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    The LaPorte County commissioners, the South Bend Tribune reports, have hired attorney Shaw Friedman to investigate whether the state can revoke its lease of the Indiana Toll Road now that its operator, ITR Concession Co.
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Couple’s deaths offer a sobering reminder

What initially looked like a violent crime took a heartbreaking turn this week when Kosciusko County officials revealed the deaths of a Warsaw man and woman appear to be a result of a suicide pact.

An 11-page note found near the bodies of James Willis Kinzer, 45, and his wife, Jane Ellen Kinzer, 46, explained how it was a “collective decision” to end their lives. Sgt. Chad Hill, a spokesman for the Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, said the couple had medical problems and financial problems. They were both unemployed.

A neighbor said Jane Kinzer had told her on Sunday that she and her husband faced eviction from their mobile home and that their electricity had been shut off for nonpayment.

“They did not know how they were going to go on in life,” the neighbor told police.

The case remains under investigation, but the sheriff’s department seems satisfied that the deaths are not suspicious.

That leaves the troubling likelihood that what they saw as hopeless circumstances led the Kinzers to kill themselves.

The incident is a sad reminder that economic recovery is coming too slowly for some Indiana families.

It should prompt everyone to pay closer attention to those who might be struggling and offer help or guidance in finding assistance. The state’s safety net is badly stretched, but it still shouldn’t allow anyone to see death as the best option.

Bickering obscures progress on welfare

When is reducing government red tape a bad thing?

For Democrats, when a Republican is proposing it. For Republicans – especially those desperate to win back the presidency – when the Democratic president proposes it.

President Obama wants to give some states waivers on compliance with TANF – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, commonly known as welfare. The administration insists the goal is to reduce red tape and allow some caseworkers to spend more time with clients and less on paperwork.

But Mitt Romney and other Republicans claim Obama wants to make it easier for unemployed people to get welfare. Conservatives see that as a big step backward from the 1996 welfare overhaul that significantly increased work requirements while reducing welfare rolls.

Not so, say Democrats. In fact, states seeking waivers must demonstrate a 20 percent increase in the number of TANF recipients going to work.

Perhaps lost in the debate is the fact that only 2 million families get TANF, while 27 million benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit, and more than 46 million Americans are getting food stamps.

Auto jobs fueling recovery

Indiana’s post-recession job growth is largely due to the auto industry, according to a new report.

DrivingGrowth.org, a website that tracks the U.S. auto industry, attributes fuel efficiency innovations as a major factor in job growth since June 2009.

In Indiana, more than 19,000 new auto manufacturing jobs have been added since that time, according to the report. That accounts for one third of the state’s total job gains in that period.

Among those tied to fuel efficiency developments is Honda’s $40 million investment in Greensburg, where 300 employees have been added. The plant is the sole producer of the Honda Civic hybrid.

Nationally, the auto industry has grown by more than 26 percent since June 2009, with about 250,000 new jobs added. A quarter of the growth is concentrated in just three states: Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.

P is for (bad) publicity

Fort Wayne was the target of another of those unwelcome national media spotlights this past week when Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” poked fun at an incident at a local Taco Bell restaurant.

In a segment that noted the intersection of social networking and fast food, host Jon Stewart reported how an employee posted a photo on Twitter in which he appeared to be urinating on a food order.

The photo turned out to be a prank, but that didn’t stop Stewart from having fun questioning the Fort Wayne teen-ager’s poor judgment.

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