Thursday, February 20, 2020

Innocence Project’s Hanlon named to governor’s task force

John Hanlon, the executive director of the University of Illinois Springfield’s Illinois Innocence Project, was one of 15 members named to the Governor’s Task Force on Forensic Science.

The task force was created by Gov. JB Pritzker in August. The group is tasked with analyzing the operations and oversight of critical Illinois State Police laboratories, ensuring they use the latest forensic technologies to solve crimes and protect the public, and make recommendations to the legislature and other stakeholders as forensic science continues to evolve.

 UIS is one of just two higher education institutions represented on the task force. “John Hanlon’s input on this task force will help to bolster the important work already being done by the Illinois Innocence Project,” UIS Chancellor Susan Koch said. “The project is an important part of UIS’s commitment to providing students with real-world experiences and to serving the public good.” Illinois State Police (ISP) Director Brendan Kelly will chair the task force.

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on Feb. 19, 2020.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Springfield runner looking to complete comeback at U.S. Olympic trials marathon

Springfield native Tyler Pence will be running at the U.S. Olympic trials marathon on Feb. 29 in Atlanta alongside the fastest marathoners in the country.

The top three finishers will represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. Pence qualified for the Olympic trials by running 2:15:36 at the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December 2018.

The 26-year-old had what could have been a career-ending injury in high school, and after battling injuries during a successful college career, he thought he was done competing. But Pence said he doesn’t want to look back when he’s older and think, what if?

“A big thing for me is knowing that I’ve given it everything I have,” he said. “I don’t want to leave any regrets. You’re only young once. I want to see what I can do with it.”

Pence is in his fourth year of coaching, and his first year as head coach, for the cross country and track teams at the University of Illinois at Springfield. He encourages his athletes to chase their dreams, work hard and live a lifestyle of no excuses. It made him think about his own running.

“I think I have a lot more left in me. I needed to start practicing what I’m preaching,” Pence said. His mentality of giving 100 percent in training and racing is the result of a serious injury.

Right now, I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in by far,” he said. Pence coaches himself, and he has been following an 18-week training plan for the Olympic Trials.

“My plan is to put myself in the mix and be in the front group and give 100 percent,” he said. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got on that day. I’ll leave there knowing I gave it my all.” Whatever happens in Atlanta, Pence plans to attempt to qualify for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

This article appeared in The News-Gazette on Feb. 18, 2020..

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Mike Bloomberg's 'elitist' farming comments could be the Hillary Clinton 'deplorables' moment that poses the biggest threat to his campaign

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg takes the stage for his first nationally televised debate with fellow Democratic presidential candidates amid new controversy over a one-minute video in which the billionaire describes farming in overly simplistic and, some say, insulting terms.

The development, many pundits believe, could pose the biggest threat to Bloomberg's nascent campaign yet, on par with Hillary Clinton's 2016 comments dismissing some Trump supporters as "deplorables"—remarks that have been described as a "political gift" to her opponent.

Even more than a recent stampede of negative headlines about Bloomberg—which include tales of sexual harassment lawsuits, insults about black people and women and criticism about allegedly racist stop-and-frisk police policies during his three terms in office—the farming remarks could prove devastating, observers say.

The reason: They provide a powerful visual Trump can use to paint Bloomberg as a condescending coastal elitist to working-class swing voters in the heartland who might otherwise reject the incumbent.

"This is very damning because it'll fit neatly into a commercial where Bloomberg will look uninformed and patronizing compared to Trump, who says he's the man of the people—the people who do the real work in the country," says Kent Redfield, political science professor emeritus at University of Illinois at Springfield, who has long studied the politics of agriculture.

The viral 58-second clip, seen more than 3.5 million times on Twitter alone since Friday, was lifted from a 2016 appearance at the University of Oxford in England in which Bloomberg, speaking to a group at the Said Business School, offered this succinct description of agriculture: "I could teach anybody—even people in this room so no offense intended—to be a farmer. It's a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn."

In a political world often driven by sound bites, the video clip could prove tough to live down.

"If you've got an hour to sit down and talk about the evolution of work and the role of technology in modern society, you could explain your way out of this," Redfield notes. "But in politics, if you're explaining, you're losing." Redfield and others say Bloomfield's remarks are of a piece with the way other presidential contenders' comments have become emblematic of alleged disdain for average voters.

This story appeared online in Newsweek on Feb. 19, 2020..

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