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At least 15 dead as severe weather sweeps across central US; on Memorial Day, IA labor leaders honor fallen workers; Medical center installs microgrid to safeguard clinic power supply; 'Second look' laws gain traction, but MS sticks to elderly parole; Will summer heat melt New Mexicans' cravings for ice cream?

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One congressman cites ways Biden could get more support from communities of color. A new Louisiana law reclassifies two abortion medications as controlled substances. And Ohio advocates work to boost youth voter turnout.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

State Officials Testify in Senate On Illinois Anti-Book-Ban Legislation

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Wednesday, September 13, 2023   

A pair of Illinois state officials testified Tuesday before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the state General Assembly's adoption of a bill to protect libraries from book bans and other interference.

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulais and University of Illinois Associate Professor Emily Knox explained to the committee why Illinois House Bill 2789 was aimed at preserving the rights and freedoms of Illinoisans -- and all Americans -- to have access to literature.

Giannoulais said many of the parent groups demanding that books they consider "offensive" or "obscene" be removed from libraries are motivated by ideology.

"Our libraries have become targets by a movement that disingenuously claims to pursue freedom, but is instead promoting authoritarianism. Authoritarian regimes ban books - not democracies," Giannoulais said.

The committee, chaired by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, was examining the Illinois measure -- the only statewide bill of its kind in the country -- to see if such a law should be passed at the federal level. Others testifying included a researcher at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute and a representative of a First Amendment group that encourages parents to challenge librarians over books they consider improper.

In Giannoulias' view, radical groups have divided schools and communities and harassed, threatened, and intimidated librarians for simply doing their jobs.

"This 'right-to-read' legislation will help remove the pressure that librarians have tragically had to endure over the last couple of years. Both the concept and practice of banning books contradicts the very essence of what our country stands for and what our democracy was founded on," Giannoulias continued.

Knox, the author of "Book Banning in 21st-Century America," is also chair of the board of the National Coalition Against Censorship, which promotes freedom of thought and inquiry. She says most of the books are about diverse cultures, or LGBTQ, Native people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural and religious minorities.

"These campaigns to censor books are unconstitutional and against every person's right to intellectual freedom, the right of every individual to hold, express opinions and seek access, receive and impart information and ideas without restriction," she explained.


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