December 2012 Archives

One woman's acts of kindness on the CTA spreads holiday cheer

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It seems that this year, more so than past years, we could all use a bit of holiday cheer.

One woman apparently decided to make this her mission this morning during my otherwise dreary early morning commute.

I boarded the CTA Red Line train at Roosevelt and noticed a woman walking through the CTA Red Line train car, silently handing out what looked like a small white slip of paper. I braced myself to say "no thank you," assuming it was just another flier or coupon. As she approached me though, something about her made me change my mind and I hesitantly reached out to accept her handout. Only then did I realize that the small white slip of paper wasn't a flier or coupon, it was an envelope. This was different - I slowly opened the envelope, nervous about its contents. Inside was a crisp $5 bill.

The woman finished making her way through the L car, handing an envelope to every single person before quietly settling into one of the corner seats. One by one, the people on the train began to realize what they had just witnessed. Unaccustomed to such kind acts, everyone on the train just glanced at one another, dumbfounded by what had just happened.

Realizing I couldn't let this kind act go unrecognized, I walked over and sat down next to the woman. As the train slowed into the Monroe stop, I thanked her and told her what an inspiration she was. She just smiled, and gave a slight nod before getting up and exiting the train.


After the tragic events at Sandy Hook elementary school last week, MSNBC's Ann Curry urged her Twitter followers to do 20 acts of kindness to honor each child lost in Newtown:

Her single tweet inspired hundreds to commit acts of kindness and to tweet about it using the #20acts or #26acts hashtag.

I don't know if this woman was moved by Newtown, or if she was simply trying to spread holiday cheer, but one thing is for sure - she inspired me, and hopefully by sharing her story, she inspired you too. So now I ask, what will you do to pass it on?

Hi, Chicago! We're live-blogging an entire day of news below. Follow along and feel free to join in the conversation or tweet us at @SunTimes_Mirage.

Mayor Richard J. Daley at an election campaign rally Feb. 3, 1975. Photo by John Tweedle.

Today, December 20, 2012, marks the 36th anniversary of the death of former mayor Richard J. Daley. Below are some photos of the mayor whose shadow still looms over Chicago today.

Mayor Richard J. Daley scowls on the floor of the Democratic National Convention a night after disorders brokeout outside the Hilton Hotel, August, 1968

Richard J. Daley arrives at City Hall on his first day in office. Late For Work (photo by Dave Mann April 21, 1955)

Michael R. Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

Chances are you are well aware of the approaching snow, especially if you're active on Twitter. There are people freaking out, there are people freaking out about freaking out, people excited, people not so much, etc. Everyone has an opinion on the weather and if it is or isn't a big deal. But today's snow is sort of important. It's set to snap the city's longest-recorded snowless streak (over 290 days since our last measurable snow) and with high winds expected, conditions could make traveling quite treacherous as people start to make their way out of town for the holiday. So it's been a while, is what I'm saying, and with that, there may be a need to re-acclimate yourself with certain aspects of Chicago winter.

For instance, here's a nifty interactive map that shows you where the city's 2-inch and overnight park ban are in effect and another interactive map below that shows the 2-inch route bans. (If you're a more text-oriented person, we've got some embedded PDFs at the bottom.)

There's also the city's fun Plow Tracker which will kick in once the snow hits the ground with live-tracking of plows out on the route.

If you're flying out, this map from the FAA shows many delays but it's still best to check with your airline.

As for traffic, here's an updated Google Map of current traffic conditions.

And that's it. Chances are you've done this before so there's no need to worry. And if this is your first snow in Chicago, don't worry, you'll be fine.

Share your holiday decorations with us

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Ho ho ho! Who has the best holiday decorations in all of Chicagoland? You do!

We asked for your holiday photos and boy, did you supply them! Keep 'em coming - just tag them #CSTholiday and we'll feature them right here.

Live-blog for December 20, 2012

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Hi, Chicago! We're live-blogging an entire day of news below. Follow along and feel free to join in the conversation or tweet us at @SunTimes_Mirage.

Obama caught in Spiderman's web

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Remember when Barack Obama made the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man a few years ago? Now Spiderman has returned and gotten his revenge on Obama for ... I don't know, something that results in the incredibly adorable photo below, via the president's Twitter feed.


By Sun-Times education reporter Lauren FitzPatrick

The Board approved the proposals of two new charter schools, one alternative contract school and one contract-to-charter conversion, all of which will open in September 2013:

• Charters - Chicago Collegiate Charter School and Intrinsic School
• Alternative contract - Camelot
• Contract-to-charter conversion - Frazier Preparatory Academy

At the request of CEO Byrd-Bennett, the Board deferred votes on the proposals of two charter schools, Orange and Foundations Academy, so the CEO can have additional time to review these proposals.

Additionally, the Board approved the expansion of grade levels at these schools starting in fall 2013:

  • • Rickover Naval Academy High School, requesting to add grades seven and eight
  • • Marine Military Math and Science Academy, requesting to add grades
  • seven and eight
  • • Disney II Magnet School, requesting to add grades nine through 12

New charter and contract schools approved by the Board do not have designated locations at this time, and will not be given any facilities that may be closed or consolidated as part of CPS' efforts to right-size the District. Byrd-Bennett recently has said that CPS will work with new charter operators to locate facilities in areas that are experiencing overcrowding in addition to those that are in need of high-quality school options.

Live-blog for December 19, 2012

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Hi, Chicago! We're live-blogging an entire day of news below. Follow along and feel free to join in the conversation or tweet us at @SunTimes_Mirage.


From the Associated Press report on the independent investigation into the deadly attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead on Sept. 11, 2012:

An independent panel charged with investigating the deadly Sept. 11 attack in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans has concluded that systematic management and leadership failures at the State Department led to "grossly" inadequate security at the mission in Benghazi.

"Systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department resulted in a Special Mission security posture that was inadequate for Benghazi and grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place," the panel said.

The rope used by a pair of inmates to escape from the MCC downtown // Scott Olsen/Getty Images

• Things got Hollywood weird and crazy today as two inmates managed to escape from the Metropolitan Correctional Center by shimmying down a long rope made out of bedsheets tied together and are now on the lam. To repeat: two inmates scaled the side of the prison in the middle of downtown Chicago to escape and no one saw a thing. Andy Dufresne has nothing on these guys. [Sun-Times]

• Several bus lines may have gone to the great bus terminal in the sky but the CTA is holding off on one controversial new plan: they've scrapped - for now - the proposed $5 fare for all Blue Line lines originating from O'Hare because apparently there are enough reasons already to discourage people from ever stepping foot in the airport. [Tribune]

• The Illinois Education Association dismissed a suggestion to arm teachers in the wake of last week's tragedy in Newton, Connecticut. [Sun-Times]

• A murder-suicide that happened in Las Vegas on Friday has Illinois ties. [Associated Press]

• I'm shocked - shocked! I tell you - that a Chicago agency is doing a poor job of handling large sums of money. [Sun-Times]

• The circus that is the Drew Peterson case got a new sideshow. [CBS 2]

• A unisex Easy Bake Oven means now the guys in the mens college dorm will feel less self-conscious when baking treats after they get stoned. [Sun-Times]

• It looks like the city's snow drought could end in a big way on Thursday. [Skilling]

• Hire whoever you want, Bears, but keep your hands off of Sean Payton. He belongs to New Orleans. [ChicagoSide]

BRIGHT ONE: Music critic Thomas Conner reviews the much-anticipated major label debut from controversial Chicago rapper/raconteur Chief Keef. [Sun-Times]

TO CHECK: Sudoku; Weather - clear for now; Transit - all clear; Traffic Map

FINALLY: North Korea has finally put the body of Kim Jong Il on display ... a year after his death. [SeattlePI]


By Sun-Times Tech Reporter Andy Ihnatko

A calm and sober commentary on the denigrate to the Instagram terms of service -- sorry, grammar fiends, but "update" seems like too positive a word -- will follow after a bit of business:

Told you so told you so TOLLLLLD you so told you soooo...

And here I invite you to imagine me singing and doing a smug little dance in my office. It is the signature dance of someone who uses Facebook as infrequently as a person with nieces and nephews under the age of 45 can get away with. The singing is in the key of one who never used Instagram much to begin with and stopped entirely once the company had been acquired.

Yes, it's beneath me.

I apologize.


Once again it bears repeating that an agreement with any tech company for any service -- free or paid -- is no different from an agreement with any other kind of madman. At best, they're going to stick to the original terms. But it's likely that at any point, they're going to alter your deal...and it'll never ever be altered to tilt things in your favor.

Here's the new "Take the Princess and the Wookiee to my ship" section from Instagram's new TOS which goes into effect in January:

"To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf."

What does that actually mean? The real answer is on a whiteboard somewhere inside the Menlo Park headquarters of Facebook, Instagram's parent company. Everything else is open to speculation. It seems to me that this new wording translates roughly to Instagram allowing the familiar social features of other companies' services and apps to support Instagram.

Example: Your friend is using a Foursquare-style app; the app has access to all of his Instagram friends; app tells him "Oh! You know, your friend Bonfiglio Mertz was here in Deep Ellum two months ago and he posted three photos from this particular bar..." The app is probably supported by ads and that ad system might be clever enough to pull in content related to paid sponsors.

And at some point this idea goes far enough along at Instagram HQ that some lawyer decides that Instagram's current TOS is vague enough on that point that maybe they should slip in an update. And because nobody in the room at the time has ever used the Internet before, nobody wonders what will happen when someone discovers the change.

It's also a smart thing for Instagram to put into place if they intend to expand the service beyond its original "snap a photo, make it look like hell with arty filters, and then share it with friends" scope. Facebook allows you to "like" commercial products and insert them into your timeline; if Instagram wants to extend the "Corporations are people" idea to their own social network, then that's another smart reason for the company to amend their TOS. Copyright law for commercial usage of images is nonlinear, and most of the photographers I know apply a "if it's in my shot and has a Social Security number, try to get a signed waiver from it" policy.

This isn't, in fact, terribly far away from Facebook's existing content policy. Section 10 of Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities makes plain that they're going to try to make as much hay as possible from the content you choose to post. However, that same policy also says: "This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it."

This limits Facebook's ability to change the obvious and traditional nature of your relationship with the service; they can't sell a photo of your puppy to a pet food company as a stock image because Facebook's license to that image ends when you remove it from the service.

But as worded, yes, your Instagrammed photos can now be used in third-party ads without your consent and without compensation. Would they sell your photos? Naw. But how about an electronic billboard in Times Square advertising a dodgy life insurance plan, where the background is a slideshow of hourly Instagram photos tagged "Family"? That seems like an idea that would come up in a spitballing session. It makes sense; it might sell and there'd be nothing in Instagram's TOS to prevent Instagram from moving forward.

It's slightly baffling that Instagram allowed this mess to happen because we've seen this exact same scenario play out over and over again, since the development of the first services that allowed users to post their own content.

Initially, these services would include a functionally-harmless, yet absolutely imperative, section that granted the company a license to copy, retransmit, and repurpose your content. Why would they want that power? Well, because the service is on a huge server farm and they need the legal authority to move your photos from one spot to another. They also need the authority to allow other users to manipulate and download your images, even if you've flagged your cute ocelot photo with the necessary permissions.

So! Someone at the company cuts and pastes in some legal boilerplate, she updates the TOS, goes out for a long lunch, and returns to find that her wing of the office has been sacked and set on fire. This is why Google and other services present their TOS in its usual impenetrable legalese, but with asides of Plain English that clarify, and limit, their powers to just those things that allow them to operate the service and deliver content. Twitter's TOS is annotated, in fact, to make their intentions clear.

Instagram clearly botched this one. The new terms were due to become active in mid-January. There's little doubt in my mind that the company will backpedal and release a revision to the revision that limits Instagram's new rights to just what they actually need in order to pull off what they've got planned. God knows what that might be.

There are a bunch of important takeaways, however.

First and foremost, never forget that when you're using an Internet service you're almost always a product and not a customer. When Facebook paid a billion dollars for Instagram, it wasn't because they wanted to become benefactors...the Medicis of food photos and images of dogs wearing funny hats. It's because there was money to be made. More often than not, the "deal" struck between the user and the provider is balanced. Google Maps is an awesome app, and the more I use it, the more information Google collects about traffic and roads and the more valuable the product becomes. But that balance can change in an instant.

Secondly, the agreement you strike with a service is always transferrable. If you've granted BongoDrive.SE perpetual rights to the photos and data you upload to the service and the they go out of business, then whoever buys the company's assets will own it instead. And because the TOS is subject to amendment, they can do whatever they want with that stuff.

In Instagram's case, it was like Mother Kate's All-Natural Free-Trade Save The Trees-Brand Tooth-Cleaning Powder being bought by an immense health and beauty conglomerate. They don't care about producing a natural product with low environmental impact. They want the brand and the customers.

I was never a fan of Instagram. I liked its simplicity; I just didn't need to start feeding yet another social network, thank you very much. If you're thinking of jumping ship, I have to recommend Flickr. Yup, they were bought by Yahoo! a few years ago. But if the company damaged the service, it was only because they barely seemed to be aware that it existed. That's relatively benign, compared with Facebook seeking to recoup their billion-dollar investment and sorting Instagram's membership by weight and the likely amount of marbling in their meat.

Fortunately, the wheel's turned. They've released a terrific new Flickr mobile app that's everything it should have been in 2008. It even includes Instagram-style filters. But please, I beg of you...don't use them.

Maybe Flickr's best feature is the fact that it's been around for eight years and has firmly locked its identity as "a social service for photos." They went through their own TOS-mageddon a long time ago. Their rights to your images are clear and fair.

But remember what I said. It's still a service owned by a company, and its the nature of a company to keep rooting around sofa cushions for loose change. That circumstance is bad enough when you're the one losing his or her quarters and dimes. And it's worse when a company like Facebook keeps treating you like the sofa.

UPDATE: Instagram says "not so fast!" Co-founder Kevin Systrom blogs on TOC clarification and correction.

YE Top Ten Supersonic Skydi.jpg
This Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 file image provided by Red Bull Stratos shows pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria as he jumps out of the capsule during the final manned flight for Red Bull Stratos. In a giant leap from more than 24 miles up, Baumgartner shattered the sound barrier Sunday while making the highest jump ever ó a tumbling, death-defying plunge from a balloon to a safe landing in the New Mexico desert. (AP Photo/Red Bull Stratos)

The year-end story packages are in full swing - more on the local stories of the year coming up in print and online for the Sun-Times next week. In the meantime, here are the Associated Press' top images for the year, as compiled by their photo editing staff.

A note from their editors:

The AP's award-winning team of hundreds of staff photographers, freelancers and photo editors sends out some 3,000 photos every 24 hours - over 1 million photos a year - to our subscribers around the globe.

How then to sum up an entire year of news in just 10 photos? The very notion is daunting.

Photo editing is a process of comparison and selection. It involves aesthetics and storytelling and impact and memory.

In the end, I chose 10 representative photos, some from the biggest stories of 2012, some for their eye-catching content (and then a broader edit of some 150 news photos to try to capture almost everything else).

In the 10, we see grief over the loss of children in Colorado and Syria. We see children being led to safety from the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. We see a fleet of emblematic New York taxis partially submerged after super storm Sandy. We see President Obama and Mitt Romney facing off in debate. A man sets himself alight in India to protest the situation in Tibet. We also see amazing things; A man leaps from a balloon 38 kilometers (24 miles) above the earth's surface, and a cruise ship floats on its side after running aground of the coast off Italy. A bear falls out of a tree after being tranquilized, and a high-speed underwater camera captures a swimmer plunging into the water at the London Olympics.

The choice of these photos is meant only to represent the broader spectrum of human experiences captured in the other images. Every experience is, in some way, a valid one.

More photos after the jump. And you can click on any of them to enlarge or download ...

On "Saturday Night Live," the opening moments are usually reserved for the monologue - the sometimes humorous effort by the weekly host to introduce themselves to the audience with jokes and skits.

While Martin short, a veteran "SNL" cast member and host would go on to lead the show in the usual format, the opening of the December 15 episode instead featured the New York Children's Choir singing "Silent Night."

Rolling Stone's Peter Nicklaus writes about the history of TV shows after tragedies and the role they play in healing the American psyche:

Last night's episode of SNL opened without introduction on the smiling faces of The New York Children's Chorus singing a stunning, beautiful rendition of "Silent Night." Regardless of whether the performance was written as a last-minute salute to the youngsters lost on Friday, or a pre-planned bit meant to bring cheer to the show's Christmas episode, the tone was pitch perfect.

From moving tributes to schedule changes, TV networks of struggle with the appropriate action and tone to take following national tragedies. Lori Rackl writes that last-second scheduling changes were common across networks as programmers worked to move controversial content or hold it indefinitely.


While the space shuttle program has been mothballed - and with it, NASA's exposure somewhat diminished - the agency is still making huge leaps forward even if fewer people are noticing. Which is a shame because even though the nation's attention has moved away from the heights of space exploration we had reach with the shuttle program in the 1980's, technology continues to advance and, with it, NASA's discoveries grow even bigger. And yet the attention is no longer there.

The agency's Curiosity rover helped put NASA back in headlines with its remarkable journey, landing and, now, images and research going on on Mars. We are learning more and more every day than ever before about the surface of Mars and about the planet itself. To wit, from a recent soil report: "Water and sulfur and chlorine-containing substances, among other ingredients, showed up in samples Curiosity's arm delivered to an analytical laboratory inside the rover." These discoveries are mind-blowing but no one cares; exploring space has become old hat to Americans, to the point that even these amazing discoveries on Mars are dismissed.

Just last week, we passed the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 17 mission, the last mission America took to the moon. That's right: it's been 40 years since we've been to the moon. And now with the shuttle program also retired, there's no clear next step about manned explorations. That's part of why our collective attention has waned so much. The cost of these programs, especially in light of the recession, has made them less popular as well. But that doesn't mean we can allow ourselves to lose interest in exploring space, in exploring the unknown. There's still so much to discover and every new finding is more and more amazing. Another anniversary - the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Mariner 2 voyage (the first planetary flyby) - only serves to remind us of the heights of which NASA is capable.

Two new stories this week have only served to underscore this point.

First, NASA announced that the Hubble telescope had caught the images of seven galaxies that are relatively "ancient" by universe standards. In fact, it appears as if one of those galaxies captured may be the oldest galaxy that's been discovered yet.

UDFj-39546284 was detected previously, and researchers had thought it formed just 500 million years or so after the Big Bang. The new observations, made using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, push its probable formation time back even further.

The seven galaxies constitute the first reliable census of the epoch from 400 million to 600 million years after the universe's birth, researchers said. This census detects a steady increase in galaxies over this period, suggesting that the formation of the first stars and galaxies -- the so-called "cosmic dawn" -- happened gradually rather than suddenly.


Second, NASA is now looking into exploratory missions to Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter, to measure that moon's habitability. That's right, whether or not humans could live on a moon of Jupiter. Scientist believe that beneath Europa's icy shell is a huge, planet-sized ocean, actual water, which would be the first planetary body confirmed to actually still hold water besides Earth. This is amazing stuff straight out of science-fiction except it's all true. NASA is hoping to launch the Europa Clipper, an unmanned probe, in 2021 to "clip" Europa to collect more information. While it's a bit stripped-down from the originally proposed $4.7 billion plan (this one costs around $2 billion), it would still get as close as 15 miles from Europa's surface.


This is all tremendously exciting and encouraging. Despite the down-turn in the public's interest, NASA is moving forward both into the future and into the universe, continuing to explore and, honestly, to expand wonderment. And they hopefully will for many, many years to come.

newtown_dec15.jpg AP Photo/Jessica Hill

UPDATE: It now appears even the report that Lanza's mother was a teacher at the school, which is mentioned in the original column below, is likely false, according to teachers who talked to the Wall Street Journal. - MG

As details of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut unspooled today, there were the typical moments of confusion when trying to assess a situation of this magnitude. This is to be expected as media waited on information to come from this tiny hamlet 65 miles northwest of New York City, a city that had seen only one murder in the last decade. 

But even as the mainstream media tried to collect as much information as possible, those same outlets continued a disturbing trend of reporting information without confirmation, creating not only confusion but also reporting that was downright wrong.

Case in point: the identity of the shooter. 

CNN was among the first major outlets to cite sources as naming the shooter as Ryan Lanza, 24. As soon as that information was released, it took savvy Internet users just seconds to locate a Facebook profile of a Ryan Lanza who lived in Hoboken and was from Newtown. The link of the profile rocketed across Twitter within seconds and given the name and the fact he was connected to the deaths in both Newtown and Hoboken (more on Honboken in a minute) it was immediately assumed this was the shooter . . . until it wasn't. 

Soon after that development, the same people who had shared the profile were backtracking after that Ryan Lanza posted several times about not being the shooter. Mass confusion reigned as to the identity of the shooter. If it wasn't this Ryan Lanza, then which Ryan Lanza was it?

Later in the afternoon, CNN reported that Ryan's younger brother was among the dead in the school while the Associated Press reported he was in police custody. This came shortly after reports that Nancy Lanza was a teacher at the school and also found dead at the school (more on that in a moment) and another family member was found dead in Hoboken (again, more in a minute). 

Media outlets were forced to pull back their reports that Ryan was the shooter and as the body count rose, those outlets couldn't make hide nor hair of the shooter's identity. Eventually, authorities stepped up at a press conference and straightened things out: Ryan's younger brother, Adam, was the shooter, and Ryan, who was not involved in the incident, was cooperating with authorities.

As for Hoboken, there were numerous reports of a family killed there that were repeated for hours until that story suddenly disappeared. 

As more details came to light, that aspect was dropped from the main coverage with barely a mention. There is an investigation going on in Hoboken connected to the case but it's a search of Ryan Lanza's apartment and there are, as far as reports go tonight, no victims in New Jersey. And as for actual victims, while reports that Adam and Ryan's mother Nancy was a kindergarten teacher at Sandy Hook proved true, the report that her body was inside the school was not. It wasn't until late in the afternoon that her body was discovered at her home, allegedly shot by Adam (at least of this writing) before he proceeded to the school.

And that's not even touching on reports that have to be followed up on regarding an allegedly missing girlfriend of the shooter (whether this meant Ryan or Adam is unclear since it came during that time of confusion over the shooter's identity) as well as the initial reports of multiple shooters at the school.

That the number of dead fluctuated or rumors of a second gunman were circulated is less egregious than some of the other errors. What's most troubling is the way that outlets - particularly CNN - pushed this information, willing to go on the air with information from anonymous, unnamed sources, rather than to sit back and wait. 

The idea of being fast and first is an important one to news outlets, while the importance of being right seems to have fallen by the wayside. CNN - and Fox News - proved that earlier this year when they were the first to report on the Supreme Court's ruling on Obamacare - and got it wrong

The idea of being first and wrong seems increasingly less important to outlets than being second and right.

While old school journalists lament the rise of blogs and the misinformation they allegedly spread, it's the mainstream media making these gross mistakes. These errors become more glaring in the age of social media, an incorrect tweet by a major outlet with tens of thousands of followers taking mere seconds to be spread to ten times that number of Twitter users. It's a game of telephone gone horribly wrong, mangling clarity and facts in the process while Wolf Blitzer's gleeful twinkle relays the information - wrong or right - to an audience of thousands if not millions. This is not a Twitter troll spreading rumors during a hurricane (see: @comfortablysmug drama during superstorm Sandy). This is a major network spreading news without taking time to ask about the accuracy of that information. 

I can't help but think of Hurricane Katrina (full disclosure: I was a New Orleans resident at the time) when reports of widespread looting and looters shooting at helicopters spread only to be proven false - though the public perception of an astronomical level of lawlessness remains. 

Likewise, one has to wonder about Richard Jewell, the man run through the wringer for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing in a bizarre hero-to-prime-suspect-back-to-hero cycle. Family members say he was never the same once media attention on him turned and he came under scrutiny as a suspect, only to be forgotten upon vindication. 

Hell, media being wrong on big stories has been a regular occurrence since "Dewey Defeats Truman."

But in a time when reports spread so fast, when information travels so quickly that it will be seen by thousands within seconds, there is a new responsibility of self-policing these media outlets need to abide by, particularly when the subject calls for it. This isn't misreporting the results of an election - which is bad enough - this is reporting of a tragedy in which nearly two dozen children were viciously killed. The limits are being tested, the line crossed and stomped on, regardless of reputation, pushing these outlets down to the level of those so-detested blogs, leaving readers in the cold, confused and less informed than they've ever been.

Chicago's new electricity deal with Integrys gives residents a rate of 5.42 cents per kilowatt hour. Use this table and map to see how this rate compares with other places in the ComEd service area that have aggregated their electricity purchasing:



U.S. mass shootings

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Recent mass shootings in the U.S.

Friday: A gunman opens fire inside a Connecticut elementary school Friday in a shooting that leaves at least 27 people dead, including 18 children


Oct. 21, 2012: A shoot­er opens fire in­side the Azana Salon and Spa in Brook­field, Wis., killing three and in­jur­ing at least four oth­ers.


Aug. 5, 2012: A gunman opens fire at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. killing six people and wounding three. Police shot and killed the suspect, Wade Michael Page, after the attack.


July 20, 2012: During a midnight screening of the film "The Dark Knight Rises" inAurora, Colo., a gunman opens fire on the crowded theater. At least 12 people are killed and 38 others are wounded. The suspect, James Holmes, set off a smoke device in the front of the theater before opening fire. Directly after the incident, Holmes, age 24, was arrested in a parking lot behind the theater.


Feb. 27, 2012: At Chardon High School in Ohio, a former classmate opened fire, killing three students and injuring six. Arrested shortly after the incident, the shooter said that he randomly picked students.


Oct. 12, 2011: Scott Dekraai, 41, ap­par­ently en­raged over a cus­tody dis­pute, al­legedly walks in­to a crowded Seal Beach, Calif. hair salon where his former wife works and opens fire. Eight people are killed, in­clud­ing a man sit­ting in a truck out­side the salon.


Jan. 8, 2011: Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in an assassination attempt. At least 17 others are shot by a gunman, identified as Jared Lee Loughner, who opened fire on the congresswoman's constituent meeting outside a grocery store in Tuscon, Ariz. Six people are fatally wounded, including U.S. District Court Judge John Roll, and a young girl.


Feb. 12, 2010: During a meeting on campus, Amy Bishop, a biology professor, began shot her colleagues, killing three and wounding three others in Huntsville, Ala.


SOURCES: Sun-Times and news reports

AP Photo/Jessica Hill

CBS News livestream of Dec. 16, 2012 Prayer Service.

Streaming live video by Ustream

View more videos at:

Pres. Obama's speech (VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT)

King College Prep students stage sit-in

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Students at Chicago's King College Prep walked out of class today and staged a sit-in in demand of the principal's resignation. Here are their tweets.

Concealed carry firearms laws by state


Illinois is the only state that does not allow some form of concealed weapons permit. Most states issue permits if the gun owner completes a specific set of requirements while some states are more limited in who can have a permit. Four states do not require a permit to carry a concealed firearm. See which laws apply to each state:


A gun owner can be granted a permit upon meeting certain requirements


A state has a much broader discretion as to who can have a concealed firearm permit


Any gun owner can carry concealed firearms


Sources: National Rifle Association, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

40 Years Later: United Flight 553

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Sun-Times Media Photo

Today, December 8, 2012, marks the 40th anniversary of the deadly United Airlines Flight 553 crash that occurred at Midway Airport. The plane crashed on its landing approach to Midway, after aborting its first landing attempt then striking and crashing into trees and houses along 71st Street and 70th Place. The flight's three-person crew plus 40 passengers were killed as well as two people on the ground. The Washington Post talked to survivor Marguerite McCausland this weekend about the crash and the Tribune also has both an interview with McCausland and a slideshow of photos from the crash.

Below, find the Chicago Fire Department's video footage of their response to the crash and check out the full NTSB report on the crash from August 1973 after that.

PHOTOS: Remembering Pearl Harbor

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In this Dec. 7, 1941 file photo, sailors on a small boat rescue a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. (AP Photo)

This morning marked the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the surprise attack that propelled the United States into World War II. The attack killed 2,390 service members and 49 civilans. Memorials are happening all over the country today and you can read about the ceremony happening in Hawaii here.

Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Here are some of the stories that caught our attention during the work day for December 6, 2012.

• State Senator Donne Trotter's bond was set at $25,000 the day after he tried to get through an airport security check point with a gun and bullets because a State Senator not only needs to protect himself at all times even after he's voted against a conceal-and-carry bill, but also because that's just how he rolls and what would those downstate punks think if he didn't have his pistol? [Sun-Times]

• Steve Bogira takes a look at the city's de facto segregation and the way it affects those wounded by shootings. [The Reader]

• City Hall is about to undergo $12 million in renovations and then Mayor Emanuel will have to decide whether to Love It or List It. [Sun-Times]

• Senator Mark Kirk, absent from D.C. since his stroke last year, has set a return date of January 3, 2013. [CBS 2]

• Illinois students' vocabularies are around the national average, gooder than other states like Arkansas and West Virginia who no speak as unbad as us. [Sun-Times]

• County property taxes going back 20 years are being made available online meaning you can see how much you'd have to pay for that house around the corner you've had your eye on but know you'll definitely never be able to afford now. [Crain's]

• Dearborn Street is getting some spiffed up bike lanes that don't really matter because drivers will still be awful. [WBEZ]

• A Northwestern player may become only the second D-1 player in history to wear his yarmulke on the floor. Even money says an ESPN anchor narrates his highlight dunk with a shout of "Mazel tov!" [Sun-Times]

• Best wishes to our own Roger Ebert who's recovering from a recent hip fracture. Get well, Roger, and catch up on Duck Dynasty if you can. [ABC 7]

• BRIGHT ONE: Mark Brown takes umbrage with the IHSA's decision to block three Sudanese students from playing for Mooseheart High's boys basketball team. [Sun-Times]

• COMMUTE: Sudoku; Weather: ew; Transit: looking Blue

• FINALLY: Yet again, life imitates The Simpsons as Florida institutes its own "Whacking Day." [SunSentinel]

Sun-Times reporter Lauren FitzPatrick reports that a new rundown released by the National Center for Education Statistics shows Illinois students in the 4th and 8th grades are about average nationally.

The NCES findings are an effort to measure vocabulary and reading comprehension for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The report and findings are prefaced with the idea of the crucial nature of these two courses of study:

Beginning in 2009, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) integrated a measure of students' understanding of word meaning with the measurement of passage comprehension in the NAEP reading assessment. The decision to focus on students' understanding of word meaning emphasized the important role vocabulary plays in the process of reading comprehension. To understand the overall topic or theme, students need to integrate their knowledge of individual words--or a sense of these words--with the way the words are used in particular passages.

FitzPatrick reports that Illinois students in eights grade scored an average 266 out of a possible 500, a bit higher than the national average of 264. Fourth graders scored an average 219, just under the national average of 220. Below the jump are PDFs from the NAEP reports breaking down the results for Illinois and Chicago 4th- and 8th-graders:

Chloe Murray races a present to the sorting table where her fellow 6th grade students will rush it over to the proper room to be bundled for a needy school in Chicago at Hickory Creek Middle School | Joseph P. Meier / Sun-Times Media

Here are some of the stories that caught our attention during the work day for December 5, 2012.

• A judge has ordered music website Pitchfork Media to hand over video of Chief Keef making the good decision of going to a gun range and handling a gun, all while on probation for charges stemming from the other good decision he made of pointing a gun at a police officer. Lest we forget, Keef still has a pile of money to shoot dirty Instagram photos on thanks to the record deal that's not going anywhere because, again, good decisions. [Sun-Times]

• State Sen. Donne Trotter was arrested when he tried to go through an O'Hare security checkpoint with a gun and bullets. Trotter says it was an accident as he had been working the night before at his other job as a security guard. The Good Decisions Train rolls on... [DNA Info]

• Mayor Emanuel is not backing down from his promise to station police armed with automatic weapons outside of funerals for gang members because that's a totally normally thing to do and Supt. McCarthy is doing a heckuva job and there's no crime problem why do ask shut up. [Sun-Times]

• The CTA hates the way you jam your stroller on the bus and train just like the rest of us. [RedEye]

• A new poll shows Illinoisans favor same-sex marriage and oppose a pardon for Blago proving that occasionally sanity reigns. [Sun-Times]

• The War On Christmas doesn't care about Charlie Brown. It claims whatever victims it wants. It gives absolutely zero cares about the damage it does to the world's children. [FOX News]

• How Streeterville got its name. [WBEZ]

• Gift guide: 11 books about Chicago, by Chicagoans. [Sun-Times]

• RIP Dave Brubeck [Tribune]

• BRIGHT ONE: With the pope on Twitter, Neil Steinberg wonders What Would Jesus Tweet and if the son of God can give us a follow-back! [Sun-Times]

• RUSH HOUR: Sudoku; Transit: Green Line delays; Weather: meh; Traffic: the usual

• FINALLY: Looking back, we had no idea that teaching dogs to drive would lead to humanity's downfall. [The Daily Mail]

A new report by CPS analyzing school enrollment has determined which schools are:


The school's enrollment is less than 80% of its ideal capacity


The school's enrollment is between 80% and 120% of its capacity


The school's enrollment is more than 120% of its ideal capacity

Use this map to examine the utilization status of schools in your area. These definitions refer to the criteria shown in the map:

Utilization rate: The school's enrollment as a percentage of its ideal capacity

Performance level: How the school has performed academically. Levels 1 (poorest) through 3 (best).

Allotted homeroom classrooms: Ideally, 70-75% of a school's classrooms should be homerooms. A school's ideal capacity is determined by multiplying the number of homerooms by 30 students.

Allotted ancillary classrooms: Other types of rooms such as laboratories, special education rooms, etc.

Source: CPS

Josh Cunningham of Morgan Park flies in for a shot against Notre Dame. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media

Here are some of the stories that caught our attention during the work day for December 4, 2012.

• Chicago Public Schools released its findings on the number of children in each school, figures that will help determine which schools will be closed or consolidated after the CPS ignores the pleas of parents. [Sun-Times]

• Mayor Emanuel's digital billboard plan got the rubber stamp approval from his minions was approved by the City Council. [WBEZ]

• Speaking of Mayor Emanuel, he doesn't care about the head of a firm with a big O'Hare contract being tied to the mob because the idea of such a thing happening in Chicago, of all places, is just preposterous. [Sun-Times]

• This year's New Years Eve penny rides on the CTA will be free this year, covered by beer megacorp MillerCoors though given the quality of the CTA lately, Malort would have been a better choice. [RedEye]

• A bill to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain state driver's licenses sailed through the state senate today. [Sun-Times]

• Former Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica was sentenced to four months of court supervision after being found guilty of criminal damage because he defaced campaign signs of his opponent in the 2010 election which Peraica lost. Let this be a lesson to other politicians: keep arguments with opponents confined to the bottomless pit of despair that is the Internet, where they belong. [Sun-Times]

• The city has quickly reached an agreement with the bartender beaten by former Chicago cop Anthony Abbate so it can ask the presiding judge to set aside the ruling a jury recently made. [CBS 2]

• It's like Yelp!, except for dirty massage parlors! [CSJ]

• NPR has a fantastic feature about renowned local reissue label Numero Group and its numerous compilations which any of you should feel free to buy me for Christmas. [NPR]

• EVERYBODY PANIC!!!! Bears Edition as Brian Urlacher may be done for the year. [Sun-Times]

• BRIGHT ONE: Carol Marin, one of the three Sun-Times reporters who helped push the David Koschman case, shares why Christmas is no joyful time for Nancy Koschman. [Sun-Times]

• FINALLY: Stop Tweeting from the toilet. [France 24]

Yesterday, the news came down at Richard "R.J." Vanecko, a nephew of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, was charged in the 2004 death of David Koschman. That the case even reached this point is a testament to the hard work of Tim Novak, Chris Fusco, and Carol Marin, all three exceptional journalists here at the Sun-Times. After the charges came down yesterday, the trio appeared on both WTTW's Chicago Tonight and NBC 5. Check both appearances out below.

The New York Post is catching a lot of flak for publishing today's cover photo of Ki Suk Han moments before he was fatally struck by a subway train.

Han, a married father of one, was pushed onto the tracks Monday afternoon. Surveillance video shows the two engaging in a brief altercation before the unknown man dealt Han the fatal shove. Onlookers told the Post that Han frantically tried to hoist himself back onto the platform before getting pinned by the train.

The man who shot the chilling photo told the Post, "I just started running, running, hoping that the driver could see my flash."

Han's wife says she argued with her husband before the tragedy but when she tried to call him after their 11 a.m. fight, he never picked up.

What do you think of the photo? Did the New York Post go too far in making it their cover?

Twitter reacts to Daley's nephew's indictment in Koschman case

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Richard J. "R.J." Vanecko -- a grandson of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley -- was indicted Monday on a charge of involuntary manslaughter, accused of throwing the punch that led to the 2004 death of 21-year-old David Koschman of Mount Prospect.

Here is how Twitter reacted to the news.

The above map is part of our story on the change in home sale numbers in Chicago over the last year.

Gains and losses in home values over the past year in the Chicago area are all over the map. Here is a look at which areas saw gains (in gray), and which saw losses (in red), based on Zillow's home value index. To see additional information on the Chicago housing market, visit

Note: Data not available for all ZIP codes.

SOURCES: Zillow, FNC, Inc.

H. H. Holmes, photo via Calumet 412

At first, the theory seems too far-fetched to be real, but one family descendant of infamous Chicago serial killer H.H. Holmes is now moving forward on research he says shows Holmes was likely also Jack the Ripper. Jeff Mudgett is the great-great-great-grandson of Holmes (aka Herman Webster Mudgett), whose gruesome murders were detailed in Erik Larson's outstanding book Devil in the White City, and has already done substantial research on this theory, according to a story in The Daily Mail. When Holmes was caught in 1894 in Chicago, he admitted to 27 murders though some think his total body counts could have been in the hundreds. As Devil recounted, many of his murders came as Chicago underwent a post-Great Fire revival thanks to hosting the World's Columbian Exposition world's fair in 1893.

Mudgett's theory sprang from his own research into his family tree and the atrocities committed by his great-great-great-grandfather, specifically similarities between the murders of Holmes and Jack The Ripper. He went so far as to enlist handwriting experts, several who have said letters written by Holmes and Jack The Ripper were likely written by the same hand. In fact, according to the Daily Mail, "a computer program used by the Postal Service and Department of Justice stated it was a 97.95 per cent match." While Mudgett's isn't a new theory, it's the first time any sort of hard evidence has been presented supporting it.

The research into his dark family history has been collected in a new book by Mudgett, called Bloodstains and Mudgett has been blogging about his research and book at the book's website. Among Mudgett's research is whether or not Holmes ever traveled abroad and how this might dovetail with some British theories that Jack The Ripper wasn't a London resident but rather a tourist who eventually left England. Holmes moved to Chicago in 1886 and lived here until his arrest in 1894; the five murders historically attributed to Jack The Ripper occurred in London in the fall of 1888.

H. H. Holmes

In an interview earlier this year with (full video below), Mudgett said of his investigation, "the truth is a beautiful thing to me, a gorgeous thing."

Of course, we're a skeptical society today and the fact that Mudgett is out there promoting a book while also revealing this very sensationalistic theory certainly carries more than a whiff of self-promotion. There are also the clear plugs he puts in for in his interview with that site. On his blog, Mudgett has dismissed any allegations that he's purely doing this for the money, pointing to the fact his book is self-published and unlikely to earn him very much in the way of any kind of fortune which is a fair point. And so little is known about much of Holmes' life and, of course, nothing is known about Jack The Ripper. The evidence Mudgett has offered up is certainly interesting but too little to make an official confirmation with, something echoed in this interview Mudgett did with WGN. Compounding matters are the sheer number of theories about Jack The Ripper: whether it was one killer or multiple killers; the bevy of people who have claimed to have been Jack; and the lack of evidence other than the killer's m.o.

Still, the idea that the two most prolific serial killers of the late 19th Century are actually one person is not only incredibly compelling, it's totally plausible and worth continuing to look into. (Consider the tidbit that Holmes did allegedly travel to London in 1888, the year of the Ripper's murders.) So the speculation and theorizing will continue to swirl and deepen, likely bringing new life to the legend of Holmes and, perhaps, even more into Jack the Ripper, even if it's unlikely any sort of connection will ever be officially recognized by authorities.

And not to be overlooked, Leonardo DiCaprio will depict Holmes in the upcoming film adaptation of Devil in the White City which will light these theory flames anew.

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

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