Friday, July 27, 2007

taking action against BP

I was glad to hear about State Representative Harry Osterman’s proposed HR 626 urging Congress and the U.S. EPA to put a stop to BP’s plan to increase ammonia and sludge discharges from its Whiting refinery.

"Our beaches are precious and the water of Lake Michigan is transported and used by people all across our state," Osterman said. "It's important for the federal EPA and Congress to take a stand when a body of water that is shared among several states is threatened by the actions of one. I will continue working to make sure that protections of Lake Michigan are upheld in the future and no backsliding is allowed."

He encouraged Illinois residents to join in the petition campaign to show local opposition to the higher pollution levels that will result from BP's refinery expansion under the current plan.

Please visit the Chicago Park District web site or Environment Illinois to show your opposition or get more information.

Juneway yard sale Sat. 7/28

There's a big yard sale happening on the 1400-1500 blocks of Juneway Terrace this Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. C'mon down! You might find cool stuff or meet some interesting neighbors.

on a lighter note...

Tourists fined for cycling nude in Serbia. TGIF...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

$54M pants (and a few friends) to the rescue

The now infamous pair of pants was featured at a 7/24 Washington D.C. fundraiser. Proceeds from the fundraiser will help pay the legal bills of Jin Nam Chung and Soo Chung, owners of the dry cleaning business that misplaced and later found the pair of pants. Roy Pearson brought in the pants and filed suit over their loss, originally demanding $67M, and later dropping the demand to $54M. To make it worse, this jerk plaintiff is a judge. When the Chungs found his pants and offered to return them, he refused, saying it was too late, and continued with his lawsuit.

The Chungs won the lawsuit. The judge ordered Pearson to pay court costs. However, the Chungs also incurred about $100K in legal fees. The American Tort Reform Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform help the fundraiser to help the Chungs cover their legal costs. They raised over $64K, and pledges are still arriving. The groups advocate for tighter guidelines for filing lawsuits, hoping to eliminate frivolous suits like this one. They hoped that the fundraiser would help publicize their mission to reform tort law, especially in the light of cases that unjustly attack small businesses.

If the Chungs’ motion for legal fees is granted, forcing Pearson to bear the costs of his ridiculous suit, fundraiser proceeds in excess of the family’s costs will be donated to charity. I hope that Pearson gets his arrogant a$$ nailed when the judge in this case makes a ruling on the Chungs' Motion.

If he had asked them to reimburse the cost of the lost pants, it would have been reasonable. To force them to bear the stress and financial burden was far from it. It would be poetic justice if he gets taken to the cleaners.

Tour de dope(s)

The news from this year's Tour de France has me shaking my head in disgust. Many cycling fans became increasingly cynical after last year's stunning victory by Floyd Landis was tainted by charges of illegal testosterone use.

This week has been a continuing implosion of the credibility of professional cycling.

Yesterday Alexandre Vinokourov was booted from the race after testing positive for an illegal blood transfusion, and his Astana team withdrew from the race, taking Andreas Kloden out of contention.

Today was Cristian Moreni's turn, this time for illegal testosterone use. His team, Cofidis, is out of the race with him.

The kicker was the news late in the day that Michael Rasmussen, the current leader of the race, was fired by his team (Rabobank) for violations of team policy related to drug testing.

I keep wondering who will be next and how they can take such a huge chance, given the extensive drug testing programs now in place and the sophistication of today's lab tests. Is there a cure for the disease of corruption afflicting professional sports? I hope that professional cycling will be able to rebuild from the wreckage of this year's Tour. If not, can we ever believe that future victories are legitimately earned?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rogers Park Garden Group on 7/31

My apologies for not posting this sooner. There's been a lot going on this week. Please click here for info on the 7/31 garden meander.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

an independent sells out

I was disappointed to read the news that the Chicago Reader has been bought by a Tampa-based chain. I can only hope that they won't mess with the product. It's such a quirky-good mix of features.

infested

You're gonna love this one. I was talking to a police officer friend who works in the 18th district (the station on Division just east of the river, among the remnants of Cabrini-Green). He says the station is infested with mosquitos. The front desk now has its own bug zapper and citronella candles. One of the desk sergeants was joking that the candles create a special ambience for yuppies brought in after being arrested. One joker suggested tiki torches, but that was vetoed as a fire hazard.

Note: the 18th district station is recent construction, about 5 years old. If it has enough of a water leak for a mosquito population, we're talking some fine construction. ;)

Monday, July 23, 2007

it's not just about the southwest side

Last week's alarming news story about the fight in Durkin Park and slow emergency response is about a lot more than what's happening on the southwest side. Twenty six minutes is a long time to wait for emergency response in a potentially lethal situation. One boy was beaten into a coma. Eight were struck by an SUV driven into the crowd by a 15-year-old boy. The 911 center received 51 calls from the time the fight started around 10:19 p.m. until police dispatch was notified 26 minutes later. No squad cars were actually dispatched until an officer working in another district got a call from his son at the scene and then called police headquarters.

In the words of one officer: "the incident started when a group of white teenagers who were drinking in the park, decided to chase a black teenager but was unable to catch him. Then the mob turned their sight on another black teenager who was walking with a girl, they chased, caught and beat him until a resident came to his aid."

Wednesday night's community meeting at St. Bede's drew an enormous crowd of neighborhood residents. Racial tensions have been brewing in the neighborhood for years, and smaller incidents have happened before. This problem did not appear out of nowhere.

One of the major issues here is a dirty little secret that is off the radar of most folks who are not police and are not involved in CAPS: our police department is seriously understaffed. I've been hearing this from a number of police officer friends for years, and the situation is getting worse. Classes of police academy recruits are nowhere near large enough to replace the number of officers who retire or otherwise leave the job each year. Administrative snafus have cost the department potential recruits. I know 3 young guys who actually took the entrance exam for the police academy but were never notified of their test results. They know a bunch more who got the same non-response.

In 8 and many other districts, too many beat cars and rapid response cars are often not on the street or are one-person cars because there are not enough available officers to staff the cars. A one-person car is limited in its effectiveness, because many types of incidents need two officers to ensure safety, both for the officers and for civilians on the scene. One officer I know, who works a rapid response car (dispatched to specific incidents in progress rather than assigned to patrol a specific beat) often works alone because no one else is available for the car. As he puts it, "if it's a domestic or bar fight or any kind of violent incident, I can't go in there alone. I have to wait until at least one more car shows up, otherwise the situation could get even worse." Note: this officer works in the best staffed district in the city.

Many police are less than thrilled with the operations of OEMC (Office of Emergency Management and Communications), which handles 911 service, traffic management, etc. It sounds like there are procedural issues that need to be ironed out between how 911 calls are prioritized, how they are dispatched, and how communications are handled between OEMC and CPD. The OEMC web site has a notice to the effect that the actions of the dispatchers handling the Durkin Park 911 calls are currently under investigation and that the dispatchers involved are on leave pending the outcome of that investigation. I'll be curious to hear the results. These blog items give the dispatchers' side of the story.

There's been a lot of discussion on the Second City Cop blog about manpower and procedural issues, with follow-up today. Some of this is accessible to anyone, and some won't mean much unless you're familiar with CPD and police jargon. A police officer friend who took his entrance exam 10 years ago said that over 20,000 took the exam that year and that it was the last large (10,000+) group. That was the year that the city started requiring at least 60 college credit hours as a prerequisite for entrance into the police academy and stopped accepting applicants who were military veterans but did not have college credit. There has to be a way to balance the need for a more educated police force with a method for getting enough recruits. When a test group might be as small as 1,000 and fewer than 10 percent of those actually get through the process of becoming officers (entrance exam, physical exam, drug testing, psychological screening, background check, police academy), it's a drop in the bucket compared to what the city needs.

CPD is supposed to have 13,200 officers, if all positions are filled. Depending on whose numbers you want to believe, the number of sworn officers is around 9,900 or 11,000. Either way, that's a bit of shortage. For comparison, NYC has a population around 8 million and 41,584 officers. Chicago has about 2.9 million population and let's say 10,500 officers (split the difference on the numbers above). Los Angeles has about 3.8 million population and 18,000 officers (combining LAPD and sheriffs - structured a bit differently than here. They also have a much larger geographic area).

Another sore point among police is the number of officers faking illness or injury to collect $$$ while sitting at home, or doing anything but their jobs. I can't verify the accuracy of the following quote. If it's halfway accurate, it could explain part of the big picture. "We hire and train 50 officers a month on average. We have over 700 officers on medical leave or light duty on any given day. Those officers alone collectively represent the 3rd largest police department in Illinois, behind the CPD and State Police. ... Cracking down on medical abusers alone would greatly reduce our manpower shortage."

The 8th district, where the Durkin Park incident happened, is geographically larger than many suburbs. The northernmost point is around 37th St. The southern boundary is 87th St. That's 6 1/4 miles. East-west, the northern half of the district (which includes Midway Airport and some industrial areas) runs from just each of Western to Harlem Ave., also 6 1/4 miles. It contains populated areas interspersed with some large industrial areas, connected by major streets that are sometimes serious traffic bottlenecks. Many officers feel that redistricting to improve police coverage and response times is long overdue. I think it's an issue worth examining.

Some officers are on regular detail watching aldermen's offices, aldermen's homes, the mayor's home, the cardinal's home, park basketball tournaments and other events. These officers are not sent to emergency jobs, no matter how busy it gets in their districts.

Where's the media coverage on these issues, folks? Is this incident enough of a wake-up call, or do a bunch of people have to get killed for police issues beyond the rogue cop incidents to magically appear on the public radar?

save our lake

Campaigns are popping up to fight Indiana's approval for BP's expansion and increased dumping of ammonia and sludge into Lake Michigan.

Click here for the Chicago Park District's web page and petition.

The Illinois Coalition for Peace and Justice also has a web page and petition on the subject.

It's no big surprise that BP's faux environmental image ("green" image logo and yellow ad campaign) is greenwash. The real plan: expansion of the Whiting refinery to process heavier, dirtier crude oil from Canada's tar sands (article 1, article 2).

The fact that oil companies are desperate enough strip mine vast areas and spend big bucks to develop refinery capacity at a much higher cost per barrel should be a wake-up to a gas-thirsty America. It's time to say enough.

Time to reduce consumption, folks. How about increased CAFE standards and a carbon tax? This affects much more than Lake Michigan water quality.

Oil companies are making record profits and should be required by law to invest more in reducing pollution of all types. Letting them produce more pollution is not an acceptable option.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

BP is such a lovely neighbor

Why should Indiana be able to okay increasing pollution from BP's Whiting oil refinery that is likely to affect Illinois and Michigan much more than Indiana? The planned BP expansion may help ease ease the supply crunch for the special gas blend required here to lower air pollution, possibly lowering gas prices down the line. However, that does not justify the fact that BP did not give any advance notification to city of Chicago officials, who read about it in last Sunday's Tribune.

I'm glad to hear that our elected representatives are taking action to get Indiana to reconsider this environmentally costly decision. I have to wonder why the EPA ever approved this. Oh wait, this is the EPA under Shrub....

Saturday, July 21, 2007

North Branch trail improvements

The North Branch trail will finally be getting some much needed improvements. Yeah!

It will mean a bit of pain for now, but a better trail later.

bagging it

The other day I was got lunch from Sopraffina and noticed something different. Instead of the usual petroleum-based plastic bags, they had cornstarch-based, biodegradable plastic bags. I hope that we'll be seeing more businesses offering these in the near future.

bike race in Evanston on Sunday 7/22

There's something a little different happening in downtown Evanston this Sunday 7/22: a criterium bicycle race. This is part of a series of bicycle races happening in Illinois and Wisconsin this month.

And you thought the only bike action this month was the Tour de France.

[sorry, I goofed - originally posted this item as being today - it's been that kind of week]

Friday, July 20, 2007

odd turn in court

Don Gordon's challenge to the aldermanic election results took an interesting turn in court today. Now it's more urgent than ever for you to contact Don if you observed any irregularities during the run-off campaign or on election day (4/17).

Please see Toni's 7/20 and 7/17 posts for more info on today's court hearing and the 7/28 fundraiser for Don's challenge.

Belgian Ale house proposed for Jarvis

There is a proposal for a new Belgian Ale house on Jarvis at Ashland. The prospective owners of this bar are a brother and sister. She owns La Donna, a nice Italian restaurant in Andersonville, one of my favorites. He owns Via Veneto, also a nice restaurant, which near Devon and Lincoln. This proposal is for a high-end place with quality food, not a cheap saloon. The proposal has been presented to the Alderman's Zoning Advisory Committee. It would require a zoning change and approval by the community in order for a liquor license to be approved. Sounds like a business that could be an asset to the community, one that would complement Poitin Stil, Gruppo di Amici, and Taste.

For a long time, Rogers Park folks complained of having very few choices of places to go for a fine meal in a nice restaurant, and have usually gone to Evanston or Andersonville to find what they wanted. The first incarnation of Gateway offered one option, but the version we got after the long closure took that away. Now with Amphora we've got a nicer version. Jamaica Jerk offered another quality restaurant with pleasant ambience. Lake Side Cafe enhances the mix. Cafe Suron certain qualifies for both food and ambience, but is a long walk if you live in Jargowood. Gruppo di Amici offered the first taste of truly upscale dining in the north end of Rogers Park. Poitin Stil and Taste enhance the block. The Belgian Ale house could be the icing on the cake.

Some folks have expressed concern that the lack of parking could be a hindrance. Seems like Cafe Suron has done just fine without much parking. There are an awful lot of potential customers within one mile, an easy walking distance for most of us. Unlike Suron, the 1500 block of Jarvis has an El stop right there. I know a fair number of folks who come on their bikes to visit Gruppo di Amici and Cafe Suron now. No reason why they wouldn't do the same at the Belgian Ale house. Many of these same folks ride to Evanston or Andersonville for the fine dining and drinks that they don't find in RP. It's not hard to add more bike racks, if needed.

Downtown Jargowood has improved so much in the last 5 years. I hope that we'll see a better, livelier version in years to come.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

if it's Wednesday, it must be Falun Gong

One of the perks of working in the Loop is all the free entertainment available at lunchtime. I'm not just talking about free concerts at Daley Plaza, the Cultural Center or other places. There's plenty of entertainment to be had thanks to all the political demonstrations at Federal Plaza, Daley Plaza and Thompson Center. Sometimes it's just goofy. Sometimes it's educational.

I work near the Federal Plaza. Over the last few years, I've seen demonstrators for Falun Gong nearly every Wednesday year round. It's usually a small group of demonstrators handing out literature, holding signs, doing slow tai chi to gentle music. It tends to be one of the mellowest protest groups.

I've seen Israelis vs. Palestinians out there. Needless to say it is anything but mellow. Falun Gong draws no police attention. Israelis vs. Palestinians gets a large police presence with barriers. When the Enron/Arthur Andersen debacle was going on, I remember looking out the windows onto Dearborn to see thousands of Arthur Andersen employees pouring out of their office building, across the street from ours, filling the street and shutting down traffic in a large area of the Loop during lunch. Even if you weren't watching, it was hard not to hear the sounds of 6,000 voices.

Aside from political demonstrations, another form of lunchtime entertainment is media campouts around City Hall, the Thompson Center, and the courts at the Daley Center and the Dirksen Federal building. There's been a lot of action lately, with the Conrad Black trial and the Family Secrets trial.

Things have quieted down a bit since most of the action is done with the Black case. Looks like they're waiting for more action in Family Secrets today. I was amused by the appearance of one press photographer, with two enormous Nikons sporting giant telephoto lenses and flashes and two camera bags, all slung across his body, making him look like the photo bandito.

Ah, what entertainment will tomorrow bring?

southbound red line closures starting Monday

More fun, courtesy of the CTA...plan ahead if you're going southbound at night starting Monday night.

From Monday 7/23 to Thursday 8/2, southbound Red Line trains will NOT stop at the Jarvis, Morse and Loyola stations, due to construction from 10 p.m. - 4:30 a.m. each night.

Southbound customers who want to reach these stations should board a northbound train at Granville and ride back to the stations. Southbound customers who want to board at Jarvis, Morse and Loyola should board a northbound train, exit at Howard and then board a southbound train. Northbound Red Line service is not affected.

save the car kabob

If you remember, I wrote recently about the possibility that the car kabob in Berwyn could disappear. The Berwyn Arts Council has a petition on its web site to save this landmark of kitsch.

the buzz about bees

There's been a lot written recently about mysterious die-offs of honeybees. So far, it sounds like Illinois honeybees are doing okay.

I know of a few locations within Chicago where bees are kept. Some folks in Logan Square have started a blog about their beekeeping. I've met a guy in Pullman who has kept bees and produced honey for years.

Another writer speculates that the problems affecting bees may be a bit of Darwinian natural selection in action. I guess we'll have to wait and see how the story evolves.

whale watchers see boat hit whale

A news of the weird item from New Hampshire.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

not getting things done

Check out this excellent article on how to tackle the reasons why getting tasks from the TO DO list to the DONE list can be so tough.

Chicago gun turn-in day 7/21

Thanks to Toni for the reminder about the city's gun turn-in day this Sunday 7/21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please click the link above for more information, including a list of locations.

In Rogers Park, the location will be United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 W. Morse.

Good cop, baby cop

Here's another silly Will Ferrell video.

Boss/kid alert: lots of 4-letter words

Monday, July 16, 2007

transit and leadership

Could Pace officials consider setting an example and make decisions based on experience and actually ride their buses once in a while? And what about our governor and other elected officials?

It would be refreshing if they actually saw the inside of buses and trains once in a while and could make informed decisions about the transportation that is so critical to our region.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

cell phones in bathrooms

I commented on this a while back.

Reading this article gave me an idea. Perhaps the next market for JC Decaux is public cell phone booths. These could be similar in design to the bus stop shelters - clear glass on 3 sides (one being a door) with advertising on one side. They could charge a quarter for 15 minutes to give people a place to take a phone call in places that are otherwise too noisy and/or crowded for it. Think there's a market for this?

Dragon Boat race

Here's a cool event happening next Sunday 7/21 in Chinatown. The Dragon Boat race was started in 1999. Many different teams (including Chicago Police Dept., Fire Dept., Citibank and others) compete in rowing races on the Chicago River at Ping Tom Park (300 W. 19th St., viewable from the south side of the 18th St. bridge). Opening ceremonies start at 8:30 a.m., and the races happen between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

There will be acrobats, live music, food booths, bubble tea, Indian dance, caricature artists and other activities at the park.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

update on internet radio

Here's a bit of encouraging news about the negotiations on internet radio royalties. I hope that they can resolve the issue and that all the fine internet radio that currently exists will not be lost.

Fake cop stops wrong car

This guy was definitely in the wrong place when he decided to do something stupid.

Valley Line bike trail

While this isn't in Rogers Park, this new Sauganash bike path (to be completed by the end of this year) is close enough to enjoy often once it's done.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chicago's mail delivery woes

A few months ago, Chicago's new postmaster pledged to fix our broken system and return us to reliable, prompt mail delivery. Well, that hasn't quite happened. Here's a 4/17/07 NPR audio story and a 3/11/07 Sun-Times article on the subject.

I've heard reports from some neighborhoods of very late delivery - as late as 11 p.m. I've heard about and experienced very slow delivery - sometimes 3-4 days or more for mail within the city of Chicago. I've had a lot of experience with non-delivery of forwarded first class mail and heard about that problem from all areas of the city, not just the long-time problem zip codes (60640 and 60626). It's not unusual for me to get mail for someone who lives on the next block.

I have made many phone calls and sent many faxes to the carrier supervisor at the post office, with no results. Other folks I know have had the same experience.

To satisfy my curiousity and test the system, I've sent 6 pieces of mail over the last several months in various envelopes (plain white #10, bright red #10, business letterhead #10, and greeting card). All of these were going to the same Chicago address, used varying return addresses and should have been forwarded. One of the six was actually forwarded and arrived in about 2 weeks (bright red #10 envelope). One was returned to sender (plain white #10 envelope, Evanston return address). Four are MIA - all with different Chicago return addresses, either in plain white #10 envelopes or greeting card envelopes.

*sigh* Yet another reason to be a squeaky wheels, folks. It's gotta be better than this.

Word is that some aldermen and members of Congress are pushing for a solution

Space Invaders - human style

Here's a truly geek-worthy homage to an early video game. A few of you might remember this one.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

positive expression

I saw something on the red line the other night that gave me a smile. I noticed a woman sitting near me on the train. I'd guess that she was 35-40ish and a cancer patient. Her bare scalp (sprouting new hair stubble) had that look. You know how kids will write on a friend's cast when the friend has a broken arm or leg? She had doves, flowers and other positive images drawn in marker on her head. After some heartbreaking experiences with friends and family who died of cancer, seeing someone who looked like she was beating it and feeling good about it made me happy.

CTA working on rail slow zones

It's about time! This is some welcome and long overdue news.

If you need to ride the blue line this weekend, you might want to check out this item about construction closures from 11 p.m. tomorrow night (Friday) to 1 a.m. Monday.

tainted toothpaste

An article in today's Trib gives the heads up on how to spot some potentially toxic toothpaste on sale in some Chicago stores.

Clark Street Festival this weekend

There's a festival happening this weekend (Sat. 7/14 and Sun. 7/15, noon to 8 p.m.) along Clark between Morse and Touhy. Get a taste of local music and good food.

On Saturday night, Yves Francois et Rocambu Jazz will be playing at the Morse Ave. Stage from 6:30-7:30. Lots of other music, too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

RIP Doug Marlette

I've always enjoyed Doug Marlette's "Kudzu" cartoon and his editorial cartoons. I will miss his wacky sense of humor.

The Landlord

If you're looking for something silly to watch, you might be amused by this silly Will Ferrell video. FYI - The little girl is Pearl McKay (daughter of Shira Piven and niece of Jeremy Piven).

Boss/kid alert: Plenty of 4-letter words

man disguised as tree robs bank

This is a true story from Manchester, New Hampshire. Suitable "news of the weird" item for today. I guess he decided to leaf no stone unturned, branch out a bit.... Ah, the pun-sibilities here are endless.

car kabob going away?

A bizarre local landmark may bite the dust - if the nascent campaign to save it doesn't succeed. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

green choices - garbage

The Tribune Home & Garden section ran an excellent article about reducing household waste on Sunday. Well worth a read and some thinking about garbage we don't need to generate.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Barack Obama and Joe Moore

Several weeks ago, I wrote a letter to Barack Obama expressing my disappointment at his endorsement of Joe Moore. I got his response recently - same letter that he sent to at least one or two of you. In light of all the illegal tactics Moore used during the campaign and on election day, the paragraph about S. 453 is very ironic.

---------------------

Thank you for your recent communication expressing your disappointment in my support for Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward) in the recent City Council elections.

Over the years Alderman Moore has made a significant contribution to Chicago City Council and his ward. My support for Joe has been based on his commitment to public service and his hard work on behalf of the residents of the 49th ward. Although the recent election was close and hard fought, I trust that all in the 49th ward can look forward to effective service by Alderman Joe Moore.

Some constituents have called for an investigation into the procedures of the local election boards because of the narrow margin in the run-off election. In late April, the challenger, Don Gordon, filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court alleging that he should be declared the winner because of "fraudulent votes" in 22 precincts. As a United States Senator, I have no jurisdiction over the state court system.

I do share your view of the importance of election reform. I have introduced S. 453, the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2007, which I am pleased to report has gained significant momentum since the November 2006 mid-term elections. The bill criminalizes deceptive misinformation campaigns and other types of efforts to misinform and intimidate voters. Specifically, S. 453 prohibits anyone from knowingly distributing false information regarding the time, place, manner, qualifications, restrictions and requirements for voting. It also outlaws false statements regarding an individual's endorsement of any candidate running for federal office. This provision is targeted specifically at an incident in Prince Georges County, Maryland, in which the Republican candidates for Governor and U.S. Senator distributed flyers in predominantly African-American neighborhoods claiming falsely that the two nominees had received the endorsements of several prominent local African-American political figures.

The bill imposes stiff penalties of up to $100,000 or five years imprisonment, or both, for those found guilty of violating the law. It also provides voters with a private right of action to seek relief from deceptive practices, and requires the DOJ to conduct immediate investigations into allegations of this type of fraud. Finally, the Act extends its purpose beyond mere deterrents and punishments by establishing a process for reaching out to misinformed and intimidated voters with correct information so they can cast their votes. While the various types of voter suppression targeted in S. 453 would either be prosecuted by attorneys at the Civil Rights or Criminal Divisions of the DOJ, the bill also provides optional authority for the Attorney General to create a "Voter Integrity Task Force."

I am pleased to report some significant developments in the effort to get this legislation passed. The House version of the bill, introduced by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (R-IL), was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in mid-April. It is my understanding that the bill will be taken up for debate by the full House, and a vote will be held on final passage, in early June. Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee is planning to hold a hearing on S. 453 on June 7, 2007, which brings us one step closer to passage on the Senate side. I am becoming increasingly optimistic that we can get this bill signed into law by the end of the year.

Protecting the right to vote has been a career-long focus of mine. Before joining the Senate, this issue was a central aspect of my work as a community organizer in Chicago, as a civil rights attorney ensuring compliance with voter registration law, and as a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. My commitment to protecting the rights of all voters in this country has only been strengthened by the new opportunities for involvement afforded by my position as a United States Senator. I assure you I will take full advantage of that privilege.

I am optimistic that progress can be made toward ensuring that in American elections all eligible voters are able to cast their ballots free of any interference or intimidation, and have confidence that their vote will count. That is why I am also supporting legislation that includes requirements for "verifiable paper audit trails," also known as VPAT or "paper trails." Paper trail systems provide voters with a paper receipt of their electronic vote, and that receipt becomes the primary record of that person's vote. The receipt is deposited at the polling sites and is then used in the case of an audit.

Thank you again for writing. I value the informed comments of my fellow Illinoisans.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator

Saturday, July 07, 2007

more on biofuels

Here's a new Slate article continuing an idea from a previous post.

green choices - manufacturing

Today's Sun-Times has an interesting article on one possibility that could be good for Chicago economically and environmentally: green manufacturing.

I've got some related links here: Solargenix Energy, Chicago Center for Neighborhood Technology, and Chicago Center for Green Technology.

Friday, July 06, 2007

S*M*A*S*Hing

If you're looking for a bit of physical stress relief this weekend, perhaps Sunday's car smash at UIC might be right up your alley.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

no penalty for taking 8 lives

What incentive is there to drive responsibly if a careless driver who kills 8 people can get off with no charges at all? If this type of stupidity can't be charged as reckless driving, perhaps our lawmakers should be revising a law or two. How can this non-response possibly represent any kind of justice? The Amish families who lost 5 of their own may find forgiveness in their hearts, but I find it difficult to excuse this guy's carelessness.

green choices - bike sharing

Happy Independence Day! Here's an item from Paris about one more way to declare our energy independence.

------------
Paris Set for Bike-Share Scheme to Cut Congestion
by Alexandra Steigrad
14/6/2007

http://www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=42591

PARIS - It's summer in Paris and the French capital is preparing to offer bikes for anyone who wants to take a ride.

By July 15, the city plans to park 10,648 bicycles at 750 stations and nearly double that by 2008, with riders able to take bikes from one station and drop them off at another.

Work on "Velib'" (short for 'free bike' in French) is just starting, but it is already sparking enormous interest.

The concept evolved from utopian bike-sharing programmes in Europe in the 1960s, aimed at reducing the use of cars and cutting down on traffic congestion and air pollution.

The most famous case was Amsterdam -- a flop because bikes were either stolen or too beaten-up to ride.

Now, many cities are giving it a go again by partnering up with advertising firms that will provide bikes equipped with anti-theft systems in return for city-wide advertising opportunities.

In the residential 15th district in southwestern Paris, a parking spot next to a corner cafe is being adapted to become home to a fleet of sleek, grey bicycles.

"I think the programme is a good thing, and it will help reduce the number of cars on the street," said Jean-Michel Bourdet, who owns a nearby video store.

"I used to ride bikes all the time, but they all kept getting stolen. Now I'm going to start riding again," he said.

In an effort to prevent thefts crippling the network, Velib' bikes will be equipped with a lock and an alarm that will sound if the bike is not returned to a station. There will also be a security deposit that riders will lose if their bike vanishes.

Velib' is part of a wide-ranging plan drawn up by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe to encourage residents to leave their cars at home and reduce both the pollution and the gridlock that often snarls the city's broad boulevards.

"We hope car use will diminish and that people will opt to take a bicycle or the bus," said City Hall spokeswoman Gwenaelle Joffre, who is overseeing the project.

LOCALS IN THE SADDLE

She said Delanoe's plan was aimed more at locals than tourists looking to take a ride along the banks of the Seine.

"Our programme is for people travelling short distances, from point A to point B," Joffre said. "It's for people who don't want to take the bus. They'll take a bike instead of taking the metro and transferring."

Renting a bike is simple: cyclists choose a bike and insert a pre-paid card or credit card in a terminal to unlock it from the station. When they are done, they lock it up at any station.

If a bike is used for less than 30 minutes, the credit card will not be charged. Every half hour after that costs 1 euro (US$1.33). Weekly rentals cost five euros and yearly rentals just 29 euros.

To help riders navigate the streets, maps and safety manuals in several languages will be available at every station.

How Paris will cope with this flood of new bikes is not clear, but Joffre saw no problem because the city has 371 km (230 miles) of cycle paths.

Raphael Bohkobza, a salesman at Au Reparateur, a popular bicycle repair shop that sells used and new bikes in the centre of Paris, wasn't so sure.

"It might be a big mess," he said, worried that there could be a jump in road accidents and noting there is no law in France forcing riders to wear helmets.

"Normally, bike rental agents are people. Now it's machines. What if people are drunk and are renting bikes? It can be dangerous," he said. "Also tourists who don't understand the system might cause problems."

CRAZY ABOUT BIKES

In 2006, France was the fourth largest cycle-buying country in the world, according to the National Council of Professional Cyclists. Part of that may be a "Tour de France effect"-- long-distance bicycle riding is a popular sport here.

But many French also took to cycling during a crippling month-long transport strike in 1995 -- and the habit stuck.

Velib' is paid for by JCDecaux, Europe's largest outdoor advertising firm, in return for more advertising around the city.

It first launched the programme in 2002 in Vienna and in the Spanish cities of Cordoba and Gijon. Today the service can be found in cities such as Brussels and, since 2005, Lyon, France's second largest city.

"Lyon began with 2,000 bikes and we'll be increasing to 4,000 bikes," said Agathe Albertini, JCDecaux vice president of communications. Other cities such as Mulhouse, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille and Besancon have signed up and more are watching.

But the Paris project is very ambitious and will show whether major cities are ready for a two-wheel revolution.

"It's very impressive," Joffre said. "Paris will become the first world capital to have so many bicycles freely available."
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7441 Rogers

Last year I posted an item about 7441 N. Rogers, which has come up in recent exchanges about vacant buildings. A search shows the PIN number for the property as 11-30-413-007-0000 and the owner as Sulit Patricio.

Unlike the two vacant apartment buildings on the 1600 block of Fargo, this owner has not appealed to reduce the real estate assessment due to vacant status. Looks like he hasn't bother to register it as a vacant building either. Here's a link to the list. Thanks to Fargo Woman for noting this, as well as the expiration of 1640's registration status on the list. More calls for 311....

Here's the city's web page on the ordinance, how to register, etc.

Happy Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Apu comes to Chicago

Well, not quite, but it's an amusing marketing tie-in to promote "The Simpsons" movie. And here's a San Francisco story on the promotion.