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Griffith Police Seek Public's Help to find Suspects

Male suspect seen on security video entering the Wlagreens at 1225 E. Ridge Rd. on June 24th.
Female suspect
Female suspect being sought in armed robbery that occurred on June 29th at the Walgreens at 407 W. Glen Park Ave.
Griffith police are asking for the public's help in identifying a male and female suspect involved in two separate armed robberies that occurred last week at two Griffith area Walgreens stores. Published reports say around 9:30 p.m. on June 24th, a white male wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt reportedly flashed a handgun and robbed the pharmacy. Dispatched advised of a white vehicle, possibly a Chevrolet Cavalier, with white rims that fled southbound on Colfax St, according to reports. Then shortly before 7 p.m. on June 29th officers were dispatched to the Walgreens on Glen Park Avenue where staff told police a white female wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt, baseball cap and bandanna displayed a note and a black semi automatic pistol in her waistband demanding Hydrocodone and Xanax (zan-ax). In both instances information was gathered from staff and witnesses with officers checking the area for suspects and vehicles but nothing has been found.  Police also the suspects could have also been involved in a similar robbery happened in Highland.
Anyone with information about the suspects are asked to contact the Griffith Police Dept.(219) 924-7503 or, Highland Police Dept. (219) 838-3184.
(photos provided by GPD)...

Gary Animal Control Releases 2013 Contingency Plan

City of Gary
In mid-June, a petition was launched on suggesting that the City of Gary’s Animal Control facility and services be transferred to Lake County Animal Control (LCAC). In light of the claims raised by concerned citizens, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson issued a statement and shared that a contingency plan for the facility would be released on July 1.
“As promised, we are releasing the plan that outlines immediate next steps for our Animal Control Division,” said Freeman-Wilson. “I am pleased with the solutions that have been brought forth and look forward to working with community organizations to garner even more support.”
Gary Animal Control Plan 2013
The following is a plan for the Gary Animal Control to enhance the conditions at the current facility located at 625 W. 9th Place, Gary, IN. The outdated structure presents challenges of disease management and at times, impacts the care that these animals need and deserve. Currently, the structure has a quarantine area that can receive a limited number of animals. The immediate plan will allow flexibility to enhance the operation of the animal control facility while continuing to maintain animals in a humane manner.
The Animal Control Division is an enforcement agency with a staff that includes one supervisor, three field officers, one kennel technician, and one civilian clerk. All are fully trained with proper certifications to handle animals and operate the facility.
Outlined below are the immediate steps that will be taken to address the housing situation for animals admitted to the Gary Animal Control facility.
Identify a 2nd Facility: 6800 East 7th Avenue
The Animal Control team has identified the Northwest Indiana Humane Society as a facility that is equipped to receive animals within a day’s notice. Located at 6800 E. 7th Ave., it is a prime location in Gary’s Miller area. The Gary Police Department is currently negotiating a lease agreement for this location to serve as a second animal control building. The building has approximately 2,000 sq. feet of space and was previously utilized as an animal control hospital.
The final terms of the lease are expected to be completed the first week of July 2013. Once both parties reach an agreement, the Gary Police Department plans to occupy the space immediately and start admitting animals. The facility will be used as a quarantine area during repairs to the 625 W. 9th Ave. site as well as a place for animals to dwell after becoming property of the City of Gary.
Renovate Current Facility at 625 W. 9th Avenue
Once the second facility is operational, Gary Animal Control will continue enhancing the 625 W. 9th Ave. The process to secure quotes and implement repairs should take approximately 90 days with a target completion date of September 30, 2013. Having the alternate facility allows flexibility to daily operations and for repairs and upgrades to be made.
Funding for the Project
The Gary Police Department has identified the account to pay for leasing the facility at 6800 East 7th Avenue. The rent for the facility is being negotiated at $500.00 a month, and the police department will be responsible for paying all utilities. Should the facility need any type of immediate repairs or materials to enhance operations, the Gary Police Department has identified their Building Repair Materials account to cover the costs. The repairs to the facility at 625 W. 9th Ave. will also be supported by the Building Repair Materials account.
The one year lease for the 2nd facility will be paid from account #43720, Lease/Purchase. In addition, efforts are underway to establish a non-reverting building and veterinary fund to receive donations from community groups to support the growth and enhancement of the Animal Control Division.
Network for Adoption
The Gary Animal Control has an established relationship with fifteen animal rescue groups at the present time for the purpose of fostering and placing animals in suitable homes. Volunteer coordinators are working with the Gary Animal Control on a daily basis to recruit additional rescue groups to reduce the number of euthanized animals. In addition,
rescue groups are providing virus vaccinations at no cost to the animal control facility.
Fundraising efforts
The Gary Animal Control Division continues to cultivate relationships with community groups to assist with fundraising.  On August 31, 2013, Wright Painting LLC will partner with the Gary RailCats to host its first fundraising event. All proceeds will go to the Animal Control building fund. Future fundraising events are pending. Community organizations and businesses are also invited to submit fundraising ideas to help support this effort.
Future Plans
From July 8-12, 2013 ARC (Animal Rescue Corp.), President Scotlund Haisley will visit the Gary Animal Control facility to conduct a needs assessment at no cost. He and his team will assess all elements of Gary’s Animal Control field and shelter operations, identify any deficiencies, make recommendations on cutting costs while maximizing efficiency and
effectiveness, and suggest ways to expand and improve service.
Areas to be assessed include but are not limited to budget, facility, staff, training, database system, customer service, emergency plan, animal handling, animal enrichment, behavior assessments, veterinary care, housing quality, intake protocol, euthanasia criteria and protocol, adoption program and policies, community outreach, shelter and rescue partnerships, food program, volunteer program, foster program, etc. This assessment will provide guidance for future plans of the Gary Animal Control.

Gov. Pence Appoints IVY TECH Board of Trustees

Gov Mike Pence
(photo provided)
Governor Mike Pence today appointed members to the Ivy Tech Board of Trustees. Appointees will serve three-year terms, effective July 1, 2013.
“Leaders in their fields, the individuals named today to the Ivy Tech Board of Trustees have the experience and proven leadership necessary to further the success of Ivy Tech in the years ahead ,” said Governor Pence. “Under their guidance, Ivy Tech will undoubtedly continue to accelerate learning and provide an affordable and impactful learning environment for the nearly 200,000 Hoosier students on its campuses across the state.”
Dr. Michael Evans, of Indianapolis, has been appointed to the Board. Evans is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIT Laboratories, which he founded in 1990. Since then, the Indianapolis-based reference laboratory, which specializes in pain management, forensics, clinical and pharmaceutical testing, has grown into a premiere testing and research institution recognized nationwide for superior customer service and quality in testing. Prior to his career as an entrepreneur, Evans served as tenured professor, director, faculty member, and researcher for institutions such as the Indiana University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He was also a visiting professor of toxicology for Kunming Medical College and the Sichuan Institute of Materia Medica, both located in China. Evans earned his doctorate in toxicology from Indiana University School of Medicine and held a postdoctoral fellowship with the National Toxicology Center at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
President and Chief Executive Officer of Old National Bancorp. since 2004, Bob Jones will also join the Board. Prior to joining Old National, Jones, of Evansville, worked for 25 years at Cleveland-based KeyCorp., where he most recently served as Chief Executive Officer of McDonald Investments Inc. He serves on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Board of Directors, where he is a member of it Executive Committee and chairs the Audit Committee. Active within his community, Jones serves on the boards of the University of Evansville, the Evansville Regional Business Council, Vectren Corporation, the Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana, Riley Children’s Hospital, and Youth Resources of Southwestern Indiana. Jones earned his undergraduate degree from Ashland University.
Larry Garatoni has been appointed to the Ivy Tech Board of Trustees. Garatoni, of South Bend, served in the Army Reserve attaining the rank of Captain. He began his career in 1964 when he and a partner built and operated a long term care facility. From 1969 to 1994, Garatoni founded and operated several companies under Health Quest Group. From 1994 to 2003, Garatoni served as CEO at several different software and internet sales companies. In 2007, Garatoni founded HQ Investments, which manages investments in public equities, private equities, hedge funds, venture capital and angel investing. The company also supports K-12 education-focused philanthropic activities and manages the Garatoni Family Foundation. Garatoni earned his undergraduate degree from Purdue University and completed the Owners/President Program of Harvard Business School.
Paula Hughes will serve on the Board of Trustees. Hughes, a consultant for both non-profit and private sector clients, also serves on the Board of Directors at Transmission & Fluid Equipment, Inc. With experience in local government, Hughes served as Second District Elected Representative on the Allen County Council from 2003 to 2010. She has held a variety of positions throughout her career including time spent as a commercial real estate broker, President of the Downtown Improvement District, Director of Development at Arts United, and Executive Director of the Decatur Chamber of Commerce. Hughes, of Fort Wayne, earned her undergraduate degree from Indiana University and her master’s degree from the University of Saint Francis.
Rush County resident Michael Dora has also been named to the Ivy Tech Board. Dora, who is retired, is the previous owner operator of Dora Enterprises, a grain and swine production company. Actively involved within his community, Dora has served as a member of the Area Planning Commission, a trustee on the Rush County School Board and an assistant wrestling coach at Rushville High School. Dora, an Elder at Center Christian Church, is a graduate of Purdue University.
President of Citation Homes, Steve Schreckengast, of Lafayette, has been reappointed to the Board.

17 Yr Old Ingested Synthetic LSD Before His Death

Tests results have revealed that a synthetic version of LSD were ingested by a 17 year old who later died at an area hospital last week. An investigation by Porter County Sheriff's Detectives states that two juveniles with Cody Riffett, moments before his death, advised that after he took the drug, he began to severely hallucinate and go through a psychotic episode. Authorities were called out to the 400 block of Sturgeon Road west of Valparaiso around 5-o'clock last week on Tuesday evening for a teenage boy lying unconscious in the roadway. The Drug Task Force on Friday executed a search warrant at the residence of an 18 year old Union Township man who allegedly sold the drug to the victim, with whom authorities had conducted two drug buys, and seized additional narcotics and drug paraphernalia.
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Gary PD Investigating Two Separate Weekend Shootings

Gary PD
Police in Gary are seeking the public's help regarding two separate shooting incidents from over the weekend. Public Information Officer Corp. Gabrielle King says the first incident took place just before 10:30 Friday night when a 17 year old out riding with friends stopped to speak with an unknown subject in the 700 block of 7th Avenue, near Polk Street. After parting, the 17 year old victim reports the unknown subject pulled out a handgun and shot him.
The second shooting incident took place just before midnight on Saturday, where a 21 year old man and a 17 year old man were traveling north on Pierce Street from 38th Avenue, when they were both struck by bullets from an unknown man with a gun who fired at them.
Corp. King says all injuries sustained appear to be non life-threatening, and that anyone with information regarding these incidents is asked to contact the Gary Police Department.
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Smoke-Free Air Law Going Strong One Year Later

indiana state department of health
INDIANAPOLIS—One year has passed since Indiana joined 39 other states in becoming smoke free. The Indiana Smoke Free Air Law prohibits smoking in all businesses, except for membership clubs, bars, casinos and retail tobacco shops, better protecting millions of Hoosiers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 carcinogens.  The U.S. Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. In Indiana, an estimated 1,100 deaths annually are attributed to secondhand smoke exposure.
“Protecting Hoosiers from secondhand smoke, helping smokers quit and preventing our kids from choosing tobacco are all top priorities for the Indiana State Department of Health,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “The statewide Smoke Free Air Law has helped protect millions of workers and business patrons across the state. We know there is no safe level of secondhand smoke and so I am pleased that Indiana businesses have been on board with the law.”
Initial monitoring of the implementation of the law indicates compliance is high, with the vast majority of venues (97 percent) abiding by the no-smoking provision of the law. This data is consistent with other smoke-free air laws.
The Indiana State Department of Health’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation division has worked very closely with the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) to implement the new state law. While ATC is the primary enforcement agency, the State Health Department has developed and distributed materials to educate businesses that are impacted by the law and to educate citizens on what to expect with the new law. Over 8,500 educational toolkits have been distributed to Indiana businesses.
“While 300,000 Indiana businesses were affected by the Smoke Free Air Law, only 108 have been cited for violating the law,” said Travis Thickstun of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission's enforcement division, Indiana State Excise Police. “We are finding that as excise officers work to educate businesses across the state, the vast majority come into compliance with the law once they learn what they need to do. Because our officers are finding that most people want to follow the law, only a few citations have been necessary.”
Smoking and secondhand smoke-related illnesses cost Indiana millions of dollars per year. A 2012 report from the Bowen Research Center at the Indiana University School of Medicine concluded that secondhand smoke costs Indiana $1.3 billion per year, or $201 per resident.
Local communities may pass laws stronger than the state law. To date, thirteen Indiana municipalities have passed smoke free air policies that protect workers in all workplaces, including bars and membership clubs, including Bloomington, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Franklin, Columbus, Plainfield, Terre Haute, Zionsville and the counties of Delaware, Hancock, Monroe, Vanderburgh and Vigo.
Those interested in learning about the law and the resources available can go to  To report a violation or ask a question, please visit the ATC website at
To visit the Indiana State Department of Health, go to
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BP Starts Up New Crude Unit at Whiting Refinery

BP announced today that it has completed commissioning and start-up of its new 250,000 barrel-per-day crude distillation unit at the Whiting Refinery, marking a major milestone in the multi-billion dollar upgrade of the facility in Northwest Indiana.
“The safe start-up of this large, sophisticated crude processing unit at the Whiting Refinery has returned the refinery to its nameplate processing capability of 413,000 barrels per day -- initially of mostly light, sweet crude -- and paved the way for the remaining upgrades to the plant to be brought on-line,” said Iain Conn, chief executive of BP’s refining and marketing segment.  “When the new coking and hydrotreating units are commissioned and operating at full rates in the second half of this year, the reconfigured refinery will have the flexibility to greatly increase heavy, sour crude processing, delivering an expected incremental $1 billion of operating cash flow per year, depending on market conditions.”
Construction of the Whiting Refinery upgrade project is more than 95 percent complete. BP expects to commission a new 105,000 barrel-per-day gasoil hydrotreater, a large 102,000 barrel-per-day coker and other associated units in the second half of 2013. When all of the new equipment is in full operation, the refinery will have the ability to significantly increase heavy, sour crude processing to roughly 80 percent of its overall crude run.
“The Whiting Refinery project is at the heart of our U.S. fuels strategy to operate sophisticated, feedstock-advantaged refineries tied to strong logistics and fuels markets,” Conn added. “This world class refinery is in the right location and will soon be running the right equipment to process growing supplies of North American crude oil, including oil from Canada.”
The multi-billion dollar investment in the refinery is the largest private sector investment in Indiana history and also includes several hundred million dollars in state-of-the-art environmental controls for water treatment and air emissions, according to Whiting Refinery manager Nick Spencer.
“Our investment in Whiting’s future shows BP’s commitment to creating jobs in America and safely providing energy,” Spencer said.
Spencer also credited the 1,900 Whiting employees and large contractor workforce for safely reaching today’s important milestone in the project.
“We’ve employed more than 10,000 skilled craftspeople here at Whiting the past few years preparing for this important moment,” Spencer added.  “We’ve focused on safe execution and earlier this year logged more than 40 million man-hours without an injury resulting in a day away from work.  Our focus now is to continue this standard of safety performance through to the completion of the project later this year and for years to come.”
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Crash on IN Toll Rd Injures State Trooper and Two Others

A state trooper and two other people were hospitalized Sunday night after being injured in a two-vehicle crash near LaPorte on the Indiana Toll Road. Published reports say the injuries did not appear to be life-threatening, and no further information is available at this time.
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St. John Approves Tattoo Business

As long as all the permits are in order, St. John will have its first ever tattoo business up and running one-month from today. The Town Council last week approved a variance ordinance for the business, which will also offering piercings, and will be located in the 91-hundred block of Wicker Avenue.
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South Shore CVA Celebrates 30th Anniversary in July

Throughout the month of July, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority will be celebrating its 30th anniversary. During a recent Region News Makers interview, South Shore CVA President and CEO Speros Batistatos says it was on this day 30 years ago the South Shore CVA was created by state code in 1983, in response to the second worst recession in history, to pursue hospitality and get public input to help leverage private investment. Batistatos says they plan to have a lot of fun with the 30th anniversary, like identifying 30 careers and 30 influential people in tourism, 30 stops in 30 days with their Tour Mobile that will travel throughout the South Shore, and much more.
To hear more of our Region Newsmakers interview South Shore CVA President and C-E-O Speros Batistatos, visit and for more information on the South Shore CVA, visit

CP Zoning Board to Hear Petition for Proposed Cell Tower

The Crown Point Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to hear a petition later this month, July 22nd, from a Warsaw based company about putting up a 175-foot cell tower on a site in a residential zone. The cell tower would be located in the 12-hundred block of South Indiana Avenue, and would be near a senior living complex, who has objected to the proposed structure.

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Region Gas Prices Continue to Fall

Gas prices continue to take less of a toll on the wallets of Hoosiers. According to Triple-A's fuel gauge report, a gallon of regular unleaded is averaging three-dollars-46-cents in the Gary metropolitan area, down 21-cents from last week, and down 39-cents from a month ago. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded for the state of Indiana is three-dollars-41-cents, a 34-cent difference from the Illinois average of three-dollars-75-cents.
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US Marshals Fugitive of the Week: Carl Robinson

Carl Robinson
(Photo Courtesy of the US Marshals, Great Lakes Task Force)
A 41 year old wanted in Lake County Court for dealing cocaine, maintaining a common nuisance, and possession of marijuana has been named this weeks “Fugitive of the Week” by the US Marshals Service, Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force in Hammond. Carl Robinson is described as a six-foot tall black male, weighing 250-pounds, with black hair and brown eyes, with a scar on his nose and near his left eye. Authorities report Robinson was last known to reside in the 39-hundred block of Guthrie Street in East Chicago, that he frequents the areas of East Chicago, and possibly fled the state.  Anyone with information on Carl Robinson's whereabouts may contact task force investigators by calling toll-free (888) 805-6119 or by texting “capture” to Tip411 (847411). All tipsters will remain anonymous.
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IN Ranks 25th Out of 30 States for Beachwater Quality

Indiana ranked 25th out of thirty states for beachwater quality according to a recently-released report from the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Testing the Waters” looked at the rate and reasons for beach closures, and frequency of water quality testing, and levels of bacteria . Jeorse Park Beach in East Chicago landed on their list of “Repeat Offenders”. To view the report, visit
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Special Emergency Siren Test in LaPorte County

Well if you hear sirens going off in LaPorte County this morning, don't's just a test. LaPorte County Emergency Management reports they will be conducting a special siren test at 11am.
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Gary Clean Water Celebration

City of Gary
A press conference will be held this Saturday morning to kick off the City of Gary's Clean Water Celebration. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson will be joined by representatives of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and the Department of Natural Resources for an award presentation to the Gary Storm Water Management District, while discussing Gary's advances in storm water management. The press conference is scheduled for 11am Saturday, at Marquette Park, Shelter Number 5, near the lagoon.
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Kindergarten Countdown Camp Prepares Kids in Knox

starke kindergarten countdown lr
(Photo Courtesy of IU Health Starke Hospital)
KNOX, Ind.–Children in Knox received a jump start on kindergarten this summer thanks to a common goal aimed at helping at-risk kids transition successfully into school.
The Knox Community School Corporation, the United Way Starke United Fund and Indiana University Health Starke Hospital teamed up to offer Kindergarten Countdown—a program helping underserved children with the basic skills needed to succeed in kindergarten and meet Indiana educational standards later in life.
The free, four-week summer camp was held throughout June at Knox Elementary School. This was the third year Knox schools participated in Kindergarten Countdown.
Peggy Shidaker, director of curriculum/instruction for Knox schools, said the program especially connects to Knox’s current 33 percent of children who have had no preschool experience.
“All research lately has shown that children from low-income or underserved families who have not had preschool experience tend to score below their peers from higher-income families in literacy and math development as well as in social skills. They do not have the readiness skills needed and these children tend to never catch up with their peers unless there is some type of intervention, such as Kindergarten Countdown,” she said.
Shidaker added, “This was a great transitional program to help those students. At Knox, we do whatever it takes to reach out to students and their families.”
Kindergarten teacher, Kim Ray, taught students during the half-day camp four days a week. Children learned hands-on developmental readiness and activities such as how to identify their names and their letters, identify shapes, count to 25 and general book knowledge. Even basic necessities such as locating their classroom and understanding how the school day works will help create a smoother transition for students, program organizers said.
“We’ve had some really positive things happen here over the last four weeks,” Ray said. “Parents are happy that their children are socializing around other children. This will really help when they enter school in the fall.”
IU Health Starke Hospital coordinated a book drive earlier this summer, providing 320 books to Kindergarten Countdown. Each of the 18 campers received one book per day through the program.
“IU Health supports this program statewide,” said Laura Gould, community outreach coordinator for IU Health La Porte and Starke hospitals. “We understand that kindergarten is a fundamental stepping stone in the journey toward literacy and education.”
Hospital colleagues also volunteered for the program, and donated T-shirts for students to wear for the first day of school this fall. Children also received backpacks from Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
Shidaker, an educator for the past 35 years, found the benefits of the program too great to be measured. “When I walk into a classroom and see children naming letters or making sounds of the letters—especially since they didn’t have that knowledge before they entered the program—you can’t put that kind of progress into any kind of data.”
IU Starke Hospital
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Portage FD Presents Bicycle Safety Day

Portage Fire Dept. 2
The Portage Fire Department today, with support from Portage Kiwanis, Porter Hospital, and Portage Firefighters Local 31-51, will be hosting “Bicycle Safety Day” at Willowcreek Middle School from 9 to noon. Portage Assistant Fire Chief Dan Kodicek says kids are taught things like what a stop sign and one-way sign mean, how to cross railroad crossings, and to look both ways. Free bicycle helmets will be available for children while supplies last.
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Gypsy Moth Found on Purdue West Lafayette Campus

Indiana DNR
An infestation of the exotic European gypsy moth has been identified on Purdue University’s campus in West Lafayette.
Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on the leaves of more than 300 different tree species, but prefer oaks. Indiana has more than 4 million acres of forest, 40 percent of which is oaks. Another 40 percent is other hardwoods – maple and hickory – which are second among gypsy moth’s preferred trees.
Outbreaks of the pest can cause heavy defoliation, which can stress and eventually kill host trees. The hairs on caterpillars also can cause skin irritation and respiratory allergies in humans.
Gypsy moth is now found in nine quarantined northern Indiana counties. The DNR Division of Entomology & Plant Pathology has surveyed for gypsy moth since the mid 1970s. Since 2000, Indiana has participated in the multi-state Slow the Spread (STS) program, which detects and treats infestations.
This infestation falls well outside of the STS program area; however, the DNR will place these sites in its eradication program and plan treatments for spring 2014.
The infestation was discovered by a professor in the Purdue Entomology department. The origin of this infestation is unknown.
Officials from the DNR have placed burlap bands around selected trees to capture caterpillars, and installed tan-colored delta traps and green milk-carton traps in and around the infested area to capture gypsy moths. The public is asked not to tamper with either, to report any that have been knocked down, and to direct questions to DNR at (317) 232-4120. Survey crews will remove burlap bands by mid-July.
Gypsy moth egg masses, which resemble buff-colored, flattened, fuzzy patches about the size of a quarter, can be found on firewood and recreational vehicles. Campers and travelers from northern Indiana counties quarantined for gypsy moth are advised not to move firewood and to thoroughly check all camping equipment and vehicles for egg masses before traveling.
Found egg masses should be scraped into a bucket of soapy water.
More information about gypsy moth is at, the Gypsy Moth Slow The Spread website (, and the Purdue University Gypsy Moth Extension website (
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Indiana Files Lawsuit Against Standard and Poor's

Indiana OAG Official Seal
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a state lawsuit, on behalf of Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s office, against Standard & Poor’s for allegedly putting profits and market share above its objectivity when rating structured finance securities.
As the lawyer for state government, Zoeller filed the action in Marion County on behalf of the Indiana Secretary of State’s office and Securities Commissioner Chris Naylor. This lawsuit is part of a joint effort by more than a dozen states and the U.S. Department of Justice, all of which have filed complaints against S&P for alleged misconduct involving its analysis of toxic mortgage-backed securities.
“Investment banks, investors and regulators look to the nation’s credit rating agencies to independently rate the risks of financial products,” Zoeller said. “Leading up to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Standard and Poor’s made promises of objectivity but misled investors into purchasing financial products – like mortgage-backed securities – that they might not otherwise have invested in. The State, through its securities enforcement statutes, is committed to taking strong legal action against those that wrongfully mislead investors.”
Zoeller said S&P is paid lucrative fees for rating its clients’ securities which are packaged and sold on Wall Street. The complaint alleges that S&P adjusted its analytical models for rating residential mortgage-backed securities and other structured finance securities to achieve the ratings that its clients desired.
Indiana’s complaint does not challenge S&P’s ratings of Indiana’s state and municipal securities. The complaint alleges McGraw Hill Financial, Inc. and its subsidiary Standard & Poor’s Financial Services, LLC violated the Indiana Uniform Securities Act by misrepresenting the objectivity and independence of its rating process with respect to certain structured-finance securities. The lawsuit primarily seeks injunctive relief to force S&P to comply with Indiana securities laws and civil penalties.
“I believe S&P intentionally misled the marketplace at a time when our country needed accurate information the most,” Lawson said. “Through enforcing Indiana’s securities law, we plan to hold S&P accountable for its actions. Both retail and institutional investors deserve accurate, independent and objective ratings when investing and we cannot have companies defrauding the marketplace in the pursuit of ill-gotten gains.”
According to the lawsuit, the company intentionally misrepresented that its analysis of structured finance securities was objective, independent and not influenced by its clients’ financial interests from about 2004 to 2012. However, by 2001 the company’s “…desire to maximize revenue and market share by rating as many structured finance deals as possible led S&P to cater to the preferences of large investment banks and other repeat issuers of structured finance securities that dominated S&P’s revenue base.”
Zoeller said other states may also file lawsuits against the company for misleading investors while emphasizing its independent and objective ratings process.
Zoeller and Lawson thanked Deputy Attorney General Lisa Wolf and Securities Division Litigation Counsel Matthew Allen for their work on this case.
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Laura-WAKE Scott-WAKE Brent-WAKE
Region News Team
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