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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:11pm
Mon Jul 21

Republicans In Competitive IL Congressional Races Get Support From Koch Brothers

The Koch Brothers have their eyes on Illinois. Republican candidates running in four of the state's competitive congressional races received campaign contributions last quarter from the political action committee of Koch Industries Inc., a Kansas-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate run by the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

From April 1 through June 30, the Koch Industries Inc. Political Action Committee, or KochPAC, gave a collective $17,500 to the Illinois GOP candidates in 11th, 12th, 13th and 17th congressional districts, according to second-quarter reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

The industrialists Charles and David Koch are well known nationally as big election spenders who also fund a number of right-wing organizations. The notorious billionaire brothers are reportedly expected to spend $290 million in the 2014 election.

“Out of state billionaires like the Koch Brothers are bankrolling Illinois Republicans like Mike Bost, Darlene Senger, Rodney Davis and Bobby Schilling because the Kochs will pay top dollar for anyone who will stack the deck for special interests and the ultra-wealthy at the expense of hardworking families,” said Brandon Lorenz of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of U.S. House Democrats. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:39pm
Fri Jul 18

Report: U.S. Lags Behind Other Nations On Energy Efficiency

The United States is lagging behind many other nations in terms of energy efficiency, according to a new scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

The ACEEE's second edition of its "International Energy Efficiency Scorecard" ranks the United States 13 out of 16 leading world economies analyzed for policies and performance on energy efficiency. The 16 economies cover more than 81 percent of global gross domestic product and 71 percent of global energy consumption. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:17pm
Fri Jul 18

Chicago Commercial Buildings In Retrofit Program Making Progress To Cut Energy Use

In the first two years of the Chicago Commercial Building Initiative, participating buildings have cut their collective energy use by seven percent compared to their 2010 baseline, officials with the city and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said Friday.

The seven percent reduction in energy use is the equivalent of avoiding 28,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, or taking some 5,800 cars off the road for a year. 

Over the past two years, the 32 commercial buildings enrolled in the voluntary program reduced their collective energy use by switching to more efficient LED lighting; installing motion sensors connected to heating, cooling and lighting systems; upgrading heating and cooling systems with better ventilation fans and motors; and improving tenants' office-space efficiency. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Aaron Cynic
2:58pm
Thu Jul 17

Chicago Cab Drivers Rally For Better Wages, Fair Representation

Hundreds rallied at the Thompson Center Wednesday afternoon to show their support for cab drivers in Chicago who are demanding better wages and working conditions. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has been working with cab drivers in Chicago to help them unionize, which they say would give the drivers a better chance at raising their wages, handling city regulations and competing with newer ride sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. 

According to a study from AFSCME released last month, wages for at least half of Chicago’s taxicab drivers fall far short of the state’s minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, with some earning just over $5.00 an hour. Some 10 percent of drivers actually lose money.

“We make Chicago run, but that is not enough for City Hall,” Maxwell Akinton, a Chicago cab driver, told the massive crowd on the plaza. “They treat us like an ATM machine and pull money out of us every day. We have no way to fight back.” Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:21pm
Thu Jul 17

Chicagoans Criticize School Funding Cuts At CPS Budget Hearing (VIDEO)

Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) proposed $5.76 billion spending plan for the 2014-2015 academic year slashes $72 million in funding from 504 traditional neighborhood schools but boosts the budgets of privately-run charter and contract schools by 12 percent.

The funding difference, mostly due to declining enrollment projected at traditional CPS schools and increased enrollment at charters, did not sit well with parents, teachers, education activists and Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who vented their frustrations at a CPS budget hearing Wednesday evening at Malcolm X College on the city's West Side. Education activists toting signs reading, "BOE has different rules for different schools," also spoke out against neighborhood school budget cuts ahead of the hearing.

"There's a crisis in Chicago Public Schools today," Fioretti told the six CPS officials at the hearing. "CPS closed 50 schools last year, supposedly based upon declining enrollment. At the same time, they opened new charter schools. Despite promises of increased funding for existing schools, CPS cut the budget for neighborhood schools this year, while they increased the budget for charter schools. 

"There is no political will from CPS or the fifth floor of this city," he added. "When we decide that politicians should allow charter schools, contract schools and other schools that take away the resources for political ends only, we are depriving our kids of the necessary education here in this city." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:07pm
Wed Jul 16

Consumers Target Walgreens Over 'Toxic Products'; Public Pressure Grows Over Antibiotics Use In Livestock (VIDEO)

A small group of health advocates, dog owners and Walgreens customers in Chicago called on the nation’s largest pharmacy chain to remove products that, they say, contain harmful chemicals from its shelves.

"Many major retailers in the Chicago area such as Target, Bed Bath & (Beyond), even Walmart have taken direct action to begin to remove some of the worst toxic chemicals from their products, and unfortunately, Walgreens, the flagship of Illinois, has refused to make a commitment to take action on these products," said Lynda DeLaforgue, co-director of Citizen Action/Illinois, which organized the Wednesday morning protest outside of the new Walgreens store at 410 N. Michigan Ave. in the Wrigley Building. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
12:28pm
Wed Jul 16

Consumer & Immigrant Rights Advocates Submit New Complaints Against Herbalife (VIDEO)

Days before the kick off of the annual Herbalife Extravaganza in Chicago, two former independent distributors from the Chicago area filed new complaints with the Illinois Attorney General’s office, claiming the nutritional products company operates a pyramid scheme that exploits Latino immigrants.

“Herbalife is in Chicago this week for a major conference, where they celebrate what they call their success and what we call a detriment to the Latino economy here in Illinois,” said Omar Duque, CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Duque joined about half-a-dozen other consumer and civil rights advocates on Tuesday to submit the complaints on behalf of the former independent distributors to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St. in Chicago.

The total number of Herbalife complaints submitted to the attorney general’s office reached 20 on Tuesday, according to the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the group spearheading the campaign. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:04pm
Mon Jul 14

Foster, Community Leaders Analyze Modern Day Civil Rights Issues (VIDEO)

The country has made great strides in the 50 years since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, but much remains to be accomplished, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL,11) said at a panel discussion on the topic in Darien Monday morning.

July 2 marked 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and natural origin.

"As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act and all the steps forward ... we really have to continue to ask ourselves: What are the great civil right struggles that we face today," Foster asked at the talk with community members, held at the Indian Prairie Public Library in DuPage County. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
9:56am
Mon Jul 14

Study: Vegetarian & Low Meat Diets Can Help Mitigate Climate Change

Eating less meat or none at all has the potential to significantly shrink an individual's diet-related carbon footprint and "can make a valuable contribution to climate change mitigation,"according to a recent study published in the journal Climatic Change.

The study examined the diets of 29,589 meat eaters, 15,751 vegetarians, 8,123 pescatarians (vegetarians who eat fish) and 2,041 vegans between the ages of 20 to 79 in the United Kingdom. Participants took a "food-frequency questionnaire" asking how often in the last year they consumed 130 different food items. Researchers were able to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat and warm up the planet, associated with the various foods. Read more »