Thursday, April 30, 2009

When Does The Fairness Start With Illegal Immigration?

This Friday, May 1, will again bring about marches from people who are in this country illegally and their supporters. Illegal immigration is a very contentious subject. This year it will be even more so as millions of Americans have become unemployed or are facing the "chopping block."

I always have been insulted when individuals who are pro-illegal immigrants try to logic out why one group of people can break one set of laws while the rest of us should be subject to the exact same laws. For example, the City of Chicago has proclaimed itself to be a sanctuary city. We have individuals who get upset if the police do stings and arrest and take the cars of people who are in this country illegally and driving without a license. Yet we recently had an alderman proclaim that the city should take the cars of American citizens who leave traffic court and drive after being told to not do so. Where is the fairness?

I recently spent several months working in a Chicago public school where the student population was half black and half Hispanic. As I walked down the hallways, the classrooms for grades kindergarten through third looked like something out of a movie prior to Brown vs. Board of Education. The classrooms for first graders, for example, had all the black children in one room while all the Hispanic children were in a separate classroom.

Why? Because six years prior, two children were born in the same city and same hospital. The black child went home where he/she learned English even if it was the Ebonics' version. The other child went home with parents who didn't speak English and may be in this country illegally. That child learned Spanish as their first language.

When the time came to go to school, the Hispanic parents were allowed to choose a bilingual education program, even if the child is functional in English.

Wait a second. If the Hispanic children are getting bilingual education, shouldn't the black kids be getting the same opportunity to become bilingual by learning Spanish at the same time the Hispanic children are learning English? Where is the fairness?

Recently, a man testified before congress regarding his daughter who was killed while sitting in her car at a red light. Her car was hit by a drunk driver, who was an illegal immigrant. The father referred to the people listed on the ICE database of illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds as "banditos." The father was subsequently chastised by Congressman Luis Gutierrez for using the term "banditos." Interestingly enough, it was not because the congressman could point to the term as being derogatory, but because he has chosen to pursue the interest of illegal immigrants over those of U.S. citizens. He was more concerned with how the illegal immigrants were being portrayed than he was about a U.S. citizen being killed by someone who shouldn't have been in the country to begin with. Where is the fairness?

I have watched while a friend of mine lost his restaurant business. Every day he was visited by the city and issued fines for violations that had nothing to do with his food handling. Fines for signage violation. Fines because his video game didn't have a current license even though it was unplugged and facing backwards so that no one could use it. Yet, every day on the streets of Austin, I am seeing unlicensed and unsanitary corn carts sitting on corners vending food. There is no running water to wash hands and, even worse, where do they use the bathroom when they stand on a corner for hours on end?

I saw on North Avenue, by the soon-to-be opened new Menards, a man cooking tacos on the city's sidewalk. I am sure we have tons of Americans who could also put a BBQ pit on a cart and stand on a corner and sell food. Yet it doesn't happen because the city enforces food-handling laws against citizens but not against others. Where is the fairness?

As this year's marches occur, I am anxious to see how illegal immigration will be portrayed. As Americans have lost jobs, houses and their version of the American dream, will we as a country still be gullible enough to believe that there are jobs that we won't do?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Have we forgotten so soon?

I attended the event Congressman Danny K Davis held to honor the new chancellor for UIC. During the Negro National Anthem, I was one the only one who sang it with my fist raised.

Yet, for the Stars Spangled Banner, I saw at least fifteen people put their hands over their hearts.

Have we so soon forgotten?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Florida A & M Scholarships


Scholarship Information

Florida A & M University is providing an outstanding
opportunity for
Black women entering college in the fall of 2009. It is
designed to
address their absence in the field of computer technology.
Dr. Jason
Black is the Principal Investigator of a recently awarded
$552,000 NSF
Grant entitled African-American Women in Computer Science.
The grant
provides scholarships from $4000 to $10,000 per year for
female African
American students.

We need your help to get the word out about this great
opportunity to
build back up the enrollment of women in the CIS
Department. Pass this
information along to high school or community college
student, their
parents, and to guidance counselors you may know. The
full text of the
scholarship can be found at

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stll Too Many Vacant Houses

I was driving down the 700- 800 block of Latrobe the other day. There are so many vacant houses. Each house represents at least $2000 a year in property taxes. Ten houses is $20,000. Fifty houses = $100,000. Five hundred houses = ONE MILLION.

How can a two block area have fifteen vacant homes and daley want an Olympic? Will those houses get rehabbed and subsequently have people living in them? Will those areas recover or is the beginning of houses soon to turn into vacant land in Austin?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

To The Person Who Posted About Tomato Plant Stakes

I deleted your post in error. Please repost. Thanks.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Go "Green" By Growing "Green"

I was fixing to write another column where I ranted about something. But the reality of life in these times is no one really needs to read a column where I keep harping on just how bad it is. We all know about good and bad economic times based on our individual pocketbooks.

My pocketbook has been very lean lately. So, I have learned to stretch my budget even further. The other day as I took out an entire chicken from the freezer to fix for dinner, I decided to subdivide it into several meals rather than cook the entire thing at once.

I cut off the legs, thighs and wings and kept them to fry for the next day's dinner. I used the breast meat and as much of the meat that I could filet off the back and used it in my favorite recipe for chicken fajitas.

As I went to the freezer to pull out a bag of frozen green peppers, I had to smile. Those peppers were the ones I had grown in my garden last summer. Green peppers are one of the easiest vegetables to grow, and they store easily through the winter. All I do is rinse them, let them dry off and then freeze them in freezer bags.

Now that spring is here, I am going to encourage everyone with a backyard to plant a garden. Even the Obama White House now has a garden.

Gardening is going to be one of the hippest things to do this year. Now I know for some people who don't normally garden, the idea of eating something you planted can seem kind of strange. We have become a society of grocery store shoppers. The first year I grew tomatoes in my backyard, I'll admit I was afraid of them. They were so simple to grow that it was slightly scary. But I got over that fear once I tasted those tomatoes. The taste of a homegrown tomato can rarely be duplicated by anything commercially grown.

I know a lot of people who say that rats keep them from planting things in the backyard. But guess what? There are rats running around the farmer's fields as well, plus a whole bunch of other animals. And if you believe that the worker in the field goes back to the farmhouse to use the bathroom, well think again.

If you haven't already set aside a part of your backyard for a garden, consider doing so. I have several areas in my yard for growing my own vegetables. One is a raised bed on the side of my patio. I also have several large containers that I grow things in. One was an old basement sink. I filled the bottom with rocks and then added several bags of top soil mixed with peat moss and manure. I also have several large plastic pots that I use to grow vegetables in.

Consider growing a variety of peppers. The hot peppers; jalapenos, habaneras and cayenne are easy to grow. Try sweet bell peppers, especially ones that turn yellow, red, chocolate and orange.

I have successfully grown Brussels sprouts, corn and string beans. Every year I swear that I'm going to make pickles out of those cucumbers that I grow along the fence I share with my neighbor, but have yet to get around to doing so. I've also grown cantaloupes and muskmelons. I'm even going to start my seeds and see if I can get a watermelon to grow this year.

We may be in a rough economy. But if you have one of the basic staples of life growing in the backyard it can be one less worry you have to think about. Plus, if you grow enough, you can sell it to your neighbors and earn a couple of extra dollars.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Okay Folks, Let's Think About It

Would you make a public bid on buying a house if you couldn't get the financing? Would you accept a bid on your house and take it off the market by someone who couldn't possibly afford it?

What's up with this failed bid to lease Midway? If they couldn't afford to get the financing to lease, can they take the hit to lose the money?

Something fishy on the fifth floor at city hall.


The much-anticipated $2.5 billion deal to privatize Midway Airport has become the latest victim of the global crisis choking off the financial markets, Chicago city officials said Monday.

Unable to borrow the mountain of cash needed to finance the deal, a consortium, including a unit of troubled Citigroup Inc., had to scotch its plans to lease and operate the city-owned airport facility.

For now, the city will have to make do without a windfall of $1 billion that Mayor Richard Daley hoped would help fund infrastructure projects, pension obligations and, to a lesser extent, other city spending.

Gene Saffold, the mayor's chief financial officer, said the city will be able to keep $126 million in earnest money put down by the winning bidder to secure the transaction, so "it wasn't a total loss."

But a deal that promised to serve as a model for other cash-strapped states and municipalities seeking to raise money by leasing off big public assets has instead turned into a cautionary tale.

"For other cities trying to cut their budget deficits by selling off assets — and there are many — things just got a lot harder politically," said consultant Steve Steckler, chairman of Maryland-based Infrastructure Management Group Inc.

Though Saffold said there may be an opportunity in the future to resurrect the deal, he conceded any fresh effort would have to wait until the capital markets fully recover.

Meanwhile, the city will set to work formulating a definitive plan to spend the $126 million down payment. Saffold said $40 million would go toward shoring up the budget this year and in 2010, and some will go to unspecified public works projects in the city's neighborhoods.

Daley recently pegged the 2009 budget shortfall at $220 million.

The Midway deal reflects the troubled business environment. In 2005, when times were easier for borrowers and lenders, Chicago was able to reap a one-time $1.83 billion windfall by setting up a long-term lease of the Chicago Skyway toll road. In 2006, Indiana raised $3.8 billion leasing out the Indiana Toll Road.

The mayor's plan to lease Midway for 99 years drew six serious bidders led by a consortium of Vancouver Airport Services Ltd., Citi Infrastructure Investors and Boston's John Hancock Life Insurance Co.

When the City Council voted 49-0 last October to approve the Citigroup's $2.5 billion offer, the idea was to use most of the money to pay off Midway's long-term debt, leaving $1 billion for the city. State law mandated that 90 percent of that had to be used to support infrastructure and pension obligations. But the other 10 percent could be used for general spending.

Steckler said many experts believed the $2.5 billion price tag was high. But once the cost of financing began to soar as the credit markets froze up last fall, it would have become even more difficult to cover future interest expense with airport cash flow, he said.

It doesn't help that due to the recession the volume of both flights and passengers at Midway during January was down 12 percent, year over year, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Bob Montgomery, vice president for properties at Southwest Airlines, Midway's biggest tenant, said he would support an effort to cut a new lease deal. But he's "a little bit relieved" this one didn't work because privatization would have been uncharted territory.

"It takes the risk off the table for us," he said.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Isn't She Lovely?

Tiana - She's Disney's First Black Animated Cartoon Character.

A Fairy Tale Beginning
Snow White, She's Not. Among Disney's Royal Ladies, Tiana Is a Notable First.

By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Long ago and far away, she was an unnamed little princess in a little story called the "The Frog Prince." She and her amphibious friend lived in a very small, mostly forgotten corner of the fairy tale universe.

Many years passed.

And then one day, through the magical powers of Disney animation and commercial marketing, the forgotten little princess was transformed into Tiana, a beautiful black princess from New Orleans. She became the star of "The Princess and the Frog," a movie set to premiere in November. Her doll and toy set were unveiled last month, and the Disney promotional machine is already humming, for Tiana is the first Disney princess in more than a decade, and the first ever to be black.

In the 72 years since Walt Disney's animated version of Snow White captivated audiences as "the fairest of them all," there have only been eight such Disney princesses. Through these movies and a line of toys, dresses and figurines, the Disney princesses have become global, doe-eyed icons of childhood. Sleeping Beauty awakened by a kiss, Cinderella's clock striking midnight, Belle waltzing in the Beast's castle, Ariel with Prince Eric in the moonlit lagoon -- these have become heroines whom parents the world over feel safe to let their young girls idolize and mimic. And while Disney has brought us nonwhite princesses before (see "Mulan," "Pocahontas"), Tiana is a first.

The implied message of Tiana, that black American girls can be as elegant as Snow White herself, is a milestone in the national imagery, according to a range of scholars and cultural historians.

Her appearance this holiday season, coming on the heels of Michelle Obama's emergence as the nation's first lady, the Obama girls in the White House and the first line of Barbie dolls modeled on black women ("So in Style" debuts this summer), will crown an extraordinary year of visibility for African American women.

But fairy tales and folklore are the stories that cultures tell their children about the world around them, and considering Disney's pervasive influence with (and marketing to) young girls, Princess Tiana might well become the symbol of a culture-changing standard of feminine beauty.

"If this figure takes off, you're looking at 30 or 40 years of repetition and resonance," says Tricia Rose, a Brown University professor who teaches both popular culture and African American studies, citing the enduring popularity of Disney princesses at the company's theme parks, on Web sites and in videos.

"It's a very big deal," says Leonard Maltin, the film historian, critic and author of "Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons."

"She's the first modern American [Disney] princess, and that she's black sends a huge message," says Cori Murray, entertainment director for Essence magazine.

On its most basic level, "The Princess and the Frog" is a vintage Disney princess fairy tale, in hand-drawn (2-D) animation, a Broadway-style musical. It draws inspiration from an 18th-century fairy tale from the British Isles, and "The Frog Princess," a 2002 teen novel from Maryland writer E.D. Baker. Disney transferred the story to 1920s New Orleans and changed her name, race and almost everything else.

In the Disney version, Tiana is a young waitress and talented chef who dreams, like her father, of owning her own restaurant. She eventually kisses a frog and is transformed into one. She must journey into the dark bayou to get a magical cure from a good voodoo queen. She is aided by a goofy firefly and a trumpet-playing alligator. The frog turns out to be handsome Prince Naveen, from the far-off and fictional land of Maldonia.

The stills released by the studio show Tiana in full princess regalia: a powder-blue gown, tiara and hair in an elegant upsweep.

Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose voices Tiana. Other parts are played by Oprah Winfrey, John Goodman, Terrence Howard and Keith David. The music is by Oscar winner (and New Orleans veteran) Randy Newman. It is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the same team behind "Aladdin" and "The Little Mermaid."

"Our first goal is to make a great motion picture," says John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, who is overseeing the project. "But we have also worked very closely with a lot of leaders in the African American community, all across the nation, to make sure we're doing something African American families will be proud of. It's very important for us to do it right. We've been very careful and cognizant about what we're doing."

He says it was Clements and Musker's idea to make Tiana black, and he stresses that Tiana will be one of the "strongest" Disney heroines yet. The criticisms the film got over the character's name in early drafts ("Maddy," short for Madeline, was perceived by some to sound like a "slave name") were only hiccups on the way to a finished product, he says, noting that one of his most popular creations, Buzz Lightyear in "Toy Story," was named "Tempest" at one point.

The message that Tiana learns in the film -- Disney characters always learn something by movie's end -- is that balance is important in life. Jazz Age woman that she is, Tiana needs both love and a career to find happiness.

"Her dream is not just to marry a prince," he says.

It will be a closely watched debut, with almost every aspect of her character subject to interpretation.

Murray says she was pleased the studio is portraying Tiana with skin of a "darker hue" and slightly full lips. Tarshia Stanley, a professor of English at Spelman College in Atlanta who often writes and teaches about portrayals of black women in film, says that the character's hair -- straight and pulled back in early images released by the studio -- seems to be the appropriate, middle-of-the-road bet, too.

"They might as well make it straight so little girls can comb it when the doll comes out," she notes, wryly. "We as African American women haven't fully dealt with how sensitive the subject of our hair can be, so I certainly wouldn't expect Disney to know what to do with [that issue]."

(Prince Naveen, for the record, is neither white nor black, but portrayed with olive skin, dark hair and, need we state the obvious, a strong chin. The actor who plays him, Bruno Campos, hails from Brazil.)

Big box-office numbers will be expected for Tiana. The eight Disney princess films, as defined by the company -- "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast," "Pocahontas" and "Mulan" -- have all been smashes. When adjusted for inflation, three of them -- "Snow White," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Aladdin" -- rank among the top 100 domestic moneymakers of all time, according to the Box Office Mojo Web site.

The last two princess movies, "Mulan" (1998) and "Pocahontas" (1995), each have a worldwide gross of more than $300 million, according to the Web site, in numbers that are not adjusted for inflation. Disney has also reprised the princesses' roles into more than 50 sequels, specials, spinoffs or appearances by the characters on Disney television shows.

Further, Disney began grouping all eight princesses into a single line of toys, games and costumes in 2000. Sales were more than $4 billion last year, according to the company.

"It's hard to sort out which princess is the most or least popular because they're all included in so many sets of toys," says Jim Silver, a toy industry analyst and editor in chief of the Time to Play magazine Web site. "It's all about fashion for little girls, and they may love Belle the best, but most like Jasmine's [from "Aladdin"] costume."

The films featuring the darker-hued heroines -- "Pocahontas," "Aladdin" and "Mulan" -- were much different from the Cinderella-at-the-ball idea of a princess. Pocahontas drew on the real-life travails of her Native American namesake, and Mulan was a warrior who spent most of the film disguised as a man. The two films have had mixed receptions among their real-life ethnic groups.

Gabrielle Tayac, a Piscataway Indian and historian at the National Museum of the American Indian, has taken her daughter to Disney World and says the "princess breakfast" the resort offers children (with real-life actresses portraying the fictional characters) was "heaven" to her child. She doesn't want to come across as a scold. But, as an adult, she says, "Pocahontas" often makes her wince.

"Pocahontas was presented in an almost Frederick's of Hollywood costume," she says. "The movie turned out to be more damage control for Native American parents than a moment of pride. It was nothing you wanted your daughter to grow up to be. . . . I have never seen little Native American girls try to dress up as Pocahontas."

Jeff Yang, editor in chief of "Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology," also writes about Asian pop culture for the San Francisco Chronicle. He says that the Disney adaptation of the Chinese story of the warrior Mulan brought a "sigh of relief" from Asian American parents.

"It was a real cultural opening; Disney's characters had been lily-white for so long," he said. "Asian American parents were much more open to the princess brand for their daughters once there was Asian representation."

Disney's Lasseter thinks all the films work well, but acknowledges some differences.

" 'The Little Mermaid,' 'Aladdin,' 'Beauty' -- they kind of have more staying power, generation to generation," he says. "Maybe the quality of filmmaking is stronger. Maybe those are considered a little bit more of a fairy tale than the others."

The story line of "The Princess and the Frog," he says, lends itself more to the traditional, romantic fairy tale.

Scholars say the fairy tales that last are the ones that continue to enchant, entertain and touch children over the ages -- but, most of all, the stories continue to live by finding ways to transform themselves into new worlds.

"Fairy tales absolutely should be brought up to date, to be more user-friendly for the children in our culture," says Maria Tatar, the editor of "The Classic Fairy Tales" who chairs the program in folklore and mythology at Harvard University. "You don't want to tell a story that was just right for German children in the early 19th century."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jackie Chan's Comments About China - Will he get the Bill Cosby Treatment?

Here is an article from the AP. Jackie Chan is critiquing his own country no differently that what Bill Cosby did when he spoke before the NAACP on the 40th anniversary of Brown vs Board of Ed. I wonder if Chinese Americans will call him everything but a child of God?


Jackie Chan: Chinese need to be controlled
Action star draws applause, saying too much freedom can lead to chaos
The Associated Press
updated 11:12 a.m. CT, Sat., April 18, 2009
BOAO, China - Action star Jackie Chan said Saturday he’s not sure if a free society is a good thing for China and that he’s starting to think “we Chinese need to be controlled.”

Chan’s comments drew applause from a predominantly Chinese audience of business leaders in China’s southern island province of Hainan.

The 55-year-old Hong Kong actor was participating in a panel at the annual Boao Forum when he was asked to discuss censorship and restrictions on filmmakers in China. He expanded his comments to include society.

“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said. “I’m really confused now. If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic.”

Chan added: “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

The kung fu star has not been a vocal supporter of the pro-democracy movement in his hometown of Hong Kong. Since the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, voters have not been allowed to directly elect their leader. Several massive street protests have been held to demand full democracy, but Beijing has repeatedly said Hong Kong isn’t ready for it.

The theme at Saturday’s panel discussion was “Tapping into Asia’s Creative Industry Potential,” and Chan had several opinions about innovation in China.

He said that early in his career, he lived in the shadow of the late martial arts star Bruce Lee. He said that during his first foray into Hollywood, he struggled to establish his own identity, so he returned to Hong Kong. After spending 15 years building his reputation in Asia, Chan finally got rediscovered by Hollywood, he said.

Chan said the problem with Chinese youth is that “they like other people’s things. They don’t like their own things.” Young people need to spend more time developing their own style, he added.

The action hero complained that Chinese goods still have too many quality problems. He became emotional when discussing contaminated milk powder that sickened tens of thousands of Chinese babies in the past year.

Speaking fast with his voice rising, Chan said, “If I need to buy a TV, I’ll definitely buy a Japanese TV. A Chinese TV might explode.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hmmm, Will All Those South Side Beaches Be Closed This Summer With The Olympic Bid Still On The Table?

Every now and then I feel the need to rant. Just to scream and holler and just get some things that have been bothering me off my chest. And this year as part of my rants, it's the "pay attention" part that I scream the loudest.

One of the things that's been irking me is our mayor's current obsession to get the 2016 Olympics here in Chicago. I was watching the television news the other day and the reports were all about the visit by the International Olympic Committee. The IOC had toured the city via a well-orchestrated plan and the press conference they held at the end seems to give very positive feedback about Chicago. Of course, we were the first city that they visited, so they didn't have anything to compare our plans with.

As I watched the news report that showed a video presentation of what the Olympic Village would look like and also where all the Olympic sites would be positioned, I noticed quite a few of them were on the South Side in predominately African-American communities. Now being a conspiracy theorist, and also being one who tends to be more right than wrong in my conspiracy views, I must ask this question.

Every year for the past few years, the park district would always announce beach closings. Those closings were always because of fecal materials that had the water levels so unsafe, that for the safety of the residents, those beaches were off limits. It was also always interesting that those beaches were usually on the South Side in areas where African-Americans would be the predominate users of the beach.

I mean think about it. They have a dog beach on the North Side just off of Montrose. Now unless those are some very well-trained dogs, you would think that water at the North Side beaches would occasionally suffer a need to be closed as well. I am sure that all those half-naked bodies at North Avenue Beach and Oak Street Beach would have left enough fluids in the water in that area to make them unswimmable as well. But it is rare to hear of them closing those beaches like you hear about the ones on the South Side being closed.

But now that the mayor wants the Olympics and is toting Chicago's lakefront, isn't it interesting that he found all those sites on the South Side and even has a private beach for the Olympic athletes as well? I just wonder if their beach will be subject to the same closings that Chicagoans have experienced. Or were all those beach closings on the South Side really necessary? Because if people are creatures of habit and you constantly do things to break the habit, then closing those beaches means that you can get the population to stop using it because as old folks like to say, "Use it or lose it."

Here's another thing that has irked me. In this week's news, Alderman Tom Allen of the 38th Ward and head of the Transportation Committee is proposing that drivers who drive on suspended or revoked driver's licenses lose their cars as part of a crackdown ordinance. On the surface, this sounds like a great idea. Take the cars of drivers who have lost their privilege to drive and charge them a $1,000 fee to get the car back. But at the same time, Chicago has been declared a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. Many of them are driving the junk trucks that all seem to have a temporary plate on them.

So if the alderman and the city want to take the cars of American citizens whose licenses have been suspended, then how come the city and state sells anybody who pays for it plates, stickers and city stickers with no regard for their licensed ability to drive the vehicle?

To me, that sounds like the simpler solution. Present a valid driver's license for all city stickers. Of course that might cut into the revenue the city is getting as it doesn't care when it's time to pay $75 for a city sticker whether or not you are a licensed driver or legal resident. All the city wants is the money. The same can be said for the state. Otherwise, why would we have so many temporary plates driving around? Those plates are no better than the old licensed-applied-for piece of paper that used to be in the back window of every car driven by those of questionable driving privilege.

Pay attention, Chicago. Let's see if we get beach closings this year as we wait to hear about the Olympic bid. Pay attention, Chicago, as the city comes up with another plan to dig into your pockets claiming its concern is over your suspended license. Because, for a lot of people, that suspension could be because of parking tickets, missed child support payments, failure to take an emission test or the myriad of reasons that they use to revoke your driver's license as punishment for something else.

Damn, Now This Child Is Sick

After three days of around-the-clock gambling, Alexis Robinson was ordered to leave the Majestic Star casino.

But when a security guard told her early Monday she couldn't return until that afternoon, "She just stared at him," her arrest report states.

Robinson, 23, of Chicago, was arrested after the guard and Gary police Cpl. Michael Barnes gave her one final chance to leave, but she didn't.

She continued to stand silently, until the officers arrested her, court records state.

"I didn't want to argue with them," Robinson told Gary City Court Judge Pro Tem Itsia Rivera on Monday morning.

Robinson was charged with criminal trespass. Rivera entered a not-guilty plea on her behalf, then questioned her about the incident.

Although the woman admitted she had been told not to return until 3 p.m., "I didn't have papers stating that," she said.

Robinson said she had been gambling almost continuously "like three days," and told the judge she'd been in the casino the entire time without taking a break at the nearby hotel.

"You have a gambling problem," Rivera said.

"If I do, then I have to change," Robinson said.

When Rivera told her she'd need $300 to bond out of jail, she asked if she could leave to go get it.

"I'm trying to get my son out of the hospital," Robinson said.

"You were not with any sick baby," the judge retorted.

Her trial is set for June 15.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Is this ethical?

From the Associated Press:

DALLAS (AP) - Nikolas Colton Evans had talked about how much he wanted to have a child, but the 21-year-old died after he was punched and hit his head on the ground in a fight. That would have been the end of it, if it weren't for his determined mother, a court order and a urologist.

Missy Evans has harvested her dead son's sperm and hopes to find a surrogate and one day raise her son's child. It's a decision that ethicists say raises troubling questions; one called the potential offspring a "replacement child."

Evans isn't concerned about what others might think. She says she is only doing what her son would have wanted.

"He would love me so much for doing this," she said.

Austin police say Nikolas Evans was punched during a fight on an Austin street early March 27 and then fell to the ground, striking his head. He died April 5. Police are still trying to identify the person who hit him.

After a doctor told her that nothing more could be done for her son, Missy Evans came up with the idea of harvesting his sperm. She discussed the idea with her ex-husband, her older son and other family members, and said all supported her wish to help a part of Nikolas live on through his future offspring.

She said her son once told her he wanted three sons and had already picked out names. She described Nikolas as an "old soul" interested in filmmaking, politics, music and old movies.

"My son wanted to graduate from college. He wanted to have children. And someone took that away from him," said Evans, 42, of Bedford, located between Dallas and Fort Worth.

Evans had to go to court to get permission to harvest his sperm. On Tuesday, a Travis County probate judge granted her wish - ordering the county Medical Examiner's Office to keep her son's body chilled to at least 39.2 degrees and allow access so an expert could take the specimen.

Evans' attorney Mark Mueller said no one opposed the plan.

An Austin urologist volunteered her services and collected testicular tissue from the body Wednesday night. Missy Evans said she's been told much of the sperm is viable and is making plans for it to be stored.

Decisions such as Evans' must be made quickly, and allow little time for a grieving person to reflect on the choice, one ethicist said.

Using the sperm brings up more issues.

"That child's biological father will be dead. The mother may be an egg donor, anonymous or gestational surrogate," said Tom Mayo, director of Southern Methodist University's Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.

"This is a tough way for a kid to come into the world. As the details emerge and the child learns more about their origins, I just wonder what the impact will be on a replacement child," Mayo said.

He said the desire to replace a deceased child is a classic scenario that, in this case, took a nontraditional turn.

"The underlying desire would be very strong, even if she wouldn't describe it that way," he said.

Art Caplan, chair of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said that in the past decade there have probably been about 1,000 such requests by spouses, mothers, girlfriends and others in the U.S. - but most "don't wind up using it."

Caplan said hospitals may have protocols for dealing with such requests, but there are few laws or regulations regarding the practice. It's usually up to a urologist to decide whether to perform the procedure, he said.

It would be rare for a child to be born from sperm retrieved from a dead person, said Melissa Brisman, an attorney on the American Fertility Association's legal advisory council.

"This is an unexpected death in which there are tons of emotions and you don't even know if you want to do it," she said.

Mark Vopat, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Youngstown State University in Ohio, questions whether the court should have granted the mother's request. He said that while Nikolas Evans may have told his mother he wanted children someday, it's wrong to assume he also would have wanted to father a child posthumously if he died prematurely.

"This is a disturbing sort of case," he said.

Missy Evans said she is unsure when she'll be ready to seek a surrogate to carry her son's child. But she added that she has no second thoughts about the plan.

"This is probably going to bankrupt me and I will do whatever I can to make it happen," she said.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sextexting - The Danger We Supply To Our Children

Five years ago when my son was 14, I had to renew my cell phone contract and upgrade to newer technology. The company offered me the opportunity to share my minutes with another person. My son was starting high school and for the first time in his life would be out on his own traveling to and from school. So, I thought it would be a good idea to get him a phone so he could keep in touch with me. Plus, having a phone, in my mind, was a safety feature in case of an emergency.

We both got the same phone and it was loaded with features. It could text, had a camera and could be customized with special ring-tones. I even bought the package to allow us to send a certain number of text messages.

At the time, I thought I was being a responsible adult. And, as with most parents and children, we had our ups-and-downs. Sometimes I would call and, rather than answer the phone, he would ignore the call and let it go to voicemail. And because my cell phone plan offered free nights and weekends, he would spend hours on the phone with all of his friends, thus saving me the charges on my home phone line. I am sure many parents have done the same as I did - supplied their children with cell phones because we've seen it more in terms of safety and security.

Now, cell phones have become a tool for the world of child pornography. How? Because as parents we haven't kept up with technology and current teenage and young people crazes. And the current one for young people is called "sexting," which is the combination of the words sex and texting.

As many of the newer cell phone models have cameras, our boys and girls are taking nude pictures of themselves. That phenomenon is most prevalent amongst young girls, but boys are not exempt. They take nude pictures of themselves using their cell phones and then send the photos to their friends. Girls are sending their pictures to their boyfriends or boys that they like. Boys are doing it because they think it is funny or exploring their sexuality. They can even upload their photos to the internet where the images can remain for a long time.

And if parents haven't kept up with technology and current trends, then neither has the law. When most of us hear the term "child pornography," we think of dirty old men taking advantage of unwilling and under age children. We think of young people who are forced into doing something against their will or too young to have a say so in what is being done to them. But in recent days, a number of young people under the age of 18 have been hit with child pornography charges. How does that happen? Well, most laws are written to be incident specific and not necessarily age specific for the perpetrator. So in New Jersey for example, a14-year-old girl who posted nude photos she took of herself on her MySpace page has been charged with distribution and possession of child pornography.

There have also been incidents all over the country of boys receiving nude photos of girls sent to them via the girl's cell phone. Those boys, once they have ended a relationship with the girl, have shared the photos with their friends as payback. The boy who sends the photo is subsequently charged with distribution of child pornography. If a young boy gets a nude photo of an underage girl and is found with the image still on his cell phone, he can be charged with possession of child pornography. In both cases, the children who are both victim and perpetrator in these situations can be forced to register as sex offenders.

I am urging all parents to talk with their children about their cell phones and what they use it for. Too often, our children only think in terms of how much fun doing something wrong might be. Or, that they are young rebels and out to change the world. They are not aware of how a moment's indiscretions can, in today's world, follow them around for the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Austin Residents Fill Potholes Themselves!

From the Chicago Tribune:

What to do when there are potholes on your street and the city won't pave them fast enough?

Patch them yourself.

That's what a West Side organization did today. Residents from the Austin neighborhood bought four bags of Quikrete from Home Depot for $50 and used shovels, rakes and a roller to fill about seven holes on the 4800 block of West Van Buren Street.

"The city's not doing it so residents need to take the matter into their own hands," said Elce Redmond, organizer with the South Austin Coalition.

The group fronted the $50 for the bags of asphalt mix. Neighbor Ernest Roberts luckily had a 50 pound roller in his garage -- left behind by a previous owner.

Roberts complained about Mayor Daley's slow efforts in repairing potholes in the neighborhood.
"He's too slow to getting around to here," he said.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman Brian Steele said that the agency plans repairs based on the volume of 311 pothole complaints and the amount of traffic streets experience.

CDOT received just one call about potholes in the 4800 block of Van Buren in the last two months, he said. The agency has repaired about 300,000 potholes since Dec. 1 and hasn't received state funding for resurfacing since 2006, he said.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Watch out Folks - Now its the Drywall From China That Can Kill You!

From the Christian Science Monitor:

There was something that always bothered Rene Galvin when she walked in the front door of her new condo - an eye-watering, rotten egg smell that clung to the four walls and everything contained within them, from the furniture to her carpet and clothes.

She could never quite put her finger on the cause of the foul odor that seemed to pervade every pore. "I'd just stand there, look around and say to myself: 'One day, I'll find out whatever it is that died inside these walls'," she says.

But there were further problems to come; mirrors that corroded around the edges, drains that rusted on the baths, pitted faucets, the television, computer, dishwasher, coffee pot, telephones, and air-conditioning system that all inexplicably broke down. Even the treasured gold-dipped necklace she wore around her neck turned black. Then there were the headaches, throat and sinus troubles.

"I had no idea what was going on. I thought 'Boy, the Florida air sure is bad'," she says with a wry laugh.

Humor, though, is not something that comes easily these days when she talks about her $500,000 home in Bonita Springs, Florida, that now sits empty after it was found to contain contaminated drywall from China.

The discovery of sulfur-emitting compounds within the imported construction materials has sparked a national investigation, numerous lawsuits, and a scandal that is feared to have affected as many as 100,000 homes, a majority so far in Florida. Reparations could run into the billions of dollars.

So dire is the situation – with US suppliers and builders reluctant to take the heat, the overseas manufacturer resisting liability, and insurance companies denying claims, while victims are faced with having their homes gutted if not entirely bulldozed – that lawmakers are pushing for a state of emergency to be declared in Florida, to start the flow of federal financial aid.

"This is an acute and growing crisis," US Rep. Robert Wexler (D) urged the state's governor, Charlie Crist, in a letter, noting serious health and safety implications. "This is a significant statewide problem whose devastating impact on families and our state is similar to a natural disaster such as a hurricane, fire or flood."

Over 500 million pounds of drywall were imported from China between 2004 and 2007 when the construction boom was at a peak and domestic materials in short supply, with demand exacerbated by the reconstruction programs that followed hurricanes Katrina and Wilma.

Knauf Tianjin – the main Chinese manufacturer so far singled out for blame – says it was responsible for only around 20 per cent of that supply, and the firm complains that because it was the only company that stamped its name on its product that it is being unfairly targeted.

Laboratory tests carried out for Florida's Department of Health showed that samples of Chinese-made drywall - including Knauf's - contained strontium sulfide, which gives a rotten egg odor when moistened and reacts with hydrogen in the air to take on corrosive powers capable of eating through metals and electrical wires.

"This is a noxious, pungent chemical compound. If it can corrode metals in your house, I hate to think what it's doing to residents and their children and pets," said Jordan Chaikin of Florida legal firm Parker Waichman Alonso, which has launched a federal class-action lawsuit against Knauf in the US District Court in Fort Myers.

"People are stuck with these homes, they can't afford to leave, they put their life's savings into them or they're mortgaged and they're turning to builders for help," he said. "But in some cases builders have filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy so there can be no claims against them. Some homes need to be bulldozed, in other cases gutted entirely, and that's very expensive for builders."

The crisis has woven a tangled economic and legal web. Among the builders on the receiving end of consumers' wrath is Lennar Homes of Miami, which has identified tainted drywall in over 80 of its properties and has pledged to pay the costs of replacing it and relocating residents in the interim.

Lennar Homes is the subject of some lawsuits. But, in turn, it has launched a suit itself against Knauf and another Chinese drywall manufacturer, Taishan Gypsum. It is also suing independent US contractors for installing the defective product in Lennar homes.

"They have refused to take responsibility for their defective product, leaving us no other option but to seek redress in a court of law," the company asserted in a written statement.

"The builders are victims too," says Howard Ehrsam, a civil engineer who founded Chinese Drywall Screening, of Port St Lucie, Florida, to meet growing demand from homeowners for diagnosis and advice.

Insurance companies "don't know what to do," he says, since contaminated drywall counts neither as a covered peril nor as an exclusion. "Meanwhile you've got the manufacturer, the supplier, the builder, the installer ... a whole chain of custody, so for an attorney it's a case of 'Woo-hoo, we've got all these layers we can sue.'"

He adds: "I've never seen a crisis in the construction industry to this degree ... this is widespread and far-reaching."

For many affected by the contamination scandal, or striving to bring resolution, there is anger and frustration that this is just the latest in a series of health and safety scares relating to imported Chinese goods. Toxic baby toys, tainted animal feed and toothpaste, hazardous high-chairs, and infant formula contaminated with melamine have all been the focus of product recalls or warnings over the past 18 months.

"We need stronger and better quality control coming out of China," says attorney Ervin Gonzalez of Miami, who is suing Knauf on behalf of 150 drywall victims. "And if China isn't doing it, the countries buying from them need to do a better job themselves."

Amid questions as to why it has not done a better job of screening imports for dangerous defects, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, a federal body charged with protecting the public from such risks, is now mounting an investigation into the drywall issue. It has dispatched toxicologists, electrical engineers, and compliance staff to Florida to speak with victims and take samples from their homes.

"We are working towards initiating a testing program and liaising very closely with federal parties and state departments of health," says spokesman Scott Wolfson. "We are following the facts."

In recent months, the commission has also started posting staff at US ports to work alongside customs officials in scrutinizing imports more closely. "Now we have the ability to focus on looking at where these products come in, and what can we be doing better to look at their quality and safety," says Mr Wolfson.

For a while, Mrs Galvin lodged with friends and at hotels until moving to New Jersey while still struggling to pay the mortgage on her uninhabitable condo in Florida. She owns a boutique in Atlantic City and has cleared out all items marked "Made in China" from her inventory. New additions to her stock include T-shirts that she has had printed with the words: "No more toxins from China."

"This whole problem has wiped people out, both economically and emotionally," she says.

"We don't know what to do, we can't get answers and the banks still want their mortgage money. But at least now I know I'm not allergic to Florida; I was just being poisoned by my house."

Shootings Here, Shootings There, Shootings Everywhere

Before publishing the column shown below, one of my editors asked me was I serious when I mentioned the person wanting to get a gun and shoot the family that lives next door.

And yes, that person was serious. So now as we watch the news, we have another moron killing cops "just because". Last week it was Oakland, today Pittsburg. Yesterday it was the man in New York.

This is not the same America that went thru a depression in the twenties. This is the "me-me" generation, that has never suffered any setbacks. That doesn't expect to ever have to suffer.

I fear it will get much worst before it gets better!

PITTSBURGH - A man opened fire on officers during a domestic disturbance call Saturday morning, killing three of them, a police official said. Friends said he recently had been upset about losing his job and that he feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

Neighbors described how a quiet street in the city’s Stanton Heights neighborhood turned into a battlefield with hundreds of rounds cracking through the morning air and fallen police officers lying bleeding in the street, their colleagues unable to reach them.

Three officers were killed, said a police official at the scene who spoke on condition of anonymity because was not authorized to talk to the media. Police spokeswoman Diane Richard would only say that at least five officers were wounded, but wouldn’t give any other details.

Friends identified the suspect as Richard Poplawski, 23, but police would not immediately confirm his name. The gunman was arrested after a four-hour standoff, police said.

The shooting occurred just two weeks after four police officers were fatally shot March 21 in Oakland, Calif., in the deadliest day for U.S. law enforcement since Sept. 11, 2001. The officers were the first Pittsburgh city officers to die in the line of duty in 18 years.

Neighbors said the shooting began at about 7 a.m. and that two officers were shot almost immediately.

“When I looked down I saw two police officers laying in the street,” said Don Sand, who lives across the street and was awoken by the sound of gunfire.

A short time later, more officers, SWAT teams and other law enforcement arrived and a third officer was shot, Sand said.

“They couldn’t get the scene secure enough to get to them. They were just lying there bleeding,” Sand said. “By the time they secured the scene enough to get to them it was way too late.”

Witness: Hundreds of shots fired
Gail Moschetti, who lives diagonally across the street from the Poplawski house, said she heard hundreds of shots as she and her husband took refuge in their basement. Tom Moffitt, 51, a city firefighter who lives two blocks away, said he came to the scene and heard “hundreds, just hundreds of shots.”

Police planned to release more details at a mid-afternoon news conference Saturday.

Edward Perkovic said Poplawski, his best friend, feared “the Obama gun ban that’s on the way” and “didn’t like our rights being infringed upon.” Another longtime friend, Aaron Vire, said Poplawski feared that President Barack Obama was going to take away his rights, though he said he “wasn’t violently against Obama.”

Perkovic, 22, said he got a call at work from him in which he said, “Eddie, I am going to die today. ... Tell your family I love them and I love you.”

Perkovic said: “I heard gunshots and he hung up. ... He sounded like he was in pain, like he got shot.”

Vire, 23, said Poplawski once had an Internet talk show but that it wasn’t successful. Vire said Poplawski had an AK-47 rifle and several powerful handguns, including a .357 Magnum.

Gunman reportedly out of work
Another friend, Joe DiMarco, said Poplawski had been laid off from his job at a glass factory earlier this year. DiMarco said he didn’t know the name of the company, but knew his friend had been upset about losing his job.

The last Pittsburgh police officers killed in the line of duty were Officers Thomas L. Herron and Joseph J. Grill, according to a Web site that tracks police killings. They died after their patrol car collided with another vehicle while chasing a stolen car on March 6, 1991.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 133 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2008, a 27 percent decrease from year before and the lowest annual total since 1960.

Poplawski had often fought with neighbors and had even gotten into fistfights with a couple, Sand said.

“This is a relatively really quiet neighborhood except for him,” Sand said. “He was just one of those kids that we knew to stay clear from.”

Rob Gift, 45, who lives a block away, said the well-kept single-family houses with manicured lawns are home to many police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other city workers.

“It’s just a very quiet neighborhood,” Gift said.

Cooler heads should prevail during hot summer

Even though spring is barely upon us and winter is still a vivid memory, I wonder and fear what the summer will bring. Because this will be the first summer that everyone in Austin will spend knowing the rough economic times we're in. Now for some folks, their economic conditions have never changed. They were doing badly five years ago and they are still doing badly today.

But for others, this will be their first summer struggling to hold on to what they have. And because they are struggling, the long hot summer is sure to magnify everything. From job loses, to higher taxes, an uncertain economic future, and our inability to be civil towards each other, we are in for one hell of a ride this summer. Especially when you add into the mix the people who have given up and just don't care.

Now, I'm not talking about just anybody who "doesn't care." I'm speaking of the people who are dealing with so many first-time frustrations - those that have taken the "I-just-don't-care" mantra. For example: a while back, I ran into a friend who was telling me about their next door neighbor. My friend loves to take care of their property. Keeping it clean, mowing the lawn, and just enjoying living in their home. The next-door neighbor has a bunch of children who do everything they can to upset my friend.

They throw paper on the ground and into the yard. They walk across my friend's lawn, squishing their feet like they are trying to kill the grass. They stand in front of the house hollering and screaming so that my friend can't sit in the living room and watch television. And the adults in the household who should be in charge of the children are not receptive to anyone saying anything about what those children do. To a large degree, they even encourage the children to behave as such. So what does the economic times have to do with a situation like this?

Well, in good times, my friend could tolerate it. But with so many forces working against my friend, they are at their rope's end. So when my friend told me about getting so angry with those kids that they wanted to get a gun and shoot everyone in the house, well, that is a threat not to be ignored.

But that was last year. My fear now is what this summer will bring. As people like my friend find themselves under so many pressures, how will they respond to situations that under better times would have been handled more calmly? Will small things turn into larger issues as people so frustrated with life are giving up hope? In the news recently are two incidents I see as examples of people losing it and not caring. The first is the case of Nova Henry.

She is the young woman who had dated and gave birth to the child of former Chicago Bull center Eddie Curry. She used an attorney, Fred Goings, to file a paternity suit against Curry. She later gave birth to a daughter whose last name was Goings. But it turned out that Eddie Curry was the father of that child.

It's now alleged that Fred Goings shot and killed Henry and the baby. Henry was shot six times, including in the head, back arms and legs. The baby was shot in the head and back. That is a lot of pent-up rage and frustration going on inside the killer's mind, whoever that person is.

Or, take the case of Kerby Revelus in Massachusetts. No one is clear what exactly set off the 23-year-old man on a killing spree. As police entered his residence responding to a disturbance call, he was decapitating his 5-year-old sister's head. Boston police officers shot him dead as he then attacked his 9-year-old sister, who survived and was hospitalized. They found that he had also stabbed his 17-year-old sister to death.

These two cases involved black-on-black killings. But the cases also show that for many of us, the old adage that "blacks just don't do those sort of things" is forever thrown out the window. Black people are now serial killers and mass murderers, capable of committing any heinous crime that years prior we would only attribute to the white society at large.

As the summer approaches, I'd like to see those in position of leadership do something they haven't done in a long time: actually lead. I'd like to see the same anger displayed when a cop kills an innocent citizen. I'd like to see the multitude of churches-especially all the storefront ones-open every single day to give the kids a place to go and something to do. I'd like to see every neighborhood in Austin have an active block club where neighbors can work out their differences.

Lastly, for each and every one of us who are losing their temper over dumb stuff, let's just take a moment to pause and think before we act. Every molehill doesn't have to be made into a mountain.