Friends and family members attend a memorial service for 17-year-old twin brothers Edward and Edwin Bryant who were shot and killed in October. Chicago has logged more than 700 homicides this year, more than any other major U.S. City
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Fourteen-year-old Demarco Webster Jr. was helping his dad move to a new apartment a few months ago, when he was shot and killed.
His stepdad, Juawaun Hester, says they had intentionally waited to start the move until after midnight in order to avoid any trouble.
Hester says Demarco didn’t even like going outside if he didn’t have to.
“I don’t understand man, and you know what’s going on now is like the future children, the good children, the smart children, with scholarships and they’re the ones who’s dying to the gun violence,” Hester says.
The Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 of the 2016 World Series on the strength of a commanding performance by their starter Corey Kluber who struck out nine batters over six innings.
Kluber was so dominant that he struck out eight of the first nine Cubs batters he faced. He had the help of back-up catcher Roberto Perez who clobbered two home runs.
Cubs starter Jon Lester gave up three runs over 5 2/3 innings. The Indians got to Lester early in the game. He gave up a hit and walked two batters in the top of the first inning before giving up an infield hit and hitting a batter. By the end of the first, the Indians were ahead 2-0 and their fans smelled blood.
J.P. Morgan, Nuveen invest in school board’s bonds at big profit
The Chicago school system needed money—fast. Two Wall Street players saw an opportunity to invest.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Chicago-based Nuveen Asset Management have made realized and paper profits exceeding $110 million on purchases this year of $763 million in Chicago Public Schools bonds. The school system has said it needed the money to replenish its dwindling coffers before the new school year and to build and repair facilities.
The terms of the bond sales highlight the choices the school district faces after years of pension shortfalls and relying heavily on borrowing. The 397,000-student school district struggled to sell municipal bonds in February until Nuveen bought about one-third, and the district decided in July to borrow directly from J.P. Morgan for fear that investors might balk again, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Board of Education said.
“CPS did not have the luxury of waiting longer to demonstrate to the market that the progress we were making was real,” said Ronald DeNard, the school district’s senior vice president of finance, in an emailed statement about the bonds purchased in July by J.P. Morgan.
J.P. Morgan, the country’s largest bank by assets, made a 9.5% profit on $150 million in bonds it bought in July and sold in September, or 82% annualized. Nuveen, an investment firm managing $160 billion, has bought $613 million in bonds since February for a total return, including price gains and interest payments, of about 25%. That is almost 50% on an annualized basis, an especially large gain at a time of near-zero interest rates.
The school system’s bonds are a favorite for John Miller, Nuveen’s co-head of fixed income, who said the firm bought when the market feared a default, a concern he called overblown. “At the end of day, this school system is critically important to Chicago—to the whole country really,” he said.
This is the year that NBA tanking went off the rails. The Philadelphia 76ers, for starters, exemplified a whole new level of basketball seppuku with a team so willfully awful that the New York Times Magazine felt compelled to publish a feature story about their willful awfulness. The Sixers’ smarty-pants front office—Philadelphia’s general manager, Sam Hinkie, has a Stanford MBA, as the profiles of the team’s losing ways inevitably noted—believes that the best way to make a bad team good is to first make it horrific. By descending into “tank mode,” the Sixers hoped to lose enough games that they’d receive one of the valuable first picks in the upcoming NBA draft.
How to solve the problem? The best tanking solution would be relegation, as happens in European soccer leagues. Each year, the bottom three teams in the continent’s top divisions are kicked out of the league and relegated to a lower one. Regrettably, with NBA teams currently selling for $2 billion apiece, it’s unlikely we’ll get owners to agree that a few of them should be banished to the D-League each year to compete against the Sioux Falls Skyforce. (No one believes this will happen—otherwise we’d see a bidding war for last year’s champion, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.)
A more likely solution would be for the NBA to flatten out the lottery odds. Right now the worst team has a 25 percent chance at the top pick while the 14th-worst team has a 0.5 percent chance. We could switch to a true lottery, in which all 14 non-playoff teams would get an equal 7.14 percent chance at the top pick. Or, more progressively, we could massage the system so that each team’s odds are closer but not equal. But this still wouldn’t entirely remove the incentive to tank. Besides, NBA owners recently rejected a plan along these lines.
Another draft scheme that’s gotten lots of attention is “the wheel”—a system in which the draft order would be set far in advance so that a team’s draft position would have zero to do with its on-court performance. This would eliminate any reason to tank, but it would also do nothing to help bad teams get better. The worst team in the league might end up picking dead last in the draft. The best team might pick first. Making the rich richer and the poor poorer would be an unacceptable outcome of any lottery reform. As horrible as the status quo is, some version of reverse-order drafting—and the increased parity it helps create—is still a worthy goal. So the problem seems intractable.
But fear not, NBA fans! A superior answer exists, and a friend of mine has invented it. It’s fair, it’s elegant, and it’s fun. My friend calls it the “You’re the Worst!” draft.
How would it work? On the day before the regular season began, the NBA would hold a “You’re the Worst!” draft. Selection order for the YTW draft would be determined like any standard reverse-order draft—the team that had the worst win-loss record in the previous season would pick first, the team that had the best record would pick last. But the teams wouldn’t be drafting players. They’d be choosing the rights to another team’s position in the next NBA draft.
So, for example, the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finished this season with the worst win-loss record, would have the first YTW pick in the fall when the 2015–16 season started. One day before opening day, all of the league’s general managers would gather together in a room. The T-Wolves would look around that room and decide which team they thought would finish worst in 2015–16. (They would not be allowed to choose themselves, tempting as that might be.)
Danny Gold joined ‘On the Line’ to discuss his new piece on America’s mental health care crisis, “Institutionalized: Mental Health Behind Bars” – http://bit.ly/1DHIqYj
America’s relationship with its mentally ill population continues to suffer as a result of inadequacies in the country’s mental health care system.
For the mentally ill in Chicago, the effects of this inadequacy are felt on a magnified scale, as budget cuts and a lack of community-based mental health resources have left these individuals with minimal support. More often than not, this means being repeatedly swept up into the criminal justice system for low-level, non-violent crimes
Danny Gold traveled to Chicago for VICE News, to speak with community members on Chicago’s south side, and get a first-hand look inside Cook County Jail.
VICE News and On The Line want to hear from you! Let us know your questions on Twitter with the hashtag #ontheline, or send us a video message on Skype.
Wealthier whites get 90 percent of licenses in Illinois
In Chicago’s South Side earlier this month, a 16-year-old boy was shot dead, the seventh person killed this year in the West Garfield Park neighborhood.
The boy was able to give his name and reportedly pleaded with the responding police officers, “Please don’t let me die.”
If you live in 60624, the ZIP code where the shooting took place, you don’t expect your streets to be safe. In the last 30 days, that neighborhood has recorded more homicides, robberies, assaults, thefts and narcotics charges combined than any other ZIP code in Cook County when measured on a per capita basis. Its population is 98 percent black and averages a median income just above the poverty line.
It also is one of the ZIP codes that registers the fewest active concealed carry firearms permits per capita in the county, according to concealed carry numbers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Washington Times.
Ditto for the crime-ridden neighborhoods of Englewood and West Englewood. Combined with West Garfield Park, out of their 114,933 total residents, only 193 concealed carry licenses have been issued — less than 0.17 percent of the population.
It’s a completely different story in affluent Palos Park, located in southwestern Cook County. The 60464 ZIP code boasts a negligible crime rate: Only one homicide has been committed in 10 years, according to the most recent state police data. Ninety-six percent of its residents are white, earning an average income of $121,000.
It also has the most concealed carry licenses in Cook County this year, with 1.24 percent of its residents authorized to carry a gun.
The majority of Illinois’ 73,714 active concealed carry licenses — 90 percent — have been issued to white people, demographic data shows. Only eight percent of African-Americans have secured licenses, according to the FOIA information.
Within Cook County, the top five concealed carry ZIP codes per capita are all predominately white, middle class and are in areas that have low crime rates. However, the most violent neighborhoods within the county — all of which are on the South Side of Chicago — are predominately black, where residents earn less than $48,000 annually and hold the fewest concealed carry licenses as a percentage of the population.
If the same data trends occurred in banking and insurance, there might be outcries of “redlining,” denying a group of people access to goods or services because of the color of their skin or income levels. But there’s little public concern expressed so far about the possibility that poor blacks are being disenfranchised from the right to carry a concealed weapon.
“You really need to ask whether or not politicians are consciously trying to disarm certain groups of people,” said Dr. John Lott, a Second Amendment expert and president of the Crime Prevention Center. “Why do they want a law that primarily disarms blacks and gives guns to only well-to-do whites? Don’t they think it should be equal for everyone to protect their lives?”
Illinois residents say the disproportionate statistics all boil down to cost. Of right-to-carry states, Illinois has the highest registration and training fee, costing an applicant about $650 on average for fingerprinting, taxes and logistics — excluding the price of the gun.
“In these gangbang neighborhoods, people can’t afford the license. They’re making choices between food and medicine, and they can’t even guarantee they’ll get even that,” said Shawn Gowder, 49, who lives in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood on the South Side, where two homicides have taken place in the last 30 days. “We need to arm ourselves and protect ourselves from these gangbangers, but we just can’t afford to do it.”
Illinois also has the longest training requirements of right-to-carry states, requiring potential licensees to take a 16-hour course that includes range time. There are no gun ranges within the city of Chicago, and carrying an unlicensed gun on public transportation is a crime.
“There are a lot of systematic and economic barriers that make it difficult for South Side of Chicago residents, many of whom are African-American, to obtain concealed carry permits,” said George Mitchell, president of the NAACP Illinois State Conference. “Some of the barriers include the high costs, time commitment, bureaucracy and the community’s distrust of the police.”
Protesters demonstrate outside a McDonald’s in Chicago. Hundreds of workers from McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and other fast-food chains were expected to walk off their jobs Thursday to push the companies to pay their employees at least $15 an hour, according to labor organizers.
M. Spencer Green/AP
Fast-food workers in cities across the country, from Los Angeles to Chicago to Hartford, Conn., rallied for higher wages during a day of demonstrations Thursday.
Union organizers, backed by the Service Employees International Union, are building a campaign for $15 an hour pay.
At the corner of 87th Street and South Wabash in Chicago, an intersection that has a McDonald’s on one corner and a Burger King on the other, workers chanted “$15 an hour” or sang “We Shall Not be Moved” as they blocked traffic.
“We took over the whole street,” said Jessica Davis, 26, a McDonald’s employee who lives in the Chicago area. “It was empowering.”
By early afternoon, the police had handcuffed and arrested an estimated 30 demonstrators. Similar scenes played out in other cities: In Kansas City local news reported a sit-down rally leading to arrests, protesters in Milwaukee were taken into police custody, and a march of about 100 workers in Hartford, Conn., led to several arrests.
The campaign, which started two years ago when fast-food workers in New York City rallied for higher wages, has grown. In December, demonstrators got the attention of lawmakers in Washington, sparking talk of raising the federal minimum wage to $10 or more.
But in many cities, a living wage would need to be much higher. For instance in Chicago, where Davis lives, an adult with one child needs to make about $20 an hour to support their family, according to one living wage calculator.
Davis says she makes about $9 an hour at McDonald’s, which is average for the fast food industry. She argues it’s not enough.
“It’s extremely hard. I’m forced to use government assistance to take care of my children,” Davis said. She relies, for instance, on the SNAP program, or food stamps, to buy some of her groceries.
As the country struggles to combat the growing abuse of heroin and opioid painkillers, a new battlefield is emerging: the courts.
The City of Chicago and two California counties are challenging the drug industry’s way of doing business, contending in two separate lawsuits that “aggressive marketing” by five companies has fueled an epidemic of addiction and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in insurance claims and other health care costs.
The severity of drug abuse is well documented: Use of prescription opioids contributed to 16,651 deaths in the United States in 2010 alone, and to an estimated 100,000 deaths in the past decade. When people cannot find or afford prescription painkillers, many have increasingly turned to heroin.
The lawsuits assert that drug makers urged doctors to prescribe the drugs far beyond their traditional use to treat extreme conditions, such as acute pain after surgery or injury or cancer pain, while underplaying the high risk of addiction. Such marketing, the plaintiffs say, has contributed to widespread abuse, addiction, overdose and death.
Taking the drug makers to court recalls the tobacco liability wars of the 1990s, with government entities suing in the hope of addressing a public health problem and forcing changes from an industry they believed was in denial about the effects of its products. The tobacco settlement led to agreements by the tobacco industry to change marketing practices, which is a goal of the opioid lawsuits.
But there are differences: The $246 billion tobacco settlement involved a product that was at best lightly regulated, while narcotics are already heavily regulated by federal and state government. Still, the private law firms that have filed the opioid suits, including the public-interest firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, have encouraged governments to join their fight.
The Chicago lawsuit cites an estimate that about 1,100 emergency room visits in the city in 2009 could be attributed to opioid abuse and overdose, with the city paying $9.5 million in insurance claims for prescriptions since 2008 and much more in related health care costs.
Investigators have reviewed hundreds of thousands of pages of internal corporate documents that they obtained through subpoenas under local ordinances. Stephen Patton, corporation counsel for the City of Chicago, said, “It was a suit we would not have brought unless we felt we had a rock-solid legal and factual basis for doing so.”
The other lawsuit was filed in California by Orange and Santa Clara Counties. Five companies were named as defendants: Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company that makes Duragesic and other opioids; Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin and other drugs; Actavis, the maker of Kadian and some generic opioids; Endo Health Solutions Inc., the maker of such opioids as Percocet and Opana; and Cephalon, a subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries that makes such opioids as Actiq and Fentora.
The opioids litigation was a topic of much discussion in June at the annual summer meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General in Mackinac Island, Mich., said William H. Sorrell, the Vermont attorney general. Noting that the governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, devoted most of his State of the State address to the growing problem of opioids and heroin addiction, Mr. Sorrell said, “we are taking a look at the issues” and the litigation.
Although the lawsuits, filed in state courts, tailor their arguments to local law and circumstances — Chicago used its consumer fraud ordinance to subpoena internal documents from the drug companies — they are similar. Both open by stating, “A pharmaceutical manufacturer should never place its desire for profits above the health and well-being of its customers.”
The materials obtained from the companies by Chicago include the industry’s funding of patient information groups. One of them, the American Pain Foundation, received $10 million from the companies and played down the addiction potential of the drugs, according to court filings, with messages to consumers such as, “opioids are rarely addictive when used properly for the management of chronic pain.” This appears to conflict with an internal document from the pain foundation that discusses “the lack of confirmatory data about the long-term safety and efficacy of opioids in non-cancer chronic pain.”
One agreement cited in the lawsuit said that the foundation and Purdue Pharma “will work collaboratively to develop and approve key messages.”
Sunni radicals with the Islamic State terrorist group have posted a number of tweets aimed at the citizens of Chicago, including a picture of an unidentified man on Michigan Avenue holding a paper with a handwritten Arabic message: “We are in your streets.”
The terrorist group, which operates primarily out of Syria and Iraq, relies heavily on social media platforms to spread its message, using the hashtag #AMessageFromISIStoUS to single out Chicago.
The location of the tweet was 307 N. Michigan Avenue at the city’s Old Republic Building, Chicago’s WGN network reported Friday. The tweet, dated June 20, allegedly says, “Soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria will pass from here soon,” the station reported.
Security at the Old Republic Building wouldn’t comment, nor would local or federal authorities, including Secret Service and the FBI, WGN reported.
During a press briefing Thursday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Islamic State group is “beyond any terrorist group. … They marry ideology, sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. Oh, this is beyond anything that we’ve seen, so we must prepare for everything, and the only way you do that is you take a cold, steely hard look at it and get ready.”