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« November 2019 | Main | January 2020 »

December 31, 2019

Nothing (Wrong) From The Head Up

Nagy really said that. Trubisky has the smarts, just needs better footwork.

Pace presser. "Mitch is our starter."

How many years ago? "Rex is our quarterback."

Pace is ALL IN on Trubisky. So, 2020, going to go through the same losing motions again.

Pace is talking out of every orifice he has. Pace feels good about the draft.

He just threw Tarik Cohen under the bus.

"Losing Kyle." Thought you'd ever have him? Woe is you, Penelope Pace.

I'm waiting for one of these shrimp cakes to ask Pace what he's gonna do after mortgaging the near- and mid-term future.

They both like all their guys. Eddie P. is just great. "He told us, 'I'll never forget where I came from.' " Yeah, he grew up no more than 35 yards away.

They're all "GROWING." No, square-jaw, they aren't!

Coach Pagano is still learning. This team IS NOT YOUNG!.

See Rodgers Sunday? Not one ounce of emotion, because he knows they ain't done nuthin' yet. They EXPECT to win. They ARE expected to win. Win it ALL!

This has been going on for 70 [expletive deleted] years! One thing about this press conference, it was a PERFECT display of how totally screwed up and arrogant these people are.

The only thing worse than these Bears crybaby excuse cooks are the fans who swallow it. People get what they deserve.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:47 PM | Permalink

December 30, 2019

SportsMonday: Not Even

No, Mitch, you're not close.

The quarterback tried to make the case late Sunday afternoon that he and his team were close to success this year - that if a few plays in a few close games had gone differently, the Bears could have won 10 games and perhaps qualified for the playoffs as a wild card.

But all you have to do is remember games that weren't close - especially the loss to the Saints quarterbacked by back-up Teddy Bridgewater in the first half of the season and, even more especially, the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week. Someone should remind Mr. Trubisky that that game in particular was not close. And that it showed the Bears are not close to a championship.

The Bears were extremely close to one thing: They were close to losing to a team of back-ups on Sunday in Minnesota. The Vikings were on the verge of a knockout punch in the last few minutes, particularly when they forced the Bears into a fourth-and-nine situation in their last drive.

But then Trubisky completed one of the passes that makes a fan pause before completely hopping on board a plan to replace him next year. He was on the run to the right before firing a perfect pass to Riley Ridley to gain 30 critical yards. It was essentially the play that won the game.

Still, the Bears stunk in all phases on offense this year but the most damning stat of all - of the entire offense and of Trubisky in particular - was the team averaging 5.47 yards per pass attempt.

As Brad Biggs pointed out for Tribune in his final 10 Thoughts column of the season, that number meant the Bears ranked 32nd in the league. 32nd(!) in that critical measuring stick for a team's passing game.

So Trubisky is not the answer in terms of championship contention in the near term, to say the least. But fans are probably stuck with him for the next year, during which time there better be a solid veteran signed to compete with him. Or if the Bears wanted to draft this year's Gardner Minshew, that would be OK too. Minshew was the rookie out of Washington State taken in the sixth round last year who had some success with Jacksonville.

On second thought, Minshew didn't have that much success and on third thought, there probably isn't a Minshew in the 2020 draft anyway.

I don't mind if Trubisky starts the first game next season. What we can't have is Trubisky continuing to start if he posts a stinker like he did in this year's opener, a 10-3 loss to Green Bay, or in its penultimate game (the 26-3 loss to the Chiefs). The team wasn't willing to go to Chase Daniel this year in those sorts of situations. They better have someone at the ready the next time around.

Hopefully Ryan Pace isn't afraid of a little competition at quarterback. If there is one bit of NFL groupthink that really irritates me, it is the idea that a team must have a projected starter at QB at all times; that the worst thing that can happen is the dreaded quarterback controversy.

I have pointed out before and will now do so again that coach Pete Carroll, whose Seahawks missed grabbing the top seed in the NFC playoffs by inches last night, held a quarterback competition in training camp in 2012. It involved rookie Russell Wilson and veteran free agent signing Matt Flynn.

Everyone assumed Flynn would get the job, but Wilson was better and Carroll chose him. Come on, Ryan Pace! Have some guts and go get a decent veteran signal-caller.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:58 AM | Permalink

The [New Year's Week 2019] Papers

Like much of the world, we'll return for real on January 6. Thought I'd drop by in the meantime to freshen things up for the week.

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Benny Bulletin
I spent last week with my favorite cat.

bennybulletin1.jpg(ENLARGE)

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bennybulletin2.jpg(ENLARGE)

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bennybulletin3.jpg(ENLARGE)

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Made Their Mark
Maker's Mark wins for best ornament at my local liquor store.

makersmarkornament.jpg(ENLARGE)

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New from the Beachwood Sports Desk . . .

SportsMonday: Not Even, Mitch
The only thing the Bears are close to is the capability of losing to a division rival's backups.

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Edwin A Win
Despite what a local scribe says. In Roger Wallenstein's latest White Sox Report.

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The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #284: Rooting For Bears Clarity
Is that it for Trubisky, Pace? Plus: Has It Ever Been This Bad?; White Sox Making Moves, Starting Grooves; The Cubs Reckoning That Wasn't; Brent Seabrook Is The Kyle Long Of The Blackhawks; Patrick Kane Apparently 11th Best Player Of The Decade; The Bulls Still Suck; The Redbox Bowl Is Still On For Monday; and DePaul Is Still Our Last Hope.

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The Beachwood Is Hiring - Volunteers!

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ChicagoReddit

Jan 1 and Dispensary Lines from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Vintage Chicago TV Listings, Print Advertising, Local Stations

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BeachBook

Sleepy LaBeef, A Rockabilly Mainstay, Is Dead At 84.

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A 7-11 In Japan Might Close For A Day.

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Year Of Reckoning For Nutritional Science.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Rip Line: Rip us a sound opinion.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:49 AM | Permalink

Edwin A Win

I just love old sluggers. Guys getting long in the tooth who continue to do what they were born to do. They still can smash baseballs into the far reaches of stadiums across the land while perky little infielders they once played against and hard-throwing pitchers they once faced exited the scene years ago.

Guys like the Big Hurt, who at age 38, slugged 39 homers and drove in 119 for Oakland in 2006. He followed that up the next season in Toronto with 26 and 95. And Big Papi, who in his final four seasons averaged 35 round-trippers and 110 RBIs before finally calling it quits when he was 40.

Nicknames suffice for these two gentlemen. We all know who they are.

There are lots more older players in the same category. Jim Thome came to the White Sox in 2006 when he was 35. Over the next three seasons, he homered 111 times and added another 25 in Minnesota when he was 39.

Henry Aaron, who retired at 42, accounted for 40 HRs and 96 RBIs with the Braves in 1973, two seasons before retirement. Don't forget that this was the National League where Aaron was required to play in the field.

Same with the villainous Barry Bonds who, like Aaron, kept going until age 42. In his last two seasons, Bonds hit 54 home runs while posting OPS marks of .999 and 1.045.

And now, the White Sox have their very own old slugger, courtesy of the free agent signing of Edwin Encarnacion last week. With 15 years of big league experience, the productive Dominican, who will turn 37 on January 7, brings a resume of 414 career round-trippers along with a .851 OPS, just a notch below elite status.

For $12 million with a club option at the same amount for 2021 - when the Sox very well could be a legitimate contender - this sure beats a year ago when general manager Rick Hahn was fruitlessly chasing Manny Machado. Lest I be remiss, that process included trading for Machado's brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and then signing Machado friend Jon Jay as a free agent.

Hahn also traded for pitcher Ivan Nova last offseason while signing right-hander Ervin Santana prior to spring training. If anyone has commended Hahn for those two moves, I plead ignorance.

Obtaining James McCann and Kelvin Herrera turned out somewhat more successfully for Hahn, although McCann's breakout season almost seems ancient history now that Yasmani Grandal has been added to the mix.

The signing of Encarnacion, who also appeared in 57 games at first base last season with the Mariners and Yankees, is not so ambiguous; the man is a study of consistency. A right-handed hitter, his career batting average against righties is .263, a meager two points higher than his mark facing southpaws. His career OBP is .352, including a .344 mark last year. Against lefties, Encarnacion has homered in 4.9 percent of his plate appearancesl 5.3 percent facing right-handers. He sees the ball. He hits the ball. Left-hander or right-hander. Apparently they're all the same to Edwin.

Therefore, it was puzzling last Thursday when the Tribune's Paul Sullivan questioned the intelligence of signing Encarnacion. Sullivan called it a "[Kenny] Williams-patented move," comparing it to the former general manager's signing of aging veterans such as Jose Canseco, Roberto Alomar, Ken Griffey Jr., David Wells, "home-run-or-bust slugger" Adam Dunn, and a few others.

Sullivan also questioned the timing, writing that a team on the cusp of contention might benefit from the addition of someone like Encarnacion to add the icing on the cake, but not for an organization still in the rebuilding process.

He did say that the Sox now have the potential to have six 30-home run hitters in the lineup for a team that hit 182 last season. Sullivan acknowledged that this could mean a boost in attendance, to which one might ask, "What's wrong with that?"

The local scribe wrote that Encarnacion "[will] strike out a lot." Perhaps, but not as often as Sullivan suggests. Encarnacion has fanned in 17.2 percent of his career plate appearances. Last year as a team the Sox whiffed in more than 25 percent of their at-bats. That includes Jose Abreu (19.9 percent), Tim Anderson (21), Eloy Jimenez (26.6) and Yoan Moncada (27.5).

Sullivan claims that the Sox are "not a championship-caliber team by any means," although that's not exactly a bulletin. But consider the Minnesota Twins of a year ago coming off a 78-84 season in 2018. They added several aging sluggers, including Nelson Cruz, another one of those entertaining batsmen who simply love to hit baseballs.

Cruz has a big birthday coming up. He'll turn 40 on July 1, and he'll be swinging for the fences once again for the Twins after 41 homers and 108 RBI last season. His deal was quite similar to Encarnacion's Sox pact: $14 million for the first year with a club option for 2020 at $12 million.

Need you be reminded, though the Twins were swept by the Yankees in last fall's playoffs, they still won 101 games, easily outdistancing the Central Division.

Reports indicate that Hahn remains busy as he continues to put together a formidable roster. Yasiel Puig and Nicholas Castellanos are the two most prominent names on the radar, even though the addition of Nomar Mazara seemed a reasonable solution to the right field dilemma. Both Puig and Castellanos would be welcome even though a logjam could be one of the results.

Gee, wouldn't it be stressful if manager Rick Renteria had to tax his brain over whether to play Mazara, Puig or Castellanos? Poor Ricky would need to judge whether to use Abreu at DH with Encarnacion or Zack Collins (if he survives this flurry of activity) at first base.

Just a year ago he regularly had to contemplate centerfield between Leury Garcia (who's really an infielder), Adam Engel and Ryan Cordell. Did someone mention progress?

Encarnacion represents an immediate upgrade at the DH position, where the Sox slashed .205/.285/.641 last year. Sox DHs hit 17 homers and drove in 75 runs. Encarnacion easily eclipsed those numbers in each of the past eight seasons.

Sorry, Sully, if you have an opportunity to improve your ballclub in such an obvious manner, you'd be foolish not to capitalize. This guy is not Adam Dunn. And do not mistake him for Adam LaRoche. Kenny Williams hasn't been the GM for almost seven years. Times have changed.

Encarnacion is a member of the genre of old(er) professional hitters with solid resumes and plenty of remaining fire power. He'll look just fine in a White Sox uniform.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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1. From Tom Chambers:

Paul Sullivan today is a wet mop Negative Nancy on the Encarnacion signing.

Why not call Williams or Hahn and ask them what his role is to be? I'm not sure if he was hurt or if he was just grabbing pine, but the Yankees tried to micro-magic him last year to do wonderful things in the small playoffs window, which might not have been fair. Renteria is under pressure. In this case, he's going to have to find at-bats for Edwin, especially during the dog days of summer.

Sullivan is already writing off 2020, assuming, I assume, that IF the Sox make the playoffs, it will be either play-in game or first series and done. Why?

The primary mission of the White Sox THIS SEASON is to develop a winning culture, demanding everything of these players. Novel approach, be the hardest hustling team in baseball. It could mean 10 wins. It starts in the minors, but, hey, do it at Comiskey. The Yankees and Cardinals often win simply because it's in their DNA. There is NO TEAM in this town that has a true winning culture; that's always been a foreign concept in Chicago. Except through the sheer will of Jordan and his sidekick soldiers. Ineptitude and frozen front-office brains doomed the Blackhawks. The Cubs sat on their diamond-encrusted rings and won the games they did simply because of the level of talent they possess(ed).

I know the Sox are young, but that youth can sometimes mean they're not smart enough to know they're "too young." Why can't they take a big step forward? I know, work on that defense! Pray to St. Luis of Aparicio and be awakened that defense is fun, and salvation.

This is a golden opportunity for the Sox to say "EFF Jobu. We'll bust it every night." It would be so easy to be different in this defeatist town. I'm sick and tired of the toleration of mediocrity around here.

The radio blowhards are already finding their deluded silver linings with the Bears. Ryan and Matt and Sing Along with Mitch deserve another chance and will/can get NFL better? Um, no. This is the cancer of Chicago's low sports expectations.

I was just in Wisconsin for Christmas and you can feel it. Those fans? The Packers haven't done a damned thing until or unless they win the Super Bowl.

I can't stand any of the owners in this town, and you can't put strip-tease tearaways on a cardboard cutout of these ugly robber barons.

Can Renteria summon a "Why the hell NOT?"

There's only one thing left to do:

WintheWholeThing.png

Go Sox!

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:58 AM | Permalink

December 27, 2019

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #284: Rooting For Bears Clarity

Is that it for Trubisky, Pace? Plus: Has It Ever Been This Bad?; White Sox Making Moves, Starting Grooves; The Cubs Reckoning That Wasn't; Brent Seabrook Is The Kyle Long Of The Blackhawks; Patrick Kane Apparently 11th Best Player Of The Decade; The Bulls Still Suck; The Redbox Bowl Is Still On For Monday; and DePaul Is Still Our Last Hope.


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SHOW NOTES

* 284.

* The Better Business Bureau in the age of Yelp.

* Coffman: "It was never the Better Consumer Bureau.

1:58: Has It Ever Been This Bad?

* Late '70s was pretty bad.

4:30: Is That It For Trubisky, Pace?

* Lieser: It's Time To Move On From Ryan Pace.

* Biggs' 10 Thoughts: "If the Bears don't make replacing Trubisky the team's No. 1 offseason priority, they've failed to have an honest evaluation of what's happening at Halas Hall."

* Biggs' Mailbag: Is GM Ryan Pace's Job In Jeopardy? Will QB Mitch Trubisky Be Replaced? Is It As Bad As We Think?

* Was that Trubisky's last start at Soldier Field? Connor McKnight, Arthur Arkush and Biggs discuss.

* Coffman: About That Hip.

* The methodical Chiefs.

* Probing and prodding!

* SI: "Montgomery has been used only about as much as a receiver as Jordan Howard was."

* The Panthers claimed Mike Davis off waivers in November. He has yet to get an attempt.

* Interception Regression:

* Chicago Byes:

* Aaron Rodgers And Danica Patrick Buy $28 Million Malibu Mansion.

* Danica Patrick was born in Beloit, Wisconsin and raised in Roscoe, Illinois. She went to high school in Rockton, where she was a cheerleader. She got her start racing go-karts.

* Maybe I was thinking of the Brewers' signing not of a former Cub but of former White Sock Avisail Garcia.

45:50: White Sox Making Moves, Starting Grooves.

* It's Officially A Successful Offseason.

52:45: The Cubs Reckoning That Wasn't.

"Last year didn't meet our standards and we want to try to do better next year," Epstein said. "We're also at a point where after five consecutive years of charging straight ahead and pouring a lot of resources, in terms of both prospect capital and dollars, into trying to win now, we're also at a point where we have to really think ahead and secure our future as well and try to create sustained success over a long period of time. That's the challenge."

57:51: Brent Seabrook Is The Kyle Long Of The Blackhawks.

* Ranking Brent Seabrook's Greatest Blackhawks Moments.

1:03:43: Patrick Kane Apparently 11th Best Player Of The Decade.

1:04:53: The Bulls Still Suck.

1:06:37: Redbox Bowl Still On For Monday.

1:07:09: DePaul Still Our Last Hope.

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STOPPAGE: 11:51

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:07 PM | Permalink

December 23, 2019

Super Cool Music Data Visualizations

1. Most Popular Musical Styles 1910 -2019.


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2. Best-Selling Artists 1969 - 2019.

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3. Top 20 Most Popular Songs 2000 - 2010.

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4. The Music Preferences Of Virginia Tech Students.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:25 AM | Permalink

SportsMonday: About That Hip

We will not forget.

Bears fans will not forget that 90 percent (minimum) of the professional sports commentariat in this town promised us that Mitch Trubisky and Ryan Pace would be joined at the hip forever. That if Trubisky wasn't good enough, Pace would be removed as general manager.

Sure, there were a few people who questioned Pace's insane decision to trade away four draft picks to take Trubisky second in 2017. There were a few people at the Beachwood who questioned it immediately - yes I am tooting our own horn but if I don't who will? Later, the sane Kansas City Chiefs, for whom Matt Nagy was the offensive coordinator at the time, traded up from 27th to 10th to take Pat Mahomes.

And the rest is torment . . . for what, the next 12 to 14 years? Minimum?

Trubisky doesn't completely suck but he is so much worse than the defending NFL MVP. You can try to make excuses for him but they don't stand even the slightest scrutiny. Shockingly, toward the end of their broadcast Sunday night of the Chiefs' 26-3 victory, ultra-announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth half-heartedly made the case that a big difference between Trubisky and Mahomes is that the latter has a much better supporting cast.

What. A. Joke.

The Bears have missed tight end Trey Burton, who apparently suffered the worst groin pull of all time at some point during training camp and has essentially been sidelined for the entire season. And yes there was a surgically repaired hernia in the offseason but come on.

And the Bears have missed speedy wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, who has been sidelined for multiple games twice this season by concussions.

But they still have Allen Robinson, easily one of the top 10 receivers in the NFL. And Anthony Miller had been coming on as a second option with strong performances recently. He seemed to check out yesterday (or maybe it was Nagy and/or Trubisky who checked him out) after a fumble on a reverse in the first quarter. By "checked out" we mean "failed to impact the game in a meaningful fashion the rest of the way."

And they still have Tarik Cohen, whose performance has to stand as one of the mysteries of the NFL this season. How could the Bears have been so good at getting him the ball in space and then watching him go in 2018 and then have failed so completely to do the same this time around? So strange.

Anyway, Trubisky has had plenty of weapons throughout - especially plenty of weapons to score more than three points. Collinsworth showed a couple of impressive Trubisky throws on the run from the last few games and compared them to Mahomes' throws on the run. But strangely he didn't show Trubisky, operating out of a perfectly clean pocket, flub his footwork and overthrow a wide open Robinson on a bomb that would have pulled the Bears within 10-6 in the second quarter on Sunday.

Trubisky blew that throw and blew plenty more. The Bears actually did a better job protecting him than they had against the Packers, and the line achieved a running game with 101 yards gained on 22 carries overall. Still, the Bears offense was massively inept.

The quarterback still hasn't even learned when to hand off and when to keep the ball during read option running plays. The Bears ran several of those in their first two possessions, and after Trubisky kept on the first one, he decided to keep the ball several more times. Not surprisingly, the runs became less and less successful as the quarterback kept doing the same thing over and over.

This is the biggest problem with Trubisky - he struggles mightily to process two options on a given play, let alone the three or four that Mahomes casually works his way through whenever he wants.

And if Trubisky can't compete with Mahomes in fundamental ways, Pace needs to be gone, tomorrow. The McCaskey family won't do it, not with multiple years left on Pace's contract after this season.

But the McCaskeys will have to force him to bring a veteran quarterback to compete with Trubisky for playing time next year. If the young signal-caller posts a performance in 2020 like he did against the Chiefs, there will need to be a different starter at the helm the next week. And a different general manager at the helm at the end of the season.

P.S.: Pace has been the general manager for five seasons. His teams have made the playoffs once and have not won a postseason game.

He absolutely should be gone.

P.P.S.: Trubisky's numbers were just about identical to Brissett's from the week before: both went 18 for 34 with 0 picks and 0 TDS.

(Editor's Note: Coach the Prophet: Mitch More Jacoby Than Drew.)

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:34 AM | Permalink

The [Holiday Week 2019] Papers

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New on the Beachwood . . .

E-Mails Show Trump Purposefully Inflicted Cruelty On Children
A 10-year-old held in a shelter for two months was found on the floor, crying and holding his hand. "My hand hurts because I got mad about my case and I hit the wall," the boy said. A 12-year-old boy reported "suicidal ideations" after separation from an aunt and a cousin. A 9-year-old girl said her uncle was murdered by a local gang.

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Cruelty was, indeed, the point.

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Recall! Ashland Sausage
Approximately 1,092 pounds of pork sausage products may be contaminated with extraneous materials - specifically hard, dark plastic.

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SportsMonday: About That Bears Hip
It should still be attached, people.

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Why Bad Customer Service Is Unlikely To Improve
Many complaint processes are actually designed to help companies retain profits by limiting the number of customers who can successfully resolve their complaints.

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Cool Music Data Visualizations
Says something about our culture and stuff. Also, great fun to look at.

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ChicagoReddit

Here is a 1979 photo of a CTA Free Santa Claus Bus. Some of the people are holding items from Marshall Field's, Wieboldt's and Lytton's. from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

View this post on Instagram

New digs!

A post shared by Allison Grote Gerlach (@allisugerlach) on

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ChicagoTube

Kadavar at the Avondale Music Hall on Friday night.

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BeachBook

Who Was the Most Influential Artist of the Decade?

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The Prodigies: Meet 8 Groundbreaking Millennial Artists Who Are Already Being Taught in Art History Classes.

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The Badass Afghan Pilot Who Went Massively Viral Is Now Living In Exile.

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Once, America Had Its Own Parrot.

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Linda Ronstadt Documentary On CNN.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Quip Line: Make like a tree and leave a quip.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:13 AM | Permalink

December 22, 2019

Recall! Ashland Sausage

Ashland Sausage of Carol Stream is recalling approximately 1,092 pounds of pork sausage products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials - specifically hard, dark plastic - the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced Friday.

The ready-to-eat (RTE) course ground sausage items were produced on Nov. 14, 2019. The following products are subject to recall:

12-oz. plastic packages containing 5 pieces of "BERKSHIRE NATURAL CASING SAUSAGE" with lot code S318.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number "EST. 21549" inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations in Illinois and New York.

FSIS was notified of the problem by the company after it received a customer complaint of finding two small pieces of dark hard plastic in the product.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers' freezers or refrigerators. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers.

Consumers and members of the media with questions about the recall can contact Paul Podgorski, plant manager, Ashland Sausage Co., at (630) 690-2600.

Consumers with food safety questions can call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or live chat via Ask USDA from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday.

Consumers can also browse food safety messages at Ask USDA or send a question via e-mail to MPHotline@usda.gov.

For consumers that need to report a problem with a meat, poultry, or egg product, the online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at https://foodcomplaint.fsis.usda.gov/eCCF/.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:14 PM | Permalink

December 21, 2019

E-Mails Show Trump Administration Knew Migrant Children Would Suffer Mental Problems Once Separated From Their Families At The Border. Then They Ramped Up The Practice.

Newly obtained government documents show how the Trump administration's now-blocked policy to separate all migrant children from parents led social workers to frantically begin tracking thousands of children seized at the southern border and compile reports on cases of trauma.

In June 2018, months after the Trump administration began its so-called "zero tolerance" policy to deter migrants trying to enter the United States, an employee working for the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement described a 5-year-old's despair at a shelter.

"Minor was separated at the border from his biological mother. Minor was tearful when he arrived and would not speak or engage in conversation with anyone," the caregiver wrote in a report. This document and others shed light on a social experiment that was both cruel and chaotic.

Reports of traumatized children were forwarded to the Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which is charged with ensuring that national security policies respect constitutional rights. A Center for Public Integrity and NPR investigation earlier this year found that the office failed to assist children whose suffering was documented in hundreds of similar complaints the office received last year.

The most recent internal documents Public Integrity reviewed add to scathing criticism from the Homeland Security inspector general's office, which reported on Nov. 25 that it couldn't verify how many children were separated by the zero tolerance policy, which began gradually in late 2017 and ended in June 2018. Tracking was flawed because U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers didn't accurately record possible family relationships between adults and 1,233 children detained between October 2017 and mid-February 2019, the inspector general concluded.

Tornillo_aerial_Sept_20_8_IPA_TT.jpgAt a tent city in Tornillo/Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Texas Tribune (ENLARGE)

Trump's zero tolerance policy required CBP to separate children so that migrant adults, many of them seeking asylum, could be immediately held in immigration detention and prosecuted for illegal entry.

Earlier this year, former Office of Refugee Resettlement Deputy Director Jonathan White told Congress that he'd heard in early 2017 a broad separation policy could be in the works, and that he and his colleagues told Homeland Security officials they were concerned "not only about what that would mean for children, but also what it would mean for the capacity of the program."

Internal records, however, show that such concerns date back further.

Warnings Weeks Before Trump

Among the documents Public Integrity obtained is a September 2016 e-mail from a child refugee specialist signaling discomfort with Customs and Border Protection's Office of Field Operations splitting up migrant families prior to zero tolerance.

"The best thing that could happen is for the OFO to stop the practice of family separation," a child refugee field specialist added to the top of an e-mail containing instructions for reunifying families that he sent to colleagues on Sept. 20, 2016.

Just 10 days after the specialist sent the e-mail, a Homeland Security advisory committee issued a damning report on the damage children suffer when abruptly separated from parents. Separations were comparatively uncommon at the time, but they'd grown frequent enough to trigger a review, conducted by representatives of the American Academy of Pediatrics and civil rights groups.

"Separation can be acutely frightening for children and can leave children in ad hoc care situations that compromise their safety and well-being," the advisory committee warned. "It can also be traumatizing and extremely stressful for the parent."

The committee urged Homeland Security to separate parents and children as little as possible and instead place families in supervised release programs while their asylum or other immigration claims moved through the courts.

Before Trump began zero tolerance in 2018, Customs and Border Protection had - and still has - the authority to separate parents and children under limited circumstances.

But because zero tolerance required parents to be immediately detained, CBP was essentially forced to seize thousands of children, including infants and toddlers. Most families were arriving from Central America, a region the State Department has said is ravaged by predatory gangs and homicide rates that are among the highest in the world.

The 2016 message from the field specialist is part of a collection of Health and Human Services e-mails and other internal documents shared with Public Integrity. Most were written in 2018 by officials at the agency's Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The office is responsible for caring for unaccompanied migrant children, or children CBP officers separate from parents at the border. The internal documents show Health and Human Services staff members were unprepared for the unprecedented number of suffering young children transferred to their custody.

The materials were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request submitted to Health and Human Services by the American Immigration Council, the National Immigrant Justice Center, Kids in Need of Defense, the Women's Refugee Commission, and the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. All have experience providing legal services for migrant children.

Suicidal Ideations, A Murdered Uncle

Most of the internal government e-mails reviewed by Public Integrity were written during the height of zero tolerance, which ended in late June 2018 after a court order and public outcry. Other documents show Refugee Resettlement staff or contractors' observations, which then were forwarded to Homeland Security, about distraught children placed in shelters.

A 10-year-old held in a shelter for two months was found on the floor, crying and holding his hand. "My hand hurts because I got mad about my case and I hit the wall," the boy reportedly said in July 2018. A 12-year-old boy reported "suicidal ideations" after separation from an aunt and a cousin in June 2018, according to a document. In a July 2018 report about a 9-year-old, a case worker wrote the girl "reported that her uncle was murdered by a local gang."

On June 26, 2018, a federal judge ordered Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Refugee Resettlement to reunite families. E-mails and other documents show refugee office staff and contractors were pressed into service.

"All resources available to comply with court order," reads a summary of what's labeled as a meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. "We must do everything to identify parents, contact them, and make strides to reunify them or [allow children] to go to another sponsor if the parents want."

Given the poor quality of records, Health and Human Services officials rushed to use DNA testing to match parents and children.

"DNA kits," a message to staff advised, "will be sent to programs with separated children 0-4 on week of July 2nd and DNA kits will be sent to programs with separated children 5 and up on week of July 9th."

DNA collection is controversial. News reports in July featured mothers and a director at a migrant mothers' shelter claiming they were told parents would have to pay for DNA testing. Health and Human Services denied it was charging fees for the testing and said it was covering costs for collections.

Documents also show that social workers anxiously sought supervisors' guidance on how to respond to Central American U.S.-based consular officials, who were asking for information about migrant children scattered nationwide.

Robert Carey, a Refugee Resettlement director in the Obama administration, told Public Integrity that most of the office's staff are social workers who were put in an "ethical" dilemma with the zero tolerance policy.

"Not only was it inhumane," he said, "it was extraordinarily poorly managed."

When he was in charge, Carey said, the average minor in Refugee Resettlement custody was about 15 years old. A "large part" of what the office would do, he said, was vet sponsors, often relatives, so children could be released from group shelters or foster homes.

Trump's zero tolerance has ended, but CBP continues to have the authority to separate children from adults who are not legal guardians, including aunts, uncles and grandparents. It also has the authority to separate children based on a parent's prior immigration violations, if CBP wants to refer that parent for prosecution. Officers have also separated children due to parents' criminal histories or suspected ties to gangs - decisions that at times have been based on false allegations.

James De La Cruz, the Health and Human Services employee who wrote in 2016 that ending family separations would be "the best thing that could happen," is still at the agency.

His e-mail included instructions for reunifying families and a contact sheet for Homeland Security staff assigned to supervise "alternatives to detention" programs. These programs - no longer favored by the Trump administration - monitored migrant families that had been released from custody to ensure they would attend court proceedings.

Contacted by Public Integrity, De La Cruz declined to elaborate on his 2016 e-mail or on problems Health and Human Services faced with the surge in family separations last year. The agency's media representatives also declined to comment but sent a written statement emphasizing that "HHS is a child welfare agency, not a law enforcement agency. We play no role in the apprehension or initial detention of unaccompanied alien children."

Under Trump, however, Health and Human Services was forced into a central role in the administration's zero tolerance policy because separating children from migrant parents was a key feature.

Separating Kids To Block Asylum Seekers

Despite evidence from the State Department and others supporting many migrants' stories of escaping violent crime in their home countries, Trump accused migrants of gaming the asylum system, and he sought ways to block their entry. After he took office in 2017, his advisers suggested options that would require prosecuting every border crosser.

Separating thousands of their children "would be reported by the media and it would have substantial deterrent effect," previously released documents shared by NBC show.

As a pilot program began in 2017, people who swam or walked over the border or who approached CBP officers at border gates were taken into custody to be prosecuted for illegal entry - a misdemeanor the first time - and their children were taken from them.

Preparing for a blanket separation policy, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke out in defense of family separations in May 2018.

"If you don't like that, then don't smuggle children over our border," he said.

That same month, however, Refugee Resettlement officials were already sending out "high importance" e-mails related to the developing search for separated families.

Like Homeland Security, the office had come under pressure because of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union three months earlier. The lawsuit accused Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and Refugee Resettlement of violating due process and Homeland Security's own directives for granting detainees' release.

The initial plaintiff was an African mother who was cleared at the U.S.-Mexico border to apply for asylum but was put into detention. She said she heard her daughter, 7, screaming as the child was taken away to be sent to Refugee Resettlement custody.

Eventually, the lawsuit became a class-action effort to free and unite separated families.

On May 16, 2018, a Refugee Resettlement e-mail exhorted staff to find the parents of children in their custody - one day after then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified in Congress that "we do not have a policy to separate children from their parents."

"It is very important to locate the separated parent for all UAC [unaccompanied alien children] in your program," a Refugee Resettlement supervisor wrote. "For parents in ICE custody, you should be able to locate them and have a phone call with that parent as soon as possible."

That guidance proved far too optimistic.

CBP, it turned out, was sending children to Refugee Resettlement with little information about parents. Infants and sobbing toddlers were too young to know parents' names, as Public Integrity previously reported, much less the "alien number" that ICE assigns adult detainees and enters into a detention database.

"The system totally broke down," said Jennifer Podkul, an attorney with Kids in Need of Defense, which coordinates legal representation for migrant minors. Even lawyers who know the names of clients have a hard time using the ICE detainee tracking system because of misspelled names and other erroneous information, she said.

One internal e-mail warned social workers "to NOT engage directly" with the ACLU, as one caregiver program did, and instead follow "the chain of command" to prepare for a child's release.

Disabled Children Languishing Without Help

On June 26, 2018, the federal judge in San Diego presiding over the ACLU's lawsuit admonished U.S. officials for tracking migrant children with less diligence than they track belongings the government seizes from people and keeps in storage. He placed a preliminary block on further separations, and ordered officials to arrange phone calls between parents and children, and reunite them on deadlines by age group the following month.

E-mails show Refugee Resettlement staff discussed how to arrange and pay for collect calls from detained parents, and how parents were incommunicado while held in federal marshals' custody, as many were at times.

On June 28, 2018, two days after the federal judge ordered reunification of families, an e-mail circulated advising Refugee Resettlement affiliates that Health and Human Services was designing a database to "eliminate the need to track information [on families] on spreadsheets."

At the same time, Refugee Resettlement managers were told, "Please do not wait for the database to go live to initiate contact with parents!"

Homeland Security databases on parents - some on their way to deportation - had no information on whether children had been separated from them. The Homeland Security and Health and Human Services databases were not linked.

As separations ramped up, documents provided to Public Integrity show, Refugee Resettlement staff also began sending more "significant incident reports" about separated migrant children to Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

The Public Integrity and NPR investigation found that during the first half of last year, Refugee Resettlement filed the majority of more than 800 family separation complaints logged by Homeland Security's civil rights office. Among children abandoned in shelters without the office's help were blind or deaf children - disabled children the civil rights office acknowledges it has authority to expeditiously assist.

Meanwhile, fallout from the mass separations of families continues.

On Nov. 5, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that the U.S. government should be held accountable for the impact of the zero tolerance policy. The government, the judge said, must provide mental health services to thousands of traumatized migrant children who languished without seeing or being in contact with their parents, sometimes for months.

This post was originally published by The Texas Tribune in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity.

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Previously:

* Tent City For Migrant Kids Shrouded In Secrecy.

* Immigration Sins Of The Past And The Forced Separation Of Families.

* Law And Farce: The Forced Separation Of Families.

* Jennings v. Rodriguez And The Forced Separation Of Families.

* Forced Separation Of Families & Forced To-Term Pregnancies.

* Here's A List Of Organizations That Are Mobilizing To Help Immigrant Children Separated From Their Families.

* Separated Migrant Children Are Headed Toward Shelters With A History Of Abuse And Neglect.

* The Shelter For Immigrant Children That Melania Trump Visited Has A History Of Violations.

* U.S. Turned Away Thousands Of Haitian Asylum-Seekers And Detained Hundreds More In Horrific Conditions In The '90s.

* Brazilian Asylum Seeker Released After 11 Months In Detention; Grandson Had Been Held In Chicago.

* Immigrant Infants Too Young To Talk Called Into Court To Defend Themselves.

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See also:

* ProPublica: A Defendant Shows Up in Immigration Court by Himself. He's 6.

* The New York Times: The Price Tag Of Migrant Family Separation: $80 Million And Rising.

* 60 Minutes: The Chaos Behind Donald Trump's Policy Of Family Separation At The Border.

* Trump Lying About The 60 Minutes Report.

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Plus:

* Immigration Raids Send Chill Through Little Village.

* This Is What A Deportation Raid Is Like.

* Illinois Immigrant, Labor, Legal Leaders Condemn ICE Raids.

* Chicago Activists Tell Undocumented Immigrants Not To Open Their Doors.

* A Shameful Round-Up Of Refugees.

* U.S. Government Deporting Central American Migrants To Their Deaths.

* Tell President Obama To Stop Deporting Refugees.

* Immigrants Arrested In U.S. Raids Say They Were Misled On Right To Counsel.

* Obama Planning Huge Deportation Sweep Of Immigrant Families.

* Immigrants Deported Under Obama Share Stories Of Terror And Rights Violations.

* Chicago Family Sues ICE & City Over Raid, Gang Database.

* Immigrants In Detention Centers Are Often Hundreds Of Miles From Legal Help.

* Chicago And The Deportation Machine.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:38 AM | Permalink

December 20, 2019

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #283: The Winter Of Chicago Sports Discontent

It's grim and we're bereft. Including: Bears Now Within Hail Mary's Of Being Within Two-Point Plays Of Winning Games; Grievance Grievance; Every Bulls Worst Loss Yet Is Worse Than The Last Worst Loss Yet; Lovie's Beard Has One Game Left This Year; Paul Reed Still The Man; and St. Edward High School's Racist Taunts.


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SHOW NOTES

* 283.

* Coffman: "The key to happiness in life is low expectations."

1:40: Bears Now Within Hail Mary's Of Being Within Two-Point Plays Of Winning Games.

* ChicagoBears.com, Oct. 30, LOL: Bears Offensive Line Starting To Find Its Groove.

* Coffman: Mitch More Jacoby Than Drew.

* Rhodes: "Kwiatkowski is the Nicholas Castellanos of the Bears - he's showing them what hungry looks like."

* Khalil Smack.

* NBC Sports Chicago: A-Rob Isn't Mad About His Pro Bowl Snub, But His Teammates Are.

* Patterson's Perfect Play:

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46:50: Grievance Grievance.

* Cubs held hostage by a situation of their own making.

52:05: White Sox Outbid League For Gio Gonzalez.

* Coffman: "He looks up to five-and-divers."

54:19: Every Bulls Worst Loss Yet Is Worse Than The Last Worst Loss Yet.

* O'Donnell: Why The Bulls Won't Fire Jim Boylen Despite Him Being The Worst Coach In The NBA.

58:24: Patrick Kane Still Loves Playing Hockey.

* Keith back, Seabrook benched.

1:02:05: Lovie's Beard Has One Game Left This Year.

* December 30th.

1:02:33: Paul Reed Still The Man.

1:04:50: St. Edward High School Students Racially Taunted Players On Bishop McNamara Girls Basketball Team, Officials Say.

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STOPPAGE: 8:32

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:46 PM | Permalink

The [Friday] Papers

"Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker's administration is lagging behind on a promised hiring spree to help tackle Illinois' backlog of applications for the government-run Medicaid health insurance program," WBEZ reports.

"Roughly 3 million low-income or disabled Illinoisans have health care coverage through Medicaid - about one in four people statewide."

Emphasis mine, because that's more people than . . . a lot of things. Find your own comp.

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"In July, Pritzker outlined an aggressive months-long hiring initiative. The state would create around 240 jobs for caseworkers to process Medicaid applications. So far, around 170 people have been brought on.

"Meanwhile, the backlog that once topped more than 100,000 applications is shrinking, but still hovers around 72,000 for applications that have been sitting around for at least 45 days."

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Previously:
* Illinois' Medicaid Mess, in The [Tuesday] Papers.

* Thousands Illegally Denied Medicaid In Illinois.

* DentalQuest, in The [Thursday] Papers.

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #283: The Winter Of Chicago Sports Discontent
It's grim and we're bereft. Including: Bears Now Within Hail Mary's Of Being Within Two-Point Plays Of Winning Games; Grievance Grievance; Every Bulls Worst Loss Yet Is Worse Than The Last Worst Loss Yet; Lovie's Beard Has One Game Left This Year; Paul Reed Still The Man; and St. Edward High School's Racist Taunts.

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ChicagoReddit

african american tavern in chicago; april 1941. any ideas where this was taken? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Marcus King at Thalia Hall last Sunday night.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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Trump's private meetings with Putin are still beyond extraordinary.

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More of this - with stiffer penalties - please. Let's get on it, Illinois.

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Last time I looked, Tinley Park wasn't in Chicago.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Go all the way.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:14 AM | Permalink

Why Bad Customer Service Is Unlikely To Improve

Some of the most hated companies in the U.S. are also the most profitable.

Much of this consumer resentment may stem from poor customer service.

In 2013, Americans spent an average of 13 hours disputing a purchase or resolving a problem with customer service. Many Americans have experienced fighting with phone menus, desperately seeking a live service agent to seek a refund.

As professors of marketing, we have examined why customer service continues to be so unsatisfactory, including at many profitable companies.

Is Good Customer Service Unattainable?

Our research focuses on the structure and incentives of various customer service centers to explain why consumers perpetually experience hassles when seeking refunds.

What we found is not encouraging.

Many complaint processes are actually designed to help companies retain profits by limiting the number of customers who can successfully resolve their complaints.

The process involves a tiered structure in which all incoming inquiries start at "Level 1." Level 1 may be a call center operator who listens to a complaint but acknowledges that there is nothing they can do.

Only by insisting to talk to a manager or threatening to leave the company do consumers come closer to obtaining a refund.

Forcing customers to talk to a computer, circulate through phone menus or sit on hold "while serving other customers" serves the same deterring role as that Level 1 call center agent.

Saving Money With Smart Tech

By design, Level 1 agents are limited in their authority to compensate customers.

For example, one Indian call center that we visited forbade Level 1 agents from offering any monetary refunds.

Consumers may have noticed that companies' call centers increasingly use automated chatbots to serve as Level 1 "agents." The caller can talk with a human agent - at Level 2 or even higher - only after the chatbot's AI technology recognizes that a customer is sufficiently unhappy with the process.

These smart technologies determine the caller's level of anger by remotely monitoring the tone and pace of voice. If the level of anger reflects a chance the customer may leave the company, then the call is transferred to a more experienced operator to handle the complaint.

This allows companies to exploit customers' individual differences in age, race and gender so that only the "squeakiest wheels" are compensated.

Who Struggles With Bad Customer Service?

Not surprisingly, surveys show that chatbots are not improving customer service. This is especially true for certain segments of consumers above others.

Consumers experience hassles in different ways. For instance, navigating an online complaint process is generally harder for older people.

Additionally, African-American and Latino customers are less inclined to complain than college-educated whites.

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In addition, women get more annoyed than men when dealing with bad customer service.

This all suggests that the tiered process may hit vulnerable groups in our society harder. Therefore, elderly customers and some minority groups will be less inclined to obtain a refund.

Bad Customer Service Doesn't Harm Profits

It seems puzzling, therefore, to see companies repeatedly pledge that they are committed to great customer service.

For example, Comcast states that "Our customers deserve the best experience every time they interact with us," but consumers are increasingly unsatisfied with their service.

Even United Airlines, whose poor customer service inspired a song and video with nearly 20 million views, claims to offer a "level of service to our customers that makes [United] a leader in the airline industry."

But our research suggests that in markets without much competition, companies are more likely to implement a tiered complaint process and profit from the reduced payouts to customers.

This explains why Internet service providers, airlines and cable companies consistently receive the ire of survey respondents.

Anthony Dukes is a marketing professor at USC. Yi Zhu is an associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:39 AM | Permalink

December 19, 2019

The [Thursday] Papers

Forty percent of America and every Republican in Congress actually believe these things - or they're doing a damn good job of faking it.

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What the Illinois Republican delegation is saying, via the Daily Herald:

"Since the day President Trump was elected, many Democrats in Congress have been searching for any means by which to delegitimize and remove him from office. And since then, we've seen them jump head first from one investigation to another hoping something so treacherous would be uncovered that we'd have no choice but to throw him out. And at that they've failed miserably." - Rep. Adam Kinzinger

"It's no secret that since President Trump was elected, Democrats have fixated on undoing the results of the 2016 election through impeachment. Our democracy is premised on the power being with the people, not partisan members of Congress." - Rep. Darin LaHood

"I will not vote to remove a duly elected president of either party or bar them running without a legitimate independent investigation and proof of a crime, neither of which exist in this case." - Rep. Rodney Davis

"For the past three years, Speaker Pelosi and the Washington Democrats have done everything they could to undo the results of the 2016 election. After endless investigations and partisan inquiries yielded scant evidence, they chose to move forward anyway. They are motivated by politics, not principles, and I will oppose these articles of impeachment." - Rep. Mike Bost

"The Democrats haven't even given President Trump an opportunity to defend his executive privilege through the courts, and they're demanding that he just give up his constitutional powers under Article II. I'm disappointed to miss these votes but not embarrassed. I'm embarrassed that they are even happening." - Rep. John Shimkus ("He was traveling to Tanzania to visit a son who's in the Peace Corps.")

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You are now all inscribed in the history books.

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Media's Mixed Message
"Chicagoans reacted with mixed feelings to the House of Representatives' vote Wednesday to impeach President Donald Trump," the Sun-Times reports.

It's a media rule: Feelings must always be "mixed."

I'm quite sure, though, that a poll of Chicagoans would find "feelings" far from "mixed," which connotes something approaching a 50-50 split. After all, 83.7% of Chicagoans voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But objectivity demands we obscure the truth!

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We've all known the vote was coming; you couldn't come up with a better idea than the tired people-on-the-street reaction piece? After all . . .

. . . cover that!

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The Sun-Times goes on to quote three people at a bus stop who supported impeachment. To get the requisite "balance," they then quoted an e-mailed statement from the treasurer of the Chicago Young Republicans. That's a bigger stretch than the downward dog. (I was gonna say "a bigger stretch than Lizzo's yoga pants," but I didn't want to be accused of fat-shaming, which I don't approve of.)

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"While some praised the House's historic vote, others criticized the outcome, claiming Democrats didn't have the evidence to justify impeachment."

More like "other," the aforementioned young treasurer.

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The story concludes with couple visiting from Los Angeles. So the assignment to get Chicago's reaction cannot even be completed!

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I'm not blaming the reporter for this - he was almost certainly set up for humiliation by his editors. At least that's the way it usually happens. Think harder and more imaginatively. Readers learn nothing from stories like this. They can talk to people at bus stops themselves.

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For example, maybe try to track down as many Chicagoans as you can who spoke on the public record about the Clinton impeachment - both officials and folks on the street.

Or hang out at the bar - there is one isn't there - at Trump Tower Chicago. That one is easy and kind of boring, but maybe pick a few key bars that might provide interesting color.

What about the history of impeachment in Chicago - i.e., can the mayor be impeached? If not, have city officials ever considered such a provision - and if not, why not?

There are law schools and political science departments here to draw on, and the best "reactions" are going to be found on Twitter.

There are a ton of ways to cover a presidential impeachment locally besides the lazy "go talk to some people at a bus stop" approach.

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Plus:

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Pot Shots
An attempt led by Ald. Jason Ervin on behalf of the Black Caucus to delay the sale of recreational marijuana in Chicago by six months in order to - in their view, if they were being sincere - remedy what they say is racial inequity in the new rules governing such sales was defeated in a raucous city council meeting Wednesday.

I question their sincerity because A) they are quite late to the party; and B) the whole point of going ahead now by allowing legacy (white) medical dispensaries to start selling recreational pot is take a share of their revenue to build a social equity fund that will be directed to entrepreneurs of color. In other words, the plan is to take from whitey and give to everyone else, as it should be.

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Anyway, it was not a good day for Ervin - especially considering that the mayor, state legislators and officials from the Pritzker administration who worked on the state legislation and the city ordinance deriving from it are also of color, and they were none too happy with the proceedings.

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So I didn't just dream it.

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Huh, imagine that.

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Huh. What an interesting list.

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Also Enscribed In History

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On This Day In Beachwood Twitter History

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Fraudulent Medical Charges Are Legal Somehow
"What I'm talking about here were the bills for things that simply didn't happen, or only kind-of, sort-of happened, or were mislabeled as things they were not or were so nebulously defined that I couldn't figure out what we might be paying for."

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The Unique Concussion Of Female Athletes
More likely - and more severe - than those of their male counterparts.

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Fossils Of The Future: Us!
"In the far future, the fossil record of today will have a huge number of complete hominid skeletons, all lined up in rows," UIC prof says.

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ChicagoReddit

Rainforest Cafe in Woodfield Mall will be closing before the 31st of this month. Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Chicago will be closing in 20 months/lease ends. from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

View this post on Instagram

#unabooksboardthoughts #georgeorwell #corruption

A post shared by Unabridged Bookstore (@unabridgedbookstore) on

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ChicagoTube

Chicago Punk, 1995.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Impeachment Line: Low crimes, misdemeanors.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:38 AM | Permalink

In Medical Billing, Fraudulent Charges Are Legal

Much of what we accept as legal in medical billing would be regarded as fraud in any other sector.

I have been circling around this conclusion for the past five years, as I've listened to patients' stories while covering health care as a journalist and author.

Now, after a summer of firsthand experience - my husband was in a bike crash in July - it's time to call out this fact head-on.

As many of the Democratic candidates are talking about practical fixes for our high-priced health care system, some legislated or regulated solutions to the maddening world of medical billing would be welcome.

My husband, Andrej, flew over his bicycle's handlebars when he hit a pothole at high speed on a Sunday ride in Washington. He was unconscious and lying on the pavement when I caught up with him minutes later. The result: six broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a broken finger, a broken collarbone and a broken shoulder blade.

The treatment he got via paramedics and in the emergency room and intensive care unit were great. The troubles began, as I knew they would, when the bills started arriving.

I will not even complain here about some of the crazy-high charges: $182 for a basic blood test, $9,289 for two days in a room in intensive care, $20 for a pill that costs pennies at a pharmacy. We have great insurance, which negotiates these rates down. And at least Andrej got and benefited from those services.

What I'm talking about here were the bills for things that simply didn't happen, or only kind-of, sort-of happened, or were mislabeled as things they were not or were so nebulously defined that I couldn't figure out what we might be paying for.

To be clear, many of the charges that I would call fraudulent - maybe all of them - are technically legal (thanks sometimes to lobbying by providers), but that doesn't make them right.

And no one would accept them if they appeared on bills delivered by a contractor, or a lawyer or an auto mechanic.

There were so many of these charges that I came up with categories to keep track of them:

1. Medical Swag.

In the trauma bay, someone slapped a hard brace around Andrej's neck until scans confirmed that he had not suffered a grievous spinal injury. It was removed within an hour.

The medical equipment company that provided that piece of plastic billed $319. Our insurer paid $215 (90% of its discounted rate of $239). We were billed $24, our "patient responsibility."

Companies are permitted by insurers to bill for "durable medical equipment," stuff you receive for home use when you're in the hospital or a doctor's office. That yields some familiar marked-up charges, like the sling you can buy at Walgreens for $15 but for which you or your insurer get a bill for $120 after it is given to you at urgent care.

The policy has also led to widespread abuse, with patients sent home with equipment they don't need: My mom's apartment, for example, holds an unused wheelchair, a walker and a commode paid for by Medicare, by which I mean our tax dollars. It's as if you were given a swag bag at a conference and then sent a bill for hundreds or thousands of dollars.

At least with swag, you get to keep it. My husband's hardly worn neck brace didn't even come home with us as a souvenir.

2. The Cover Charge.

The biggest single item on Andrej's ER bill was a $7,143.99 trauma activation fee. What was that for, since every component of his care had been billed and billed handsomely?

Among the line items: $3,400 for a high-level emergency room visit, $1,030 for the trauma surgeon, and between $1,400 and $3,300 for five purported CT scans.

I say "purported" because one trip into a scanner examined the head, upper spine and maxillofacial bones but was billed as three separate things.

There was also an administration fee of more than $350 each for four injections.

Trauma activation fees have been allowed since 2002, after 9/11, when the Trauma Center Association of America, an industry group, convinced regulators that they needed to be compensated for maintaining a state of "readiness."

Wait. Isn't the purpose of an ER to be "ready?" Isn't that why the doctors' services and scans are billed at higher rates when they are performed in an emergency department?

Despite scrutiny from researchers about whether trauma fees are deserved, trauma activation fees have only grown in size - 15% annually in recent years - and can reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. (On average, Medicare pays a fee of about $1,000.)

Some have likened trauma activation fees to a cover charge for being wheeled into an ER with major trauma. But does a cover charge typically cost more than the meal?

3. Impostor Billing.

We received bills from doctors my husband never met. Some of these bills were understandable, like for the radiologist who read the scans. But others were for bedside treatment from people who never came anywhere near the bed to deliver the care.

Andrej had a small finger fracture with a cut that needed some stitches, which a resident, a surgeon-in-training, sutured. But the $1,512 billed came in the name of a senior surgeon, as if he had done the work.

Physicians and many other health professionals are allowed to bill for the work of "extenders" - stand-ins with less training who see patients and work under the supervising doctor. These might be residents, physician assistants or nurse anesthetists, for example.

For billing purposes, this allows the senior providers to be in two, three, sometimes more than half a dozen places at once, often even when they are physically miles away.

The resident did a fine job on my husband. But if an assistant did the work, shouldn't it be billed for less? At law firms, the hourly rates for paralegals and junior attorneys are lower than those for partners.

On a website called Clinical Advisor, a reimbursement expert himself seems to wonder at the profession's luck that such billing is tolerated: "I hear people ask, 'How can I do that? The doctor never saw the patient, never had any interaction with the patient and yet I can still bill this service under the physician?'"

4. The Drive-By.

The day before Andrej left the hospital, a physical therapist visited and asked a few questions. From that brief encounter, the therapist noted "ambulation deficits, balance deficits, endurance deficits, pain-limiting function, transfer deficits."

That translated into a bill of $646.15 for what was recorded as a P.T. evaluation "1st session only (billable)."

He said he was there for 30 minutes, but he was not. He said he walked Andrej up 10 steps with a stabilizing belt for assistance. He did not. There was no significant health service given. Just an appearance and some boxes checked on a form. It's a phenomenon called drive-by doctoring.

More shockingly, the drive-bys continued at our home, presaged by a call on Andrej's cellphone a day after he was discharged. A physical therapist from a private company wanted to visit him for at-home therapy. In his discharge instructions, no one had mentioned this service, and his injury was clearly too fresh to benefit. She came. She didn't know which body part had been injured and concluded he was in too much pain to participate.

The same company called twice more the following week to schedule visits. By the third time, I told Andrej not to open the front door. Nonetheless, our insurer was billed - and paid - for three visits.

It's as if Alexa noticed that my dishwasher makes too much noise (it does) and took it upon herself to send over a repair guy. But if I turned him away at the front door, saying I'm okay with the racket (I am), would I still be billed for the visit?

5. The Enforced Upgrade.

One Monday when Andrej was in pain and out of pills, the trauma doctor suggested we meet in the emergency room, because the trauma clinic was open only from 8 to 10:45 a.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

So we met the trauma doctors in the ER, and they talked to Andrej, who remained in his street clothes. They gave him a prescription. Because the interaction - which could have happened in the lobby - happened in the ER, it resulted in an ER visit charge of $1,330.

But when the trauma clinic is open less than six hours a week, billing for an ER visit that doesn't tap into any of the emergency room resources feels like a scam. Is an ER visit determined by the content of the services rendered, or merely by the location?

Andrej had a similar experience when his broken finger was treated with a plastic splint that folded over his fingertip. He complained because the upper layer pressed on the fracture. At a follow-up visit, someone took a pair of scissors and cut off the upper half of the splint and taped the lower half back in place. That translated into a $481 charge for "surgery," in addition to the $375 charge for the office visit and a $103 facility fee. Doesn't surgery, by definition, involve cutting into flesh or an animate object - not a piece of plastic?

Sure, it sounds fancy to upgrade a meeting to an ER visit, or to call the tweaking of a splint "surgery," but if an airline overbooks my flight and puts me on another flight where the only seat available is in first class, it does not charge me for the more expensive ticket.

My insurer paid for most of these questionable charges, though at discounted rates. But even a discounted payment for something that never really happened or didn't need to happen or that we didn't agree to have happen is still, according to common sense, a fraud.

Why do insurers pay? Partly because insurers have no way to know whether you got a particular item or service. But also because it's not worth their time to investigate the millions of medical interactions they write checks for each day. Despite the advertised concern about your well-being, as one benefits manager enlightened me: They're "too big to care about you."

Electronic records, which auto-fill billing boxes, have probably made things worse. For example, the birth of a baby boy may automatically prompt a bill for a circumcision; having day surgery may prompt a check for sedation.

* * *

So what is the appropriate payment for swag I didn't ask for, outrageous cover charges, stand-in doctors, drive-by visits and faux surgery? In some cases, zero; in others, far less than was paid. And yet, these are all everyday, normal experiences in today's health care system, and they may be perfectly legal.

If we want to tame the costs in our $3 trillion health system, we've got to rein in this behavior, which is fraud by any other name.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:47 AM | Permalink

Fossils Of The Future: Us!

As the number and technology of humans has grown, their impact on the natural world now equals or exceeds those of natural processes, according to scientists.

Many researchers formally name this period of human-dominance of natural systems as the Anthropocene era, but there is a heated debate over whether this naming should take place and when the period began.

In a co-authored paper published online in the journal Anthropocene, University of Illinois at Chicago paleontologist Roy Plotnick argues that the fossil record of mammals will provide a clear signal of the Anthropocene.

Screen Shot 2019-12-19 at 12.03.13 AM.pngRoy Plotnick, UIC professor of earth and environmental sciences/Joshua Clark

He and Karen Koy, who earned her Ph.D in paleontology at UIC in 2008 and is now an associate professor at Missouri Western State University, report that the number of humans and their animals greatly exceeds that of wild animals.

As an example, in the state of Michigan alone, humans and their animals compose about 96% of the total mass of animals. There are as many chickens as people in the state, and the same should be true in many places in the United States and the world, they say.

"The chance of a wild animal becoming part of the fossil record has become very small," said Plotnick, the paper's lead author. "Instead, the future mammal record will be mostly cows, pigs, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, etc., and people themselves."

While humans bury most of their dead in cemeteries and have for centuries, their activities have markedly changed how and where animals are buried.

These impacts include alterations in the distribution and properties of natural sites of preservation, associated with shifts in land use and climate change; the production of novel sites for preservation, such as landfills and cemeteries; and changes in the breakdown of animal and human carcasses.

Additionally, the use of large agricultural equipment and increased domestic animal density due to intensive animal farming likely increases the rate of and changes the kind of damage to bones, according to the paleontologists.

"Fossil mammals occur in caves, ancient lakebeds and river channels, and are usually only teeth and isolated bones," he said. "Animals that die on farms or in mass deaths due to disease often end up as complete corpses in trenches or landfills, far from water."

Consequently, the fossils from the world today will be unique in the Earth's history and unmistakable to paleontologists 100,000 years from now, according to the researchers.

"In the far future, the fossil record of today will have a huge number of complete hominid skeletons, all lined up in rows," Plotnick said.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:42 AM | Permalink

The Unique Concussions Of Female Athletes

Few sports are as fast and furious as roller derby. The hour-long game unfolds in frenetic two-minute bursts as two teams race anti-clockwise around an oval track. Each team has a "jammer" aiming to pass four opposing "blockers," and they score points for each opponent they lap.

Blockers can obstruct the path with their torso or push opponents off course with a swift nudge of their upper legs or upper arms. Jammers "juke" - a sideways dummy move - and "whip" - where a team member grabs their hand and swing them forwards ahead of the pack.

Fans are addicted to the ferocious drama of the competition, but, as you would expect for any contact sport, injuries are commonplace.

260_Women_Concussion_Erin_Aniker_Hero_.jpg© Erin Aniker at Twenty Twenty for Mosaic

Jessica had just moved to the U.S. from France when she attended her first roller derby match. "From that first game I really fell in love with it," she says. She started competing, eventually leading Team France in the 2011 World Cup, and she even met her wife through the game.

In the summer of 2016, Jessica was playing blocker for a team in the Bay Area. She was in front of the opposition's jammer, and just as she turned to check her position, an opposing blocker collided with her at high speed.

As the blocker's shoulder hit the right side of her chin, Jessica felt an extraordinary pain on the opposite side of her skull and fell to the floor. The sudden jerking movement of her head, she now knows, caused her brain to ricochet within the skull - leading to the sharp pain and severe concussion.

She didn't seek immediate medical care. When she had suffered a concussion previously, her doctor's advice was to take it easy for a few weeks before returning to play. And it had seemed to work fine.

This time, however, she had continued headaches and sense of mental constriction - a feeling of pressure, like a "vice" on the brain, she says - no matter how much she rested. Concentration for any length of time was often extremely difficult, and she was sensitive to the bright light of computer and phone screens, meaning that she had to wear sunglasses at work.

She also experienced inexplicable dips in her mood; at work, she would sometimes have to go and cry in her car. "There was nothing that would have prompted it," she says. "And I was not somebody who cried very easily, so it was exceedingly alarming for me to suddenly have these bursts of tears happen from nowhere."

It is now three years since her injury, but Jessica still hasn't recovered fully from these symptoms. "I haven't given up hope, but at this point, it's not like there's a clear path to being better, or a clear timeline of when that would be."

Could Jessica have been at a higher risk of concussion simply because of her sex? Compelling new research suggests this is a distinct possibility, with a growing recognition that male and female brains may respond to injuries very differently.

This follows a wider growing concern about concussion, triggered, in part, by high-profile injuries in sports like soccer, American football, rugby and boxing.

Invisible Patients, Invisible Injuries

Concussion is changed neurological function as the result of a bump, blow or jolt to the head. The violent movement of the head causes a momentary release of various neurotransmitters that throws the brain's signalling out of balance. It can also cause the neural tissue to swell and reduce the flow of blood to the brain - and along with it, the glucose and oxygen - starving our nerve cells of their fuel.

Immediate symptoms include seeing stars, feeling dizzy and confused, or losing consciousness entirely. Many people also suffer from post-concussion syndrome long after the event, with a constellation of lingering symptoms, including nausea, headaches, dizziness and mental confusion. These can last for weeks, months or even years. Some studies suggest that a concussion may also be accompanied by an increased risk of suicidal thinking, and there are concerns that repeated injuries could lead to long-term damage and brain degeneration.

The potential long-term impact of concussion is now well-known and has led many sports associations to change their rules and procedures to reduce the danger of injury. But there is low awareness of the potentially higher risks to female players and the possible need for differing diagnosis and treatment, including among healthcare professionals. "At no point at any time when I was talking to physicians did they ever mention any potential difference [arising] from being a woman," says Jessica.

Recent research, however, suggests that female athletes are not only more likely to sustain a concussion in any given sport; they also tend to have more severe symptoms, and to take longer to recover.

Katherine Snedaker, founder of the non-profit campaign group Pink Concussions, believes that many like Jessica are "invisible patients" with an "invisible injury" - and that means that they may struggle to get the support they need.

By shining a light on these differences, and understanding their causes, scientists and campaigners like Snedaker hope to improve the plight of all women struggling with the lingering and sometimes debilitating consequences that can arise from a single blow to the head.

Given that millions of people a year sustain concussion around the world, and many more women are now taking up contact sports like rugby and soccer that might put them at greater risk of injury, this new understanding cannot come soon enough.

NCAA Injury Records

Concussion is thought to have first been distinguished from other types of brain injury more than 1,000 years ago, by the Persian physician Rhazes, but sex differences in concussion have only been the subject of serious research within the last two decades or so.

The delay perhaps reflects a historic sexism within medicine, which has often neglected to investigate the possibility that female bodies may act differently from male bodies (besides the obvious differences, for example, in reproductive health). In the past, most clinical trials had included many more men than women, for instance - though that has now improved. Most animal trials were also conducted on males, and it was only in 2014 that the US National Institutes of Health announced that studies it funded must use female as well as male animals, unless there were clear reasons to focus on one and not the other.

The sex differences in concussion were also obscured by the fact that many of these injuries are the result of accidents in sport, and girls and women were historically less likely to compete in events where concussion has attracted most attention.

Tracey Covassin, who is now based at Michigan State University, has been one of the leading researchers looking at potential sex differences in concussion. Canadian by birth, and inspired by her own love of ice hockey, when she first started out 20 years ago, she found next to no research on the subject.

"There was nothing that really looked at females and concussion, because everything was about the NFL or the NHL, and concussions in male athletes or boxers."

To correct that deficit, Covassin turned first to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's injury records, to see how common concussion was among males and females within the same sports. In soccer, basketball and softball, for example, she found that female players are almost twice as likely to suffer a concussion as male ones.

Covassin and others then began to look at the effects of a concussion. They found that males and females are also likely to report different symptoms in the following days and weeks.

While male concussions are more likely to be followed by amnesia, for instance, female ones are more likely to lead to prolonged headaches, mental fatigue and difficulties with concentration, and mood changes.

Female athletes also seem to require more time for those symptoms to disappear. One study of 266 adolescents - including soccer and American football players, wrestlers and skiers - found that, on average, females took 76 days to recover, while males took 50 days.

As Esther, a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who had a debilitating concussion while playing soccer when she was in the eighth grade, tells me: "I just didn't really realize how serious it was. And then it wasn't really until the following day, when I returned to school as normal, that I couldn't really see the whiteboard. I felt so nauseous and had a horrible, horrible headache."

The symptoms lingered. Even at lunchtime, she says, it was a struggle to concentrate on what others were saying in the noise of the room, and watching a documentary in class gave her waves of nausea. Her post-concussion syndrome lasted for two and a half years, but, just as she was beginning to feel back on track, she suffered a new concussion (from falling down a flight of stairs) that led to further prolonged symptoms that she's still learning to cope with today, four years later. "I think the symptoms that I still have now are kind of a cumulative effect."

Anna, an 18-year-old from New York City, sustained three concussions while playing basketball during her second and third years of high school. The third concussion was the most debilitating, resulting in her taking four to five months off school to recover.

"I had terrible headaches, I wasn't able to properly think or put sentences together in a logical manner," she recalls.

Women's Pain Discounted

Some researchers have argued that many of the reported sex differences are simply the result of societal gender roles. Maybe girls and women are more cautious about their health, and more likely to disclose symptoms, while boys and men have been conditioned to "play through the pain?" Evidence to support some kind of baseline difference in the self-reporting of symptoms is mixed, however.

Some studies have also used more objective measures of cognitive function, with one finding females were about 1.7 times as likely as males to show signs of cognitive impairment a few days after experiencing the concussion. This includes a much larger decline in reaction times. Concussed female athletes also tend to show greater deficits in visual memory (though not every study has been able to detect this difference).

Given this evidence, self-reporting "cannot be the only reason" for the sex differences, says Inga Koerte, a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

Following a concussion, female athletes also seem to perform worse than males on a test of the vestibular-ocular reflex - which allows our eyes to fix on a target as our body moves. These tests ask people to focus on a fixed point as they move their head up and down or side to side and then rate symptoms of headache, dizziness, nausea or feelings of "fogginess." The close observation makes it hard for someone to hide their condition, says Covassin. "So even if they're trying to lie to you about it, they just don't look very good," she says. That should reduce any self-reporting bias, yet in this test females are still found to have worse symptoms than males.

Perhaps the assumption that boys and men are somehow more ambitious and competitive - and therefore more likely to hide their symptoms - is itself a reflection of some outdated stereotypes and implicit biases? Snedaker thinks so. "I think that women's pain has been discounted - as it has been for other mental or other physical injuries." She points to some evidence that women, in general, are less likely to be prescribed painkillers in hospital. A 2008 study of American patients undergoing cardiac surgery, for instance found that women were more likely to be given sedatives than men, who were more likely to be given painkillers - perhaps because doctors implicitly assume that women's distress is more emotional than physiological. Another study found that women reporting to the emergency room with abdominal pain were less likely to be prescribed painkillers than men with the same complaint.

Ramesh Raghupathi, a professor in neurobiology and anatomy at Drexel University in Philadelphia, is similarly skeptical of the idea that we can dismiss the sex differences in concussion so easily. He says that he has come across many female athletes who play through their pain rather than give up on their sporting ambitions - despite the risks that this involves. "Especially at [high] levels of competition, girls at middle school, high school or college - they're just as likely to hide their injuries," he says.

In the weeks before Jessica's concussion, she had sustained some minor impacts, but had chosen to return to play - which may then have exacerbated the effects of the later injury. In hindsight, she now wishes she had taken more time out.

Understanding exactly why women are more susceptible to concussion will be essential, if we are to reduce those risks. Recent research has focused on three main theories.

Some researchers have proposed that it may be due to the fact that female necks tend to be slimmer and less muscular than male ones. Remember that the brain is free to move within the skull - it is like jelly tightly packed into a Tupperware container - and this means that any sharp movement of the head can cause it to shift around, potentially causing damage. For this reason, anything that helps to protect the skull from sharp movements should protect you from concussion - and that includes a sturdier neck that is better able to buffer a blow. "If you have a thicker neck, you have a stronger base, so the likelihood of head movement is much less," says Raghupathi.

Overall, the girth of a female neck is about 30 per cent smaller than a male, and this increases the potential acceleration of the head by as much as 50 per cent, according to one study.

The second idea that researchers have pointed to is some small anatomical differences within the brain itself. Female brains are thought to have slightly faster metabolisms than male ones, with greater blood flow to the head: essentially, they are slightly hungrier. And if a head injury momentarily disrupts that supply of glucose and oxygen, it could cause greater damage.

The third possibility lies in female sex hormones - with some striking evidence that the risk of concussion changes with varying hormone levels during the menstrual cycle.

Researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, for instance, tracked the progress of 144 concussed women visiting six emergency departments in upstate New York and Pennsylvania. They found that injuries during the follicular phase (after menstruation and before ovulation) were less likely to lead to symptoms a month later, while an injury during the luteal phase (after ovulation and before menstruation) resulted in significantly worse outcomes. Exactly why this may be is still unclear, but it could relate to the rise and fall of progesterone levels during the cycle phases.

Previous research has shown that head injuries can temporarily disrupt the production of various hormones, including progesterone. During the luteal phase progesterone levels are highest, and the researchers hypothesize that the sudden "withdrawal" due to head injury throws the brain off balance and contributes to the worse lingering symptoms. In the follicular phase, by contrast, progesterone levels are already have lower and would not drop so dramatically - meaning the resultant symptoms are less severe.

In line with this hypothesis, various studies have found that females taking contraceptive pills are also less likely to suffer severe symptoms following a concussion. Amy Herrold, of Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine, says that oral contraceptives work by regulating the levels of sex hormones in the body. "So instead of having hormonal surges and dips, over the course of a month, it's more consistent," says Herrold, who also works as a research scientist at the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital.

Provided that the pill continues to be taken after the concussion, that could prevent the sudden fall in progesterone, which would explain the less severe symptoms.

Complicating matters, the surges in estrogen and progesterone during the luteal phase might also influence dopamine signalling. Dopamine is implicated in many of the brain's functions that are influenced by concussion - including motivation, mood, memory and concentration - making it a good contender for a potential mechanism.

Raghupathi's team's recent work on animals suggests that the surge of hormones during the luteal phase could render dopamine receptors slightly more vulnerable to perturbation. So if a head injury occurs during this time, it seems to throw the dopamine signalling off balance in the long term, with potentially important ramifications for those many different brain functions. "It's the disruption of this connectivity between cells [and] between regions that is a potential basis for the behavioral problems," Raghupathi says.

But, as Tracey Covassin emphasizes, we still don't know how much truth these hypotheses hold. "I wouldn't say any of them are clearly determined at this point." The different explanations aren't mutually exclusive: further research may find that the differences in musculature, blood flow, and the balance of hormones and neurotransmitters all contribute.

Future research will also have to investigate other longer-term consequences of concussion. There are concerns, for example, that head impacts can increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. We don't know if women may be at a greater risk here too.

The Descending Fog

Although the evidence for these sex differences has grown over the last few years, some experts would prefer to see these results replicated with further, carefully controlled studies, before the message is widely shared. Without that corroboration, they worry that inadequately supported public claims may inadvertently harm women's recoveries.

As Melissa McCradden, a neuroscientist and former competitive athlete, argued in a piece for Scientific American in 2017, a patient's own expectations can influence their progress. "So if we label women in this way, it can have a direct, negative effect on their recovery from concussion," she wrote.

There is also the fear that this information might put males at greater risk, if they wrongly assume that concussion is only a female problem. "If you focus too much on any kind of perceived or possible male-female divide, it might give this false perception that actually males are more able to withstand concussion [than they really are]," says Luke Griggs, the deputy CEO of Headway, a charity that offers support for the survivors of brain injury and their carers across the UK. Boys and men might believe they could return to play too early - whereas everyone, he emphasizes, should be cautious following a concussion rather than trying to ignore their symptoms.

These are reasonable concerns, but many with concussion have been frustrated by the current lack of awareness about their condition. Esther told me that some of her doctors were aware of the sex differences. But she would have preferred to know herself, before she ever got concussed. "I had no idea," she says. "And I think that if you're an athlete, playing any sport, you deserve to know the potential risks. If you're a girl playing sports, you deserve to know that maybe you are more at risk than your male counterparts."

Esther and Jessica emphasize that they wouldn't have let the risks prevent them from playing the sports in the first place - this should not be taken as another excuse to limit the potential of girls and women. But they hope that female athletes would benefit from having the knowledge to protect themselves from unnecessary injuries and to ensure that they do not feel pressured to return to play too quickly, for instance.

Better awareness of these sex differences could ultimately lead to better care before and after the event. One strategy might be to build better headgear for women. Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple: concussions can arise from the sudden movement of the head as well as from a direct blow to the skull, which means that headgear won't prevent certain causes of concussion (though it can prevent fractures and other head injuries).

Some researchers are taking another approach: designing special exercises which could strengthen female neck muscles, which could reduce the violent movement of the head following an impact. "It could decrease the basic chance for [concussive] brain injuries," says Inga Koerte.

And if further research shows that the sudden drop in progesterone increases the risks, then it might be a reason for female athletes to take oral contraceptives (though the evidence is not yet strong enough to make this recommendation).

For Jessica, these measures will be too late. She now lives and works in the UK, and after three years, many of her symptoms have subsided enough for her to "mostly live my life without too much trauma," she says, but she still has a constant lingering headache, and she has to be on constant watch-out for a "flare-up" - which can occur whenever she has over-exerted herself. And small difficulties that she once could have easily managed continue to feel overwhelming.

Indeed, on the day we were due to speak, she had been making some sales forecasts for work. She says it was hardly "rocket science," yet she soon felt the fog descending. "I was looking at those numbers, and nothing made sense - like I couldn't [even] figure out where to start to have them make sense."

She is still unable to play her beloved roller derby, and even running - with its repeated jolting movements reverberating through the body - is too much to bear, though she has recently taken up climbing, which doesn't lead to flare-ups. Without any answers from conventional medicine, she's sought help from acupuncture and osteopathy.

More than anything, the experience means that Jessica is constantly conscious of her brain's physical presence and its vulnerability. "I mean, you're normally not aware of your brain. It's just there - it's like your feet, it's like breathing. But for me, I'm always aware of it."

Wellcome, the publisher of Mosaic, supports research into neuroscience and funds a research fellowship in humanities and social science around concussion and dementia in sport. This post first appeared on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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See also:

* Studies: For Certain Sports, Concussion Rates Are Higher In Female Athletes Than Males.

* Concussion Research Has A Troubling Patriarchy Problem.

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Previously in concussions:
* Bob Probert's Broken Brain.

* NFL Players Killing Themselves Because They Miss Football So Much.

* The College Football Report: Dementia Pugilistica.

* Blackhawks Playing Head Games.

* Jay Cutler Should Consider Retiring.

* Dislike: Friday Night Tykes.

* Hurt And Be Hurt: The Lessons Of Youth Sports.

* Chicago Soccer Player Patrick Grange Had CTE.

* Sony Softened Concussion To Placate NFL.

* Ultra-Realistic Madden To Simulate Game's Debilitating Concussions.

* Dear Football: I'm Breaking Up With You.

* Dead College Football Player's Brain Leaves Clues Of Concussions' Toll On Brain.

* More Bad Concussion News For Young Football Players.

* NFL Tried To Fix Concussion Study.

* The Week In Concussions: Another Enforcer Down.

* Teen Concussion Rate Rising Significantly.

* Conflict Of Interest For NFL Doctors To Report To Teams: Harvard Study.

* U.S. Supreme Court Ends Fight Over $1 Billion NFL Concussion Deal.

* U.S. High School Soccer Concussions On The Rise.

* Youth Football Finally Listening To Coach Coffman.

* Many Kids Still Don't Report Concussion Symptoms. How Can We Change That?

* Brain Damage In Former Players Fuels Soccer 'Heading' Fears.

* Canadian Youth Hockey Injuries Cut In Half After National Policy Change.

* More Teen Knowledge About Concussion May Not Increase Reporting.

* High School Boys Fear Looking 'Weak' If They Report Concussions.

* Pro Flag Football Is Now A Thing - Starring Former NFL Players!

* Nearly All Donated NFL Brains Found To Have CTE.

* Female Athletes Are Closing The Gender Gap When It Comes To Concussions.

* Whoa. Perhaps The Smartest Player In NFL History - He's In Math PhD Program At MIT - Assesses Situation And Decides To Save His Brain.

* Study: CTE Affects Football Players At All Levels.

* Dan Jiggetts Is Right About CTE.

* Letting Our Boys Onto The Football Field Is A Losing Play.

* Tackle Rings?

* CTE Season Preview.

* The CTE Diaries: The Life And Death Of A High School Football Player Killed By Concussions.

* Study: Youth Football Linked To Adult Problems.

* Can Weed Save Football?

* NHL In Chintzy Tentative Concussion Settlement: Not Our Fault.

* The NHL's Deadly Denial.

* Could Helmetless Tackling Training Reduce Football Head Injuries?

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Plus:

Former NHL Goalie Tim Thomas Details Brain Damage.

"Former NHL goaltender Tim Thomas says he has experienced significant brain damage from concussions during his playing career. Thomas says he still struggles to organize his thoughts."

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:37 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2019

The [Wednesday] Papers

"Turns out Ald. Jason Ervin and some members of the Black Caucus may not be the only ones supporting a delay in selling recreational marijuana in Chicago. Lobbyists for two white-owned cannabis companies would benefit if Chicago held off on selling cannabis," Shia Kapos reports for her Politico Illinois Playbook.

Click through for the depressing details.

*

Ervin supported Toni Preckwinkle in the mayoral campaign, which I note because the larger story behind so much of what's going on in the city, including the recent CTU strike, is the war going on against Lori Lightfoot's administration. It's akin to the Vrdolyak 29's war against Harold Washington, albeit much less effective and coming from a much stranger place on the political spectrum: a place where self-righteous progressives intersect with The Machine, including not just Preckwinkle and her allies, such as Joe Berrios and Robert Martwick, but Michael Madigan and his troops. Assignment Desk, activate!

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The goal is to cripple Lightfoot early - and every day to the extent possible - and make her a one-term mayor. The CTU reportedly hopes to then install Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, or even CTU vice president Stacy Davis Gates on the Fifth Floor.

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A question for the media his how they will handle this. Legitimate oppo research is and will continue to flow their way, and of course they should investigate and report their findings to the extent they are true. But they shouldn't allow an asymmetry to develop by failing to duly scrutinize those providing the tips. Tipsters should not be granted immunity.

And sometimes the bigger story is who is behind the tips and what they are trying to accomplish. I'm reminded of an incident involving the Minneapolis Star Tribune many years ago. A reporter accepted a tip and granted the tipster anonymity. An editor broke that contract upon deciding that the larger story was the attempt of the tipster to smear a political opponent. I don't agree with the editor's actions, but I understand it. In the aftermath, some news organizations decreed that reporters alone could not enter into anonymous source relationships without their editors becoming part of them. I'm not fond of that practice, but the point is that sometimes who is doing the tipping and why is at least as big of a story - if not bigger - than what the tip is about. Some might suggest Hillary Clinton's e-mails were an example of this writ large.

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None of this is to defend Lightfoot in any way. That's not my job. But the never-ending campaign is a real thing, and by far the most interesting and important aspect of city politics right now, and missing that background is a dereliction of duty on the part of reporters.

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To wit, from last March:

"Preckwinkle has three endorsements, from Aldermen Walter Burnett (27th Ward), Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward) and Jason Ervin (28th Ward). The aldermen are strong key allies of outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel."

Ahem.

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To the issue at hand, from a Twitter conversation I had with a knowledgeable person last night, just to check myself:

"Hey, on this pot thing - isn't the idea that the white legacy dispensaries will generate tax dollars that will go into a fund to subsidize people of color coming into the business? Do I have that right, basically?"

"That's exactly it. They need to build up the 'social equity' fund."

Getting the money flowing ASAP is best for everyone involved, including those the Black Caucus purport to represent.

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It reminds me of the way progressive Chicago legislators in Springfield, led by Preckwinkle support Will Guzzardi, killed Lightfoot's proposed real estate transfer tax over the percentage of the proceeds that would go to homeless programs. Really? Get the money flowing and you can tinker with the percentages later one way or another, including an annual review or a sunset provision.

It's no coincidence, though, that opposition to Lightfoot keeps coming from the same quarters, who got all of 25% of the vote to Lightfoot's 75% last April.

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That's not say I don't have criticisms of Lightfoot. I do. I understand but don't agree with how she handled the Lincoln Yards box the outgoing mayor and his city council allies put her in. I'm confused about her stance on bail reform. I didn't like some of her rhetoric about crime over the summer. And I definitely think she's wrong in wanting to site a Chicago casino on the South or West Side instead of downtown. That, in my view, is absolutely nuts.

ADDING: Her Eddie Johnson celebratory press conference was gross.

But I'm in the uncomfortable position of finding her opponents far, far, far more objectionable. After all, it's one thing to have honest policy differences with someone. It's another when an officeholder is a cynical, dishonest, heartless piece of shit.

As far as the media goes, if some of them are butt-hurt because Rahm's PR team is no longer around to hold their hands, so be it. But be aware, too, that some folks are counterprogramming the mayor every day.

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To today's pot developments, I wish this piece of information (if true), too. was included in all the stories about the delay:

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P.S.:

Lightfoot denying that corporation counsel Mark Flessner did not claim dual homestead exemptions was not a good look. Did Flessner lie to her? What happened to, "You lie, you die?" Or was it an honest mistake? I'd still like to know.

Nonetheless, she wasn't at all wrong dressing down media folks stanning for their buddy Billy McCaffrey.

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P.P.S.:

We need a mayor who won't conduct business as usual!

Hey, what's wrong with her, she's not conducting business as usual!

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P.P.P.S.:

Rahm bullied everyone around him with an inch of their lives. Somehow the media found that charming and praised his toughness.

Lightfoot is one tough cookie, moreso than folks probably realized during the campaign, but her toughness isn't praised but characterized as petty and quick to look for a fight.

Keep a close eye on the language and the narratives being created - and by whom.

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P.P.P.P.S.:

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Bojangles' Coming To Illinois
Southern chicken 'n' biscuits chain not named after the song, which is not named after Bill Robinson. This is how we Beachwood.

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ChicagoReddit

Kroger Ruined Marianos from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Chicago Footwork In India.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: There really is no far side of the moon. In fact, it's all far.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:29 AM | Permalink

Bojangles' Coming To Illinois

More travelers throughout the Southeast and South Central regions of the U.S. can now enjoy the one-of-a-kind flavor of Bojangles', the famous chicken and biscuits restaurant known for real deal Southern flavor. The national franchise development agreement includes 40 new Bojangles' restaurants inside Love's Travel Stops across four new states for the iconic brand.

The locations will be managed by a dedicated Bojangles'-trained Love's team to ensure that Bojangles' fans receive the familiar high-quality menu items they know and love. Through this new partnership, Bojangles' will expand its footprint into four new states including Illinois, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi.

bojangles.jpg

"We know that Bojangles' fans are frequently on the road for work, managing family activities or getting ready for tailgating adventures," said Jose Costa, Chief Development Officer for Bojangles'. "Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, we want to be able to combine a great Southern meal with a fast and easy way to refuel and get back on the road. Love's is the perfect partner to deliver this experience, with our similar commitments to industry leading operations, excellent customer service and quality facilities."

Love's leads the nation in travel stop networks, an oasis for travelers with clean, accessible, brightly lit facilities located in 41 states. It offers a wide range of services for motorists and professional drivers to enhance their travel experience, from fresh coffee and snacks to gasoline and diesel fuel.

"We are excited to offer our customers another delicious and fresh food option while they're on the road," said Joe Cotton, director of restaurant services for Love's. "Bringing Bojangles' to our home state of Oklahoma along with Arkansas, Mississippi and Illinois is something we're happy to be a part of."

About Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores

Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores is the nation's industry-leading travel stop network with more than 500 locations in 41 states. Founded in 1964 and headquartered in Oklahoma City, the company remains family-owned and operated and employs more than 25,000 people. Love's provides professional truck drivers and motorists with 24-hour access to clean and safe places to purchase gasoline, diesel fuel, fresh coffee, restaurant offerings and more. Love's has more than 350 truck service centers, which include on-site and stand-alone Speedco and Love's Truck Tire Care locations. Love's and Speedco combined is the largest oil change, preventive maintenance and total truck care nationwide network. Love's is committed to providing customers with "Clean Places, Friendly Faces" at every stop.

About Bojangles', Inc.

Bojangles', Inc. is a highly differentiated and growing restaurant operator and franchisor dedicated to serving customers high-quality, craveable food made from our Southern recipes, including breakfast served All Day, Every Day. Founded in 1977 in Charlotte, N.C., Bojangles'® serves menu items such as made-from-scratch biscuit breakfast sandwiches, delicious hand-breaded bone-in chicken, flavorful fixin's (sides) and Legendary Iced Tea®.

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See also:

* Last January, Bojangles' was acquired in an all-cash deal by Durational Capital Management and The Jordan Company.

* Love's Travel Stop locations in Illinois.

* Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

* The song "Mr. Bojangles" was not specifically about Robinson.

* The song was written by Jerry Jeff Walker. From Songfacts: "According to Jerry Jeff Walker's confrere Todd Snider, Jerry Jeff was known for a time as 'Mr. Blowjangles' because of his raging cocaine habit."

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:18 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2019

The [Tuesday] Papers

"Chicago's City Attorney admits he made a mistake and says he will pay back money to the state of Illinois after collecting property tax exemptions on two properties, while state law only allows homeowners to collect one such exemption," NBC Chicago reports.

"Attorney Mark Flessner says that his primary residence is a South Loop condo, but an NBC 5 Investigates report reveals that he has received two property tax breaks, including one for a residence in Naperville.

"The breaks have saved him approximately $2,600 on his South Loop condo since 2015 and $1,600 on his Naperville house, but according to property tax experts, the law is clear: residents are only entitled to one homeowners exemption."

Flessner is - or was - a partner at Holland & Knight, which I suspect is a well-paying gig. The 52nd-highest grossing law firm in the world, in fact. Hard to see why he was taking the dual exemption to save what, for him, is chump change.

But some folks just like to save money, or cheat the system. Or perhaps it was an honest mistake - though I'm told that even if an accountant does your taxes (Flessner surely doesn't do his own taxes, c'mon), the homeowner has to personally sign the homestead exemption papers. I've heard other explanations floated too which I won't get into here, but it would be nice to know what exactly happened here so we can make a judgement on his fitness to be the city's corporation counsel.

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It seems like a couple pols get tripped up by the homestead exemption every year around here. Assignment Desk: Let's see a list, including the consequences each suffered. For some, I feel like it was fairly severe! Also, can we determine if in any of those cases it was truly an honest mistake?

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Meanwhile, no new details on the mayor's firing of media heartthrob Bill McCaffrey.

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Apropos of nothing but curiosity, I learned in backgrounding Flessner (perhaps more on that later) that he gave an interview to the World Socialist Web Site last year about a client detained by ICE.

And besides his law degree, he has a master's in divinity from Notre Dame.

Believe me, I'm not trying to shine him up for you. But if a decent profile of him hasn't been done yet, it should be done now - including a scrub of any available tax records, court files and so on. Just to make sure.

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Women Of The Board
"For 46 publicly held companies in California with all-male boards, the clock is ticking," CalMatters reports.

"The corporations, including pharmaceutical, financial and software companies that tend to be on the smaller, younger side, have only until revelers ring in 2020 to name a woman to their boards of directors or face a $100,000 penalty.

"A bill signed into law by former Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2018 required public companies with headquarters in California to name at least one female director by the end of 2019. The law further mandates that companies with five-member boards have at least two female directors by the end of 2021; corporations with six or more directors need at least three women. The penalties for failing to comply rise accordingly."

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You may recall efforts here in the last year to do the same in Illinois. Instead, as CalMatters puts its, "Illinois enacted a pale version of the California law, requiring publicly traded companies to report each year their boards' demographics and plans to promote diversity."

It didn't start out that way, though.

"The Illinois bill initially went further than California's legislation, calling for at least one woman and one African American to serve on the boards of publicly traded companies," Forbes notes.

"Following a backlash by the state's business interests and several boards with directors of diverse backgrounds, the bill was modified and signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker in August 2019."

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Minnesota Influx
"Minnesota has . . . managed to do something most of the rest of the Midwest hasn't: gain residents from other states," City Pages reports.

"Some 8,000 out-of-staters moved to Minnesota in 2017, and another 7,000 moved here the following year. Meanwhile, the rest of the Midwest region lost about 318,400 people through migration to other parts of the U.S. The only other Midwest state to beat the drain was Indiana, and as the report puts it, Minnesota's gain was 'nearly double' what Indiana got."

I wonder if the Tribune editorial board has ever heard of Minnesota. With a progressive state income tax already long in place, the previous governor nonetheless increased taxes on the wealthy, raised the minimum wage and increased spending on education. Guess what? It worked!

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Radius Ticketing Already Sucks
New Pilsen venue off to bad start | "Are you people fucking high?"

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How Meet The Press Faked An Impeachment Panel In A Michigan Bar
Next time you want to talk to "real people," maybe just talk to real people.

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Affordable Mental Health Care Getting Even Tougher To Find
Parity law clearly not working. Why? Greed.

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Trump Rule Could Let Banks Classify NFL Stadium Investments As Aid To Poor, Qualifying For Significant Tax Break
Jerry Reinsdorf would be one beneficiary.

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Coffman: Mitch More Jacoby Than Drew
Where the similarities lie.

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Welcome To Cli-Fi
Climate change literature is a thing.

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And . . .

The Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide 2019
We can longer guarantee delivery by Christmas Day!

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ChicagoReddit

At the Chicago botanical garden :) from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Rodriguez at City Winery last Friday night.

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BeachBook

Fashion Nova's Secret: Underpaid Workers In Los Angeles Factories.

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Springfield History: Surviving The Depression's Bank Holiday With Scrip.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

This is such a no-brainer. Literally. No brains were involved in the construction of this poll.

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Illinois state Rep. Will Guzzardi wants to do this here.

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The Beachwood Dick Line: Your last resort.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:39 AM | Permalink

SportsMondayTuesday: Mitch More Jacoby Than Drew

Is Mitch Trubisky closer to Drew Brees or Jacoby Brissett?

Those two quarterbacks faced off on Monday night and not surprisingly the game was essentially over by the end of the first quarter. Future Hall-of-Famer Brees's Saints blitzed the Colts 34-7. It wasn't close to that close.

On their first three possession, the Saints drove down and scored to lead 17-0. Brees was on fire all night and finished with a ridiculous 29 completions in 30 attempts! That included four touchdown passes and they enabled Brees to move ahead of Peyton Manning for first on the all-time scoring strike list, 540-539.

Right behind both of them is Tom Brady (538). If he can get the Patriot passing offense cranked back up, he and Brees could alternate possession of the record on a week-to-week basis.

Brissett is not in contention for any NFL records, nor will he ever be. A big reason the Saints jumped all over the Colts in the first quarter was the Colt quarterback's shaky accuracy. New Orleans' first two drives ended with Brissett throwing lousy third-down passes. Both plays would have resulted in the Colts extending critical drives when the game was still at least slightly in doubt.

Brissett finished the night with 18 completions on 34 attempts, barely over 50 percent. Brees had 307 passing yards to Brissett's 165.

The day before, Trubisky threw many more accurate passes for many more yards than Brissett. He finished 29-53 for 334. But he only had the one touchdown pass against two picks (only one of which happened in the standard run of play, i.e., not on an end-of-half Hail Mary heave). Brissett had 0 touchdowns and 0 picks.

The biggest similarity between Trubisky and Brissett is their inability to execute in the red zone. In two games against the Packers this year, the Bear signal-caller led his team to all of one touchdown in more than two dozen possessions. Monday's game was Brissett's only one against the Saints in 2019.

The primary problem for Trubisky on Sunday seemed to be that he had once again decided to try to avoid running at just about all costs. After capping off his best performance of the season a week prior against the Cowboys with a great 21-yard touchdown run, Trubisky had no interest in taking off on a similar journey against the Packers.

Sunday's game was also notable for the fact that afterward, Trubisky actually criticized the play-calling, which I'm reasonably sure was a first this season. He pointed out that the Packers' pass rush was a problem all day and that it would have been better if the Bears had called more rollouts, screens, that sort of thing.

I am not a fan of planned rollouts. The main thing they do is shrink the field, i.e., the quarterback will almost certainly throw only to the side where he has sprinted out. It is obviously easier for defenses to cover half the field than all of it.

What Trubisky still can't seem to figure out, in addition to the fact that he must run the ball consistently if he is to have success against above average defenses, is that he is best throwing on the move when he does so as he moves up in the pocket.

On numerous occasions Sunday, nervous Mitch was back. He had chances to move forward to avoid outside rushers and then either throw quickly or make a move toward the outside as he approached tine line of scrimmage. Instead he backpedaled and threw fundamentally onerous passes.

The Bears will almost certainly finish the season out of the top 25 in any of the key offensive indicators - rushing yards per game, passing yards per game, points per game.

So will the Colts.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:17 AM | Permalink

Affordable Mental Health Care Getting Even Tougher To Find

Eleven years after Congress passed a law mandating that insurers provide equal access for mental and physical health care, Americans are actually finding it harder to obtain affordable treatment for mental illness and substance abuse issues.

The barriers to parity continue despite a bipartisan consensus that more must be done to confront the nation's devastating opioid epidemic, rising suicide rates and surging rates of teen depression and anxiety.

A report published in November by Milliman, a risk management and health care consulting company, found that patients were dramatically more likely to resort to out-of-network providers for mental health and substance abuse treatment than for other conditions.

The disparities have grown since Milliman published a similarly grim study two years ago.

The latest study examined the claims data of 37 million individuals with commercial PPO health insurance plans in all 50 states from 2013 to 2017.

Among the findings:

  • People seeking inpatient care for behavioral health issues were 5.2 times more likely to be relegated to an out-of-network provider than for medical or surgical care in 2017, up from 2.8 times in 2013.
  • For substance abuse treatment, the numbers were even worse: Treatment at an inpatient facility was 10 times more likely to be provided out-of-network - up from 4.7 times in 2013.
  • In 2017, a child was 10 times more likely to go out-of-network for a behavioral health office visit than for a primary care office visit.
  • Spending for all types of substance abuse treatment was just 0.9% of total health care spending in 2017. Mental health treatment accounted for 2.4% of total spending.
  • In 2017, 70,237 Americans died from drug overdoses, and 47,173 from suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2018, nearly 20% of adults experienced a mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"I thought maybe we would have seen some progress here. It's very depressing to see that it's actually gotten worse," said Dr. Henry Harbin, former CEO of Magellan Health, a managed behavioral health care company, and adviser to the Bowman Family Foundation, which commissioned the report. "Employers and insurance plans need to quadruple their efforts."

Insurance plan networks are simply inadequate, Harbin said, which is no surprise, given that insurance companies consistently reimburse behavioral health providers at lower rates.

The study found, for example, that primary care office visit rates were on average 23.8% higher than rates for behavioral health office visits.

If a plan had a shortage of oncologists or cardiologists, he said, an insurance company would pay more to get additional providers into the network. "It can be done pretty quickly. Just raise rates in the areas where you're short, like they do on the medical side."

Dr. Tom Insel, a psychiatrist who serves as chief adviser to California Gov. Gavin Newsom on mental health issues, called the results of the study "stunning." In California, the report found that inpatient behavioral health care was 7.8 times more likely to be out-of-network.

"For people with serious mental illness, you actually have better access to care if you have Medi-Cal than commercial insurance. That is virtually unthinkable for medical conditions," said Insel, who led the National Institute of Mental Health from 2002 to 2015. "We would never permit this for heart disease or cancer."

Cathryn Donaldson, a spokesperson for America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's main trade group, said insurers are working diligently to ensure they are complying with the federal parity law. But the national shortage of mental health providers, along with the many clinicians who do not want to participate in insurance networks, contribute to more patients needing to go out-of-network for care, she said.

"Health insurance providers regularly assess the adequacy of their provider networks so patients have timely access to behavioral health care while accepted metrics are used to track and improve patients' outcomes," Donaldson wrote in an e-mail.

Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, said the Milliman report confirms what he has been hearing from employers. "This has become a situation that they can't deal with anymore. When their people try to get appointments with network psychiatrists, they can't even get a phone call returned."

When employers select a plan for workers, they usually consider whether the network will be adequate, Thompson said. But often these are "phantom networks" of providers who no longer accept the insurance or are not taking new patients. "What happens if you're effectively buying a damaged product?" he said.

Often, patients and their families suffer the consequences. In 2017, Terresa Humphries-Wadsworth took her 14-year-old son to an emergency room in their hometown of Cody, Wyoming because he was expressing thoughts of suicide. The staff sent him to the closest hospital with a psychiatric unit. It was 100 miles away. Her son spent 10 days there before Humphries-Wadsworth learned the hospital was out-of-network. The closest in-network facility was 200 miles away from their home.

The family ended up with $110,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for two inpatient visits and residential treatment. They negotiated the amount down with the hospital and a collections agency, then took out loans to pay it off, she said.

Earlier, when her son developed diabetes, there was no question of the insurer paying for his treatment, said Humphries-Wadsworth, a psychologist.

"How is his mental health - which was life-threatening - not covered in the same way as his diabetes, acute care needs?" she said. "Why are they not treated the same?"

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who sponsored the federal parity law and now runs the Kennedy Forum, which focuses on implementing the law, said the solution is clear:

"The moment [insurers] make payment the same for brain illnesses as for any other illnesses, the sooner we're going to get to people having the access to the treatment they need."

Following the release of the Milliman report, the Kennedy Forum and several other mental health organizations submitted a letter to Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) of the House Education and Labor Committee calling for congressional hearings on parity.

Meiram Bendat, a mental health lawyer who has brought several parity lawsuits, said much stronger enforcement by states and the federal government is needed to ensure that patients get the access they are guaranteed under the law.

"Without substantial fines against insurers, nothing is going to change because there's no incentive to change," he said.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:10 AM | Permalink

How Meet The Press Faked An Impeachment Panel In A Michigan Bar

"Business-friendly Republicans in West Michigan may be underwhelmed by the impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump," the Michigan Advance reports.

"But based on random interviews around Grand Rapids this weekend, following a national news segment many found unrepresentative of the area, many locals find impeachment critical for holding the president accountable.

"Meet the Press, the stalwart Sunday morning political gabfest on NBC, has made Kent County in West Michigan a major point of focus for its 2020 election coverage.

"On Sunday that included a segment with six Grand Rapids-area Republicans sharing their lack of enthusiasm with the impeachment effort during a roundtable discussion filmed at Brewery Vivant, a Grand Rapids brewery in the trendy East Hills neighborhood."

Let's let Emptywheel, aka Marcy Wheeler, pick it up from here.

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Full thread including video of each voter interviewed.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Steve Rhodes:

My guess is that the Meet the Press folks said, "Hey, let's go to a bar in a swing state and show how 'real people' don't care about impeachment." And then they found the people they knew would say what they wanted to hear, brought them to the bar and filmed the segment. (As if a six-person focus group is representative and statistically significant anyway; you'd never broadcast a poll of six people.)

Now, some of you out there might be saying, "No way, they wouldn't do that." But everyone who has ever worked in a newsroom knows that's exactly how it works. To wit:

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:21 AM | Permalink

Welcome To Cli-Fi, The Literature Of Climate Change

Every day brings fresh and ever more alarming news about the state of the global environment. To speak of mere "climate change" is inadequate now, for we are in a "climate emergency." It seems as though we are tripping over more tipping points than we knew existed.

But our awareness is at last catching up with the planet's climate catastrophes. Climate anxiety, climate trauma, and climate strikes are now all part of many people's mental landscape and daily lives. This is almost four decades after scientists first began to warn of accelerated global warming from carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere.

And so, unsurprisingly, climate fiction, climate change fiction, "cli-fi" - whatever you want to call it - has emerged as a literary trend that's gained astonishing traction over the past 10 years.

Just a decade ago, when I first began reading and researching literary representations of climate change, there was a curious dearth of fiction on the subject. In 2005, the environmental writer Robert Macfarlane had asked plaintively: "Where is the literature of climate change?"

When I went to work in 2009 on one of the first research projects to attempt to answer this question, I found that some climate change novels were only beginning to emerge. Ten years later, the ubiquity of cli-fi means that the question of how many cli-fi novels there are seems irrelevant. Equally irrelevant is any doubt about the urgency of the climate emergency.

But the question of how to deal with such a complex challenge is paramount. The climate emergency demands us to think about our responsibilities on a global scale rather than as individuals; to think about our effects not just on fellow humans but on all the species that call this planet home; and to think about changing the resource-focused, profit-seeking behaviors that have been part of human activity for centuries.

This is where literature comes in. It affords us the headspace in which to think through these difficult and pressing questions.

Cli-fi has a central role in allowing us to do the psychological work necessary to deal with climate change. I am often asked to identify the climate novel that is the most powerful and effective and, just as often, I reply that no one novel can do this. The phenomenon of cli-fi as a whole offers us different ways and a multitude of spaces in which to consider climate change and how we address it.

Here, then, is my list of a range of novels that offer just such a diverse set of perspectives. These books provide readers with a range of thought (and feeling) experiments, from dystopian despair to glimmers of hope, from an awareness of climate change impacts on generations to come to vivid reminders of how we are destroying the many other species that share our planet.

1. The Sea and Summer, 1987

Australian novelist George Turner's book is one of the earliest examples of cli-fi and is prescient in more ways than one.

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Set in Melbourne in the 2030s, skyscrapers are drowning due to sea-level rise; a setting for a stark division between the rich and the poor. Like many cli-fi novels, this novel's dystopian future provides a sophisticated thought experiment on the effects of climate change on our already divided society. Turner's book deserves to be reread - and reissued - as classic and still relevant cli-fi.

2. Memory of Water, 2012

Water has become a precious commodity in this cli-fi dystopia by Finnish author Emmi Itäranta.

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In Nordic Europe in the distant future, a young girl must decide whether to share her family's precious water supply with her friends and fellow villagers and risk being accused of "water crime," punishable by death. This tender coming-of-age narrative is thus also a meditation on the value of resources taken entirely for granted by the contemporary, Westernised reader.

3. The Wall, 2019

At first glance, John Lanchester's novel could be a comment on the rise of anti-refugee sentiment in Britain.

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In a not-so-distant future, every inch of British shoreline is guarded by an immense wall, a bulwark against illegal migrants as well as rising sea levels. But through the experiences of a young border guard, the novel shows us how this national obsession with borders not only distracts from the climate emergency at hand, but diminishes our responsibility to fellow humans around the world, whose lives are threatened by climate change and for whom migration is a desperate solution.

4. Clade, 2015

Australian author James Bradley's novel chronicles several generations of one family in an increasingly devastated world.

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The day-to-day detail of their lives, as relationships hold together or break apart, unfolds against the backdrop of environmental and thus societal breakdown. The novel contrasts the mundane miscommunications that characterize human relations with the big issue of global warming that could rob future generations of the opportunity to lead meaningful lives.

5. The Stone Gods, 2007

Jeanette Winterson's stab at cli-fi offers, like Bradley's novel, a long view.

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The novel ranges over three vastly different timeframes: a dystopian, future civilization that is fast ruining its planet and must seek another; 18th-century Easter Island on the verge of destroying its last tree; and a near-future Earth facing global environmental devastation. As readers time travel between these stories, we find, again and again, the damage wrought by human hubris. Yet, the novel reminds us, too, of the power of love. In the novel, love signifies an openness to other humans and other species, to new ideas, and to better ways of living on this planet.

6. The Swan Book, 2013

This novel by indigenous Australian author Alexis Wright is unconventional, fable-like cli-fi. Its protagonist is a young indigenous girl whose life is devastated by climate change but most of all by the Australian government's mistreatment of its indigenous populations.

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Weaving indigenous belief with biting satire, Wright's novel is a celebration of her people's knowledge of how to live with nature, rather than in exploitation of it.

7. Flight Behaviour, 2012

Unlike the other novels on this list, this one, by Barbara Kingsolver, is a realist novel set entirely in the present day. A young woman from Tennessee stumbles upon thousands of monarch butterflies roosting on her in-laws' land, the insects having been thrown off course by extreme weather events brought about by climate change.

flightbehaviour.jpg

From the scientists who come to study the problem, she learns of the delicate balance that is needed to keep the butterflies on course. Kingsolver's rich descriptions of an impoverished Appalachian community are combined with her biologist's training, so that reader empathy is eventually shifted from the likeable heroine to the natural wonder that is the butterflies. We are reminded of how climate change risks not simply human comfort but the planet's ecological complexity.

Adeline Johns-Putra is a Reader in English Literature at the University of Surrey. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:12 AM | Permalink

Radius Ticketing Already Sucks

Radius is the new venue in Pilsen.

First, the press release. Then, reality.

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CHICAGO, Dec. 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/ - New independent Chicago music venue RADIUS, set to launch in 2020, has announced AXS as it's official ticketing partner, utilizing patented Mobile ID technology that offers consumers an innovative, mobile-first identity-based ticketing solution. The first set of RADIUS events are set to go on sale this week on the AXS platform.

"We were looking for a scalable, multi-purpose venue space to house a state of the art concert facility with modern art and design elements at the forefront, and we've created it with RADIUS," said RADIUS owner and operator Nick Karounos.

The 55,000 square-foot venue will be using AXS Mobile ID technology, which allows fans to have a more personalized and secure ticketing experience. Fans can efficiently manage their tickets with their mobile phone; sell tickets in a safe, verified online marketplace; easily transfer tickets to friends; and helps eliminate lost, stolen, and counterfeit tickets.

"We wanted a ticketing system and technology that could scale alongside our ambitions to create a seamless and enhanced experience from the moment a fan interacts with us," Karounos said. "We found that with AXS."

Using AXS Mobile ID, RADIUS will have greater insight into who is actually coming to their events as tickets are transferred from fan to fan, and pass between primary and secondary markets. The partnership will also power a seamless resale environment for authenticated fan-to-fan ticket sales and transfers.

The ticketing relationship adds to the existing partnership with the established Chicago venue, PRYSM.

"We couldn't ask for more dynamic partners as we continue to expand our offerings in Chicago," said Rob Sine, Chief Revenue Officer for AXS. "Nick Karounos and his team have been instrumental in shaping the live event and nightlife landscape in Chicago for the past 20 years, and RADIUS will only further that influence and positive evolution of music in the community."

The first set of shows at RADIUS in 2020 include electronic music producer Dillon Francis on February 29, international house and techno legend Carl Cox March 6, future house producer Tchami on March 13, American hip-hop artist Lil Wayne on March 28, metalcore band Killswitch Engage with August Burns Red and Light The Torch on April 4, punk rock bands Alkaline Trio and Bad Religion on April 18 and Australian psych-rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard on April 18.

To learn more go to https://solutions.axs.com

About AXS

AXS is a global ticketing platform, offering best-in-class ticketing technology in a single platform to suit every client size and type, from small music clubs to the largest sports stadiums. AXS is the ticketing partner for over 300 premier venues, sports teams, event organizers around the world, including AEG, The O2, STAPLES Center, T-Mobile Arena, Sprint Center, Tele2Arena, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Cleveland Cavaliers, Toyota Center, Houston Rockets, NCAA Final Four, and the Vegas Golden Knights. AXS powers both primary and resale marketplaces, leveraging integrated technology and analytics to enable its clients to sell the right ticket to the right fan at the right price. Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, AXS employs more than 350 professionals in multiple locations worldwide, including Cleveland, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, London, and Stockholm.

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Now, what real people are saying.

From Eric B, December 12:

Regarding that club in Pilsen - I got a presale code for a show that officially goes on sale tomorrow. Clicking through, it seems like one ticket for the selected show was $37. A little pricey, tbh, but I like the band. I added a ticket to the cart, and my total was $54.88! $17.88 in fees ($3.40 of which were taxes.) That's nearly a 50% upcharge. I decided not to see the show, and am now really skeptical that this venue will add value to local music fans. Disappointing . . . I'd feel less hoodwinked if they called it a $50 ticket with $5 in fees.

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And so on. Welcome, Radius!

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:59 AM | Permalink

Trump Rule Could Let Banks Classify Stadium Investments As Aid To Poor, Qualifying For Significant Tax Break

Rule changes proposed by the Trump administration last week could let banks classify investments in professional sports stadiums as aid to the poor, and then give the financial institutions a significant tax break for their efforts.

The changes are part of an Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) plan to overhaul the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which requires banks to invest in low-income communities.

Both bank regulators are run by appointees of President Donald Trump.

As Bloomberg reported Monday, "[T]he agencies drafted a long list hypothetical ways banks could seek to meet their obligations [under the Community Reinvestment Act], including this sentence on page 100 of their proposal: 'Investment in a qualified opportunity fund, established to finance improvements to an athletic stadium in an opportunity zone that is also [a low- or moderate-income] census tract.'"

"There are well over a dozen NFL venues nestled in so-called opportunity zones," Bloomberg noted. "They include M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, home of the National Football League's Ravens, which this year completed $120 million in upgrades such as a new sound system . . . There also are facilities for professional baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey teams in the zones."

Under the 2017 tax law signed by President Donald Trump, real estate developers and financial institutions that invest in "opportunity zones" receive a capital gains tax cut.

The tax incentive sparked criticism from lawmakers including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who warned in a statement last month that "[T]here are no safeguards to ensure taxpayers are not simply subsidizing handouts for billionaires with no benefit to the low-income communities this program was supposed to help."

"Republicans who support the program should work with Democrats to ensure it does not become a boondoggle," Wyden said.

Critics reacted with incredulity to the Trump administration's proposed rule changes.

"The proposed credit for financing 'improvements' to stadiums soon raised eyebrows among policy wonks," Bloomberg reported. "That may put pressure on regulators to clarify whether banks really can satisfy CRA obligations by, say, funding a 200-foot video screen."

Daily Beast reporter Lachlan Markey said the proposal is "simply astonishing."

Pat Garofalo, managing editor of Talk Poverty and author of the "Boondoggle" newsletter, tweeted that the proposed rule changes are "truly wild."

"A potential change to the Community Reinvestment Act - the federal anti-redlining law - would allow banks to meet their obligations by investing in sports stadiums in Opportunity Zones," said Garofalo. "Opportunity Zones are a bad giveaway to investors gentrifying neighborhoods. Stadium subsidies are a huge waste of money."

Among the stadiums Garofalo found would qualify for the tax break: Guaranteed Rate Field on Chicago's South Side.

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Previously: How A Tax Break To Help The Poor Went To Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:05 AM | Permalink

December 16, 2019

The [Monday] Papers

To some journalists, spokespeople are the enemy. They serve to shield their bosses from accountability by spinning reporters away from the truth. They are folks to avoid; any reporter worth their salt will develop sources over time who can tell them what's really going on. The best stories don't feature comments from spokespeople at all. The only time a reporter should really rely on a spokesperson is to try to schedule an interview with an official otherwise unreachable. A spokesperson is no substitute for that official, though, and publishing a statement - especially via e-mail - from a flak is tantamount to publishing an unvetted press release and should be disallowed.

To other journalists, spokespeople are saviors. They are (almost) always available to provide a statement, to deny what the reporting otherwise shows is true but let's a reporter "prove" to their boss (and readers/viewers) that they are being fair and presenting "both sides." They offer access - on their own terms, only to the advantage of the officials they serve. They whisper to you on background in an act of apparent charity as part of the fraternity - perhaps even over a beer - though they are highly compensated to do so to shape a reporter's thoughts.

The better a reporter you are, the less you "need" a spokesperson. The lazier (or cozier to power) a reporter you are, the more you need a spokesperson. The world of journalism, particularly mainstream journalism, is filled with far more of the latter than the former. That is a giant disservice to readers/viewers and the truth.

So it was pretty disturbing to see how Chicago journalists reacted over the weekend to Mayor Lori Lightfoot's firing of longtime city spokesperson Bill McCaffrey. McCaffrey has worked as a flak for a variety of city departments including the notoriously dishonest law department, as well as for Chicago Public Schools, for Mayors Richard M. Daley, Rahm Emanuel and, until Friday, Lightfoot.

I had no idea until this weekend that Chicago's press corps held McCaffrey in such high esteem because he's been featured on this site many times over the years for his elision and outright deceit. I've named him Today's Worst Person In Chicago at least twice.

Let's review McCaffrey's appearances here in the Beachwood before moving on to what happened this weekend. Then I'll finish with today's payoff. Yes, in a way, I'm burying the lead. But the purpose is to take a chronological path to your enlightenment by providing you with the background you need. Then I'll throw in a couple related goodies for your consideration of the relationship between PR professionals and professional journalists.

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McCaffery in the Beachwood (I've removed original links to news reports if the link is dead):

August 20, 2013, The [Whittier] Papers:

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handpicked school team was so concerned about the structural integrity of a Pilsen school fieldhouse - and in such a rush to tear it down - they didn't even wait to get a demolition permit, City Hall disclosed Monday," Fran Spielman and Maudlyne Ihejirika "report" for Sun-Times.

Yes, they were so concerned they waited until a Friday night in August to interrupt a dance class taking place in the fieldhouse to begin its demolition.

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"'The order was issued after the Department of Buildings reviewed the architect's/structural engineer's report that deemed the building was unsafe to occupy and a hazard to the community,' [mayoral spokesman Bill] McCaffrey wrote in an e-mail to the Chicago Sun-Times."

Look, if you're gonna let public officials just send in statements via e-mail, you could at least add them to the byline.

If you click through and read the rest, you'll see that McCaffrey was full of shit.

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August 14, 2013, The [Wednesday] Papers:

"A traffic camera company that lost its Baltimore contract earlier this year after acknowledging that its faulty equipment resulted in thousands of erroneous speeding tickets was named Tuesday as the preferred bidder to take over Chicago's scandal-ridden red light camera program," the Tribune reports . . .

"The evaluation committee checked references as part of its thorough review process and contacted Baltimore officials about Xerox, which successfully conducts business with many municipalities," Emanuel spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in an e-mail. "Neither Baltimore nor any other municipality has debarred or declared Xerox ineligible to contract for city business."

Baltimore is just refusing to pay Xerox $2 million because it fucked up so bad.

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September 26, 2013, The [Thursday] Papers:

"A bank that has city business plans to wipe off the books up to $2.2 million in loans for a financially struggling Southwest Side arts center that's favored by some of the state's leading Democratic politicians," the Tribune reports.

"The debt forgiveness by Fifth Third Bank is part of a bailout plan that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and 19th Ward Ald. Matthew O'Shea plan to announce Thursday for the Beverly Arts Center, which has teetered on the edge of insolvency for years.

"The plan includes Emanuel granting the center $250,000 from a pot of money created when the city hosted NATO in 2012 and $10 million in private funding for the summit went unused. Millions of those funds have been used across the city for after-school programs and park improvements.

"The announcement would come just a day after an arbitrator determined that the city owed $1 million to Chicago police officers for overtime around the time of the NATO visit. That payment also will come out of the leftover NATO fund, said Roderick Drew, a spokesman for the city Law Department."

Chicago exceptionalism.

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A) What is the city doing covering a private organization's debt? Where do the rest of us apply?

B) Why didn't the mayor simply return the $10 million in private, unused NATO funds? Spending the money for other purposes - no matter how noble, though also at the whim of one person - is essentially a misappropriation.

C) Why didn't the city put one-tenth of that money toward police overtime, which seems to legitimately fall under the purpose for which it was raised, instead of fighting the cops over their pay?

D) How does the money spent by the city - meaning us - stack up against the promised economic development of hosting NATO? I think we know the answer to that.

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"The city's business relationship with Fifth Third had nothing to do with the deal hammered out to save the arts center, city spokesman Bill McCaffrey said."

Click through to see why that's absurd.

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"Neither a mayoral spokeswoman nor a CPS spokesman would comment immediately on his move."

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July 24, 2014, The [Tuesday] Papers:

"Bill McCaffrey, who until Friday was Mayor Rahm Emanuel's deputy press secretary, is moving down the street to [CPS headquarters] as of Tuesday," the Sun-Times reports.

"McCaffrey could not be reached immediately Monday by phone for comment."

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"Neither a mayoral spokeswoman nor a CPS spokesman would comment immediately on his move."

Again, you can click through for the rest.

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May 26, 2015, The [Tuesday] Papers:

This item includes a tweet from a Chicago reporter complaining that she's "so tired of being lied to," as well as one from another saying this is why reporters need to fact-check anything coming out of CPS.

"Chicago Public Schools somehow forgot about 22 schools, including a selective enrollment high school, in its estimate to hire Aramark to manage school janitors," the Sun-Times reports.

"That mistake - in all, the district underestimated by nearly 3.2 million square feet the amount of space Aramark would have to clean - cost the district an additional $7 million in the controversial contract . . .

"Last month, when the oversight came to light, CPS wouldn't say how many facilities had been skipped, but instead advised filing a Freedom of Information Act request for the details . . .

"Despite being asked repeatedly, [spokesman Bill] McCaffrey refused to say how entire buildings got overlooked. Nor would he say who was at fault or how the district miscounted its space so badly . . .

"CPS regrets this error and is committed to ensuring this mistake cannot be repeated again in the future," McCaffrey said.

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June 11, 2015, The [Friday] Papers:

"Chicago Public Schools admits that it mischaracterized some of its students who dropped out as 'transfers,' thereby inflating its 2014 graduation rates, but the district refuses to consider changing those graduation numbers," Lauren FitzPatrick reports for the Sun-Times . . .

"District spokesman Bill McCaffrey said that CPS has no plans to go back and recalculate the 2014 graduation rate accounting for added dropouts. Nor did he refute any of the numbers. Asked whether any of the students were miscoded on purpose for political purposes, he said, 'Absolutely not.'"

Ah, but is CPS not considering correcting the numbers for political purposes? Because why else?

And then . . .

"McCaffrey said the district became aware of the problem when CPS' inspector general began investigating similar patterns at a few CPS schools. The IG reported that at one school, now known to be Farragut Career Academy High School, 'the miscoding of purported GED dropouts as transfers appears to have been done to reduce the high school's reported dropout rate,' that would have negatively affected its official school rating . . .

"But McCaffrey declined to make any of the 25 principals whose schools were examined by the two media outlets available for an interview, instead proffering leaders from other schools, and a statement from interim CEO Jesse Ruiz: 'CPS takes any report of miscoding very seriously, and has already instituted additional rigorous safeguards and training to ensure the quality of its records,' Ruiz said.

And then . . .

"WBEZ and the BGA attempted to contact several of the principals of the schools whose data we looked at. We tried to reach them through phone calls, e-mails and stops by the schools, but each declined our request for interviews on the subject. CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey also refused to make any principals available to talk about this story."

Reporters, in fact, were escorted out of buildings.

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And then . . .

"McCaffrey acknowledged that the district has a problem, but said officials don't plan to go back and adjust the rates because of the 'billion dollar deficit.'"

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February 12, 2016, The [Friday] Papers:

"A Chicago man won a $1 million verdict this week in a lawsuit that accused police of rigging a photo lineup to ensure he would be wrongly identified as an armed robbery suspect," AP reports . . .

"A photo of the police lineup shows Durdin, a light-skinned African-American, sitting on a bench with four other black males, all of whom have dark complexions," the Tribune reports.

"Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city's Law Department, said the city is disappointed with the jury's decision.

"'We believe it was the result of erroneous jury instructions, as well as other legal errors, and we intend to file a motion seeking a new trial,' he said in a statement."

By the way, it's not good enough to say, "Well, he was just doing his job." If your job is to be deceitful, get another job. And while it's not always easy, you can be a spokesperson without being dishonest. You can say, "Here's the number to the head of the law department head, they'll explain their thinking to you." And if that gets you fired, so be it. Taxpayers don't pay your salary to be lied to.

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July 19, 2016, The [Wednesday] Papers:

"A Cook County judge on Tuesday ordered the Emanuel administration to turn over e-mail chains sought by the Chicago Tribune related to the multimillion-dollar no-bid Chicago Public Schools contract that led to a federal criminal investigation and the resignation of schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett," the Tribune reports.

"Judge Anna Demacopoulos ruled that the city must turn over email chains the Tribune sought in a 2015 Freedom of Information Act request. The Tribune had sought 25 e-mail chains that contained correspondence to or from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and two of- his senior aides between Sept. 1, 2011, and Aug. 31, 2013. The city had withheld six email chains entirely, and it redacted portions of the remaining 19."

A spokesman for the city's law department responded to the ruling in what I can only imagine was a heavily redacted e-mail.

"The City is committed to complying with the Freedom of Information Act and each year it responds without objection to thousands of requests. While in this case we believed that the requested records were correctly withheld or properly redacted, we respect the court's ruling and will comply with it," Bill McCaffrey said in an e-mail.

I can state something here that the city's journalists will agree is 100% objective: The Emanuel administration is not committed to complying with the Freedom of Information Act.

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December 6, 2016, The [Tuesday] Papers:

"After a four-year court battle, a Chicago food truck owner on Monday failed in her effort to overturn what she calls 'burdensome' and 'damaging' rules governing mobile vendors in the city. The judgment likely will have a significant and lasting impact on Chicago's food truck industry, which has struggled to grow, in contrast to other U.S. cities," the Tribune reports . . .

I haven't researched the constitutional issues at play, but it's clear the regulations are overburdensome by design, hardly driven by safety and street congestion issues. To wit:

"City spokesman Bill McCaffrey said it is 'pleased with the ruling, which reaffirms that the ordinance strikes the right balance between the interests of food trucks and those of restaurants.'"

The only interest of restaurants is to keep competition away. By this logic, though, you may as well require one restaurant to stay 200 feet away from another restaurant - and only stay open two hours a day. I find it hard to see how a judge ought to be balancing the interests of food trucks against anything other than the public interest.

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November 27, 2017, The [Monday] Papers:

"A federal judge has ordered the city of Chicago to pay $62,500 for withholding records in a wrongful death lawsuit, marking the eighth time Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has been sanctioned for failing to turn over potential evidence in a police misconduct case," the Tribune reports.

"The city agreed to the amount this month after U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall upheld an earlier ruling that the city acted in 'bad faith' when it ignored a court order and made little effort to provide documents to the lawyer for the family of Divonte Young, 20, who was shot and killed by an officer five years ago . . .

"The city believes that its attorneys acted in good faith; however, we accept the judge's ruling that the city should pay some measure of attorney's fees and costs associated with resolving this discovery dispute," Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in a statement. "In order to avoid further litigation, we reached an agreement with the plaintiff's counsel regarding the amount."

The city believes its attorneys did nothing wrong - for the eighth time.

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Rahm Emanuel is obviously the Worst Person In Chicago on any given day, but once again I'm awarding Today's Worst Person In Chicago to our old friend and repeat winner Bill "Ivanka" McCaffrey for being so goddamn complicit.

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September 24, 2019, The [Tuesday] Papers:

"The city of Chicago has failed to meet at least a third of the deadlines in the first six months of the legally-binding police reform plan being overseen by a federal judge," WBEZ reports . . .

"In a written statement, Chicago law department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the city is committed to implementing the police reforms 'in a thoughtful and timely manner.'"

Didn't I just read that that's exactly what they aren't doing? I mean, isn't that the point of the story?

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Now let's take a look at what happened over the weekend.

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This morning:

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Shia Kapos in her Illinois Politico Playbook this morning:

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot parted ways with a holdover employee from Rahm Emanuel's administration.

Bill McCaffrey, who has served as spokesman for the city Law Department, "is no longer with the Office of the Corporation Counsel," the mayor's office said, adding, it's a personnel matter and "we will not be commenting further."

McCaffrey didn't return a request for comment but a supporter says he was pushed out after raising an ethical concern.

A source close to the mayor's office says McCaffrey had spread disinformation about a residency issue related to Corporation Council Mark Flessner.

Flessner has a home in the suburbs, but his primary residence is an apartment in the Loop. McCaffrey had told reporters otherwise, which was the last straw for Lightfoot's team.

"Out of everyone in an administration, you have to trust your communications director. If your communications director is spreading disinformation and lies, it's never going to work even if they're popular among reporters," the source told Playbook.

McCaffrey was an at-will employee who had also worked in former Mayor Richard M. Daley's administration. He spent a great deal of his time talking about complicated legal cases with the media. A former colleague of McCaffrey's said he did a good job ingratiating himself to reporters, but not necessarily to fellow employees.

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Mini-thread (and that should be "know," corrected in later tweet):

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Journos sure jumped aggressively to McCaffrey's defense without knowing the whole story. And if his firing, upon more reporting, turns out to be unjustified, so be it. But he's been performing dishonestly for years. But he's always there to e-mail you a statement!

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Finally, for your consideration, because we're talking about the relationship between flaks and journos:

-> Capitol Fax impresario Rich Miller gives an award, among others, each year to the "Best Government Spokesperson."

(This year's award went to John Patterson, a "strategic media advisor" for retiring state Senate President John Cullerton. Cullerton is retiring amidst a swirl of federal investigations of several members of his leadership team, as well as scrutiny of a land deal of his own. Patterson is a former Daily Herald state government editor and Lee Enterprises capitol reporter.)

This is part of the aspect of Miller's work that makes his oft-valuable site too insidery for comfort. (I mean, are his pseudonymous commenters making the nominations on who is the best spokesperson reporters? That would seem to be an ethical issue for them.)

-> The only defender of the media's CTU strike performance? A CTU spokesperson.

And if you read her defense, the CTU and its rhetoric are one and the same with the media's coverage thereof.

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Plus, if you were one of these reporters, would you retweet this or at least feel slightly uncomfortable? Don't get me wrong, Sarah Karp is one of the city's best reporters. But I'm not the only one who, respectfully, thought she might have been a bit more sympathetic to the CTU than the CTU warranted. I get that if CPS lies to you for years, which I'm sure they did (and I'm saying that, not her) you might approach the reporting this way (if that's what she did). But the strike was its own discrete event. And the CTU isn't to be trusted either, regardless of the track record of past city administrations.

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(And this from a CTU organizer, just to drive home how pleased the union was, in the main, with their coverage . . . )

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Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide 2019 In Review
We can no longer guarantee shipping by Christmas Day!

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ChicagoReddit

Found Photo Album: Margaret Slattery (from 1930s) from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

37 Vintage Photos Of Chicago In 1941.

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BeachBook

What Happened To Our Country?

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Trump's America.

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Billy Bragg's Letter From The UK.

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How The Superrich Took Over The Museum World.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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This is from November but even more apropos now.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Horseshoes and hand grenades.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:31 AM | Permalink

December 15, 2019

The Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide 2019 In Review

Last call! Get your orders in.

1. Chicago Photo Booth.

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2. Vintage Trinkets & Treasures.

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3. Chicago Tote Bags, Fanny Packs & Pouches.

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4. Hockey Stick Bottle Openers.

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5. Scott Buckner's Tiny Vistas.

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Plus:

SIU Press Holiday Sale: Give The Gift Of Chicago, Illinois History, Rhetorics & Feminisms, Theater In The Americas, And Some Crab Orchard Poetry.

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And:

You can also give the gift of Beachwood! Same-day Christmas delivery available.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:17 PM | Permalink

December 14, 2019

The Weekend Desk Report

For my Minneapolis peeps.

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Bee Trial
"Nearly four years after geography bee cheating allegations rocked an Oak Brook school district, the long and costly litigation that followed is set to culminate with a federal trial scheduled to begin Monday in Chicago," the Tribune reports.

"Dr. Rahul Julka, a DuPage County surgeon, and his wife Komal Julka are seeking millions of dollars from the Butler School District 53 in the west suburb, alleging that the school district destroyed their reputations with unfounded accusations of cheating in the geography bee in which their sons, then 9 and 11, were set to compete in January 2016.

"The school district, though, has maintained that it took appropriate action after, it says, Komal Julka registered as a 'fraudulent' home school provider to purchase the geography bee questions from the company that administered the bee. She was also accused of sharing the questions with at least one other family."

Click through to read the rest because I can't fairly summarize this mess here. But wow.

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Klobucharge
"Democratic presidential hopeful Amy Klobuchar, whose campaign is gaining strength as the primary field shrinks, returns to Chicago on Monday for three fundraisers," Lynn Sweet reports for the Sun-Times.

"Her pragmatic politics has kept her in the game."

"Pragmatic" actually means hewing to the status quo - and political journalists love it. But is the current health care system, for example, "pragmatic?" Or is it devastating real lives?

Are the health care plans of, say, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren not pragmatic - even though their models work splendidly in Western Europe, Scandinavia and Canada?

And who is to say what is and isn't "pragmatic?" Very little that has been "accomplished" in the current administration could be considered pragmatic, and yet here we are.

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Maybe, just maybe, Klobuchar's positions are radical. She wants to basically keep things pretty much the same! That's revolutionary considering where most Americans seem to be. She would prefer, for example, to let people keep dying because of our current health care system rather than save them under a better system. That's pretty radical to me.

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"Klobuchar has two events downtown followed by a third in north suburban Glencoe:

"There will be a 2 p.m. coffee reception at Grosvenor Capital Management where the co-hosts include Grosvenor executive Paul Meister.

"After that, a 5 p.m. cocktail reception at Clayco, the construction company. The hosts include people close to ex-President Barack Obama: Bob Clark, the Clayco Executive Chairman, and his wife, Jane; and Bruce Heyman and his wife, Vicki. Heyman was Obama's U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

"The last fundraiser is a 7 p.m. reception at a home in Glencoe, with the hosts again Stephen and Karen Malkin; Paul and Jill Meister; and real estate executives David and Susie Sherman."

So let's review:

* Paul Meister is a hedge fund manager. How pragmatic!

* Bob Clark is a real estate magnate.

* Bruce Heyman is a former managing director of private wealth management at Goldman Sachs.

* Stephen Malkin is also a hedge funder, and bigtime contributor to Rahm Emanuel.

* David Sherman inherited his father's real estate portfolio.

Maybe instead of name-checking, the journalistic thing to do would be to explain just who a presidential candidate is meeting with - and trying to raise money from - here in Chicago, and what that says about who the candidate is. Besides that she's "pragmatic."

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Sneedingaling
Just hand Kevin Graham your keyboard and have him put his own name on the story, my god.

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Lincoln Yardage
"Clean-up crews prep site for $6 billion Lincoln Yards," Construction Equipment Guide reports.

"A fair amount of planning and research was required before work could be carried out on the overall project.

"Many historical documents were obtained and reviewed to better understand the former industrial operations," said Oswald. "One of the more difficult site features to work around was a 175-ft. plate girder railroad swing bridge constructed in the late 1800s, known as Z-6, which was used to cross the Chicago River. Cleanup plans required work along the foundation of this bridge, but no documents could be located locally. After some notable online research, the swing bridge foundation drawings were found in an engineering journal article from 1899.

Alas, they were not able to find the billions of dollars the Chicago Teachers Union wants us to believe is buried there.

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New on the Beachwood . . .

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour: What The Hell Is Theo Doing?

Dear Barry Rozner, keeper of the screw Bryant flame: Six, indeed, is still less than seven.

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And yet, Bryant is simultaneously overrated! By June 2016, no less!

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TrackNotes: Listen To Big Hank

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ChicagoReddit

Drawing I did, Robert Taylor Homes, 1965 from r/chicago

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Weekend ChicagoGram

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Weekend ChicagoTube

Whitney Young Guitar Honors Magic Slim.

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BeachBook

Why Is This Artist Trying To Anger Disney's Feared Lawyers? It's All Part Of A Delightfully Devious Scheme To Stop Internet Scammers.

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It's Not All In Your Head - The Art World Really Is Unfair. Here Are 9 Reasons Why.

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Selective Enrollment For Kindergarten In Chicago.

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Weekend TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Weekend Desk Tip Line: Drag it through the garden.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:02 AM | Permalink

December 13, 2019

TrackNotes: Listen To Big Hank

I can't wait for the year-end/decade-end lists to, well, end.

Next month, we'll be seeing, like clockwork, the Hot Toddy list, and the hard sell disguised as warm, compassionate advice. Mary Schmich was in the bullpen tipping her pitches in November, so it's a lock she'll have that slurve dropping off the table by January's Polar Vortex.

Then there's the refugees from warm weather whining about how the Chicago winter hit them like 12 rounds with Sugar Ray. You know: "I hate the winters here, but Chicago is such a World Class City."

It's cute and a guy feels chivalrous if it comes from a SoCal Little Surfer Girl metamorphosed into a Chicago Snow Bunny. But put this guy headfirst in a snow drift for how he's milking this load o' crapola. Talk about churning, this mook came to Chicago in the Eugene Sawyer administration! Forget the snowbank, UNDER THE BREAKWATER ICE!

Sure, in the days of our lives, things are cyclical and circular, but why are the hacks at The Daily Planet so lazy and repetitive? We've got stories, Chief. Hear about Hank the Horse? Stay tuned.

The 2019 season is basically over, albeit with a few Grade IIs and IIIs this Saturday at Gulfstream for the year's underachievers. And we hope to see Omaha Beach in the Malibu Stakes the day after Christmas.

Just one more thing and I'm done with this lackluster year. After Saturday's impressive win in Aqueduct's Cigar Mile (Grade I, 8 furlongs, $750,000), Maximum Security, a horse I'll never like, seems the likely winner of the Three-Year-Old Eclipse Award.

Devoid of a true two-year-old campaign - one race five days before Christmas 2018 - and therefore green in most of his races this year, he was rightly and historically DQ'd from the Kentucky Derby for bouncing around like Otis Campbell, nearly causing a catastrophic pileup. His connections pouted, skipped the Preakness and Belmont, and sadistically ran him in the record Hades of the Haskell at Monmouth, causing him to miss the Travers and, I believe, getting him sick (near-death colic) enough to also miss the Breeders' Cup.

In the ovalness of Thoroughbred horse racing, sure, the Spring stories will read the same in the 16 weeks to the May Day kickoff of Derby/Oaks weekend. But there is, by design, a whole new cast of stars to dance with, us players looking for nuance as we ponder preps and contemplate the classic 10 furlongs.

We can't afford to reminisce. Heed legendary John Mayall. "No, there's no more Room to Move, that's all way in the past. What did you come here? To hear an old record or something'?"

It's moving fast. Hell, quicker than the tortured Bears Supe and Trubisky MVP charitable wagering benefiting Las Vegas, the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool I has already come and gone.

But seriously folks, and that's no Catskills segue, the American horse racing industry is looking at its mortality, as long and slow a death as it could and would probably be. Horse deaths are a scourge, in a day and age when social movements are as easy to start as a pot of boiling water.

A group of racing organizations, mainly track owners/operators plus the Breeders' Cup organization, formed what they call the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition. We cannot get overly optimistic, but the things it and others are discussing are a start. I question the ability of good to win over evil these days, but at the least, it appears racing, especially in California, might have had the bejeezus scared out of it.

What the Coalition says it wants to do touches on all the important problems the industry faces. At this stage, we can't expect racing to wean itself off of horse drugs immediately, but it is talking about horses entering races cleaner. It's a start.

Yes, it appears racing people are sounding the alarm, I hope they wear out the fancy scan machine they just installed at Santa Anita, and because racing surfaces probably need to be idiot-proof, we're glad they're also talking about that.

The Coalition stumbled in not including The Jockey Club, the industry's breeding overseer, or The Jockey Guild, representing riders. Get that done by this time next year.

Sickeningly, the State of Kentucky itself, and Churchill Downs Inc. must be included in the equation, is fighting Lasix reform. The crutch is that Lasix is humane because it helps keep horses from bleeding in the lungs. But many say it's a performance enhancer. They talked about shortened careers if horses "turned out to be bad bleeders." Then solve the problem. Breed it out of them? P.S. Has anything good come out of Kentucky in our memories?

As racing comes spinning out of the 2019 turn into 2020, there's no damn time to look back, except to learn from history. History as recent as November, when Mongolian Groom grotesquely went down in what is really America's biggest race.

There are more important things than a list of the greatest Derby ladies' hats.

Apples And Honey
Call it whatever you want. Colorful. Skulduggery. The edge. But it never really stops.

* Steve Asmussen, the Hall of Fame trainer of Curlin and Rachel Alexandra fame, is walking in road apples again. Honestly, TrackNotes has no capacity to become a chemist.

* Here's a doozy. Linda Rice, most known for training titles at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct, has been accused by the New York Racing Association of paying NYRA officials "substantial sums of money" to gain access to pre-race entry information. They allege she used the information to analyze potential and probable entries to determine whether she should enter one of her horses.

NYRA says it happened between 2011 and 2015. I'm surprised they didn't just let it go as "in the past." They have a particular problem with Rice? Mention was also made of the Swiss-cheese security at NYRA, IT and otherwise. I remember back then when that scandal hit and it became obvious that regulatory body NYRA had escaped all oversight, becoming a hotbed of patronage and pension gold-plating.

Hank The Horse
It's Christmas, and these horses, they find us. We learn again how great they really are, given the chance.

Hank the Horse, a huge 17-hand Tennessee Walker, abandoned and left for worse, was rescued by Tammi Regan and is now a big earner for the Salvation Army as the top equine bell-ringer in the land. Horses love to have something to do, and Hank seems to love ringing the bell. He looks the ham and such a nice galoot. All he wanted was a chance.

Ms. Regan can and does explain everything quite well. And in that inimitable way only horses have, listen. Big Hank talks to you too.

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Tom Chambers is our man on the rail. He welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:22 PM | Permalink

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #282: What The Hell Is Theo Doing?

Cubs call the wahmbulance. Plus: The Bears Are Back - To Playing On Sundays; Noah Not Happy About Nomar; Hawk Harrelson's Hall Of Shame; Bulls Fans Finally Bailing; Blackhawks Getting Boring Before January; Lovie's Beard Confirmed For Redbox Bowl; and DePaul Defeated.


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SHOW NOTES

* 282.

:28: The Bears Are Back - To Playing On Sundays!

* And back to playing teams that aren't absolute wrecks.

* Get out the measuring stick!

* Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers and the weirdness of the NFC North.

* Biggs Time.

* Coffman: Audition Time For The Bears.

* Danica Patrick was born in Beloit and raised in Roscoe, Illinois.

28:09: What The Hell Is Theo Doing?

* Coach drops multiple "F" bombs!

* Kris Bryant's wholly justifiable grievance holding Theo hostage.

* We told you so.

* Cubs call the wahmbulance.

52:00: Noah Not Happy About Nomar.

* New right fielder no Nomar.

57:39: Hawk Harrelson's Hall Of Shame.

1:02:27: Bulls Fans Finally Bailing.

1:03:35: Blackhawks Getting Boring Before January.

* Saad-aissance Is Over.

* Calvin de Haan's got a shoulder.

* Injuries, Salary Cap Crunch Will Force Blackhawks To Play Shorthanded.

1:07:10: Lovie's Beard Confirmed For Redbox Bowl.

1:08:26: DePaul Defeated.

* Record drops to 9-1.

* But . . . Illinois beats No. 5 Michigan.

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STOPPAGE: 10:37

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Tom Chambers:

* Yesterday, Lumpy Rutherford said "Daddy, will you call (the coach) for me?" "QUIT CALLING ME DADDY!" by the incomparable Richard Deacon.

* Total benefit of the doubt, maybe they're waiting for the revenue stream of the new network to kick in, for the first year. Have they finished negotiations with the various TV providers? Me? I might have to make a decision if they tack on and raise my DirecTV sports package, which is 96.7% for horse racing.

* Maybe Theo just doesn't like Bryant and/or Boras. Maybe the Rickettses don't like Bryant and his squawking, demanding total loyalty, as people like that are wont to do these days.

* Bryant was not very good last year, although I suppose his alphabet soup of numbers might prove me wrong. Metrics are one thing, but when he flails or takes strike three with two men on in the seventh . . . He was clueless at times.

* How on Cy Young's good green Earth can these starting pitchers be worth so much money? They're not even on the hook for decisions anymore! They're not asked to do anything anymore. I hope they all get pounded early and often.

* Maybe the Cubs deferred payroll is onerous. Guys like Tunney and Emanuel cost money, you know.

* Seriously, assuming the Rickettses are real good businessmen, wouldn't we think they've sat down and hard-cold analyzed and decided that with so many revenue streams, player payroll might be a place they can cut back? With one of the PowerPoint slides offering: "We probably/necessarily don't need to win."

* Tangent: Let's not forget the owners/commissioner are on a true Blitzkreig to decimate the minor leagues and eventually bring everything under their control. They are already fast-tracking low-inning pitchers and would appreciate a cut in overhead. This way, they only have enough minor league teams - WHICH THEY WOULD CONTROL - to roster the number of players they draft, and a few more. Promote the pitchers right away and if their arms fall off, bring in the next robot. It's the Amazon Fulfillment staffing model.

* When you see what these pitchers got this week, the game itself exits reality. It has already somewhat ruined the game. Running triples into singles.

* Jim, your point about avoiding the club areas, YEAH. But, it does appear as if a lot of people are willing to pay a lot of money to avoid a lot of their fellow fans. It's the science of affinity and class structure. "I'm better than many of the people in this stadium because I'm in The Poison Ivy Club." And like The Twilight Zone, a mysterious voice in the sky, probably a Rickett, is going "Tee-Hee, Tee-Hee."

* Godamighty, going there in the old days, even before the Tribune, it was a TRUE democracy. In the bleachers, you could form a "lifelong" friendship over 9 innings. And you even watched the game. Wi-Fi was Vince and Lou on my teal Newport 9-Transistor Radio, dead by the fourth inning.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 5:32 PM | Permalink

December 12, 2019

Only The Commercials

From Cover Girl makeup with Salt-n-Pepa to Hamburger Helper, these are the commercials that ran during WGN-TV's 1997 airing of Miracle On 34th Street.


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See a complete list of the commercials here.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:04 AM | Permalink

Inuit Throat Singing Is Basically A Beat Box Battle

In traditional katajjaq, also known as Inuit throat singing, two women stand face to face and perform a duet that doubles as something of a musical battle. Chanting in rhythm, they attempt to outlast one another, each waiting for any crack in the pace of her opponent - whether in the form of loss of breath, fatigue or laughter.

In this short from the Canada-based First Nations film initiative Wapikoni Mobile, Eva Kaukai and Manon Chamberland, two throat singers from the remote Inuit village of Kangirsuk in Northern Québec, face off in a friendly katajjaq duel. With sweeping imagery of the duo's Arctic home, the short, which screened at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, is a transfixing melding of music and landscape.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:42 AM | Permalink

Grading Illinois' Economic Development Transparency: C-

Illinois received a "C-" for making critical information about how governments are subsidizing business projects with taxpayer dollars readily available to the public online, according to a new report from Illinois PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. "Following the Money 2019," the organization's tenth evaluation of online government spending transparency, gives 17 states a failing grade, while only four states received a grade of "B" or higher.

Illinois received an "C-" grade because researchers could not find any statewide grants report, nor reporting on whether economic development subsidies are producing the promised benefits, among other scoring criteria.

"As taxpayers, we should be able to see how government spends our money down to the dime," said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG Education Fund Director. "That includes the billions of dollars that state and local governments give away each year to lure businesses into their backyards."

U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group's "Following the Money" reports have evaluated states on online spending transparency since 2010. While many states have made progress toward providing citizens access to government spending information online, this year's report finds economic development reporting is still lagging behind.

"It's often easier for citizens to see when a state hands a company $50 for printer ink than when it hands a company a million dollars to relocate its headquarters," said R.J. Cross, report lead author and policy analyst at Frontier Group. "States have moved light years ahead in the last decade when it comes to providing information on basic government spending online. But when it comes to economic development subsidies, most are still in the dark ages."

The report graded each state's transparency efforts from "A" to "F" based on the availability of online reports detailing how much the state spends through tax breaks and direct grant programs; the availability of information on individual payments to companies on the state's transparency site; and the existence of state laws that require ongoing reporting of information on economic development subsidies to the public.

"Transparency checks corruption and enables citizens to hold their elected officials accountable," said Cross. "Without access to information, it's impossible to know how fully these corporate subsidies are serving the public's interest."

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See also:
* Nonprofit Quarterly: Corporate Incentives: The Economic Development Race To Nowhere Must Stop.

* Wisconsin Public Radio: Study On Foxconn Deal Shows Government Subsidies Don't Work.

* Kansas City Star: Kansas-Missouri Border War Over Corporate Incentives Already Back After Brief Truce.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:59 AM | Permalink

The Ex-Cub Factor

One in an occasional series tracking the movements of former Cubs.

1. Starlin Castro.

Remember when Starlin was part of the Cubs' core before there really even was a Cubs core? It was him, Rizzo and a bunch of scrubs. For years.

Castro made three All-Star teams in six seasons on the North Side, but famously had a problem paying attention to the game at hand when there were so many wondrous stars to behold in the night sky. He was eventually dealt to the Yankees (!), where he made another All-Star team. According to Baseball Reference, his nickname is All-Starlin, though there is no proof anyone has ever actually called him that.

Anyway, after the 2015 season - right when the Cubs finally got good - he was sent to New York for Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan. Warren was an outstanding bullpen arm for the Yankees who couldn't mesh with Joe Maddon's usage habits and stunk it up as a Cub. The Cubs traded him back to the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal and he was great again. Of course, Chapman also returned to the Yankees, and they also got Gleyber Torres.

Meanwhile, the Cubs released the light-hitting but career 15.1 WAR Ryan six days after receiving him.

After two seasons in the Bronx, the Yankees traded Castro to the Marlins with two minor leaguers in exchange for Giancarlo Stanton.

After two seasons in Miami, and still just 29, Castro is now a free agent and . . . chasing history.

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By the way, Castro's number one batting comp? Shawon Dunston.

2. Alex Avila.

Longtime readers and The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour listeners may recall that I always thought the Cubs should have held on to Avila (career OBP 3.48) after he came here from Detroit with Justin Wilson in 2017 in exchange for Isaac Paredes (now one of the Tigers' top prospects) and Jeimer Candelario.

Well, they lost out again as the veteran catcher just signed with the Twins.

3. Martin Maldonado.

Okay, so longtime readers and listeners of The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour know I think a lot about backup catchers. Maldonado was another in a long line of weird Cubs backup catcher situations.

The Cubs acquired Maldy last July from Kansas City for Mike Montgomery. Maldy is an excellent pitch-framer and - guess what - has an even stronger arm than Willson Contreras. He can't hit for shit, but that doesn't mean he's not worth having on your roster, depending.

Nonetheless, 16 days after giving up Montgomery for him, the Cubs traded Maldonado to the Astros for Tony Kemp. Maldonado was apparently unhappy over his lack of playing time, and one could reasonably wonder if this was just one small example of the front office's disconnect with Joe Maddon. (It also points to the team's inability to develop Montgomery into a starter as originally envisioned when he was acquired from Seattle for Dan Vogelbach. Yes, he was a valuable swingman out of the 'pen, but the back-and-forth eventually made Monty a miserable clubhouse problem long after his bewilderment at how Maddon abused his arm in 2016.)

Meanwhile, Tony Kemp.

Anyway, Maldonado is now a free agent, and while the Angels have shown interest in him, he's now on the Yankees' radar given that he's one of Gerrit Cole's favorite catchers.

4. Rich Hill.

Rich Hill's Cubdom was so long ago - 2005 to 2008 - I hesitate to keep tracking him, but he does have a 13.6 career WAR, 3.82 career ERA and 3.93 career FIP. He's also been hurt a lot, IIRC.

Hill, a free agent, is now recovering from elbow surgery and hopes to be ready to go again by June. He hopes to wind up back with the Dodgers, where he's spent the last four years, or the Red Sox, where he spent time earlier in his career.

(The Cubs drafted him in the 4th round of the 2002 draft and then sold him to Baltimore in 2009.)

5. Brad Brach.

The Cubs signed the one-time All-Star as a free agent last year and then bargained down his contract after he got mono, which seemed like a cheap-ass thing to do.

On the other hand, Brach downright sucked, compiling a 6.13 ERA (4.12 FIP) over 39 2/3 innings before the Cubs outright released him in August.

Lo and behold, Brach signed with the Mets and notched a nifty 2.67 FIP (3.68 ERA) over 14 2/3 innings, suggesting that maybe the Cubs were the ones asleep at the switch.

The Mets just re-upped Brach for the 2020 campaign.

6. Chili Davis.

Apparently the millennials on the Mets listen to him more than the millennials on the Cubs did. From the New York Post:

Chili Davis received the multi-year deal he was seeking.

The veteran hitting coach is returning to the Mets after agreeing Wednesday on a two-year contract with the club, according to an industry source. Davis' contract with the Mets had expired Oct. 31, and there was question whether he would return as he attempted to land a contract that extended beyond 2020. Also returning is assistant hitting coach Tom Slater.

Under Davis' tutelage the Mets' lineup thrived last season. Most notably, Pete Alonso led the major leagues with 53 homers and Jeff McNeil was in the hunt for the batting title until the final month, ending at .318. The Mets also received a breakout performance from J.D. Davis, who posted an .895 OPS.

You start to wonder about the Cubs, don't you,

7. Rob Zastryzny.

The Cubs drafted Zastryzny in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, so chalk him up as another team failure to develop a pitcher.

Zastryzny appeared in 34 2/3 innings for the big league club between 2016 and 2018, compiling a 4.41 ERA (3.76 FIP). Those are respectable numbers, and he's still just 27, but his career now hangs in the balance. The Cubs released him last spring and after catching on with the Dodger organization shortly thereafter, he spent the entire 2019 season in the minors. He became a free agent in November and just signed a minor league deal with the Orioles.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:31 AM | Permalink

Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide | Vintage Trinkets And Treasures

New shop just opened by our photo/craft guru Helene Smith.

A sampling of the wares:

1. Tower Bridge Shot Glass.

londonshotglass.jpg(ENLARGE)

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2. 7Upside Down Glass.

7upglass.jpg(ENLARGE)

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3. Gina Ballerina Print.

ballerinaprint.jpg(ENLARGE)

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Also: Chicago-centric tote bags, fanny packs and pouches!

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Also in the Beachwood Gift Guide:

* Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide | Chicago Photo Booth.

* Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide | Real Hockey Stick Beer Openers.

* SIU Press Holiday Sale: Give The Gift Of Chicago, Illinois History, Rhetorics & Feminisms, Theater In The Americas, And Some Crab Orchard Poetry.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:28 AM | Permalink

The [Thursday] Papers

"Pilsen's music scene has been booming in recent years, and that growth is getting an exclamation point in the next few months: Radius, a 3,800-capacity concert venue, is scheduled to open early next year," the Tribune reports.

"Tickets go on sale at noon Friday via radius-chicago.com for a series of shows at the new venue including Lil Wayne (March 28), Alkaline Trio (April 18) and Dillon Francis, the first artist scheduled to play the venue, on Feb. 29. The venue aims to book 40 to 50 shows in 2020, and at least 65 shows annually afterward, owner Nick Karounos says."

vs.

"A controversial proposal to open a new music venue along the Logan Square/Hermosa border won't be moving forward," Block Club Chicago reports.

"For many neighbors, though, the music venue was a flashpoint in the neighborhood's debate over gentrification."

Without judging either development, it's a sad state of affairs when music is - or is considered to be, or is exploited as - a symbol/force/warning of gentrification.

It's upside down. It's the commodification of cool. It's the opposite of what it's all about. It's ass-backwards. But it still is. Or appears to be.

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Dental Quest
I was at the dentist - again - all morning. I have a problem with a tooth that started in August and it still hasn't been resolved. Largely that's because I'm on Medicaid, which does cover a fair number of dental procedures but for reasons that seem to relate to Bruce Rauner's devastating destruction of Illinois' social services, does not cover root canals for back teeth, like molars. Of course, those are the teeth most likely to need root canals. Illinois, I'm told, is an outlier in this area. (While Medicaid is ostensibly a federal program, it is run by the states, each in their own peculiar way. You might say that everybody on Medicaid is unhappy, but everybody on Medicaid is unhappy in their own way.)

Finding a dentist (or doctor) who takes Medicaid is hard enough - no offense to anyone, but it seems like it's mostly the dregs who work in what I call tooth mills; strip mall dental chains and such. The vast majority of the medical profession - hell, any profession - seems to seek out the wealthiest clientele possible. Hey, the media does it too.

You'd think the neediest people would get the most talented care, but no. I've never understood it, except to the point that the "caring" professions whose members one might think would be the most compassionate in society are instead seemingly even more calloused than many businessfolk, chasing dollars to be earned from others' pain. (Don't even get me started about mental health care.)

Anyway, at some point I hope to write up a post called "My Dental Diaries" (or "Tooth 18: The Molar of My Life.") For now I'm just trying to muddle through. My next dental appointment is tentatively January 7th, depending on if UIC's 3-D imaging machine is working again by then, and after that there will be a procedure of some sort and possibly a few follow-ups. For one dang tooth with a rather rudimentary problem. Today I saw my fourth dentist because, it turns out, not all dentists can do root canals, not all dentists have 3-D imaging machines, not all dentists know what they are doing. (Actually, I also saw my fifth dentist today if you count the supervisor who took a gander to make a final call at the end of the session. One day I will tell the whole, crappy story. Suffice to say, I've gone through two rounds of antibiotics, painkillers and prescription anti-bacterial mouthwash since August to little effect.)

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By the way, I've asked for laughing gas each step of the way. Apparently they don't do that anymore.

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It's also near-impossible to get an appointment at UIC. And if you do get through to someone, they're operating three months out. I was lucky to have gotten an inside tip on how to get justifiably urgent care instead of having to wait until March just for an initial consultation, with actual procedures in the months to follow. It's madness.

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By the way, if you're thinking, "See, this is why Medicare for All is a bad idea. The private sector is much more efficient," you are dead wrong.

First, Medicare is a different program than Medicaid. Medicare is reputed to be one of the federal government's best-run programs.

Second, the problems many of us have with Medicaid have less to do with the government's involvement in administering it than the private health care vendors they contract out to who get in the way. Plus, of course, the lack of resources to fully fund Medicaid, and the limited number of medical professionals who participate. Medicare for All, or a similar universal health care program, would solve a ton of problems. If I lived in just about any other Western democracy (and maybe even some Eastern dictatorships), my tooth would have been fixed the day it became a problem.

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Tomorrow, by the way, I have to see a new regular doctor because . . . Medicaid. My preferred, longtime doctor doesn't take Medicaid. My Medicaid doctor, who sucked, is no longer in my network. My new Medicaid doctor isn't taking new patients but can still be my primary care physician for some reason. Tomorrow I will see someone in her clinic at UIC in order to get my antidepressant subscription transferred over, because suddenly my health care provider doesn't like the fact that my longtime, preferred doctor is still handling the prescription renewals and has decided to put an end to it.

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Anyway, I thought in light of all this I might make a post aggregating my tweets over the years about Medicaid, but then I thought I'd just put 'em here. I didn't take the time to rearrange these advanced Twitter search results because I have a headache, so these are not in chronological order. I just can't muster that today. Maybe I should have used "latest" results instead of "top" results? Like I said, headache. Sorry for this being so disjointed.

Also, the usual caveat: I realize there are people in way more dire situations, be it serious (life or death) health problems and/or insurance insanity. Make no mistake: People die every day in America because of the greed of others that drives our health care system.

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I now wish I was one of them.

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide | Vintage Trinkets And Treasures
Stuff these, too!

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The Ex-Cub Factor
When we wished up on a Starlin . . .

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Illinois' Economic Development Transparency Gets A "C-"
"[R]esearchers could not find any statewide grants report, nor reporting on whether economic development subsidies are producing the promised benefits, among other scoring criteria."

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Only The Commercials
From Cover Girl makeup with Salt-n-Pepa to Hamburger Helper, see the commercials that ran during WGN-TV's 1997 airing of Miracle On 34th Street."

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Inuit Throat Singing Is Basically A Beat Box Battle
"Chanting in rhythm, they attempt to outlast one another, each waiting for any crack in the pace of her opponent - whether in the form of loss of breath, fatigue or laughter."

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ChicagoReddit

Does Chicago CPD do Amazon bait packages to catch porch thieves? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Cage the Elephant at the Aragon on Wednesday night.

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BeachBook

Why Clerks Still Works.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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My all-time favorite editor told me when I worked for him in Florida that every reporter should follow a case from charge to trial - though trials are actually quite rare, but let's say disposition - even if they weren't writing about it to see how different the facts are at the end than they were at the beginning. That was a great editor imparting wisdom. (He also said the most important thing for any reporter to remember was to keep a fork in their desk.)

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Sports media always out here acting like it's their money . . . and that it's in short supply.

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The Beachwood Trip Line: Please advise.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:22 AM | Permalink

December 11, 2019

The [Wednesday] Papers

"Safety records obtained by workers at the Amazon fulfillment center in Monee in Will County show that over 10% of its workers suffered injuries last year, and 40 were injured so badly that they couldn't return to work, often sustaining permanent disabilities, according to Warehouse Workers for Justice," Curtis Black notes for the Chicago Reporter.

"The records show that injuries in Monee dramatically increased in November and December last year, according to the group."

'Tis the season to be hurt on the job.

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Lumps Of Coal
"The Illinois Coal Basin, one of the most important coal‑producing regions in the U.S., will likely see declining production and mine closures as the industry continues to contract in the wake of coal-fired power plant retirements and falling exports, concludes a report published [Tuesday] by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis," the IEEFA says.

"The report, Dim Future for Illinois Basin Coal, details how coal companies in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, which are already facing challenging prospects, will most likely fade away over the next two decades. A significant number of the coal-fired power plants supplied by the three‑state Basin are already scheduled to be shut down by utilities while others are being run less and less often, trends that will likely continue."

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Patch's Porch Pirates
This is how we Patch.

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The Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide
* Selections from Helene Smith's Beachwood Photo Booth.

* Hockey Stick Beer Openers finely crafted from the workshop of Cub Factor Marty Gangler.

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Accounting For Bribery
I just got turned on to the "Money Stuff" newsletter produced by Bloomberg's Matt Levine. This item from Tuesday's edition should be of particular interest to folks - including reporters - here in Chicago and Illinois. Assignment Desks, activate!

It is not legal advice or anything but there is kind of a Money Stuff First Law of Bribes, which is that when you are talking about bribes, particularly in writing, you should not refer to them as "bribes," and you should certainly not refer to them as "chickens" or "sugar" or some other clever euphemism; you should refer to them by boring but technically accurate terms. For example if you are trying to get a government official to award your company a big contract, and you hand him a sack of cash to speed that along, when it comes time to account for that sack of cash in your financial records you can call it a "corporate marketing fee." That is literally true! You paid a fee to market your corporation! To him! Really bribery is the most straightforward and elemental form of marketing.

Or we have talked a few times about "success fees." You pay a fee and your bid is successful, it's a success fee, there is no problem here. "Consulting fees" is perhaps the most standard approach of all: You hire a local guy as a consultant, you pay him a large consulting fee, and his consulting consists of (1) knowing which local officials need to be bribed and (2) handing them some of the consulting fee.

This is all well-known stuff, and it's not like an automatic get-out-of-jail-free card to tell prosecutors "that wasn't a bribe, it was a consulting fee." Still using boring business terms gives you a fighting chance of not getting caught, and even if you do get caught you've got a fighting chance to persuade a jury that it was all fine, and even if you do get convicted it is just, I mean, it is aesthetically a bit less embarrassing than if you'd used the dumb euphemisms.

Last week Swedish telecom company Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson agreed to pay more than $1 billion of fines to the U.S. Justice Department and SEC for bribing officials in China, Saudi Arabia and Djibouti, and the SEC complaint is full of detail on how a large professional multinational company accounts for bribes. For instance:

"Internally, EAB employees referred to these payments as 'corporate marketing fees' which some employees believed to be code for bribes."

Or:

"Ericsson China improperly recorded these payments as 'other external services,' 'site acquisition services' and 'service fulfillment of contract.'"

Or:

"On or around December 18, 2013, the head of Ericsson's Middle East region signed the Consultancy Frame Agreement on behalf of EAB's Qatar branch. The agreement stated that EAB's Qatar branch engaged Kuwait Consultant to provide services 'within the area of marketing and sales support to increase customer satisfaction and enhance Ericsson business in Kuwait . . . with the purpose of winning the LTE business with [Kuwait SOE].' These services were never provided."

No, I disagree, surely the consultant did increase customer satisfaction (by giving the customer money) and enhance Ericsson's business (with bribes). These things are all code for "bribes," but they are also all, in their way, honest.

You can subscribe to "Money Stuff" here.

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Rick Nielsen's Cheap Casino Trick
His Republican state senator buddy and fellow Rockfordian Dave Syverson wrote the state's casino bill, then advocated for Nielsen's hometown bid while trashing the other applicants.

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New on the Beachwood . . .

E-Mails Show Water Contractor Knew About Lead Risk In Flint
"Do not pass this on," wrote Rob Nicholas, then the vice president of development, in an e-mail to Veolia executives.

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The Problem With Urban Music Education? Me.
"After several chaotic classes, I wondered, What was I doing wrong? Why won't they listen to me?"

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Running: Not So Much A Hobby But A Branding Exercise
Some would even say a neoliberal cult.

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Earth At Night
"NASA's new 200-page e-book is now available online and includes more than 150 images of our planet in darkness as captured from space by Earth-observing satellites and astronauts on the International Space Station over the past 25 years."

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The Problem With Internet TV
The lack of an integrated platform for providing content, for starters.

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ChicagoReddit

A ranked choice voting bill has been introduced to the Illinois General Assembly. Contact your reps and ask them to support it at this link! Also, AMA if you don't know what RCV is. from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Inner Decay at the Cobra Lounge last Thursday night.

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BeachBook

Journalists Imprisoned In 2019.

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The IRS Sent A Letter To 3.9 Million People. It Saved Some Of Their Lives.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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They're not wrong.

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A short thread by uber-centrist Norm freakin' Ornstein.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Normalized.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 8:48 AM | Permalink

The Problem With Urban Music Classes? Me.

Nothing truly prepares you for the realities of teaching in an underserved community.

Racial disparities in public education are an essential issue for every teacher to understand - but especially for white educators who teach children of color. While most pre-service teaching programs do not equip you to meet these challenges, each school I have taught in has provided me with experiences that have shaped me and the way I've worked as a music teacher in urban schools.

After spending 10 years as a contract musician stringing together gigs, teaching private music lessons and performing odd jobs, I stepped into a part-time music teaching position in an urban charter school. My first day as a music teacher was harrowing. I found 12 playable guitars in my classroom - and 14 students who were resistant to me. After several chaotic classes, I wondered, What was I doing wrong? Why won't they listen to me?

I soon realized the problem wasn't the students, it was me.

I needed to build relationships inside and outside the classroom. Coming into school early to sit with students while they ate their snacks helped. So did working with them during their tutoring periods. Back in class, I started teaching students songs of their choice, arranging the songs in ways that made them accessible for the students' skill levels. The students saw that I cared - and they began to care, too.

Looking back, I can see why my first guitar class didn't trust me: I wasn't from their neighborhood, and I didn't relate to them. Worse, the value judgements I made about what to teach, and how class should be run, marginalized their experiences.

Many white teachers - like me - who are eager to make a difference in the lives of young children of color can find themselves feeling rejected by their students. This perceived rejection morphs into frustration, which leads many teachers to leave schools mid-year, or even to quit the profession altogether. The effects this can have on students are often overlooked. Transient teachers reinforce the belief in many students' minds that they are temporary figures who do not care about the students. It can make young people wonder why they should feel invested in their own education when their teachers don't seem to be.

Related: What's missing in music education? Cultural and social relevance

A passion for teaching was ignited within me, and I enrolled in a Master of Arts in Teaching program, focusing on music and special education. The program placed me in different schools as a music teacher in Springfield, a city in Western Massachusetts that is home to the state's second-largest school district, serving just over 25,000 students, almost all of whom are Latino or black.

The real change has come from within me - how I continue to rethink education and my own privilege. This happened when I stopped seeing myself as someone who needed to change the world, fix a broken system or provide kids of color with opportunities. Instead, I try to get out of their way. How can I remove barriers to their success?

Four years ago, I began a new challenge: becoming the music director at Veritas Preparatory Charter School in Springfield, where we have built a new music program in the image of our students. Here are some takeaways that may be applicable to other music and arts teachers:

First, it's not all about the money. When I first arrived at Veritas, the school had minimal funds, using orange Home Depot buckets as drums. Fundraising efforts and partnerships with local organizations allowed us to trade in the orange buckets for real drums and provide other instruments as well. But what was even more important was teaching the students to play the music that was most meaningful to them. For my students, that is hip-hop, and music from the Caribbean and the African Diaspora.

All children, regardless of their backgrounds, consume music digitally so all educators should consider integrating music production into their curricula. In our school, we developed a hip-hop production class in which students write, record and perform their own music.

Second, diversify the teaching corps. The demographics of the teaching corps in urban schools are inversely proportional to the demographics of the students. In Springfield, 86 percent of the students are Latino or black, compared to a teaching population that is 69 percent white and 30 percent Latino or black. When it comes to music teachers, a 2015 study in the Journal of Research in Music Education found that pre-service music teachers nationwide are 86 percent white, with just 7 percent black and fewer than 2 percent Latino.

Third, seek consistency. My teaching mentor once said something that I often repeat: The discussion in urban education revolves around how kids in places like Springfield need "radical change." But maybe what kids really need is radical consistency - teachers and other caring adults who stay invested in their lives, and art programs that flourish and grow without the perpetual threat of cuts.

Fourth, meet students on their own terms. While adapting the music program, I worked hard to understand and reflect the students' experiences. Our school has committed itself to becoming a culturally inclusive organization. We formed a "Change Team" to identify racial bias and make the necessary changes to ensure that our students and staff are never denied opportunities or done harm because of the color of their skin.

Recently, I watched as my students - who had once played on Home Depot buckets - performed with renewed energy on their brand-new instruments as part of the school's first official band.

One student-musician said to me: "Mister, this finally feels real. Like a big deal kind of real."

Lincoln Smith is the music director at Veritas Preparatory Charter School, a public middle school in Springfield, Massachusetts. This post produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up here for our newsletter.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:52 AM | Permalink

The Problem With Internet TV

The global internet TV market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11% in the next five years, according to our new report Internet TV Market By Type of Content (Content-on-Demand and Live Streaming), By Revenue Source, and By Region - Global Forecast up to 2025.

The goal of the new report is to define, analyze, and forecast the global internet TV market based on segments, which include revenue source, type of contents, and region.

In addition, the global internet TV market report helps venture capitalists to better understand the companies involved in order to make well-informed decisions; the report is primarily designed to provide company executives with strategically substantial competitor information, data analysis, and insights about the market, development, and implementation of an effective marketing plan.

The market is expected to cross $170 billion by the end of 2025 with increasing demand for video-on-demand (VOD) as the major driver. The flexibility associated with VOD has increased the number of viewers using this channel, which has helped to increase the demand for internet TV.

One of the major challenges associated with global internet TV market is the lack of an integrated platform for providing content. A number of production houses have entered the internet TV market and to generate more revenue many of them are planning to limit their content to their own services. This trend reduces the content of internet TV services overall, and viewers will have to pay for more than a single internet TV service to get wide coverage, which can amount to a huge amount of money, especially for middle class families in developing economies.

Also, weak internet infrastructure and unreliable internet connection leads to frequent disconnections which affects the internet TV market. This challenge is more relevant during live streaming since video cannot be buffered for compensating the internet disconnection period.

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See also: Internet To Be The 'New TV' For More Filipino Homes.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:39 AM | Permalink

Earth At Night

Earth has many stories to tell, even in the dark of night. Earth at Night, NASA's new 200-page e-book, is now available online and includes more than 150 images of our planet in darkness as captured from space by Earth-observing satellites and astronauts on the International Space Station over the past 25 years.

The images reveal how human activity and natural phenomena light up the darkness around the world, depicting the intricate structure of cities, wildfires and volcanoes raging, auroras dancing across the polar skies, moonlight reflecting off snow and deserts, and other dramatic earthly scenes.

earthatnight-cover.jpg

"Earth at Night explores the brilliance of our planet when it is in darkness," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, writes in the book's foreword. "The book is a compilation of stories depicting the interactions between science and wonder. I am pleased to share this visually stunning and captivating exploration of our home planet."

In addition to the images, the book tells how scientists use these observations to study our changing planet and aid decision makers in such areas as sustainable energy use and disaster response.

NASA brings together technology, science, and unique global Earth observations to provide societal benefits and strengthen our nation. The agency makes its Earth observations freely and openly available to everyone for use in developing solutions to important global issues such as changing freshwater availability, food security and human health.

For more information about NASA's Earth science programs, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/earth.

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Chicago as an example of how the technology for capturing images from space has improved. (ENLARGE)

Screen Shot 2019-12-11 at 1.16.24 AM.png

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Previously:

* In E-Mails, NASA Denies Child Slave Ring On Mars, Confirms Politician-Eating Tentacle Monster On Europa.

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Plus:

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:00 AM | Permalink

Running: Not So Much A Liberating Hobby As A Cult

Endurance running is in. Fitness enthusiasts and elite runners alike spend their weekends pounding the pavement and bounding through the countryside. They are training for and competing in ultra marathons, triathlons and obstacle races.

Runners often claim that they run to escape from the demands of everyday life; to experience freedom; and as a way to meditate.

But in my recently published PhD thesis, I investigate what really motivates people to torture themselves by running hundreds of painful miles in their spare time, no matter the weather. And it paints a rather different picture.

runningcult.jpgIR Stone/Shutterstock

My research shows that running has become a way to gain social status by creating an image or personal brand. Even though most runners claim only to compete with themselves, they often use their personal brands to compete with others. This doesn't just apply to running, but to jobs, education and even dates in our competitive and individualized neoliberal society. Social media and apps such as Strava, which connects millions of runners, are increasingly being used for this purpose.

Personal brands are built in other areas of life, too. Take cooking, for example. We might once have enjoyed cooking and eating a simple meal with friends. Now, on-trend ingredients, complicated dishes and sophisticated kitchen equipment are used to demonstrate one's connoisseurship - often on social media.

Similarly, running and exercise used to be simple - something we devoted a few short moments a week to. But much like cooking, running is supported by a big industry. You don't really need any special equipment to run - you could in theory run barefoot. Despite that, an entire industry has grown around the sport - selling shoes, special training clothes, running experiences, dietary advice and even training holidays.

So its no wonder that running is so romanticized in both advertising and public health campaigns, often telling the same stories as the runners themselves. They suggest running is about freedom from the demands of contemporary society to be competitive, productive and disciplined. It is about the tranquility of nature, and a community of like-minded others.

Study Design

My research is based on interviews and diary analysis from 33 runners. It is what scientists call "qualitative research," based on in-depth information rather than large amounts of data. The runners come from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the UK. I also visited triathlon competitions, obstacle course races and even took part in an ultra marathon as part of my research.

Endurance runners are typically fixated on how fast and how far they have run. They constantly measure and quantify their running. One runner told me how difficult she found it to run for fun without looking at her sports watch. She confessed that if her watch ran out of batteries during a run, she would probably just give up and go home. All the runners in my study quantified their runs in a similar way and all but one competed in timed races.

runningcult1.jpg

I also discovered that, when describing their hobby, runners use concepts that are associated with neoliberal thinking: productivity, efficiency and competition. They talk about "investing" time and money in equipment and training in order to get the best returns - economic language more typically associated with work.

But why is that? In a neoliberal society, we experience near-constant pressure to be productive, efficient and competitive. This pressure proves impossible for many runners to resist and it transforms how they understand and enjoy their running. Running therefore becomes a way for people to show how productive they are and runners use their achievements to build personal brands and to compete with others for status.

I also investigated how runners do this. It is not unusual to see running achievements listed on CVs or dating profiles. Management consultancies also boast on their websites about the kinds of endurance races their employees have participated in. That's despite the fact that there is no obvious link between being a good runner and being a good a consultant. Rather, it is appearances that count.

No one forces us to take part in endurance running. On the other hand, none of us is completely free in our choices. In a society or group, there are always ideals or norms that encourage us to make one choice over another. In a neoliberal society, economic ideals such as productivity are paramount.

So while endurance runners choose to run for a multitude of reasons, one of them being a feeling of freedom, many also do it because running is something for which they will be rewarded socially.

Stress And Anxiety

We know that more and more people suffer from stress, anxiety and burnout, even in societies with apparently good work-life balance. So with countless studies showing that running and other exercise is good for our mental health - often prescribed as an antidote to stress, anxiety and depression - shouldn't we be doing more of it?

Not necessarily. Some speculate that the reason we are so stressed is because common ways to relax and unwind - running, eating with friends and so on - have become competitive and a bit like work. They are tipping the work-life balance towards work even though we feel we are getting more balance.

So keep in mind that the next time you post your awesome running achievements and delicious meals on social media, you could be contributing to leisure activities becoming ever more exhausting and anxiety-provoking.

We are often quick to dismiss practices such as mindfulness, self-help seminars and meditation as neoliberal activities - making some people millions while creating productive, conformist citizens. Running is arguably no different. That said, if we can manage to run for the pleasure of running, without timing and measuring ourselves, running can of course still be hugely enjoyable - and good for our health.

Carys Egan-Wyer is a researcher at Lund University. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:58 AM | Permalink

Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide | Real Hockey Stick Beer Openers

Fine-crafted from the workbench of former Cub Factor columnist Marty Gangler. Order yours here. Choose from normal, laced or taped!

marty1gift.jpg(ENLARGE)

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marty2gift.jpg(ENLARGE)

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See also:

* Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide | Chicago Photo Booth.

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Plus:

* SIU Press Holiday Sale: Give The Gift Of Chicago, Illinois History, Rhetorics & Feminisms, Theater In The Americas, And Some Crab Orchard Poetry.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:31 AM | Permalink

E-Mails Show Water Contractor Knew About Lead Risk In Flint

Internal e-mails reported on Tuesday by the Guardian and MLive reveal that executives at a water company contracted to assess the water system in Flint, Michigan privately expressed concerns that residents "might be at risk of being poisoned by lead in their tap water" months before the city publicly admitted the problem in 2015.

The e-mails, obtained by the watchdog group Corporate Accountability, came to light through a lawsuit filed in the Genesee County Circuit Court by the Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who took office in January.

The state's suit accused the company, Veolia, of "professional negligence, negligence, public nuisance, unjust enrichment, and fraud."

Last month a state judge threw out all but the unjust enrichment claim.

Corporate Accountability spokesperson Alissa Weinman told the newspapers that Veolia's actions related to Flint were "despicable."

"The documents show a Veolia executive, a month before the corporation told the city its water was safe, saying that 'lead seems to be a problem,'" Weinman said. "I think anyone has to ask themselves how the story in Flint would be different five years later now if Veolia had made those private concerns public."

In April 2014, an emergency manager appointed by Michigan's then-governor, Republican Rick Snyder, switched Flint's water supply from Detroit's system to the Flint River in a bid to save money. By August, city officials had issued boil-water alerts because of coliform bacteria. In February 2015, high levels of lead were found in the drinking water at the home of Lee Anne Walters, who notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

However, it wasn't until September that public health experts began publicly raising alarm about Flint's corrosive water causing lead to leach from the city's aging pipes, and it wasn't until October that officials told residents to not drink the water, distributed filters, and expanded testing. Although Flint reconnected to Detroit's water system in October, Flint's residents still live with the consequences of the water crisis.

In February 2015, Veolia signed a $40,000 contract with Flint. According to the company, the assessment was only focused on bacteria and chlorine compounds called trihalomethanes. The reporting Tuesday raises questions about what that timeline might have looked like had Veolia, one of the largest utility companies in the world, publicly raised concerns about lead earlier. It also points out that while senior employees were privately raising such concerns, "Veolia was exploring other lucrative contracts with the city."

Veolia sent a 20-page response to the newspapers, accusing city and state officials of "trying to create a corporate villain where one does not exist." The company added that "we now know in 2019 the myriad of ways that the government officials behaved badly, but as the Flint water crisis unfolded many of those facts were unknown, concealed, and covered up by the government perpetrators."

The Guardian and MLive detail some of the e-mails sent internally by Veolia's senior staff about lead concerns dating back to February 2015:

"Do not pass this on," wrote Rob Nicholas, then the vice president of development, in an e-mail to Veolia executives. "The City however needs to be aware of this problem with lead and operate the system to minimize this as much as possible and consider the impact in future plans. We had already identified that as something to be reviewed."

Nicholas forwarded the information to Veolia engineer Marvin Gnagy, adding: "Yep. Lead seems to be a problem."

Days later, Veolia technology vice president Bill Fahey e-mailed senior executives calling for the company to advise Flint to change its water supply, adding that "the politics of this should not get in the way of making the best recommendation." Reiterating the call in another e-mail, he added: "PLEASE . . . this will come back and bite us."

Nayyirah Shariff, who directs of the local group Flint Rising, told the papers she feels Veolia downplayed concerns publicly. From February to March 2015, the company held a news conference and public meetings, plus put out an interim water quality report. As Shariff put it, "They were like, 'everything is fine.'"

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Previously:
* The Best Reporting (So Far) On The Flint Water Crisis.

* Item: Flint Hint.

* How Al-Jazeera America Reported The Flint Water Crisis - A Year Ago.

* A Flint Journal Reporter Explains How The Water Crisis Happened.

* Race Best Predicts Whether You Live Near Pollution.

* How The EPA Has Failed to Challenge Environmental Racism in Flint - and Beyond.

* We Helped Uncover A Public Health Crisis In Flint, But Learned There Are Costs To Doing Good Science.

* Michigan's Top State Health Official Among Five Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter For Role In Flint Water Crisis.

* Flint Town.

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Plus:

The Unjust Coverage Of The Flint Water Crisis.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:15 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2019

Beachwood Holiday Gift Guide | Chicago Photo Booth

A sample of goodies you can buy from Beachwood Photo Booth conductor Helene Smith. Click on the headlines to purchase a photo; click here for more Chicago photos and here for more Cubs/Wrigley photos.

1. The Band Plays On.

helene1gift.jpg (ENLARGE)

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2. Montrose Beach.

helene2gift.jpg(ENLARGE)

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3. Heart 'O' Chicago.

helene3gift.jpg(ENLARGE)

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4. Chicago Skyway.

helene4gift.jpg(ENLARGE)

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5. Yum Yum Donuts.

helene5gift.jpg(ENLARGE)

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:42 AM | Permalink

December 9, 2019

SportsMonday: Audition Time For The Bears

The Bears will not be participating in the playoffs. I know it is fun to bust out the "So you're telling me there is a chance" line and remember Jim Carey (his character that is) in Dumb and Dumber making his romantic pitch to Lauren Holly (also not actually her).

But it will not happen.

It was widely reported that the Bears' chance of going to the playoffs analytically improved from 3% to 5% after they knocked off the Cowboys in delightful fashion last Thursday. In other words, the Bears skyrocketed to a one-in-20 chance. And in still other words, the win was nice but the postgame situation still could only be described as bleak.

Then the Vikings and the Rams both recorded victories on Sunday to pile on a little more bleakness. With three games left in the season, the Bears (7-6) are fourth in the NFC wild card standings behind Seattle (10-3), Minnesota (9-4) and Los Angeles (8-5).

Even if by some miracle the Bears win three - with the highly unlikely trifecta of beating the Packers at home this coming Sunday, beating the Chiefs in Chicago the week after, and finally taking a victorious trip to Minnesota - the Vikings will have had have to lose one of their next two games and the Rams two of their final three games for the Bears to make the playoffs.

All of that is not, gonna, happen.

So let's see more of the young/inexperienced guys in this last little bit of a disappointing season. Cornelius Lucas has shown significant potential at right tackle and the team has pass-blocked better with him on the line. Even if starter Bobbie Massie recovers enough to re-enter the lineup in the last few games, Lucas should get more opportunities.

We'll also want to see more of the two Kevins, Tolliver and Pierre-Louis. Tolliver gave up some big plays late against the Cowboys but the Bears were protecting a lead and playing conservatively, i.e., trading yardage against for time off the clock.

Earlier Toliver, an undrafted cornerback out of LSU the year before last who has great size for the position (6-2, 198), showed impressive stickiness as he covered several Cowboy receivers. And while Pierre-Louis (28) has bounced around the league for a while, he will almost certainly be a cheaper alternative to veteran Danny Trevathan, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

Oh and then there is that young quarterback to consider. Actually the only thing I want to say in that regard is, "It was about time, knucklehead!" as in it was about time Trubisky revived his running game. He looked good on some called runs and read options and he also looked good scrambling against Dallas.

I have previously expressed my opinion that someone told Trubisky to stop running coming into this season. Coach Matt Nagy says it wasn't him so the leading candidates are his agents - Bruce and Ryan Tollner.

And you can understand their concern. The man seemed to be on track for a minimum nine-figure second contract (over $100 million) in a few years if he had another successful season at the helm in 2019. The only thing that could derail that was a serious injury, and that was more likely to happen on a run.

But Trubisky isn't a good enough passer to never run. His touchdown in particular reminded us, "Hey, it isn't just that he needs to run to keep defenses honest; he needs to do it because he is good at it." And as Troy Aikman pointed out during last Thursday's broadcast, better, more consistent running will force other teams to deploy a spy to make sure he isn't killing them with quarterback draws. When they do that, it removes a defender from the pass defense.

So keep up the running, Mitch. And keep up the good work, reserves who should be getting a quality audition during the next three weeks.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 11:47 AM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

"The City of Harvey, whose police and fire non-emergency phone lines were briefly cut for inadvertent nonpayment over the summer, is once again caught in a tangled web of telecommunications torment," the Tribune-owned Daily Southtown reports.

"Officials said the city has been unable to pay its monthly AT&T bill since October and is being threatened by the company with disconnection if it can't come up with $50,000 per month to cover its current telecommunications usage and simultaneously chip away at a $700,000 arrearage that has swelled over an indeterminate number of years."

Here's the really fucked-up part:

While officials do not dispute the city owes AT&T money, they said they believe the company took advantage of prior administrations by charging for dozens of inoperable telecommunications lines it now says it cannot identify to disconnect.

"I don't know if those phone lines went back to the previous administration, the administration prior to that, the administration prior to that or how it worked out," [Mayor Christopher] Clark said. "But we have lines that we don't use. We have lines that we haven't used for years. We have lines that, for all intents and purposes, AT&T knows are not being used. But we're still paying for it."

That seems like something that could be worked out. Get rid of the unused lines. But . . .

"The city wants to disconnect the lines it does not need - many of which are so antiquated they aren't even operable - but officials said AT&T representatives say the company can't identify which lines are unnecessary."

I don't get it. I suppose AT&T would know which lines don't work - or aren't being used - but how does the city not know that there are lines (telephones?) that don't work? Are the lines buried, or hidden away somewhere? After all, Harvey is not large; it has about 25,000 people and a City Hall, presumably, commensurate with that population. Is it really that hard to audit the phone lines?

When we went to them initially and said, 'Please tell us what those lines are, where those lines are to, so we don't inadvertently disconnect something or disconnect the emergency services,' they don't have an answer to that," Clark said. "We can't turn off the lines because we don't want to inadvertently turn off emergency services, but at the same time we have to continue paying for something we're not using . . .

At one point this fall, Harvey officials said, AT&T engineers examined the city's telecommunications system and identified 12 lines they said weren't operable and could safely be disconnected.

When the city cut the lines AT&T had recommended, however, four of them ended up being active radio lines used by the Fire Department, officials said.

As a result, dispatchers were unable to communicate via radio with the Harvey Fire Department for three days until the lines could be reconnected and had to resort to calling individual firefighters on their cellphones to report emergencies, said Davis, the mayor's chief of staff.

There's more, so go read the rest, but you know what? AT&T should just go fix the problem. After all, it appears the company logs about $25 billion a year in pretax earnings and pays no income tax. They should cut Harvey a break and do right thing.

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P.S.: I wonder if the mayor has tried tweeting at them? That seems to be the best way to get customer service results these days.

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Rahm Squad
Someone - perhaps out of brother Ari's stable - wrote a stand-up routine for Rahm Emanuel's weekend appearance at the (gawd) Gridiron Club winter dinner and the media lapped it up.

As much as Rahm has treated much of the press corps with disdain, he has sourcing arrangements with others. Maybe that explains the affection for him so many in the media continue to exhibit. (See also: Reading Rahm Part 1: The Master Media Manipulator.)

How he is allowed to exist as a credible figure whose status is considered enhanced by his failed mayoralty (and failed humanity) is beyond me, though. To wit:

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And:

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New on the Beachwood . . .

Remembering Juice WRLD
The Homewood native was a 21-year-old "supernova and just getting started.

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This Is Why Children's TV Is So Weird
For example, "if you want to attract a young child's attention towards an object or character, you have to point all the visual information in a scene towards it or they will struggle to follow the story. That's why children's TV shows have big caricatured faces, often with things sticking out of their heads."

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The Protocols Of The Elders Of The Republican Party
"The answer can be found in the Republican id, where a toxic brew of conspiracy theory, urban legend, photoshopping and comment-board trollery self-organize into an alternate reality. While this alt-reality has only burst into wider public view during the Trump presidency, like the monstrous space alien exploding out of the bodies of the infected scientists in John Carpenter's The Thing, I was in a position to observe its germination, more than two decades ago."

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The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #281: The Bears Are (Not) Back, Baby!
But we get to dream for another week. Plus: The Blackhawks Just Made Fools Of Us; A Farewell To Mick McCall; Fire Lovie Smith!; Club DubPaul; Boylen vs. LaVine; Cole Hamels Will Be Missed; and Zack Wheeler Chooses Phillies Over Guaranteed Rate.

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SportsMonday: Audition Time For The Bears
Face it, they are not going to the playoffs. Time to play the kids.

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Americans Are Still Wrong About Climate Change
Democrats only slightly more knowledgeable than Republicans.

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Confessions Of A Tour Guide Part 1: Busting The Myths Of Chicago Architecture
"That these myths still abound in the Google era is, in my judgement, inexcusable (and believe me, it's quite a thing to give tours and watch people hit their phones when they don't believe something). Again, we can entertain and identify the lore with affection but also emphasize what we know to be true. This way we can maintain and even improve our hard-earned reputation as a no-bullshit city well worth visiting."

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Can we talk about the hidden restaurants underneath oglive from r/chicago

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ChicagoTube

Misanthropy at Reggies on Friday night.

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BeachBook

American Nativity 2019.

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Opioid Manufactures Made Parody Rap Videos To Help Push Products.

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Pfizer CEO Gets 61% Pay Raise - To $27.9 Million - As Drug Prices Continue To Climb.

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How Climate Change May Make The Fight Against Great Lakes Sea Lampreys Costlier.

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Professor: Ojibwe Language At Make-Or-Break Point.

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Kansas City Becomes First Major City With Universal Fare-Free Public Transit.

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The City Known For 'Sewer Socialists' Actually Has Great Sewers.

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Ramones Heirs Finally Settle Their Longstanding Trademark Dispute.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Tippage Line: Amendable.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 10:13 AM | Permalink

Remembering Juice WRLD

"Juice WRLD, one of a crop of sweet-voiced singing rappers who emerged from the streaming platform SoundCloud in recent years, died on Sunday, the authorities said. He was 21," the New York Times reports.

The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office in Illinois confirmed the death in a statement.

Identifying the artist by his real name, it said Jarad A. Higgins, of Homewood, Ill., had been pronounced dead at 3:14 a.m. at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. The cause of death was not available and an autopsy was to be done, the office said.

The rapper's sharp, catchy songs - which were often freestyled in only a few takes - combined the melodic hip-hop instincts of Lil Yachty, Post Malone and XXXTentacion with the heavy-hearted angst and nasal hooks of emo and pop-punk bands like Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco.

"I've always been different," he told the New York Times last year. "I used to try to hide it a little bit, but now I have a platform for being different."

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Jessi Roti wrote for the Tribune in June 2018 that "no artist has had such seeming overnight success quite like Juice Wrld - the 19-year-old Calumet Park native who signed a reported $3 million deal with Interscope in March after his 2017 EP Juice Wrld 999 started racking up millions of streams on SoundCloud, thanks to singles 'Lucid Dreams' (currently No. 6 on Billboard's 'Hot 100') and 'All Girls Are the Same' (first featured on the three-song Nothings Different EP, amassing 48.3 million plays)."

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Juice WRLD was a "supernova," Max Cea writes for GQ. "Juice seemed like the SoundCloud artist best poised to persevere."

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"Born in Chicago on Dec. 2, 1998, he was raised in the south suburb of Homewood, Ill. He said his parents divorced when he was 3, and he was raised mainly by his mother, a student teacher who steered him toward gospel instead of hip-hop," the Washington Post reports.

Cousins introduced him to rappers including Lil Wayne and Meek Mill, and he soon learned piano, guitar and drums. By 16, he was putting songs on SoundCloud under the name JuiceTheKidd, inspired by the Tupac Shakur movie Juice. He later added World to his name, dropping the o to make himself more noticeable.

After graduating from Homewood-Flossmoor High School in 2017, he worked briefly at a car-parts factory and released several EPs. In 2018 he signed a reported $3 million deal with Interscope Records, despite having performed in public just once, for $100 at a party in front of classmates. "We feel that he can be the voice of his generation," label vice president Aaron "Dash" Sherrod later told Billboard.

Juice WRLD collaborated with artists including Lil Uzi Vert and Ellie Goulding, and partnered with Future to record the hit "Fine China," part of their 2018 mix tape Wrld on Drugs. He also joined YoungBoy Never Broke Again to release "Bandit," which reached No. 10 on the Hot 100 in October.

In recent months he had settled into a mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., where he rode dirt bikes, watched anime, played chess and recorded in his billiard room by night.

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"For a rapper whose songs were so bleak, Juice WRLD never felt like a dark figure," Alphonse Pierre writes for Pitchfork.

"Juice WRLD blurred the lines, his singsongy, piano-driven hip-hop about heartbreak and pain - and the drugs that numbed that heartbreak and pain - never felt like the work of a character, but a rapper who turned his personality up to 100."

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Five key songs and features via Variety.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:27 AM | Permalink

Protocols Of The Elders Of The Republican Party

How do the horrific events of Charlottesville, the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and a similar hate crime in California directly relate to the eye-rolling pronouncements by Devin Nunes, Rudy Giuliani, and other Republicans in defense of President Donald Trump?

The answer can be found in the Republican id, where a toxic brew of conspiracy theory, urban legend, photoshopping and comment-board trollery self-organize into an alternate reality. While this alt-reality has only burst into wider public view during the Trump presidency, like the monstrous space alien exploding out of the bodies of the infected scientists in John Carpenter's The Thing, I was in a position to observe its germination, more than two decades ago.

It is therefore refreshing that finally, a former national security council employee, Fiona Hill, has given widely publicized testimony to the House intelligence committee decisively exposing as a lie one of the linchpins of the conspiratorial Republican worldview - the assertion that it was Ukraine, not Russia, behind disruption of the 2016 election. Previously, the media had sporadically raised the conspiracy theory, disjointedly explained it, and weakly dismissed it, allowing it to hang like an incubus in the air for the credulous to half believe.

What received less attention from the big media, however, was Hill's elaboration of one specific component of the GOP's imagined conspiracy. She said that lurking behind their Ukraine fantasy was the claim that billionaire George Soros was financing the supposed disruption operation, and that he manipulated not only politicians in Kyiv but crucial components of the U.S. government.

Indeed, Republican performance artist Joe diGenova has alleged that Soros steered the State Department and FBI effectively to politically dominate Ukraine, and he echoed Trump fixer Giuliani's false assertions that Soros was involved in faking corruption evidence against Trump's 2016 campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Hill likened these defamations to an infamous fabrication by the Tsarist secret police, more than a century old, called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In her words, that forgery was "the longest-running anti-Semitic trope that we have in history, and a trope against Mr. Soros was also created for political purposes, and this is the new Protocols . . . "

How did we sink to the point where an approved talking point of one of our two major parties rehashes a long-refuted anti-Semitic calumny whose toxic effects helped bring on the nightmare of 20th century fascism and the most destructive war in history?

The major media are finally getting around to debunking the Ukraine conspiracy in detail, now that congressional testimony has given them permission, but it is useful to stand back and look at the bigger picture, of which Ukraine is only a part. What is the larger narrative?

We are expected to believe that Hillary Clinton, in concert with Ukraine, arranged for her private e-mails to be stolen, along with those of the Democratic National Committee, in order to sabotage her own campaign for the presidency. Why on Earth? Doing so helped hand the presidency to Trump, but it served the larger goal of falsely framing innocent Russia for collaborating with the Trump campaign, when the real culprit was Ukraine.

Oh, and George Soros was in there somewhere pulling wires and arranging things, because, hey, Jewish financiers are clever and you can't expect much from blockheads like the Ukrainians.

That, in capsule, is what Republicans earnestly endeavor to have you believe, although it sounds as if some of Catch-22's more phantasmagoric passages got mixed up with Mein Kampf. Do Republicans believe it themselves?

Undoubtedly there are many, mostly elected officials, gamely going through the motions of believing it because the party demands it. Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) has been waffling of late, his position probably dependent on how well his pollsters tell him the tale sells down in the bayous.

But there is also the vast Republican base of true believers of the type once described by political philosopher Eric Hoffer. Back in the 1990s, I knew one of them on Capitol Hill. I'll call her Margaret, because that's her name. It was through her tutelage that I became aware of the ubiquitous and omnipotent Mr. Soros. Margaret, being a movement activist, worked enthusiastically for an unpleasantly sanctimonious Midwestern Republican congressman (who later resigned after an affair with a staffer became public). He was at the legislative forefront of the 1990s epidemic of draconian sentences for illegal drug use.

She informed me that the worst thing about drug legalization (at the time an all but moribund cause) was that it was manipulated by Soros, who had given donations to drug legalization advocacy groups. He was poised, she theorized, to buy up brand names and cigarette production capacity in order to corner a future U.S. market for legal marijuana. Thus would the Hungarian-born billionaire condemn a whole generation of American youth to crazed depravity.

The tentacles of Soros even extended, according to her catechism, to sporadic efforts to reintroduce the growing of hemp as a cash crop for struggling Midwestern farmers because of its industrial uses. Hemp does not have the pharmacological qualities of cannabis, but through some metaphysical process that escaped my powers of insight, Margaret had deduced that Farmer Brown's growing hemp for rope manufacturers would lead to an outbreak of reefer madness.

This was around the time things were heating up in the Balkans. Some thought that the United States had an obligation to intervene militarily, while others believed, per Bismarck, that blood vendettas there were the norm and the area was not worth the life of a single American soldier. But one Republican foreign policy expert on the Hill informed me that we must under no circumstances intervene because something-something George Soros. Yes, his fine hand was stirring the simmering Balkan cauldron.

It is probable that Soros's name was never mentioned once on the House or Senate floor, either in connection with the Balkan debate or national drug policy. In those days, legislators mostly kept up the pretense of sanity.

But beneath the surface, as in the world beneath the Planet of the Apes, there was an undercurrent of strange mutant ideas, confined at that moment to certain staff members (aside from a few certifiable wackos like Dan Burton). You could sometimes hear them after hours at the various watering holes frequented by Republican staff, or in the basement grill of the Capitol Hill Club. In the ensuing couple of decades, these ideas took over the politics of Washington and the country.

In a sense, Charlottesville and the synagogue shootings were a predictable outcome, not just of Trump's fueling of stochastic terrorism through his calculatedly hate-mongering speeches, but of a whole generation of conspiratorial thinking whereby Soros and Jewish banking plots seamlessly merge into the New World Order, Black Helicopters, a FEMA concentration camp in Beach Grove, Indiana, Muslim scares, cyclical moral panics about gays and feminists, Wars on Christmas, and they're going to outlaw barbecued ribs.

The incoherent discourses of Nunes and Giuliani didn't come out of nowhere, nor are they purely a sign of obedience to Trump. They had been germinating for ages in what was once called, without irony, the Party of Ideas.

Mike Lofgren is a former Republican congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His books include: The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government and The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 3:35 AM | Permalink

Americans Still Wrong About Climate Change

The world is often better and getting better than people think. Murder rates, deaths from terrorism and extreme poverty are all down. Life expectancy, health and education levels are up. But, as I explore in my book Why We're Wrong About Nearly Everything, people mostly think things are worse than they are and going downhill fast because of the natural tendency of humans to focus on negative stories and forget how bad the past was.

But there is one vital, even existential, exception: People still don't realize how bad the world's climate and natural environment have become. Misperceptions about climate change and the ecological crisis are all too clear from a new survey of Americans that tested their understanding of how far the problem has progressed in their lifetimes.


Read more: What you think you know about the climate is probably wrong - new UK poll


Recycling Will Save Us?

It's an extraordinary fact that all 20 of the hottest years on record have been in the last 22 years. But when we asked the U.S. public how many of the past 22 years have been among the hottest, the average guess is 14, and only 15% of Americans correctly guess that it is all 20 years. Democrats are somewhat better at getting the right answer (23%) than Republicans (9%), but still fare poorly overall.

It's understandable that people might be poorly versed in statistics like this, but there's also confusion over what the biggest causes of warming are. The people we interviewed guessed that 16% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from air travel, when it's only around 2%. While airplanes emit a lot of CO₂ during each flight, air travel is still relatively infrequent, compared with, say, car journeys.

The rarity of flying explains why, despite aviation's relatively limited contribution to emissions, one of the most effective actions a person can take is to fly less. A study by Swedish academics puts skipping one transatlantic flight as the third most effective action someone can take, only behind having one less child and living entirely car-free. But only 10% of the U.S. public pick out skipping the flight as one of the top three. Instead, 45% thought recycling as much as possible is a priority for reducing emissions - a much less effective action than giving up just one flight.

And that's not the only misperception about recycling. People also think much more plastic waste has been recycled than is really the case. Our respondents thought about half of the 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste that has been produced worldwide is now languishing in the environment. Research shows it's an incredible 79%. People thought that a quarter of plastic waste had been recycled, when it's only 9%.

climatepoll.png(ENLARGE)

The people we spoke to also didn't realize just how much wildlife has suffered over the past few decades, and how precipitous the decline in populations has been. Only a quarter of the U.S. public correctly identify that the population sizes of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles in the world have declined by 60% since 1970. Again, Democrats were slightly better than Republicans: 26% selected the correct, terrifying answer, compared with 16% of Republicans.

Information Overload

Despite low engagement with the scale of the problems, people are still worried.

Our new polling also showed that 60% of Americans reject President Donald Trump's past assertion that global warming is an "expensive hoax" - and instead, 62% agree that the world is facing a "climate change emergency, with the threat of irreversible destruction of our environment in our lifetime."

But there are huge differences in these attitudes between Republicans and Democrats. Seven in 10 Democrats strongly disagree that global warming is an expensive hoax, compared with just 17% of Republicans. Half of Republicans disagree that the world is facing a climate change emergency, compared with just 6% of Democrats.


Read more: Deniers vs alarmists? It's time to lose the climate debate labels


This very different view between party supporters is despite only relatively small differences in perceptions of the reality between the two groups. This shows that attitudes to big issues like climate change are sometimes so tied up with political identity, including attachment to political parties, that understanding the facts is often secondary.

This is a real challenge for those campaigning for climate action. It's not enough to just provide more facts and expect people to hear them and act, regardless of how extraordinary those facts are.

Bobby Duffy is a professor of public policy and director of the Policy Institute at King's College London. This post is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.


climatesubscribe.png Click here to subscribe to our climate action newsletter. Climate change is inevitable. Our response to it isn't.


See also:

* Florida Keys May Abandon Some Roads To Sea Rise Rather Than Raise Them.

* As Water Runs Low, Can Life In The Outback Go On?

* Climate Change The Cause Of Great Lakes Record High Water - And Earlier Record Lows.

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Previously:
* On The Origins Of Environmental Bullshit.

* Confirmed: Exxon Knew.

* Shell Knew, Too.

* Hothouse Earth Co-Author: 'People Will Look Back On 2018 As The Year When Climate Reality Hit.'

* 5 Ways Trump And His Supporters Use The Same Strategies As Science Deniers.

* Climate Science Across America.

* In Fast-Thawing Siberia, Radical Climate Change Is Warping The Earth Beneath The Feet Of Millions.

* Washed Away: Northwest Wisconsin Copes With The Costs Of A Changing Climate.

* Why Is Climate Change Still Not At The Top Of The News Agenda?

* Chicago Lakefront Disappearing And Local Media Can't Figure Out Why.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 2:40 AM | Permalink

Confessions Of A Tour Guide Part 1: Busting The Myths Of Chicago Architecture

The first in a new, occasional series.

Despite our reputation as a conservative meme for murder and mayhem, tourism in Chicago is thriving. In 2018, the city welcomed 57.7 million visitors, up 2.4 million from 2017. Hotel occupancy rose 4.4 per cent to 11.8 million rooms, and a reader's poll in the October Conde Nast Traveler named Chicago the "Best Big City" for tourists.

And architecture boat tours are consistently cited as among the most popular attractions here for visitors. The company I have led tours for since 2012 (I started giving tours downtown in 1986), Shoreline Sightseeing, and specifically the Architecture River Cruise, has, for the last two years, been named TripAdvisor's "Most Popular Tour in the U.S. & 2nd Most Popular in the World after the Vatican." When you come to Chicago, an architecture tour is de rigeur, like deep dish pizza, hot dogs and live blues.

But I believe if we are going to capitalize on and sustain this popularity, we need to do some serious myth-busting, or, at the very least, identify even with affection which popular stories are downright untrue or lacking credible documentary evidence. Call me a Spoil Sport if you will, but I think the truth is more interesting than the legend(s).

Otherwise, we fall into the "many people have said" trap that is endemic to our social discourse these days. And in some cases, unconfirmed if charming stories are included in the scripts that tour guides are required to follow. Inexperienced tour guides will cling to these scripts and are all too hungry for alluring trivia that make them seem especially wise.

Mind you, in my experience, more people believe that Mrs. O'Leary's Cow started the Chicago Fire than that we reversed the Chicago River. True Story. The lore becomes legend, which is beloved, and then expected. (The Chicago City Council officially exonerated the O'Leary family, and cow, in 1997).

Too many tour companies pander to the market, purposefully telling Tall Tales because they're popular. Hillary Marzec, of Inside Chicago Walking Tours, one of the leading tour companies in the city (Five Star TripAdvisor average rating w/over 1,200 reviews), concurs:

"Unfortunately, as tours operate more or less seasonally, you often get guides who regurgitate a script rather than putting any research into it on their own," she messaged me. "And that's one of the benefits of owning and operating a small business: I'm not beholden to any 'bottom line' handed down to me from higher-ups, and I can actually care more about the myth-busting and the authentic, real stories and history than about the dollars coming in."

As with most veteran Chicago guides, she can recite a litany of commonly peddled myths & falsehoods presented by some of the most revered brands in the city.

"One of the easiest myths to 'bust' is that the Water Tower is the 'only' building that survived the Great Fire, which I hear told by guides ALL THE TIME. All you have to do is look across the street to see (and go inside!) the Pumping Station, which dates from the same year, or check out the bell tower of St. James Episcopal Cathedral a couple blocks away, which predates the Water Tower by 12 years. Or the all-too-famous 'haunted bullet hole' in Holy Name Cathedral, which is actually a hole from where the church sign used to hang."

For the last decade, my specialty has been river boat architecture tours, so my pet peeves are focused on the route from the mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan up the North Branch to Chicago Avenue, and down the South Branch to Roosevelt Road.

Three prominent myths in particular really get my goat:

1. That Al Capone used the car elevator at the old Jewelers Building to ride to the speakeasy in the dome on top.

2. That the white lights atop 311 S. Wacker Drive ("The White Castle Building") are inspired by the engagement ring of the architect's late wife.

And the one that I find most egregious and most commonly still propagated:

3. That the Civic Opera House was specifically designed for Commonwealth Edison's Samuel Insull as a throne with its back to New York City, from which he had been unceremoniously driven out of (and that it was built for his opera-singing mistress; right out of Citizen Kane).

Romantic, endearing, surprising (even shocking). And without exception, total bullshit.

What is lacking in all three cases is, again, credible documentary evidence.

One of the most experienced historian/tour guides in Chicago today is Adam Selzer, author of H.H. Holmes: The True Story of the White City Devil, founder of the Mysterious Chicago history blog, and an in-demand guide for both boat and walking tours. Selzer is particularly skilled in archival research, where he excels in finding precisely the kind of credible, documentary evidence that supports or debunks the common lore. We'll rely primarily on him now to straighten us out.

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Let's start with the story about Al Capone & the old Jewelers Building.

Chicago September 2016-41.jpg
By Alvesgaspar - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The story I used to hear regularly was that Al Capone used the car elevator to ride up to the speakeasy in the building's dome. As in all of these cases, people still ask why I didn't tell that story, or, in fact, anything at all about Capone. (What I want to say but can't is "Because I'm not aware that he designed any of the buildings.")

35 East Wacker Building 4.JPG
By User:Thshriver (page does not exist) - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

There was a working car elevator from the building's opening in 1925 until 1939. There's no record of a speakeasy in the dome (even informally; as Selzer points out, even without official records, there's usually plenty word of mouth regarding known speakeasies) but a legal nightclub did open in the dome in 1937, well after Capone was in the slammer.

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Then, the myth of the "crown" of 311 S. Wacker (1990).

311_South_Wacker_Drive_(Chicago,_IL)_from_the_top_of_the_Willis_Tower_29Nov2007.JPGBy Ingvar-fed - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The prevailing myth about the white lights in the barrel-like crown of this building just south of Willis Tower is that the design is based on the engagement ring of the architect's late wife. Firstly: We have no credible documentary evidence of this story being true. It's a "many people have said" number that gets passed on and on. And it's another one that folks love and will often ask after.

And as we shall see with the lore of the Civic Opera House, this part of the building's design is simply a defining characteristic of the style, in this case, Post-Modern corporate architecture (roughly late '70s-late '90s). Along with more varied materials than prevalent in the Modern era (roughly '40s-'70s), and with generally more complicated overall form, the dome of many buildings in this style routinely incorporate elements of older forms on nearby buildings.

Other examples include 77 W. Wacker Drive (the former United Airlines Building, 1992), with its Greek Revival Crown and 190 S. La Salle St. (1987), with its Chicago Style crown, a tribute to the Masonic Temple which was nearby in the late 19th century. The crown at 311 S. Wacker is a tribute to the French Gothic crown of Tribune Tower.

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Finally, Citizen Kane and the Civic Opera Building (1929).

Civic_Opera_House_060528.jpgBy User:JeremyA - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

The building is often said to be designed to resemble a throne with its back to New York City, a symbol of the contempt in which Commonwealth Edison's Samuel Insull, who was involved in commissioning the Opera Building, held for the city he had to leave in disgrace. The issue is, once again, predominantly architectural. The "recess" that creates the throne-like look was actually required for all new buildings by city ordinance at the time, to maximize light and air down to ground level and minimize the "canyon" effect of a series of tall, flat-fronted buildings.

In fact, most of the other Art Deco buildings of the era in Chicago resemble thrones. As I would describe the overall style (at the time known as Streamlined or Streamlined Moderne): "A tall, central tower of stone or brick around a steel frame, tapering in at the top, over two shorter structures on either side of the base and a recess inward, making the structure look like a throne." But that would also describe Riverside Plaza (1929), directly across the river from the Opera Building (with its back to Kansas City?!), and both the La Salle-Wacker Building and the Chicago Board of Trade (both 1930; with their backs to St. Louis?!).

I refer to Occam's Razor here: the simplest explanation tends to be the best, especially if it can be readily affirmed with other evidence or examples.

As for the Citizen Kane parallel: that one actually skirts the edges of truth. Insull's wife was an actress, not an opera singer, and Kane screenwriter Herman Manckiewicz did incorporate his experience as a critic panning one of her late-career Broadway performances into the Kane story. And it was a member of Chicago's hallowed McCormick family who had an opera singer for a mistress. There's no record of him building an opera house.

That these myths still abound in the Google era is, in my judgement, inexcusable (and believe me, it's quite a thing to give tours and watch people hit their phones when they don't believe something). Again, we can entertain and identify the lore with affection but also emphasize what we know to be true. This way we can maintain and even improve our hard-earned reputation as a no-bullshit city well worth visiting.

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See also:

* Kogan: Poet J.J. Tindall Finds Freedom In Guiding Boat Tours.

* J.J. Tindall's Chicagoetry.

* Tindall: Ballots From The Dead.

* Tindall Music.

* Tindall: Interpretive Jazz Dance 1: The Match Game Theme.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:14 AM | Permalink

This Is Why Children's TV Is So Weird

Pepi Nana stirs, and sits up in bed.

"Tiddle toddle, tiddle toddle," she says, flapping her arms, and blinking a pair of enormous round eyes. She walks over to the desk, sits down, and, using the oversized pencil in her front pocket, scribbles a letter to the Moon.

"Tiddle toddle, please come to tea, and we can have a story. Yours lovingly, out of the window, Pepi Nana.

She steps onto the balcony of her toy house, kisses the letter and watches it flutter up into the night sky.

What Pepi Nana doesn't know is that on the Moon lives a waxy-looking creature with coal-black eyes called Moon Baby. He has a fixed smile and a blue Mohican. He reads her letter, pulls up the hood of his dressing-gown, and flies out of his crater towards Earth.

Arriving at Pepi Nana's house, Moon Baby rings the doorbell, hugs Pepi Nana, and wakes up all the other toys with his African thumb piano . . .

Most people have a favorite TV show from childhood. If you're a parent, there's also probably a show that your children adored but you found strange, or even a bit creepy. Right now, for many parents, that show is Moon and Me. It follows the night-time exploits of a mismatched set of dolls - including Pepi Nana, a soft pink onion called Mr Onion, and the milky, clown-like Colly Wobble - who come to life whenever the Moon shines.

My 1 1/2-year-old nephew doesn't share this skepticism. As the episode we're watching unfolds, he moves closer and closer to the screen, smiling, cooing, pointing and saying "Wow." My 8-year-old daughter stares in slack-jawed wonder at it all.

What is it about these pre-school TV shows that makes them so captivating for young viewers, but so strange to adult eyes? As a mother, I've worried whether watching television at a young age is a healthy childhood experience or a mind-rotting activity stunting my children's development. The fact that I don't understand these shows hasn't helped.

But weirdness, it turns out, can be a good thing.

Young children's minds process information differently from adults'; what's weird for us is often highly engaging for them. A better understanding of these differences could help create healthier, more engaging television programs, boosting children's understanding of the world as well as keeping them entertained. And it could also help parents and caregivers like me to make better decisions about the type of television we let our children watch.

Moon and Me, it turns out, is a product of research, informed by a collaboration between the co-creator of the hit show Teletubbies - Andrew Davenport - and Dylan Yamada-Rice, a researcher specializing in children's education and storytelling, to study how children interact with toy houses.

Such direct collaborations between academics and children's TV are not new. Sesame Street, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2019, employed developmental psychologists and education experts as part of the production team from the outset. Co-creator Joan Ganz Cooney thought television might be used as an educational tool to better prepare kids for kindergarten.

By January 1970, just a few months after it first aired, roughly a third of 2- to 5-year-olds in the United States regularly watched the show, with estimates of 2 million households and upwards of 5 million children tuning in to each episode. And although it was entertaining, every episode was - and still is - planned with specific learning objectives in mind: "The Sesame mission is to help children grow smarter, stronger and kinder," says Rosemarie Truglio, senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop and a developmental psychologist.

Has it succeeded? More to the point, how do you design a study to reliably test whether it succeeds?

"The question you really want to ask is: if you had the equivalent of kids who were randomly assigned to watch television and another group that didn't, would it change the outcomes?" says Phillip Levine, an economist at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

As it turns out, the rollout of Sesame Street in 1969 did almost exactly that.

By the late 1960s, most U.S. households owned a television set, but whether they could watch Sesame Street depended on where they lived, because in some areas it was broadcast on Very High Frequency (VHF) channels, in others on Ultra High Frequency (UHF) channels. UHF signals were weaker, and some TV sets couldn't receive them, which meant only around two-thirds of Americans had access to Sesame Street.

254_Mosaic_KidsTV_Andrea_Daquino_1.jpg© Andrea D'Aquino for Mosaic

"Just the act of being exposed to the show and watching it routinely increased school performance among the children who were able to view it," Levine says, citing the results of a study he and Melissa Kearney at the University of Maryland published.

The study found that children who watched Sesame Street were more likely to be academically on track, and less likely to be held back, than those who didn't.

Crucially, access to a VHF signal wasn't contingent on parents' wealth or education - factors which might have affected children's later school performance.

In fact, the study showed that children growing up in "economically disadvantaged" communities benefited the most from watching Sesame Street.

Not all television is as concerned with children's education, though.

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In the late 2000s, Angeline Lillard, a developmental psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, was looking at how children's behavior might be affected by the ways television characters behaved.

Her team had been watching a lot of SpongeBob SquarePants - a cartoon about a talking yellow sea sponge living in a pineapple at the bottom of the sea. The show is eclectic, to say the least, something that has helped it attain a cult following with children and adults alike.

"We were watching a whole lot of SpongeBob in lab meetings, and I felt I just couldn't get any work done afterwards," Lillard recalls. "I thought: 'If that happens to me after watching it, I wonder what happens to 4-year-olds.'"

This prompted her to start a new study, looking at the impact of television viewing on children's executive function - a set of cognitive abilities that include focusing attention, planning, deferring gratification and managing emotions.

Compared to watching a different children's cartoon, called Caillou (about the everyday life of a 4-year-old), or simply doodling on paper with crayons, watching SpongeBob impaired 4-year-olds' performance on various tests, including reciting a list of numbers in reverse, and learning to touch their toes when being instructed to touch their head.

At the time, Lillard thought it might have been the fast-paced editing that was to blame. In the SpongeBob clip they used, the scene changed roughly every 11 seconds, whereas in Caillou it was every 34 seconds.

Four years later, she published the results of a more thorough follow-up study. It wasn't the speed of cuts that was problematic, but how much fantastical, physics-defying content they contained.

"Very early in life, if not innately, babies have a folk understanding of having things fall, or that if something pushes against something else, it is going to fall down," Lillard says.

But what happens is that a car flies through the air, then it winds up in outer space, then suddenly they're skiing down a slope, they're under the sea, they pour cat food out of a box and what comes out is far more than could possibly have fitted inside the box. . . It's just one thing after another that can't possibly happen in the real world.

"Our brains aren't set up to process all of that," says Lillard. "My inkling is that the prefrontal cortex is working hard to figure all that out and then POOF! It can't do it. It's just not realistic."

Lillard stresses that they have only observed a short-term effect - there's no direct evidence to suggest that watching highly fantastical content will harm your child in the long run - but children as old as 6 were affected (they haven't studied older children).

And it wasn't just SpongeBob. Martha Speaks - a program about a dog who gains the ability to speak English after drinking some alphabet soup, intended to teach children vocabulary - had a similar effect, as did a relatively slow-paced cartoon called Little Einsteins, about four pre-schoolers helping a fairy put the Northern Lights back in the sky. Even well-intentioned educational programs can backfire if their content isn't age-appropriate.

A series of photographs appear on the screen: two yellow wooden ducks against a white background; two turtles swimming underwater; two lion cubs in the African savanna. Soothing classical music plays in the background.

This is a short clip from a DVD called Baby Einstein: Numbers Nursery, which aims to introduce infants to the numbers one to five, and I'm watching it with Tim Smith, a developmental psychologist at Birkbeck Babylab in London.

Smith tells me his colleague showed this video to 6- and 12-month-olds, tracking their gaze to gauge their interest in the images and whether they were looking at both objects, which is obviously important if you're trying to teach the concept of 'two.' After watching the clips, they would ask the parents what they thought of them.

The parents would say, "I really liked the bits with those lion cubs and the turtles, those were really cute. My little one adored those bits as well."

But the researchers noticed that the children seemed uninterested in these scenes.

Smith thinks this is because toddlers' immature visual systems struggle to pick out the creatures from their backgrounds. He shows me a second sequence developed by another colleague, who worked with a television company called Abbey Home Media.

A 2D cut-out of a lamb spins down onto a plain green screen while the narrator says: "It's a lamb." The same thing happens twice more. Then the whole sequence repeats again, only this time the narrator says "One, two, three," as each lamb lands. It's boring. It's repetitive. But when the same babies who watched Baby Einstein were shown this, their eyes tracked the arrival of each lamb, suggesting that they were engaged and following it.

A memory floods back to me: sitting on the sofa, trying to get my own young kids to watch the BBC nature documentary Blue Planet. At the time, it seemed relaxing, educational - surely real porpoises and polar bears are far better than endless repeats of Peppa Pig? But they seemed completely uninterested. Now I know why.

Smith pulls up a different video. A 3-year-old girl in a pink-patterned cardigan sits on her mum's lap watching TV. Another window shows what she's looking at: Waybuloo - a British-Canadian children's TV series, featuring four CGI animated characters with unnaturally large heads and eyes, floating around a fantastical land called Nara.

The girl is hooked up to eye-tracking equipment, and, as the freakishly cute 'Piplings' float around, her eyes precisely track their movements, confirming that it's these creatures, rather than the mountains or trees in the background, that have engaged her interest. Smith tells me Waybuloo is so effective that Babylabs around the world now use a clip from it, or similar children's cartoons, whenever they need to draw the attention of a child back to what they want them to look at on the screen.

The TV screen flickers. Now the little girl is watching a film of three women spaced out in a line, each holding a brightly colored ball. Smith points out the girl's eye movements. To start with, she looks at each of their faces in turn. Now, as the women begin to dance on the spot, her attention switches between them. Next, the women take it in turns to throw their ball in the air or shake it from side to side, the girl's attention drawn to these bright, moving objects.

I watch footage of the same girl when she was just a year old. Her enormous brown eyes show a gaze that is more sluggish, less coordinated, drawn less to faces and more towards any movement on the screen - and to those brightly colored balls.

It's a subtle difference, but if you want to attract a young child's attention towards an object or character, you have to point all the visual information in a scene towards it or they will struggle to follow the story. That's why children's TV shows have big caricatured faces, often with things sticking out of their heads.

"So when they move their heads, there's a lot of peripheral motion," says Smith. "There's also lots of luminance and color contrast that guides their attention to it. You're helping them to find the thing they're interested in."

In 2014, he published a study showing how closely attention-grabbing features, such as color, brightness and movement, matched the location of the main speaking character in frames from children's TV shows, compared with six adult shows.

"We wanted to see whether the producers of these children's shows have, through trial and error, developed techniques that effectively help infants to understand and process information," Smith said at the time.

They had. Paring down the action enables infants' sluggish attentional and visual systems to keep up. And characters' eyes tend to be very clearly marked, the outlines of their faces often set against white, or uniform-colored backgrounds, making them stand out even more.

It means that even with a very primitive visual system, you're still able to very quickly identify that main speaking character. This makes it easier for children to follow the story and potentially learn from it.

Andrew Davenport - the producer of Teletubbies and Moon and Me - studied speech therapy at university, but his real passion was drama.

Upon graduating, he and a friend set up a theater production company, and it was through this that he landed a job as a writer and puppeteer on a Ragdoll Productions show called Tots TV. The show, which featured three ragdoll friends, their pet donkey and a mischievous dog, won two BAFTA awards, finding audiences in the UK, U.S., Central and South America. But it was nothing compared to what Davenport did next.

1997's Teletubbies was the TV equivalent of a Hollywood blockbuster, going on to air in over 120 territories in 45 different languages. Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po were inspired by a trip to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington with Anne Wood, founder and creative director at Ragdoll. They wandered into an exhibition about space and Davenport said, "Isn't it weird how they put all this technology into the spacesuits, and when you see them walking about in them, they look as much like babies in nappies as anything."

The Teletubbies were conceived as technological babies, set in a technological superdome. Even the windmill on the hill is a nod to one of the first pieces of technology children encounter: a pinwheel on their pram. Their bodies were painted bright fluorescent colors, because that seemed to fit with the technology theme, as did putting the TV screens on their stomachs - TVs that showed videos of children doing simple activities out in the real world.

"For me, Teletubbies is entirely around that early stage of life when the child is coming to grips with their own body and their own physicality: walking, talking, running, falling over - all of the things that the Teletubbies did," says Davenport.

The green-hilled set was designed to accentuate the depth of the physical space they inhabited, and much of the show simply involved the Teletubbies coming and going and popping up and down, playing with those physical concepts.

Some adults, however, didn't get it. The show was accused of "dumbing down" children's TV and criticized for its constant repetition, poor plots and lack of sense of place. But that was exactly the point. Teletubbies was perhaps the first TV show specifically designed for 1- to 2-year-olds. One Norwegian TV executive has described it as "the most market-oriented children's program I've ever seen."

Davenport and Wood had learned the visual equivalent of babytalk. If the Teletubbies are weird, it's because - visually and developmentally - so are infants.

For Wood, the design of shows like Teletubbies is intuition combined with years of trial and error. "I think the only skill I have, if I have one, is being able to watch a screen like a 3-year-old might. It is about knowing when to pause, how long to pause for, how to make that comic, how to use anticipation."

Although children live in the same world as us, they perceive it differently. A little girl with a baby brother might posit that all babies are born boys, and then turn into girls, for instance. Or that houses fall down to Earth and then walk into position, using their legs.

"You can see how young children will often say things that we think are funny because their perception is that X is the case, when in fact Y is the case. That difference needs to be respected, but equally it can be the stuff of content," says Wood.

Often, her programs are designed as a conversation between the television and the children watching it.

"When people objected to Teletubbies, we used to say: 'Look, Teletubbies understand babies, and babies understand Teletubbies. If you're watching Teletubbies without a child, you are only getting one half of the conversation.'"

She cites the start of the show, where a boat goes out of frame, then comes back in, then goes out of frame again. "That sequence is virtually playing a peekaboo game with a very young child: Where's the boat gone? Here it is, coming back again." A recent survey found that a game of peekaboo is the surest way to make a baby laugh.

Wood is a firm believer in taking material out to children and watching how they respond, so perhaps it's no surprise: "Very often, a good response is when they say nothing, and they are absolutely absorbed. But the most important response is do they smile - because that always signifies understanding."

After the success of Teletubbies, Davenport and Wood moved on to In the Night Garden, which Davenport describes as a "contemporary nursery rhyme" aimed at 2- to 3-year-olds.

"It's that stage where the child has come to grips with the physicality of the world and is now fascinated with the idea of turning what it knows on its head in an abstract way - the time when nursery rhymes, language play, symbolic play, toy play start to become the thing."

Each character is designed to stand alone, just like Humpty Dumpty or The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe do in a book of nursery rhymes.

The central character, Iggle Piggle, represents a kind of "every-child," who lollops around trying to make sense of it all. Davenport says he was inspired by a little girl who used to say "Iggle Piggle Iggle Piggle Iggle Piggle" whenever she was excited.

There's also Makka Pakka, a beige, round-bodied creature, with a penchant for collecting piles of rocks and washing things with a sponge - his face, Iggle Piggle's face, his rocks, his scooter . . .

Davenport is fascinated by the idea of accessing his audience through their own preoccupations and interests. Rock-collecting was a childhood hobby of his, while the obsessive washing is not about cleanliness but engaging with an activity that many young children find challenging: washing their faces and getting ready for bed.

"The idea is that you can create these little nuggets of action, routine, rhyme or song which become something that parents and children can share together to get through something that might be tricky or difficult," he says.

I remember In the Night Garden's opening sequence - which involves a rhyme about a little boat no bigger than your hand circling round and around in the ocean, while an adult traces circles on a child's palm. It was a failsafe way to put my son to sleep.

When I tell him, Davenport sounds genuinely moved. "When these things are working, they do become components of the relationship between the parent and the child."

Davenport has seen his godson using Makka Pakka's song as a way to wash his hair and face. "When you find that something is useful, that's obviously incredibly satisfying and rewarding," he says.

This is what led him to approach the University of Sheffield during the development of Moon and Me. He'd read a study where two groups of children were taught a lesson including either standard materials or some involving the Teletubbies. Those working with the Teletubbies material seemed far more engaged than in their normal lessons - in one case a child who barely spoke and hardly took part in class activities returned their completed task asking for another one.

"If you approach children through their own culture, rather than imposing your culture on them, they are much more motivated and more interested," says Davenport.

Moon and Me is aimed at a broader age range than either Teletubbies or Night Garden. It's a tale about a toy house coming to life at night, of the sort that were popular in the 1940s and '50s. Having read about the work with Teletubbies, and becoming intrigued by the idea of child culture, he approached the researchers about doing a study to learn more about how contemporary children play with toy houses. The result was his collaboration with Dylan Yamada-Rice, now at the Royal College of Art in London.

"There is still a general assumption that stuff can be made for adults and just dumbed down for kids without looking specifically at the needs of that young audience," she says. But if you want them to learn anything from it, you need to find ways of engaging that young audience.

"If you can't believe in the depth of the character and that one character deeply cares about another character, then you're not going to be very effective in maintaining children's interest. And if you don't believe in that character, then you're not going to care that they are writing a letter to the moon."

Yamada-Rice joined together two large toy houses from the department store John Lewis, and fitted them with tiny cameras, pointed not at the children but at the toys within the houses. They then assembled a group of 1- to 5-year-olds from different cultural backgrounds and set them loose on the toys, recording how the toys were moved, what the children were saying as they played with the characters and what voices they were giving them.

One thing they noticed was the children's preoccupation with transitions: going up and down the stairs; in and out through the front door; into bed for sleep and back out again; and the importance of sitting down for tea.

Another observation was how the children often had multiple scenarios occurring on different floors of the houses. "Maintaining them all was a bit like spinning plates," says Davenport. "So, a shot which recurs a lot in Moon and Me is of the whole house with all three floors exposed, so you can see the characters on the different floors and stairs."

I sit down with Tim Smith and watch an episode. There's the narrator tucking the various characters into bed on the different floors of the house. There's Moon Baby ringing the front doorbell and Pepi Nana letting him in. There's a shot of Pepi Nana walking down every step of a staircase.

Smith points out the moonlight lighting up Pepi Nana's face as she sits up in bed; the use of noises, such as Colly Wobble's tinkling bell, to cue viewers' attention and prompt them to seek him out; the adult narrator asking "What's next?" as Mr. Onions lays the table, and then a subtle flash of movement near the cups. All of these, he says, help engage the child's attention and help them to follow the story.

There are subtle lessons woven into the fabric of Moon and Me, such as the art of structuring a letter, and telling a story - core principles of early-years education - or Pepi Nana climbing into a tub, which rolls away, and then popping out of it again, which helps teach about object permanence. Davenport tells me his shows aren't intended to be "educational." His audience, he says, is pre-educational. He strives to provide what he describes as "the unfatiguable exercise of mind."

Here's the general rule: Before the age of 2, kids won't get much out of TV - unless an adult is sitting with them, helping them to understand it.

"The way we tend to make television for kids is to create stories through a narrative that unfolds over time with characters interacting," says Heather Kirkorian, a developmental psychologist at the University of Wisconsin. "That kind of traditional narrative format probably won't work very well for kids under 2." If they watch too much TV, this could even undermine their development by discouraging them from interacting with the real world.

From age 2 or 3 to 5, children can follow simple plots, but not complex moral lessons, such as a bully getting their comeuppance at the end.

"Kids at that age are not really able to be like, 'Oh, here's this bully, and he's so mean, and I don't want to be like him because I'm learning that that's bad,'" says Polly Conway, senior TV editor at Common Sense Media, an organization that tries to help parents navigate this complex maze.

Rather, these young children may try to emulate the bad behavior. "What they need to see is someone like Daniel Tiger just going through this day and learning to tie his shoes, maybe saying hello to his grandfather."

School-age children can cope with more complex plots and moral lessons. "Certainly, the 8 to 12 age group are able to see that negative behavior and understand that the message is 'Don't do this negative behavior,'" says Kirkorian. However, they may still struggle with jumps in time, such as flashbacks. In fact, it's not until around age 12 that children begin to have adult-like comprehension of what they see on the screen. Her research suggests that toddlers may gain more from simple interactive apps, like games or even video chats, than from TV shows.

"All television content is teaching something. The question is what is it teaching?" Joan Ganz Cooney, the co-creator of Sesame Street, used to say. A lot of content still portrays unhelpful stereotypes about, say, what girls and boys can do, or features violence. "It's very different from an adult brain where you can say, all right, this is just comedy and this is fun," says Rosemarie Truglio of the Sesame Foundation.

Truglio says the best way for kids to watch the program - any program - is with a caregiver. That way you can reinforce the educational messages they are getting from the TV set. Co-watching with older kids can also be can be useful, because if you spot them enjoying something with dubious morals or stereotypes, then you can open a discussion about it.

A lot of studies have shown that standard adult-focused form will lead to very poor transference of knowledge to the real world, Tim Smith tells me. But you can overcome that, either by having the show engage with the young children, for example by asking them questions, or, more importantly, by having another person there. Children can be highly engaged and cognitively active, but their attention is always limited, says Smith. He suggests occasionally pressing pause, giving children the time to engage and discuss what they're watching.

As a mother of two, all of this sounds good in principle. But sometimes we just want some peace and quiet. Sometimes we've got stuff to do. Sometimes we've been playing with them for three hours and need a break.

When I was young, kids' TV was only available for a few hours a day. Then along came Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. Now it's YouTube and Netflix on demand.

I'm reassured that occasionally employing Iggle Piggle or Moon Baby is unlikely to be harmful. But I'm also inspired - to not necessarily switch off when the TV or iPad is switched on. Because with a little more effort from me, it can be something even better: a weird world that we can explore together.

Linda Geddes is a British freelance journalist writing about biology, medicine and technology. This post first appeared on Mosaic and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:11 AM | Permalink

December 6, 2019

The Beachwood Radio Sports Hour #281: The Bears Are (Not) Back, Baby!

But we get to dream for another week. Plus: The Blackhawks Just Made Fools Of Us; A Farewell To Mick McCall; Fire Lovie Smith!; Club DubPaul; Boylen vs. LaVine; Cole Hamels Will Be Missed; and Zack Wheeler Chooses Phillies Over Guaranteed Rate.


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SHOW NOTES

* 281.

:30: "No."

* Chance of making the playoffs rise 2% - to 5%.

* Next: The toughest stretch of schedule of the season.

* Run, Mitchell, Run - seven shows ago!

* But . . .

* Coffman: "Tolliver was sticky."

* Sweep the Sheds award winner Kevin Pierre-Louis stepped up.

* Coffman: "Cornelius Lucas is a better pass blocker than Bobbie Massie."

* Trubisky vs. Miller:

* Simultaneous catch:

* Bears draft inventory worse than Sears.

* Tom Thayer 🙄

* The Sheehan/Burton/Sims era gives way to the Horsted/Holtz era.

* Coffman: "You get to dream for another week."

39:19: The Blackhawks Just Made Fools Of Us.

* But they did just upset the Bruins.

43:24: A Farewell To Mick McCall.

* The Top 10 Worst Moments Of The McCall Era.

45:14: Fire Lovie Smith!

* He just lost to Mick McCall, for godsakes.

47:26: Club DubPaul.

* The hyphenated kid.

54:35: Boylen vs. LaVine.

57:22: Cole Hamels Will Be Missed.

* Addison Russell will not.

* In July 2014, the Cubs traded Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the A's for Addison Russell, who was Oakland's top prospect and the game's 11th-best prospect overall. The Cubs also got the A's number two prospect, outfielder Billy McKinney, and reliever Dan Straily.

Samardzija went 5-6 for the A's, logging 111 2/3 innings along with a 3.14 ERA (3.30 FIP), which is better than I remember. His ERA with the Cubs up to that point that season was 2.83/3.09, but Oakland is in the American League, meaning he was facing DHs, not pitchers.

That winter, the A's traded Samardzija to the White Sox along with Michael Ynoa in exchange for Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, Chris Bassitt and Rangel Ravelo.

Hammel went 2-6 over 67 2/3 innings for the A's, with a 4.26/5.10 ERA. He signed back with the Cubs the following year as a free agent.

Prior to being flipped to the A's, Hammel was putting together the best season of his career under the tutelage of pitching coach Chris Bosio, with 2.98/3.19 ERA/FIP split. Upon his return to Chicago, he recorded seasons of 3.74/3.68 and 3.83/4.48. He then signed as a free agent with Kansas City.

The once-touted McKinney never appeared in a major league game with the Cubs. Two years after he was acquired, the Cubs traded McKinney to the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Also going to New York: Gleyber Torres, of course, as well as Adam Warren and Rashad Crawford.

Two years after that, the Yankees traded McKinney to the Blue Jays along with Brandon Drury, for J.A. Happ.

McKinney's career splits over 370 major league at-bats: .274/.422/.696.

Straily appeared in 13 2/3 innings over 7 games in the months after the Cubs acquired him, compiling an 11.85 ERA (4.38 FIP).

That winter, the Cubs traded Straily along with Luis Valbuena to the Astros for Dexter Fowler (!).

Straily has since played for the Padres, Reds, Marlins, Orioles and Phillies. He is currently a free agent.

He has a career 4.56 ERA (5.05 FIP) over 803 innings (he has spent some seasons as a starter)

* Also, this is how the A's fared after acquiring Samardzija and Hammel, via Wikipedia:

"The Athletics continued to play well throughout July. Still, they failed to gain significant ground on the Angels. On July 31, with a scant 2.5 game lead over Los Angeles, the Athletics stunned the league by trading Yoenis Céspedes for all-star starter Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. In the week immediately following the trade, things went well for the team; by August 9th, they had upped their lead over the Angels to four games. From that point forward, however, the A's were met with disaster. An historic collapse, defined largely by ineffective hitting and a spate of narrow losses, saw Oakland tumble in the American League standings; all told, the team won just 16 of its final 46 games. The Athletics only managed to clinch an AL Wild-Card berth on the final day of the regular season. The team finished some ten games behind the Angels, who clinched the league's best record with an impressive 98-64 finish.

"The Athletics met the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 American League Wild Card Game. The Athletics held a 7-3 lead over the Royals through seven innings; a furious Royals rally, however, saw the Royals tie the game by scoring three runs in the eighth inning and one run in the ninth. In the 12th inning, the Athletics' took an 8-7 lead on an Alberto Callaspo line drive; the Royals, however, would again rally for a 9-8 walk-off victory (their first playoff win in 29 years). The Athletics did not reach the postseason again until the 2018 season."

* The White Sox drafted Marcus Semien in the 34th round of the 2008 draft, but Semien did not sign with the team. The White Sox drafted him again in the 2011 draft, this time in the sixth round. He reached the majors in 2013 and played parts of two seasons with the Sox, slashing .240/.293/.380. He committed 17 errors during that time, including 10 at third base in 2014.

That winter, the White Sox traded Semien to the A's along with Josh Phegley, Chris Bassitt and Rangel Ravelo in exchange for Jeff Samardzija and Michael Ynoa.

In Oakland, Semien committed 35 errors at shortstop is first season and 21 his second, and has slashed .258/.326/.434 over the course of his five years there, but last year he exploded for 33 home runs and 92 RBIs, good enough to finish third in MVP voting.

1:06:07: Zack Wheeler Chooses Family Over Guaranteed Rate.

* Madison Bumgarner up next to reject White Sox.

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STOPPAGE: 8:35

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For archives and other Beachwood shows, see The Beachwood Radio Network.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 1:14 PM | Permalink

December 5, 2019

SIU Press Holiday Sale: Give The Gift Of Chicago, Illinois History, Rhetorics & Feminisms, Theater In The Americas, And Some Crab Orchard Poetry

Editor's Note: I use SIU Press materials quite often here in the Books section. I love the SIU Press. I find their output quite interesting; it makes for great Beachwood content. So I have no problem - at nobody's behest but mine - giving them a little promotion here. As far as I'm concerned, this is editorial content. Consider it part of the Beachwood Holiday Guide, because I think you can find some great gifts here. - Steve Rhodes

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 7:52 AM | Permalink

McDonald's Merch Now On The Reg

Brand fans, rejoice!

Just in time for the holidays, McDonald's® is launching Golden Arches Unlimited, an online shop full of merchandise specifically designed for the McDonald's lover.

For the first time, U.S. customers can access fun and functional items year-round that aren't available anywhere else.

The lineup includes a rotating seasonal selection, starting with our winter collection which includes a warm beanie, festive ornaments and fun holiday sweater.

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McDonald's fans have been wearing our brand with pride for decades. Since the 1980s we've partnered with multiple fashion brands and retailers, and beginning in 2017 we launched our own limited-time-only line of merchandise through the McDelivery Collection. Now, we're making it easier than ever for you to show off your brand love with direct access to branded items at GoldenArchesUnlimited.com.

Whether you're treating yourself or gifting the McDonald's enthusiast in your life, there's something for everyone, like a Big Mac Sandwich Bag, a McFlurry Dessert Journal and Golden Arches-themed apparel that is sure to spice up any wardrobe. There are more than 20 items available, from casual apparel to festive accessories, including:

* Big Mac Sandwich Bag

* Big Mac Sandwich, World Famous Fries and McFlurry Dessert Journals

* Golden Arches Stainless Steel Tumbler

* Happy Meal Pop Socket

* Happy Meal Toddler T-Shirt

* Happy Meal T-Shirt

* McDonald's Hair Ties

* McDonald's Holiday Sweater

* McDonald's Meal Pin Set

* McDonald's Winter Beanie

* Mickey D's Nickname T-Shirt

* Sesame Seed Ornament

* Sesame Seed Pop Socket

* Sesame Seed Socks

* Sesame Seed Umbrella

* Sesame Seed Zip Hoodie

* World Famous Fries Lounge Set

* World Famous Fries Socks

* World Famous Fries Tote Bag

"McDonald's has been ingrained in the fabric of culture for years, and there's a long history of fans wearing our brand with pride," said Colin Mitchell, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing at McDonald's Corporation. "We're excited to help customers wear their brand love on their sleeves with the unveiling of Golden Arches Unlimited as we continue to inspire feel good moments with McDonald's."

So get your hands on the debut collection while supplies last by visiting GoldenArchesUnlimited.com. Launch quantities are limited so if your favorite McDonald's item is sold out online, head back soon because we'll be restocking and dropping new merchandise on the regular.

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Steve Rhodes:

I wonder if the merch is made in China - and what its carbon footprint is. Assignment Desk, activate!

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:29 AM | Permalink

The [Thursday] Papers

"Art Jones, the snookering, Holocaust-denying, Jew-hating, self-avowed Nazi is making another bid for the Republican nomination in Illinois' 3rd Congressional District," Patch reports.

I wonder what it is about the Republican Party that makes a Nazi feel comfortable in it.

*

"The former president of the American Nazi Party and part-time Lyons insurance broker has called the Holocaust of World War II - in which 6 million Jews were exterminated - the 'blackest lie in history' and 'a fairy tale.'"

Part-time insurance broker, eh? I wonder who his clients are. (I should note that many reports say he is retired.)

*

From his (supremely weird) website, which also dispenses relationship advice:

"I am an experienced professional in the field of Health Insurance. Since 1983, that has been my profession - an independant [sic] insurance agent, specializing in health insurance for small businesses. I left the profession when Obamacare appeared and intended to take over the insurance profession."

*

Back to Patch:

"Jones says he supports President Donald Trump but doesn't care for Trump's 'punk' Jewish son-in-law and senior White House adviser, Jared Kushner."

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"Known to organize family friendly birthday parties for Adolph Hitler, this is perennial candidate Jones' fifth bid for Congress. In the past, he has run as both a Republican and Democrat for mayor of Milwaukee and Chicago, as well as the Illinois General Assembly."

So to be fair, he's been a bipartisan Nazi. Still, folks who organize birthday parties for Hitler seem to overwhelmingly favor Trump over, say, the Obamas, Clintons and Bidens of the world. Who knows why, it's a mystery!

- h/t Capitol Fax

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Navistar Struck
"Navistar International Inc. and its defense unit are accused of bilking almost $1.3 billion from the U.S. government in connection with a contract for military vehicles used by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan," Bloomberg reports.

"Filed in 2013, the whistleblower suit was made public Tuesday by the U.S. District Court in Washington. The federal government elected to join part of the suit in September, according to an earlier court filing that also was just made available."

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From Wikipedia:

"Headquartered in Lisle, Illinois, Navistar has 16,500 employees and a 2013 annual revenue of $10.775 billion. The company's products, parts, and services are sold through a network of nearly 1,000 dealer outlets in the United States."

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Bloomberg:

"According to the complaint, the whistleblower was Washington resident Duquoin Burgess, who worked in the Navistar Defense contract management department first in Warrenville and later in Lisle, Illinois."

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Wikipedia:

"In September 2010, despite uncertainty over EGR and a sluggish economy, Navistar leadership revived an effort to relocate the company headquarters from Warrenville, IL, to nearby Lisle, IL. The new headquarters was expected to retain or create 3,000 permanent jobs and about 400 construction jobs. Navistar President Dan Ustian said roughly 500 engineers would be hired immediately. Navistar aimed to invest $110 million in the 1.2 million-square-foot Lisle campus, which would include product development. The state gave Navistar incentives of nearly $65 million, including tax credits.

"In December 2011, the nonpartisan organization Public Campaign criticized Navistar International for spending $6.31 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008-2010, instead getting $18 million in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $896 million and increasing executive pay by 81%."

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Dollar Generally Racist
"Dollar General will pay $6 million to settle a class action, racial discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)," the Crusader reports.

"According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Dollar General, the largest, small-box discount retailer in the United States, violated federal law by denying employment to Blacks at a significantly higher rate than white applicants who failed the company's broad criminal background check.

The lawsuit cites the termination of a Waukegan stock clerk and cashier who told Dollar General about her six-year-old felony drug possession conviction when she applied for the job in 2004. A few days after the woman started working, she was fired after a background check revealed the felony conviction and a misdemeanor conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia - a conviction Dollar General used as a disqualification factor for 10 years.

"The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process."

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Dumping Dealer
"Local luxury car dealer Joe Perillo Sr. has been hit with a federal lawsuit that alleges he violated the Clean Water Act by dumping pollutants into the Chicago River without a permit," Crain's reports.

"A complaint filed by the United States alleges that Perillo, who manages a BMW dealership and body shop on the Near North Side, illegally discarded 'dirt, spoil, rock and sand' into the North Branch of the Chicago River from October 2018 until the present."

So for a year.

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"Perillo, head of Perillo Auto Group, owns multiple luxury car dealerships throughout the Chicago area, including Gold Coast Motors and a Bentley and Lamborghini dealership in Downers Grove. Perillo also owns Hotel Chicago, which opened in 2016 near the University of Illinois at Chicago."

That hotel gets three stars out of five on Yelp, btw. Ashley F. complains she had a filthy blanket, dirty walls and a lumpy bed

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

SIU Press Holiday Sale: Give The Gift Of Chicago, Illinois History, Rhetorics & Feminisms, Theater In The Americas, And Some Crab Orchard Poetry
I love the SIU Press.

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McDonald's Merch Now On The Reg
Whether you're treating yourself or gifting the McDonald's enthusiast in your life, there's something for everyone, like a Big Mac Sandwich Bag, a McFlurry Dessert Journal and Golden Arches-themed apparel that is sure to spice up any wardrobe.

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ChicagoReddit

Hey, that's my intersection! (You have to click through to see it.)

Then (1967) and Now, California-Milwaukee; Chicago History Today from r/chicago

I miss (old) Wicker Park, tho.

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Dope at House of Blues on Monday night.

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BeachBook

We Need To Hold The Kremlin Responsible For Its Cyberattack On The 2018 Olympics.

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How Two Undocumented Workers Took On The President - And Revealed His Company Employed Illegal Immigrants.

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FCC Tries To Bury Finding That Verizon And T-Mobile Exaggerated 4G Coverage.

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'The Best Thing You Can Do Is Not Buy More Stuff,' Says Secondhand Expert.

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These Guys Just Drove Across America In A Record 27 Hours, 25 Minutes.

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You Can Now Get A Godzilla Christmas Tree That Breathes Smoke.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Tip O' The Cap Line: Good game, everyone.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:47 AM | Permalink

December 4, 2019

Could A Rating System Help Weigh Claims Made In Popular Science Books?

Standing in a powerful pose increases your testosterone levels. Ten thousand hours of practice leads to mastery and high achievement. Eating out of large bowls encourages overeating. These are just a few examples of big ideas that have formed the basis of popular science books, only to be overturned by further research or a closer reading of the evidence.

"Pop psychology is sort of built on this idea of the one true thing," says Amanda Cook, executive editor at Crown who has worked on many science books. "Good scientists treat the truth as provisional. They know that science is dynamic and the scientific method is going to lead them to new truths or a refinement of truth, but readers want the one true thing, and in pop psych that means the one true thing that will change their lives."

It's a tension that Stanford University psychologist Jamil Zaki attempts to address in his recent book, The War for Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World. The book is written in the breezy, accessible style typical of pop science bestsellers, but Zaki concludes it with a twist: an appendix that rates the robustness of the claims he makes. The numerical rating system is his attempt to acknowledge that some ideas have more evidence to back them than others, and that some of them might turn out to be wrong. Zaki hopes his system might provide a model for other authors who want to avoid trading in hype.

warforkindness.jpg

Psychology is in the midst of a reckoning, as numerous high-profile findings in the field have failed to replicate, or be found again when subsequent researchers attempted to repeat the experiments, Zaki notes.

"We psychologists have used this as an opportunity to strengthen our methods, be more transparent about our research process, and clarify exactly what we do and don't know," he writes. "In that spirit, I decided that readers should have tools for further evaluating the evidence presented in this book."

So Zaki hired a Stanford colleague, psychology doctoral student Kari Leibowitz, to conduct an independent review of the evidence behind key claims. She went through each chapter and identified the main claims, and then did what she calls "a miniature literature review" to evaluate the current state of the evidence. She rated each claim on a scale of one to five (from weakest to strongest evidence) and wrote up a rationale for that rating before sending it to Zaki for discussion.

"I didn't want to influence her scoring," Zaki says. In a few instances, he pointed her to studies that she had overlooked, or offered other lines of evidence she hadn't considered, but more often a low rating provoked him to either remove the claim from the book or put more cautious language around it.

"If he thought the claim wasn't strong enough, he'd go back to make that clearer in the text," Leibowitz says.

Leibowitz sought to evaluate the claims in an unbiased manner, but she faced tricky decisions at every turn. It wasn't feasible to rate every single claim in the book, and so she and Zaki had to choose which ones to highlight. Although they'd laid out some overarching standards for classifying evidence, doing so also required multiple judgment calls.

"In general, to be rated a five there had to be dozens of studies on a given claim, often evidenced by many review papers and/or meta-analyses," Leibowitz says.

Something rated a four had very consistent results, but none or very few meta-analyses to back it up. A three rating meant there were only a handful of studies to support the claim or there was disagreement about it in the literature. For example, she says that there was a lot of evidence to support the claim that "people who undergo intense suffering often become more prosocial as a result." But there was also a lot of evidence supporting the opposite, that violence begets violence and suffering can make people cruel or abusive, so this claim got a three.

She weighted failed replications as she did successful replications, "as individual pieces of evidence." If there were a lot of them, it would lower the score, but if there were dozens of studies in support of a given claim, one or two failed replications would usually only move a claim from a five to a four, she says.

Leibowitz rated 51 claims in the book and spent more than 100 hours doing it.

"We did the best possible job of giving this relative overview for each of these claims and giving a rationale for what constitutes really strong evidence in our minds," she says.

On the book's website, readers can download the spreadsheet of source material Leibowitz used to evaluate the claims.

As well-meaning as this approach is, there's a limit to how objective it can be. The process was filled with subjective calls, from which claims to check to how much weight to give each study. Many of the claims were very broad, such as "empathetic individuals excel professionally" and "mindfulness increases caregiver empathy," which could be interpreted in different ways depending on how these ideas were defined.

Simine Vazire, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis and co-founder of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science, says she worries that Zaki's rating system appears to take published studies at face value, "which seems dubious in light of what we know about questionable research and publication practices."

In Vazire's view, "It basically equates a peer-reviewed publication with a dose of evidence, which kind of reifies the idea that peer review is a good indicator of what's solid evidence. The whole point of the replicability crisis is that this isn't the signal we thought it was."

There's also the possibility that a rating system could be gamed. "My instinct is to say that they're on the right track with something like this, but there are so many ways for anything to be misused," says Slate journalist Shannon Palus, who's done fact-checking for magazines like Discover, Popular Science and Quanta. "It's easy to overstate the quality of the evidence."

Palus worries that this kind of claim rating can become a "performative sifting through the evidence" intended to give certain claims credibility, rather than to find out whether they've earned it. It's a tactic she's seen employed by advocacy organizations like the Environmental Working Group, whose food rating system is aimed at helping "consumers make healthier, greener food choices," and companies like Care/of, which sells vitamins and supplements online with ratings assuring consumers about their effectiveness.

Her concerns are shared by Andrew Gelman, a statistician at Columbia University who has been a vocal critic of overstated pop science.

"It sounds like here their purpose really is to assess the evidence, that's good," he says. The key question, he says, is whether authors using this kind of system are coming at the work with a critical eye, or just looking for a stamp of approval to say that "everything's okay."

Rating evidence requires nuance, he says. "A published paper makes a lot of claims," he says, explaining that "often there will be one part that's reasonable and other parts that aren't."

Readers seem to appreciate the ratings. One Goodreads reviewer posted: "The fact that the author devoted nine pages to rating the claims he'd made and explaining his rationale for including claims for which evidence is not robust filled my heart with joy."

Another wrote, "rarely do I read a book that provides this type of breakdown of his claims. I wish all books did this to be honest."

But how much attention the average reader will pay to the ratings is anyone's guess. The rating system has limited value if no one uses it to update their own beliefs, and it's hard to know how many readers will really examine the appendix.

Zaki and Leibowitz hope other authors will take up some kind of evidence rating system.

"My vision and my dream for this is that this will be just the start and other people will take this idea and run with it and improve on it and that this will become the standard for this kind of book," Leibowitz says.

Cook, who edited The War for Kindness, appreciated that the claim-checking process shaped what Zaki put in the text. She says she would be open to having her other authors do something like this, but that it would have to be their own impulse. "A sort of half-hearted version of this wouldn't be very valuable."

Most of Cook's authors now hire fact-checkers.

"That was absolutely not the case even five years ago," she says, but the truth "seems more urgent" in this "post-fact world."

In today's media environment, errors can become trending hashtags in a matter of minutes. And if you get caught making an error that undermines your book's big idea, "It can destroy your reputation," Cook says.

As an example, she points to what happened to author Naomi Wolf recently when, during a live interview, a BBC radio host pointed out that in her new book, Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love, she had misunderstood the meaning of a term in archival legal documents that was crucial to her thesis. Wolf's publisher canceled the U.S. release of the book.

Publishers don't normally pay for fact-checking, so most authors have to pay out of their own pockets. Add to that the cost of doing a claim check, and the total bill could easily reach five figures, which would be beyond the means of most authors.

Ultimately, the most important outcome of Zaki and Leibowitz's claim rating exercise may be that it forced Zaki to give extra consideration to the strength of his claims. It's a worthy step that also points to what may be the most limiting aspect of his methodology. The people who are most worried about making overhyped claims are probably the ones who are least guilty of engaging in it, says Jane C. Hu, a Seattle-based journalist and freelance fact-checker who has worked on numerous science books.

"If you want to cash in your credentials to write a book that you're going to make a bunch of specious claims in," she says, "you're probably not the same kind of person who is going to go through the painful process of hiring a fact-checker to have them go through it."

Christie Aschwanden is a science journalist, the author of Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery and co-host of the podcast Emerging Form. Find her on Twitter at @CragCrest. This post was originally published on Undark.

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Comments welcome.


Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 4:32 AM | Permalink

The Ex-Cub Factor

One in an occasional series tracking the movements of former Cubs.

1. Carl Edwards Jr.

After four largely productive seasons on the North Side for the String Bean Slinger, the Cubs lost patience with Edwards last summer after an awful 20 appearances with an 8.47 ERA (5.87 FIP) and an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, sending him to San Diego for Brad Wieck.

Edwards only appeared in two games for the Padres, giving up six runs in 1 2/3 innings. He became a free agent on Nov. 4.

Just before Thanksgiving, the Mariners took a flyer on Edwards, signing him to a one-year deal with a base salary of $950,000 and another $500,000 in performance incentives. FanGraphs calls him a "fixer-upper."

Edwards is just one name on a long list of prospective Cubs closers who never reached the back of the bullpen. But he has come a long way - he was a 48th round (!) pick of the Rangers in the 2011 draft. Two years later, he was traded to the Cubs along with Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm and Mike Olt in exchange for Matt Garza. He is missed.

2. Kendall Graveman.

Graveman is kind of this year's Drew Smyly.

The Cubs took a flyer on the former A, who was coming off Tommy John surgery. He never made it past two minor league rehab starts in September. It would have cost the Cubs $3 million to retain him; they declined and the Mariners, fresh off their Carl Edwards signing, swooped in with a one-year, $1.5 million deal. He is not missed.

3. Pierce Johnson.

Also from FanGraphs: "[T]he Hansin Tigers are reportedly set to release Pierce Johnson. The 28-year-old right-hander, formerly with the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants, logged a 1.84 ERA over 58 relief appearances in his lone NPB season."

Not sure why that wasn't good enough for Hansin, but Johnson was a real disappointment for the Cubs, who made him their first round pick in 2012. He pitched all of one inning for the big league club (giving up two hits and two unearned runs while striking out two). He is not missed.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:27 AM | Permalink

The [Wednesday] Papers

"As Interim Supt. Charlie Beck takes the reins of the second largest police force in the country, the department is facing some significant turnover in its top ranks in the wake of former Supt. Eddie Johnson being fired," CBS2 Chicago reports.

"Sources told CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot about 20 high-ranking officers are planning to retire. Most of those officers were appointed to their current positions by Johnson, whom Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired on Monday."

Good. That will clear the decks for Beck and Johnson's eventual permanent replacement to at least attempt to build a more reform-oriented command staff - if that's even possible.

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"Sources said among those expected to hand in retirement papers include captains, commanders, lieutenants, and deputy chiefs."

The jobs of officers who let Johnson go that night without so much as a breathlyzer or other forms of a sobriety check are in jeopardy, too.

To that point . . .

The Cover-Up

"Multiple Chicago police employees are under investigation for allegedly engaging in a widespread cover-up to protect then-Supt. Eddie Johnson and conceal the circumstances surrounding an Oct. 17 drinking and driving incident that Johnson allegedly lied about, prompting Mayor Lori Lightfoot to fire him weeks before his retirement," the Sun-Times reports.

The alleged cover-up took place "that night and the next day" and could end up being "even worse than" the incident itself, said a source familiar with Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's ongoing investigation.

At first I was going to say this: "I'm not totally sure how the cover-up could be worse than what Johnson did, but this is Chicago so I'll suspend judgement."

But I'm told that what makes the cover-up potentially worse is that it's a systemic failure, while Johnson's actions were those of a single person and a personal failing. So, yes.

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"Rather than having 'a couple of drinks' during a 'dinner with friends,' as Johnson told the mayor, sources said the now-former superintendent spent three hours drinking at Ceres Cafe - a restaurant known for pouring large drinks to patrons from the nearby Chicago Board of Trade - with a woman whom he had promoted to his security detail shortly after becoming the city's top cop."

My understanding is that the woman was his driver, irony of ironies if true.

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For the record:

Johnson has not been questioned by the inspector general as part of the investigation. Sources said he put off at least two attempts to interview him . . .

Johnson's attorney, Thomas Needham disputed that Johnson put off appointments to speak with the inspector general's office.

"That's not true," he told the Sun-Times.

Needham said the inspector general's office contacted him on the morning of Nov. 7, the day Johnson announced his retirement and asked for Johnson to give a statement that night at 6 p.m. "We declined because we did not think that was reasonable," Needham said.

Needham said he and the inspector general's office went back and forth on scheduling an interview.

"We were totally cooperative. I gave them Friday, Dec. 6, and Friday, Dec. 13. Those were open days. The response was 'No, that's too late for us because we will be done with our investigation.' I said 'I hope your investigation notes that we were not evading you,'" Needham said.

Noted.

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Meanwhile . . .

Look Who's Babysitting
"A high-ranking Chicago police official whom the city's top watchdog once recommended for possible firing for being dishonest with investigators was demoted on Tuesday, officials said," the Tribune reports.

"Grand Central District Cmdr. Anthony Escamilla, whom the city's inspector general accused of misleading investigators about directing on-duty officers under him to babysit his son with special needs, was stripped of his position."

I wonder why he wasn't fired. You lie, you die, right?

"Escamilla was demoted to the rank of captain and will work as an inspector, a supervisor who ensures that officers are wearing proper uniforms and following all other department rules."

Oh. That might be worse than getting fired.

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"Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Beck 'just wanted to go in a different direction' by removing Escamilla. But Guglielmi could not say whether the demotion had anything to do with an investigation showing that Escamilla lied to investigators while accused of directing on-duty officers under him to babysit his special-needs son."

Guglielmi is going to have to go, too, then.

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"City Inspector General Joseph Ferguson's office announced in January it recommended possible firing for Escamilla, but Johnson at the time decided he instead be suspended for seven days.

"Johnson has fiercely defended his controversial decision to reporters, sympathizing with Escamilla's situation as a single parent raising a child with disabilities."

Hey Eddie, Escamilla could've just asked help the honest way. But then, so could have Johnson when he found slumped over the wheel. Organizational culture starts at the top, and is largely built around what will be tolerated.

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"[I]n a confidential report on Ferguson's investigation - details exclusively reported by the Tribune in February - Escamilla told the IG his actions were not about being unable to care for his son.

"It's not specifically about a situation where someone needs to take care of my family," Escamilla told investigators, according to the 38-page report.

So Escamilla didn't need help after all? Hard to see why Johnson should have a shred of sympathy, then.

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"One community policing officer said watching Escamilla's son caused her to interrupt a phone call with a domestic violence victim."

Just like there are myriad reasons to impeach Donald Trump and then remove him for office, there are myriad reasons why Johnson should have been fired (and indeed never hired). Sometimes the final straw isn't the most serious straw, it's just the one that presents such a clear case it can't be avoided. This decision was Johnson's to make, but it sure was a bad one and just one of several that show why he was unfit to serve.

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Dead Mom's Checks
"A former Chicago police commander once considered a rising star in the department was spared federal prison Tuesday for pocketing more than $360,000 in his dead mother's Social Security payments over the course of more than 23 years," the Tribune reports.

"U.S. District Judge Manish Shah sentenced Kenneth Johnson to two years of probation and ordered him to serve the first six months in community confinement, likely at a Salvation Army facility in Chicago."

Is that a typical sentence for a crime like this? I wish I knew.

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"[Prosecutor Jared] Jodrey also warned that a sentence of probation would send the wrong message to others thinking of stealing from government programs.

"That's not a deterrent. That's more like a court-approved, interest-free loan, courtesy of the American taxpayer," Jodrey said.

You, Jared Jodrey, have just won Today's Best Quote In Chicago.

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Letter Press
Now, to today's letters to the Tribune. Joseph A. Murzanski of Palos Heights writes:

I disagree with Mayor Lori Lightfoot's heavy-handed dismissal of Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. True, Johnson committed a serious offense by what he did and lying about what actually had happened.

But Johnson deserved better. His is a thankless job and during his four-year tenure, he did his best. His unceremonious dismissal does not recognize the dedication he gave. It could have been done with a bit more professionalism and kindness.

Mayor Lightfoot's "schoolyard bully" attitude reminds us of someone else. Eddie Johnson deserves some respect!

Well, Joe, Johnson's retirement was quite ceremonious! He got far more love that day than he deserved.

I also don't find Lightfoot's dismissal of Johnson "heavy-handed." She gave him more than enough time and space to come clean. He is the one who lacked professionalism.

Finally, this.

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Harlean Vision of Skokie writes:

Firing Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, with only weeks to his retirement, raises too many unanswered questions.

One must look at his total record of 30 years of service with the department. He was a very popular officer and the morale of the department will now be tested. One incident shouldn't negate all his years of hard work or tarnish his reputation.

After all, look at Donald Trump. He's lied over 2,000 times, and he's still president

Touche?

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Just Putting This Out There

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Four-Finger Pour

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Rating Pop Science Books
How one author vetted his claims.

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The Ex-Cub Factor
Carl Edwards Jr. on the move again.

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ChicagoReddit

Can I tow someone who has parked in the alley blocking me from leaving? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

As I Lay Dying at House of Blues on Tuesday night.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Four-Finger Tip Line: Say when.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:21 AM | Permalink

December 3, 2019

The [Tuesday] Papers

I hate asking for money - I feel like I long ago tapped out my readership, who've been so generous and supportive over the years, especially since the rest of the business model here collapsed somewhere around, what, 2008?

And I'm not a fan of all the begging news organizations have been doing in recent years - especially the kind that tries to guilt readers/citizens into supporting them. Let me tell you something, media: Nobody owes you anything.

But that's a topic for another time. For now, I'm conflicted because I also feel lax in not asking for money again given the #GivingTuesday madness I'm seeing out there today. I'd much rather have a tech and/or business partner, for this site and other projects, but that ship seems to have sailed far, far away many moons ago. I'm tired of even mentioning it.

Just know how grateful I am to everyone who has given to the Beachwood - or just read us - over the years. Also, the goodies you get from a Beachwood Membership are real - you just have to claim them!

So . . . one more time for 2019.

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Not So Fast Eddie Johnson
"In his first public comments since his firing, former Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson issued a statement Tuesday denying he intentionally lied to the mayor or public but admitting that he made 'a poor decision and had a lapse of judgment' on the late weeknight in October when he was found asleep in his running vehicle at a stop sign," the Tribune reports.

"That was a mistake and I know that," Johnson said in the statement. "I have no interest in fighting a battle for my reputation with those that want to question it now."

"I will simply rely on the reputation for integrity that I think I have earned during my long career, with the faith that we should all be judged by the entirety of our lives and not what happened on our worst days."

On Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot fired Johnson weeks before his retirement after she said she learned that the city inspector general's office had uncovered evidence that Johnson had lied about what happened in October.

Make no mistake: Johnson lied. First he told the public - via reporters - that he had a bad reaction to some new medication. Then he told the mayor he had "a couple drinks." The mayor backed him publicly, though she apparently pressed him on his phony story as the evidence developed and was presented to her by the city's inspector general. Johnson must've felt like a defendant in the former federal prosecutor's courtroom; I'm sure she dismantled his abridged version of events quite easily. But not (apparently) before he made a fool of her at his ill-advised celebratory retirement press conference, which Lightfoot now says she regrets. Lesson learned, hopefully.

Also keep in mind: The inspector general has video. It will show Johnson leaving Ceres (!) (which was trending in Chicago on Monday), and getting in a car and that car swerving on down the road.

The inspector general also has a police report from the officers who found Johnson slumped over the wheel of his car near his Bridgeport home. Or perhaps the lack of such a report. Or a report lacking. Let's just say Johnson (likely) isn't the only one who lost their job that night.

Meanwhile, in his statement, Johnson is effectively calling Lightfoot a liar. But there was no misunderstanding over what he told her.

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"Johnson's chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, issued a statement that same day saying that the officers who responded to the 911 call did not notice 'any signs of impairment' on the superintendent's part and that Johnson drove himself home. Guglielmi also said the superintendent had called for an internal investigation on himself 'because of the optics.'"

My understanding is that Johnson didn't make that decision; he was told in on uncertain terms to call for the investigation.

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"I have no interest in fighting a battle for my reputation with those that want to question it now," Johnson said in his statement, released through his attorney.

In other words, he has no intention of answering reporters' questions. That is not the stance of a person accepting responsibility for their actions along with a willingness to be held accountable. So he goes out a hack, albeit one who rose to a level beyond his ability. So Chicago.

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I think (hope) we all know what this means. As reported, Johnson was at Ceres with a woman who was not his wife. It's only relevant insofar as it may help explain his motives in not coming clean about what really happened, though even without that piece of it he was still found passed out in his car.

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Meanwhile, from the precincts of ideological madness . . .

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The Trump stuff is laughable, but the narrative coming out of the pro-Preckwinkle, anti-Lightfoot camp is downright depressing. To wit :

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Now, I don't think Eddie Johnson should have ever gotten the job in the first place. I agree wholeheartedly with this piece, which, to be transparent, I assisted with before submitted:

However, being mad at Lightfoot for not firing Johnson immediately and then getting mad at Lightfoot when she did fire Johnson is the position of someone who is looking for every reason to get mad about Lightfoot. It's also highly uninformed.

First, Johnson's days were numbered. Lightfoot was going to make a change one way or another. What she said during the campaign, though, was that it would be downright dangerous to fire him upon taking office and create instability in the department with the violence of summer upon us. Instead, she said, she'd review Johnson's performance in the fall. And I've got news for you: Johnson wasn't going to survive.

Second, he was fired for getting drunk? No. He was fired for getting caught drunk driving, waving away investigating officers and lying to reporters and the mayor about it. Should he not have been fired for these actions? Talk about twisting yourself in knots.

I only bring this up because it's already a familiar refrain in some progressive/lefty/radical quarters, and it's coming from the same people who demonized Lightfoot during the campaign in the service of trying to get the chair of the Cook County Democratic Party (aka The Machine) elected mayor. The one who pals around with the Burkes and counts Joe Berrios as a close friend and political ally. Just think about how upside down that is.

Also, this animus to Lightfoot - and for the millionth time, I'm not here to defend her, I'm just here to explain the situation and defend the facts - is exactly what drove the CTU strike. (I've since learned, not unsurprisingly, that the politics behind the strike are even worse than I knew at the time. That's another story, but christ, people, do some reporting.)

It's the same people pushing this latest line of thinking that pushed the bag of falsities the teachers' union put out, including memes that "Lori is a cop" and "Rahm 2.0." You could certainly disagree with Lightfoot and believe that she should have fired Johnson on day one, but that's an honest difference of opinion. The notion that Lightfoot's firing of Johnson is somehow more evidence of how much she sucks is beyond silly.

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Speaking of Rahm 1.0:

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Meanwhile, In State News . . .

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And In Fake News . . .

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New on the Beachwood today . . .

Lurlean Hunter's Chicago
From Clarksdale to Englewood to WBBM radio and Chicago's nightclubs.

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ChicagoReddit

Is there a Front of the Yards? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

Static-X at House of Blues on Monday night.

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BeachBook

RED ALERT: U.S. May Face French Fry Shortage!

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Deep Tip Line: Truth in a casserole.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:58 AM | Permalink

Lurlean Hunter's Chicago

This Lurlean Hunter song, "My Home Town Chicago," was posted on YouTube over the weekend, presumably on the occasion of her birthday on Saturday . . .

. . . and that sent me on a journey to learn more about Hunter, who died in 1983 at the age of 63.

Let's take a look at what I found.

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From Wikipedia:

"Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, Hunter was taken to Chicago when she was two months old. She attended Englewood High School.

"Hunter's first paid singing performance came when she appeared with Red Saunders and his orchestra at Club DeLisa on Chicago's South Side. She was signed by Discovery Records in 1950.

"In 1951, Hunter was a featured performer with George Shearing and his quintet at Birdland in New York City. Later that year, she was among a group of 'rising young stars of jazz' presented at the Streamliner night club in Chicago. Other Chicago venues at which she performed included the Club Silhouette and the Cloister Inn, where an initial four-week booking turned into a 2 1/2-year stay. Her work in other cities included singing at the Jazz Villa in St. Louis, the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, and the Circus Lounge in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

"In 1961, Hunter began recording for Atlantic, with Blue and Sentimental as her first album for that label. She also recorded for RCA Victor.

"In 1963, Hunter became the first African-American performer hired by WBBM radio in Chicago. After a successful on-air audition, she became a member of the staff of the all-live Music Wagon Show. On August 2, 1968, National Educational Television jazz broadcast featured Hunter, accompanied by the Vernel Fournier Trio, performing 'ballads and blues, old and new.'

"Hunter made commercials for products including peas and telephone directories."

And at least one politician.

"OK, Otto Kerner."

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From Fresh Sound Records:

"Lurlean Hunter (1928-1983) was, with all her skills, one of the most underappreciated singers in America. Other singers, who held her in universal high regard, were in no doubt as to her quality. A singers singer, she was revered for her near perfection in vocal styling, technique, and delivery, gifts she blended into a captivating combination."

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The Velvet Voice Sampler.

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On Nat King Cole's TV show, broadcast from Chicago, in 1957.

And then a duet with the host.

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"The Party's Over."

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"Lonesome Gal."

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"As Long As I Live."

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"The lounge, in business from 1966 to 1978, featured such jazz artists as Johnny Hartman, Carmen McRae, Clark Terry and Lurlean Hunter, after whom it was named."

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Comments welcome.

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1. From Bob Fischer:

Wow! Thanks for that. A beautiful voice with spot-on pitch interpreting the lyrics with emotion. Another underrated singer of that era also sang around Chicago: Jeri Southern. You might want to check her out if you're not familiar with her work. Not as pure a voice as Lurlean's, but nonetheless distinctive.

Reply: Thanks, Bob. I was going to continue the journey with a post on Club DeLisa, but maybe I'll take on Jeri Southern next.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:14 AM | Permalink

December 2, 2019

SportsMonday: Mitch Trubisky Won Thursday, But Ryan Pace Lost Sunday

Ryan Pace should have been fired Sunday. Hell, he should have been fired a month ago. Actually, he should have been fired the minute it became apparent that he didn't just pass up one superstar quarterback with his hare-brained, first-round of the 2017 draft machinations to get Mitch Trubisky, he passed up two.

Going into this season we knew for certain that Pace not drafting Pat Mahomes with the second or third pick that year (or perhaps after trading down to anywhere else in the top 10 and then taking him) was crushingly stupid. Mahomes, who was drafted 10th by the trading-up Chiefs (it isn't always general manager malpractice to trade up, it is just atrocious to do it as often as Pace does) won the MVP last year for goodness sakes.

Mahomes was an overtime coin toss away from leading the Chiefs to the Super Bowl last year. The Patriots beat the Chiefs in the AFC championship in part due to winning that toss and then scoring a touchdown - which meant the Kansas City offense, which had been unstoppable that day, never got the ball.

Surely any football fan who had the chance to watch Deshaun Watson absolutely obliterate the Patriots last night - and yes, it wasn't a single-handed victory, but it felt like it - knows that Watson is a super-duper star just like Mahomes. And Pace didn't just pass on drafting either of the superstars, he traded up, like he always does, to take the far inferior signal-caller.

And I know other dimwits had Trubisky rated ahead of Mahomes and Watson going into that draft. Who cares? None of those dimwits were the insecure general manager of the Chicago Bears. Pace made one of the worst trades in NFL history (maybe the worst) when he sent the 49ers four draft picks to move up one spot and select Trubisky second overall.

Pace always trades up because he wants everyone to consider him Mr. Aggressive. He makes the moves to get the guys he wants. He has had no regrets. Supposedly. He better have some now.

And it is worse with Watson, who was drafted 12th by the trading-up Texans in 2017, than it is with Mahomes. Tribune reporting has made it clear that Pace never even bothered to seriously consider taking the national championship winner from Clemson.

He never had him in to Halas Hall for an extended interview - the guy who carried Clemson to the national championship final two years in a row. The guy whose coach Dabo Swinney, who is about as non-objective as anyone could be but still may be proved right, called the Michael Jordan of football.

Why the hell was that, Ryan? Was it because you were desperate to draft a white quarterback?

Before you say I'm not being fair, remember that Pace had one, two, three chances to draft black quarterback Dak Prescott in the fourth round in the 2016 draft. It has been reported that Pace went into that draft with white quarterback Connor Cook (Michigan State) at the top of his list.

Cook was taken by the Raiders, where he washed out as a back-up between then and now, before the Bears' first pick in that round that year. The Bears then made their picks. The Cowboys were then overjoyed to take Prescott near the end of the round. And Prescott has turned into not quite a superstar, but a star.

Anyway, the question about Pace's failure to even properly interview Watson is one of the queries Pace has been desperately avoiding as he has hidden from the media all season long. Another embarrassing question would be: Wasn't it actually obvious that the guy who threw a million passes at Texas Tech (Mahomes) and the guy who did it all for Clemson, were far better prospects than Trubisky?

And finally, it should be noted that Pace wasn't the only one who failed miserably in the 2017 draft. It is fair to say that any other team in the NFL could have traded into the 10th pick in that first round and had their choice of Mahomes or Watson, is it not?

Who doesn't regret not doing that? The answer is all of two teams: The Ravens (whose star black quarterback was strangely drafted 32nd last year after the four white superprospects were all taken in the top 10 - OK, it wasn't strange, it was just racist) and the 49ers - that's it.

Even the Patriots have to look back on that draft with some regret, even if it probably was a year or two too soon to take Tom Brady's successor. And the Rams and the Eagles can cut themselves some slack given that they took signal-callers with the first two picks the year before. But neither Jared Goff nor Carson Wentz are nearly as good as Mahomes and Watson. That is just a fact.

So the Bears are screwed. Again.

Hey Virginia! Please do us the small favor of firing the guy who bears the blame.

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Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 9:27 AM | Permalink

Climate Science Across America

Public universities are contributing significantly to America's understanding of climate change, according to a new analysis by the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE). The group analyzed the research of 80 public institutions from all 50 states and found that they had produced 10,004 studies on the impacts of climate change on their regions between 2014 and 2018.

The report found a widespread focus on the science of climate impacts, and the regional breakdowns show that public university scientists are investigating locally relevant topics, making their work particularly important to guiding local policy in sectors ranging from agriculture to forestry to medicine.

The 10 universities from the seven states in the Midwest region produced 1,736 studies, with an emphasis on agriculture. Studies covered issues like precipitation and drought, as well as soil and water quality, and this was the only region where "farmers" appear as a topic. Although the Midwest is an agriculture-heavy region, it is also one where urbanization issues appear regularly.

"No matter where you are in the United States, scientists are doing locally relevant research on the impacts of climate change," said Michelle Wyman, executive director of NCSE. "This research should absolutely inform the decisions of local, state and federal lawmakers."

Methodology

The universities included in this analysis were all public, and had to fit one of more of the following criteria:

* The school is the largest land-grant university in the state.

* The university has the highest enrollment in the state.

* The university is affiliated with the state's climatology office.

This produced a sample size of 80 universities.

NCSE then used the Web of Science to search for peer-reviewed studies indexed through the university affiliation of the authors, and then searched for studies that included some variation of the word "climate," with additional subtopics to account for resilience, management and adaptation response studies published between 2014 and 2018. A separate protocol in VOSViewer was used to search for and visualize dominant keywords.

Regional Differences In Research Topics

Variation in the frequency of certain keywords across geography show that public universities are responding to the environmental challenges that their regions are facing.

Terms like "carbon" and "ecosystem" were widespread. But, the most prominent keywords from Alaskan research, for example, showed a greater focus on permafrost melting and indigenous peoples. Universities in the Southwest produced a larger portion of studies focused on precipitation. Midwestern schools produced research on soil and water quality as it relates to agriculture. Northwestern institutions emphasized forestry in its publications and universities in the Southeast produced more research on the spread of traditionally-tropical vector-borne diseases.

The report is intended as a resource to help decision-makers recognize the local salience of climate change and to develop policies that are responsive to the challenges facing their regions.

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For more information, the following experts are available:

Michelle Wyman, NCSE Executive Director: mwyman@ncseglobal.org; (510) 331-0441

Tom Richard, Director, Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, Penn State University: tlr20@psu.edu; (814) 865-3722

Waleed Abdalati, Director, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, CU Boulder; waleed.abdalati@colorado.edu; (303) 492-8773

John Walsh, Chief Scientist, International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska-Fairbanks: Jewaslh@alaska.edu; (907) 474-2677

Stephen Vavrus, Senior scientist, Nelson Institute Center for Climatic Research, sjvavrus@wisc.edu; (608) 265-5279

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Here's the Illinois summary (total papers: 188).

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See also: UI System Among 200 Signatories To Letter Declaring 'Climate Emergency.'

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Previously:

* On The Origins Of Environmental Bullshit.

* Confirmed: Exxon Knew.

* Shell Knew, Too.

* Hothouse Earth Co-Author: 'People Will Look Back On 2018 As The Year When Climate Reality Hit.'

* 5 Ways Trump And His Supporters Use The Same Strategies As Science Deniers.

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Comments welcome.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:09 AM | Permalink

The [Monday] Papers

Lori Lightfoot just fired Eddie Johnson.

And Lightfoot gave Eddie such a nice going-away party.

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Johnson, she says, lied to her about the events surrounding the early morning incident in October when he was found asleep in his car. He "communicated a narrative replete with false statements."

That's so Chicago police it's beyond irony - especially given that Johnson was appointed police chief by Rahm Emanuel in the wake of the Laquan McDonald murder, which was communicated to the public with a narrative replete with false statements, and that Johnson then took office claiming he had never seen an instance of corruption in his 30 years on the force.

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Police reform must now be put on blast. After all, Lightfoot really made her bones as a mayoral candidate through her work leading the post-Laquan reform task force.

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Chicago already has an interim police chief, of course.

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Let's take a look at Chicago's recent police chiefs. Has a single one of them been any good?

Eddie Johnson: Fired for lying to mayor.

John Escalante (interim): Approved bogus Laquan McDonald reports.

Garry McCarthy: Took Rahm's fall for Laquan McDonald; should've been fired much sooner.

Jody Weis: Mayor Richard M. Daley conducted his own search alongside the police board to find a 22-year FBI agent wholly unable to effectively lead the department.

Phil Cline: Resigned amidst a scandal in his special operations unit (including one officer hiring a hit man to kill another) and several instances of highly publicized police brutality.

Terry Hillard: Resigned after a forgettable five years and came back briefly as interim between Weis and McCarthy. Tried to lead reform efforts in New Orleans, creating the appropriate backlash, and cashed in with a private security firm.

Matt Rodriguez: Forced to resign because of his friendship with a convicted felon/murder suspect.

LeRoy Martin: Once suggested weakening the Constitution; named as a Jon Burge enabler.

Fred Rice Jr.: The city's first African-American police chief resigned once his pension maxed out.

Richard Brzeczek: Special prosecutors in 2006 found that Brzeczek was "guilty of 'dereliction of duty' and did not act in good faith in an investigation into claims of torture involving Burge."

I mean, I could keep going. Or I could move on to CPS superintendents. But I'm trying to catch up on the federal investigations swirling around Eddie Burke and Michael Madigan.

#Chicago.

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Hey, maybe "restoring trust" (maybe "storing" trust, because there is no "re" if there was no trust to begin with) starts at the top, just sayin'.

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See also from CBS2 Chicago last month: Scandals, Controversies Have Marked Ends Of Terms For Last 4 Chicago Police Superintendents.

Including:

"Over the last year, CBS 2 has requested more than a dozen interviews with Johnson to address the systemic failures we've uncovered. During a November 2018 news conference, CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini questioned Johnson about wrong raids and the department's failure to comply with our Freedom of Information Act request for data on how often wrong raids happen. The department has yet to release complete records in response to CBS 2's FOIA request.

"The department has issued a statement saying it 'makes every effort to ensure the validity and accuracy of all information that is used to apply for and execute search warrants.'

"But when CBS 2 requested a sit-down, one-on-one interview with Johnson for the Unwarranted documentary, chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi said Johnson does not have the time, and CBS 2's ratings aren't high enough, for him to do an interview."

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New on the Beachwood . . .

Banned In The USSR
"This prohibition, and the subsequent demand it created, gave rise to a black market of banned records carved into used X-ray film - contraband items colloquially known as 'ribs' and 'bone music' that would later become emblems of rock 'n' roll rebellion."

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FBI: Beware Smart TVs
They might be spying on you.

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5 Ways Trump And His Supporters Use The Same Strategies As Science Deniers
"All ideology supports the reflex to believe what you want to believe."

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Climate Science Across America
Including the University of Illinois.

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SportsMonday: Trubisky Won Thursday, But Pace Lost Sunday
The only way to move on from Ryan Pace's disastrous draft gamble is to move on from Ryan Pace.

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Beachwood Sports Radio: Bears Make .500 Look Unrespectable
3-4 felt like 1-6. Now they're 3-9. Plus: BoyGarPax; Buy The Blackhawks?; Looks Like Northwestern University!; and DePaul Is The New Loyola.

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Letters Home | The Words Of Illinois' Civil War Soldiers
"Illinois soldiers wrote about their reasons for enlisting; the nature of training and duties; necessities like eating, sleeping, marching, and making the best of often harsh and chaotic circumstances; Southern culture; slavery; their opinions of commanding officers and the president; disease, medicine, and hospitals; their prisoner-of-war experiences; and the ways they left the army. Through letters from afar, many soldiers sought to manage their homes and farms, while some single men attempted to woo their sweethearts."

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Full Metal Jagoff
Rifles, guns and republics.

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Hallmark Christmas Movie Plot Generator

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Universally Accepted Facts

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ChicagoReddit

I'm moving away, can I ignore my tickets? from r/chicago

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ChicagoGram

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ChicagoTube

CTA 10-Cent Transfer Pass Commercial, 1978.

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BeachBook

GRE Fails To Identify Successful Ph.D Students.

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How Online Shopping Makes Suckers Of Us All.

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These Horses Are Too Young To Die.

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Women Promoters Dominate Twin Cities Concert Scene.

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Life-Size Sculptures of Raw Human Emotions Made From Discarded Machine Parts.

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TweetWood
A sampling of the delight and disgust you can find @BeachwoodReport.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Slip and slide.

Posted by Beachwood Reporter at 12:05 AM | Permalink

MUSIC - Bill Withers In The Beachwood.
TV - Bubble Wrap TV.
POLITICS - Pleading For Protection.
SPORTS - The Truth About Ed Farmer.

BOOKS - Jesus Didn't Believe In Hell.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Where Big Gods Came From.


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