Friday, April 30, 2010

Proud to receive my 4th Peter Lisagor Award for "In-Depth" reporting from the Society of Professional Journalist's Chicago Headline Club

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I won a Society of Professional Journalism Lisagor Award for a series I did on an American Arab Grocer who claimed he was the victim of anti-Arab bias by the suburban village where his store is located. Had I not written the story, no one in the Chicagoland media would have “wasted” their time covering the complaint. No one would listen to him and for a year, he was being harassed. When I started writing the story, I discovered in fact he was targeted by village inspectors who he said and I believe were trying to shut him down. They arrested him and his wife and son in August 2009 after receiving a complaint that he was “storing” food (that was canned) in a vacant store next to his own. The 911 tapes of police showed – after weeks of trying to get them – that the police had targeted him for being “Arab” – they said they were going to “shut down” an “Arab store owner.”

The Lisagor Awards are the highest honors you can receive from a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The Chicago Headline Club is the largest US Chapter. They were awarded last Friday April 23. This is my 4th Lisagor; I received three others for column writing. This one was awarded for In-Depth Reporting.

My awards include:

1984, Lisagor Award for Column Writing, Daily Southtown
2002, Lisagor Award for Column Writing, Arlington Heights Daily Herald
2004, Lisagor Award for Column Writing, Southwest News-Herald
2009, Lisagor Award for In-Depth Reporting, Southwest News-Herald
2006, Best Ethnic Columnist in America, New America Media
2009, Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award, the Mehdi Family

I have one more award that will be announced next week.

Thanks everyone for your support.

Thanks so much
-- Ray Hanania

Monday, April 26, 2010

Call in the National Guard to fight street and drug gang violence in Chicago

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Why I like Fritchey’s plan to call in the National Guard
By Ray Hanania

Street gang and drug gang related violence is out of control in Chicago. Something needs to be done.

The Chicago Police are overworked, and oftentimes because of political agitation and bad publicity – the CPD needs to do a better job of PR but they don’t – the neighborhoods where the crime is committed do not cooperate.

Although the murder rates have dropped in recent years from the highs of what they were a decade ago – as many as 660 murders in one year, maybe a third now – Chicago is still losing great young minds to needless violence by teenagers who are lost and career criminals who rule the streets and communities.

Most of the street gang violence is concentrated in about 9 percent of the city’s neighborhoods, according to published reports. That means we know where most of the violence takes place. The question for Police Supt. Jodi Weis, a good person with an impossible job, is why? Why can’t we crack down on these criminals.

State Representatives John Fritchey of the North Side and LaShawn Ford of the West Side have proposed this past week that the Illinois National Guard be called in to help patrol these neighborhoods.

That’s a great idea. I’ll tell you why. Sometimes the problem is perception. And the perception today is the Chicago Police can’t do the job themselves in curbing the violence in this most difficult of neighborhoods.

Young people are dying, usually innocent bystanders. The Fritchey and Ford proposal does several things to change those perceptions and, more importantly, make a difference:

First, bringing in the National Guard reinforces the confidence of the public in the neighborhoods, to give them more strength to stand up and fight back. That’s been a big problem. Many living in this crime infested neighborhoods rightly fear speaking out. They need support.

Second, the idea sends out a strong message to the street gangs there’s going to be zero tolerance for street gang and drug related violence and people with guns.

Why don’t we start treating street gang and drug gang members who carry weapons the same way we treat terrorists. Put them in camps and deny them their rights. Round them up and punish them. Force them to change their lives by forcing them to live in tough and brutal conditions.

Maybe there are some who can be saved if we can take them off the streets.

Third, and most importantly, it shows the world and especially the neighborhoods where these murders have taken place that someone cares. Maybe this will encourage more parents and homeowners in these crime infested areas to feel confidence that speaking out will make a difference, not result in retribution against them by the drug and street gang thugs.

Finally, calling out the Illinois National Guard to step in and help also sends a message to those people who think that street gang and drug gang are the problems of other neighborhoods. They are not. The Fritchey and Ford proposal will help makes those people living in more comfortable neighborhoods and the suburbs more aware of the problem and maybe they will start to think about ways we can help.

It won’t be easy sending in the National Guard. There are going to be incidents we might not like.

But the reality is if we don’t do something, the streets of Chicago will continue to be ruled by street gang and drug gang thugs and killers who have so little respect for human life that innocent little children are dying every week.

[Note: John Fritchey joins Radio Chicagoland this morning (Monday April 26, 2010) at 9 am to discuss his proposal. Listen to WJJG 1530 AM Radio or live on the internet at  And call in at 708-493-1530 if you have an idea, too.]

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

The tragedy of Illinois' statewide elections -- the poor voters!

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Broadway Bank, the clout-heavy insider institution smothered in controversy that financed the Giannoulias family, shut down this week. But while it's doors may have closed in one respect -- to be opened and managed by the Federal Government -- it's closing opens a huge and ugly door on the truth about the elections this November.

The poor voters. We get screwed by the Republicans. We get screwed by the Democrats. We get screwed by the Health Insurance robber barons. And we get screwed by the Banks and their credit card rip-off schemes. And now we get screwed again by being denied a decent choice among the disarray of pathetic and poorly qualified candidates running for statewide office this November.

No politically motivated Tea Party Movement pandering to the egos of some maniacal Conservative Republican nut jobs like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin can save us.

We should be screaming about the poor quality of many of the candidates we're being force-fed, but voters are so pathetic themselves they won't even bother to vote. So whose fault is it?

Look at the election "field of screams."

For the race for U.S. Senate, our choice is Alexi Giannoulias, a candidate who made no mark of any significance in the office of Illinois Treasurer, his first real elective office. He did nothing there, except defend the banks and the credit card companies. Now, he wants to be our U.S. Senator, in the seat once held by President Barack Obama and now held by lame duck U.S. Senator Roland Burris.

What is Giannoulias's credentials? He is a basketball pal of President Obama. Not one great idea to helpt he taxpayers. Not one principled stand against the bankers -- obviously because he comes from a banking family that has a history of high profile controversial insider deals. How much money did the Giannoulias family take from Broadway Bank before it shut down? I read someplace they took more than $70 million. Paid themselves first.

And now Giannoulias wants to be our Senator.

No way. No how. And I am a Democrat.

On the other hand, who is our alternative choice. Self-serving PR-savvy double-talking flipflopper Congressman Mark Kirk who built his career exploiting the Iraq War where he served as a celebrity pilot in a reserve unit in the conflict. Not a hero. He just served. For us regular people who served in the military, we barely get a thank you. For Mark Kirk the politician with the mouth that never stops bragging, he wants to use his routine performance in the military -- he did what he was supposed to do and nothing more (which is sadly more than most of the people screaming for war over the past eight years have done), and now he expects to be rewarded with the high-paying powerful job of U.S. Senator.

No way. No how.

Then look at the equally pathetic race for Governor, filling the vacancy left by the scandal-plagued blow-hard and arrogant former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Although he was unfairly treated by the U.S. Justice Department and the Illinois Legislature, the fact is Blow-hard Blagojevich made it all possible with his stupid public comments and his selfish political style.

We're supposed to believe that his successor -- and his former running mate -- Pat Quinn is going to set the boat straight and get this state back on its feet from the deep hole the state's political leaders have dug for the taxpayers over the years by caring for themselves and not caring for the interests of the state's economically deprived citizens.

Quinn is pathetic. A hypocrite. It's all about him. His career. he has been trying so hard to get to the top he has forgotten how to be a reformer. He's arrogant just like everyone of his predecessors and who knows what controversies he will step in when given the reigns of power.

His tax increase is the WORST idea. Instead of tightening his belt and cutting the fat from HIS administration, he's already stripping funds from communities across the state, crippling the budgets of many of the programs the people of Illinois need to survive, and placing the burden of the economic catastrophe we have in Illinois created by Pat Quinn, Alexi Giannoulias, Mark Kirk and all of the statewide elected officials on the shoulders of the taxpayers who never had a chance to begin with.

The elections and the government on the state level are rigged.

No way. No how.

And then there is Bill Brady, the downstate Senator. Such a sad missed opportunity when he was elected instead of State Senator Kirk Dillard, the one person who offered this state hope. Dillard could easily defeat Quinn. Brady cannot. In fact, every time Brady opens his mouth, he "steps in it" and you know what the "it" is. Here is a guy who is so rich that he refuses to release his income taxes. Why? He says because he wants to protect his business partners.

Well, if you really wanted to protect your business partners, you NEVER would have run for public office to benefit yourself. What have you EVER done as a State Senator besides moo with the rest of the herded legislative cows?

Brady is playing a cheap game of deception when he says he will releases his income taxes for three hours only for the viewing of reporters, at his Springfield offices. Not release them to the public. He doesn't want to public to know what he has done and how rich he is and how much he has profited. God forbid we might discover something shady about his business conduct and the only way to know if a politician is "clean" is to see their full tax returns.

The legislature should make it mandatory that candidates for public office should be REQUIRED to release their income tax forms as a part of their filing and all of their subsequent income tax forms MUST be filed ON TIME and in every year they hold public office OR are running for public office. To do anything less is a slap int he face of the voters.

No way. No how.

So who do we vote for? The pathetic third parties who want to tell that one of their candidates "won" 10 percent of a vote in some past election. That's not winning. That's losing by a landslide and it's a reflection on their inability to convince voters of their programs.

We're screwed.

Our only hope is this:

1 -- The Democrats force Giannoulais to step down and replace him with someone else. If they don't Illinois will be stuck with Kirk for six years of misery and suffering and poor leadership. Kirk is a conservative fanatic trying to appease voters with his phony "I'm a moderate Republican" BS.

The sad irony here is that Burris has proven to be the BEST US Senator this state has had in a long time. He has voted his conscience and on what's best for the citizens. All that BS about him being tainted because he was appointed by Blow-hard Blagojevich is Balgojevich Baloney.

2 -- Pat Quinn needs to get his act together and do some serious rethinking of everything he holds dear. Otherwise, we will get stuck with Brady, another Republican insider who will destroy this state through inept leadership and partisan political agendas. Blagojevich was right about Quinn, but not in a caring way for the taxpayers, rather, because it made him feel good about the mess he helped create for himself.

As for the rest of the candidates running for public office. None of them mean a hill of beans if they don't have th guts to stand up and tell the voters what needs to be said. They are so afraid of creating enemies they just want to slink past and win office. They don't want to rock the boat at all. They just want to get back in office, because the only place safe in today's economy is in an elected office where health and pension benefits come almost free picked from the low-hanging taxpayer funded broken state branches.

At least this year, voters who don't waste their time caring about the miserable state of our government and politics will have a legitimate excuse to stay home and let the insiders take everything and destroy everything all at the same time.

We'll be talking about this topic on my radio show this week beginning Monday morning at 8 am. Call in, if you care. Snooze if you're happy with the garbage we call statewide government.

-- Ray Hanania

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Stroll through Orland Park Mall prompts pessimism about the future

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I made the mistake of going to the Woodfield Mall. I wanted to do something "different." It's not a trip that I make often, especially now that the Eisenhower/290 is under construction. But I thought, why not see something different. You know. The "grass is greener," thing. Oh the grass was greener. And lush. And fun. It's huge, it's mall stretches like a spider web that clings to your pocket book. Classy. Filled with shoppers. And not just average everyday shoppers, but shoppers who have that air and attitude of confidence. Confidence is not something you come across often these days in today's poor economy and polarized society where hate commentary dominates many of the increasingly right wing radio and news outlets. (I wish there was a "Media Woodfield Mall" I could go to in order to escape the media demagoguery.)

I say I "made a mistake" because I left the Woodfield Mall energized and confident, and a few hundred bucks short that I didn't mind spending on some clothes and gadgets for my computer and iPod. And it was with that excitement that the Woodfield Mall gave me that prompted me to make a rare trip to the Orland Park Mall, which isn't too far from where I live.

The place is depressing. It was like a bowling alley of mediocrity. Many of the clothing stores cater to the skateboard crowd and the "pants down to your butt" people who swagger around like showing their jockey shorts is something anyone wants to see.

The most exciting places were not the name-brand stores but rather the little huts in the center of the single Mall foyer, most of them sell cell phones, cheap jewelry and even cheaper shades, and pluck the wild hairs from your eyebrows with sewing string that's rolled, and pulled. Isn't that something you want to do in the privacy of your own bathroom with a tweezers. Remember tweezers? The Pagers of the "Who Cares?"  Generation?

I made my way to Macy's where I thought I might find some impressive clothing and shoes. I badly need a pair of shoes. But the pickings were thin. It just didn't feel the same as it did many years ago when I would go to Fields to buy new suits for work. Who wears a suit, anyway, in these days of "anything goes?"

I felt like I was in a Middle East Souq -- not because of the people at the mall, but the flea market circus nature of the surroundings. But it wasn't a Souq because at least a Souq has mystery and powerful aromas of food an incense.

I left that place in a state of shock and I started to notice all the retail stores that are vacant in the village. And the depression just got worse.

What's going on, folks. Doesn't anyone care about quality and class any more? Orland Park was always the place to move to and shop. There isn't even a book store in the mall. There used to be two. The food court has a lot to be desired, although Orland Park has a lot of restaurants, though my judgment is still out on them. A few I haven't visited and I am not sure I ever will.

I realized I was ding what my parents did back in the 1960s. They moved in to a wonderful neighborhood that the economy turned in to mush. And soon we were always driving to far away locations to find better things. As soon as I walked out to the parking lot, I realized I'll have to wait until the weekend if I want to spend some cash and drive back up to Woodfield Mall where the grass looks even greener after my trip to the Orland Park Mall.

What's the world coming too anyway?

-- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Village of Orland Park Day Camp Offers Fun-Filled Summer

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Village of Orland Park Day Camp Offers Fun-Filled Summer
Age Specific Programs Available

ORLAND PARK, IL – With the end of the school year on the horizon, parents are looking for options to keep their grammar school aged children occupied. The Orland Park Recreation Department Day Camp Program offers three levels for grammar school children.

“We have three age specific divisions within the Day Camp Program,” said Orland Park Recreation Operations Manager Irene Buikema. “The curriculum in each is tailored for that particular age group,” she added.

All three camp programs visit the village’s Centennial Park Aquatics Center every Monday and Thursday afternoon. Pool visits are included in the program fee.

The Buddies Program is designed for campers in first through third grades and is overseen by Program Coordinator Mercedes Free. Three day or five day camps are offered Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

“Buddies follows a different theme each week, around which all of our games, crafts and activities revolve,” Free explained. “For example, during Anything Goes Week, we have pajama day, crazy hair day and mismatch day,” she added.

Buddies campers remain with their groups and counselors all day and Fridays bring field trips to destinations within the Chicago area.

“Many of our counselors are teachers or education majors who have years of experience working with children,” Free said. “They make the summer fun and educational at the same time,” she said.

Roberta Flondor oversees the Voyagers Camp, offered for girls and boys entering fourth grade in the fall.

“Voyagers is designed to meet the needs of the children who are too old for the primary grade camp but not quite ready to take on the challenges of Adventurers, our camp for the older kids,” Flondor explained.

“Voyagers offers age appropriate activities in sports, games and crafts, along with full day field trips and swimming at Centennial,” Flondor described. Campers begin the day with their core group and counselor and may spend the rest of the day enjoying activities with campers from other Voyagers groups.

“Last year was our maiden voyage for Voyagers and our campers had a blast,” Flondor said, smiling.

Jeanne Weaver is responsible for the older campers’ program, Adventurers, designed for children entering fifth through seventh grades in the fall.

“A large portion of our program allows campers to make choices within their camp day,” Weaver explained. “I think this is an important aspect of our program as our campers are older and need to be able to make some choices during their day. It’s their summer,” she said.
Campers are able to choose among sports, crafts and other activities. Sports may include knockout, volleyball or kickball while crafts include making items. Other activities may include making Gak, participating in a spoons tournament or making a lava container.

“Adventurers also participate in group events such as the Rube Goldberg Competition or Adventurer Idol, our own version of ‘American Idol’, complete with karaoke. We celebrate the end of summer with a dance with a DJ,” Weaver said.

Five day a week Adventurer campers go on mini field trips several times during the camp session. Five day campers are able to practice specific sports, create things on a sewing machine or work on more detailed projects.

The Recreation Department also offers Before and After Camp Pals, designed for working parents who need to drop off their children before camp begins or pick them up after the camp day ends.
“The village’s day camp gives parents peace of mind, knowing their children are safely occupied with age appropriate activities,” Buikema said.

Three week day and five week day sessions are available for Summer Buddies and Adventurers.
Voyagers offers three day camp with a wait list having been created for those interested in five days. Whether the Recreation Department offers five day camp for fourth graders will be decided closer to the start of the day camp season.

The first session of camp is June 14 to July 9 with no camp on July 5. Session two is offered from July 12 to August 6. Registration for the programs closes May 15.

Registration is available at the village’s Loebe Recreation Center, 14650 South Ravinia Avenue and at the Sportsplex, 11351 West 159th Street. For more information, call the Village of Orland Park Recreation Department at 708/403-7275.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Zabrocki had warned Arab businessmen they have have been targeted

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Many months ago, Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki had warned several high profile American Arabs who live in Tinley Park that they should alert the community that there was police information that Chicago store owners of Arab heritage might be the targets of thieves.

That came true this week when six gunmen broke in to the Tinley Park home of store owner Abbas Darwish. Darwish live son the 9100 block of Basswood drive in a 4,000 square foot mansion. He owns and operates DIA Food & Liquor in Morgan Park on Chicago's South Side.

Zabrocki had said that reports had surfaced that the Arab grocers might be targeted not in their stores, where they often prepare against theft as do most other small grocery store owners, but in their driveways upon return to their homes late at night after work.

There are about 150 small and medium-sized grocery stores owned by American Arabs in the Chicago area, many in the inner city and African American community.

On Wednesday, around 4 am as Darwish and his wife and children were sleeping,t he six suspects broke in to the home and pistol whipped Darwish demanding his money from the store.

Police arrested two of the suspects as helicopters and SWAT teams were brought in to hunt down the heavily armed gunmen. Zabrocki and the Tinley Park Police don't mess around and are tough on crime and protecting their community.

Zabrocki said that Darwish had been targeted and the suspects might have followed him home from his business.

Residents of Tinley Park and School District 135 were alerted to the home invasion early Wednesday morning. District 135 schools were placed in a "soft loack-down" meaning that children remained in classrooms. The manhunt for the four remaining suspects was called off in the early afternoon after police concluded they had fled the area.

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, April 12, 2010

Memorial Day services for Veterans planned in Orland Park

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Village of Orland Park Media Relations
Frederick T. Owens Village Hall
14700 South Ravinia Avenue - Orland Park, IL 60462

MEDIA CONTACT: Margie Owens-Klotz


FOR RELEASE: April 12, 2010

Village of Orland Park to Host Memorial Day Ceremony
Last Day to Add Vets’ Names is April 30th
Agent Orange Quilt of Tears on Display for Four Days
National Vietnam Association President Coming to Orland Park

ORLAND PARK, IL –The Village of Orland Park’s Memorial Day Ceremonies are poignant tributes to those who have died serving our country. Flags from each of the 50 states billow as they provide a colorful frame for the village’s towering memorial, Ara Pace – Place of Peace. Bagpipes wail as veterans file in for the presentation of colors as audience members silently rise to their feet.

This year’s ceremony will be the first in almost twenty years without retired US Air Force Colonel Father Leo Lyons who passed away at the age of 87 on February 18, 2010.

“Father Leo never missed one of our ceremonies,” said Mayor Dan McLaughlin. “He was a true veteran’s veteran and made sure he participated every Memorial Day and Veterans Day,” the mayor recalled.

Orland Park’s observance of Memorial Day 2010 will span four days with the Agent Orange Quilt of Tears on display in the Jane Barnes Annex of the Orland Park Civic Center from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., May 28 through May 31. Vietnam War era memorabilia will be on display for the four days with guest speakers and presentations planned for each of the days the quilt is in Orland Park.

“The Agent Orange Quilt of Tears was here in October, 2005 when we hosted the Vietnam Moving Wall,” said Veterans Commission Chair Tom Dubelbeis. “It’s a thought provoking display that takes your breath away as you see individual quilt sections devoted to those who suffer from or have died because of the effects of Agent Orange,” Dubelbeis said, himself a Vietnam Veteran.

“Agent Orange has had a devastating effect on our Vietnam Veterans and, to date, is responsible for more deaths than the combat casualties suffered during the Vietnam Conflict,” Dubelbeis stressed.

Orland Park’s Memorial Day Ceremony will be held Monday, May 31 at 1:00 p.m. at the village’s memorial, located in the Village Center at 14700 South Ravinia Avenue. Members of Orland Park Cub Scout Pack 383 will again serve as an honor guard for the procession of veterans.

Veterans Commission Recording Secretary Gail Blummer coordinates the village’s military tributes. “There’s still time to add veterans’ names to Orland Park’s memorial,” Blummer said, adding that the last day to add a name for the Memorial Day Ceremony is April 30, 2010.

The cost to add a veteran’s name is $250. Veterans may be living or deceased and do not have to live in Orland Park. Further information about adding a name is available by calling Blummer at 708/403-6203.

“It’s especially touching when a veteran stands as his name is announced as his friends and family smile and applaud,” the mayor said.

Immediately following Orland Park’s 1:00 p.m. ceremony, John Rowan, National President of the Vietnam Veterans Association will speak of the need for additional veterans’ services and funding.

“We’re honored to have Mr. Rowan travel to Orland Park from Maryland to address the needs of our region’s veterans,” McLaughlin said.

Dubelbeis added, “We invite everyone to come to the Civic Center to see the displays and to be a part of Orland Park’s Memorial Day tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

“And, even though Father Leo will no longer be here, we know that he’ll be with us in spirit,” Blummer said, smiling, as she added, “He wouldn’t miss this for the world.”


Veterans march past the state flags that frame Orland Park’s Veterans’ Memorial. The cost to add a vet’s name to Orland Park’s wall is $250 and the deadline for this year’s Memorial Day Ceremony is April 30. For details, call 708/403-6203.