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When Michelle Obama said in Chicago Wednesday afternoon that "Hadiya Pendleton was me," saying that she could empathize with the slain teen because of their similar backgrounds, Rush Limbaugh got his hackles up.

Specifically, he took the first lady's statements to the obvious next step, saying that her emotional and powerful speaking out against the violence epidemic in Chicago and the broader U.S. was actually a broadside against democracy, capitalism and the American way of life.

Here's Michelle Obama's full speech:

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Journalist Bob Woodward speaks at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center's Humanitarian Awards Dinner. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered a playful, but pointed response Thursday to legendary newsman Bob Woodward's claim that Emanuel left behind a legacy of "hyper-partisanship" in Washington D.C.

After all these years, The Worm is still in foul trouble.

Former Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman, fresh from a trip to North Korea, is on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Sunday morning to talk about his new "friend," Kim Jong Un.

In Rodman's first post-Korea interview, he drops several Rodmanesque bombs, including the assertion that Un wants to call President Obama to talk not going to war with the U.S. and Rodman's suggestion of a basketball summit:

"He wants Obama to do one thing: Call him," Rodman told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week." "He said, 'If you can, Dennis - I don't want [to] do war. I don't want to do war.' He said that to me."

"[Kim] loves basketball. And I said the same thing, I said, 'Obama loves basketball.' Let's start there," Rodman said.

Rodman, when questioned on Un's and North Korea's horrendous human rights record and general animosity toward the United States and Western allies offered this defense:

"I don't condone that. I hate the fact that he's doing that. ... I didn't talk about that. ...I saw people respected him, his family. ... "[He's] only 28 -- 28. He's not his dad. He's not his grandpa. He is 28 years old. ... He's very humble. He's a very humble man. ... He don't want war - that's one thing he don't want. ... He loves power. He loves control, because of his father, you know - stuff like that. But he's just -- he's a great guy. He's just a great guy. You sit down and talk to him."

Rodman, who closed his interview with "don't hate me," said he wasn't defending the North Korean dictator following his trip last week - a trip he hopes to repeat soon. But he also made an effort to equate the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in concentration and work camps to the U.S. prison system:

Stephanopoulos: "It sounds like you're apologizing for him."

Rodman: "No, I'm not apologizing for him. ... He was a great guy to me. He was my friend. I don't condone what he does. But as a person to person, he's my friend. ... What I did was history. ... He's a friend to me. That's about it."

[Via Politico]

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and former Chicago Bull Dennis Rodman speaking at a basketball game in Pyongyang. Flamboyant former NBA star Dennis Rodman has become the most high-profile American to meet the new leader of North Korea, vowing eternal friendship with Kim Jong-Un at a basketball game in Pyongyang. AFP PHOTO / KCNA

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As Chicago's longest-serving mayor, Richard M. Daley filed a $433 million lawsuit against the gun industry, only to have it dismissed by the state Supreme Court.

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[From left to right: Mel Reynolds, Jesse Jackson, Jr., and Gus Savage]

Last Friday, State Sen. Donne Trotter formally withdrew from the Second Congressional District special election to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. The announcement came three weeks after he was arrested at O'Hare for trying to pass through security with a concealed gun. At the time of his arrest, Trotter was considered the front-runner to win the special election. Of course, the special election had only come about because the avalanching shenanigans of Jesse Jackson, Jr. forced his resignation.

The incidents involving Trotter and Jackson are just the latest examples that show how the constituents of the second congressional district are cursed. Because there's no other way to explain the misfortune that has plagued the district's constituents over the last 30 years.

It wasn't always this way, though. For the first 150 years or so of the district's existence, it hosted a colorful collection of Congressmen.

James Woodworth, who held the seat from 1855 to 1857, also served several terms as Chicago mayor, was a founding trustee of both the "old" University of Chicago and the Chicago Astronomical Society, and helped make Chicago an economic center by guiding the Midwest's railways and water traffic through the city.

From 1903 to 1922, the congressman of the 2nd district was James Robert Mann, author of the Mann Act of 1910 (aka the White Slave Traffic Act) which prohibited the interstate transportation of women for prostitution.

Abner Mikva served as the district's representative from 1969 until 1973. In 1979, then-President Jimmy Carter nominated him to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals where he served until 1994 when he retired to serve as White House counsel for then-President Bill Clinton.

And from 1853 to 1855, just before Woodworth, there was John Wentworth whose two-year stint as the second district's rep was part of a long political career that culminated in his service as Chicago's mayor. Wentworth also served in Congress as a representative of Illinoi's first and fourth districts and during his Congressional tenure, he was offered a deal by Wisconsin that would have extended that state's border to the southern tip of Lake Michigan. His reward had he allowed the Badger state to expand? A seat in the U.S. Senate. Wentworth said no.

So, then, it's easy to understand why I can't help but view the district as anything but cursed. How else to explain that the last three representatives have been, in succession, a virulent racist, a statutory rapist, and a scandal-laden charlatan? How else to explain the ascension of Gus Savage, who held the seat from 1981 until 1993? Somehow, Savage held on to his seat for 12 years despite numerous challengers, racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric, and accusations of verbally and physical sexual harassment of a Peace Corp. volunteer during a press junket tour of Ethiopia in 1989. He also had a habit of using homophobic slurs towards reporters whose questions he didn't like.

Finally ousting Savage in 1992 was an upstart reformer named Mel Reynolds. A graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, an MPA from Harvard, and a Rhodes Scholar, hopes were high for Reynolds. Instead, in August 1994, less than 2 years after his election, he was indicted on a host of charges stemming from a sexual relationship he carried on with a 16-year-old campaign volunteer. In 1995, Reynolds was forced to resign his seat.

Winning the seat after Reynolds' exit was a charismatic up-and-comer, Jesse Jackson, Jr., son of the famed Rev. Jesse Jackson. For years, Jackson served without controversy, happy to build a reputation that helped him escape his father's shadow. Then, in 2008, he was connected to the pay-for-play scandal that ensnared then-governor Rod Blagojevich. Jackson allegedly offered up fundraising to Blago in exchange for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama after he won the 2008 Presidential election.

In early June of this year, Jesse Jackson, Jr. made his last public appearance before disappearing into the ether. In the interim, he's been in and out of the Mayo Clinic for treatment of bipolar disorder, become the target of a federal investigation into misuse of campaign funds, and, jus weeks after winning re-election in November, resigned his seat in disgrace.

The curse's source remains unknown, the misery of the second district voters still intact as they prepare for yet another special election. Even Reynolds has risen from the political graveyard to run for his old seat, a specter of the past that continues to haunt the district. This, even after Savage, despite his morally repugnant behavior, managed to keep his seat for 12 years, never receiving less than 82 percent of the vote in a general election until 1990, the year after he was accused of sexual harassment, when he received "only" 78 percent of the vote.

Those dark cosmic forces maintained their veil over the electorate in November 1994 when Reynolds, just months after his statutory rape indictment, Reynolds, unopposed from any major party challenger, received 98 percent of the vote over several independent candidates in his re-election bid.

The curse's iron grip held fast when in November when Jackson, sight unseen, was never seriously challenged on his way to a startling victory in which he garnered 63 percent of the vote.

And so this curse of mysterious origins remains unabated, its cause still a mind-bending unknown, holding hostage the tortured souls of our state's Second Congressional District. No amount of voodoo seems to have reversed the cloud of calamity that has swallowed the area whole, keeping fraudulent abusers of power in place. There seems to be no magic remedy that can save them from this string of awful leaders who somehow, some way, manage to maintain their terrible cycle of darkness and dismay.

Even the once-mighty Cook County Democratic Party has been stymied, endorsing no one for the upcoming special election primary, handing over its faith to the fates and hoping for the best. And, that's all the district's voters can do: hope and pray that somehow this evil spell is broken, that, somehow, salvation will arrive and free the them from the malicious cycle that's held them captive for so long.

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M. Spencer Green // AP Photo


BY LISA DONOVAN
Cook County Reporter/ldonovan@suntimes.com

A panel of Cook County's top Democrats will gather Dec. 15th with the goal of slating a party candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. The beleaguered congressman resigned last week amid a federal investigation into his campaign spending and ongoing mental health problems that prompted him to take a leave of absence.

Roughly a dozen Democrats have either been mentioned or thrown their hats into the ring to represent the The 2nd Congressional District, which runs from Chicago's South Side to the suburbs, including small sections of Will and Kankakee counties.

Joe Berrios, the head of Cook County's Democratic Party, told the Sun-Times this week that if the party can agree on backing - or slating - a single candidate, it will be easier for him or her to raise money and get their name out there during what will be a short election season. Gov. Pat Quinn this week announced the primary date is Feb. 26th while the general election is March 19th.

If voter trends hold, a Democrat will likely win the seat.

Thornton Township Supervisor and Democratic Committeeman Frank Zuccarelli, a powerbroker whom Berrios tapped to serve as chairman of the slating committee, says the slating process will be pretty standard: candidates will be interviewed during the December session at the Thornton Township Hall in South Holland and the 11 ward and township comitteemen - party bosses - representing various parts of the 2nd Congressional District will take a vote.

While Zuccarelli is encouraging candidates to contact him to be part of the December slating session so they can make their pitch, he's not exactly walking in to this with an open mind. He said he already knows that if state Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago), who has expressed interest in the job, is running, that's who he's backing. Trotter's legislative district, which stretches from the South Side to the suburbs, covers some of the same territory as the 2nd Congressional District, helping him understand the issues facing residents there, Zuccarelli said.

"Even though some people who've been mentioned (as candidates) might do a decent job -- nobody comes close" to Trotter, Zuccarelli said. "I'm going to conduct inteviews and I'll listen to what people say -- but the only way my mind would change is if Donne dropped out."

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Chicago Sun-Times Library File Photo by Rich Hein


This Sunday, November 25th, marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Harold Washington, who served as Chicago's mayor from April 1983 until his death in 1987, just months after winning a second term. Washington was a larger-than-life man with a big smile to boot. But he was also a fighter as his battles against then-aldermen Ed Vrdolyak and the "Vrdolyak 29" proved during the infamous Council Wars. He was a polarizing figure but the city came together to mourn his tragic and sudden passing over Thanksgiving week in 1987.

Over the next few days, we'll look back on the last days of Washington's life by digging up stories from our archives and posting them here with photos from the Sun-Times' archive.

We've also created a timeline tracking some of Washington's major accomplishments as a politician and implementing photos and videos.

Finally, at the end of the week, some of the Sun-Times' writers will also share their memories of Harold for us.

So keep checking this space all week for more on Washington as we remember him 25 years after his passing.


Nate Silver hit The Daily Show on Wednesday to discuss his uncanny use of math in regard to predicting the 2012 election.

But on Friday he's all ours. Or, at least he'll be a guest of the Humanities Festival - sorry, sold out.

Neil Steinberg, yet another sad scribe who couldn't gain one-on-one access to the, as Stewart called him, Lord God of the Algorithim, did manage to find out how the Festival scored the get of gets:

So hats off to the Chicago Humanities Festival, for scoring one of the better "gets" of the year, when the elusive Silver returns here Friday for a lecture at the University of Chicago, "Nate Silver on Baseball and Politics: The Numbers Don't Lie." A happy coincidence?

"It's not a coincidence," said Matti Bunzl, the festival artistic director. "We have been following him for years. The way the election was shaping up, it was so clear it would be very close, so much of the discourse would turn on polling, all issues. The fact that he has completely exploded, that we could not foresee But we assumed that he would play a pivotal role in the election, and it played out exactly as we anticipated. We assumed that by now he would be a household name." Bingo.

Silver did stop by to talk to Charlie Rose on October 30, though, and discuss his math, his politics - he claims not to vote - and all the hubbub surrounding the mild-mannered statistician as the election headed toward the boiling point:

The emotional week continues for President Obama.

At his final campaign stop, returning to where he got his start in 2008 in Des Moines, he seemed to tear up talking to a crowd of supporters. This time, his emotions came out as he talked to the staffers in his Chicago campaign office as he reminisced about his early days in Chicago as a community organizer and looked forward to future of his young staffers.

Then again, maybe he was just thinking of the impending ugliness facing him as the fiscal cliff looms.

It's not the first time Obama has become emotional on the public stage. In 2008, on the eve of election day, his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, passed away at 86. Obama teared up talking about his "quiet hero" to a campaign rally in North Carolina:

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(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

While the ongoing saga of Jesse Jackson Jr. - now working on a plea deal according to reporting by Michael Sneed - will cause tongues to wag about the continuing questionable state of Illinois political malfeasance, we are far from alone.

The feds, according to Sneed's report, are targeting Rep. Jackson's use of campaign funds. And we have our share of governors either in prison or who know their way around a cellblock. We have politicians fond of hiring relatives and blowing off ethics inquiries. We even have judges who's, well, state of mind is in question.

But at least they're all still alive.

The same cannot be said for Earl K. Wood, Charles Beasley and Mario Gallegos.