liberal amidst her uninformed, conservative classmates. She’d often get combative in arguments with them.“Then they’d just say to me, ‘You’re stupid,’” she said.Until recently, she spent most of her time at the internship entering voter registration data into a statewide system. She passed the time doing that by looking for the most unusual names in stacks of voter information forms.On her own one evening, she approached people on her floor in Forest Quad and registered 20 voters.On one of her first nights making phone calls, she ended up calling a testy older Republican who said he hoped to “vote those fuckers out of office.” She thanked him and hung up.Courtney wants to be a lawyer some day. She yearns to be in a courtroom, working closely with criminals.Courtney knows exactly what she wants.****Another phone call. She taps her highlighter on the list of calls she still needs to make, waiting for someone to answer. Hoping.She is anxious about the election. Politico recently declared Indiana’s 9th Congressional District elections the fourth hottest House race to watch this November. But Indiana went blue in 2008. It could happen again, she said.She just has to wait until Tuesday night. Then, she’ll be able to sleep, be able to focus on her escalating class work. And she’ll know who won.Courtney’s back straightens. Her eyes widen. Someone picked up on the other end of the phone.“Hi, this is Courtney from the Indiana Democratic Party in Bloomington. We’re just calling to see if you plan on voting ... Oh. Oh, really? How many calls have you received today? ... Oh, ma’am, I’m sorry about that. Do you know which offices have called you? ... Oh, okay. Have a nice day.”The woman on the phone was not happy. It was 4 p.m., and she’d already received four calls about the election.It’s been a growing problem for many of the volunteers today — people are complaining that too many candidates, too many offices have called them, begging to secure votes before the polls close.Each candidate and organization maintains different lists of supporters, and with the election looming, everyone is calling everyone else. To a recipient, such as this woman, it seems excessive.But Courtney is more focused on something the woman didn’t say.“I hate it when I say ‘Have a nice day’ and the people don’t even say ‘You too,’” she said. “It’s so rude.”She looks forward to that small social nicety. It’s one of the things that keeps her focused through an unending list of calls, especially when too many people are more than willing to hang up or provoke an argument with an 18-year-old.“Like, sometimes I’ll call people and they’ll say ‘I’ve never voted before,’” she said. “And I’m like, ‘Well, neither have I.’”Courtney turns another page on her list. Thirty phone calls down, and she’s still ready to make more. She said she’ll miss being in the office after the election is over, but only after she gets some much-needed sleep. She loves feeling as she’s actually making a difference, even if some people don’t want to hear her message.Courtney punches another number into the phone and presses ‘send.’“I mean, all I can do is keep calling,” she said.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>More than 40,000 students attend Indiana University, and it can be scary enough to start out at a campus this big when you’re coming from a town just a few hours away. Coming to a completely different country can be terrifying..But it can also be incredibly exhilarating. We hope you’re excited to begin your time at IU. To make the transition easier, we’ve gathered everything you need to know into one handy guide. You can find information about settling into Bloomington, picking the best place to eat and experiencing the wealth of cultures in this small Midwestern town. Hopefully, Bloomington will soon feel like home.Welcome to IU!
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Without a funding increase from voters this November, school officials worry the Monroe County Community School Corporation might face more than just teacher salary and extracurricular activity cuts.Members of the “Vote Yes on #2: Our Students Need You!” campaign gathered for a community forum Tuesday to address questions about the proposed MCCSC referendum.MCCSC Superintendent J.T. Coopman said the proposed property tax increase of 13 to 14 cents per $100 of the property’s value would help to restore positions and programs that have been cut and prevent district schools from closing.“It is a community initiative, and that’s why we’re asking for community support,” Coopman said.About 65 people attended the forum at Bloomington High School North and posed questions to Coopman along with Jack Peterson, Joe Ehlers and Ron Jensen, who are all involved with the pro-referendum campaign.Audience members submitted questions about everything from class sizes to federal funding for the schools. Coopman spent much of the forum discussing the history of the shortfall.Since Indiana state law requires school districts to have balanced budgets by the end of each calendar year, he said the district attempted to cover the budget shortfall.This led to early retirements and trimmed salary schedules for teachers and elimination of stipends for extracurricular activities, Coopman said.“Without the referendum, these cuts from 2010 are going to become the cuts for fall 2011,” he said.Coopman explained how money is budgeted for the district after being asked how the schools could afford new construction but not new teachers.By Indiana law, schools must divide money into multiple pools, each of which has a specific purpose and money cannot be moved from one pool into another. Ehlers added that residents can calculate how much more they’ll pay in property taxes on the “Vote Yes on #2” campaign website, www.2010referendum.info.Evelyn Brophy, a Bloomington resident, attended the meeting because she wants to be knowledgeable about the referendum.“People were very concerned,” she said. “They asked pointed questions. They weren’t all positive, but people felt comfortable asking.”Coopman said it was important for people to learn about the facts of the proposal to promote education at all levels.“The referendum stands for something greater than MCCSC,” Coopman said. “It stands for what this community wants and has always demanded — quality public schools.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>“I’m Having Fun Now” is a genius title for the first album by Jonathan Rice and Jenny Lewis because that’s exactly what these sun-soaked songs are — fun.Rice and Lewis have become one of indie music’s power couples. The former Rilo Kiley frontwoman and Rice, who have been dating since 2005, first teamed up on Lewis’ solo album “Rabbit Fur Coat” and have worked closely together since.This is the perfect album to listen to the first time you take the top down on your convertible and go for a drive. It’s young, free, happy and filled with possibility, just like those first few days of summer.The beats are sparkling and the hooks are cheery. “Scissor Runner,” the opening track, will stay nestled in your head for days.Songs like “Slavedriver” and “Big Wave” are also filled with that positive energy.But all that sunshine might make fans of Lewis’ previous work cringe. Gone is the edge, wit and country-gospel twang mixed with all that cheer that made albums like “Rabbit Fur Coat” and “Acid Tongue” so endlessly listenable. “I’m Having Fun Now” could stand to get out of the sun for a bit.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Adam Ramsey and Randy Cole are rolling a three-foot-tall refrigerator on a dolly down a top-floor hallway in Collins Living-Learning Center, looking for junior Natalie Cole’s room. They check the foot-themed door decks, looking for Natalie. There’s a colorful drawing of a foot with each name, and underneath each one is a fun fact about feet, like “Each foot produces more than a cup of perspiration per day. More when you exercise, at least one pint!”Natalie’s name isn’t among the Johns, Matts and Alexs on the third floor of Collins Smith.This is an all-male floor.They’re in the wrong building.Natalie had just said “on the third floor” and pointed to a building before she left to get her key.“She’s not answering her phone,” her brother, freshman Alex Cole, said. He called and texted twice.He and Lisa Cole, their mother, followed a few minutes behind the refrigerator movers. They’re trying to call and text her to figure out what’s taking her so long and where her actual room is.Police officers directing traffic on Woodlawn Avenue had told the Coles they needed to unload and move their green Chevrolet Silverado in 15 minutes or they’d get a ticket. Randy said their goal was to drop her fridge in front of the door and leave.They decide to stand on the landing of the third floor to wait for Natalie. The air in the hallway is thick and stagnant, and sweat starts to shimmer on their foreheads.Twenty minutes pass, and there’s still no sign of her.“Maybe we should move the fridge back down,” Ramsey said. “It’s hot up here.”“Yeah, and get into the shade,” Randy Cole said. “I bet it’s cooler under a shade tree.”“I’m a little afraid to move it, though,” Ramsey said. “I don’t want to break it.”Last year, 126 people moved into Collins on move-in day, said Julia Napolitano, a senior working at the Collins Center desk, and they’re expecting similar numbers this year. Adam Ramsey said Natalie is probably stuck in line waiting for a key before she can come back and tell them in which building they’ll need to move the refrigerator again.“She won’t admit she was wrong, though,“ Lisa Cole said. “She’s stubborn. Like her dad.”Finally, close to a half-hour later, Natalie appears. They’re finally ready to move her into her room in Collins Cravens. And up another three flights of stairs.Once again, they’re dragging a refrigerator down a hallway. This time, the walls are covered in murals of elves on horseback.They find her room at last and Natalie opens the door to a sizeable single.“You got a steal,” Ramsey said, looking around and smiling.The refrigerator was finally home.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>“He went the wrong way, I bet,” said Jean Lawrence, mother of an incoming freshman, said. “He has the worst sense of direction.”Jean and Ken Lawrence are leaning against their red sedan in front of Collins Living-Learning Center, waiting for their son John to come back with his key. He’s the second son they have moved into college, and Jean said she could predict how he would act.“I’m sure he’ll be feisty,” Jean Lawrence said. “We’ll get him in the room, and he won’t be able to push us out fast enough. I won’t take it too personally.”“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song starts to play above the rumble of truck motors in the Collins courtyard, which is blocked off by orange fencing for a construction project. Jean Lawrence starts to sing along, saying between verses that there’s probably a long line for keys that’s holding John up.“Unless he got lost inside,” she added.After John moves out, Jean Lawrence said she’s most looking forward to spending less on groceries, doing less laundry and doing less baking. There’s only one thing she’s not looking forward to: taking care of all seven of John’s cats, including the two pregnant ones. She said they all hate everyone other than her son.“They’ll have to learn to love me or die,” she said.***John arrives with a key about 10 minutes later, and the move-in process begins. John said he hasn’t spoken to his roommate yet. He just knows a name. When they arrive at his room, the door is open. His roommate, sophomore Garrett Silen, is inside waiting. His things are already unpacked and neatly stacked on his desk and bookshelf.“Hi, I’m John’s mother,” Jean Lawrence said. “He’s a slob.”Silen and John Lawrence begin the initial roommate conversations: majors, hometowns, who gets to use the fridge. In between lulls in their conversation, Silen notices that they’ve both got chess sets. After another break, Silen said, “The three floors above us are all girls.”“That’s not a bad thing,” John Lawrence said.As his parents drop the last of his bags on the floor, they give him a quick hug goodbye amid reassurances to “make us proud” and “call us if you need us.”And then they’re gone.“And that’s the last of it,” John Lawrence said. “It’s kind of surreal, but things are looking good. I know I’m not going back home with them, but I haven’t realized it yet. It’s gonna be nice.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The engines of four empty buses growled around the otherwise quiet Showalter Fountain. Yellow police tape flapped in the mid-afternoon breeze, and a cluster of police officers surrounded every entrance into the IU Auditorium.Slowly, the doors opened, and the capacity crowd began filing out of the Dalai Lama’s public teachings Wednesday.As she left the auditorium, Bab May was speechless. She said she was still processing and taking in his teachings.May, an Indianapolis resident, described the first of the Dalai Lama’s teachings on the Heart Sutra as impressive.“He focused on being more compassionate,” May said. “You wanted to practice what he preached.”The Dalai Lama is in Bloomington through Thursday, giving three public teachings. The events are ticketed.He will be at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday to give a public talk. Tickets for the Indianapolis event cost $25.Several attendees at Wednesday’s Heart Sutra teaching said they were impressed by the simplicity of his message.“It was compassion you could learn,” Indianapolis resident Jeff McCarty said.Despite the straightforward message, Mark Moss of Kokomo said his own personal studies of Buddhism showed him that the Dalai Lama’s message is more complex.“It’s too deep without a philosophy background,” Moss said. “But the simplest parts are easy. It’s deep, but he always brings it back to how compassion is easy. The hard part is letting go of delusions.”Seeing the Dalai Lama’s teaching was, for Moss, just another step in what he called a 10-year relationship with the spiritual leader.After a personal crisis, he saw the Dalai Lama on TV, beginning his own life-changing spiritual journey.“I saw him on TV and I asked myself, ‘Is he fake?’” Moss said. “It pulled me in and stripped away the negative.”The Dalai Lama’s visit to Bloomington also featured an international cultural pageant at the IU Auditorium on Wednesday night. Several other community organizations also sponsored events throughout the month of May.Additionally, a tent in the Herman B Wells Library parking lot featured a Tibetan bazaar with brightly colored goods, the smell of incense and stalls with representatives from Tibetan nonprofit organizations.As the Dalai Lama arrived on-stage Wednesday morning, Bloomington resident Mary Gray said the entire auditorium fell silent.“I’m always struck by how powerful it is when he enters the room,” Gray said. “The auditorium was completely full but silent. Then, he broke the silence by laughing. He’s just so full of joy.”Zach Baker, a student in West Virginia, came home to Bloomington in time for the teaching. He said he felt a connection to the Dalai Lama after hearing him speak.“He’s not just some figure on the other side of the world,” Baker said. “He’s an actual person.”The Dalai Lama develops closeness and a personal connection to his audience by making his message accessible to all backgrounds by welcoming all spiritualities, Moss said.“His message always starts with Buddhism not being about conversion,” Moss said. “You’re hearing teachings from a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and it’s something we should all take and share.“There’s so much misery in America. ... It’s important that Hoosiers can look and see this great opportunity.”Gray said the spiritual leader visiting Bloomington in particular gives the city a responsibility for cultural change.“It’s one of the things that makes this town special,” Gray said. “Instead of just a plain old town in Indiana, we’re a center of possibility of peace and change.”
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>For as long as anyone I’ve talked to can remember, French people have loved to go on strike. About, well, everything.Train conductors, are you unhappy about your wages? Strike, and shut down parts of the city’s transportation system. This has happened three times since I’ve been here, including a strike Tuesday affecting one of the main commuter train lines.During the first weekend of our spring break, the entire Charles de Gaulle Airport decided to go on strike, cancelling hundreds of incoming and outgoing flights along with many of my classmates’ sunny travel plans.A friend of mine who studied here last semester said the entire public transportation system went on strike the day she left to come home, making it significantly more difficult to get to the airport an hour away.Transportation workers aren’t the only ones doing it. My host family has rattled off instances of postal workers, teachers and city sanitation workers doing the same.Basically, anyone who can go on strike here will.And there’s not really anything anyone can do about it. These interest groups all have their little tantrums for a day or so, and then everything goes back to normal. Sometimes they’re successful. Sometimes they aren’t.But it’s an accepted fact of life here, so strikes no longer faze residents the way they do American students trying to navigate this city for three months.At some point, you would think that they would try a new method to protest unfair wages or policies. Shake things up a bit. Surprise people.But that’s another thing that I love about this city: It’s impossible to understand, no matter how many croissants you eat, miles you walk in high heels or strikes you witness.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>On my way to class, though I’m only above ground for about 10 minutes, I pass at least five newsstands.These sprawling kiosks stock and advertise every type of publication imaginable, from a standard daily paper to magazines about African politics to uncensored porn.Each newsstand always seems to have several people waiting in line to buy their daily print fix. Even as the economy continues to steady itself, they’re still regularly buying their papers and magazines.The Observatoire de la presse, a yearly analysis of the state of French print media and press, was published last week and showed the French media as a whole isn’t suffering terribly in terms of sales. The 86-page guide is covered in vivid charts, tables, graphs and percents showing trends in buying habits of every sector of the press imaginable.There’s a page for national daily papers like Le Figaro and Le Parisien, two of the country’s favorite titles. But their popularity couldn’t protect paper sales, as daily papers saw a 3 percent sales drop from 2008 to 2009.Then there are similar pages for women’s magazines, sports dailies, free newspapers and agricultural journals. All saw similarly sized drops in readership.An article in Le Figaro found some titles like Elle magazine even experienced a growth in readership.Overall, the French printed press saw just a 3 percent drop in readership. Not a great omen, but it looks like a miracle when compared to the U.S. statistics.On March 15, the U.S. Project for Excellence in Journalism published the American version of the same report, State of the News Media 2010. This version was a little darker — U.S. papers saw a decrease of more than 10 percent in overall audience. Magazines didn’t fare much better.So why are the French buying more papers? Turn on the TV.The American version of the report noted a spike in cable news consumption in 2009. Fox and CNN both saw considerable increases in viewers.American culture is firmly rooted in television, and the news is no exception. It’s nearly impossible to discuss the state of current events in the U.S. without tossing around commentary from at least one Fox anchor and a CNN headline blurb.But in France, turn on the TV and you’ll find only a few types of news programs: your traditional “anchor-reading-headlines” format and metered, polite roundtable discussions. No screaming, finger-pointing or tea parties.And you’ll never see the French obsessively cramming themselves into a 24-hour news cycle. The French tend to have a solid handle on the state of affairs in their country because, when the news has switched over to another dubbed episode of “How I Met Your Mother,” they pick up a paper if they want more.Any chic parisienne is probably carrying at least a copy of Vogue at any given time, and that guy standing next to you on the metro in a spiffy black suit probably has a copy of Le Monde in his briefcase.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>In France, some rouge states are about to turn bleu.This past week, at dinner with my host family, the topic of the ongoing French regional elections came up. The streets of Paris have been littered with campaign posters for every party imaginable, one for every shade of political belief.They found it crazy that, even in a politics-obsessed country like ours (an impression I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten from watching dubbed episodes of “The West Wing” on DVD), there were really only two major choices plastering walls with posters each electoral season.This became a full-out American civics lesson. How does the president get elected? What is an “electoral college”? I can’t even explain that in English.Then, they asked point-blank who I voted for, what I thought of Barack Obama, what party I identified with.So I turned the question back onto them: Who did you vote for in the 2007 French presidential election?In unison, they responded: Nicolas Sarkozy. My host mother explained that while they were never exactly fans of Sarkozy’s overindulgence and personality (he’s known as president “bling-bling” here because of his over-the-top flashiness, and wife Carla Bruni’s exploits don’t exactly help the image), Sarkozy was the lesser of two evils.They called Segolene Royal, Sarkozy’s Socialist Party challenger, simply folle, or crazy. Sarkozy was, to them, the only realistic choice, but that doesn’t mean they particularly liked him.As regional elections drew to a close yesterday, it seems much of France feels the same way.Sarkozy’s party, the conservative Union for a Popular Movement, is predicted to fare terribly in the polls. After a first round of voting last week, the UMP received just under 40 percent of votes to the Socialist party’s 53 percent.The backlash comes as many French citizens remain angry over Sarkozy’s handling of the economy in the past years. The monstrous flop of his “national identity” debates, attempts to reform immigration and distracting public and tabloid persona haven’t been forgotten, either.Across the country, typically right-leaning regions are expected to veer a little to the left.Additionally, voter turnout has reportedly been miserable, with several polling places in politically active neighborhoods standing empty for stretches of time.These regional elections are expected to be a sort of preliminary test for Sarkozy’s chances in the 2012 Presidential elections.So far, it looks like president “bling-bling” is going to be out of a job.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>Islam in France is a touchy subject.As the government continues to push to ban the burka — a full-body veil worn by many Muslim women — critics cite the move as proof of pervasive racism and xenophobia.The ban is intended to promote gender equality along with a new series of gender rights classes being proposed for new immigrants to the country.In 2009, Le Figaro, a national newspaper, estimated that only 2,000 women in the country, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe, actually wear the garment.They’ve already banned most religious clothing items in public schools, including the hijab — a covering for the hair and neck that is worn by Muslim women. Yet the issue is far from resolved.Here’s a timeline of some recent events and clashes between government and the veil: — June 22, 2009: French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy calls the burka a sign of “subservience” and said it was “not welcome” in France, according to a Daily Telegraph article.— June 27, 2009: al-Qaida releases a statement threatening to retaliate against France should the burka ban pass.— Late 2009: Public meetings begin to discuss “national identity” as waves of Muslim North African immigrants enter the country.— Jan. 26, 2010: A parliamentary committee report recommends that Muslim women should not be allowed to wear a burka in public places.— Feb. 4, 2010: Government officials deny citizenship to a Moroccan man who forces his wife to wear the full-body veil, citing violations of gender equality-based values systems.— Feb. 6, 2010: Two gunmen dressed in burkas rob a bank near Paris, taking nearly 4,500 euros ($6,122).— Mid February: Immigration officials end the national identity debates and recommend requiring national flags, singing of the national anthem in schools and gender equality education classes.
____simple_html_dom__voku__html_wrapper____>The country that brought us existentialism is having an existential crisis.For months, the French government has been pushing a new series of debates regarding French identity. Public meetings on the topic took place.As waves of immigrants, primarily from northern African countries, flood into cities across the country, the government hoped to create some sense of national unity, a sense of what it means to be French in a time when the face of the country is evolving dramatically.French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and his Immigration Minister Eric Besson had big plans for this. There was supposed to be fanfare. There was supposed to be pride.But the announcement of new plans came with a whimper.French citizens increasingly spurned the idea as the discussion grew more racist and xenophobic. Anti-Islamic sentiments, an ever-present reality in France, surfaced.With upcoming regional elections, even Sarkozy started distancing himself from the debate.The big plan to promote national identity, released early last week, includes signing a vague “French values” statement, which will be drafted by a government-selected committee of “experts,” according to a BBC News report.French flags will fly and the national anthem will be sung at every school across the country.New immigrants will be required to take language and gender equality courses.All of this comes during a week when the immigration ministry has come under international scrutiny after Reuters reported that a man from Morocco was denied French citizenship because he failed to “respect the rights of women” by forcing members of his family to wear a niqab, the full facial and body veil.The French government is pushing measures to ban any sort of facial or body covering for women for religious purposes, a move targeted at any of the traditional Muslim body coverings.Amid this debate, the main question still hasn’t been answered: What does it mean to be French? At a time when the economy, unemployment and strikes should be at the forefront of the national consciousness, this is the real question being asked.It started out as a debate. An honest debate.But now, it’s bigger than that. It’s about who gets to call himself or herself French.If only Sartre could see his country now.