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Wednesday, July 23, 2014
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Rebels in Ukraine hold up personal effects from one of the 80 children who perished on Malaysian Flight 17 last week. President Putin tried to remake the Russian brand during the Sochi Olympics last winter, but the world sees a brutal truth now.
Rebels in Ukraine hold up personal effects from one of the 80 children who perished on Malaysian Flight 17 last week. President Putin tried to remake the Russian brand during the Sochi Olympics last winter, but the world sees a brutal truth now.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 9:43 AM

BLOOMINGTON – Any illusions I had about the progressive nature of the Putin regime quickly dissipated when I returned to my Moscow Grand Marriott room in August 2007. Upon opening the door, I was greeted with the spectacle of my papers and note pads strewn about the room. It was clear that an FSB agent stopped in to get a better handle on who this American journalist might actually be.

There had been a peaceful transfer of power between President Boris Yeltsin to Putin seven years prior, capping the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union that few predicted. Putin had won a subsequent election, though he controlled state media and international observers had determined it rigged. Russian people could now travel more freely to the West, and Russian hockey players populated the NHL without having to go through the rigors of defection.

As a Congressional delegation headed by Sen. Richard Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn journeyed across Moscow’s outer highway belts, a back-of-the-bus discussion involving the New York Times’ C.J. Chivers and the Washington Post’s David Hoffman speculated on whether Putin would relinquish power after his second term concluded a year later. There was no consensus and little speculation that Putin would elevate Dmitri Medvedev to the presidency and spend the next four years as prime minister before retaking ultimate power in 2012 from behind his facade.

The Soviet economy morphed into an oligarch-controlled quasi capitalistic system. The gulags no longer existed, but as our delegation bus passed Lubyanka, the brutal Soviet legacy protruded and nudged the realm of the past and the possible.

Since last Thursday, when it appears that Ukrainian separatists working with the Russian military shot down Malaysian Air Flight 17 killing 298 people, the entire civilized world now has a greater appreciation of the nature of President Vladimir Putin. On the Sunday morning talk shows, U.S. Rep. Peter King described him as a “Mafia guy” and on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the term “thug” was common place.

The wreckage and grotesque images from the Ukrainian sunflower and wheat fields were aptly described by the New York Times’ Peter Baker and a reporting team that included Chivers:  The plane exploded in midair and plummeted down into a series of large fields of wheat, grass and sunflowers, its fuselage and landing gear twisted into a mountain of metal, wires, engines and seats. Bodies lying in the field struck strange, unnatural shapes in the tall grasses, many naked but for their shoes. Some were nestled together among piles of open suitcases, including a man in a mint-colored T-shirt lying near a woman in torn jeans whose right arm was thrown up over her head as if she were trying to protect herself. Others lay alone, like the tiny girl, probably no older than 3, dressed in a red T-shirt without pants. The sight was overwhelming, even to rebels, who stood in stunned groups trying to comprehend.

Included in this jarring scene were Indiana University graduate student and rower Karlijn Keijzer and 297 other souls (with 80 children and infants), including former Kankakee Valley HS exchange student Laurens Van Der Graaff, her travel companion. In the following days, viewers on worldwide CNN, Al-Jazeera, the BBC and the American networks saw imagery of rebels picking through the debris field, removing missile shards, as well as wedding rings and other personal effects. Crumpled bodies were stacked in the summer heat along railroad tracks, and then loaded into refrigerated rail cars. Dutch forensic team members finally given access five days later appeared stunned at the entire fiasco. It was an appalling third world scene.
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    SOUTH BEND - South Bend’s city council, now a punch line for jokes, is ridiculed as the most quarrelsome council around here since Snyderville days in Roseland. Spending nearly half the year in snappish deliberation over a councilman posting an obscene picture of a naked man and a dog on Facebook will do that to a council’s image. Especially when that flap was only part of the flapping and the result was no resulting resolution. But the South Bend Council is better than Congress. OK, maybe that’s faint praise, like saying a baseball team is better than the Chicago Cubs. But the South Bend Council is much better than Congress. Congress has hurt the nation, rejecting a jobs bill for economic recovery, lowering the nation’s credit rating with deficit default and government closing shenanigans and shattering investor confidence with stalemate on budget, deficit, infrastructure and immigration issues. The council hasn’t hurt the city. Not yet.
    INDIANAPOLIS - The  governor and his select invitees to his closed tax conference last month praised simplifying Indiana’s tax code. It is an idea better loved by Americans than baseball, apple, pie or motherhood. There is no question that our national and state tax codes are enormous tomes when printed, complex and detailed beyond belief. How did they get that way? Blame the legislators who give special privileges to persons and businesses willing to plead their arguments, live or in cash. For example, Indiana exempts $1,000 from taxation for each person in your household. Then, if the taxpayer and the spouse are 65 or older, they each get an additional $500 exemption. Plus, if the taxpayer or the spouse is blind, there is another $1,000 income exemption. Wouldn’t it be simpler to count a person as a person without regard to age or disability?  
    INDIANAPOLIS – This could be the saga of “LeBron Bayh.” Like a thunderhead brewing in the distance, you could see this one coming. This was the progression: former state Democratic Dan Parker announces he will not become a candidate for mayor of Indianapolis, reasoning that the Democratic nominee has to have a background in public safety. On Monday morning, Southern District Attorney Joe Hogsett backtracks from an earlier disavowal of candidacy and resigns. A few hours later, former governor Evan Bayh shows up on Monument Circle for a press conference lauding Hogsett. At this point, Indiana Democrats are like Cleveland, Ohio. Four years ago - the same year basketball king LeBron James broke buckeye hearts by taking his talents to South Beach - Sen. Bayh dropped an epic bombshell that he would not seek a third term before taking his talents to Fox News. On Monday, the inevitable questions about a 2016 gubernatorial run soon followed, and Bayh was glib, coy and did nothing to tamp down the rampant speculation that he was about to pull off a latter day LeBron and return to the Hoosier campaign trail. “That election is two and a half years from now,” Bayh said. “We’ve got important races this fall that are going to be important to the state of Indiana, we’ve got mayoral races next year, so first things first.” 
    INDIANAPOLIS – Hillary Clinton’s comment that she and former President Bill Clinton were “dead broke” upon leaving The White House in 2001 set off a media firestorm. She was criticized from every angle for being  out of touch with the American populace. Republicans scoffed, pointing out that the Clinton clan was making plenty at the time and that since then Mr. Clinton alone has raked in well over $100 million in fees on the lecture circuit. Coupled with Mrs. Clinton, who pulls in $225,000 per speech herself, the duo has a net worth estimated at upwards of $50 million. Democrats were equally aghast, furious that their presumed standard bearer could be so reckless and disingenuous in trying to be one of us. But the larger point to me is why? Why is she trying so hard to be “one of us”?  
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Sen. Coats on Senate floor about Flight 17
Sen. Dan Coats takes to the Senate floor to discuss the Malaysian Flight 17 atrocity in Ukraine.
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  • Indiana Republicans have big CD, statewide 2Q money leads
    INDIANAPOLIS – Nationally, Congressional Democrats are out-raising their Republican counterparts, but back home in Indiana, GOP incumbents are walloping their challengers. The same holds true for the Republican statewide nominees, with all three significantly out-raising Democrats. This quarter furthered the storyline we’ve already been watching: Congressional challengers just aren’t raising any cash or getting any traction, while the incumbents continue to haul it in. It appears it’s going to be a quiet November in the Hoosier state. U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski is the big winner for this quarter, bringing in $338K, edging out U.S. Rep. Todd Young’s $334K and U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks’ $309K. The trio out-distanced the pack, as the next closest was U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman with $214K.
  • Stutzman talks trade, immigration, Boehner suit
    INDIANAPOLIS – The worsening crisis along the southern border and a growing wellspring of public support for comprehensive immigration reform, particularly within the state and among Hoosier Republicans, is being felt by U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman and his colleagues, the Republican told Howey Politics Indiana in an exclusive interview on Monday. Rep. Stutzman is and obviously has been frustrated with the White House for quite some time, but a pervasive theme throughout many of his answers and remarks is a frustration with inaction on Capitol Hill. “The administration is not engaged with Congress, period. House Republicans, we feel like we’re trying to lead and put ideas together passing bills and they go to the Senate and nothing happens,” Stutzman said.
  • Pence's blue ribbon transpo panel finds funding hurdles
    CNHI State Bureau

    INDIANAPOLIS -- A panel of public and private officials is calling for $10 billion in projects to upgrade the state’s aging roads and bridges, but its members concede there’s no money to pay for it all. Last week, Gov. Mike Pence’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Transportation Infrastructure released a long wish list of “critical” projects that includes adding travel lanes to the state’s most crowded arteries, Interstates 65 and 70, as they pass through rural areas. Also on the list of projects deemed essential to the state’s economic growth are improving Interstate 69 across the Ohio River bridge in southwest Indiana, and a new four-lane divided highway to loop around Indianapolis so that drivers can avoid the crowded bypass that already exists.

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  • President Obama signs Donnelly skills gap bill into law
    “I am pleased that the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act has been signed into law because it will help prepare Hoosiers for the jobs that are available now and will enable businesses to find the skilled employees they need to succeed in today’s economy. We still have a lot of work to do to get people back to work and close the skills gap, which leaves hundreds of thousands of jobs unfilled.  I look forward to the day when jobs are competing for the same workers instead of workers competing for the same job.” - U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly after President Obama signed his bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) aimed at closing the skills gap. 
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Should Pence run?

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