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Archive for December 10th, 2013

President Barack Obama: Mandela was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

President Barack Obama remarks at Memorial Service for Former South African President Nelson Mandela

First National Bank Stadium

Johannesburg, South Africa

Thank you. Thank you so much.  Thank you.  To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of states and government, past and present; distinguished guests — it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life like no other.  To the people of South Africa — people of every race and walk of life — the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us.  His struggle was your struggle.  His triumph was your triumph.  Your dignity and your hope found expression in his life.  And your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

It is hard to eulogize any man — to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person — their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul.  How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.

Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by the elders of his Thembu tribe, Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.  Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement — a movement that at its start had little prospect for success.  Like Dr. King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed and the moral necessity of racial justice.  He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War.  Emerging from prison, without the force of arms, he would — like Abraham Lincoln — hold his country together when it threatened to break apart.  And like America’s Founding Fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations — a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power after only one term.

Given the sweep of his life, the scope of his accomplishments, the adoration that he so rightly earned, it’s tempting I think to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men.  But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait.  Instead, Madiba insisted on sharing with us his doubts and his fears; his miscalculations along with his victories.  “I am not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection — because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried — that we loved him so.  He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood — a son and a husband, a father and a friend.  And that’s why we learned so much from him, and that’s why we can learn from him still.  For nothing he achieved was inevitable.  In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, and persistence and faith.  He tells us what is possible not just in the pages of history books, but in our own lives as well.

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals.  Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father.  And we know he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people,” he said.

But like other early giants of the ANC — the Sisulus and Tambos — Madiba disciplined his anger and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand up for their God-given dignity.  Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price.  “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination.  I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and [with] equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those who you agree with, but also those who you don’t agree with.  He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet.  He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and his passion, but also because of his training as an advocate.  He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement.  And he learned the language and the customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depend upon his.

Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough.  No matter how right, they must be chiseled into law and institutions.  He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history.  On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of unconditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”

But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal.  And because he was not only a leader of a movement but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy, true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.

And finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit.  There is a word in South Africa — Ubuntu — a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift:  his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell.  But we remember the gestures, large and small — introducing his jailers as honored guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS — that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding.  He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well — to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth.  He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life.  But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection.  With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask:  How well have I applied his lessons in my own life?  It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President.

We know that, like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation.  As was true here, it took sacrifice — the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day.  Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle. But in America, and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done.

The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important.  For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease.  We still see run-down schools.  We still see young people without prospects for the future.  Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love.  That is happening today.

And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice.  We, too, must act on behalf of peace.  There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.  There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

The questions we face today — how to promote equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end conflict and sectarian war — these things do not have easy answers.  But there were no easy answers in front of that child born in World War I.  Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done.  South Africa shows that is true.  South Africa shows we can change, that we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes.  We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.

We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young people around the world — you, too, can make his life’s work your own.  Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful land, and it stirred something in me.  It woke me up to my responsibilities to others and to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today.  And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man. He speaks to what’s best inside us.

After this great liberator is laid to rest, and when we have returned to our cities and villages and rejoined our daily routines, let us search for his strength.  Let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves.  And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, when our best-laid plans seem beyond our reach, let us think of Madiba and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of his cell:  “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

What a magnificent soul it was.  We will miss him deeply.  May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela.  May God bless the people of South Africa.

Attorney General Madigan sues state vendor for misuse of over $8 million in state grant funds

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit against a former state vendor alleging he illegally misspent more than $8 million in taxpayer grant funding intended for at-risk children and their families, including on personal expenses such as travel, tickets to concerts and professional sporting events, and cash payments.

Madigan’s lawsuit, filed earlier today in Cook County Circuit Court, alleges George E. Smith engaged in rampant misuse of state grant funding from 2005 to 2011 through his not-for-profit organization, Diversified Behavioral Comprehensive Care, and other affiliated groups established and controlled by Smith.

“George Smith enriched himself at the expense of taxpayers and children who were supposed to receive the critical services he was obligated to provide,” Madigan said.

An investigation revealed that Smith used some of the grant funds for personal expenses, including tickets to the 2009 NBA All-Star Game and Cubs, White Sox and Bulls games, personal travel expenses and hotel stays, artwork and audio equipment. The lawsuit alleges further that Smith paid himself more than $1 million in unidentified or misidentified cash disbursements and made several payments in unsupported consulting fees to former state Rep. Annazette Collins.

In total, Madigan alleges Smith fraudulently misspent or mismanaged in excess of $8 million in grants he obtained through 39 state contracts, the majority of which were awarded by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Other grants to Smith were awarded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Human Services.

To support his organization’s image as a mental health care services provider, Madigan alleges Smith falsely claimed at various times to be a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, psychologist or a licensed health care professional. Madigan further alleges that Smith could not show that much of the funding had been used for the purposes intended by the state grants to provide mental health, education and other related social services to at-risk children and their families.

Madigan’s lawsuit is asking the court to require Smith to repay the more than $8 million in misspent grant funds to the state of Illinois.

Assistant Attorneys General Neil MacDonald and Harpreet Khera are handling this case for Madigan’s Special Litigation Bureau.

Father Pfleger appeals to business community to hire youth

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Says a record should be a stepping stone, not an excuse

By Chinta Strausberg

Flanked by scores of unemployed youth each holding a copy of their resume, Father Michael L. Pfleger Monday held a press conference at the Saint Sabina Church calling on businesses to give young men and women a chance by hiring them and not use a record as an excuse to exclude them; rather let it be a stepping stone for their future.

“We have seen a decrease in violence in the city of Chicago and we’re glad by that; yet don’t be fooled the violence is still going on,” said Pfleger referring to the killings and shootings over the weekend where one person was killed and seven shot last Saturday night alone.

Referring to the Auburn Gresham community, Pfleger said since he began his peace basketball leagues and tournaments/GED classes last year, he was able to hire 1100 youth last summer at 187 work sites.

“We’ve seen a drastic drop (of violence) in this community,” he told reporters. Referring to several reports including one from the University of Chicago, Pfleger said “when people have jobs, when people have options, crime and violence go down.”

Thanking the police for their role in stemming the violence, Pfleger turned and looked at former street leaders, Brandon, Pat, Kirk and Juan thanking them for helping to keep the peace in the community. This was achieved when last year Pfleger brokered a peace accord last September among four rival gangs whose members are now called “peacemakers.” “Our team work out in the streets every day to try to keep violence down in the community.”

But, looking at the applicants who stood behind him, Pfleger also thanked them and others “who made a conscious decision to stop the violence and to help bring peace in our community to save our lives and save our community.”

Making it clear, Father Pfleger said the real long-term solution to ending violence is “about real opportunity…about transformation…about giving options. We cannot just tell young people don’t shoot, don’t sell drugs…and not give them things that they can do…. We can’t just keep saying it’s wrong and not give them things that are right.”

Referring to the applicants, Pfleger said “they are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers who want peace in the streets just as bad as anybody else in the city of Chicago but they need jobs to take care of themselves, their children and to help out with their families,” he said asking each to hold up their resumes.

“They want to work now. They want to be hired right now,” he said asking the private sector, the city, state, county and federal government to provide jobs for these youth.

Saying “it was a great thing” to be able to get city and state grants needed to hire 1100 young people this past summer, Pfleger said, “We’re grateful, but when the summer ends, all of a sudden there’s no job. Yet, he said, “They have responsibilities…rent… The responsibilities continue. We need year around jobs. Even a part-time job is better than no job. Give us something….”

“If you really want to help bring peace in Chicago, then give people an opportunity to get jobs…” so they can take care of themselves and their families. Pfleger said if companies don’t have jobs but are willing to send money to get them work, send the money to him and they will be hired.

Asked about companies who claim they can’t find qualified people who don’t have records, Pfleger said, “We do job preparation and job training…so they are prepared and they are ready…. I think when they say they can’t find qualified folks, I think more often that not, that is an excuse why they are not hiring anybody,” he said turning to the youth and asking them if they are qualified and ready to work.

And, as far as companies hesitate in hiring youth with criminal records, Pfleger bellowed, “This is 2013. Half of the people that work in corporations downtown have family members who have records and all the other folks who own businesses ought to have records but they got off.

“If you want to talk about records, the whole world is focused on Nelson Mandela. He has a record…27-years in the penitentiary because of treason. He was called by every country a terrorist and he became president (of South Africa) and now all the world is calling him great. A record ought not to be a stumbling block. It should be a stepping stone….”

For those who have a record and have paid for their crimes, Pfleger said, “Let them go free and go on with their future.”

What Chicago needs, Pfleger emphasized is that “we need help from people around the city to not just say stop the violence but we want people willing to do something about it by giving options and opportunities.

Pfleger said all of the applicants went through Saint Sabina’s job readiness program and they all want to work.

One of those looking for a job is Phillip McGhee, 26, who has been unemployed for a year. (DREADS) Jovon Fluker, 17, a senior at Percy Julian High School who has been unemployed for the past year, lives with his mother, a single parent, said,  “We are all struggling…. I will do everything I can to help my mama. I really need to be employed,” he said noting even the expenses he has to incur just to graduate like his prom.

Vowing to go on to college, Fluker said, “I just need a job. If you can help out in the community, open up your doors to us and help us get jobs, that will be a plus for the whole community….”

McGhee says he wants to contribute to his household. “It’s hard out here.” He said his family is struggling. “I put in a lot of applications for jobs” but noted the high number of applicants also seeking employment he added, “It’s hard out here…. I need help. We have our applications…. I just want to keep my mind on positive things. If I’m not working, I’ll just go back to the old me but that is not me no more. I’m trying to do my thing out there…trying to stay on the right track. I’m right here with Father Pfleger and everything, doing the right thing trying to get me a job and keep my mind going right….”

Michael Davis, 21, also wants a job. A graduate from a St. Charles, Illinois high school, Davis said he is a father of a two-year-old son. “I’m trying to stay positive. I live on my own. I make sure that the bills are paid…and that my son gets the things I never had.”

Admitting he is getting frustrated, Davis said he constantly gets laid off temporary jobs due to the lack of funding. “Just give us a chance,” he said appealing to corporations to hire them.

When asked why doesn’t some corporations don’t want to hire young black men, said, “because of where they come from. I believe it is a stereotype that we won’t work or show up on time and they are not willing to take a chance. Everyone deserves a chance to show who and what they are,” he told reporters.

Pfleger said to companies, “Help them get a chance. All we want to do in the news is to demonize our young people about what they are doing negative, what they are doing wrong.” Looking at the applicants, he said, “They are trying to do right.”

“We keep hearing that the people at the top five percent are making more money that they’ve ever made. Let’s put some jobs back in the community. Let’s offer some people some hope and opportunity to stand on their own,” said Pfleger.

Saying he heard last month there was a big decrease in unemployment in America, Pfleger quipped, “They must not be counting Auburn Gresham, Englewood, Lawndale, Woodlawn because they must not be counting these neighborhoods because we’re not seeing any decrease out here. If it’s 7 percent in America, it’s 25 or 25 percent here.”

He asked for a show of hands among the applicants has been looking for jobs. “People are looking for jobs but where are they. It’s great if there are more people working downtown, but we’re here. We’ll work downtown, but we still got to come home with a check. We can’t just keep talking about violence in some isolated bubble issue and not deal with education and jobs. It’s not just about bringing numbers down. It’s not about just the violence numbers going down. It’s about lives here being changed because they have a future and a possibility,” said Pfleger.

For job offerings, please call the Church rectory at 773.483.4300 or the Saint Sabina Employment Resource Center at 773.783.3760.

Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.

Jesse White Honors Mike Ditka with Personalized Chicago Bears License Plate

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

In honor of his legacy and the retiring of his number 89

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White presented Mike Ditka with a personalized Chicago Bears Presentation License Plate honoring his legacy as a player and coach with the Chicago Bears. The Chicago Bears organization will retire Ditka’s number, 89, tonight at the game.

“Mike Ditka’s contributions to the Chicago Bears franchise rank among the top of all those who ever played or coached for the team,” said White. “This is a fitting tribute to an incomparable Hall-of-Famer who played key roles in the Chicago Bears last two championships – one as a player and one as a coach.”

A Secretary of State mobile unit will be available at the Chicago Bears game tonight to provide office services to fans. Office services include renewal of driver’s licenses, identification cards and vehicle stickers. Fans will also be able to purchase a Chicago Bears license plate with $25 of the sale going to Illinois public schools.

The March Is On

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

By William E. Spriggs

Last week, President Barack Obama delivered an address, starting a dialogue on how the long path to America’s current level of inequality has led us to the wrong place.

The president said that Americans’ frustration with Washington is “rooted in the nagging sense that no matter how hard they work, the deck is stacked against them.” His timing coincided with the nationwide spread of strikes by fast-food workers, showing they cannot wait for Washington to act on raising minimum wages.

Unfortunately, the day also saw the loss of Nelson Mandela, a world-class standard bearer for justice. The passing of Mandela is a time to reflect on how the world can change if people just stand up, eventually justice wins out.

The president can do two things to add real meaning to his speech on inequality. First, he should sit down and meet with the workers who protested on Black Friday and with the fast-food strikers. His meetings with corporate heads to talk about creating jobs have yielded little. He should show America that now he is listening to those who labor to build this country. Their daily struggle to make ends meet will give a better understanding of what is wrong with our economy.

America cannot stand tall if multibillion-dollar multinational giants like McDonald’s, the world’s second-largest employer behind Walmart, gives its workers few hours and low pay. The workers at the two largest employers should be the customers that drive an economic engine.

Instead, McDonald’s share of the billions spent by the federal government on Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Medicaid and housing assistance to support the lives of fast-food workers is a little higher than $1 billion. Generally billion-dollar subsidies are used to produce more of something we need-like education-not more of something we don’t need, like heart stopping, bottom spreading fattening foods.

Everyone wants to ask if a McDonald’s worker got $15 an hour, what would that do to the price of a hamburger? Instead, what people need to be asking is how much in SNAP, Medicaid and housing assistance does a hamburger cost?  Tragically, people in America are far more sensitized that if McDonald’s polluted rivers from chicken farm runoff to make McNuggets to ask how much it costs to clean up McDonald’s environmental mess than they are to the human sacrifice we demand to eat cheap hamburgers.

Our national inability to relate demands for cheap food, or cheap Chinese electronics with the human sacrifice of America’s workers needing SNAP benefits to eat is at the heart of how our policies have drifted to create increasing inequality rather than rising lifestyles. At Walmart, the majority of associates don’t even make a living wage of $25,000 a year.

But, the tide is turning. Black Friday sales were down this year; in large part because corporate America overplayed its hand at cheapening the Thanksgiving Holiday. Similarly, the fast-food strikes this week are just the beginning of a march to economic justice.

America has lost touch with the value of work. If the minimum wage of 1968 had kept pace with American workers’ productivity, then today it would be more than $21; had it kept up with only half the growth in productivity it would be more than $15. The productivity of America’s workers continues to climb, while the wages of our workers sag-all workers, even those with four-year degrees and those who went to high school.

And that gap between what America’s workers make and what they take home is the fuel of the rising inequality, because it tracks the rise in pay of the top 1 percent. We cannot close that gap through more education or training. The striking fast-food workers and the Walmart workers know that gap will be closed when workers stand up to fight for their share.

The second thing the president can do is produce a budget that talks about more than the fiscal deficit. He should score his budget to see how it reduces inequality. He should score his budget to see how it reduces child poverty.

In January at the State of the Union, he should point to a fast-food striker up in the gallery and tell how the budget being submitted will close the gap between America’s promise and the reality of years of policies that work against fulfilling that promise. That is the deficit we want closed.

Follow Spriggs on Twitter: @WSpriggs. Contact: Amaya Smith-Tune Acting Director, Media Outreach AFL-CIO 202-637-5142

Senator Kirk Statement on Passing of Amb. Richard Williamson

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)  released the following statement regarding the passing of Amb. Richard Williamson:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Amb. Rich Williamson, a dear friend and long-time foreign policy adviser.  I extend my heartfelt condolences to Jane and the entire Williamson family.  From the White House to the State Department to the United Nations to the International Republican Institute, Rich dedicated his life to spreading American values of freedom and democracy around the world.  Like President Reagan, Rich believed in peace through strength, in that shining city upon a hill.  I will miss his friendship and counsel.”

Professors available on Nelson Mandela

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

EVANSTON, IL -  Nicholas Pearce, a leadership expert who is a pastor and a clinical assistant professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, is available to speak with reporters about Mandela and his legacy.

Professor Pearce may be reached at (847) 467-3468 and n-pearce@kellogg.northwestern.edu.

He will be in Africa from Tuesday through Sunday, Dec. 10 to 15 (he will be in South Africa Dec. 12 to 15).

Pearce focuses on collaboration and diversity in organizations. His latest work examines leadership on the national level (presidents, prime ministers, etc.) in diverse cultures and the impact that collaborative, participatory leadership can have on accelerating economic growth. As both a professor and a pastor, he brings a rare perspective to the intersection of leadership and values. “Mandela’s values of love, equality, forgiveness and reconciliation resonated through his leadership and will be a significant part of his legacy,” Pearce said.

Douglas Foster, author of “After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post Apartheid South Africa” (W.W. Norton, 2012) is available to speak to reporters about Mandela and the impact of his death on South Africa. Foster, who is an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, can be reached by cell at  (510) 292 9771; Office: (847) 467-7661 or dmfoster@northwestern.edu.

Richard Joseph is the John Evans Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University. He can be reached at (847) 436-4823 or via email at r-joseph@northwestern.edu. (Please note that he’s currently in China but is available to conduct interviews via phone or email at the number listed above.)

Joseph has devoted his scholarly career to the study of politics and governance in Africa with a special focus on democratic transitions, state building and state collapse, and conflict resolution. He directed the African Governance Program at the Carter Center (1988-1994) and coordinated elections missions in Zambia (1991), Ghana (1992), and peace initiatives in Liberia (1991-1994). He has been a longtime member of the Council of Foreign Relations. He has written and edited dozens of scholarly books and articles including Radical Nationalism in Cameroun (1977); Gaullist Africa: Cameroon Under Ahmadu Ahidjo (1978); Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria (1987); State, Conflict, and Democracy in Africa (1999); and the Africa Demos series (1990-94).

NORTHWESTERN NEWS: www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/

Illinois Learning Standards emphasize deep mastery of knowledge, critical thinking and real-world application

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Organizations offer resources as schools implement learning standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics for K-12 students

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Full implementation of the new Illinois Learning Standards is under way in schools across the state. From Chicago to Carbondale, Danville to Macomb, and everywhere in between, Illinois educators and students are working hard to meet the higher and more rigorous expectations of these new learning benchmarks.

“The new Illinois Learning Standards are meant to be challenging and rigorous as we all work together to better prepare students to compete and collaborate in a global economy,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “Under these standards, students will be required to demonstrate and apply a greater depth of knowledge, concept mastery and critical-thinking skills — all of which students must have for life and the work force, today and tomorrow.”

The Illinois Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Math, adopted in 2010 and based on the Common Core, establish clear, consistent and high expectations for what students should know in these two core subjects at each grade level, from kindergarten through grade 12, throughout Illinois, one of 45 states that has voluntarily adopted the standards.

Teachers and administrators at the local level are continuing to decide how best to teach their students and how to meet the unique needs of their classrooms but common state standards ensure that our students will meet the same expectations at each grade across the state and from one state to another. As families move for corporate or military jobs, for example, classroom expectations should not vary significantly.

The recently named Illinois Teacher of the Year, Pam Reilly, a second grade teacher in Sandwich Community Unit School District 430, conceded that she often found it difficult to teach to the previous Illinois Standards, adopted in 1997, but she said the new standards provide the clarity and depth necessary for her and her students to succeed.

“I am excited about the collaboration that I now have with teachers in our district as well as teachers across the nation because of our common language and goals through Common Core,” Reilly said. ”We will be able to have meaningful conversations about what is working and what isn’t, and share our ideas for teaching to the Common Core with each other.”

Because there are actually fewer standards, students may cover less material within a single grade, but delve deeper into the most important concepts. For younger students, covering less material will mean that they have a solid foundation in math and ELA before they move on to more advanced topics in middle and high school.

These standards are the result of a collaborative, state-led initiative to prepare students for college and career success. With its focus on critical thinking, analytical writing and real-world applications, students are engaging with material on a much deeper level than required under the state’s former learning standards.  Students are encouraged to explain how they arrived at the answer to math problems and reading comprehension questions, a challenge for even the brightest students.

Teachers note that the standards require students to answer questions drawing upon facts and evidence, and not just their personal experiences and opinions. It is important to remember, however, that the Common Core represents the baseline expectations for students to do well after high school graduation. Teachers still need to develop lessons that challenge gifted and talented students and schools need to continue to provide the necessary programs and staffing for faster-paced learners.

“These standards are poised to transform the entire landscape of P-20 education and align elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools so that these institutions work to support student success each step of the way,” President Douglas D. Baker of Northern Illinois University said. “Under the Illinois Learning Standards, students will enter college capable of doing the work so that we can help them advance to the next stepping stone of career.”

President Baker and other higher education officials and employers have indicated for some time high school graduates in Illinois and throughout the country need to be better prepared for college and the work force. Data from postsecondary institutions indicates that far too many students enter college needing to take remedial courses because of gaps in their knowledge. The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) reported that 12.2 percent of students enrolled in public universities, community colleges and independent institutions in Illinois required at least one remedial course during the 2010-11 school year.

Furthermore, research shows that students who enroll in remediation their first year of college are less likely to make it to the second year of college than their peers who do not require remediation. Other research shows that many Illinois high school graduates fail to earn the secondary education required to work in so-called “middle-skill jobs,” those jobs that typically require at least two years of college or training. These “middle-skill” jobs include police officers, firefighters, nurses, medical technicians, mechanics and electricians.

The Illinois Learning Standards are grounded in this research and other evidence pointing to the knowledge and skills that students need to succeed after high school.

The authors of the new standards studied the learning expectations of high achieving countries to ensure that American students are able to compete with students from across the globe. They used evidence from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science (TIMSS) study to inform the writing of the math standards and data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for the ELA standards. Parents have access to a wide range of support services from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois PTA and national PTA, and the non-profit education advocacy organization, Advance Illinois as well as the two state teacher associations, the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.


· ISBE provides information about the new learning standards and pending assessments aligned to those standards on its website. Updated information regarding the state’s learning standards can be found at http://www.isbe.net/common_core/default.htm.

· The Illinois Principals Association (IPA), being one of the state’s largest providers of professional development, has an extensive catalogue of online & face-to-face offerings dedicated to the Common Core State Standards.  The IPA’s professional development library can be searched here: http://www.ilprincipals.org/professional-development/event_search_form.  In addition, the IPA, in cooperation with 12 other principal’s associations in 9 other states, has developed the online, on-demand content delivery system called the Ed Leaders Network.  Offering schools their own learning management system, the Ed Leaders Network contains a range of content including Common Core.  Learn more about the Ed Leaders Network at www.edleadersnetwork.org.

· The Illinois Education Association offers a variety of resources for both parents and teachers: http://www.ieanea.org/resources/common-core-standards. IEA also has a link to the National Education Association’s “Common Core State Standards Toolkit,” which is a 53-page PDF broken down into these sections: overview of the standards, curriculum and instruction, professional development, assessment and reflection, English language learners, and students with disabilities. (http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/14047-CommonCore_Toolkit_14.pdf)

· The Illinois Federation of Teachers/AFT provides numerous resources at http://www.aft.org/issues/standards/nationalstandards/classroomresources.cfm. The site includes a link to “Share My Lesson,” a collaborative learning platform developed by teachers, for teachers that gives access to high-quality teaching resources and provides an online community where teachers can share ideas, lesson plans and more. Share My Lesson includes a Common Core State Standards Information Center at http://www.sharemylesson.com/article.aspx?storyCode=50000148, which provides a wealth of facts and statistics about the standards and offers CCSS aligned curricula and lesson plans, as well as the latest news on the Common Core and relevant videos and links. A Common Core Forum is also available for visitors to seek expert advice on the standards. The IFT will be launching a new online resources in the coming weeks as well, available at http://www.ift-aft.org/common-core.

· Advance Illinois has led the effort to create a coalition of agencies, including ISBE, and organizations that support the more rigorous standards. Called the Core Coalition, this group of more than 40 Illinois organizations is working together on the “Real Learning for Real Life” campaign to share the impact of the Common Core. Resources for parents, including information about the need for better standards and parent tips for talking to teachers about the new standards, can be found at http://commoncoreil.org/resources-for-families/. The site, which will also be offered in Spanish after the new year, contains information in Spanish, Polish, Chinese, and Arabic at http://commoncoreil.org/letters-to-illinois-parents/.

· The Illinois PTA also has resources for parents. “The Parents’ Guide for Success” contains accessible information about what students learn in ELA and mathematics at each grade level, as well as tips for talking to teachers and how parents can facilitate further learning at home. The parent guides are available in both English and Spanish at http://www.illinoispta.org/ccss.html.

Additional resources from the national PTA can be found at http://www.pta.org/advocacy/content.cfm?ItemNumber=3552&RDtoken=31974&userID.

For the latest news from the Illinois State Board of Education, follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Illinois-State-Board-oEducation/136022251779 or Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/ISBEnews. Visit the official ISBE website at http://www.isbe.net.

RCA Inspiration garners two 2014 Grammy Nominations

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

William Murphy and Deitrick Haddon score big with nods in The Best Gospel Album and Best Gospel Song Categories

New York, NY (BlackNews.com) – RCA Inspiration gospel recording artists William Murphy and Deitrick Haddon were honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) on Friday with nominations for the 56th annual Grammy Awards. Murphy’s album “God Chaser (Live)” will compete in the Best Gospel Album Category and Haddon’s single “Have Your Way” will vie for Best Gospel Song.

“We are thrilled to be among this year’s GrammyAward nominations,” said Geo Bivins, General Manager, RCA Inspiration. “Congratulations to William and Deitrick for achieving this incredible honor.”

The 2014 Grammy Awards Ceremony airs live on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26 at 8:00 p.m. ET/ PT.

For more on William Murphy, Deitrick Haddon and RCA Inspiration, please visit www.rcainspiration.com

Better Business Bureau Warns: Phony Websites Pretend to Be Overstock.com

Posted by Admin On December - 10 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL In the past year, Better Business Bureau has shut down more than one hundred fraudulent websites that illegally steal the famous BBB logo and imply they are legitimate sites. A noticeable trend recently is websites that include the word “overstock” in the domain name, hoping to fool consumers into thinking they are shopping with Overstock.com.

“Overstock.com is a highly visible online retailer, so it’s no wonder scammers try to mimic them,” noted Carrie A. Hurt, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, the umbrella organization for 113 BBBs across the U.S. and Canada. “We’ve seen this with other major retailers as well. BBB is warning consumers: be careful to look for the real domain when it comes to major retail sites.”

“Our web address is simple: overstock.com,” said Jonathan Johnson, Executive Vice Chairman of Overstock.com, Inc. “That’s all. If the name is longer, or uses any additional words, or letters, if it has any words other than ‘overstock’ before the dot com, it’s not our website.”

Overstock.com is a BBB Accredited Business with an A rating, as well as a National Partner of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The company has been recognized by many organizations, including Compuware as a “Best of the Web” award winner for four years in a row.

BBB suggests the following tips for online shoppers to avoid bogus websites:

  • Go to bbb.org to look up the BBB Business Reviews of your favorite online retailers.
  • Type the URL directly into your browser; do not click on a link from an email or social media site unless you are absolutely sure the message is from the legitimate business.
  • On the payment page, look for “https” at the beginning of the address (the “s” stands for “secure”).
  • Look for “Contact Us” information, including a real address, a toll-free customer service number, and other ways to reach the company if you have a problem.
  • Use a credit card (not a debit card) when shopping online for greater protections against possible fraud.
  • If a website has a BBB Accredited Business seal, click on it. A real seal should link directly to that company’s BBB Business Review.

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.  The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.

About Overstock.com

Overstock.com (NASDAQ: OSTK) is an online discount retailer based in Salt Lake City, Utah that sells a broad range of products including furniture, rugs, bedding, electronics, clothing, jewelry and cars. Worldstock.com, a fair trade department dedicated to selling artisan-crafted products from around the world offers additional unique items. Main Street Revolution supports small businesses across the United States by providing them a national customer base. The Nielsen State of the Media: Consumer Usage Report placed Overstock.com among the top five most visited mass merchandiser websites in 2011. The NRF Foundation/American Express 2011 Customer Choice Awards ranked Overstock.com #4 in customer service among all U.S. retailers. Overstock.com sells internationally under the name O.co. Overstock.com and O.co regularly post information about the company and other related matters under Investor Relations on its website

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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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