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July 2012 Archives

It's dangerous when the heat is on, scientists say

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a-ucs-1-72.jpgSo if you don't like heat in the heartland, should you move to Cincinnati?

That's one conclusion you might come to after looking over a study released last week by the Union of Concerned Scientists on temperature data in Chicago and several other Midwest cities over the past 60 years.

But Laurence S. Kalkstein, a University of Miami meteorologist and research professor, says you'd be wrong.

What the study, titled "Heat in the Heartland," shows is that heat waves have become more common and more dangerous in Chicago and other cities, Kalkstein said during a recent meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. That the same pattern didn't show up in Cincinnati was just one of those anomalies that pop up many scientific studies, he said.

"Even in the global warming models, not every place is showing warming," he said.

a-divest.JPGThe grass-roots Chicago Divests campaign was in a bit of a celebratory mood at La Salle and Lake Monday.

The group was passing out leaflets and holding signs outside the offices of the financial services company TIAA-CREF, partly to acknowledge the company's decision last month to drop Caterpillar from its "Social Choice" accounts.

On its website, TIAA-CREF says, "The [Social Choice] fund seeks a favorable long-term rate of return that tracks the investment performance of the U.S. stock market while giving special consideration to certain social criteria."

The national We Divest campaign has been urging TIAA-CREF to drop Caterpillar and other companies that profit from Israeli actions in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. Caterpillar sells bulldozers that Israel uses

Can Chicago choose to be top pick?

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a-tour-72.JPGChicago can go places if more people come here, according to Don Welsh, president and CEO of Choose Chicago, the city's new tourism agency.

Welsh cites these numbers: Chicago had 42 million-plus visitors last year, which supported 124,000 jobs and brought in $11 billion-plus in direct spending and $16 million in taxes for the city and state. Choose Chicago has set a goal of boosting those numbers to 50 million visitors by 2020, which would support 155,000 to 165,000 jobs and bring in another $4 billion to $5 billion in direct spending while doubling the tax take.

That's a lot of extra visitors asking for directions to Millennium Park.

"We feel this is a very achievable goal," Welsh told the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board this week.

Study: Unemployment hits blacks harder

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a-resumes.jpgAfrican Americans are more likely to be unemployed long-term and less likely to get unemployment insurance benefits, according to a study out today by the Urban Institute.

Margaret Simms, an Institute fellow and the director of the Low-Income Working Families project, said: "African Americans are at a confluence of factors leading to low UI recipiency: low levels of education, concentration in occupations or industries where workers are less likely to be covered, and short tenure on jobs. This means many low-wage unemployed black workers are likely suffering more economic hardship than their white counterparts."

Read the report here.

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Chicago is in for quite a ride over the next month.

In 30 days from today, July 19, the Chicago teachers have the right to strike if they can't come to terms with the Chicago school system. That works out to be roughly Aug. 20.

The clock began ticking Wednesday evening after both the Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union rejected contract terms recommended by an independent fact finder. The report is now available to the public and it's worth a read. Fact-finder Edwin Benn paints a dark picture of the relations between the school system and the teachers union, saying:

The "confrontation," arbitrator Benn wrote, "has all the makings of a full-scale labor-management war." And absent a "meetings of the minds across the bargaining table, the war is about to become very real."

He also noted an interesting "tragic irony:"

"The tragic irony of this case is that as incendiary as this dispute is, when it comes to the children who are impacted by this matter, both sides truly have the same goal -- to better educate the children of the City of Chicago. The parties' approaches are just so drastically different."

You can find the report here.

Also, a few developments of note on Thursday:

1. Not wasting any time: Democrats for Education Reform, which is spending big to avoid a strike and blunt the power of the teacher's union, began another round of radio ads on Thursday. These ads call on CPS and CTU to "to finalize a contract that includes a longer school day and longer school year," the group said in a press release.

2. Budget Bust: The watchdog group the Civic Federation released its analysis of CPS' proposed budget. It opposes CPS' spending plan. You can read the report here.

3. Too many protesters: The Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, a group set up by the State Legislature to analyze school facility-related decisions in Chicago, canceled a meeting planned for Thursday night because of "security concerns." Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard was to be at the meeting at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Here's the task force's explanation:

The University obtained information that several groups were planning protests and potential disruptions of the Task Force meeting. In its statement transmitted to the CEFTF late last night, the University stated, "The anticipated protest, increased attendance, and additional resource demands on the university prohibits us from hosting this event."

Plans are in the works to reschedule.

Get Chicago freight on track to future, agency says

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a-real-jpgOn a day when Union Pacific - the nation's largest railroad - was announcing a 28 percent second-quarter surge in income, a Chicago planning agency said the region needs to do more for its freight handling.

"Our region's competitiveness will depend on coordination among freight carriers (truck, rail, water, air), public agencies ... and civic organizations," the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning said.

The Chicago area has the nation's second largest freight cluster, and between a quarter and a third of all freight in the U.S. originates, terminates or passes through this region. But cities such as Memphis, Tenn., and Kansas City, Mo., would like to siphon some of that away.

Read the CMAP report here.

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Illinois finally disconnects 'phone cramming'

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a-quinn-72.jpg"Phone cramming" is something that seems like it should have been illegal for years.

Cramming refers to the practice of unscrupulous third parties who slip onto phone bills fees for extra email, or insurance or "special" voicemail. The services are worthless, but the often-small fees are hard to spot on long complicated phone bills.

So it was good to see Wednesday that Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation that would ban cramming as of Jan. 1.

As long ago as 1997, the Sun-Times Editorial Page was inviting officials to understand the "political value of aggressively protecting consumers from companies that knowingly, or even just carelessly, bilk their customers."

it's a big racket. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has put the total nationwide loss at $2 billion a year.

Chicago alderman trashes landfill legislation

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beale-72xx.jpgAld. Anthony Beale (9th) is posing this conundrum: If a landfill goes away, it still won't go away.

On Tuesday, Beale said he has asked Gov. Pat Quinn not to sign legislation that would prevent the owner of a landfill partly in his Far South Side ward from de-annexing from Chicago, which has a moratorium on landfill expansion. The deadline for Quinn to act on the bill is Aug. 28.

Park Ridge-based Land and Lakes Co. won a lawsuit in May allowing it to leave Chicago. The company wants to expand and extend its operations at the site, but it can't do it as long as it is within Chicago's municipal boundaries.

Part of the landfill site already is in the adjoining village of Dolton.

But not everyone agrees with Beale. Last month, the Cook County Board called on Quinn to sign the bill, HB 3881. Commissioner William Beavers, whose district includes the landfill, sponsored the resolution.

ComEd takes a closer peek under its manhole covers

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Comed-72.jpgAnne Pramaggiore, ComEd's president and chief executive officer, wants to make this clear: ComEd does not take its manholes lightly.

"We are paying a lot of attention to the manhole program," Pramaggiore said last week at a meeting between ComEd officials and the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. "We think that it is unprecedented. We don't know of another program this comprehensive that is out there on manholes."

Fans of "The Third Man Theme" might think manholes lead only to sewers, but power utilities use them, too, to access their cable runs. The power cables rest on brackets in ducts underneath the street, and if they are properly installed and maintained, they last longer.

How airline merger might benefit Chicago

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usair-jpgHere's how US Airways President Scott Kirby says a proposed merger between his airline and American Airlines could benefit Chicago.

In a meeting of Kirby, US Airways Chairman and CEO Doug Parker and representatives of American unions with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board Tuesday, Kirby said Chicago could gradually lose American as a major competitor with United and Delta because mergers have made those airlines significantly bigger.

An American-US Airways merger would create a third major competitor in Chicago, which in theory would lead to more competitive fares and better service, he said. As it is, American has been downsizing in Chicago by flying smaller and smaller airplanes, he said.

After merging with other airlines, United and Delta are "network" businesses that offer more connections than American, Kirby said.

Southeast Siders protest synthetic fuel plant

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Some Southeast Side residents are scheduled to show up at noon today at the James R. Thompson Center to urge Gov. Pat Quinn to veto legislation for a proposed coal gasification plant.

Leucadia National Corp.'s plans for a $3 billion synthetic fuel plant at 115th Street and Burley Avenue have drawn opposition from a coalition of environmental, business and consumer groups.

Sandy Carter, a volunteer for the Sierra Club, says residents of the area see it as an "environmental justice issue." They think the plant -- and dust from coal that would be stockpiled there -- could cause health problems for an area that already is heavily industrialized.

Residents of the area want jobs, but "they want green jobs," Carter says.

On Monday, organized labor and Southeast Side officials rallied in support of the plant. Chicago Clean Energy, an initiative of Leucadia, says the plant is guaranteed to save consumers $100 million over 30 years.

Read a July 8 Sun-Times editorial about the plant here.

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Getting credit is all part of the Springfield game

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Sandoval-72.jpgThe list of co-sponsors on a new law boosting a veteran-hiring tax credit and a property tax break for some veterans' spouses has an interesting twist.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval is listed as a co-sponsor on the bill, which Gov. Pat Quinn signed Monday. But Sandoval put his name on the bill after it already had passed both houses of the General Assembly -- unanimously.

Adding a last-second signature is one of those time-honored practices in Springfield. If you spot legislation that looks like a winner with the voters, paste on your name as a co-sponsor after the legislation already has cleared the Legislature. Then, in the next election campaign, you can take credit for co-sponsoring the bill.

Sandoval said Monday that wasn't the case this time. He said he signed on after the bill passed -- but before it went to Quinn -- to "send a message to the governor that this is important."

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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