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Archive for June 25th, 2011

U.S. Senator Kirk calls for investigation into report alleging religious discrimination at Delta Airlines

Posted by Admin On June - 25 - 2011 15 COMMENTS

Washington, DC – Following a USA Today report alleging that Delta Airlines and Saudi Arabia entered into an agreement barring American Jews from flying into the country, United States Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) today sent a letter to Federal Aviation Administration Administrator J. Randolph Babbit requesting an immediate investigation to determine whether Delta violated American law.  According to the report, the agreement prohibits American Jews from flying solely on the basis of their religion – a direct violation of the Constitution.

Senator Kirk writes, “I request your investigation into this matter to determine whether Delta Airlines violated U.S. law or regulation and to ensure no U.S. citizen is denied their right to fly solely on the basis of their religion. Since a core mission of the FAA is to promote civil aviation, I would expect the FAA to use its full statutory and regulatory power to ensure that America’s civil airways are not restricted for persons regardless of faith.”

The full text of the letter follows:

 

June 24, 2011

J. Randolph Babbitt

Administrator

Federation Aviation Administration

800 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20591

 

Dear Administrator Babbitt:

I am deeply concerned by the June 23, 2011, report in USA Today entitled “U.S. Jews not able to fly on Delta flights to Saudi Arabia.” According to the report, Delta Airlines may have entered into an agreement with Saudi Arabia that prohibits Americans of the Jewish faith from flying solely on the basis of their religion.  If true, this policy appears to violate the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause while undermining the purpose of the Federal Aviation Administration – to promote the safety and expansion of U.S. civil aviation.

I request your investigation into this matter to determine whether Delta Airlines violated U.S. law or regulation and to ensure no U.S. citizen is denied their right to fly solely on the basis of their religion. Since a core mission of the FAA is to promote civil aviation, I would expect the FAA to use its full statutory and regulatory power to ensure that America’s civil airways are not restricted for persons regardless of faith.

Sincerely,

Mark Kirk

US Senate

Alabama Immigration Law: Policy or Politics?

Posted by Admin On June - 25 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Equal Voice Newspaper

By Kathy Mulady

 

Alabama – Despite soaring deficits, cuts in social services, worker
layoffs and tornado-devastated communities, Alabama’s first
Republican-controlled government in 136 years has turned its focus on
undocumented immigrants, raising questions about policymakers’
priorities.
Governor Robert Bentley recently signed a tough anti-immigration law,
the latest in a patchwork of similar legislation that has spread
through Republican-dominated states this year, just as the importance
of Latino voters in the 2012 presidential election is becoming clear.

Yet, Alabama has only a small percentage of undocumented immigrants –
the Pew Hispanic Center estimates 2.5 percent of the state population
and 4.2 percent of its workforce – and they pay sales tax just like
everyone else, taxes that support schools, law enforcement and other
services vital to the state.

The new law essentially turns educators, business owners, landlords
and citizens into immigration officers, and punishes anyone caught
hiring, housing or even giving a car ride to an undocumented person in
the state. Most disturbing to some is that the legislation targets
children.

Alabama school superintendents say they were caught off guard by a
last-minute addition to the legislation requiring students to provide
proof of U.S. citizenship when they enroll, and requiring schools to
collect and file reports on undocumented students.

“Frustration is the key word,” said Eric Mackey, executive director of
the School Superintendents of Alabama. “I can tell you, I talk to
superintendents every day, and the issue of undocumented students just
doesn’t come up,” he said.

Although, under federal law, undocumented students can’t be turned
away from grade schools, superintendents worry that the new state law
will discourage immigrant parents from enrolling their children.

“We don’t want a chilling effect that causes children to be uneducated
in America,” said Mackey. Mackey points out that immigrants aren’t
freeloading or draining school resources.

More than 40 percent of Alabama’s school funding comes from taxes that
everyone pays – on groceries, cell phones, heating and
air-conditioning, lights and, even, beer. And almost all the funding
for English as a second language (ESL) programs in the state comes
from federal sources.

House Bill 56, sponsored by Representative Micky Hammon, was sold to
legislators as a jobs-creation action. Supporters argued that in a
time of high unemployment, undocumented workers are taking jobs that
would otherwise be done by Alabama citizens – an argument that has
been debunked in numerous studies.

The new Alabama law requires immigrants to carry documents proving
their legal status at all times, and requires employers to use a
federal verification system – known as E-Verify – to confirm the legal
status of their workers.

Alabama’s general contractors, who are getting ready to rebuild a
thousand homes and seven public schools damaged in the April tornados,
say the law unfairly burdens them and targets their workers at exactly
the time when the state should be focusing on rebuilding.

“We are very apprehensive about it,” said Henry Hagood, chief
executive officer for the Associated General Contractors of Alabama.
“Contractors depend on the Hispanic workforce, such as roofers,
landscapers, painters and brick masons.”

Under the new law, contractors have the responsibility of
“e-verifying” every employee and facing penalties if an undocumented
worker
is found on their crew.

“I have some long-term concern about what it will mean to the
workforce,” Hagood said.

Similar bills have been proposed, and some passed, in other
Republican-dominated states, starting in Arizona, then Utah, Indiana
and Georgia. The Alabama version, called the toughest yet, is supposed
to go into effect Sept. 1, but lawsuits will probably delay its
implementation.

The Alabama legislation was passed just as some immigration-reform
advocates were feeling upbeat. In Illinois, legislators passed a
version of the Dream Act, which will help undocumented youth attend
college. In Massachusetts and New York governors rejected Homeland
Security’s anti-immigrant Secure Communities program.

“It is clear that this issue has now turned into trench warfare, state
by state,” said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of Illinois Coalition
for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “We are glad about moving forward in
Illinois and sorry about moving backward in Alabama.”

The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA) is joining in a
lawsuit with the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties
Union
and other organizations to stop the law from taking effect.

“There is a large amount of outrage among folks in the general
community who are saying that this is the wrong thing for Alabama on
so many levels,” said Isabel Rubio, executive director of HICA.

“People are afraid. It is hard to calm fears in the face of such
criminal legislation that affects our immigrant families,” said Rubio.
“This is aimed at families, and at tearing families apart.
Furthermore, it is a slap in the face to those who have fought long
and hard to move this state forward in the struggle for civil rights.”

The Latino vote is expected to be a decisive factor in many
battleground states in the 2012 elections. The Latino community, in
general, has been a strong ally of President Obama. If they lose faith
and sit out the election, it will cost Democrats crucial votes.

“We are deeply disappointed in the enactment of the law in Alabama; it
is showing the dark side of America,” said Arturo Carmona, executive
director of Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas en Norteamerica (COFEM)
“It’s a real scary piece of legislation that is taking this fight to
the brink. Going after children is one of the most troubling parts of
this law.

“We are calling on President Obama to take steps and provide relief to
families, to take some administrative action that will stop the
devastating impact to communities. He has the power to restore some
sanity to what is happening.”

(http://www.equalvoiceforfamilies.org/pages/grantee_in_the_news/alabama_immigration_law.html)

Attorney General Madigan: Illinois reaches settlement with GM to fund recycling of Mercury Switches

Posted by Admin On June - 25 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Chicago, IL – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan today said Illinois children and the environment are big winners in a settlement announced between 12 states and the bankruptcy trust established to resolve claims against the former General Motors Corp.

The settlement will help ensure the safe disposal of mercury-containing switches from automobiles manufactured by GM before it dissolved following bankruptcy. This settlement augments an earlier commitment by the “new” GM to make a similar payment.

“This step will help provide the funds necessary to retrieve these components from cars before they go out of commission,” said Madigan. “It is an important part of our efforts nationwide to reduce the level of mercury in the environment, which poses a health risk to everyone but especially to children.”

Under the Agreed Order entered in Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York yesterday, June 22, Attorney General Madigan said Illinois would share in $2,845,000 set aside by “old” GM to a program that will assist the participating states in collecting and recycling mercury-containing switches. The money will be pooled with funds expected from other carmakers to run the mercury switch removal program. So far, nearly 3.5 million switches have been retrieved, representing approximately 7,650 pounds of mercury.

Exposure to this dangerous element can cause serious health effects to children and others, including damage to the central nervous system, kidneys, liver and immune system.

Joining Illinois in the settlement are Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts, which lead the effort in reaching the 12-state agreement.

Senior Assistant Attorney General James Morgan is handling the case for Madigan’s Environmental Bureau in Springfield.

Illinois GOP responds to Gov. Quinn’s signing of Congressional Redistricting Bill

Posted by Admin On June - 25 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Chicago, IL – Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady released the following statement regarding Governor Pat Quinn’s signing of the Illinois Democrats’ Congressional Redistricting bill:

“Governor Quinn has lost all claims to the label ‘reformer.’ This bill is a crass, partisan political move to silence the voices of Illinoisans, who last November made it very clear that they wanted to fire Nancy Pelosi by electing a majority Republican Congressional Delegation from the home state of President Obama.”

“This map is a national – not just a local – example of gerrymandering. Pat Quinn is the only one who could stand up with a straight face and say it’s a fair map.”

“I hope that the courts will overturn these maps as an unfair representation of the citizens of Illinois.”

“They released these proposals late on Fridays, passed them on Holiday weekends and sign them into law with no public signing ceremonies on Fridays to avoid media and public scrutiny. That alone speaks volumes.”

 

Lt. Gov. Simon supports urban farms, markets in Chicago

Posted by Admin On June - 25 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Signs public health, urban agriculture petition to City Council

 

Chicago, IL – To create green jobs, combat food deserts and improve public health, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon today recommended the Chicago City Council adopt new regulations in support of urban farming.

Simon asked the City Council to give community gardens and urban farms the right to locate on vacant land in residential areas and allow them to operate seasonal stands to sell fresh produce to local residents. The city is working on new zoning provisions that would allow urban agriculture to expand; currently it has no zoning classification for urban agriculture and approves permits on a case-by-case basis.

“Chicago could set the standard for Illinois and the Midwest by adopting an urban agriculture policy that encourages people to grow food in the city,” Lt. Governor Simon said. “Urban farms not only bring green jobs to our neighborhoods, they also transform unused land into productive space and increase public access to locally grown produce.”

“We should take this opportunity to focus our land use and public health on the same goal: improved access to fresh foods,” Simon added. “This makes for good business and better health.”

Simon chairs the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council, which is working to develop markets statewide for local food producers. She was among 30 advocates and agencies to endorse a food equity policy sent to the City Council late Tuesday by the Center of Excellence in the Elimination of Disparities, or CEED@Chicago.

A project of the Midwest Latino Heath Research Training and Policy Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, CEED@Chicago is working to improve the equitable distribution of fresh, healthy food in order to reduce the rate of diabetes and cardiovascular disease among African American and Latino communities, said Sheila Castillo, principal investigator for CEED@Chicago

“What people eat is critical to their health. We see this with chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. People should have greater access to healthy food and urban agriculture is increasingly being seen as an important strategy to accomplish this. We are asking the Chicago City Council to support urban agriculture when they are presented with proposed ordinances,” Castillo said.

In addition to Lt. Governor Simon, Tom Jennings, Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture signed the letter. Other signatories include Daniel Block, Director of the Neighborhood Assistance Center of Chicago State University; and Joe Wilson of Harvest America. They were joined by numerous Chicago residents, including Angela Odoms-Young, Jose Arrom, Lindsay Banks, and Lara Jaskiewicz.

A copy of the policy brief can be found at www.ltgov.illinois.gov.

National Charter School Conference in Atlanta a major success

Posted by Admin On June - 25 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Annual event celebrates growth and positive impact of schools in communities of color


Peter Groff, President and CEO of National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS)

 

Atlanta, GA (BlackNews.com) — Over four thousand charter school professionals converged on Atlanta to help the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) celebrate its 11th Annual National Charter Schools Conference. The conference highlighted a number of charter school successes and opportunities, most notably that the institutions now represent a core platform within the American educational system serving 1.8 million students in more than 5,000 schools across the country. Keynote speakers included dignitaries such as President Bill Clinton, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, New Jersey.

The conference also provided an opportunity to emphasize the significant impact public charter schools are having on a growing number of students in need of a quality education, particular children of color. Recent federal data indicates that 32 percent of students enrolling in charter schools are African American – a number nearly twice as much their enrollment in traditional public schools.

“We are very pleased by the progress we’ve made over the years in providing a quality source of public education for more than 1.8 million students across the country,” said Peter C. Groff, President and CEO of NAPCS. Groff, who made history at one point when elected as the first African American president of the Colorado State Senate in 2007, noted that the rise of public charter schools as a preferred alternative for many African American families is a “positive development as public charter schools continue to thrive as some of the more powerful tools in public education reform.”

According to NAPCS data released on the Public Charter Schools Dashboard at www.publiccharters.org, public charter school growth has risen by nearly 12% between 2009 and 2011. And public charter schools serve a higher percentage of non-white and urban students, with 63% of public charter schools being non-white, compared to 43% of that same population in conventional public schools. Roughly 55% of public charter schools are located in large cities as opposed to 25% of traditional public schools.

Effectively bringing high-quality public schools to traditionally underserved communities was a primary focus for the conference theme: “Because Every Child Can Succeed.” There were more than 140 conference sessions for educators and charter supporters addressing legal, operational, governance and academic outcomes for schools.

“Public charter schools bring parents, students and a community together to design a unique public school meant to serve the community where it is developed,” said Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president, Children’s Defense Fund. “But to truly resolve the inequities present in public education, we must demand that charter schools hold themselves to the highest standards of quality and effectiveness. Accountability is crucial for all public schools.”

“It’s no accident that we gathered in Atlanta,” observed Groff. “This is a major location symbolizing accomplishments in civil rights during the 20th century – and yet it recognizes the fact that improving public education for all students is the most pressing civil rights issue in the 21st century. Our children must remain competitive in this highly globalized environment, and public charters schools are leading the charge in terms of delivering new academic options.”

A complete overview of conference activities can be found at: www.nationalcharterconference.org.

About the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools:
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) is the national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement. NAPCS works to increase the number of high-performing charter schools available to all families, particularly low-income and minority families who currently do not have access to quality public schools. The Alliance provides assistance to state charter school associations and resource centers, develops and advocates for improved public policies, and serves as the united voice for this large and diverse movement. NAPCS represents more than 1.8 million students enrolled in more than 5,000 charter schools across 40 states and the District of Columbia. More information can be found at www.publiccharters.org.

Millions lost on Vehicle Service Contracts: Better Business Bureau Study shows

Posted by Admin On June - 25 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

 

(From the Better Business Bureau)                                                                       

 

 

CHICAGO, IL – The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) is warning individuals to beware of companies marketing extended auto warranty protection services.  

 
Because of the large number of complaints that had been filed, The BBB in St. Louis undertook a study of the industry. 660 complainants were surveyed across the country; it revealed that 92% of respondents felt that the company’s selling tactics were misleading or otherwise improper. Shannon Gordon from Steger, IL states, “I signed up when I heard a commercial and knew my car was getting older. I paid $125 to sign up and then paid monthly after that.  When my car broke down they made excuses and made it difficult. They turned me down so I was around $1000 in the hole from paying them and could not pay the repair bill to get my car out of the shop. They ignored my complaint. Then I filed it with the Better Business Bureau and they refunded around 95% of my money. Then I paid the bill and got my car back.”The Better Business Bureau suggests the following before buying these types of warranties:

Last week, the principals of US Fidelis, formerly the largest retailer of vehicle service contracts, were indicted on 27 criminal counts centering on deception and fraud in the marketing of the contracts according to the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Missouri & Southern Illinois.

 

In some cases, consumers are under the impression they are getting a warranty sanctioned by the auto manufacturer, but in reality most do not receive what they believe is being purchased. In Chicago and Northern Illinois more than 100 consumers have been on the loosing end of these contracts.

 

“A key issue among complainants is confusion,” says Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “This is a multi-tiered industry with sellers, providers, administrators, insurers and financing entities involved which in many cases makes it very difficult for consumers to even know the name of the provider of the contract, and who is responsible for paying claims.”

Dollars lost by consumers topped 5 million with the average per consumer being $1,430. Additionally, there was over 2.7 million dollars in un-reimbursed charges for repair bills.

 
 
  • Read the contract carefully. Know what is covered and not covered and under what conditions. If the seller won’t provide a contract, don’t buy it.
  • Do the arithmetic. The cost of a contract can be more than the car’s value.
  • Ask Questions. Ask the seller the names and locations of the providers, administrators and insurers. Ask how claims are processed.
  • Do not be pressured into making an immediate decision.  Beware of sales offers that require you to buy immediately in order to qualify for the best rate.
  • Beware of any claims that you will receive “total” or “bumper to bumper” coverage on your vehicle. This does not necessarily mean that every problem with your car will be covered.
  • Read Carefully.  Inspectyour manufacturer’s warranty and contact your dealer or manufacturer to make sure you are not purchasing duplicate coverage.
  • Check all companies involved. This can be done through your BBBat www.bbb.org
 

For more information on finding businesses and consumer tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org 

Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities celebrates First Annual Russia Day in Chicago

Posted by Admin On June - 25 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

 

His Excellency Sergey Kislyak, Ambassador of Russia to the United States, Attends

 

Chicago, IL – More than 300 guests joined the Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International for the First Annual Russia Day in Chicago at the Chicago Cultural Center on June 13. This is the first time the city of Chicago formally celebrated Russia Day – Russia’s Independence Day – which is observed on June 12 to commemorate the day in 1990 when the Russian Parliament formally declared sovereignty over Russia.

His Excellency Sergey Kislyak, Ambassador of Russia to the United States, was the guest of honor at the event. While in town, the Ambassador met with the Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International and the Mayor’s Office of International to discuss future collaboration between the City of Chicago and its Sister City in Moscow since 1997.

Aleksandra Efimova, president of Russian Pointe and co-chair of the Moscow Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International, served as the event’s emcee. The evening featured performances by the Golosa Choir; Ian Maksin, famed Russian cellist and composer; Heather Aranyi, Opera Soprano; the Joffrey Academy of Dance and the Russian Cathedral Ensemble.

Russia Day was made possible through the generous support of TMK IPSCO, NLMK Indiana, Russian Pointe, AAR, BIRG and MELTSER Law Firm, Geneva Seal Fine Jewelry and Timepieces, Severstal, Ubu Fine Art Gallery and Baker & Mckenzie.

Senators Kirk, Blumenthal introduce Bill to expand Pension Revocation Law

Posted by Admin On June - 25 - 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Washington, DC – United States Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today introduced legislation aimed at eliminating the Congressional pensions of Members of Congress convicted of committing a felony while serving as elected officials. The Congressional Integrity and Pension Forfeiture Act of 2011, S. 1261, expands upon existing law that allows former Members to keep their pensions if they commit public corruption crimes in another elected office. 

“American taxpayers should not be on the hook for the pension benefits of convicted felons,” said Senator Kirk. “Expanding current law to include additional public corruption felonies will block pension benefits for Members who fail to honor their pledge to defend the Constitution and uphold the laws of the United States.”

“Corrupt public officials convicted of federal felonies should not receive public pensions at taxpayers’ expense,” said Blumenthal. “This legislation, which builds on the law we passed in Connecticut, will close loopholes in existing federal law, and will help ensure that officials think twice before committing unlawful acts that betray their constituents and violate the public trust.”

The Congressional Integrity and Pension Forfeiture Act of 2011 would add twenty new public corruption offenses to existing U.S. law that cancels federal pensions for convicted lawmakers and would revoke the pensions of former Members of Congress who are convicted of committing the covered public corruption crimes while serving as any elected official.  

Sens. Kirk and Blumenthal introduced the pension forfeiture bill to block pension benefits for elected officials who have broken the public’s trust and to protect American taxpayers from yet another wasteful allocation of their hard earned tax dollars during times of fiscal hardship. According to the National Taxpayers Union, former Members of Congress who committed public corruption crimes are currently receiving more than $800,000 per year in taxpayer-funded pensions. This figure would be much higher if it included convicted lawmakers not yet eligible to receive their pensions or whose cases are pending.

For a complete listing of the corruption offenses that would be added under the Kirk/Blumenthal bill, click here.

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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