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Archive for February 8th, 2016

CSU Students, Alumni, Community Members and Supporters Rally at Thompson Center

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL – Chicago State University, a predominantly Black institution located on the south side of Chicago, is facing imminent closure as Governor Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly hold the state’s budget in limbo. Since 1867, Chicago State University has been a gateway for an innumerable amount of Chicagoans seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees. Currently, CSU is operating on financial reserves that are close to being fully exhausted by early March 2016. This can potentially force the university to shut its doors and hinder future students from graduating.

Supporters will rally today, Monday, February 8th at 11:00 a.m. at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph St.

Chicago State University president, Thomas Calhoun, as well as the Board of Trustees has declared “a universitywide state of financial exigency”.  This is defined as a financial crisis “…which threatens the survival of the institution as a whole,” and “cannot be alleviated by less drastic means” . As concerned citizens, we are demanding that Governor Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly pass the state budget in order to not only ensure that the 4,000 students currently enrolled at Chicago State University can continue taking classes, but to preserve campus services and the jobs of those employed at the university. We demand that there should be no disruption in our education.

Chicago State University serves a high percentage of African American students who have chosen Chicago State University as their choice of higher education, with the intention of successful completion and to seek out enhanced job opportunities. We stand by the opinion that students seeking higher education should not be penalized as funds become obsolete. CSU students should not pay the price for the mismanagement of funds by previous administrations or the lack of concern expressed by Governor Rauner and the Illinois General Assembly.

In response to this potential injustice CSU students, alumni, community members and supporters will be rallying on Monday, February 8th at 11:00 a.m. at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph St, Chicago.

Facebook Page: facebook.com/wewillmarchfirst

Five Chicago Men Arrested in Connection with Violent Kidnapping

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

CHICAGO, IL — Five men have been arrested on kidnapping charges for allegedly abducting a Berwyn man in broad daylight and holding him for ransom in a North Side auto body shop.

The kidnapping went awry after the abductors realized they had snatched the wrong man, according to a criminal complaint and affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.  The victim was the brother of the intended target.  He was blindfolded and held at gunpoint for nearly two days in an auto body shop in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood, before being released, the complaint states.

Federal authorities arrested the five defendants yesterday.  Charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping are ANTONIO SALGADO, 34; ARMANDO DELGADO, 36; OCTAVIO ALEJANDRE JR., 33; JAIME GUTIERREZ, 22; and MUNAF ABDULRAZAK MUSA, 22; all of Chicago.  The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

All five defendants were ordered held without bond during initial court appearances yesterday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox.  Musa’s next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2016, while the other defendants will next appear on Feb. 8, 2016.

According to the complaint, the abduction occurred on the afternoon of May 30, 2015, when the victim was kidnapped at gunpoint outside of his Berwyn home.  The victim was forced into a sport-utility vehicle and taken to the auto repair shop.  While being held, one of the kidnappers pushed a gun into the victim’s body and threatened him, while another kidnapper placed a knife on the victim’s fingers and threatened to cut them off, the complaint states.

Early the next morning, the victim’s uncle received telephone calls from an unidentified man who stated he was holding the victim, according to the complaint.  The caller demanded approximately 25 kilograms of narcotics.  At one point the victim was placed on the phone and instructed to tell his uncle to cooperate, the complaint states.

Unbeknownst to the defendants, several of their phones had previously been intercepted by federal authorities who were conducting an unrelated investigation, the complaint states.  In a recorded call between Salgado and Delgado on the night of May 31, 2015, Delgado told Salgado, “There is a little situation.  It’s the wrong guy because it’s his brother of the one that we’re trying to get.”  According to the complaint, Salgado allegedly replied, “Let the guy go, but beat the [expletive] out of him.”

On the morning of June 1, 2015, the victim appeared at a bus station in Chicago, according to the complaint.  The victim told police that he had walked to the bus station after being released from captivity during the night.

The arrest and charges were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Michael J. Anderson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Dennis A. Wichern, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration; Jim Ritz, Chief of the Berwyn Police Department; and John Escalante, Acting Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.

The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt.  The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kartik K. Raman.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

President Obama on the Economy: Unemployment, Deficits, Gas Prices are All Down

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room


Statement by President Barack Obama: “…As you’re aware by now, America’s businesses created another 158,000 jobs last month.  After reaching 10 percent in 2009, the unemployment rate has now fallen to 4.9 percent — even as more Americans joined the job market last month.  So this is the first time that the unemployment rate has dipped below 5 percent in almost eight years.  Americans are working.

All told, over the past six years, our businesses have added 14 million new jobs.  Seventy-one straight months of private-sector job growth extends the longest streak on record.  Over the past two years, 2014 and 2015, our businesses added more jobs than any time since the 1990s.

Most importantly, this progress is finally starting to translate into bigger paychecks.  Over the past six months, wages have grown at their fastest rate since the crisis.  And the policies that I’ll push this year are designed to give workers even more leverage to earn raises and promotions.

So, unemployment, deficits, gas prices are all down.  Jobs, wages, and the rate of the insured are up.  I should mention, by the way, that since I signed Obamacare into law, nearly 18 million Americans have gained coverage, and our businesses have created jobs every month since.  On net, all of them full-time jobs.

So, as I said at my State of the Union address, the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world.  I know that’s still inconvenient for Republican stump speeches as their doom and despair tour plays in New Hampshire.  I guess you cannot please everybody.

That does not mean that we don’t have more work to do.  There is softness in the global economy.  China is going through a transition.  Europe’s economy is still slow.  A lot of the emerging markets are challenged.  So that’s all creating headwinds for a lot of U.S. companies who do business overseas.  It makes it more difficult for us to sell exports.  So we’ve got to pay attention to this, and we’ve got to take some smart steps this year to continue progress.  And we also have to do more to make sure that the progress that we do make is broadly based and impacting folks up and down the income scales.  The budget that I send to Congress on Tuesday is going to make sure that we can continue that progress.  Talking down the American economy, by the way, does not make that progress.

My budget is going to offer more opportunities for Americans to get the education and job training that they need for a good-paying job.  It will offer new ideas for benefits and protections that provide folks with a basic sense of security.  We’ll create more good-paying jobs not by subsidizing the past, but by investing in the future.  And that’s why we’re going to be placing a big emphasis on clean energy.  Private-sector solar jobs, for example, are growing 12 times faster than the rest of the economy, and they pay better than average.  That’s one reason why my budget is going to double our investment in clean energy research and development by the end of the decade.  That’s going to help businesses create more jobs faster, it’s going to lower the cost of clean energy faster, it’s going to help renewable power compete with dirty fuels across America in a more effective way.

Those are some of the steps that are going to make sure our future is even stronger — a future that is worthy of the hard work and determination of the American people.  The progress we’ve made, going from 10 percent down to under five, that’s a testament to American workers, American businesses, and the American people being resilient and sticking to it.  And my hope is, is that rather than hinder their progress, we’re going to continue to help them make progress.

With that, have a great weekend.  Enjoy the Super Bowl.  I’m not telling you my pick — because the Bears aren’t in it — but I’m hoping for a great game.

With that, Josh.  Is he back there?  Josh, take it away.

Q    How about a question?

Q    You seemed to imply yesterday that you don’t get enough credit.  Were you —

THE PRESIDENT:  You know what, let me take a couple of questions here.  Why not?  Just, what the heck.

Q    It’s Friday.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m in a good mood.  It’s Friday.

Q    It’s Friday.


Q    Okay.  So you were implying yesterday, in a joking way, that you don’t get enough credit —

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, this is when I was talking to the Warriors —

Q    With the Warriors.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right, right.

Q    So were you again referring, as you did just now, to Republicans and their message?  Which you could say could be expected during an election.  Or were you also referring to the fact that polls — like 57 percent of Americans in polls say they don’t think things are going well in this country.  Why do you think that is?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, at the time, I was making a joke with a basketball team.  But there’s no doubt that while we have made significant progress — and I talked about this during the State of the Union — there is still anxiety and concern about the general direction of the economy.  If you look at some of the surveys, people feel better about their circumstances, their finances, but they’re not sure about the future.  And part of it is, there’s still a pretty big carryover from the devastation that took place in 2007, 2008.  If your home value drops in half, or you lose a job that you were thought you were secure in, or your pension suddenly looks vulnerable, you’re going to remember that.  And so a lot of people still feel that.

And they’re right to recognize that there are some longer-term economic trends that we still have to tackle — that the economy is more dynamic and it churns faster; and the pressure on companies to maximize short-term returns, oftentimes at the expense of long-term investment; the lack of loyalty sometimes to workers who have built those companies and are threatened to be laid off; the fact that wages and incomes up until the last six months haven’t gone up as fast as corporate profits have or benefits at the very top — all those things people feel and they experience.

And so even though they know things are better, they’re worried where are we going.  And I think — so I think that the argument I’m making here and will continue to make during the course of this year is we should be proud of the progress we’ve made.  We have recovered from the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the worst in my lifetime and the lifetime of most of the people in this room.  And we’ve done it faster, stronger, better, more durably than just about any other advanced economy.

Had we adopted some of the policies that were advocated by Republicans over the last four, five, six years, we know that we probably would have done worse.  And we know that because a lot of European countries adopted those policies, and they haven’t yet gotten to the same place they were before the crisis.  So, evidence, facts are on our side.  And this jobs report gives you one more indication that the facts are on our side.

I think that it is important for us then to understand how do we take the next step and make people feel more secure and feel more confident about the future.  And that’s why investments in education and job training — going after the high costs of higher education; making sure that issues like paid leave and family leave are put in place; raising the minimum wage so that if you’re working full-time, you’re not in poverty; making sure that we’re investing in transportation, infrastructure, and clean energy; going after the jobs of the future; investing in technology — all those things are a recipe for continued growth and increased security.

And as far as I can tell those who are running down the economy and adding to the anxiety don’t seem to have any plausible, coherent recipe other than cut taxes for the very folks who have been doing the best in this economy and somehow magically that’s going to make other folks feel good.

Or, alternatively, they argue that the reason you’re feeling insecure is because immigrants or poor people are taking more and more of your paycheck.  And that is just not true.  The facts don’t bear that out.  That’s not where the weaknesses in the economy are.  That’s not what’s depressing wages for middle-class families or making them more vulnerable to disruptions in this economy.  And I want to keep on making that argument during the course of this year.

We should feel good about the progress we’ve made, understanding that we’ve still got more work to do.  It’s sort of like — I’m 54 now, so I got to work out harder to stay in shape.  And if I’m feeling good in the gym, I want to acknowledge that what I’m doing is working.  Otherwise I’ll just go off and have a big, double-bacon cheeseburger or something because I’ll think well, this isn’t working.

No, if it’s working, then we should be staying on that same path.  That doesn’t mean that I’m where I necessarily want to be.  It doesn’t mean that I stop doing some hard work to get where we need to go.

All right?  I was only going to make two — I’m just going to take two.  All right, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  How can you improve workforce participation levels?  Because as much as people talk about the recovery, so few Americans are now, relatively speaking, in the job force, especially compared to 2008.  And if you wouldn’t mind, sir, can you at least comment on the $10-per-barrel fee that we’ve heard so much about?

THE PRESIDENT:  On the first question, part of what was good in this jobs report is the fact that the participation rate, in fact, didn’t drop.  That wasn’t the reason why unemployment dropped.  More people are entering into the workforce.  They feel more confident, and they’re finding work.

But what is true is, is that we’re still at a point where the labor participation rate is lower than it has been historically.  Some of that is explained by demographics.  The population is getting older, and so you would expect that there is some decline.  But it’s not fully explained by Americans getting older.  Some of this is still the hangover from what happened in 2007, 2008.  And this is part of the reason why we have to keep our foot to the accelerator in terms of doing the things that need to be done to keep the economy growing and keep it strong.

We should not let up from the progress that’s been made so that the labor market continues to tighten, people feel more confident that if they go out and look for work that they can find it.  There are particular cases where some folks had just been out of the labor market for a long time and may not be equipped for the jobs of today.  And that’s where we’ve got to target some special efforts.

I get a lot of letters from middle-aged workers who got laid off, aren’t confident about their current skills, and so have not yet re-entered the workforce.  They need to get retrained.  And so that’s a special group — folks in their late 40s, early 50s — still far away from retirement, but feel like they can’t adapt.

Obviously there are young people, high school dropouts, folks in both rural communities and inner cities that just came of age right in the middle of this terrible recession, and haven’t gotten attached to the labor market yet.  And so we’ve got to make special efforts to figure out how do we get them into job-training programs or community college, and it allows them to get some skills.

So there’s a wide set of strategies we can take on that, but it’s going to require overall, though, a strong labor market for them to feel like it’s worth it to make these efforts.  And we want to keep making sure that the labor market is as strong as possible.

With respect to oil and energy, I’ll probably make a larger speech about that and the direction that we need to go on this.  The basic proposition is, is that right now, gas is $1.80.  And gas prices are expected to be low for a while, for the foreseeable future.  That, overall, can be a good thing for the economy.  But what is also important is that we use this period where gas prices are low to accelerate a transition to a cleaner energy economy because we know that’s not going to last.  Every one of us have seen cycles where gas prices go down and then they pop back up.

And the idea here is, is that if we say to oil companies — which, by the way, got a significant benefit when we, in the omnibus, allowed them for the first time to export oil; up until that point, domestic oil producers couldn’t export.  So if we say to them now, all right, oil companies, we know that you’re having to retool, we know that prices are low right now, you’re allowed to export, but what we’re also saying is, is that we’re going to provide — we’re going to impose a tax on a barrel of oil — imported, exported — so that some of that revenue can be used for transportation, some of that revenue can be used for the investments in basic research and technology that’s going to be needed for the energy sources of the future — then 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 20 years from now, we’re going to be in a much stronger position when oil starts getting tight again, prices start going up again.

We will have further weaned our economy off of dirty fuels.  We will have not just made environmental progress, but we’ll also have a much stronger economy, a strong infrastructure. We’ll be creating the jobs of the future.  And I think we’ll look back and we’ll say, that was a smart investment, that was a wise decision for us to make.

But the point is, it’s right to do it now when gas prices are really low.  And they will be low for quite some time to come, so it’s not going to be a disruptive factor in terms of the economy.

Source: whitehouse.gov.

Madigan Announces $470 Million National Settlement With HSBC

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Joint State-Federal Settlement Over Mortgage Origination, Servicing & Foreclosure Abuses

Will Provide Loan Modifications & Cash Payments to Borrowers

CHICAGO, IL ─ Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced a $470 million joint state-federal settlement with mortgage lender and servicer HSBC to resolve allegations that the company engaged in mortgage origination, servicing and foreclosure abuses.

The settlement will provide direct cash payments to Illinois borrowers for past foreclosure abuses, and loan modifications for borrowers in need of assistance. The agreement will also implement mortgage servicing standards to prevent future abuses by HSBC.

Madigan reached the settlement with 48 other state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

“The settlement with HSBC will provide loan refinancing and direct payments to borrowers who were the victims of the bank’s fraudulent conduct,” Madigan said. “This settlement is part of my ongoing work to hold banks and servicers accountable for abuses that affected many Illinois homeowners struggling to save their homes.”

HSBC Agreement Closely Mirrors National Mortgage Settlement
The agreement’s mortgage servicing terms largely mirror the 2012 National Mortgage Settlement (NMS) reached in February 2012 between the federal government, Madigan and 48 other state attorneys general and the country’s five largest national mortgage servicers. That agreement has provided consumers nationwide with more than $50 billion in direct relief, created tough new servicing standards, and implemented independent oversight. Similar joint state-federal agreements have also been entered with SunTrust Mortgage Inc. and Ocwen Financial Corporation for a total of $3 billion.

Loan Modifications
Borrowers will receive an estimated $370 million in loan modifications or other relief under the settlement, of which an estimated $9 million will go to Illinois borrowers. The modifications include principal reductions and refinancing for underwater mortgages. Because HSBC will receive only partial settlement credit for many types of loan modifications, the settlement will provide relief to borrowers that will exceed the overall minimum amount.

Payments to Borrowers
Illinois borrowers will receive an estimated $2 million in cash payments under the settlement. Borrowers whose loans were serviced by HSBC and who encountered servicing abuses and lost their homes to foreclosure from Jan. 1, 2008 through Dec. 31, 2012 will be eligible for a payment. The payment amount will depend on how many borrowers file claims. Eligible borrowers will be contacted about how to submit a claim for payments.

New Mortgage Servicing Standards
The settlement also requires HSBC to change how it services mortgage loans, handles foreclosures, and ensures the accuracy of information provided in federal bankruptcy court. These new standards will prevent past foreclosure abuses, such as robo-signing and improper documentation.

Under the standards, HSBC must:
Make foreclosure a last resort by first requiring HSBC to evaluate homeowners for other loss mitigation options;
Restrict foreclosure while the homeowner is being considered for a loan modification;
Implement new procedures and timelines for reviewing loan modification applications;
Allow homeowners the right to appeal denials; and
Require a single point of contact for borrowers seeking information about their loans and maintaining adequate staff to handle calls.
Independent Monitor
The National Mortgage Settlement’s independent monitor, Joseph A. Smith Jr., will oversee HSBC’s compliance with this agreement. As part of this work, Smith will oversee implementation of the servicing standards required by the agreement and issue public reports that identify whether HSBC complied or fell short of the standards imposed by the settlement.


The agreement will be filed as a consent judgment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.


Bureau Chief Susan Ellis and Assistant Attorney General Andrew Dougherty handled the case for Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau.

Kirk to VA Secretary: The Choice Act is Failing Vets

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Letter to Secretary McDonald Follows VA Inspector General Report Confirming Delays in Care for Veterans in Colorado

Kirk and Illinois Whistleblowers Team Up to Identify Corruption and Patient Abuse at VA in Illinois

CHICAGO, IL – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), as chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), has written Secretary Robert McDonald about complaints in Illinois and nationwide over the “Choice Act,” a new program allowing vets to access private care. The Veterans Choice Act was created following months of scandal within the agency to help veterans who had been waiting months, and sometimes years, for an appointment with a doctor. However, yesterday’s VA Office of the Inspector General report, confirmed veterans in Colorado are denied access to basic diagnostic testing and delaying veterans’ requests to use the Choice Act. Senator Kirk called on the VA Secretary to acknowledge the problems using the Choice Act and identify solutions for veterans immediately. 

Senator Kirk’s letter, seen below and here, requests an immediate investigation into the program and plans to address the issues in order to ensure veterans across the country have access to quality, potentially life-saving care.

February 4, 2016

The Honorable Robert McDonald
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary McDonald:

Congress passed and the President signed the bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-146) (“Choice Act”), in response to veterans waiting months and years to for an appointment with a doctor.   The Veterans Choice Act was created to solve that problem. Yet, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies, I continue to hear that healthcare providers under the Choice Act are not receiving timely payments for their services to veterans.  Veterans are still not accessing basic diagnostic testing like CAT scans, MRIs, and are having trouble accessing primary care.  I consistently hear reports that the Department of Veterans Affairs is delaying the process of veterans’ requests to use the Choice Act, delaying the approval of provider participation in Choice, and delaying payments to participating providers.

Implementation of the Veterans Choice Act appears to be another systemic failure in the VA, substantiated by the report released today, February 4, “Veterans Health Administration, Review of Alleged Untimely Care at the Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Colorado Springs, CO. 

“We substantiated the allegation that the veteran, as well as other eligible Colorado Springs veterans, did not receive timely care in the six reviewed services. We reviewed 150 referrals for specialty care consults and 300 primary care appointments. Of the 450 consults and appointments, 288 veterans encountered wait times in excess of 30 days. For all 288 veterans, VA staff either did not add them to the Veterans Choice List (VCL) or did not add them to the VCL in a timely manner. For 59 of the 288 veterans, scheduling staff used incorrect dates that made it appear the appointment wait time was less than 30 days. For 229 of the 288 veterans with appointments over 30 days, NVCC staff did not add 173 veterans at the CBOCs in the Eastern Colorado Health Care System (ECHCS) to the VCL in a timely manner and they did not add 56 veterans to the list at all. In addition, scheduling staff did not take timely action on 94 consults and primary care appointment requests. As a result, VA staff did not fully use Veterans Choice Program funds to afford CBOC Colorado Springs veterans the opportunity to receive timely care.”

The Veterans Choice Act is supposed to give our veterans care in their community, which makes their access to care less burdensome.  I want to know how the VA plans to address these issues and ensure that all veterans have access to the Choice Act envisioned by Congress with a comprehensive provider network.  

VHA has repeatedly insisted that the unique needs of combat veterans dictates the existence of a stand-alone, independent care network embodied by VA.  Unfortunately, given the VHA’s demonstrated inability to provide even basic care, let alone comprehensive services, I find it particularly disappointing that VHA continues to stymie the private sector’s attempts to address veteran patient needs.  Until the VA begins to pay providers in a prompt manner, the Choice Act will not work and our veterans will not receive the care they deserve. 

Our veterans, who bravely served our country, deserve the best medical care available and at the very least deserve their leaders’ attention to people and systems that obstruct them from receiving that care.                                                 


Mark Kirk
United States Senate

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch Delivers Remarks At Maryland’s 5th Congressional District’s 35th Anniversary Black History Month Celebration

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS
Upper Marlboro, MD

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch:


Thank you, Congressman [Steny] Hoyer, for that kind introduction, for your extensive and impressive record of public service, and for your strong and unwavering commitment to securing equality, opportunity and justice for every American.  I’d also like to recognize an exceptional colleague of mine from the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney [Rod] Rosenstein.  Thanks to all of the federal, state and local officials who are here with us today.  And thank you to the committee that made this gathering possible.  I particularly want to recognize the chair of that committee, Betty Richardson, who has helped organize the 5th Congressional District’s Black History Month Breakfast every year since it began 35 years ago.  It’s a pleasure to be with you this morning, and it’s a privilege to join this group of distinguished leaders and passionate advocates as we reflect on the challenges we have overcome; as we celebrate the progress we have made; and as we rededicate ourselves to the work that still remains.

Every February, this country takes an opportunity to look back at the extraordinary journey that is black history in America.  Each year, the Association for the Study of African American life and history selects a theme, or area of focus, in black history.   This year’s theme is “Hallowed Ground:  Sites of African American Memories.”  It is a theme that commemorates the places that bore silent witness to the struggle for freedom, that sheltered us along the path towards equality, and that have been consecrated by the spirits of those who gave their lives in pursuit of the more perfect union that is the birthright of us all.  Many of those sites are right here in the great state of Maryland – the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, Frederick Douglass’ home.  All of them inspire us still.

This year’s theme has caused me to think about the concept of how a place can inspire a people.  One particular site comes to mind, although it is not on the official list of Black History Month sites because it has not survived as a structure.  Before the Department of Justice occupied the beautiful art deco building we are headquartered in now on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., we occupied several different offices.  But from 1869 – 1899, the Department of Justice was headquartered on the top floor of the Freedman’s National Bank building in D.C., which is now the site of the Treasury Department annex.  The department occupied that building while the bank was still open and flourishing, until the bank’s demise in 1874.  At one time it had almost $57 million on deposit.

The bank suffered greatly in the 1870’s, eventually closing in 1874.  But I like to think that spirit of that institution was absorbed into the bones of the Department of Justice.  I like to think that the hopes of equality and the dreams of full participation in American life were transmitted to those of us who work to make those hope and dreams come true every day.  I have always thought it so fitting that we shared that space with the Freedman’s Bank in those fragile years after the Civil War.  And as we look back on black history in America, we see that so much of it is the history of the search for justice in this country.  We searched for it in the dark holds of the slave ships that were the passage for so many.  We cried out for it during the dark days of slavery and Jim Crow.  We fought for it throughout the civil rights era.  We walked towards it as we crossed a bridge named Pettus.  And we seek it still as we work to ensure that every American enjoys the full blessings of liberty and equality.  And the lesson we learn from this search is not that justice is elusive or absent, but that every generation must take up its cause and make it real for the next.  We learn that justice is not reserved for those in high positions or with great titles, but is held in the hearts and hands of ordinary people – young and old, black and white, famous and unknown – taking one more step on the road to progress; one more step on the path to a more just society.  Men and women who boycotted buses in Montgomery.  Children who braved newly integrated schools.  Individuals who sat in, stood up, and spoke out however they could in communities across this nation, lending their hearts and their hands to bend the arc of the moral universe just a little further towards justice.  We know that progress does not unfold on its own, but is caused when people like those of us in this room today hear the call to service, and resolve to do our part.

Like many of you, I have felt that call my entire life – as a girl growing up between the pews of her father’s church, as a law student eager to make a difference, and as a prosecutor who swore an oath to execute my duties faithfully, in the service of the people and the country that I love.  Now as Attorney General, I am proud to lead a department that is as committed as ever to making this nation’s promises real for all Americans – no matter what we look like, where we’re from, where we live, or whom we love.

The Department of Justice is the only Cabinet office that is named for an ideal.  Our work touches the fabric – and the places – of American life – from the courtroom to the classroom, from our voting booths to our border areas, and from rural towns to city streets.  And in all of those areas, we are taking a comprehensive approach to stamping out inequality, to bolstering civil rights, and to promoting opportunity for all Americans.  We’re taking measures to keep children in school, on a path to success, and out of prison – because school, of all places, must be a place that opens doors to our children, not closes off their lives.  We’ve gone to court to defend the right to vote that so many fought so hard to secure, because as we take this month to consider hallowed places, for African Americans surely the voting booth must be one of them.  We’ve convicted more defendants on hate crimes charges than at any other time in history, because this country should be a safe place for all who seek freedom.  And we’re spearheading efforts to build trust between law enforcement officers and the communities we serve, because the space next to a police officer should be a place of safety and security for every American.

These are all significant undertakings, and I could not be more proud of the women and men who are doing their part not only to preserve the tremendous gains we have made as a country and as a people, but to expand them – to broaden the circle of opportunity for ourselves and for generations to come.  That is the mandate of our time, just as it has been the mandate of every generation before us.  But fulfilling it will not be easy, and it will require more than the efforts of one department, no matter how committed.  It will require all of us – in communities like this one, with the leadership of men and women like you – to put our shoulders to the wheel and resolve to be the agents of change: to be leaders of strong character and good judgment; to participate in the decisions that will advance our communities; to speak on behalf of the most vulnerable among us.

Now, I am well aware that obstacles lie before us – particularly at a time like this, when Americans are anxious about the future, when long-simmering fissures erupt anew, and when it seems at times that the voices that tempt us to give in to fear and division and futility are louder than ever before.  In recent months, we’ve seen tensions boil over into unrest.  We’ve seen the cornerstone of our democracy – the right to vote – come under fresh attacks.  And we’ve seen hateful rhetoric creep into our public discourse, urging us to choose the easy path of blame and suspicion over the much harder road of conversation and support.  We see all of that.  But let me tell you what else we see.  We see young people taking up the mantle of those who have gone before and speaking out.  We see people of good will of all faiths and all backgrounds speaking out in support of those who are targeted.  We see commemorations like this inspiring others to continue the struggle.  And I know that we are equal to the challenges we face, because we have faced them before, and we have overcome.

That is why commemorations like this one are so important – because by looking to the challenges of the past, we find strength to meet the difficulties of the present.  Our history reminds us that the pursuit of justice, the struggle for liberty, the quest for equality – these things have never been easy, and progress has never been certain.  Some of the most moving passages in Dr. King’s sermons are those in which he spoke of his fears – fears for himself and his family; fears that he would not succeed.  But he went on to say, “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”  He knew there were no guarantees, except the guarantee that nothing would change if he did not act, and he told us, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”  That kind of courage – a courage of conviction; a commitment to do what is right, even in the face of great danger and oppression – is what has driven our work to ensure the truth of this country’s founding promise: that all are created equal.

Today, as we honor the choices made and the actions taken by brave women, men and children of times past, let us call upon their courage again.  Let us draw strength and inspiration from our hallowed places and resolve to take the next step; to continue marching; to keep, in the words of that great freedom song, our eyes on the prize.  Because if we do these things – if we pledge our courage and our conviction to the cause of progress – then there is nothing that we cannot achieve.  As Dr. King said, “Nothing could stop the marching feet of a determined people.”  We are no less determined today – and so, the march goes on: to bring unity to a nation too often divided; to bring equality to a society too often riven by prejudice; and to bring justice to our beloved community, today and in the days to come.

I want to thank each of you for your commitment to that cause.  Thank you for all you have done on behalf of a better life for us all.  I look forward to standing with you – and marching by your side – as we continue that sacred work together.

IDOT, Amtrak Reach Agreement on Train Service

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Amtrak announced that they have reached an agreement to keep in place existing service levels on state-supported routes at a savings to taxpayers and without having to raise fares on the downstate Illinois routes.

“Passenger rail plays a vital role in connecting our state’s great communities and institutions,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “This agreement preserves the service that riders have come to expect while saving taxpayer money and avoiding a fare increase for our downstate routes. We will continue to look out for the public’s best interests in future service agreements with Amtrak.”

The agreement will maintain the Amtrak schedule for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, at a cost of $38.3 million to the state. In the previous fiscal year, IDOT paid $42 million for state-supported Amtrak service in Illinois.

To keep the schedule in place, IDOT negotiated the use of credits to lower its annual payment to Amtrak. The credits cover previous equipment upgrades IDOT paid for on Amtrak’s behalf, as well as earlier state investments to establish onboard Wi-Fi service. The state also negotiated a $2.7 million reduction from Amtrak’s original request for equipment maintenance for the year.

The state currently supports four daily round trips between Chicago and St. Louis on the Lincoln Service, two daily round trips between Chicago and Quincy on the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg lines, and two daily round trips between Chicago and Carbondale on the Illini and Saluki lines. Illinois and Wisconsin split the cost of operating seven daily round trips on the Hiawatha Line between Chicago and Milwaukee, with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation providing for 75 percent of the route’s cost.

“Our partnership with Illinois is one of the longest and the second-largest, growing to more than 2 million passengers a year,” said Jay Commer, Amtrak SVP/General Manager of the State-Supported Service Business Line. “Amtrak looks forward to working with the State of Illinois to continue to provide this important service to its residents.”

Click here for more information on IDOT and Amtrak or visit www.Amtrak.com.

Former NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous Endorses Sanders

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

MANCHESTER, N.H. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders Friday picked up the endorsement of former NAACP President and CEO Ben Jealous.

“Bernie Sanders has been principled, courageous and consistent in fighting the evils that Dr. King referred to as the ‘giant triplets’ of racism, militarism and greed,” Jealous said. “Bernie Sanders has the courage to confront the institutionalized bias that stains our nation. Bernie Sanders is the type of leader we can trust to fight for the future of all our nation’s children as if they were his very own. It is for all these reasons that I am proud to endorse Bernie Sanders for president of these United States.”

Jealous was the youngest-ever president of the century-old NAACP, serving from 2008 to 2013. He’s credited with leading the storied civil rights group back to prominence.

“I think the proposals that we have brought forth in this campaign are proposals that will go a very, very long way to improving the lives of people of color in this nation,” Sanders said. The senator cited raising the minimum wage, ensuring pay equity for women, creating millions of decent paying jobs, Medicare for all and tuition-free public colleges and universities among the plans he’s put forward that would directly impact communities of color.

Jealous will travel to South Carolina on Saturday for a series of campaign stops and events throughout the Palmetto State.

To hear a recording of the conference call, click here.
To read Ben Jealous’ prepared remarks, click here.

Illinois State Board of Education Announces Board Video-Conference Meeting for Feb. 10

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Board of Education has announced the following schedule for its regular business meeting via video-conference in Chicago, Springfield, and Marion on Wednesday, Feb. 10.   

All State Board of Education meetings listed on this agenda will be accessible to persons with disabilities. Persons planning to attend who need special accommodations should contact the Board office no later than the date prior to the meeting. Contact the Superintendent’s office at the State Board of Education, Phone: 217-782-2221; TTY/TDD: 217-782-1900; Fax: 217-785-3972. 

Chairman Meeks may call for a break in the meeting as necessary in order for the Board to go into closed session.


State Board of Education Meeting

Feb. 10, 2016


Chicago Location:              ISBE Video Conference Room, 14th Floor,
100 W. Randolph St., Chicago


Springfield Location:         ISBE Video Conference Room, 3rd Floor,
100 N. First St., Springfield

Marion Location:                HFS Video Conference Room,
3419 Professional Park Drive, Marion


This meeting will also be audio cast on the Internet at:  www.isbe.net


I.      Roll Call/Pledge of Allegiance

A.  Consideration of and Possible Actions on Any Requests for Participation in Meeting by Other Means                            

II.    Public Participation

III.   Presentations & Updates

A. Illinois Arts Learning Standards Initiative             

IV.  Superintendent’s Report – Consent Agenda

A. *Approval of Minutes

       1. Plenary Minutes: January 6, 2016

B. *Rules for Initial Review

       1. Part 1 (Public Schools Evaluation, Recognition and Supervision) Proposes two new Sections regarding the Illinois School Report Card and licensure for providers of professional development for educator licensed employees, and updates the Illinois Learning Standards for the Fine Arts.

       2. Part 27 (Standards for Endorsements in Specific Teacher Fields) Proposes new standards to which preparation programs offering, and candidates receiving, endorsements in English as a second language and bilingual education must align.

       3. Part 475 (Contested Cases and other Formal Hearings). Updates a reference to the license renewal system and adds provisions authorizing the State Superintendent to withdraw a case under certain circumstances.

C. *Contracts & Grants Over $1 Million

       1. Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education Grant

       2. Early Childhood Block Grant Prevention Initiative–Training and Technical Assistance: Birth to Three Years Grant

       3. Early Childhood Discretionary Grant

       4. Intergovernmental Agreement with the Illinois Department of Human Services–Gateways to Opportunity Scholarship Program

       5. I-Star (IEP-Special Education Tracking and Reporting) Contract

       6. Renewal of Intergovernmental Agreement with ROE #9 for Resource Development in Support of the new Illinois Learning Standards for Math, Science, and Social Studies

       7. Renewal of Intergovernmental Agreement with Illinois State University for Statewide Implementation of the New Illinois Learning Standards for English, Language Arts, Math Science, and Social Studies

       8. Renewal of Intergovernmental Agreement with ROE #9 for Professional Development in Support of the New Illinois Learning Standards for Math and Science

       9. Special Education Information Technology Support

       10. Grant Agreement for Phillip J. Rock Center

       11. Illinois Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) Network – Part D – State Personnel Development Grant

D. *Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriation Transfer from Special Education Personnel to Special Education Transportation

E. *Qualified School Construction Bond(s)

F. *Financial Audit Report

End of Consent Agenda

V. Sunset Ridge District 29 Waiver of 23 Ill. Admin. Code 1.420(h)(3)

VI. 2016 Spring Waiver Report

VII. Discussion Items

      A. District Oversight Update

      B. Legislative Update

      C. Other Items for Discussion

VIII. Announcements & Reports                               

A. Superintendent’s/Senior Staff Announcements

B. Chairman’s Report

C. Member Reports

IX.                                                                                  Information Items

A.   Fiscal & Administrative Reports (available online at http://isbe.net/board/fiscal_admin_rep.htm

X.  Closed Session (as needed)

XI.   Adjourn

Former Chief Financial Officer Of Restaurant Chain Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud And Embezzlement From Bankruptcy Estate

Posted by Admin On February - 8 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

BATON ROUGE, LA – United States Attorney Walt Green announced that WILLIAM “WIL” ROS, age 45, of Cortez, Florida, pled guilty to wire fraud and embezzlement from a bankruptcy estate.  The guilty pleas arise from his management and operation of Fundamental Provisions, LLC, a local company which operated 30 Popeyes’ Fried Chicken restaurants in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida.

According to the factual summary presented at his guilty plea hearing, Fundamental Provisions, LLC was a business based in Gonzales, Louisiana.  Fundamental owned and operated 30 Popeyes’ Fried Chicken and Biscuits franchise restaurants in Alabama, Florida, and Louisiana.  Fundamental had gross annual revenues in excess of $20,000,000.

ROS was the Chief Financial Officer of Fundamental.  As CFO, ROS was responsible for the daily management and operations of multiple Popeyes restaurants located in Alabama and Florida, including supervision of, and frequent communication with various store managers.  ROS was also responsible for assuring that funds generated by each restaurant were used for the benefit of Fundamental.

In December 2009, in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, Fundamental sought, and received, bankruptcy protection which authorized the company to reorganize its management and restructure its debt so that it could continue operating its business and thereafter pay debts it owed to numerous creditors.

A Chief Restructuring Officer was employed in January 2010 and authorized by the Bankruptcy Court to control all business operations, including disbursements of company funds, employment of key personnel, and incurrence of debt.  The CRO employed and paid ROS to act as Fundamental’s CFO.

According to the facts presented at his re-arraignment hearing, because the reorganized company was unable to make payments to its creditors as promised in December 2011, Fundamental was placed in involuntary bankruptcy in March 2012.  A Trustee was appointed by a Bankruptcy Judge for the purpose of liquidating the company’s assets in order to pay substantial debts owed by Fundamental to its creditors.  With approval of the Bankruptcy Judge, the Trustee appointed a Chief Operating Officer to assist with the liquidation process.  The COO continued ROS’s employment as Fundamental CFO until in or about May 2012.

From August 2009 through May 2012, ROS engaged in a scheme to defraud Fundamental and obtain company money by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, promises, and representations.  According to the factual recitation at the re-arraignment hearing, the purpose of the scheme was to enrich himself using funds he diverted from Fundamental, and to conceal his diversions of company funds from officials administering Fundamental’s Bankruptcy Court proceedings.

ROS executed his scheme by using his position as Fundamental’s CFO to cause restaurant managers to divert restaurant revenues to his personal benefit.  He also allegedly caused store managers to mischaracterize and cause the recording of fictitious purchases to disguise the fact that he had caused managers to remove funds from the restaurants’ cash registers for his personal benefit.

Beginning in August 2009, ROS directed an Alabama store manager to remove monies from restaurant cash registers and either deliver it to him (ROS) or mail FedEx packages of cash to persons identified by ROS. 

Beginning in March 2010, ROS directed a second Alabama store manager to remove monies from restaurant cash registers and deposit the monies into bank accounts controlled by ROS, including ROS’s girlfriend, his golf club supplier, and family friend.

ROS also used the store managers to divert restaurant funds and directed them to send packages of cash to various persons, including his girlfriend, his golf club supplier, and the seller of a Ford GT race car.

In total, ROS embezzled approximately $966,257 from the Alabama restaurants during the course of the pending bankruptcy proceedings. According to the indictment, ROS allegedly enjoyed the stolen funds by purchasing a $225,000 race car and upgrading, renovating, and furnishing his Florida home.

U.S. Attorney Green stated:  “Corporate executives who fleece their employers in order to finance their self-indulgence and greed will be aggressively pursued by this office.  Such fraud threatens to jeopardize the fiscal integrity of our businesses and the livelihoods of those who work for them.  I commend the dedicated efforts of the FBI agents and prosecutors who worked to ensure that justice was done in this case.”

FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jeffrey S. Sallet stated: “The FBI’s Baton Rouge Resident Agency aggressively pursues those individuals who seek to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of others.  The FBI, with the exemplary support of our partners in the United States Attorney’s Office, will continue our work ensuring the integrity of the bankruptcy system and delivering those individuals responsible for corporate fraud to justice.”

The matter is being handled by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Baton Rouge office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with assistance from the Region 5 Office of the United States Trustee.  It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Rene Salomon and Ryan Crosswell.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

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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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