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Archive for January 16th, 2012

"No Hate in the Debate": Leaders of immigrant community urge candidates to refuse support of extremist groups

Posted by Admin On January - 16 - 2012 1 COMMENT

Candidates asked to sign “No Hate in the Debate” Pledge


CHICAGO, IL – Leaders of Illinois’ Latino and immigrant communities are urging candidates in the March primary election to defend the legislative achievements of the state’s Latino and immigrant residents by refusing support from extremist individuals or organizations with anti-immigrant agendas.  

“In recent years, we have worked hard to achieve important gains for Latinos and immigrants in Illinois,” said Maria Pesqueira, Vice President of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “We cannot allow the achievements we have made for our community to be threatened by the enemies of our goals, or allow members of our community to be manipulated by anti-immigrant groups.”

A broad alliance of immigrants’ rights and faith leaders including the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and leaders of the Latino, African, Asian, Muslim, and Jewish communities are urging candidates to commit to rejecting any direct or indirect campaign support from individuals or groups that have vocally opposed and attacked efforts or legislation that strengthen the rights of Illinois immigrants.  The alliance specifically noted the Illinois DREAM Act, which creates a college scholarship fund for the children of immigrant parents and gives them access to state college savings programs, and the preservation of a Latino congressional district in the state’s recent redistricting process, which ensures Latinos a strong voice in the decisions made by the federal government.

The alliance said that candidates will be asked to sign a pledge stating their commitment to refuse any association with individuals or entities that have taken public positions counter to the rights of immigrants in Illinois, and to reject any direct or indirect campaign support from those groups or persons.  The alliance also said if any candidate receives coordinated or uncoordinated campaign expenses or support from anti-immigrant individuals or groups, then that candidate should join with the alliance to publicly disavow such support.

“We’re at a very critical juncture in the history of our state and nation,” Hoyt said. “The animosity towards immigrants has been poisonous in recent years.  At a time when we are struggling for the humane treatment of all Illinois residents, we have to take a strong stand against individuals and groups who practice the politics of hate.”

For more information, please contact Josh Hoyt with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, at (312) 332-7360x 211.


“No Hate in the Debate” Pledge Letter

January 13, 2012

«City», «State» «Zip_Code»
Dear «Candidate»,

As leaders in Illinois’ Latino, immigrant, and immigrant rights community, we are extremely concerned with recent reports of efforts to manipulate Latinos for partisan political purposes by the enemies of immigrants’ rights.

In recent years, we have worked hard to achieve important advancements for Latinos and immigrants in Illinois, most recently the passage of the Illinois DREAM Act – which creates a college scholarship fund for the children of immigrant parents and gives them access to state college savings programs – and the protection of a Latino congressional district, ensuring our community continues to have a strong voice in the decisions of our national government.

We must not allow the advancements we have made for the Latino and immigrant communities to be threatened by the influences of outside adversaries of our goals, or allow members of our community to be manipulated by these extremist anti-immigrant groups.

As the primary campaign season begins, we ask you to take a stand against anti-immigrant hate in the debate and refuse association with or support from – direct or indirect – any individual or entity with a history of vicious statements or policy positions against the immigrant community and their rights.  We believe that candidates should refuse financial assistance and resources from any individual or group that opposes our agenda – specifically, opposition to the Illinois DREAM Act – and/or that supports other candidates for office who take strong anti-immigrant positions. 

Enclosed is a pledge we are asking candidates to sign stating your commitment to refuse any association with or support from – direct or indirect – individuals or entities that have taken public positions counter to the rights of immigrants in Illinois.  Furthermore, in the event that an individual or entity expends resources in support of your campaign – in either a coordinated manner or an uncoordinated manner – we ask for your commitment to join with us to publicly disavow such support.

Please return the enclosed pledge by Thursday, January 26, 2012 to:

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Attn: Josh Hoyt
55 E. Jackson Blvd., #2075
Chicago, IL  60604

If you have any questions, please contact Josh Hoyt at (312) 332-7360 ext. 211

Thank you for your cooperation.  We look forward to working with you.


Joshua Hoyt
Lawrence Benito

Maria De Amescua

Carlos Arongo
Casa Aztlan

Artemio Arreola
Jeff Bartow
Southwest Organizing Project
Daysi Funes
Centro Romero
Laura Garza
S.E.I.U. Local – 1
Betty Gutierrez
Southwest Organizing Project
Jose Luis Gutierrez

Ahlam Jbara

Alie Kabba
United African Organization

Tuyet Le
Asian American Institute

Rene Magana

Fabian Morales

Jorge Mujica
Coalicion Mexico-Americana

Abel Nunez
Centro Romero

Salvador Pedroza
Litte Village Chamber of Commerce

Maria Pesqueira
Mujeres Latinas en Accion

Jane Ramsey
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs

Raul Raymundo
The Resurrection Project

Hector Rico
Latino Organization of the Southwest

Michael Rodriguez

Mayte Ruiz

Juan Salgado
Instituto del Progreso Latino

Juan Ochoa

Martha Quiroga
Fairfield Elementary School

Henry Zabala
Rico Graphics


Pledge for “No Hate in the Debate”

I, ________________________, pledge to the residents of the _______ District of the State of Illinois and the defenders of immigrant rights
that I will refuse any association with or support from – direct or indirect – individuals or entities that have a history of anti-immigrant extremism in Illinois.  Furthermore, in the event that an individual or entity expends resources in support of my campaign – in either a coordinated manner or an uncoordinated manner – I commit to join with the defenders of immigrant rights to publicly disavow such support.

__________________________                    __________________________

Signature                                                            Date


Please sign, date and return this pledge by Thursday, January 26, 2012 to:
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Attn: Josh Hoyt
55 E. Jackson Blvd., #2075
Chicago, IL  60604



Diverse coalition set to condemn a package of ordinances proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Posted by Admin On January - 16 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS
Coalition says ordinances an assault on Chicagoans’ Constitutional Rights
Chicago, IL —A coalition of unions, religious leaders, community organizations and other concerned citizens is set to condemn a package of ordinances proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that the coalition said amounts to an all-out assault on the civil liberties of Chicagoans.

The group will conduct a press conference on Tuesday, January 17, at 9:00 a.m. on the 2nd floor of City Hall (one hour before a budget committee hearing on the proposed ordinances).
The new restrictions place onerous limits on the First Amendment right to free speech and assembly, including burdensome permit requirements for even small sidewalk protests, the threat of steep new fines and other provisions that are practically impossible to comply with. The upshot is that almost any organization or group of individuals that wishes to express dissent can quickly find themselves on the wrong side of the law and subject to arrest and fines.
Though Emanuel initially claimed that the provisions were solely aimed at planned protests of the upcoming NATO/G8 summit in May, the coalition said he later admitted that they would indeed be permanent, giving police sweeping new powers to crack down on protests of all sorts.
The coalition said this is especially worrisome at a time when groups of all sorts—labor unions, community organizations, schoolteachers and health-care providers—are faced with the need to mobilize to defend public education and city services from the mayor’s budget axe.
And it sets up a situation that will give police sweeping powers to crack down on the First Amendment rights of the thousands of people expected to protest the NATO/G8 summit that will take place in Chicago, May 19-21.

“Human rights earned by years of struggle and hope must not be vanquished in a moment of fear,” said Rev. Jesse Jackson. “And so we march to preserve that which is intrinsic to the integrity of our nation and our self-worth. I appeal to the mayor to honor time-honored principles of our democracy. The right to fight for our rights is what democracy looks like. So long as our fight is nonviolent and transparent, our rights must be honored.”
“We teach our students that free speech, public protest and civic participation are the hallmarks of democracy in our nation,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen GJ Lewis. “The plan to restrict Chicagoan’s First Amendment rights and impose huge fines on those who dare to stand up for what they believe sends the wrong message to over 400,000 CPS students who’ve been taught our civil liberties exist so we might keep those entrust accessible and accountable.”
Emanuel is already responding to the outcry about his broadside against the right to dissent, according to Joe Iosbaker, an organizer with the Coalition Against NATO/G8 Agenda of War and Poverty (CANGATE).
“The tide of opposition to the Mayor’s assault on civil liberties is the reason that the city has granted our permit to march on May 19 during the summit where NATO will discuss its plans for war and the G8 will figure out how to further attack the living standards of working people,” said Iosbaker. “But we will keep bringing pressure to bear until the mayor stops trying to push through his ‘sit-down-and-shut-up’ ordinance that targets the right to dissent for all Chicagoans.”

“From the perspective of a nurse who was arrested while providing first-aid care to protestors, Mayor Emanuel’s aggressive treatment of peaceful protesters this past year has been disgraceful,” said registered nurse Martese Chism. “And with his proposed ordinance changes, he wants to further repress the 99 percent by attacking our constitutional rights of free speech and assembly.”
According to a statement by Occupy Chicago, the proposed ordinance changes contain a “a host of bureaucratic tools, created by and for the 1 percent to relegate, abridge, fine, arrest, and silence our speech. It is an attempt to bully and intimidate with increased police power and fines the brave working people who demand the ability to participate democratically in the organizing of our society. It is an attempt, by the 1 percent, to restrict and regulate the voice of the people when it upsets the structure that put them in power. The timing of the ordinance demonstrates that it has nothing to do with public safety but that its sole purpose is to stifle the voice and trample upon the constitutional liberties of all the people of Chicago.”
Jeff Frank with the National Lawyers Guild will also address the press conference to provide legal detail about the chilling effect of the proposed restrictions on the exercise of free speech.
Martin Luther King Jr. perfectly summed the grave concerns that the above groups have in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in 1963. “Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application,” wrote Dr. King. “For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.”
For this very reason, this broad coalition stands together, united, the coalition said, to demand that the city respect the basic civil liberties that generations have fought to preserve.

State Senator Raoul marks Second Anniversary of Earthquake in Haiti, celebrates “amazing response,” highlights ongoing need

Posted by Admin On January - 16 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Springfield, IL – State Senator Kwame Raoul spoke last week alongside the Haitian Relief Network, a group of individuals and organizations in Chicago that have worked to bring relief to Haiti since an earthquake devastated that nation two years ago. Senator Raoul, International Child Care, Robert Gallo of Power Construction Company, and President and CEO Patrick Magoon of  Children’s Memorial Hospital gathered to recognize the tremendous efforts of the international community while calling attention to ongoing needs in Haiti.

Assembling soon after the disaster, the Chicago‐based coalition immediately began assessing
and meeting the needs of Haitian people. Its initiatives include rebuilding Grace Children’s
Hospital. Senator Raoul, who was born in Chicago to Haitian immigrants and still has family in
Haiti, accompanied seven supporters of the effort on a trip to the island nation last February.
The group, which included representatives of International Child Care, Children’s Memorial
Hospital, Power Construction, and Anderson Mikos Architects, brought 600 pounds of donated medical supplies for the hospital and clinic to use once the rebuilding project is complete.

“As we mark the two‐year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti, people need to
be reminded that it will take a whole lot longer for the country to recover fully,” Senator Raoul
said. “At the same time, people also need to be reminded of the amazing response from the
rest of the world and particularly from Chicagoans.”

Two years after the quake, over half a million Haitians still live in tents, according to UNICEF.
But rebuilding efforts have given Haiti hope. “With the great work these organizations and
Senator Raoul are doing, they have ensured a pathway for Grace Children’s Hospital not just to
rebuild, but to rebuild better,” said Brenda Asare of International Child Care. Upon completion, the hospital will have the operational capacity to serve a growing number of children and families 24 hours a day, seven days a week – something it could not do before the earthquake.

“The only way we are able to do this work is through the overwhelming support of the Chicago
community and leaders like Senator Raoul,” said Ms. Asare. “Many hands make the load

Illinois Attorney General Madigan, local law enforcement confiscate thousands of illegal synthetic drugs in retail "Store Sweeps"

Posted by Admin On January - 16 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Madigan Hosts a Series of Teleconferences as Part of Coordinated Synthetic Drug Response


Chicago, IL – As part of her efforts to coordinate a statewide response to the alarming spread of synthetic drugs in Illinois, Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced the results of three undercover operations that confiscated almost 2,000 packages of synthetic marijuana with a street value of nearly $40,000 from stores throughout Illinois. Madigan’s office detailed the operations with local law enforcement officials and prosecutors in a series of presentations on the state’s work to address the rising number of young people using synthetic drugs, the chemically-laced substances akin to marijuana and cocaine that can be found for sale at convenience stores, gas stations and tobacco shops all across Illinois.

“We are only at the beginning of this battle to protect young people from these deadly products,” said Attorney General Madigan, “In order to ensure a strong, effective response to these drugs, law enforcement officials and prosecutors in every county of Illinois need to be empowered with information and other resources to fight this emerging epidemic.”

Investigators Conduct Undercover “Store Sweeps”

Partnering with Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer, Bond County Sheriff Jeff Brown and Vermilion County Sheriff Patrick Hartshorn, investigators with the Attorney General’s office conducted three undercover visits, or “store sweeps,” in their respective counties in late December to determine if retailers were selling banned synthetic marijuana products. Test results from  the Illinois State Police lab revealed the presence of Schedule 1 substances or their analogs in the products purchased, which prompted 1,956 packages with a street value of $41,628 to be confiscated. 

Dubbed “Operation Smoke Out,” investigators visited the following locations:

Adams County: 
• 60’s Spirit: 614 Maine, Quincy, Ill. – 534 packages relinquished

Bond County:
• Leisure Lounge: 107 State St., Pocahontas, Ill. – 375 packages relinquished
• Marathon: 407 W. Johnson St., Pocahontas, Ill. – 53 packages relinquished

Vermilion County: 
• BP Gas: 901 W. Vermilion, Danville, Ill. – 378 packages relinquished
• BP Gas: 101 N. Gilbert, Danville, Ill. – 17 packages relinquished
• Hoopston Convenient Mart: 714 Orange, Hoopston, Ill. – 108 packages relinquished
• DP Dixit Pit Stop: 445 Vermilion, Danville, Ill. – 491 packages relinquished

Synthetic drug abuse is on the rise, with Poison Control Centers across the country noting a dramatic rise in calls about synthetic marijuana and “bath salts,” another type of synthetic drug that contains chemical compounds to mimic the effects of cocaine or methamphetamine. In 2010, Poison Control Centers nationwide received 2,915 calls related to synthetic marijuana use. That figured jumped to 6,890 calls in 2011. Reports of bath salts were made 303 times to Poison Control Centers in 2010. A year later, the centers received 6,072 calls about bath salts.

That dramatic increase presents unique and challenging issues for law enforcement and prosecutors. Manufacturers can alter the chemical makeup of these drugs in an effort to avoid prosecution under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act and frequently make representations on the drugs’ packaging that the products do not contain any banned ingredients.   In addition, while the packages of the drugs often include representations that the products are not intended for human consumption, their design, labeling and marketing suggest the products be ingested. Madigan noted that these drugs are extremely dangerous because users do not know what chemicals they are consuming. Individual products can contain a wide range of chemical formulations and potencies, some of which can be two to 500 times stronger than THC, the principal psychoactive component in cannabis.

Statewide Calls Address New Changes in Law, Awareness Campaign with Retailers
Earlier today, Madigan’s office hosted a series of conference calls to update law enforcement officers and prosecutors on these enforcement efforts, as well as recent changes in Illinois law intended to fight the spread of synthetic drugs.  Over 200 people participated in the calls.
States, including Illinois, initially responded to the rise of synthetic drug use by passing laws that banned specific formulas of synthetic marijuana and bath salts. Drug makers attempted to sidestep these laws by replacing the banned chemicals with new formulas. A new Illinois law that went into effect on Jan.1 takes a broader approach and bans all chemicals that are structural derivatives of the previously-banned chemicals.

Madigan’s office offered participants a newly developed Legal Notice designed to inform retailers about those amendments and to warn them that the sale of products containing banned substances is a felony.  Madigan’s office is working with local law enforcement to distribute the Legal Notice to retailers to ensure that they understand that, contrary to their packaging, these products are likely to contain banned substances.  
These  announcements are part of Madigan’s ongoing efforts to to address this alarming trend that is responsible for growing numbers of injuries and deaths in Illinois and across the country. In November 2011, the Attorney General hosted the first-ever statewide emergency summit to help increase awareness of synthetic drug use among state, county and local law enforcement officers, as well as educators, health care professionals and parents.

Kirk, Manchin support more bipartisanship in 2012, will attend State of the Union together

Posted by Admin On January - 16 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Washington, DC – Building on a tradition launched last year by U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced that they will be seatmates at the President’s State of the Union address later this month.

“Senator Manchin and I will kick off 2012 with a renewed launch of our weekly bipartisan lunches and inviting both parties to join us in finding common ground on deficit reduction and tax simplification,” Senator Kirk said.

“After spending a year in Congress, it’s clear to me that we must find ways to work together for the good of our country, and I believe that this new tradition demonstrates our commitment to put party and politics aside,” Senator Manchin said. “Senators Udall and Murkowski showed such great leadership on the idea of bipartisan seating last year, and I’m proud to embrace it again this year. I’m so pleased to join my friend Mark Kirk, who I have worked with on a number of issues and who has been a strong partner in working to unite our colleagues and end the terrible divisions in Washington.”

Senators Mark Udall and Lisa Murkowski, who led last year’s effort for bipartisan seating during the President’s speech, praised Senators Kirk and Manchin for again embracing the new tradition.

“The climate in Washington, D.C., would be better if we reminded ourselves more often that we play for the red, white and blue team, not the red or the blue team,” Senator Udall said. “Last year, when Senator Murkowski and I called on our colleagues to put aside partisanship and sit together during the State of the Union address, the idea resonated with people across the country. This year, we’re thrilled to work with Senators Kirk, Manchin and others to again change the tone in Congress.  This new call to make bipartisan seating a permanent tradition on Capitol Hill is one way we can move forward and ensure the State of the Union is more than just a run-of-the-mill sporting event.”

“Our parties clearly have different ideas of the role of government and approaches for our country’s future, but party lines are not brick walls,” said Senator Murkowski. “Senator Udall and I are happy to have Senators Kirk and Manchin join us in making the point that there are opportunities out there for bipartisan collaboration, and small steps like this can lead to better communication between Members.”

The President’s State of the Union address will be held Jan. 24.

State AFL-CIO endorses candidates for Primary Election

Posted by Juanita Bratcher On January - 16 - 2012 1 COMMENT


Illinois’ largest labor organization to activate member-to-member program

Representatives of local and statewide labor organizations met in Burr Ridge to endorse candidates for the March 20 Primary Election in Illinois.
More than 100 representatives make up the Illinois AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) that issues endorsement recommendations to the federation’s Executive Board. The Board ratified the endorsements later on Tuesday.
Topping the endorsement list were Democratic candidates for U.S. Congress including Bobby Rush (1st District), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (2nd), Dan Lipinski (3rd), Luis Gutierrez (4th), Mike Quigley (5th), Leslie Coolidge (6th), Danny Davis (7th), Jan Schakowsky (9th), Bill Foster (11th), Brad Harriman (12th), Matt Goetten (13th), Dennis Anderson (14th) and Cheri Bustos (17th).
The Illinois AFL-CIO also endorsed in primaries for General Assembly, as well as Appellate Court races.

The delegates thoroughly discussed and debated merits of getting involved in these races,” Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan said. “This election is crucial to working families both on the state and federal levels. As our state and country starts pulling out of recession, rebuilding the middle class and closing the income gap have to be top priorities.”
Carrigan said the state federation would boost the campaigns through its Labor 2012 program.

“We have nearly two million registered voters out of union households in this Illinois,” Carrigan said. “In many of these areas, union families can and will directly affect the outcome of vote.””

Other endorsements are:

For the Illinois Senate

1st Tony Munoz – D

2nd Willie Delgado – D

3rd Mattie Hunter – D

4th Kimberly Lightford – D

5th Annazette Collins – D

6th John Cullerton – D

7th Heather Steans – D

8th Ira I. Silverstein – D

9th Daniel Biss – D

10th John G. Milroe – D

11th Martin Sandoval – D

12th Steven Landek – D

13th Kwame Raoul – D

14th Emil Jones, III – D

15th Donna Miller – D

16th Jacqueline Collins – D

17th Donne Trotter – D

18th Bill Cunningham – D

20th Iris Martinez – D

22nd Michael Noland – D

25th Steven Hunter – D

28th Dan Kotowski – D

30th Terry Link – D

31st Melinda Bush – D

34th Dan Lewandowski – D

36th Mike Jacobs – D

38th Tom Ganiere – D

39th Don Harmon – D

40th Toi Hutchinson – D

42nd Linda Holmes – D

43rd A,J. Wilhelmi – D

46th Dave Koehler – D

47th John Sullivan – D

48th Andy Manar – D

49th Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant – D

52nd Michael W. Frerichs – D

54th Danny L. Stover – D

56th William Haine – D

57th James Clayborne,Jr. – D

59th Gary Forby – D

For the Illinois House

1st Dan Burke – D

2nd Edward Acevedo – D

3rd Luis Arroyo – D

4th Cynthia Soto – D

5th Ken Dunkin – D

6th Esther Golar – D

8th LaShawn Ford – D

9th Art Turner – D

10th Derrick Smith – D

11th Ann Williams – D

12th Sara Felgenholtz – D

13th Gregory Harris – D

14th Kelly Cassidy – D

15th John D’Amico – D

16th Lou Lang – D

17th Laura Fine – D

18th Robyn Gabel – D

19th Rob Martwick – D

20th Michael McAuliffe – R

21st Albert Cacciottolo – D

22nd Michael Madigan – D

23rd Michael J. Zalewski – D

24th Lisa Hernandez – D

25th Barbara Flynn Currie – D

27th Monique Davis – D

28th Robert Rita – D

29th Thaddeus Jones – D

30th Will Davis – D

31st Mary Flowers – D

32nd Andre Thapedi – D

33rd Marlow Colvin – D

34th Elgie Sims, Jr. – D

36th Kelly Burke – D

38th Al Riley – D

39th Toni Berrios – D

55th Martin J. Moylan – D

57th Elaine Nekritz – D

60th Rita Mayfield – D

62nd Sam Yingling – D

67th Chuck Jefferson – D

68th Carl Wasco – D

71st Mike Smiddy – D

72nd Pat Verschoore – D

74th Donald Moffitt – R

76th Frank Mautino – D

77th Angelo “Skip” Saviano – R

78th Camille Lilly – D

79th Katherine Cloonen – D

80th Anthony DeLuca – D

83rd Linda Chapa LaVia – D

84th Alex Arroyo – D

86th Jack McGuire – D

95th Brad Gillespie – D

98th Natalie Manley – D

103rd Naomi Jakobsson – D

111th Daniel Beiser – D

113th Jay Hoffman – D

114th Eddie Lee Jackson – D

116th Jerry Costello II – D

117th John Bradley – D

118th Brandon Phelps – D



1st App. Ct. Nathaniel House, Jr. – D

1st App. Ct P. Scott Neville, Jr. – D

1st App. Ct William Boyd – D

1st App. Ct Maureen Connors – D

5th App. Ct Judy Cates – D 



The Better Business Bureau warns consumers of free cruise scams

Posted by Admin On January - 16 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS


Chicago, IL –  When the bitter cold and snow eventually arrive our thoughts will turn to escaping to a tropical climate. Winter and spring are prime cruising months, however the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) advises consumers to read all of the fine print before signing up for a special cruise deal and be cautious of unsolicited mail with offers of free or discounted cruises. 


“Many times, scammers will send e-mails, postcards, and other mailings trying to get you to call them in order to claim your ‘free cruise,'” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. “Don’t be fooled by professional looking websites. It’s important to gather as much information as you can about the business, and ask a lot of questions before signing any agreements.”


If booking a cruise getaway is in your plans there are a number of things the Better Business Bureau recommends you do:

Always check the business first. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Before giving a business any personal information, check out their BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org

Don’t be a victim. Oftentimes, vacation scammers will use high-pressure sales tactics and make you feel coerced into buying a limited-time deal on the spot. A reputable business or travel agent will provide information that you request, and give you time to decide before booking a vacation. 

Pay with a credit card.  For your best protection against a dishonest seller of travel programs, always pay for your cruise fare — both the initial deposit and the final payment — with a major credit card. If problems arise, you may be able to dispute the charges with your credit card company. It’s important to note that this protection may not apply to those using debit or check cards; it’s important to confirm policies with your issuing bank before making a charge.

Ensure your money is in the right hands. After you’ve made a payment, review your credit card or bank statement and make sure that any applicable charges originate directly with the cruise line, not with the travel agency. That way, you’ll know that the cruise line has definitely received your money. If you must pay by check or money order, it should be made payable to the cruise line — not to the agency or to an individual.

Get proper confirmation of your booking.  Insist on getting the actual cruise line’s confirmation numbers, not just a confirmation number from your agency. Not only will you then know that your information and money is in the right hands, but you’ll also be able to pre-reserve shore excursions, restaurant reservations and spa appointments (where available) on the cruise line’s website. 

Ask questions. Before signing on the dotted line make sure all of the details have been clearly outlined and the pricing has been thoroughly explained. Double check whether for hidden cancellation fees, port charges, or insurance processing fees that haven’t been covered.
Consider investing in travel insurance. Travel insurance can provide protection in the event of an accident, an illness, lost luggage, or a canceled or interrupted trip, among other things.  Follow the same steps outlined here when buying travel insurance. 

For more information on consumer and travel tips, visit www.bbb.org


Activists receive permit to protest NATO/G8, but serious issues remain

Posted by Admin On January - 16 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

(From the Coalition Against the NATO and G8 War & Poverty Agenda)


*  Permit and cover letter from City imply that Feds may nix permits

*  Permits show that current ordinances work; Mayor should rescind proposed ordinance changes

Chicago, IL – Activists with the Coalition Against the NATO and G8 War & Poverty Agenda (CANG8) this afternoon received a permit from the City of Chicago for a Saturday, May 19 march from Daley Plaza to McCormick Place, site of the NATO / G8 summits to be held May 19-21.

“The issuance of this permit shows that the current ordinances, while not perfect, are more than adequate for large public events in our city, and that the Mayor should rescind his proposed anti-protester ordinances,” said Andy Thayer of CANG8.  “These proposed ordinance changes have been roundly condemned by all civil liberties experts who have reviewed them.  The time to withdraw them is now.” 

The cover letter from the City accompanying the CANG8 permit contains a disturbing “escape clause,” which reads, “In the event [that] the Secret Service designates specific security zones or areas that impact your route, please note that the Chicago Department of Transportation will work with you to find an alternate route for your event.”

“We reject the notion that the Secret Service should reject permits that have already been approved,” said Thayer.  The feds have had at least six months to study the security issues surrounding the summits.  In the event that they attempt to make large sections of the city inaccessible, we demand that the City insist that the protests proceed unimpeded and unmolested.  Anything less would be hypocrisy on the Mayor’s part.”
The City Council is scheduled to vote on Emanuel’s ordinance changes at its meeting on Wednesday, January 18.  Two City Council committees are scheduled to discuss the changes on Tuesday, January 17 – the Committee on Budget and Government Operations at 10 AM in the 2nd floor City Council chambers, and the Committee on Special Events, Cultural Affairs and Recreation at 1 PM in Room 201A.

Young black pilots inspire youth to fly with new program

Posted by Admin On January - 16 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Express the Importance of the Movie Red Tails

Pilot Jonathan E. Neal, CFI/MEI

Lanham, MD (BlackNews.com) — Pilots Jonathan Neal, 32, and Wayne Tonkins, 23, are on a mission to help the community soar with its new aviation program for youth. Outreach Aviation (OA), a nonprofit organization based in Prince George’s County, Maryland was founded by Neal and Tonkins in July 2011 out of a personal desire to help fill the void of innovative educational programs in predominately Black communities, which were not available to them as youth. The program, which aligns with President Obama’s education reform agenda to foster critical thinking and problem solving, is the first of its kind in Maryland to couple an academics program with actual flying lessons.

Jonathan Neal, a certified flight instructor, was born on the Arkansas banks of the Mississippi delta. Being confined in a small rural town with limited activities and possibilities, Neal created fun by watching the lights of passenger jets fly by at high altitude. “Watching those planes would take me into another dimension of living. That was my fun, my action, my escape, and my dream,” Neal remembers. However, he had no mentors to help cultivate his dream. “An African American flying a plane was unheard of in my hometown. No pilots as mentors and no such thing as an aviation program for youth. In fact, I knew very few who had even traveled on a passenger jet. Being a pilot wasn’t a reality for us,” says Neal. However, that didn’t stop Neal’s dream since his parents instilled in their children that the sky was the limit. Neal took this literally by pursuing an education and career in Aviation.

In 2010, Neal met Wayne Tonkins at the A.T.C. Flight Training Center in Fort Washington, Maryland. Tonkins, who was not yet legal age, was a licensed pilot that needed assistance in flying a complex larger aircraft. Neal provided that assistance and they became instant friends, which led to them becoming business partners. Sharing the same desire and passion to help youth they sought advice from local education experts prior to establishing Outreach Aviation.

In September 2011, Neal was invited to preview the upcoming movie release, Red Tails, at the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C. “It’s always inspiring to be in the same environment with the Tuskegee Airmen. They are a great part of my inspiration to do what I do.” says Neal. Both men are excited about the release of Red Tails and encourage EVERYBODY to see the movie. “In addition to it being a great movie with an all-Black cast, it’s a true story of how at the core of our being Blacks give unselfishly no matter the circumstances we face. It is important that others be reminded that Blacks are far from lazy and are fighters for the things we believe. This is just one of the significant things about the Tuskegee Airmen,” says Neal.

About Outreach Aviation

Outreach Aviation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Prince George’s County, Maryland, is an outreach program designed to educate youth in the theory, mechanics, and practical use of an aircraft. At the core of the program, youth are developed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, whether youth decide to explore a career in aviation or not, it is a part of OA’s mission to help prepare them for college and careers by using aviation’s innovative techniques to equip them in their critical thinking to make sound decisions throughout their lives.

OA, a no-cost program for its students, is planning to begin classes in summer 2012. OA is currently seeking funding to meet the demands of the program. OA is governed by a carefully-selected Board of Directors comprising educators, pilots, and community and business leaders. For more information on Jonathan Neal, Wayne Tonkins, and Outreach Aviation visit www.theOutreachAviation.org.


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