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    The legislature is used to paring or turning down requests for more money. But the Indiana Department of Child Services’ decision not to ask for increased staff next year merits further examination.
  • Ethics cloud hangs over new lawmaker
    If legislative leaders are serious about raising the ethical bar in the Indiana General Assembly, they suffered a setback with the election of Jon Ford on Nov. 4. He arrives at the Statehouse with some considerable baggage.

Furthermore …

Woody Allen in 1973’s “Sleeper”: Predicting the future?

A progressive and proper police chief pick

Garry Hamilton will become Fort Wayne’s chief of police just after the end of a year in which the number of homicides will at least tie the 1997 record – 44.

Though responsibility for stopping that appalling wave of violence doesn’t rest with police alone, it will certainly be high on the new chief’s agenda as he takes command.

As deputy chief for the department’s Southeast District, Hamilton already is a point man in that effort. Along with his predecessor and mentor, Rusty York, Hamilton has argued that the community must be the police department’s full partner in any successful effort to discourage gang activity and end the deadly game of revenge-for-revenge dominoes behind so many of this year’s murders.

Hamilton has walked the walk, having served in a variety of positions within the department, worked directly with the prosecutor’s office and led community outreach efforts within his sector. He has the communication skills that are essential to the job. And York, who will still be Hamilton’s boss as safety director, will have his back.

All this aside, Hamilton also will be the city’s first black police chief. That this is incidental to his clear qualifications for the job is an indication that some things, at least, are going in the right direction.

More things we think we know

In the 1973 movie “Sleeper,” Woody Allen played a cryogenically frozen health-food store operator who wakes up in 2173 and is immediately offered a cigarette. Later, two of the futuristic doctors examining him have this conversation:

Dr. Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called “wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk.”

Dr. Aragon (chuckling): Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.

Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or ... hot fudge?

Dr. Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy ... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

Dr. Melik: Incredible.

Two revelations this week brought that satirical peek into the future to mind.

The first was an editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine that attacked Americans’ use of multivitamin, vitamin and mineral supplements. Noting that the use of such pills is on the increase and was a $28 billion national industry in 2010, the editors said:

“Most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified and they should be avoided.”

The other was the FDA’s announcement that there is little evidence that antibacterial soap works better than ordinary soap and water. Plus, using the special soaps may help produce super-resistant bacteria. PLUS, some of the chemicals in antibacterial soaps could actually be a health hazard.

These are just the latest in an endless parade of good news/bad news about things we sought or avoided in the mistaken belief that someone knew whether they were good for us.

Coffee? Good. No, bad. No, good. Well, sometimes bad. Eggs? Bad. Not so bad. Just not every morning. Wheat? Great! Or maybe not. Desserts are bad. But wait! Sometimes dark chocolate gets a pass.

And now we not only don’t know what to have for dinner, we’re worried about washing up beforehand. And if we just end up not eating out of pure confusion, we can at least take a vitamin – NOT!

Perhaps Woody Allen’s prophecies of 40 years ago will yet come true. Maybe we should all have a little hot fudge, anyway.

A healthy new source of revenue

Here is a great deal, waiting to be taken. It could create a stream of new tax revenue, improve people’s health and maybe even save some lives along the way.

Call them what you wish – cigarillos, mini cigars or brown cigarettes – they’re just as bad for you as “regular” cigarettes.

But as staff writer Vivian Sade reported Sunday, because they are wrapped in paper that contains a tiny amount of tobacco, brown cigarettes are taxed at a rate about a third lower than regular cigarettes in Indiana. They are lower priced to begin with, and with the tax disparity figured in, the average pack of brown cigarettes is more than $3 cheaper than a pack of old-fashioned cancer sticks.

They can be sold individually, like full-sized cigars. They don’t have to carry a warning label. And they even come in lots of cool flavors, like vanilla, strawberry and grape. So they’re especially appealing to young people.

A recent report said that Indiana spends only a fraction of the money it collects from tobacco taxes on anti-tobacco efforts. Good luck getting that changed next year, when the legislature has important things like snooping around in people’s bedrooms on its mind.

But how about raising the cigarillo tax and using that new revenue to amp up the state’s anti-smoking effort again?

Who’s going to oppose that? The old spaghetti-Western moviemakers?