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Archive for August 8th, 2014

President Obama Authorizes Two Operations in Iraq – Targeted Airstrikes and a Humanitarian Effort

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

President Barack Obama’s Statement on Iraq

State Dining Room


Good evening.  Today  (7/7/14) I authorized two operations in Iraq — targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.  Let me explain the actions we’re taking and why.

First, I said in June — as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq — that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation required it.  In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces.

To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.  We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.  We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.

Second, at the request of the Iraqi government — we’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain.  As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis.  And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect.  Countless Iraqis have been displaced.  And chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions, and enslaving Yezidi women.

In recent days, Yezidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives.  And thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — are now hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs.  They’re without food, they’re without water.  People are starving.  And children are dying of thirst.  Meanwhile, ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide.  So these innocent families are faced with a horrible choice:  descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.

I’ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world.  So let me be clear about why we must act, and act now.  When we face a situation like we do on that mountain — with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help — in this case, a request from the Iraqi government — and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.  We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide.  That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.

I’ve, therefore, authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there.  Already, American aircraft have begun conducting humanitarian airdrops of food and water to help these desperate men, women and children survive.  Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, “There is no one coming to help.”  Well today, America is coming to help.  We’re also consulting with other countries — and the United Nations — who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis.

I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these.  I understand that.  I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done.  As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.  And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.  The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.

However, we can and should support moderate forces who can bring stability to Iraq.  So even as we carry out these two missions, we will continue to pursue a broader strategy that empowers Iraqis to confront this crisis.  Iraqi leaders need to come together and forge a new government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis, and that can fight back against the threats like ISIL.  Iraqis have named a new President, a new Speaker of Parliament, and are seeking consensus on a new Prime Minister.  This is the progress that needs to continue in order to reverse the momentum of the terrorists who prey on Iraq’s divisions.

Once Iraq has a new government, the United States will work with it and other countries in the region to provide increased support to deal with this humanitarian crisis and counterterrorism challenge.  None of Iraq’s neighbors have an interest in this terrible suffering or instability.

And so we’ll continue to work with our friends and allies to help refugees get the shelter and food and water they so desperately need, and to help Iraqis push back against ISIL.  The several hundred American advisors that I ordered to Iraq will continue to assess what more we can do to help train, advise and support Iraqi forces going forward.  And just as I consulted Congress on the decisions I made today, we will continue to do so going forward.

My fellow Americans, the world is confronted by many challenges.  And while America has never been able to right every wrong, America has made the world a more secure and prosperous place.  And our leadership is necessary to underwrite the global security and prosperity that our children and our grandchildren will depend upon.  We do so by adhering to a set of core principles.  We do whatever is necessary to protect our people.  We support our allies when they’re in danger.  We lead coalitions of countries to uphold international norms.  And we strive to stay true to the fundamental values — the desire to live with basic freedom and dignity — that is common to human beings wherever they are.  That’s why people all over the world look to the United States of America to lead.  And that’s why we do it.

So let me close by assuring you that there is no decision that I take more seriously than the use of military force.  Over the last several years, we have brought the vast majority of our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.  And I’ve been careful to resist calls to turn time and again to our military, because America has other tools in our arsenal than our military.  We can also lead with the power of our diplomacy, our economy, and our ideals.

But when the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action.  That’s my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief.  And when many thousands of innocent civilians are faced with the danger of being wiped out, and we have the capacity to do something about it, we will take action.  That is our responsibility as Americans.  That’s a hallmark of American leadership.  That’s who we are.

So tonight, we give thanks to our men and women in uniform  -— especially our brave pilots and crews over Iraq who are protecting our fellow Americans and saving the lives of so many men, women and children that they will never meet.  They represent American leadership at its best.  As a nation, we should be proud of them, and of our country’s enduring commitment to uphold our own security and the dignity of our fellow human beings.

God bless our Armed Forces, and God bless the United States of America.

Emergency Response to U.S. Attack on Iraq

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Protest today, Friday 8/8/14 at the Federal Plaza, Adams & Dearborn, 4:30 to 5:30 P.M.

CHICAGO, IL – As U.S. bombing of Iraq begins again, Chicagoans will gather today in protest from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm in Federal Plaza (Adams & Dearborn) to reject escalation of war by President Obama.

Organizers say the public should not believe the “humanitarian” lies used to justify bombing Iraq, which are no more true coming from the Obama administration than were the lies used by previous administrations to justify U.S. military attacks.

The previous U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq took more than 1,000,000 Iraqi lives and displaced millions more. Today, demonstrators seek to expose how U.S. policy fueled the sectarian strife that helped create ISIS and will send the message that adding more U.S. weaponry to the mix brings only more death and destruction, further embittering the peoples of the region towards the West.

In justifying the bombing, Obama last night said that the U.S. can’t “turn a blind eye to genocide.” In the light of his steadfast support for the month-long Israeli slaughter of Gaza – resupplying munitions to the Israeli Defense Force mid-battle – his statement perhaps surpasses even the most hypocritical statements of George W. Bush.

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/746037655433442/

Co-Sponsors: 8th Day Center for Justice, ANSWER-Chicago, Anti-War Committee – Chicago, Chicago Light Brigade, Food Not Bombs Pilsen, Gay Liberation Network, NW Indiana Vets for Peace, and World Can’t Wait Chicago.

Candlelight Vigil for Gaza Saturday: A Call for Humanity

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL — On Saturday, August 9, there will be a peaceful and somber candlelight vigil in remembrance of all the souls lost in the ongoing illegitimate assault on Palestinians in Gaza.

Religious figures from the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities will say a prayer and speak for humanity, peace,  justice and unity. We will also participate in a group song encouraging peace, freedom and humanity.

Participants are encouraged to wear a sign with the names and ages of Palestinian civilians recently killed by the Israeli military in Gaza pinned to their chest to give identity to the victims lost in this tragic and unjust conflict. For a list of names of Palestinians killed since July 8th, 2014 — 1,459 names have been confirmed while the actual death toll stands at 1,886 (as of Aug. 7) — see: http://www.imemc.org/article/68429

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/271452383040930/

Speakers: Speakers representing the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths

Route: Meeting at Water Tower Park, where the commemoration speech will take place then walking to Tribune Tower where the prayers are given and candles will be lit.

Audio/Visual

Chicago light brigade will have a message lit. Every attendee will have a candle lit.

Poetry: two poems, one from the Jewish perspective on what happened in Gaza recently ( http://rabbibrant.com/2014/08/01/for-tisha-bav-a-lamentation-for-gaza/) and one from the Palestinian perspective remembering a time when we were friends, before the occupation and how there is hope for us to make up and live together harmoniously.

Art: Bob Fields from the Jewish voice for peace is contributing an art project representing the dear life lost with hope and life.
Song:

Lyrics of song that will be sung at vigil:

“Palestine” Written by Matt Jones
If you think of the middle east,
in this modern time
You can’t help but say the word:
Palestine

People there have lost their land
some have lost their home
they live in other countries,
their freedom almost gone

(Chorus)
Palestine needs her freedom
Palestine needs our love
Palestine needs her freedom
Palestine needs our love

There seems to be no answer
to give us the reason why
people cannot live
so no one has to die

Take a stand for freedom
take a stand for truth
take a stand for justice,
that’s what we’ve gotta do, cuz…

(Chorus)

People there are rich,
people there are poor
some have education,
so what are they fighting for?

Fighting for their freedom,
fighting for their land
fighting for their children
let’s help them take a stand

(Chorus)

People of all countries,
of every race and creed
we need a new beginning,
let us plant the seed

Plant the seed of love,
and let that love seed grow
Plant the seed for everyone,
so all the world will know…

Milwaukee Man Wins $½ Million For Wrongful Stop & Frisk by Cops

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

MILWAUKEE — A jury in federal court late awarded Leo Hardy, 40, just over half a million dollars for a wrongful “stop and frisk” and false arrest by Milwaukee police stemming from a March 2012 traffic stop.

The case is the first of several federal suits to reach a jury in cases involving alleged improper strip searches by the Milwaukee Police Department.  Mr. Hardy was represented by Robin Shellow of Milwaukee’s The Shellow Group, and Russell Ainsworth, Heather Lewis Donnell and Theresa Kleinhaus of the Chicago-based firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law.  The Shellow Group and Loevy & Loevy represent over a dozen other citizens who have filed similar lawsuits against the Milwaukee PD.

According to his suit, “Mr. Hardy had not committed any traffic violation.  Rather, Officers [Michael] Gasser and [Keith] Garland used an alleged traffic stop as a false pretense to search Mr. Hardy without probable cause.… Officer Gasser then searched Mr. Hardy by reaching his hands into Mr. Hardy’s pants and inappropriately touched Plaintiff’s genitalia.”

Fearing for his safety, Mr. Hardy ran, but was quickly caught by the defendant officers who, in turn, allegedly conducted a much more public strip search, removing Mr. Hardy’s pants and underwear in front of several neighbors and other witnesses near his home.

“While awaiting transport, Defendant Officers searched Mr. Hardy a third time by reaching inside his pants an touching his genitalia again,” said the suit.

No contraband was found during any of the searches, and when Mr. Hardy complained of the incident to officers with Internal Affairs, they allegedly threatened him with charges of obstructing justice if his statements were untrue.

Copies of Mr. Hardy’s lawsuit are available by emailing andy@loevy.com

Quick to Punish

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 1 COMMENT

Quick to Punish

Catalyst Chicago

By Sarah Karp

Cory Warren and a group of his classmates at Phillips Academy High School had a challenge: Work with a community organization to try to convince their peers that drinking and taking drugs are bad ideas.

Alcohol and drug abuse are virtually never talked about in Chicago Public Schools, even in high schools, he says. Yet teens can be especially susceptible to peer pressure to drink and do drugs, and the consequences for drug-related offenses in CPS can be severe.

“I think in elementary school they told us not to smoke squares (slang for cigarettes), but no one said anything about marijuana,” Cory recalls. But pot-smoking and drinking are all around him, he says—on the street, in his home and in one particular hallway at school. As a football player, Cory stays away from it. And he desperately wants his younger brother to follow suit.

In this day and age, recreational marijuana use is legal in two states and technically only warrants a ticket in Chicago. So Cory and his classmates choose a nuanced message for their skit, one that focuses on the negative impact of coming to school high and getting drunk at prom.

“Your eyes are super-red and you are going to be in space in class,” Cory says. “So even if you are going to do it, wait ’til after school.”

Getting caught on drugs or carrying drugs in CPS carries consequences beyond the academic that range from a short suspension to arrest; non-punitive or educational responses are outside the norm, especially for schools in poor communities. Though the district’s revised Student Code of Conduct is intended to make discipline more equitable and send the message that students should only be suspended if they are a danger to themselves and others, non-violent drug possession ranks as the second-most serious of infractions, and drug sales rank as the most serious, along with arson and rape.

As a result, thousands of students face stiff consequences for drug violations that mostly involve less than 30 grams of marijuana—just over an ounce.

Over the past two school years, 2,300 students were suspended for drug use, possession or sale; 527 had an expulsion hearing, though only 22 were eventually expelled; and 1,066 were arrested, according to data from the state’s School Incident Reporting System, CPS and the Chicago Police Department. (Expulsion data are through April 30.)

The numbers contribute to the district’s overall arrest rate, which is more than double the rate in New York City and Los Angeles, though Chicago has fewer than half the number of students (see story on page 8).

When police get involved in drug cases, 99 percent result in an arrest. Police are called to schools far more often for incidents of assault or battery, yet only about 25 percent of these incidents result in an arrest.

While some schools are quick to mete out harsh punishment, other schools let small-scale drug offenses stay off the radar.

One Gage Park High School student, an African-American girl, said she came to school high most of the time for many years. The security guard and some teachers and administrators knew she was smoking marijuana and commented on it to her. But there were no other consequences.

Eventually, she says her foster mother realized how bad the problem was and got her into a drug treatment program. “I just needed someone to talk to,” says the young woman, who cannot be identified because she is a ward of the state.

At Kelyvn Park High School, one young Latino man says the first time he was caught with some weed, his parents were called and that was that. The second time he was suspended. But his friend adds that students at the school get suspended for relatively minor offenses.

In some schools, drugs, especially marijuana, are not a big deal given the other challenges in a community. “The students here have many problems,” says Ali Muhammad, principal of Austin Polytech, a small West Side High School. “Drugs are just one of them.”

Kathleen Kane-Willis, interim director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, notes that youth drug use is much more complicated than adult drug use. Even some who support legalizing marijuana think that young people should face some consequences when they come to school with it or on it.

Yet Kane-Willis worries about policies that are not consistent. In a study the consortium released in the spring, she found that people in Chicago are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession while people outside the city are more likely to be ticketed—despite a Chicago ordinance that allows for such ticketing.

These differences extend to schools and districts, something that worries Kane-Willis.

“If you don’t have a clear policy, then it is like the wild, wild West,” she says. “It is the variation in the system that makes it unjust.”

As the perceived risk of marijuana use goes down, its use among teenagers is on the rise, according to a recent survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Surveys have shown that there’s little difference between city and suburban teens in the level of drug use, but young people with greater access to money and resources are more likely to use hard drugs like heroin and cocaine.

In many suburban school districts, officials have incorporated education and treatment programs into their response to the problem. Some Chicago schools refer teens to programs, but the district has no systemic approach to providing students with intervention services.

Still, it is impossible to get a comprehensive look at how school districts outside of Chicago approach drug use. State law requires that districts report drug-related incidents, as well as students caught with firearms and attacks on school personnel. But a 2012 Chicago Tribune investigation found that districts were ignoring the law, which was supposed to help parents determine the safety of schools.

Following the Tribune’s investigation, big school districts, such as Chicago, Naperville and Plainfield, started reporting incidents. But at this point, only about 16 percent of all public school districts in the state have met the mandate. The Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois State Police, which are in charge of collecting the data, say they don’t have the manpower to force compliance.

In the past two years, 139 school districts have reported more than than 3,000 drug-related cases.

By and large, the most common punishment for students caught with drugs is suspension. And as in Chicago, disparities exist. School districts with more than half low-income students are much more likely to have students arrested than other schools, and slightly more likely to expel students.

Though anecdotal, many suburban school officials say that they offer students treatment or education to keep suspensions down or in lieu of suspension altogether.

Just this year, Shepard High School in southwest suburban Palos Heights began contracting with Rosecrance Drug Rehab Center. A Rosecrance therapist comes to Shepard once a week to provide therapy for students who have been caught with drugs or who came to school high or under the influence.

“We backed off of kicking kids out,” says Carleton Rolland, assistant principal at Shepard. “We want to help the kids. We want to get them on the right track.” If the student continues to show up drunk or high, administrators will encourage their parents to place them in an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, he says.

Rolland says he has never called the police to arrest a student for a drug offense, but he does call police to have them come to impound the drugs.

At Stevenson High School in the well-to-do suburb of Lincolnshire, the school district has a policy in place to handle drug use and possession, but it is “not a sweeping blanket approach,” says the school’s spokesman. The Stevenson guidebook says that officials may refer students to the school resource officer, the title that many suburbs use for the police officer stationed at their school. It also says that school officials may suspend students or recommend them for expulsion.

But to lessen the punishment, students can agree to go to a program run by Omni Youth Services twice a week for about eight weeks. Cristina Cortesi, Stevenson’s first-ever substance abuse prevention coordinator, says the educational program, called Seven Challenges, aims to get students to think critically about their decisions.

In the past, a second offense could result in expulsion. But Cortesi, who was hired this year, says they are piloting a program in which second-time offenders are referred to a more intensive 12-week program, which can either be inpatient or outpatient.

After completion of the program, school officials consider whether an expulsion is necessary, she says.

Cortesi also runs multiple voluntary support groups for students who are thinking about their drug use or who are currently enrolled in or have completed a treatment program.

At Stevenson, every student with a first offense agreed to participate in the Omni program, Cortesi says. However, she reports that at another high school where she previously worked, some students would rather take a long suspension instead.

“That is frustrating,” she says. “We’re limited in the scope of what we can do at that point, other than enforce school discipline policy.”

She says that if students continue to get in trouble with drugs, they are told they will be expelled. “But at that point, consequences are not going to make the difference,” she says. “Treatment makes the difference.”

Gun and drug offenses are now the only two categories of offenses that require police notification under the new CPS Student Code of Conduct. Some suburban school districts leave it up to administrators, saying that police “may” be notified.

Mathilda de Dios, an outreach worker for Northwestern University’s Children and Family Justice Center, says she would like to see student arrests for marijuana offenses become a non-option. “In a city willing to ticket adults, we have a double standard,” she says. “There is no reason why we should hold youth more accountable.”

It’s more important, she points out, for schools to address substance abuse problems with help.

Up until now, the only way a CPS student could be referred to the district’s discipline intervention program is to go through an expulsion hearing. The new code of conduct allows principals to ask for a referral directly.

Joel Rodriguez, an education organizer for the Southwest Organizing Project, says the option is a positive change. But the intervention program, called SMART, takes place on Saturdays at a downtown location and often students must wait for weeks to get admitted.

Despite the code of conduct’s shift in policy, a critical missing piece remains, according to Rodriguez and other activists: Lack of money for social-emotional programs to help students deal with problems such as substance abuse.

Some schools, on their own, develop relationships with outside organizations and then make their own stipulations for students. Farragut High School’s dean of discipline, Francisco Torres, says his school this year developed a relationship with a local health center that operates a counseling program for students. He referred 10 students to the program in lieu of suspending them.

The end result: Only four students were suspended in 2014 for possession or sale of drugs, down from 17 in 2013, according to the state’s School Incident Reporting System.

Torres says that students don’t think that using marijuana is a problem. But from his point of view, drug use and gang activity are intertwined. “If we can stop them from using drugs, we can also stop them from gang-banging,” he says.

Other schools rely on parents. Lincoln Park High School reported 68 drug-related incidents in 2013 and 39 in 2014, according to the Reporting System. Of those, 56 were for drug use, 51 were for possession and selling. Most of the students who had drugs were suspended. But in 20 percent of the cases, 23 overall, school officials checked off the “other” box.

Dean Donovan Robinson says that in recent years, fewer students have been caught coming to school high on drugs or with drugs on them.

“We can sit down and talk to them and get their parents on the phone,” says Robinson, who gives the confiscated drugs to police and throws paraphernalia in the garbage.

Cecilia Farfan, assistant principal at World Language High School, says that students must be arrested if they are found in possession of drugs. But that doesn’t happen often; last school year, Farfan says, the school had only one drug possession case. The student brought three or four baggies of marijuana to school and was charged with possession with intent to distribute.

“We were surprised it was him. He comes from an extremely good family,” Farfan says.

She says she has had students suspected of being high or drunk. But it is tricky. “Sometimes we call the parent and tell them to pick the student up for a day because it is a liability.”

The school does not have money for prevention programs or for counseling, whether for substance abuse or other issues. Counselors try to help students who seem to have problems, but mostly by referring them to outside resources.

“We have to concentrate on academics, test scores, reading, ACT preparation,” Farfan says. “Drug counseling and prevention is not something we spend money on.”

Rick Velasquez, executive director of Youth Outreach Services, says that he definitely sees a difference in how drug use in schools is viewed and handled in CPS versus the suburbs. Youth Outreach Services, which has a contract with Cook County to provide juvenile diversion programs in Chicago and throughout the suburbs, serves a mix of wealthy and poorer suburbs as well as the city.

“Suburbs are more likely to take the health perspective,” he says. “They also are concerned about liability.”

Velasquez says that at one point, his organization was hired to do programs in CPS, but that work has fallen by the wayside.

“The schools are so focused on performance and test-taking that they don’t look at the whole child,” he says. “They don’t look at them holistically.”

Sarah Karp, deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago, wrote this story as a fellow of the Social Justice News Nexus, a project of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
karp@catalyst-chicago.org.

Bipartisan Efforts for National Felony Disenfranchisement Reform

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Disenfranchisement News

(From the Sentencing Project)

National: Bipartisan Efforts for National Felony Disenfranchisement Reform

With over 5.8 million Americans barred from voting due to a felony conviction, policymakers have started advancing national legislation to restore voting rights, reports The Root. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has recently authored the Civil Rights Voting Restoration Act as well as the REDEEM Act, calling felony disenfranchisement “the biggest problem of voting rights facing our country.” Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, author of the Democracy Restoration Act, has echoed Sen. Paul’s concerns. Over 4 million people nationwide are unable to exercise their right to vote even after having completed their prison sentences.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Sen. Cardin’s legislation would restore voting rights to all people with felony convictions who have completed their sentences, whereas Sen. Paul’s bill limits voting rights restoration to people convicted of non-violent crimes who have served some or all of their probation. Although both bills would only impact federal elections, leaving all other elections under state voting laws, voting rights activists are encouraged by the recent bipartisan interest on these issues.

Wyoming

State Bill Could Restore Voting Rights to Thousands

Thousands of people with felony convictions could regain their right to vote under a proposal to be considered by a Wyoming legislative panel, according to The Washington Post. The bill would enact automatic voting rights restoration for people with non-violent, first-time offenses who have finished their prison, probation, and parole terms. According to the ACLU’s Wyoming chapter, the bill would have restored voting rights to 4,200 people between 2000 and 2011.

At present, people convicted of felonies in Wyoming may only regain their voting rights after a five-year waiting period, either through a pardon by the governor or action by the state parole board. However, the parole board has complained that the current policy does not establish criteria for reenfranchisement. Bob Lampert, Director of the state Department of Corrections, told The Associated Press that restoring voting rights may help reduce recidivism. “The data suggest that people who have their rights restored and engage in the voting process are significantly less likely to come back to prison than those who fail to engage in the voting process,” Lampert said. In 13 states, people convicted of felonies can regain their right to vote after they finish serving their prison sentences. An additional 23 states permit people with felony convictions to vote after completing their terms of parole and probation. Maine and Vermont permit all residents to vote, including people in prison.

Kentucky

Louisville Metro Council Unanimously Approves Resolution in Support of Automatic Rights Restoration

The Louisville Metro Council recently approved a resolution calling on state lawmakers to enact automatic voting rights restoration for individuals convicted of most felonies once they have completed their prison, parole, and probation sentences. The Kentucky state constitution bars individuals with felony convictions from voting except by an executive pardon, and changing the state’s disenfranchisement policy requires state lawmakers to draft a constitutional amendment for approval by voters.

In an op-ed in The Courier-Journal, Councilwoman Attica Scott and Bonifacio Aleman, Executive Director of Kentucky Jobs with Justice, argue that applying for an executive pardon in Kentucky is a complex process that can be susceptible to racial bias and can change depending on the governor in office. One former governor required all applicants to write an essay explaining why they deserved the right to vote. The applicants’ fates were determined by the grades their essays received, a process that Scott and Aleman compare to literacy tests of the Jim Crow era. The Sentencing Project reports that in 2010, over 180,000 individuals with felony convictions could not vote in Kentucky, while only 4,260 individuals with felony convictions had their voting rights restored between 2008 and 2010.

IDHFS Collects More Than $1 Billion for 10th Straight Year

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

New record set for FY14

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services announced that total fiscal year 2014 child support collections for Illinois families have topped $1.4 billion for the first time in history.  This is the tenth straight year the department’s Division of Child Support Services has collected more than $1 billion.

The record was announced as Illinois celebrates National Child Support Awareness month.

Total child support collected in Illinois first surpassed the $1 billion mark in 2005. Child support collection has exceeded that mark every year since then.  In fiscal year 2014, which ended in June, collections passed $1.4 billion after hovering near that mark for the last three years.

“Child support collection is often a crucial tool that helps meet the basic needs of thousands of Illinois children,” said HFS Director Julie Hamos. “Without the program, many of the families who depend on it would suffer.”

“We recognize that most parents provide economic and emotional support to their children, even without the assistance of our program,” said Pamela Lowry, administrator of the Division of Child Support Services. “But for those families who need our help, we are proud of our record of collections. Director Hamos and I are committed to improving the economic status of children in Illinois.”

These collections reflect all support processed by HFS.  The Department is responsible for two kinds of child support cases – those in which only payment-processing services are received through the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) and those which require full enforcement of support with the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS).  Historically, about 60% of collections are for full-enforcement cases.

Parents who receive payment processing services from the SDU are afforded the convenience of direct deposit or electronic payment cards for child support collections, with the money nearly always available for use on the same day it is received by the SDU.  A record of the payments is kept, and is easily available on-line at https://www.ilsdu.com/.  The SDU, which is managed by HFS, also exchanges information about payments with Circuit Court Clerks in counties across the Illinois.

Parents who enroll for full enforcement services from the child support program through DCSS not only receive SDU services but also receive a broad array of other free services.  The child support program establishes legal parentage for children and child support obligations, enforces child support orders and provides referral and order modification services for child support payors who are having difficulty meeting their obligations due to unemployment or other life-changing circumstances.    904**14

Parents can enroll for full enforcement services at http://childsupportillinois.com/customers/apply.html.

Most child support is collected through income withholding.  The employers of parents who are obligated to pay child support withhold the ordered payments from the parent and submit the payments to the SDU (for both SDU only and full enforcement cases).  For parents who enroll in full enforcement services, HFS tracks the employment of parents who are ordered to pay support and automatically notifies new employers of the obligation.  This can significantly reduce gaps in child support due to changes in employment.

The Division often collects support from parents who have the ability to pay but who are avoiding their obligation.  Many of these parents do not hold traditional jobs and thus avoid income withholding.  During FY14, nearly $130 million was collected from formerly non-paying parents through special enforcement undertaken by DCSS.

These methods include “freezing and seizing” bank accounts, notifying state professional and occupational licensing agencies to suspend or revoke licenses until the parent complies with the child support order, collaborating with the Department of Natural Resources to deny hunting and fishing licenses to non-compliant parents, notifying the U.S. Secretary of State to deny requests for new or renewing passports, working with the Illinois Secretary of State to suspend driver’s licenses, reporting child support debt to credit reporting agencies, and intercepting state and federal income tax refunds. Winnings from Illinois lottery games are also intercepted for child support debt.

In FY14, nearly $55 million in federal income tax refunds were intercepted for child support debt, while $4.5 million was intercepted from Illinois income tax refunds, lottery winnings and other state payments.  Parents who wanted hunting or fishing licenses and were denied paid $340,000.  Delinquent parents who wanted to avoid driver’s license suspensions or have suspensions lifted paid $48 million.  Collections enforcement seized $19.4 million from bank accounts, lawsuit payments and other liens put in place by the child support program.

Collections by fiscal year since 2005:

2005 $1.085 billion

2006 $1.145 billion

2007 $1.224 billion

2008 $1.328 billion

2009 $1.387 billion

2010 $1.359 billion

2011 $1.389 billion

2012 $1.393 billion

2013 $1.388 billion

2014 $1.414 billion

The Better Business Bureau Issues Alert On Loan Scam

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 1 COMMENT

CHICAGO, IL – Despite an improving economy, thousands of individuals still find themselves cash strapped. Armed with that knowledge, scammers continue to rip-off consumers who can least afford it. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has received reports from a steady number of individuals who were the targets of or have fallen victim to loan scams. Today, scammers are using the Internet, phone and mail to reach their victims.

Chicago resident Stephen Hildebrand applied for an online loan. From the one application, he received three responses that promised guaranteed loans of $5,000. To receive the cash from a company calling itself Eloan.com he paid an upfront fee of $550. He then paid $423.80 for a loan from GE Capital Bank. Mr. Hildebrand says, “I got a third call stating I could get a loan from $2,000 to $7,000, but I did not continue a full conversation with them.” He also stated, “All the calls came on the same day and that they used the same verbiage word for word.”

“Advance fee loan scams are not new and they flourish when times are tough, and people are struggling to get by,” said Steve J. Bernas president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “In most cases desperation is a factor for people grasping for a financial lifeline. It only worsens the situation when they fall victim to one of these scams.”

Using all means available scammers will sometimes pretend to represent an existing business. That is the case in one scheme where the scammer sent loan applications in the name of a payday lender located on Cicero Ave. in Chicago. There was no need to visit the office since the application could be completed online. All that was needed to be approved for the “instant” personal loan was the advance payment of $230.00 which would prove that the applicant could afford to make the payments on the $5,000 loan.

The application required that the individual applying for the loan purchase a GreenDot Moneypak card and have the advanced payment loaded onto the card, and provide the PIN number to the scammer. Once the payment was loaded, the individual was told to provide the card and pin number to the scammer.

Individuals who run these loan scams can be relentless. Andy Cordell of Rockford, IL says, “I received 15-20 calls claiming I’d been approved for a loan from American Financial Services that I never applied for.” Angry about the repeated calls to his home phone Mr. Cordell said “I did the same thing to them. I called and left 20-30 messages. No one ever picked-up until I called using my cell phone. That’s when I got the name of the business.”

Bernas noted, “Loan scams are big business. Reports state that in recent years, victims across the country have lost an estimated quarter million dollars to these scams.”

BBB advises cash strapped individuals to look for the red flags of a loan scam:

  • A lender isn’t interested in your credit history – A lender who uses terms such as “Bad Credit? No problem” or “Get money fast” and “No hassle loan guaranteed”
  • Advanced fees and those that aren’t disclosed clearly and prominently – Any upfront fee that the lender wants to collect before granting the loan is a cue to walk away.
  • A loan offered by phone – It is illegal for companies doing business by phone in the U.S. to promise a loan and ask you to pay for it before they deliver.
  • A lender who uses a copy-cat or wanna-be name – Scammers give their companies names that sound like well-known businesses and create websites that look professional; some may even produce forged paperwork.
  • The lender is not registered in your state – Lenders and loan brokers are required to register with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
  • Lender who ask you to wire money or pay an individual – Don’t make a payment for a loan directly to an individual or wire money to another country.

For more information on finding businesses you can trust, visit bbb.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

California Couple Fined $500 for Conserving Water?

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS
Care2 Petitionsite Action Alert
Action Alert!

California is suffering from one of its worst droughts in decades — so why did a Southern California couple receive a fine for trying to conserve water?
Please sign the petition today! Don’t Punish People for Trying To Conserve Water!

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The drought in California is now so bad that the government has instituted emergency conservation measures, including threatening residents with a $500 fine for wasting water.

Yet some cities are continuing to issue $500 fines of their own — as a penalty for having brown lawns.

A couple in Glendora, California was doing their best to save water by not using their sprinklers or their hose. As a consequence, their lawn started to turn brown. They then received a notice from the city informing them that if they didn’t “green up” their lawn in the next 60 days, they could face fines of up to $500 and criminal prosecution.

As the state suffers, yard appearance should be cities’ last priority, especially when Californians are just trying to comply with new rules to help their environment.

Tell Glendora to waive the $500 brown-lawn penalty and concentrate on protecting California’s water supply!

Kathleen
Thank you for taking action,

Kathleen J.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite

New York Times Bestselling Author to Appear at State Fair

Posted by Admin On August - 8 - 2014 1 COMMENT

Award winning author hosts public reading in Lt. Governor’s tent

SPRINGFIELD, IL — Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon’s tent on Saturday (8/9/14)  will feature a public reading by New York Times bestselling author and Illinoisan Joan Bauer. Bauer will read excerpts from her award-winning novel, “Rules of the Road.”

Joan Bauer, who is originally from River Forest, is a New York Times bestselling author whose awards include the Newbery Honor Medal and the Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Prize. Her youth novel “Rules of the Road,” was named one of the top young adult books of the quarter century by the American Library Association.

“Rules of the Road” tells the story of awkward, 16 year-old Jenna who learns life lessons as she drives her crusty old employer cross country in a bid to save the family business. This reading is recommended for students in grades six through eight.

Illinois authors selected for Illinois Reads 2014 and 2013 will appear in Lt. Governor Simon’s tent throughout the fair. For a full schedule of readings, please visit ltgov.illinois.gov.

DATE: Saturday, Aug. 9

TIME: 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

LOCATION: Illinois State Fairgrounds, Lt. Governor’s tent, Main Street and Brian Raney Avenue

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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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