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Archive for October 17th, 2012

Could Catholics Tip the Balance for Death Penalty Repeal?

Posted by Admin On October - 17 - 2012 Comments Off on Could Catholics Tip the Balance for Death Penalty Repeal?

Could Catholics Tip the Balance for Death Penalty Repeal?

New America Media

By Rene Ciria-Cruz 


SAN FRANCISCO, Ca — In a race that polls show could go either way, proponents of the initiative to repeal the death penalty in November are praying that the Catholic Church might make a difference.

While nowhere near as robust as the effort that the Church put into the Proposition 8 campaign against same-sex marriage in 2008, the California Catholic Conference has given Catholics the blessing to join the battle to replace executions with life without the possibility of parole. The official voice of the state’s Catholic bishops on public policy issues endorsed California Proposition 34, the End the Death Penalty Initiative, last September.

Ned Dolesji, the body’s executive director, also recently teamed up with Amanda Cox, mother or a murder victim, former Los Angeles district attorney Gil Garcetti and SAFE California campaign manager Natasha Minsker, who is also and ACLU attorney, to meet with the Sacramento Bee editorial board to state their case for Prop. 34. The Bee recently endorsed the proposition.

“We’re encouraging our pastors to distribute materials for Prop. 34 in English and Spanish, we’ve produced bulletins, public service announcements, sample homilies radio interviews, and videos, says Dolejsi.

Yet, institutionally, church support seems barely above the level of an official position. On Oct. 9, Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice held a press conference announcing the release of a letter by the new San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone, urging church members to vote for Prop. 34. Beyond that, parishes must decide their own scale and scope of pro-Prop. 34 actions, explains George Wesolek, public policy director at the San Francisco diocese.

But there are as yet no reports, for example, of concerted Sunday sermons that proved so potent against same-sex marriage in 2008. Neither has there been a huge cash infusion from the Church into the Prop. 34 campaign, unlike the $1.4 million for the anti-gay marriage Yes on 8 campaign in 2008, reportedly channeled through the Knights of Columbus, an unofficial political auxiliary.

Grassroots Initiatives

This time, Catholic donations against the death penalty have come mainly from individuals and organizations like Sisters of St. Joseph and the Los Angeles Catholic Worker.

On their own, some individual parishes and lay organizations are actually working with people they may disagree with on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, and with groups like the Catholic Mobilizing Network that have long been active in opposing the death penalty nationwide

“There’s support all around from the Church,” says Miriam Gerace, SAFE California communications director. Sister Helen Prejean, whose opposition to death penalty was dramatized in the movie “Dead Man Walking,” has been touring the state for Prop. 34. Bishop Cirilo Flores in San Diego wrote an op-ed, she says.

The Oakland diocese held a forum on Sept. 25 called “Our Journey to ‘Yes” on Prop. 34” at Christ the King Church in Pleasant Hill, with Jeanne Woodford, former San Quentin Warden, Darryl Stallworth, former Alameda County deputy district attorney and Ron Ahnen, family member of a murder victim.

At the Queen of Apostles Parish in San Jose, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath spoke to participants in a workshop organized by the parish, telling them of his “absolute support for Proposition 34 as we the Church’s call to a more humane society.” Father Mike Carson, Reginald Reese, former associate warden at San Quentin State Prison and California People of Faith Against the Death Penalty member Mary Kay Rafferty whose son, a police officer, was murdered by drug users, helped lead the discussions.

Moral Basis

While concurring that the death penalty has had a damaging impact on public resources and the justice system, Church bishops emphasize the moral basis of their opposition.

“As teachers of the Catholic faith, we consistently proclaim the intrinsic worth and God-given dignity of all human life, whether innocent or guilty,” declared the bishops’ statement. “The death penalty will not give us justice worthy of a good society,” the Conference declared.

While the effect on the voting preferences of California’s 11 million Catholics is unclear, the bishops’ support is a vote of confidence for Prop. 34. Campaign organizers hope their endorsement will be one more factor that can swing the vote in their favor.

Could Make a Difference

Polls show voters overall are closely divided on Prop. 34. But poll numbers are conflicting on Latino voters, a potent segment of the state’s electorate. A mulitilingual Field Poll in September has them opposing the proposition 52 percent to 32 percent; but an LA Times/USC Dorsife bilingual poll in the same period showed them supporting it 45 percent to 40 percent when they are read the actual ballot language.

Prop. 34 proponents are keenly aware of the Latino electorate’s increased capacity to determine election outcomes—the Field poll shows a distinct Democratic advantage as a result of the expanding Latino vote in the state. Prop. 34 campaigners are, therefore, putting special emphasis on winning over Latinos.

“We have many bilingual spokespeople, materials and activities–online ads, phone banking, texting programs and more,” says Miriam Gerace, SAFE California’s communication director.

Support from Catholic clergy could give their efforts added lift. More than half of California’s Catholics are Latinos—seven million in all. Church officials, in fact, have credited Latino churchgoers with reinvigorating parishes.

Position Has EvolvedThe Catholic Church’s position on capital punishment has evolved over the centuries. As a result, there is considerable confusion among Catholics about its permissibility in their faith. For many years the universal Catholic cathechism or rule book recognized the state’s right to punish criminals, “[does] not exclud[e], in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty” to defend society.

But in 1995, Pope John Paul II declared that today, due to “the steady improvement in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

Pope Benedict XVI has reiterated that near total opposition to capital punishment and called on church members to continue through political and legislative actions “the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

State’s Attorney Alvarez announces new Public Corruption Arrests

Posted by Admin On October - 17 - 2012 Comments Off on State’s Attorney Alvarez announces new Public Corruption Arrests

A Cook County Circuit Court employee, a Metra ticket agent, a medical examiner autopsy technician, a county forest preserve employee and an IDOT truck driver are the latest government employees to be swept up in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s ongoing crackdown on public corruption, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced.

The employees all face varying charges of fraud and theft following ongoing investigations by the State’s Attorney’s Financial Crimes Unit.  The cases are the latest defendants in Operation “Cookie Jar,”a continuing crackdown on corruption at the local level.  Over the last two years “Cookie Jar” prosecutions have led to the return of millions of dollars in stolen taxpayer funds as well as lengthy prison terms for several of the defendants.

“No public employee has the right to steal or take advantage of their position and we will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these cases,” Alvarez said.  “Cook County taxpayers are tired of subsidizing corruption and we will continue to give these cases the high priority they deserve.”

The defendants charged are:

  • Gregory Gill, 46, of Chicago, a former employee of the Circuit Court Clerk’s Office in Bridgeview.

Gill is charged with felony theft and official misconduct. He is accused of stealing $3,500 in cash from individuals who went to the Bridgeview courthouse to make payments for their traffic tickets. Investigators became suspicious when several individuals attempting to renew their driver’s licenses were told they still had unpaid tickets.  Gill’s bond has been set at $10,000 and his next court date is set for October 24th.

  • Teron Carey, 36, of Chicago, a former ticket clerk for Metra.  Carey is charged with felony theft and official misconduct.  While he was on the job working as a ticket clerk, Carey is accused of stealing $2,500 in cash from a safe that had inadvertently been left open overnight.  Carey’s bond has been set at $10,000 and his next court date is October 24th.


  • Lucious Jefferson, 52, of Orland Park, a former employee of the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Jefferson is charged with theft of government property.  He is alleged to have stolen $4,000 worth of the Forest Preserve’s scrap metal and used a county owned truck to haul it to a junk yard.  Jefferson’s bond was set at $10,000 and his next court date is October 26th.


  • Kenneth Lazarro, 49, of Chicago, a former Highway Maintainer for IDOT. Lazarro is charged with Criminal Damage to Government Supported Property, Criminal Damage to Property. Disorderly Conduct and two counts of Official Misconduct.  He is accused of hitting several parked cars while plowing snow in his state owned vehicle. The defendant attempted to cover up the damage by filing a false police report claiming he was the victim of a hit and run driver.   Lazarro’s bond was set at $10,000 and his next court date is October 24th.


  • Joel Neason, 58, of Chicago, a former Autopsy Technician for the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.  Neason is charged with workers compensation fraud.  He is accused of filing a false workman’s compensation claim alleging he had injured his back while helping a funeral director lift a body. When told he was the subject of an investigation, Neason threatened to “get his gun and shoot everybody.” For this incident, he was charged and convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.  Neason’s bond on the workers compensation case was set at $5,000 and he is due in court next on October 17th.

“Cookie Jar” investigations have now led to charges against 34 individuals, with 17 of those 34 pleading guilty.  These convictions have led to restitution payments totaling over $3 million in taxpayer funds as well as prison sentences ranging up to six years for several defendants.

The Better Business Bureau warns elderly are the target group for the “Grandparent Scam”

Posted by Admin On October - 17 - 2012 Comments Off on The Better Business Bureau warns elderly are the target group for the “Grandparent Scam”

(A message from the Better Business Bureau)



Chicago, ILSeniors are an attractive demographic for scammers and in the “Grandparent Scam” the kindness of the elderly is exploited. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) is warning well-meaning seniors about “emergency” scams designed to fool them into thinking that their grandchild is hurt, arrested or stranded, and in need of money.


According to recent FBI reports, the “Grandparent Scam” has been around since 2008 and social media has made it possible for scammers to have access to more personal information. They impersonate the victim’s grandchildren and make up an urgent situation – “I’ve been arrested,” “I’ve been mugged,” “I’m in the hospital” – and target friends and family with urgent pleas for help, and to wire money.


“The ‘Grandparent Scam’ plays off people’s emotions and when they hear that a family member needs help they get caught up in the moment,” said Steve J. Bernas, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “It is important to be sure that you are speaking with a family member and ask questions to verify their identity.”


The BBB offers the following tips to avoid the “Grandparent Scam”:

  • Communicate. Teens should share travel plans with family members before leaving the state or country.
  • Share information. Teens should provide the cell phone number and email address of a friend they are traveling with in the case of an emergency. Family members should remind teens to be cautious when sharing details about travel plans on social media.
  • Know the red flags. Typically, the grandparent receives a frantic phone call from a scammer posing as their grandchild. The “grandchild” explains that he or she has gotten into trouble and needs help, perhaps caused a car accident or was arrested for drug possession. The “grandchild” pleads to the grandparents not to tell his or her parents and asks that they wire thousands of dollars for different reasons such as posting bail, repairing the car, covering lawyer’s fees or even paying hospital bills for a person the grandchild injured in a car accident.   
  • Ask a personal question, but don’t disclose too much information. If a grandparent receives a call from someone claiming to be their grandchild in distress, the BBB advises that the grandparent not disclose any information before confirming that it really is their grandchild. If a caller says “It’s me, Grandma!” don’t respond with a name, but instead let the caller explain who he or she is. One easy way to confirm their identity is to ask a simple question that only the grandchild would know such as what school he or she goes to or their middle name. 

For more consumer tips, visit www.bbb.org


BCT Partners awarded contract to support the Obama Administration’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative

Posted by Admin On October - 17 - 2012 Comments Off on BCT Partners awarded contract to support the Obama Administration’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative

High-profile minority-owned business, led by Apprentice winner Dr. Randal Pinkett, will support Choice Neighborhoods, a signature White House program

Newark, NJ (BlackNews.com) — BCT Partners, a national consulting firm delivering a full-range of program management, research and evaluation, technical assistance, and information technology services to the public and private sector, has been awarded a contract in support of President Obama’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) – an innovative and new approach to transform neighborhoods in distress into neighborhoods of opportunity.

NRI engages a number of federal organizations including the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC), White House Office of Urban Affairs (WHOUA), and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Education (ED), Justice (DOJ), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Treasury in support of local solutions to revitalize neighborhoods across the country. BCT Partners is led by Dr. Randal Pinkett, Chairman and CEO, and winner of NBC’s The Apprentice.

In partnership with the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) and Frontline Solutions, BCT Partners will provide technical assistance, training, and other capacity building services to grantees of the HUD Choice Neighborhoods program. Choice Neighborhoods is designed to link affordable housing development with supportive social services, access to jobs, high-quality educational opportunities, including schools and early learning programs, public safety strategies to prevent violent crime, and other critical community improvements. The HUD Choice Neighborhoods Technical Assistance contract is valued at $3.3 million over the next three years.

“We are extremely proud that BCT Partners has been entrusted with this important work to strengthen America’s communities,” said Dr. Pinkett, “We are fully committed to this pioneering effort to alleviate concentrated poverty, increase employment, and improve our educational system.”

BCT Partners and Frontline Solutions are also partners to CSSP on a five-year contract to provide technical assistance and training to another NRI program, ED Promise Neighborhoods. The purpose of Promise Neighborhoods is to significantly improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in our country’s most distressed communities.

“Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Neighborhoods are among the signature neighborhood revitalization initiatives from the White House,” said Lawrence Hibbert, President. “To be selected for both contracts is a testament to the breadth and depth of capabilities and expertise we have developed at BCT Partners along with our partners.”
About BCT Partners

BCT Partners is a national consulting firm that delivers a full-range of program management, research and evaluation, technical assistance, and information technology services in the areas of housing and community development, economic development, workforce development, children and families, health, and education. We deliver these services by leveraging deep subject-matter expertise, a rigorous project and knowledge management methodology, and information technology as an enabler to help build capacity, drive efficiencies, enhance decision-making, and improve outcomes for our clients.

Their team of professionals, subject matter experts and academics work closely with government agencies, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, educational institutions, foundations, and philanthropic organizations to design and implement programs that strengthen communities across the country. Learn more about their passion and work at www.bctpartners.com.

Learn more the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI) at:

 Photo Caption: Dr. Randal Pinkett, Chairman and CEO, BCT Partners

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