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Archive for December 18th, 2014

President Obama’s Statement on Cuba Policy Changes

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on President Obama’s Statement on Cuba Policy Changes

Cabinet Room

12:01 P.M. EST

“Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born…” – President Barack Obama

The President’s Statement: Good afternoon.  Today, the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba.

In the most significant changes in our policy in more than fifty years, we will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries.  Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas.

There’s a complicated history between the United States and Cuba.  I was born in 1961 –- just over two years after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, and just a few months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, which tried to overthrow his regime. Over the next several decades, the relationship between our countries played out against the backdrop of the Cold War, and America’s steadfast opposition to communism.  We are separated by just over 90 miles. But year after year, an ideological and economic barrier hardened between our two countries.

Meanwhile, the Cuban exile community in the United States made enormous contributions to our country –- in politics and business, culture and sports.  Like immigrants before, Cubans helped remake America, even as they felt a painful yearning for the land and families they left behind.  All of this bound America and Cuba in a unique relationship, at once family and foe.

Proudly, the United States has supported democracy and human rights in Cuba through these five decades. We have done so primarily through policies that aimed to isolate the island, preventing the most basic travel and commerce that Americans can enjoy anyplace else.  And though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, no other nation joins us in imposing these sanctions, and it has had little effect beyond providing the Cuban government with a rationale for restrictions on its people.  Today, Cuba is still governed by the Castros and the Communist Party that came to power half a century ago.

Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.  Consider that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China –- a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party.  Nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation.

That’s why -– when I came into office -– I promised to re-examine our Cuba policy.  As a start, we lifted restrictions for Cuban Americans to travel and send remittances to their families in Cuba.  These changes, once controversial, now seem obvious. Cuban Americans have been reunited with their families, and are the best possible ambassadors for our values.  And through these exchanges, a younger generation of Cuban Americans has increasingly questioned an approach that does more to keep Cuba closed off from an interconnected world.

While I have been prepared to take additional steps for some time, a major obstacle stood in our way –- the wrongful imprisonment, in Cuba, of a U.S. citizen and USAID sub-contractor Alan Gross for five years.  Over many months, my administration has held discussions with the Cuban government about Alan’s case, and other aspects of our relationship.  His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me, and to Cuba’s President Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case, and to address Cuba’s interest in the release of three Cuban agents who have been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.

Today, Alan returned home –- reunited with his family at long last.  Alan was released by the Cuban government on humanitarian grounds.  Separately, in exchange for the three Cuban agents, Cuba today released one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba, and who has been imprisoned for nearly two decades.  This man, whose sacrifice has been known to only a few, provided America with the information that allowed us to arrest the network of Cuban agents that included the men transferred to Cuba today, as well as other spies in the United States.  This man is now safely on our shores.

Having recovered these two men who sacrificed for our country, I’m now taking steps to place the interests of the people of both countries at the heart of our policy.

First, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to immediately begin discussions with Cuba to reestablish diplomatic relations that have been severed since January of 1961.  Going forward, the United States will reestablish an embassy in Havana, and high-ranking officials will visit Cuba.

Where we can advance shared interests, we will -– on issues like health, migration, counterterrorism, drug trafficking and disaster response.  Indeed, we’ve seen the benefits of cooperation between our countries before.  It was a Cuban, Carlos Finlay, who discovered that mosquitoes carry yellow fever; his work helped Walter Reed fight it.  Cuba has sent hundreds of health care workers to Africa to fight Ebola, and I believe American and Cuban health care workers should work side by side to stop the spread of this deadly disease.

Now, where we disagree, we will raise those differences directly -– as we will continue to do on issues related to democracy and human rights in Cuba.  But I believe that we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote our values through engagement.  After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked.  It’s time for a new approach.

Second, I’ve instructed Secretary Kerry to review Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.  This review will be guided by the facts and the law.  Terrorism has changed in the last several decades.  At a time when we are focused on threats from al Qaeda to ISIL, a nation that meets our conditions and renounces the use of terrorism should not face this sanction.

Third, we are taking steps to increase travel, commerce, and the flow of information to and from Cuba.  This is fundamentally about freedom and openness, and also expresses my belief in the power of people-to-people engagement.  With the changes I’m announcing today, it will be easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, and Americans will be able to use American credit and debit cards on the island.  Nobody represents America’s values better than the American people, and I believe this contact will ultimately do more to empower the Cuban people.

I also believe that more resources should be able to reach the Cuban people.  So we’re significantly increasing the amount of money that can be sent to Cuba, and removing limits on remittances that support humanitarian projects, the Cuban people, and the emerging Cuban private sector.

I believe that American businesses should not be put at a disadvantage, and that increased commerce is good for Americans and for Cubans.  So we will facilitate authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba.  U.S. financial institutions will be allowed to open accounts at Cuban financial institutions.  And it will be easier for U.S. exporters to sell goods in Cuba.

I believe in the free flow of information.  Unfortunately, our sanctions on Cuba have denied Cubans access to technology that has empowered individuals around the globe.  So I’ve authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba.  Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.

These are the steps that I can take as President to change this policy.  The embargo that’s been imposed for decades is now codified in legislation.  As these changes unfold, I look forward to engaging Congress in an honest and serious debate about lifting the embargo.

Yesterday, I spoke with Raul Castro to finalize Alan Gross’s release and the exchange of prisoners, and to describe how we will move forward.  I made clear my strong belief that Cuban society is constrained by restrictions on its citizens.  In addition to the return of Alan Gross and the release of our intelligence agent, we welcome Cuba’s decision to release a substantial number of prisoners whose cases were directly raised with the Cuban government by my team.  We welcome Cuba’s decision to provide more access to the Internet for its citizens, and to continue increasing engagement with international institutions like the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross that promote universal values.

But I’m under no illusion about the continued barriers to freedom that remain for ordinary Cubans.  The United States believes that no Cubans should face harassment or arrest or beatings simply because they’re exercising a universal right to have their voices heard, and we will continue to support civil society there.  While Cuba has made reforms to gradually open up its economy, we continue to believe that Cuban workers should be free to form unions, just as their citizens should be free to participate in the political process.

Moreover, given Cuba’s history, I expect it will continue to pursue foreign policies that will at times be sharply at odds with American interests.  I do not expect the changes I am announcing today to bring about a transformation of Cuban society overnight.  But I am convinced that through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves as they move into the 21st century.

To those who oppose the steps I’m announcing today, let me say that I respect your passion and share your commitment to liberty and democracy.  The question is how we uphold that commitment.  I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.  Moreover, it does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  Even if that worked -– and it hasn’t for 50 years –- we know from hard-earned experience that countries are more likely to enjoy lasting transformation if their people are not subjected to chaos.  We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.  In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens that we seek to help.

To the Cuban people, America extends a hand of friendship.  Some of you have looked to us as a source of hope, and we will continue to shine a light of freedom.  Others have seen us as a former colonizer intent on controlling your future.  José Martí once said, “Liberty is the right of every man to be honest.”  Today, I am being honest with you.  We can never erase the history between us, but we believe that you should be empowered to live with dignity and self-determination.  Cubans have a saying about daily life:  “No es facil” –- it’s not easy.  Today, the United States wants to be a partner in making the lives of ordinary Cubans a little bit easier, more free, more prosperous.

To those who have supported these measures, I thank you for being partners in our efforts.  In particular, I want to thank His Holiness Pope Francis, whose moral example shows us the importance of pursuing the world as it should be, rather than simply settling for the world as it is; the government of Canada, which hosted our discussions with the Cuban government; and a bipartisan group of congressmen who have worked tirelessly for Alan Gross’s release, and for a new approach to advancing our interests and values in Cuba.

Finally, our shift in policy towards Cuba comes at a moment of renewed leadership in the Americas.  This April, we are prepared to have Cuba join the other nations of the hemisphere at the Summit of the Americas.  But we will insist that civil society join us so that citizens, not just leaders, are shaping our future.  And I call on all of my fellow leaders to give meaning to the commitment to democracy and human rights at the heart of the Inter-American Charter.  Let us leave behind the legacy of both colonization and communism, the tyranny of drug cartels, dictators and sham elections.  A future of greater peace, security and democratic development is possible if we work together — not to maintain power, not to secure vested interest, but instead to advance the dreams of our citizens.

My fellow Americans, the city of Miami is only 200 miles or so from Havana.  Countless thousands of Cubans have come to Miami — on planes and makeshift rafts; some with little but the shirt on their back and hope in their hearts.  Today, Miami is often referred to as the capital of Latin America.  But it is also a profoundly American city -– a place that reminds us that ideals matter more than the color of our skin, or the circumstances of our birth; a demonstration of what the Cuban people can achieve, and the openness of the United States to our family to the South.  Todos somos Americanos.

Change is hard –- in our own lives, and in the lives of nations.  And change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders.  But today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do.  Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future –- for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world.

Thank you.  God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

Release of Alan Gross by the Cuban Regime is a “Welcome Relief to our Nation” – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on Release of Alan Gross by the Cuban Regime is a “Welcome Relief to our Nation” – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk

Kirk also responds to  changes in U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

CHICAGO, IL – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.)  released the following statement on the release of American aid worker Alan Gross after being imprisoned in Cuba for five years, and on President Obama’s announcement that the U.S. will begin to normalize diplomatic relations with the Cuban regime:

“The release of Alan Gross by the Cuban regime after five long years of brutal imprisonment is a welcome relief to our nation, especially during this holiday season. I am thankful he has been reunited with his family and will be given time to regain his health.

“However, by trading convicted spies – including one who was implicated in the murder of U.S. citizens – for an innocent American, and normalizing relations without any sign of real democratic reforms, President Obama has continued the practice of treating our friends like enemies and our enemies like friends. He is giving concessions to dictators and is offering all carrots and no sticks. Such appeasement puts American soldiers, diplomats and humanitarian workers in danger and sets a dangerous precedent for nations that respect democracy and defend human rights.”

Department of Insurance Announces Two Convictions Resulting from its Workers’ Compensation Fraud Investigations

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on Department of Insurance Announces Two Convictions Resulting from its Workers’ Compensation Fraud Investigations

Former Crystal Lake Police Officer and Former Business Owner Convicted

CHICAGO, IL – Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) Director Andrew Boron announced investigations by the Department’s Workers’ Compensation Fraud Unit have resulted in two convictions.  A former Crystal Lake police officer charged with workers’ compensation fraud in McHenry County and a former business owner charged with forgery in Cook County have both been convicted and sentenced.

“As I have said before, we take accusations of fraud very seriously.  These convictions are a direct result of our investigations and should send a clear message that workers’ compensation fraud will not be tolerated in Illinois,” said DOI Director Boron.  “We’re pleased to have worked with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, that prosecuted Mr. Avila’s case and with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office that prosecuted Mr. Kwartowski.”

Former Crystal Lake police officer Michael Avila was sentenced to one year of probation, ordered to pay $9,588.13 in restitution, and required to pay $730 in fines, fees, and court costs.  He pleaded guilty in October to workers’ compensation fraud.  Avila made statements to create the impression the nature and extent of an injury he claimed to have suffered to his wrist while at work was more extensive than it really was.  Video surveillance showed him lifting weights in the police station in the month following the injury while he was assigned to light duty.  Additional video surveillance showed Avila not only lifting weights, but working as a personal trainer.  Avila filed a case with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission for his wrist injury in October of 2012, but that case was voluntarily dismissed less than a month later, after DOI’s investigator sought to interview Avila.

Sam Kwartowski, owner of Floor & Tile Solutions, Inc., was sentenced to two years of probation.  As part of his probation, Kwartowski was ordered to complete drug treatment.  He pleaded guilty to forgery in November.  Kwartowski lacked workers’ compensation insurance after his policy was cancelled for non-payment of premium in 2008 then issued false Certificates of Insurance to a general contractor he performed work for as proof of workers’ compensation insurance.  The general contractor, who relied on the Certificates of Insurance Kwartowski provided, was assessed thousands of dollars in additional premium by his own insurance company to cover the uninsured risk.

Fraud based upon the issuance of false Certificates of Insurance puts employees and companies such as general contractors at risk, yet it is one of the easiest forms of fraud to detect and prevent.  If there is any question as to the authenticity of the documentation being provided regarding workers’ compensation coverage, the certificate holder should contact the insurance company listed on the certificate directly to verify that a policy is in fact in place.

For more information about Workers’ Compensation Fraud, including matters that may involve fraud perpetrated by a claimant, visit the DOI website at http://insurance.illinois.gov/WCFU/default.asp.  To report an employer, healthcare provider, attorney, insurance agent or company, contact the Workers’ Compensation Fraud Unit at 877-WCF-UNIT (877-923-8648) or send an e-mail to DOI.WorkCompFraud@illinois.gov.

Tech Innovators Help Bring Health Care to Hard-to-Reach Consumers

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on Tech Innovators Help Bring Health Care to Hard-to-Reach Consumers

By Benjamin Todd Jealous
Sometimes the very consumers who need health care the most are the least likely to enroll. This has been one of the challenges faced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the federal agency responsible for administering the Affordable Care Act.

To meet this challenge, the agency is looking to Silicon Valley for help. This week, HHS announced an innovative collaboration efforts with tech firms PayNearMe, Monster.com, and Peers.org, to bring important Open Enrollment information low-income and other traditionally hard-to-reach communities.

Monster.com, for example, is already the country’s largest online platform for job seekers, counting more than 200 million registered users. The job site reaches a vast amount of unemployed and under-employed Americans — precisely the audience that is likely to be uninsured. Through partnership with HHS , Monster.com will provide tips and advice on open enrollment through the company’s blog.

Similarly, Peers.org has agreed to post information about Healthcare.gov on their website, and will host a live video chat with HHS officials to answer questions from the Peers community.

Perhaps the most interesting partnership involves the electronic cash transaction company PayNearMe. PayNearMe’s customer base is made up of individuals who operate in the cash economy. This includes low-income consumers and those who have limited or no access to a bank account. Almost half of this segment are people of color.

The company allows the cash-preferring people to pay their monthly bills-rent, electricity, water, etc.-in cash at their local 7-Eleven and Family Dollar stores, without the high fees that generally accompany pre-paid debit cards and money orders, and with the convenience of same-day payment.

Between November 15th and February 15th, the 2015 open enrollment deadline, all PayNearMe receipts printed at 7,800 7-Eleven stores nationwide will include information about upcoming enrollment deadlines and encouragement to explore tax benefits and new plans at HealthCare.gov.
PayNearMe receipt reminders serve as an innovative way to literally place coverage information into the hands of traditionally hard to reach consumers because the receipts serve as proof of payment of important expenditures, and are therefore carefully scrutinized and held onto by the customers.

As HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell put it, “These innovative companies help us to reach our consumers where they are with the information they need to sign up and reenroll in quality, affordable care through the Health Insurance Marketplace.” It’s a great idea.

The government sector sometimes gets a bad reputation for lacking imagination and innovation. It’s refreshing to see HHS step outside of Washington, D.C. to take advantage of the tech community to extend their reach and better communicate with their underserved constituents.

Benjamin Todd Jealous is a Partner at Kapor Capital and former President & CEO of the NAACP. Kapor Capital is an investor in PayNearMe, and he serves as Board Observer for the company.

Photo: Ben Jealous

Bill Cosby – Guilty Until Proven Guilty. Ask a Black Man

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on Bill Cosby – Guilty Until Proven Guilty. Ask a Black Man

By Cleo Manago

Bill Cosby

Nationwide — People tend to view reality through the lens of their personal experience or biases, even when completely irrelevant to a particular issue or incident. Yet, sometimes one’s personal experience and knowledge – with investigation – can bring relevant insight or contemplation to a given situation. I raise this inspired by increasingly disturbing developments in the Bill Cosby rape scandal. Particularly since Black former model Beverly Johnson darkened (with her complexion) the bevy of still mostly White female Cosby rape accusers. After watching Johnson’s recent interview about an alleged drugging and attempted rape by Cosby, something about it appeared contrived and opportunistic to me. It was difficult for me to believe her. Concerned about my reaction, amidst an accusation as horrible as attempted rape, I was led to evaluate myself and check what my reaction might be about.

At 17 years old, during my first venture onto a college campus – Cal State Long Beach, to be exact – I heard about the Men Against Rape movement. I resonated with its mission to raise awareness among males about the problem of rape, in an effort to reduce incidences and potential rape tendencies in men. And, to influence more respect and protection of women and girls at-risk. For reasons relevant to my personal development and related horrors witness as a child, I have been actively against rape, and concerned about the lack of focus on this epidemic in media and society at-large. Rape, including recent acknowledgements of that boys and young men also face high levels of rape and molestation, is a frequent and still relatively under-addressed societal scourge.

While still in my teens, I began a stint in the entertainment business, witnessing first-hand how powerful and manipulative celebrities can be over an often naive, gullible and unfortunately star-struck society. I thought about this when Cosby accusers explained their alleged initial silence. I would also learn and experience (as I still do) how effortlessly simple it can be to defame a Black man’s reputation. We live in a society that makes it extremely easy for Black men to endure what I call Guilty Until Proven Guilty’ syndrome. The killings of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Michael Brown and so many Black males, undeniably indicates how deadly and pervasive that syndrome is. The top 5 accusations that stick to Black males like glue, without interrogation or proof needed, are, “He raped, robbed, physically assaulted or lied to someone and generally cannot be trusted.” After a Black male, especially dark-skinned, is accused of one of these, a response of “It figures” can be much more rampant than, “Let me check this out for myself.”

I personally have been successfully accused of all 5, when all 5 were completely untrue. In most cases, like with Bill Cosby, more than one person was willing to repeat the same accusation. That’s the power of rumor, racism, including internalized racism, in the U.S. After the accusation was made, almost no one cared to look into it, or address me directly. The dye was simply caste. I am still shaking off damaging misinformation and lies. Finally, I have also directly witnessed people among Black people whose life experiences and influences resulted in them having great contempt for Black people, and being ambitiously opportunistic – to points of being diabolical – to receive White favor and attention. This came to mind regarding Beverly Johnson. I’m not saying it’s true. Again, that it came to mind.

These experiences and phenomena emerged as I reviewed what was possibly informing my reactions to Beverly Johnson, and other Bill Cosby accusers.

The “Guilty Until Proven Guilty” killings of a slew of Black males has moved millions of U.S. citizens into the streets to protest. But, has this taught us the importance of not judging a book by its cover, even if it has multiple accusers? Of course people do commit crimes, including Black males. Yet, most others get to be innocent until proven guilty. Comparatively, most Whites, Asians and others get to walk away from an accusation, reportedly, even when there is probable guilt. Darren Wilson, George Zimmerman and Daniel Pantaleo did. Another example, and this one involves Beverly Johnson, is Peter Nygard, a White, billionaire fashion designer who lives in the Bahamas. Nygard has been implicated in rape, harassment, conspiracy, human trafficking, human rights abuses, unlawful confinement and essentially “slavery”. The same Beverly Johnson who just accused Bill Cosby of drugging and attempting to rape her, dates Nygard. Nygard is still free, lives basically lawlessly, with a devil may care” reputation, his image unflawed.

The next frontier against racism that should result in protest even larger than today’s, is the media. The all-White run, popular media canvas, world-wide, has created mindsets, leading to the destruction of more Black people than officers Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo could ever compare. More importantly, U.S. citizens must self-evaluate to recognize within us, if our judgments about people, even after being accused, are based on what we feel, think or know. If you don’t know, you really don’t know. No one should be “Guilty Until Proven Guilty.” More often than not, it is racist, destructive and has proven to be deadly.

Cleo Manago is a political consultant, behaviorist, and film documentarian. Currently, a regular commentator on TVOne’s NewsOne Now with Roland Martin, Manago is community faculty at Charles Drew University of Science and Medicine in Los Angeles and a former doctoral student at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. Contact him at cleomanago2.0@gmail.com or 202-695-0636.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of CopyLine Magazine.

NAACP Celebrates the Senate Passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on NAACP Celebrates the Senate Passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act

On December 10, 2014, the United States Senate passed, with strong bipartisan unanimous support, NAACP-supported H.R. 1447, the Death in Custody Reporting Act.  The NAACP released the following statement:

From Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President & CEO:

“We commend Congress for its passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act. This crucial legislation is one piece of the puzzle toward true reform of our nation’s criminal justice system and understanding the phenomenon of the deaths of Americans while in custody. The stark staggering fact is that the nation has no reliable idea how many Americans die during arrest or police custody each year. This legislation will help fix that unacceptable gap by providing much-needed transparency in our Nation’s criminal justice system and by helping to alleviate the suspicion, concern and mistrust that currently exist in communities of color across America today. Now we need to turn our focus on ending racial profiling; on uniform standards for use of force by law enforcement agents; on building strong, independent, well funded civilian police accountability review boards; on equipping all law enforcement agents with complete video surveillance equipment; on ending the militarization of local law enforcement; on reforming the prosecutor system; and on comprehensive sentencing reform. ”

From Hilary O. Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy:

“We are both pleased and proud that Congress has passed this legislation and that it will go to the President’s desk for his signature to become the law of the land.   In particular, we thank Congressman Bobby Scott (VA), for his tenacity in spearheading this legislation, as well as the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; the ACLU; and others who worked so hard in coalition with the NAACP, as well Senators Blumenthal (CT), Grassley (IA), Leahy (VT), Flake (AZ), and Coburn (OK).  The Death in Custody Reporting Act gives credence to the axiom, “in order to manage a problem, you must first be able to measure it.” The data collected through this reporting system will allow us to craft data driven policies to help reduce the racially disparate number of Americans of all races that die while in law enforcement custody.”

Saint Sabina’s 5th ‘Operation Hope’ Feeds 2,400 – Breaks Last Year’s Record

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on Saint Sabina’s 5th ‘Operation Hope’ Feeds 2,400 – Breaks Last Year’s Record

But fight for justice continues

By Chinta Strausberg

With well-trained and disciplined volunteers and staff,  Saint Sabina’s fifth annual ‘Operation Hope’ feeding program held late Tuesday was declared a huge success having fed 2,400 people breaking last year’s record, but it was also a venue for Father Michael L. Pfleger to urge the nation’s youth to continue their fight for social justice.

Once again, in the spirit of Christmas,it was yet another miracle on 79th Street with Pfleger, who wore and black T-shirt with white lettering saying, “I Can’t Breathe,” his staff and those from BJ’s Market & Bakery, located at 79th and Racine,welcoming in a steady stream of very grateful people from all ages and ethnic groups.

Welcoming their guests were Pfleger,Father Thulani, their staff,  Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th), WVON’s Melody Spann-Cooper, Cliff Kelley, Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Linda Johnson Rice, Chairman, Johnson’s Publishing, CEO,  Desiree Rogers, Terry Peterson, vice president of Government Affairs, Rush University Medical Center,Andrea Zopp who heads the Chicago Urban League, her husband, Bill Zopp, a retired federal agent, and their daughter, Alyssa Zopp, John and Hank Meyer owners of the BJ restaurants at 79th and Racine and 87thand Stony Island.

But before the mass feeding began,there was an interesting set-up period that included WVON’s Todd Ronczkowski and Gregg Baker, board tech specialists, doing prep work for the station’s live feed aired from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. They came with a huge suitcase full of wires,microphones and within minutes they had it all set up for Kelley to broadcast live at 79th and Racine. “Testing, testing,” bellowed Baker followed by WVON’s regular programing.

Next, like an opera, came the final instructions from “conductor,” Steven Jones, the manager of BJ’s 79thand Racine store, who gave a pep talk to his crew.  John Meyer said they began preparing the food two-days earlier and began cooking the food 8 a.m. Tuesday morning between the two restaurants.

Many people braved the cold and began lining up outside as early as 1:30 p.m. The doors opened at 3 p.m. and they  began coming in shaking hands with Father Pfleger and his step and graciously accepting a bag of hot baked chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, apple pie and a choice of can pop.

Interviewed by Kelley, Father Pfleger spoke about the national movement of a diverse group of youth who continue to protest the killing of unarmed black teen Michael Brown and the chokehold death of Eric Garner by white police. “I’m 65, and I have not seen this diversity since the civil rights movement,” said Pfleger referring to the protesters.

He said when he joined them on Michigan Avenue they were “Asians, black, white, Hispanics all together, and young and old, rich and poor are coming together. America had better take note,” he said.

“We’ve got to keep this issue that is going on in our country alive,” said Pfleger. “If we don’t keep it on the forefront, it will fall by the side just like the missing Nigerian girls, like the Ebola or like the missing Malaysian plane. We have to keep it out front in any way from our pulpits, from the streets, through our young people, what we wear and what we say, we have to keep the issue up front.”

Pfleger also gave a shout out for his four full-time Saint Sabina peacemakers who do intervention in the street. “They  work each day to keep the relationship with the brothers in the street.” He attributed their work to the dramatic reduction of crime in the Auburn Gresham community.

Kelley and Rhymefest interviewed Kurt;one of the peacemakers, who said Pfleger “gave us a chance…. We have to offer them (brother sin the street) hope…. He gave us an opportunity….job programs….to be a part of the solution.”

In an interview with WVON, Rice said and Rogers say it is important to “give back” in the spirit of the holiday.“There is such a need,” Rogers said referring to the people lined up all round the restaurant. Johnson said her crew is not leaving until BJ’s closes it doors. “It’s important for us to support the community” and black-owned businesses, said Rogers.

The event was sponsored by: Johnson Publishing Company, Terry Peterson, The Faith Community of Saint Sabina, WVON,the Chicago Urban League, Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th), BJ’s Market & Bakery and Andrea L. Zopp. Last year, they fed 2,300 people.

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.

ISBE Honors Three Longtime Board Members as They End Their Volunteer Terms

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on ISBE Honors Three Longtime Board Members as They End Their Volunteer Terms

State Board members step down after each serving 10 years

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Board of Education honored three of its longtime members for their dedication and expertise during the past decade. The terms for Board members Andrea Brown, Dave Fields and Vinni Hall expire in January; all three members have already served two four-year-terms, plus an additional two years.

“These three individuals have each brought a magnificent amount of experience, expertise and heart to this Board,” said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “We are lucky to have longtime educators who know what it’s like to be in the classroom as well as the board room, and who work with a laser-like focus on doing the right thing for Illinois students and schools.”

All three retiring Board members have donated thousands of hours to improve education on behalf of the more than 2 million public school students in Illinois. Each Board member worked on policies that helped improve the quality of teacher candidates and provide for more meaningful evaluations of both principals and teachers. They adopted more rigorous learning standards to prepare students for college and careers as well as a new assessment system that aims to better measure how well students are learning under the new standards.  They led the charge to improve education data to better inform classroom decisions and supported the development of the new award-winning and more consumer-friendly Illinois Report Card. In 2013, they successfully advocated to stop state cuts to K-12 education funding and realize the first increase in the education budget since 2009.

Dr. Andrea Brown’s 45 years of experience in Illinois education provided the Board with important insight and experience. Dr. Brown, a Marion resident, worked at the district level as a special education and elementary teacher, and then as superintendent of Cairo Unit School District 1. She later worked as a special education supervisor for Johnson, Alexander, Massac and Pulaski (JAMP) Special Education Services. After serving as regional superintendent for that same regional office from 1994 to 2003, Dr. Brown was appointed to the Illinois State Board of Education in September 2004, reappointed in 2007 and again in 2012.

Dr. Brown has devoted her time and experience to multiple statewide committees, including the Illinois Finance Study on Necessarily Small Schools, the Committee for Development of the Illinois Quality Review Process, the Southern Illinois Educational Leadership Advisory Committee, the Illinois Goals 2000 Panel, the Task Force to Streamline Illinois Education Delivery System and the Governor’s Rural Affairs Council.

Dr. Brown has continually kept the Board mindful of the challenges faced by students in rural areas and students who are impoverished. She served as key adviser for ISBE’s intervention work in the East St. Louis School District and encouraged the district’s School Board to engage community members to help resolve challenges. Dr. Brown also served as a member of the State Board’s Education Policy Planning Committee and the Finance and Audit Committee.

Dr. Dave Fields of Danville began his career in 1960 as a social studies teacher at Danville High School and North Ridge Junior High School in Danville District 118. He went on to become the district’s superintendent between 1990 and 2000. In 2004, Dr. Fields was appointed to ISBE, where his experience, his fiscal proficiency and ingenuity proved to be invaluable.

Dr. Fields’ dedication and volunteer work extended to more than 20 community organizations, earning him numerous awards and accolades over the years. He has received an African American Achiever Award from the NAACP, a First Citizen Award from the American Business Club and Volunteer of the Year from the Vermilion County Volunteers Association, among others.

Dr. Fields served on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Association of School Administrators for 10 years and led the Large Unit District Association for two years as president. He served on the 2008 Illinois Task Force of the African American Male and the Illinois Leadership Team for the National Governor’s Association Academy for Civic Engagement of Older Adults. While on the State Board, Dr. Fields chaired the Education Policy Planning Committee and served on the Board Operations Committee.

Through her work to connect assessments with instruction, advance career and technical education in the state and develop partnerships that support students and their families, Dr. Vinni Hall of Chicago played a key role in major Illinois education initiatives.

Dr. Hall began her career in 1967 in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), where she taught students ranging from pre-K to adult learners. Through the years, she went on to become an associate professor/special education chair at Chicago State University and director of the Inclusive Schools Project for CPS. She worked as a consultant to both CPS and the Illinois Center for Education and Rehabilitation.

Dr. Hall recently earned the National Association of School Boards of Education 2014 Distinguished Service Award for her exceptional service to public education. She served as liaison to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Poverty Commission and the Illinois Early Learning Council, where she is also a member. Dr. Hall serves on the Illinois State Board of Education’s Diverse Educator Advisory Group as well as the Erikson Institute’s Reducing Achievement Gaps in Illinois Task Force.

“It is rare for individuals to put in this kind of time and maintain this amount of enthusiasm for the work they do,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “All three have worked passionately and successfully to advance numerous initiatives during their service and have done so amid times of significant change and financial strain.”

The Board also recognized and congratulated Steven Elza, the 2015 Teacher of the Year. An automotive technology teacher at William Fremd High School in Township High School District 21, Elza gained a reputation for his dedication and role as a mentor who students still turn to long after graduation. His automotive technology program has achieved National Automotive Technician Education Foundation certification, a ranking that only 4 percent of all high schools in the United States have achieved. Additionally, Steve has led students to multiple state and national competitions, where his students have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and materials.

The State Board of Education consists of nine members who are appointed by the Governor, with consent of the Senate. The Board sets educational policies and guidelines for public and private schools, preschool through grade 12. It analyzes the aims, needs and requirements of education and recommends legislation to the General Assembly and Governor for the benefit of more than 2 million schoolchildren in Illinois.

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

Initial Programming Announced for Goodman Theatre’s Citywide August Wilson Celebration Honoring “America’s Shakespeare” in March/April 2015; Kick-Off Scheduled March 9th

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on Initial Programming Announced for Goodman Theatre’s Citywide August Wilson Celebration Honoring “America’s Shakespeare” in March/April 2015; Kick-Off Scheduled March 9th

Major Retrospective is Curated by Resident Director Chuck Smith with Constanza Romero, Ron OJ Parson and Dr. Harvey Young

CHICAGO, IL -  Goodman Theatre, in collaboration with Chicago’s various off-Loop theaters and Northwestern University, unveils partial programming in its spring 2015 citywide “August Wilson Celebration”—an extensive retrospective of the late playwright’s life, artistry and influence on American culture. The seven-week Celebration takes place in March and April 2015 on dual landmark occasions: the 70th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s birth and the 10th anniversary of his death. Resident Director Chuck Smith curates programming in communities throughout Chicago, together with Wilson’s wife and frequent collaborator Constanza Romero; actor/director Ron OJ Parson; and Northwestern University professor and critic Harvey Young. As the first theater in the world to produce every play in Wilson’s 10-play cycle exploring the 20th Century African American experience, the Goodman and partnering organizations pay tribute to and explore the enduring impact of “theater’s poet of Black America” (The New York Times).

“No artistic collaborator of the past 90 years has been more important to the Goodman than playwright August Wilson,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls. “His work was first seen by Goodman audiences in 1986 with Fences, starring James Earl Jones. Over the next 20 years, the Goodman became a primary artistic home to Wilson and the birthplace of two world-premiere productions, Seven Guitars and Gem of the Ocean. Chuck Smith, who directed our memorable production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in 1997 and has the distinction of serving as August’s dramaturg on Gem of the Ocean, has assembled a powerhouse line-up that promises to make the Celebration a major American cultural event of 2015.”

The August Wilson Celebration includes the following productions and events (a current calendar follows):

  • A major revival of Two Trains Running at Goodman Theatre, directed by Smith and featuring Alfred Wilson (Holloway); A.C. Smith (West); Nambi E. Kelley (Risa); Ernest Perry Jr. (Hambone); Anthony Irons (Wolf); Chester Gregory (Sterling); and Ron OJ Parson (Memphis). Individual tickets ($25 – $79; subject to change) are on sale now; visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org, call 312.443.3800 or visit the box office (170 N. Dearborn).
  • One-night-only FREE readings of the other nine plays in the 20th Century Cycle at off-Loop theaters and community venues, including MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre Company, Pegasus Theatre Chicago, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, eta Creative Arts Foundation and Court Theatre
  • A series of lectures and discussions that shine a spotlight on the cities where Wilson did his landmark work—Chicago, St. Paul, New Haven and New York—featuring acclaimed artists/scholars associated with him
  • A discussion of the female characters in August Wilson’s work, featuring Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad and hosted by Tony Award nominee Michele Shay
  • A first-time presentation of Wilson’s poetry, in association with the Poetry Foundation of Chicago
  • A major summit of leading African American artists and educators, culminating in a discussion of “The State of Black Theater in America: Past, Present and Future”
  • Seminars for high school teachers, intended to encourage the inclusion of Wilson’s work in high school curricula
  • Actor/playwright Ruben Santiago-Hudson performing Wilson’s autobiographical How I Learned What I Learned

Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Grant to County Will Finance Solar Heating Projects at County Highway Garages

Posted by Admin On December - 18 - 2014 Comments Off on Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation Grant to County Will Finance Solar Heating Projects at County Highway Garages

Four Cook County Transportation and Highway Department (CCDoTH) facilities will be largely heated through a solar power project financed through a grant accepted by the County’s Board of Commissioners today.

The $295,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation will contribute to the County’s continuing sustainability efforts by reducing reliance on gas-fired units that currently heat the facilities where trucks and road equipment are stored.

“We have set an ambitious goal of reaching an 80 percent reduction in our Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) by the year 2050,” said County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Through this grant we can eliminate 80 percent of the need to heat these buildings through traditional methods, saving energy and also reducing our heating costs.”

The grant funding will allow the County to install solar walls at CCDoTH garages in Des Plaines, Orland Park, Schaumburg and Riverdale. The solar walls will be constructed vertically and affixed to existing building walls with southern orientations to maximize their ability to harness solar power.

The solar thermal wall will directly convert the sun’s rays into thermal energy, heating air and delivering it to indoor spaces. This is one of the few possible solutions for reducing dependency on traditional natural gas heat for large spaces such as the garages and will directly result in a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels. The project is expected to save the County $47,000 annually and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 457 tons per year.

This direct sun-to-air heating will reduce the amount of heating load now met by the gas-fired unit heaters (GFUHs). Additionally, because the reduced load on the GFUHs will also lessen the current reliance on them, the County will likely see improved service life and lower maintenance costs.

Preckwinkle has made sustainability a key goal for the County since taking office in 2010. The County to date has benchmarked its energy use as a necessary first step toward reductions, is undertaking installation of new efficient heating/cooling units at County buildings, has replaced some of the older cars in its fleet with hybrids, and established policies such as the Demolition Debris Diversion ordinance, which significantly reduces the amount of waste from building demolitions going to landfills.

“Through the initiatives we already have under way, and others like this one, we will continue to make Cook County a national model of sustainability programs that foster both energy efficiency and decrease pollution,” Preckwinkle said.

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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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