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Five-and-a-Half Reasons the Cubs Are Better Off as Losers

Thu, 2015-10-15 13:27

It's been hard to ignore the excitement of Cubs fans out there. Sure, there are plenty of die-hards who have always been loyal fans, but the bandwagon jumpers far outweigh the real fanatics of the North Side ball club. I myself used to live in the shadow of Wrigley Field and absolutely love the town, the neighborhood and the fans. And I consider myself a casual fan*, until the calendar hits October. At which point, I become a fan of whoever the Cubs are playing. Why, you ask? Here are my five-and-a-half reasons:

1. The mystique. Everybody loves a loser. Why do we remember the name of five-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader or Skippy from Family Ties? They are lovable losers. The Red Sox used to have this mystique until they messed it all up by winning the World Series, not once, but thrice! Instead of a team that was sort of cute with their continual postseason choke jobs, they became a genuine hated rival. And now, as far as I'm concerned, the Red Sox might as well be the Yankees.

2. The hope for the future. Of course, the cameras love the rube who holds up the hand-painted "It's gonna happen" sign. What signs are Cubs fans supposed to bring to the ballpark if they win the whole thing? "It just happened" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

3. Laws of physics. Here's a seventh grade science recap.** There are two types of energy: potential energy and kinetic energy. Maximum potential energy is what you get at the top of a rollercoaster when you are about start the descent. At that point, your serotonin levels peak and the rest of the downhill journey is pretty ho-hum to our brains. Well, Cubs fans have been at the top of the rollercoaster for more than 100 years. All they know is the natural high of potential energy and breaking this into kinetic energy could turn them into cocky Red Sox, Yankees or whatever fans you hate the most. And this could be devastating for the ecosystem of baseball fandom.

4. Tradition. Baseball is a game of tradition and the Cubs losing is something that traditionally happens. We've already lost the Red Sox and losing the Cubs would mean the longest standing losers would be Cleveland. And they have LeBron, so they don't need this honor.

5. The city of Chicago will burn to the ground ... again. If there's one thing about Cubs fans: They know how to celebrate. This is a fan base that will drink to a win in April, take a shot for a Cubbie sacrifice bunt, and will gladly toast to next year every October. If the Cubs actually win the World Series -- well, let's just say I don't envy the job of a Chicago firefighter.

And five-and-a-half: The end of the world will be upon us. This is an absolute certainty. So with all of this being said, my brother and I are already planning a road trip to Chi-town just in case the Cubs win because we want to be at the epicenter when the world is wiped out. So if the Cubs do win, it's been nice knowing you. Thanks for reading my blog. And if you do make it through the end of days, my ashes will be scattered in a Waveland Avenue bar.

*By birth, I'm a Minnesota Twins fan first.
**I did zero research on this. I was only recalling chunks of information vaguely recalled for Mrs. Soccoman's seventh grade science class.

Hey, you're an attractive person. Let's do what attractive persons do and meet up on Twitter.

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Unleashing Innovation for a Clean Energy Economy

Thu, 2015-10-15 10:51
One of America's greatest assets is the ingenuity of its people. President Obama has been driving that theme home since the beginning of his Administration. At EPA, we've seen time and again that by unleashing homegrown American innovation, we can bring about big wins for both the environment and the economy.

Just look at renewable energy -- today the U.S. generates three times as much wind power, and 20 times as much solar power as we did in 2008. And since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system in the U.S. has dropped by half. At the same time, the U.S. solar industry is creating jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy.

And look at the auto industry -- we've set historic fuel efficiency standards that promise to send our cars twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade -- a move that will reduce pollution and save families money at the pump at the same time. Today, every major U.S. automaker offers electric vehicles. And since 2009, the American auto industry added more than 250,000 jobs.

These are wins all around. That's why states, communities and leading private sector companies are investing in clean energy innovation. Because it's good for the environment and it's good for business. There are countless state-based projects already underway to reduce energy waste, boost efficiencies, and vastly increase the amount of energy solar panels can produce from the sun.

We're already seeing tremendous progress across the country -- including the development of smart, low-cost technologies that help households save on their energy bills. On this front, the state of Illinois is moving ahead at full speed.

Just last week, I was proud to join officials from the City of Chicago, utility companies, citizen groups and two energy-technology companies -- Nest and Ecobee -- as they announced a major new initiative to get one million "smart" thermostats into northern Illinois homes by the year 2020.

The innovative partnership offers rebates that will nearly halve the cost of thermostats that allow residents to control the temperature of their homes via mobile device. And the technology is "smart" because it adapts to user behaviors over time. The new program is bringing together utilities, environmental organizations, consumer groups, private companies and the state commerce chamber -- all working together toward an ambitious energy efficiency goal.

The one-million smart thermostats effort is a prime example of the power of innovation and partnerships in solving tough problems. Because when we bring diverse skills, perspectives and expertise to the table, we get creative solutions. The Illinois program will bring efficiencies that move the needle against climate change, and it will help consumers' savings on their energy bills at the same time. That's a win-win.

And it's precisely the kind innovative thinking that states across the country are using to help meet the requirements laid out in EPA's Clean Power Plan, which launched this past summer.

The Plan puts the U.S. on track to slash carbon pollution from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. And when we cut carbon pollution, we also cut harmful smog- and soot-forming pollutants that come along with it.

We'll start seeing health benefits in the near term, and by 2030, we'll avoid thousands of premature deaths and hospital admissions, tens of thousands of asthma attacks, and hundreds of thousands of missed school and work days. In that same year, the average American family will see $85 a year in savings on their utility bills. That's another win-win.

The bottom line is -- America knows how to innovate, and solutions are already here. Technology and innovation are turning what used to be daunting challenges into real, profitable opportunities. The kinds of innovative thinking we're seeing in Illinois and elsewhere are our best shot at seizing them.

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Dennis Hastert To Plead Guilty In Hush-Money Case, Attorney Says

Thu, 2015-10-15 09:46

CHICAGO (AP) — An attorney for Dennis Hastert told a federal judge Thursday that the former House speaker intends to plead guilty in a federal hush-money case.

John Gallo said during a brief hearing that he expects to have a written plea agreement by Monday. And he asked the judge to set a date for a change of plea. The judge scheduled an Oct. 28 hearing.

Gallo did not mention any of the terms, including what counts Hastert would plead guilty to.

A plea deal would avert a trial and help keep any potentially embarrassing secrets quiet.

The 73-year-old Illinois Republican is charged with breaking banking laws and lying to the FBI in efforts to pay someone $3.5 million to hide claims of past misconduct.

The Associated Press and other media, citing anonymous sources, have reported the payments were meant to conceal claims of sexual misconduct decades ago.

Hastert allegedly structured cash withdrawals in increments of just under $10,000 to avoid financial reporting rules and then lied to the FBI about the reason for the withdrawals. Investigators have said Hastert withdrew about $1.7 million.

When Hastert was charged in May, the indictment noted that he had been a longtime high school teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville, west of Chicago, suggesting the charges are linked to that history.

Both defense attorneys and prosecutors have successfully kept details of the underlying allegations under wraps so far.

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5 Intense Examples Of Faith You Have To See To Believe

Thu, 2015-10-15 09:37

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In the far reaches of the world, even in places where cameras rarely go, you'll find an incredible range of rituals, cultures and acts of faith that help people find deeper meaning and connection with the world around them. These practices and journeys shape people's lives, and now, the documentary "Belief" explores the origins and stories behind these diverse faiths in a special seven-night event beginning Oct. 18.

Some of the stories are intimate; others are epic; all are sacred. Here are five of the devout spiritual seekers featured in the documentary, along with the extreme acts of faith that they follow on their paths to purpose and enlightenment.

1. A woman who has each hair plucked from her head

Madhya Pradesh, India

A young woman named Anju has left behind her family and her life as a cadet in the Indian army to follow a profound spiritual calling: becoming a Jain nun. The 19-year-old has been preparing for her initiation for two years, but before Anju can take her vows, she must pass a series of tests to prove she is ready.

On the day of Anju's final test, 15,000 people have come to witness her transformation. To become a nun, Anju must prove she is indifferent to pain and vanity by having every hair pulled from her head.

Anju's story airs on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m. ET on "Belief."

 2. Land-divers who take a literal leap of faith off a wood tower

 Pentecost Island, South Pacific

On this faraway island at the edge of our world, belief is a matter of life and death. For the people here, daily existence is precarious -- their continued survival depends on the annual harvest, and asking God to save them from salvation takes a literal leap of faith from a mighty tower constructed of sticks, vines and bark.

It's called land driving, and for centuries, Islanders have believed that the more dangerous the jump, the more bountiful the harvest. The only safety precaution is a tree vine tied around the jumpers' ankles. Men have done this for generations, and even boys as young as 9 -- like Bebe, whose first jump is documented in "Belief" -- are eager to prove their strength.

Bebe's story airs on Tuesday, Oct. 20, at 8 p.m. ET on "Belief."

3. A teen who dances for three days straight

Arizona, USA

In the Apache religion, people believe they were created by a goddess called "Changing Woman," who taught them everything they need to know about survival. Today, Apache girls like Ashly Hines still honor the goddess, transforming themselves into the Changing Woman in a ritual called the Sunrise Ceremony.

For three days, Ashly will dance with little sleep, no food and only tiny sips of water. If she endures these trials, she'll prove she's ready to handle all of life's changes and challenges.

Ashly's story airs on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m. ET on "Belief."


4. An Indian holy man who has held his right arm in the air for years

 Kumbh Mela, Prayag

Reshma Thakkar, a career-driven woman from Chicago in search of a connection to the divine, quits her job and travels to the banks of the Ganges River in India for the Kumbh Mela, joining millions at the world's largest spiritual gathering. Like many pilgrims, Reshma is drawn to the sadhus, India's holy men. Some practice extreme forms of self-discipline.

In her journey, Reshma meets a sadhu who holds his right arm in the air permanently, even when he sleeps. In their conversation, Reshma learns that the sadhu has been doing this for four years -- and he has eight more to go to complete his vow.

Reshma's story airs on Sunday, Oct. 18, at 8 p.m. ET on "Belief."


5. Monks who create -- and then destroy -- intricate sand mandalas


Nothing (and no one) lasts forever in this life. In a remote Himalayan monastery, Buddhist monks are about to create an extraordinary symbol of this impermanence. They are making a mandala, a map of the universe... with sand.

It's an exercise in discipline and devotion. The colorful and vibrant sand mandala is a painstaking work of sacred art, and this intricate project is not complete -- until it is destroyed. The mandala teaches a difficult but essential lesson for everyone: Life is fleeting.

"Belief" premieres on Sunday, Oct. 18, and air each night at 8 p.m. ET through to Saturday, Oct. 24.

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Man Freed 25 Years After Police Tortured Him Into A False Confession

Wed, 2015-10-14 20:26

 CHICAGO -- More than  25 years after police tortured him into confessing to a murder he didn't commit, Shawl Whirl walked out of an Illinois prison Wednesday afternoon, finally free.

An appeals court in August threw out Whirl's conviction and ordered a new trial, but he never went back to court. Prosecutors dropped the case, and on Tuesday, a judge dismissed all charges. 

Whirl, 45, is the first person granted a new trial on a referral from the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, formed in 2009 to address the wrongful convictions of people tortured into confessions under the watch of disgraced former police Commander Jon Burge. Burge and his so-called "midnight crew" of detectives tortured an estimated 192 people, mostly black men, during 1970s, 1980s and early-1990s. 

Whirl was greeted outside the Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Illinois, shortly after noon by his mother, Erma, with whom he had been living when he was arrested.

His attorney, Tara Thompson, of the University of Chicago Law School’s Exoneration Project, said Whirl's relatives made the release a joyful occasion. "It was perfect weather when he waked out of jail today," she said. "It was the kind of day that inspires hope."

But there was a sad truth Whirl must contend with, Thompson said. “He knows there’s a lot he’s missed." She handed Whirl her cell phone so he could call loved ones, but it had a touch screen he'd never seen before.

"The world is a completely different place than it was in 1991," Thompson said.

In April 1990, Whirl was 20. He worked as a computer operator, had a girlfriend and a close relationship to his mother. He had no criminal history. 

He was arrested and charged with the South Side murder of a 40-year-old cab driver named Billy Williams after police found his fingerprints in the back of the cab. 

Whirl said he had jumped into Williams’ cab two days earlier to escape gang members who were trying to stick him up for his hat and jacket. He told detectives he had nothing to do with the murder, court records show.

After hours of interrogation, with Whirl still handcuffed to a wall, Chicago Detective James Pineta entered the room. He stepped on Whirl's foot, said, "Wake up nigger," and slapped Whirl in the face, according to court records. The detective told Whirl his previous statement “won’t do.” 

Whirl continued to say he was innocent. Pienta, according to the court records, gashed Whirl’s leg with a set of keys.

Whirl’s girlfriend testified she had been taken in for questioning by police at the same time and could hear Whirl “hollering” from a room nearby. 

Whirl eventually signed a statement confessing to the murder. 

Armed with the confession, prosecutors concocted a motive: Whirl was having money troubles and needed to make rent (even though he was employed and living with his mother). After Whirl got into Williams' cab, he apologetically said he was going to rob the driver, then shot Williams in the head, according to the police theory. 

At his 1990 trial, Whirl took his attorneys' advice to plead guilty, knowing that the state would seek the death penalty if he opted for a trial. (Illinois did not repeal its death penalty until 2011).  A guilty plea would get Whirl a sentence of 60 years in prison.

But as he was sentenced, Whirl declared his innocence. The judge said he would reject Whirl’s guilty plea and proceed with a trial unless Whirl admitted guilt. Whirl relented and his guilty plea was reinstated.

Whirl claimed in subsequent appeals that his lawyers were ineffective and failed to call witnesses who would support his defense. A friend of a gang member who had chased Whirl on the day of the murder testified that the gangster, Tommie Thompson, was angry that the cab driver's ride had allowed Whirl to escape the mugging, so Thompson shot the cabbie and robbed him.

An Illinois appellate court finally overturned Whirl's conviction and ordered him a new trial in August. "Without Whirl's confession, the State's case was nonexistent," the court said in its ruling.

The Burge torture era spanned three decades and continues to cast a long shadow over the Chicago Police Department. Burge was convicted of perjury in 2011 and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in jail. He was released to a halfway house in Florida after serving 3 1/2 years of the sentence and now lives near Tampa, where he keeps a boat named "Vigilante" and a $4,000-a-month police pension.

Mike Theodore, Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission spokesman, said the commission has referred 16 cases for re-examination, and has 85 more on its docket.

"It’s hard to say when someone gets out after 25 years that justice has been served," said Flint Taylor, a People's Law Office attorney who also represents Whirl. "If the judge knew then what we know now -- if the city and police had not covered it up -- [Whirl] wouldn’t be in jail in the first place.” 

Taylor noted that for the wrongfully convicted, exoneration is often just the first step.

“Just because you’ve been released doesn’t mean this is off your record," Taylor said. Whirl could pursue a certificate of innocence, which expunges and seals his record, or file a civil lawsuit for wrongful conviction and torture. Any award would likely be capped at around $200,000, Taylor said. 

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Top 10 Most and Least Expensive Illinois Cities for Renters

Wed, 2015-10-14 10:55
If you're in the market for a new place and are looking to rent, the cities in which you're searching can make a big difference on the amount you shell out each month.

Zumper, an apartment rental website, says the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Illinois is $1,090 as of October. The report also shows which cities currently have the most and least expensive rental markets.

Considering cost-of-living, it's no surprise renters are paying the most in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. In Chicago, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,980, nearly $900 more than the statewide median. Compared to the rest of the U.S., that's the seventh most expensive rental market.

More from Zumper:

Compared to the rest of the most populous cities, Chicago's median rent stands out as significantly more expensive than the rest. Naperville is the second most expensive city on this list and its rent is still $680 less expensive than Chicago. Aurora, the second most populous city in Illinois, has a median rent that is over $1,000 less expensive than Chicago's.

Seven of the ten most populous cities in Illinois have rents below the state median's, so affordability does exist in the larger regions here.

Here are the Top 10 cities in Illinois with the most and least expensive rental markets.

NEXT ARTICLE: Awkward Family Photos exhibition comes to Illinois

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Thompson Center Expensive, Inefficient, but in a Valuable Location, Rauner Says

Wed, 2015-10-14 10:45

The experience of stepping into the seat of state government in Chicago -- the James R. Thompson Center -- is much like that of stepping into the seat of state government in Springfield -- the Capitol.

You're instantly struck by the vast expanse of open space that carries your eye skyward to a distant glass circle. In the Capitol, it's a cat's eye of stained glass some 300 feet above an ornate rotunda. In the Thompson Center, it's a massive collection of windows that overlooks the building's 17-story atrium.

Upward view of atrium in James R. Thompson Center, Chicago

Illinois State Capitol rotunda, upward view

To a first-time visitor, the Thompson Center, like the Statehouse, is breathtaking.

But the things that make it so also have made it an inefficient office building that's consistently been unpopular with its tenants almost since the day it opened in 1985. The state's failure to properly maintain the Helmut Jahn-designed structure led its namesake, former Gov. Jim Thompson, to say in 2014 that it "looks like a scrap heap."

That -- combined with the Thompson Center's prime location in Chicago's thriving Loop -- is why Gov. Bruce Rauner said Tuesday that it's time for the state to sell the building and the land it sits on to the highest bidder. Not only would the state reap cash from the deal (Rauner wouldn't give an estimate of how much), but it would save money by moving about 2,200 state employees into cheaper, more efficient office space elsewhere...

You can read the rest of this article here. Also, see what Helmut Jahn, the architect who designed the building, had to say about the idea of tearing down his work. Let's just say he isn't too happy.

NEXT ARTICLE: Former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleads guilty, could face up to 7.5 years in federal prison under reduced sentence

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Ex-head Of Chicago Schools Pleads Guilty In Kickbacks Scheme

Wed, 2015-10-14 10:43

CHICAGO (AP) -- The former head of the nation's 3rd largest school district has pleaded guilty to a fraud charge in an alleged scheme to steer $23 million in no-bid contracts to education firms for $2.3 million in bribes and kickbacks.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett entered her guilty plea Tuesday in federal court.

The 66-year-old faced 20 fraud counts, each with a maximum 20-year prison term. But under the plea agreement, she pleaded guilty to one fraud count. All others will be dismissed.

Federal prosecutors are seeking a sentence of 7 1/2 years in prison for the former Chicago Public Schools CEO. U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang will sentence her at a later date.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel hired Byrd-Bennett as CEO in 2012. She resigned earlier this year. Two education company executives were also indicted.

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How To Make Cranberry Compound Butter -- Because Fall

Wed, 2015-10-14 08:35

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Fall is in the air. Why not bring the best parts of this season into your kitchen as well? This butter -- spiked with cranberries, orange and rosemary -- is an incredibly easy way to bring fall's festive flavors to a variety of otherwise basic dishes. Smear it on biscuits, drop a dollop on French toast or spread a generous layer on pancakes to infuse a taste of fall into your favorite morning meals.

Cranberry Compound Butter


2 sticks of butter, softened

1/2 c. fresh or defrosted cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/4 c. orange juice

2 tsp. orange zest

2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped

1 Tbsp. sea salt


Place all ingredients into a medium sized bowl and mash together with a fork until combined.

Unroll a sheet of parchment paper and place the mixture in the center. Form the mixture into a log and wrap it tightly in the paper. Twist the ends of the paper to seal.

Refrigerate the sealed butter overnight, then cut off one end of the parchment paper when ready to use.

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Chicago Cubs Advance To First NLCS Since 2003

Tue, 2015-10-13 21:21

CHICAGO — Joe Maddon posed for a selfie on the field with his wife. Jon Lester sprayed champagne with his young son. Rocker Eddie Vedder partied on the mound.

For the Chicago Cubs and their ever-hopeful fans, this bash was a long time in the making.

Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez homered and the fresh Cubs clinched a postseason series at Wrigley Field for the first time ever, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-4 Tuesday to win the NL Division Series in four games.

"This is all just baseball fantasy, right?" a drenched chairman Tom Ricketts said.

Only once since they last brought home the World Series in 1908 had the Cubs won a playoff series and never before had they finished off the job at their century-plus-old ballpark.

But with a raucous, towel-waving crowd jamming the Friendly Confines, the North Siders gave generations of fans exactly what they wanted. And as they gathered in the pulsating neighborhood, the lit-up marquee at Wrigley Field said it all: Cubs Win.

 "I can only imagine what the next thing is going to look like," said Lester, the lefty who twice won the World Series with Boston. "And the next thing after that."

The crowd started roaring before the first pitch. And when closer Hector Rondon struck out Stephen Piscotty on a ball in the dirt and catcher Miguel Montero made the tag to end it, the Cubs came streaming out of the dugout.

"They deserve it," Rizzo said in the middle of the party. "Hopefully, this is just a taste of what's to come."

Up-and-comers all season under their first-year manager, Maddon's bunch of wild-card Cubs had arrived.

As the music blared and the strobe lights flashed in the clubhouse, Cubs players and coaches soaked each other. Then they took the celebration back onto the field as fans went crazy — Vedder, from the local area, pitched right in.

The Cubs will face the winner of the Los Angeles Dodgers-New York Mets matchup. The Mets took a 2-1 lead into Game 4 Tuesday night.

Chicago will play Game 1 Saturday on the road.

No team was hotter down the stretch than Chicago, which finished third in the majors with 97 wins after five straight losing seasons.

The Cubs knocked out the two teams that finished ahead of them in the NL Central, beating Pittsburgh in the wild-card game and sending St. Louis home after it led the majors with 100 wins.

"I think we're too young to even realize what we just did," young slugger Kris Bryant said. "It truly is a special time right now."

The banged-up Cardinals had reached the NLCS in the last four years.

"It was just unfortunate," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "This is a team that was as impressive to watch from Day One as any team I've ever been around."

"That's always hard to walk away from. We had an opportunity maybe to get back home and do things differently, but they took advantage of the opportunities they had," he said.

Rizzo's solo drive to right off losing pitcher Kevin Siegrist in the sixth put Chicago back on top 5-4 after St. Louis scored two in the top half.

As if the fans were already hollering at the top of their lungs after that home run, they were really screaming after Schwarber's monstrous shot leading off the seventh. The ball landed on top of the right-field videoboard and wound up nestled against a railing on the front edge.

The late drives by Rizzo and Schwarber along with Baez's three-run homer off John Lackey in the second came after Chicago set a postseason record with six long balls in Monday's win.

And with the ball flying out again, the Cubs won for the 12th time in 13 games.

Cubs starter Jason Hammel allowed two runs and three hits. He exited after giving up a leadoff walk to Jhonny Peralta in the fourth.

Seven relievers combined to hold the Cardinals to two runs and five hits the rest of the way. Trevor Cahill picked up the win and Rondon worked the ninth for the save.

Hammel settled down after giving up a two-run homer to Piscotty on the game's fourth pitch. He also singled in a run with two out in the second before Baez connected against Lackey, the man the Cardinals were counting on to keep their season going, to make it 4-2.

Lackey gave up four runs and four hits over three innings after outpitching former teammate Lester in a dominant series opener.

The Cardinals, playing without catcher Yadier Molina (left thumb), failed to advance in the postseason after winning at least one series the previous four years.

"I definitely think the ballpark had something to do with this. They also have a really good lineup," Lackey said.

St. Louis scored two in the sixth to tie it. But the rally ended with Tony Cruz — who drove in a run with a two-out double — getting thrown out at home by Jorge Soler trying to score on Brandon Moss' RBI single to right.

"I will be shocked if they're not in the World Series or winning it," Piscotty said. "They're playing well. You got to tip your hat."


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Rahm Emanuel Blames Chicago Crime Increase On Backlash Against Police Brutality

Tue, 2015-10-13 18:00

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) thinks the nationwide push for police accountability has made cops go "fetal," leading to a surge in crime.

“They don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact,” Emanuel told reporters last week at a meeting convened by Attorney General Loretta Lynch in Washington, D.C. to address rising homicide rates in some cities. 

The mayor defended his comments on Monday. "Officers themselves are telling me about how the news over the last 15 months impacted their instincts: Do they stop or do they keep driving?" he told reporters, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"What happened post-Baltimore, what happened post-Ferguson is having an impact," Emanuel said. "And I still believe recent events over the last year or 18 months have had an impact. And officers will tell you that. And I tried to speak up for the good officers that are doing community policing that make up the men and women of the Chicago Police Department."

Emanuel is just the latest in a series of public figures to blame the Black Lives Matter movement, directly or indirectly, for a growth in violent crime. Last month, former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly blamed it on the climate created by the Ferguson protests against police brutality. “I think you'll see, you know, the rise in murders in 30 cities, that's the so-called Ferguson effect where cops are less reluctant to engage in proactive policing."

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, also in September, claimed that law enforcement is under attack from all sides. "Whether it's in Ferguson or Baltimore, the response of senior officials of the President, of the Attorney General, is to vilify law enforcement. That is fundamentally wrong, and it is endangering the safety and security of us all."

Fox News went so far as to call Black Lives Matter a "hate group." Even The New York Times asked if the "Ferguson effect" is driving up homicide rates on its front page last month.

But there is little evidence that this is in fact the case. For one thing, it's questionable whether murder rates are actually surging nationwide, let alone what might be driving that surge, as safety and justice researcher Bruce Frederick wrote in The Marshall Project:

Even where a statistically reliable increase has been experienced, a single year-to-year increase does not necessarily imply a meaningful trend. Often, such changes fall within the range of normal year-to-year fluctuations. For example, I was able to obtain historical data on year-to-year changes in homicide counts for Chicago, the only top-20 city in the Times analysis that had a statistically significant increase from 2014 to 2015. From 2009 to 2010, homicides increased 5.1 percent. The next year, however, there was a 13.1 percent decrease. The year after that, a 28.5 percent increase, and then decreases of 16.4 and 3.4 percent in 2013 and 2014, before homicides climbed back up 11.3 percent in 2015. Looked at over a longer time period, the numbers do not demonstrate a stable trend.

Before the Ferguson protests even began last year, hundreds of Chicago police officers became a news story themselves -- and not for the kind of one-off, career-ending mistakes Emanuel evoked, but for serial misconduct. A list of 662 officers with more than 10 misconduct complaints against them over a 5-year period was released to the press in July 2014, after a protracted legal battle. The city paid a whopping $54.2 million to settle misconduct cases last year alone, according to The Chicago Reporter.

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Why Every Black Activist Should Stand With Rasmea Odeh

Tue, 2015-10-13 16:32
As a Black activist, many people ask me why I choose to support Palestinian rights. While the answer is in some ways complicated -- triggering significant personal and political questions for me -- in other ways it is quite simple: I stand in solidarity with anyone fighting for freedom. No one is free until everyone is free from oppression.

This is why I actively struggle against homophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism and other crippling forms of injustice. This is why I challenge the brutal occupation of Palestine, and support the construction of a safe, peaceful and sovereign Palestinian state. This is why I advocate for the rights of political prisoners around the globe.

And this is why I fight for the release of Rasmea Odeh.

Odeh's story is a fascinating one. Born in Lifta, near Jerusalem, Palestine, in 1947, Odeh came to Michigan in 1994 and became a citizen in 2004, when she moved to Chicago and began working with the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), a community-based organization providing advocacy and social services to Arabs in Chicagoland.

Bringing four decades of community organizing experience to the AAAN, she founded the Arab Women's Committee, which now has close to 700 members, and provides leadership development, political education and organizing skills training to immigrant Arab women. Her work became so recognizable across many movements in Chicagoland, including immigrant rights, racial justice and women's rights, that she received the Outstanding Community Leader Award from the Chicago Cultural Alliance in 2013.

Considering her impeccable reputation, the community was stunned when she was arrested in October 2013, and charged with "unlawful procurement of naturalization." The indictment alleged that, while giving answers to questions on her U.S. citizenship application in 2004, she did not disclose her arrest by the Israelis in Palestine from almost 40 years earlier.

What everyone now knows is that her conviction in 1970 was by an Israeli military court, which "convicts" over 99.7 percent of Palestinians who come before it; and that it was allegedly based on a false confession made by Odeh after over 20 days of vicious rape, and other physical and psychological torture. She spent 10 years in Israeli prisons for a crime she maintains she did not commit, and now the U.S. wants to put her in prison again.

In Detroit in November 2014, Odeh was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison as well as deportation from the U.S. But she was reportedly not allowed to call the conviction by the Israelis in Palestine unlawful, or testify about the torture and rape. It seems she was not allowed a full and fair trial.

This is why Odeh is appealing the conviction, and why I am supporting her. And I am not alone. Her case has become a cause celebre, and a campaign has been established for her defense, building support from over 50 community, faith, labor, anti-war, Palestine support and other organizations across the country.

There is simply no reason why this venerable woman should be in the vice grip of the U.S. justice system, except that she is a Palestinian freedom fighter being railroaded for her commitment to justice. Odeh has already spent over a month in prison -- three weeks of it in the torturous conditions of solitary confinement, allegedly. In essence, this has been a political show trial from the beginning, seems to have been designed to give the appearance of justice rather than what it actually is: political retribution. Odeh is being prosecuted and persecuted for having the audacity to survive and remain steadfast in her resistance to injustice.

Like many Palestinian freedom fighters, Odeh's story should resonate with Blacks here in the United States. She is the victim of a criminal military court system in Israel, much like many Black people are victims of a criminal racist justice system in the U.S. Given the long history of government surveillance (like COINTEL-PRO) against Black resistance movements in the United States, as well as the recent wave of arrests against post-Ferguson activists, it is critical that we not allow the State to criminalize Black and Brown dissent.

Odeh's is an important story. A story of Palestine. A story of refugees, of military occupation and torture, of political imprisonment, of women's rights organizing, of freedom. But Odeh's must also be understood as a Black story. A story of global resistance to colonial power. A story of challenging unjust government action. A story of solidarity.

She should have never been arrested here, let alone convicted. And I am hopeful that on October 14, the appellate court will reverse the conviction and allow her to live her proud life in peace.

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Teens Trade Relationships for Easier Alternatives

Tue, 2015-10-13 15:53

By Maggie Harden, Vernon Hills
and Daniel Vogwill, Chicago Agricultural

Dating is a different experience than it was a generation ago. Parents who once were "going steady" don't understand the complicated dance that is modern high school dating. If she favorites your Instagram, does that mean she likes you? If you're in his profile picture, are you in a relationship?

Maybe teens don't understand modern high school dating either. It's complicated.

Hookup culture

With the rise of apps like Tinder, many are wondering if social media hookups are becoming the predominant form of relationships. According to a 2013 study by the American Psychological Association, 61 percent of sexually experienced teens reported a sexual encounter outside a dating relationship, which is occurring in correlation with Tinder's rising popularity among teens.

"This quick access to 'hooking up' is limiting the ability for teens to learn how to deal with rejection, and offers a quick fix to regulate their emotions," said Sara Klein, a staff therapist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University.

These quick fixes may lead to short-lived relationships. According to Chicago Agricultural sophomore James Darche, conventional relationships aren't exactly common.

"The norm for teen dating seems to be only about two weeks or even less," Darche said.

Some attribute this decline to the ubiquity of social media. Does a relationship with someone (or even the appearance of one) add or detract from your profile?

"I think dating apps have turned relationships into a game," Vernon Hills senior Madison Proft said. "Because then it becomes 'How many likes can I get?' and makes dating someone more of a status than a serious commitment."

Many teens see serious commitments as easier opportunities to get hurt. Rather, they might prefer hookups because there are no strings attached and there's an easy way out if things go downhill.

"Hooking up is defined as one of the first stages of meeting a person who you like," Chicago Agricultural sophomore Jonny Poole said. "I think hooking up is a bit easier, because you are just receiving insight on the person and making the choice if they're right for you."

Klein echoed Poole's thoughts on what makes teens gravitate toward hooking up.

"For teens that lack self-confidence, this type of 'hooking up' provides a small dose of validation," Klein said. "The instant gratification that comes from 'hooking up' may be followed by anxiety, shame and depression. There is something very scary about opening yourself up for rejection, so these 'hookups' may be easier in the short term."

Teens on Tinder

Tinder reports that 7 percent of its users are between 13 and 17. While the app was originally designed to be a social dating network, The Guardian described it as "the app that helps you meet people for sex." Tinder has a reputation for making quick connections between people looking for a one-time sexual partner.

"No one at this age has an attention span long enough for a long-term relationship," said Whitney Young senior Claire Nosal, who said she uses Tinder. "There is too much change happening at this age to be committed. People just want to get to the point and then cut ties because they don't want to put work in."

Some have expressed concern about kids as young as 13 logging onto Tinder. While users between 13 and 17 can only connect with people in their same age range, there are still risks associated with meeting someone on social media.

"While technology is meant to open up the lines of communication, there is also a disconnection in posting your best self online and counting up your likes," Klein said. "The technology is here to stay, so we have to arm families with the tools to teach social and emotional skills so our teens can make more effective choices that reflect their specific set of values."

Despite Tinder's reputation for being solely a hookup app, it was originally intended as a tool for finding a relationship. Some insist that Tinder opens up opportunities for teens to meet students from other schools.

"You can find people who aren't just willing to hook up on Tinder," Mother McAuley senior Stevie Parrilli said. "I started using it for fun and I wasn't even taking it seriously, but you can get lucky--I found someone I'm dating."

"Relationship goals"

But could social media be creating unrealistic expectations for teen relationships? The popular term "relationship goals" has come to describe everything from a couple who cooks dinner together to a boyfriend and girlfriend with matching six-packs. With such an emphasis on social media, are teens losing sight of actual "relationship goals"?

"I think that some people think that 'relationship goals' are totally unrealistic, and some of them are," Proft said. "But I feel like some people don't even realize the respect that they deserve, so they think just having a boyfriend or girlfriend that takes you out or buys you something is so unrealistic, when in reality that's just a nice way to show your affection."

It's easy to log onto social media sites and see pictures of couples and families and measure personal success against those images. The Pew Research Center reports that 21 percent of teens on social media have felt worse about their lives after seeing a post on social media. This dynamic may be affecting what teens look for in a relationship.

Ultimately, though social media may have changed the dating game, Klein said teens should continue to seek out healthy, in-person interactions in order to create the connections they crave.

"An overwhelming amount of conversation they report is done via text," Klein said. "Teens need the skills to have a conversation, one that includes tone, inflection and social cues. These interpersonal skills are a critical part of healthy relationships."

* * * * * *

Decoding teen dating

As teen dating culture has become more hookup-based, the stages of a relationship have become more complicated. Here's some basic vocabulary to help you navigate the gray areas of teen dating.

Just talking
The two people involved have some romantic affiliation, but both still identify as single. Most of their communication occurs via text, and many people around them are not aware the two are together. "Just talking" can also mean the two people are in a "hooking up" relationship but are reluctant to admit it. These relationships can fizzle out before progressing to something more serious.

"A thing"
This is best identified as the pre-dating stage. When two people are "a thing," they're not quite single but not officially dating. They're usually texting or talking on the phone frequently and may have gone on a few casual dates. Most people around them are aware that the two are somewhat together.

Hooking up
Hooking up means there is little possibility for a future romantic relationship. This type of connection is purely physical and can consist of either isolated instances or a more long-term arrangement. Many teens who meet on Tinder or other dating apps end up in this stage.

This is the final and most serious stage of a teenage relationship. Couples who identify as dating often plan to be with each other for a longer amount of time and don't have any other romantic interests outside of the relationship.

This article was written by teen reporters from The Mash, a weekly publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.

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Busting the Myths About the Illinois Budget Impasse

Tue, 2015-10-13 14:32
Gov. Bruce Rauner recently has said the $5 billion unbalanced budget passed by Democrats last year not only was unconstitutional, but that it also has led to the current standoff in Springfield.

What Rauner hasn't talked about his the fact that his own proposed budget, introduced in February, was balanced only after including $2.2 billion in savings from a pension reform plan that, realistically, had no hope of becoming law before 2017 and, even more realistically, probably never would become law.

Rauner also has said it's the General Assembly's job to deliver a balanced budget that meets state constitutional muster.

The Illinois Constitution, however, says otherwise:

(a) The Governor shall prepare and submit to the General Assembly, at a time prescribed by law, a State budget for the ensuing fiscal year... Proposed expenditures shall not exceed funds estimated to be available for the fiscal year as shown in the budget.
(b) The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State. Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Michael Madigan for the last four months consistently has demanded that Rauner drop his demands for political and economic reforms as conditions for negotiating on tax increases to create a balanced budget.

He describes Rauner's reforms as "non-budget issues" that should not be used to leverage bargaining on the state budget.

If you've followed Illinois politics over the years, you should know that everything is in play when getting a balanced budget passed is on the line. Any issue can become relevant to the state budget if legislative leaders decide to make it so. Horse-trading in the General Assembly often includes budget votes.

There is a deep philosophical divide between the Republican Rauner and the Democrats who control the General Assembly, but it doesn't help our current situation when either side blurs the context of the budget standoff for political gain.

That's what we're talking about on this week's "Only in Illinois." Watch the full video here.

NEXT ARTICLE: How much "shake up Springfield" are we each seeing?

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The Church We Want: A Communion of Love

Tue, 2015-10-13 14:23
Religion is a very personal thing. This is why religious arguments are usually very complex and emotionally charged. Even though most institutionalized religions have their own sets of creeds, beliefs and practices, there is no guarantee that adherents simply by publicly professing religious beliefs and values deeply and faithfully live in private the doctrines which they defend publicly. Many of us religious people often do not always rise to the ideals of our religious values and virtues in private practice; this is the reality of our human limitations and imperfections.

Christianity is about witnessing in our daily lives and replicating in our daily choices the priorities and practices of Jesus Christ so that God's will may be done on earth as it is done in heaven. But when it comes to how to live like Jesus in the world today, we are faced with many contending options. As someone reminded me recently, there are many ways of being a Catholic and there are many opposing Catholic camps in every Catholic parish and in every church pew. Finding a harmony between respecting individual conscience and the rule of faith that is common to all and finding the right balance between innovation and tradition, and embracing the symphony of diversity in love is a challenge which Catholicism must meet with grace and openness in order to be relevant as a beacon of light in the world today.

Theologians following the thoughts of German scholar Karl Rahner have often distinguished between two kinds of religious adherence in the Catholic Church, one based on the official faith, and the other inspired by an actual faith based on people's experience, conviction and the inner promptings of their conscience. The official faith of the church is clearly articulated in the Catechism of the Church which sets out in unambiguous language the beliefs, teachings, morality, spirituality and sacramental life of Catholicism.

The actual faith is the day to day life of Catholics as they face the daily challenges and joys of life. In most instances, Catholic faithful are inspired and guided by these official teachings but there are daily choices which they make on a day to day basis which are inspired by their personal preference, the illumination of their consciences and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. There are also a combination of other external influences and positive values which a normal and balanced faithful integrates in his or her life without recourse to the Catechism. The ultimate call is to live like Jesus Christ and to live beyond the restrictive walls which selfishness and pride can impose on any person.

The Challenge Catholicism faces in this regard can be reflected in the recent Pew Research survey carried out this September about the attachment of US Catholics to Catholic culture, beliefs and practices. This was conducted before the visit of Pope Francis. The survey is quite revealing about the increasing gap between the official faith of the Church and the actual faith or daily practices and experiences of the faithful. The survey shows that roughly half or more of U.S. Catholics say that using contraceptives, living with a romantic partner outside of marriage and remarrying after a divorce without an annulment are not sins. And about four-in-ten (39%) say homosexual behavior is not a sin. But even among frequent churchgoers, majorities are open to non-traditional family arrangements. 90% of the people surveyed agreed that married mother and father is as good an arrangement in marriage as any other relations; 48% find unmarried parents living together acceptable; while 43% of American Catholics surveyed as against 23% find gay or lesbian marriages acceptable; 70% find it acceptable and good if a husband and wife choose not to have children; 55% find it acceptable for a man and woman to co-habit, while 46% find same-sex co-habitation acceptable.

While the Catholic Church does not formulate her beliefs and practices based on public opinion or approval ratings, it is indicative of the challenges Catholicism faces in meeting the needs of modern men and women. This is not simply an American phenomenon. I was surprised a few years ago when we had a training for women in an African village that was predominantly Catholic. Most of the women were not asking me questions about the sinfulness of contraception which is rejected in the official teaching of the Church, but whether the condoms sold in Africa are as good as the ones some NGOs were sending from the US and Canada.

The point here is that the wider the gap between official teaching and official position of the church and the daily choices of Catholics the more irrelevant the church will become to their daily realities. At the same time, the church cannot be a guinea pig for assimilating every social experimentation. However the question still remains as to how the Church of today can read the signs of the times according to Vatican II so as to be the salt and light to the world. One of the greatest theologians of the Catholic Church in the last century was French Dominican, Yves Congar.

He noted few years before Vatican II that Christianity like all religions could grow old if it becomes enslaved to a fixed expression or closes itself to the forces of history. For Congar the 'risk of growing old' and 'becoming locked into habits, memories and institutions' is always present in Christianity. According to Congar the Christian reformer Erasmus in the Middle Ages was saddened by the Church of his times because, "the pastoral had been overshadowed or effaced by the feudal, the Gospel spirit by the excrescences of flamboyant piety, faith by religion, and religion by practices." In our day this danger has become real and I believe that Pope Francis is calling the Church today to stretch our gaze beyond our limited human horizons, structures and systems to embrace needed changes in our church. Such changes must be a renewal from within the heart of Catholicism in order to bring unity in what is necessary and bridge the gap between what the Church is teaching and defending and what Catholics are living in their daily choices. This is the challenge facing the church leaders who are meeting about the future of the family in Rome.

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Woodlawn: Can Jesus Fix Race Relations?

Tue, 2015-10-13 11:27

Woodlawn tells the true story of race, rivalry and religion within the confines of Birmingham Alabama's Woodlawn High School, the last school in Birmingham to integrate.

The story follows wonder kid athlete "Touchdown" Tony Nathan (portrayed by talented newcomer Caleb Castille), as his gridiron skills breathe new life into the wildly unsuccessful Woodlawn football team.

Solid performances by Nicholas Bishop, Jon Voight, Sean Astin, C. Thomas Howell and Sherri Shepherd (in a refreshing dramatic role), as well as powerful action shots from the gritty football field, give Woodlawn the Hollywood action movie feel that makes you forget it's a Christian movie.

Oh, but Jesus does make an appearance, in a most fascinating way.

As Birmingham stood divided and torn by race and rival football teams, an unlikely evangelist stepped in to spread the message of one God and one love.

The film is directed by brothers Andrew and Jon Erwin. I recently sat down with Andrew Erwin to discuss the 1973 Woodlawn story that is still so relevant today.

What attracted you to the Woodlawn story?
This was a story that I loved, that I grew up hearing, and I've heard about this team and this game that was the biggest game in the Southeast. I heard about the love that these [rival] teams have for each other, and I heard about the race and reconciliation, and that attracted me as a filmmaker.

How did you achieve the balance between the dual storylines of racial strife and religion?
Our story is told in two perspectives, it's a white perspective and it's an African American perspective. There's a cynical view and then there's Tony Davis's view, and the two collide in this message of love that happened in Woodlawn, the last school to integrate in Birmingham.

Did conversations about current race relations invade the set?

As we were on set, the Ferguson verdict came down and one of our actors, Marcus Henderson, was sitting in his seat, crying to himself. It didn't register, it kind of went over my head. I said, 'are you okay?' And he didn't say anything and then, it kind of clicked, I said, 'Oh, that's right, you're from Ferguson.'

And he said, 'Yeah, my mom lived right down the street.'

And he was in tears. And in that moment, I tried to step outside of myself and I said, can you help me understand? I understand that this is important, but as a white man from the South, I don't want this to go over my head because I don't have the same experience. Please help me understand your pain.

Marcus spent a great deal of time helping me to understand what was going on culturally, that I didn't get. And I asked Marcus if he wanted to go home, and he said, 'No, I need to be on this set. I need to be here, there's so much hate in the world. I need to be doing something like this where we're promoting love.'

What did you learn from that conversation about Ferguson?

I learned that there was ignorance on my part, just because I haven't experienced a certain pain. Just because there's not racist feelings on my part, sometimes you assume that everybody has the same life experience. And I called a couple of my friends, one who is a pastor in Birmingham, and we talked about racism but we never talked about these issues. And I asked, 'Is this real?' and he said, 'Bro, you have no idea.'

And I began to take a step back and I went home. And a few days later, the Eric Garner situation flared up in New York, and I went back and I watched the video and I sat there in tears. It messed me up for a couple of days, and just for me, I just felt like, when telling the Woodlawn story, I wanted to make sure that it united instead of divided.

As we were finishing, Baltimore happened, and Time magazine had the cover of the Baltimore riots and had 1968 crossed through and 2015 on the front page. And I got chills, and I said, God, what a privilege to tell a story like this where it's not my experience--it's people's life experience that actually walked through this, and saw a lot of good, and their life experience had a lot to say.

Woodlawn opens everywhere October 16.

Photos: ctsy. Woodlawn, used with permission. Photo of Andy and Mandii Irwin, inside Mount Tabor, Global United Fellowship, by Zondra Hughes for HuffPo.

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Gysi geht: Eine Würdigung in 6 Punkten

Tue, 2015-10-13 02:55
Gefunden bei: Spiegel Online

Darum geht's: Das Datum steht: An diesem Dienstag hört Gregor Gysi als Fraktionschef der Linken auf. Seine Verdienste um den innerparteilichen Frieden und den deutschen Humor sollen nicht unerwähnt bleiben. Eine Würdigung in sechs Punkten.

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Fortune 500 Companies in Illinois With the Most Cash Stashed Overseas

Mon, 2015-10-12 18:05
Dozens of Illinois Fortune 500 companies in 2014 had more than $135 billion in offshore tax havens, according to a new report published by Citizens for Tax Justice and the Illinois PIRG Education Fund.

The report, "Offshore Shell Games 2015," found 72 percent of Fortune 500 companies, including 29 in Illinois, maintained tax haven subsidiaries in 2014.

Exploiting tax loopholes and amassing cash overseas through foreign subsidiaries is a common practice among U.S. multinational corporations, but it comes at a major price for the states in which these companies are headquartered, especially in Illinois, which has 34 Fortune 500 companies -- the fourth-most in the nation behind New York, Texas, and California.

Each year, Illinois loses $1.2 billion in corporate income tax revenue, according to Illinois PIRG. Opponents and business advocates argue strenuously that closing tax loopholes harms job creators and encourages big business to relocate to other states.

"When corporations dodge their taxes, the public ends up paying," said Abe Scarr of Illinois PIRG. "The American multinationals that take advantage of tax havens use Illinois roads, benefit from our education system and large consumer market, and enjoy the security we have here, but are ultimately taking a free ride at the expense of other taxpayers."

U.S. Fortune 500 companies reported nearly $2 trillion in offshore tax havens, with 30 firms accounting for 65 percent of that amount, or $1.35 trillion. Three companies in Illinois, whose offshore profits combined for a total of $64 billion, are among these 30 corporations: Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie and Caterpillar.

This list shows which Fortune 500 companies in Illinois stockpile the most money offshore, though nine of them did not report the amount being held in foreign subsidiaries: Allstate, Discover Financial Services, Exelon, Old Republic International, Packaging Corp. of America, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Sears Holdings, United Stationers and Walgreens.

ConAgra Foods, which recently announced it's relocating its headquarters to Chicago, had $660 million held by a subsidiary in the Netherlands.

You can find the full report embedded on the page.

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Chicago Archbishop Questions Second Amendment's Relevance, Calls For Tough Gun Control Laws

Mon, 2015-10-12 15:18

ROME (RNS) Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, named by Pope Francis to that high-profile post a year ago, has issued a powerful call for tougher gun control laws in a move that may push the volatile issue further up the Catholic hierarchy’s agenda than it has been before.

The original intent of the Constitution’s right to bear arms has been “perverted” by a gun industry that is seeking profits at any cost, Cupich wrote in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune. The founding fathers could not have anticipated the widespread availability of “military-grade assault weapons that have turned our streets into battlefields.”

“It is no longer enough for those of us involved in civic leadership and pastoral care to comfort the bereaved and bewildered families of victims of gun violence,” he wrote in the column, which was published Friday (Oct. 9).

“We must band together to call for gun-control legislation,” he concluded.  “We must act in ways that promote the dignity and value of human life. And we must do it now.”

In the column, Cupich cited a memorable line from Pope Francis’ speech to Congress during his U.S. visit last month, when the pontiff denounced the profits of the arms trade as “money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” It is money made off weapons, he said, “sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society.”

The pope’s critique drew a standing ovation from many in the House and Senate, though they apparently saw the blast as directed principally at the international arms trade. Cupich disagreed.

“They really can’t stand and applaud one understanding of that line and ignore the domestic implications,” Cupich said in an interview in Rome, where he is one of 270 bishops from around the world meeting for an intense three-week debate about the church’s approach to family life in the modern world.

In his op-ed, Cupich cited not only Francis’ remarks, but also the Umpqua Community College massacre in Oregon that took place within a week of the pope’s visit. He also brought up the seemingly nonstop pace of shootings in Chicago itself, a city that has become synonymous with gun violence. In a recent shooting he cited, a toddler was wounded and her mother and grandmother were killed.

Yet while those tragedies were part of the equation, Cupich said he had been thinking about the issue since he was installed as Francis’ personal pick for the influential archdiocese last November.

Cupich said he wanted to take time to assess the local situation, to talk with pastors and civic leaders and law enforcement officials so that when he did speak out he would “at least provoke further action … rather than just saying something that would get a headline.”

The archbishop not only called out gun sellers and “the damage done” by their quest for profits, but he also took direct aim at the Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantee of a “right to bear arms,” a right that has become increasingly sacrosanct for many Americans and the powerful gun lobby.

“Let’s be honest,” Cupich wrote. “The Second Amendment was passed in an era when organized police forces were few and citizen militias were useful in maintaining the peace. Its original authors could not have anticipated a time when the weapons we have a right to bear now include military-grade assault weapons that have turned our streets into battlefields.

“The Second Amendment’s original intent has been perverted by those who, as Pope Francis recently commented, have profited mightily. Surely there is a middle ground between the original intent of the amendment and the carnage we see today.” 

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With his column, Cupich — whose is seen as mirroring Francis’ pastoral approach to ministry — becomes the most prominent U.S. Catholic churchman to call for greater gun control, and in the most forceful and direct terms.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which comprises the nation’s nearly 450 bishops, has not made fighting gun violence a priority, and officials representing the hierarchy have generally used more measured language on the issue.

In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting massacre, for example, the USCCB called for “reasonable restrictions” that would not infringe on Second Amendment rights.

In an interview on Sunday, Cupich said he hoped his fellow bishops would now consider giving gun control — and the environment, also a priority for Francis — much greater emphasis when they meet next month in Baltimore to revamp their guide for Catholic voters ahead of next year’s election.

Currently, both gun violence and the environment are tacked on at the end of the bishops’ voter guide, called “Faithful Citizenship,” while those issues are clearly at the top of the pontiff’s agenda.

Today, however, gun control “is a point that needs to be raised” by the American hierarchy, Cupich told Religion News Service, “with the impetus not just what I said, but what the pope said.”

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Two Runners Get Hitched In The Middle Of The Chicago Marathon

Mon, 2015-10-12 12:18

Donning race bibs and athletic shoes, two Chicago Marathon runners grabbed a quick breather around mile eight on Sunday to exchange vows and wedding bands.

Mark Jockel and Stephanie Reinhart, who met two years ago while training for different marathons, set aside just five minutes for the ceremony, taking each other’s hands and locking lips about a third of the way through the race. After taking the marital plunge, they finished the last 18.2 miles of the course.

“We wanted it to be short because we knew we’d want to take some photos and then we had 18 more miles to run,” Reinhart told the Chicago Tribune

Congrats to the newlyweds! This couple just got married at Mile 8!

— Chicago Marathon (@ChiMarathon) October 11, 2015

Couple says "I do" during #ChiMarathon! Check it out:

— NBC Chicago (@nbcchicago) October 11, 2015

If you think about it, this combination of marathon and matrimony makes sense -- if there’s anything more daunting than marriage for the average American, it’s long-distance running.


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