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Indiana education the story behind success elsewhere

With the state’s economic performance faltering, you can’t blame Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for searching for positive news anywhere he can find it. After spending much of Tuesday autographing pumpkins in a temporary pumpkin patch set up near the Statehouse, he issued a news release Wednesday boasting of Indiana native Angela Ahrendts’ appointment as a senior vice president for tech-giant Apple.

“A New Palestine native, Angela’s aspirations took her to Ball State University and then around the world,” according to the news release. “She is an inspiration to other Hoosiers who dream big and are ready to reach for the heights in retail technology. Indiana is a state that works for business because Hoosiers are leading the way.”

Ahrendts, most recently the CEO of Burberry, has certainly achieved great success. She is a former retail executive with Donna Karan, Henri Bendel and Liz Claiborne. But her accomplishments all have occurred outside the state. Indeed, her Wikipedia profile begins with “Leaving Indiana on a one-way ticket the day after graduation, she arrived in New York City determined to make it in the fashion industry.”

The governor’s effort to attach her success to Indiana follows a theme. A recent Indiana Economic Development Corp. promotion in New York’s Times Square boasted of achievements by a scientist whose only connection to the state is his Purdue University diploma.

It might not be a convincing argument for career opportunities in Indiana, but it certainly highlights the state’s first-rate public universities.

Waning West Nile threat

The drought-ravaged summer of 2012 would seem to have had an advantage in discouraging the spread of mosquito-borne West Nile virus, but this year has seen even lower incidence.

In fact, the first West Nile-related death was just recorded by state health officials. Last year saw eight Indiana deaths from the virus. Total cases for this year stand at just 20, compared with 77 in 2012.

Indiana State Department of Health officials cited privacy restrictions in declining to disclose where the death occurred this year, but mosquito samples in 87 of the state’s 92 counties have tested positive. The mild temperatures recorded this fall have prolonged the threat.

“Although we’re past the normal peak season for West Nile virus, which was in August and September, there’s still a risk of becoming infected on warmer days when mosquitoes are biting,” according to Jennifer House, director of zoonotic and environmental epidemiology. “So Hoosiers should continue to take precautions.”

The threat already is reduced, as mosquitoes generally aren’t active below 60 degrees. The threat passes with the season’s first hard freeze, when temperatures fall to about 30 degrees.