WBEZ | News http://www.wbez.org/news Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, 1st black player in team history, dies http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-cubs-legend-ernie-banks-1st-black-player-team-history-dies-111451 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/banks_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Baseball&#39;s Chicago Cubs report that Hall of Fame shortstop Ernie Banks has died. &quot;Mr. Cub,&quot; who began his career in the Negro leagues, was the first black player for the team &mdash; eighth in the majors overall &mdash; and played in 14 All-Star games in his 19 seasons, all with the Cubs.</p><p>&quot;Forty-four years after his retirement, Banks holds franchise records for hits, intentional walks and sacrifice flies and in RBIs since 1900,&quot; <a href="http://m.cubs.mlb.com/news/article/107316594/beloved-mr-cub-hall-of-famer-banks-dies-at-83" target="_blank">MLB.com reports</a>. &quot;He likely holds club records for smiles and handshakes as well. ... His 2,528 games are the most by anyone who never participated in postseason play. Chicago never held him responsible for that and believed he deserved better.&quot;</p><p>Banks, who was 83, was named National League MVP in 1958 and 1959, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.</p><p>His back-to-back MVP awards were among the few given to players on losing teams, notes The <em>Associated Press</em>:</p><div><blockquote><p>&quot;Banks&#39; best season came in 1958, when he hit .313 with 47 homers and 129 RBIs. Though the Cubs went 72-82 and finished sixth in the National League, Banks edged Willie Mays and Hank Aaron for his first MVP award. He was the first player from a losing team to win the NL MVP.</p><p>&quot;Banks won the MVP again in 1959, becoming the first NL player to win it in consecutive years, even though the Cubs had another dismal year. Banks batted .304 with 45 homers and a league-leading 143 RBIs.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>The <em>Chicago Tribune</em> <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-sullivan-ernie-banks-spt-0124-20150123-story.html" target="_blank">describes the outlook of Banks, who also was known as &quot;Mr. Sunshine&quot;</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Ernie Banks didn&#39;t invent day baseball or help build Wrigley Field. He just made the idea of playing a baseball game under the sun at the corner of Clark and Addison streets sound like a day in paradise, win or lose. ... He was a player who promoted the game like he was part of the marketing department. Not because he had to, but because he truly loved the Cubs and the game itself.&quot;</p></blockquote></div><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2015/01/24/379510352/chicago-cubs-legend-ernie-banks-1st-black-player-in-team-history-dies">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Sat, 24 Jan 2015 09:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-cubs-legend-ernie-banks-1st-black-player-team-history-dies-111451 Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah dies http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-01-23/saudi-arabias-king-abdullah-dies-111448 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/King Abdullah.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span id="docs-internal-guid-03c4e882-17c2-1d25-93e4-be52a7c6de4a">King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has died at the age of 90. </span>His half-brother, Salman, has been confirmed as the new king. We&rsquo;ll take a look at his legacy and his successor with Joseph K├ęchichian, a senior writer for <a href="http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/dr-joseph-a-kechichian">Gulf News</a> and the author of several books on Gulf affairs.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/the-death-of-king-abdulla/embed?border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/the-death-of-king-abdulla.js?border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/the-death-of-king-abdulla" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: The Death of King Abdullah" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 23 Jan 2015 09:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-01-23/saudi-arabias-king-abdullah-dies-111448 Advocates urge McDonald's to serve meat raised without antibiotics http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-urge-mcdonalds-serve-meat-raised-without-antibiotics-111441 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/antibiotics mcdonalds.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Advocacy groups are urging McDonald&rsquo;s Corp to stop serving meat from animals fed antibiotics.</p><p>Members of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group, the Green Chicago Restaurant Coalition and Rosenthal Group held a press conference at Sopraffina Caffe in the Loop Thursday to formally challenge the fast food giant to rethink its meat sourcing on the issue.</p><p>McDonald&rsquo;s Corp did not respond to requests for comment.</p><p>Leading the charge was Illinois PIRG, which launched the campaign along with its national parent in seven cities across the country Thursday.</p><p>&ldquo;This is part of a larger public health issue of antibiotic resistance,&rdquo; said Illinois PIRG advocate Dev Gowda. &ldquo;The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms and the practice of feeding antibiotics to healthy farm animals is leading to antibiotic resistance. Now 2 million Americans get sick each year and 23,000 die from antibiotic resistant infections&nbsp; It&rsquo;s a danger when people go to the doctor for routine infections and they get antibiotics, but sometimes they don&rsquo;t work. So it&rsquo;s a really scary situation for many families.&rdquo;</p><p>Joining him was Taryn Kelly of the Rosenthal Group which owns Sopraffina Caffes, Poag Mahone and Trattoria No. 10 in Chicago. Four years ago all of those restaurants began sourcing their meat exclusively from producers who do not use antibiotics on healthy animals.</p><p>&ldquo;It is hard work. It takes dedication and passion,&rdquo; Kelly said. &ldquo;You have to be passionate about the cause. And the more restaurants we can get on board the easier it will before us. That&rsquo;s why we are here urging a big player like McDonald&rsquo;s to get on board with us.&rdquo;</p><p>When asked how such changes in sourcing affected prices for consumers, Kelly pointed out prices on the menu boards at the restaurant which included an 8-inch sandwich filled with grass fed beef raised without antibiotics. It cost $8.99. A 12-inch sausage and pepperoni pizza for two costs $10.49.</p><p>National chain Chick-Fil-A has pledged to start sourcing its chicken from producers who don&rsquo;t use antibiotics within five years and local chain Hannah&rsquo;s Bretzel has already instituted those standards for all of its meat.</p><p>In a released statement Rosenthal group president Dan Rosenthal said, &ldquo;If McDonald&rsquo;s were to [demand meat raised without antibiotics from] its suppliers, it would be a game changer, and one that would help preserve these vital drugs for our kids and grandkids. We&rsquo;ve done it for all the meat we buy for our restaurants&hellip;it&rsquo;ll take time, but McDonald&rsquo;s can do it, too!&rdquo;</p><p>In 2003, McDonald&rsquo;s put in place a policy that would prevent the use of antibiotics for growth promotion but would still allow them for disease prevention among healthy animals. And they do not apply to all producers.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> @monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-urge-mcdonalds-serve-meat-raised-without-antibiotics-111441 US Steel to lay off more than 350 in East Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/us-steel-lay-more-350-east-chicago-111439 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/640px-Indiana_Harbor.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>EAST CHICAGO, Ind. &mdash; U.S. Steel says it will lay off more than 350 workers in East Chicago, Indiana, as it plans to temporarily close its tin mill.</p><p>Company spokeswoman Sarah Cassella tells <a href="http://bit.ly/1uyOONn" target="_blank"><em>The Times</em></a> in Munster that layoffs will begin in mid-March. She declined to comment on how long the plant will be closed for.</p><p>Cassella says low-priced tin product imports have hurt domestic business.</p><p>Steel industry analyst Charles Bradford says the effect on other area mills should be muted, with tin products making up only 2 percent of the steel market.</p><p>U.S. Steel has announced roughly 1,300 layoffs across the country this month. That includes the planned idling of plants in Ohio and Texas and the permanent shut down of a southern Illinois coke-making plant.</p></p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 13:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/us-steel-lay-more-350-east-chicago-111439 Wildsounds: The conversation between a city and nature http://www.wbez.org/news/wildsounds-conversation-between-city-and-nature-111435 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/wildsounds.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>When environmental science professor Liam Heneghan moved to Chicago, he noticed something surprising.</p><p>The farther he got away from the city, the harder it was to find interesting habitats to study, because there was just a lot of farmland.&nbsp; He found less of the protected forest preserves or even parks you see inside the city limits.</p><p>&ldquo;Strangely, Chicago is the place you go, that you deliberately seek out if you want to do conservation in the midwest.&rdquo; Heneghan said. &ldquo;That blows my mind.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />So when Heneghan discovered a project that set out to record nature sounds across the world, he wanted to make sure cities were a part of it.&nbsp; He has been recording, alongside his students, in Chicago for about a year.</p><p>By listening to nature sounds in the city, researchers have learned the complex way that human noise makes animals change the way they sound; from insects that shift their pitch to be heard over traffic, to birds that sing at different times of day.</p><p>But Heneghan does not want the message of the recordings to be that people sounds are bad. He wants this project to help the rest of Chicago have that same experience he did when he first moved here.</p><p>When they listen, he wants them to notice how much nature is right here &mdash; outside their apartments and office buildings, beside highways and train lines.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Thu, 22 Jan 2015 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/wildsounds-conversation-between-city-and-nature-111435 E-Cigarettes can churn out high levels of formaldehyde http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/e-cigarettes-can-churn-out-high-levels-formaldehyde-111430 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/vaping_slide-259922e9c838be3bf53a7f24472dd9a2796845e2-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Vapor produced by electronic cigarettes can contain a surprisingly high concentration of formaldehyde &mdash; a known carcinogen &mdash; researchers reported Wednesday.</p><p>The findings, described in a letter <a href="http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1413069">published</a> in the <em>New England Journal of Medicine</em>, intensify <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/12/16/371253640/teens-now-reach-for-e-cigarettes-over-regular-ones">concern</a> about the safety of electronic cigarettes, which have become increasingly popular.</p><p>&quot;I think this is just one more piece of evidence amid a number of pieces of evidence that e-cigarettes are not absolutely safe,&quot; says <a href="http://www.pdx.edu/profile/david-peyton">David Peyton</a>, a chemistry professor at Portland State University who helped conduct the research.</p><p>The e-cigarette industry immediately dismissed the findings, saying the measurements were made under unrealistic conditions.</p><p>&quot;They clearly did not talk to [people who use e-cigarettes] to understand this,&quot; says <a href="http://vaping.com/news/greg-conley-to-lead-american-vaping-association">Gregory Conley</a> of the American Vaping Association. &quot;They think, &#39;Oh well. If we hit the button for so many seconds and that produces formaldehyde, then we have a new public health crisis to report.&#39; &quot; But that&#39;s not the right way to think about it, Conley suggests.</p><p>E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid that contains nicotine to create a vapor that users inhale. They&#39;re generally considered safer than regular cigarettes, because some research has suggested that the level of most toxicants in the vapor is much lower than the levels in smoke.</p><p>Some public health experts think vaping could prevent some people from starting to smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes, and could help some longtime smokers kick the habit.</p><p>But many health experts are also worried that so little is known about e-cigarettes that they may pose unknown risks. So Peyton and his colleagues decided to take a closer look at what&#39;s in that vapor.</p><p>&quot;We simulated vaping by drawing the vapor &mdash; the aerosol &mdash; into a syringe, sort of simulating the lungs,&quot; Peyton says. That enabled the researchers to conduct a detailed chemical analysis of the vapor. They found something unexpected when the devices were dialed up to their highest settings.</p><p>&quot;To our surprise, we found masked formaldehyde in the liquid droplet particles in the aerosol,&quot; Peyton says.</p><p>He calls it &quot;masked&quot; formaldehyde because it&#39;s in a slightly different form than regular formaldehyde &ndash; a form that could increase the likelihood it would get deposited in the lung. And the researchers didn&#39;t just find a little of the toxicant.</p><p>&quot;We found this form of formaldehyde at significantly higher concentrations than even regular cigarettes [contain] &mdash; between five[fold] and fifteenfold higher concentration of formaldehyde than in cigarettes,&quot; Peyton says.</p><p>And formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.</p><p>&quot;Long-term exposure is recognized as contributing to lung cancer,&quot; say Peyton. &quot;And so we would like to minimize contact (to the extent one can) especially to delicate tissues like the lungs.&quot;</p><p>Conley says the researchers only found formaldehyde when the e-cigarettes were cranked up to their highest voltage levels.</p><p>&quot;If you hold the button on an e-cigarette for 100 seconds, you could potentially produce 100 times more formaldehyde than you would ever get from a cigarette,&quot; Conley says. &quot;But no human vaper would ever vape at that condition, because within one second their lungs would be incredibly uncomfortable.&quot;</p><p>That&#39;s because the vapor would be so hot. Conley compares it to overcooking a steak.</p><p>&quot;I can take a steak and I can cook it on the grill for the next 18 hours, and that steak will be absolutely chock-full of carcinogens,&quot; he says. &quot;But the steak will also be charcoal, so no one will eat it.&quot;</p><p>Peyton acknowledges that he found no formaldehyde when the e-cigarettes were set at low levels. But he says he thinks plenty of people use the high settings.</p><p>&quot;As I walk around town and look at people using these electronic cigarette devices it&#39;s not difficult to tell what sort of setting they&#39;re using,&quot; Peyton says. &quot;You can see how much of the aerosol they&#39;re blowing out. It&#39;s not small amounts.&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s pretty clear to me,&quot; he says, &quot;that at least some of the users are using the high levels.&quot;</p><p>So Peyton hopes the government will tightly regulate the electronic devices. The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of deciding just how strict it should be.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/21/378663944/e-cigarettes-can-churn-out-high-levels-of-formaldehyde" target="_blank">via NPR</a></em></p></p> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 16:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/e-cigarettes-can-churn-out-high-levels-formaldehyde-111430 Chicago police to start body camera pilot program http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-police-start-body-camera-pilot-program-111428 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/body-cameras.png" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago has joined the list of cities where police officers wear body cameras.</p><p>The Chicago Police Department announced Tuesday it is launching a pilot program in which some officers will wear one of two types of body cameras. Some cameras will be clipped to the officers&#39; clothing and others will be clipped to their glasses, goggles or headgear. A total of 30 cameras will be tested during the initial pilot program.</p><p>The program is not a surprise. In the wake of the police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old African American in Ferguson, Missouri, last August, departments around the country scrambled to equip their officers with cameras or announce they were considering doing so.</p><p>Chicago police announced in September they were formulating a pilot program.</p></p> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 09:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-police-start-body-camera-pilot-program-111428 Emanuel introducing ordinance to use park land for Obama library http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-introducing-ordinance-use-park-land-obama-library-111427 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahm-file_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he&rsquo;d move &ldquo;heaven and earth&rdquo; to bring the Obama presidential library to Chicago. At Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting, he officially offered up parkland to help bolster the University of Chicago&rsquo;s bid.</p><p>The U of C originally pitched three locations to the Obama foundation as part of their application for the library. That plan is in the running for the coveted library alongside the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as Columbia University in New York City and The University of Hawaii.</p><p>The U of C&rsquo;s bid is eying two sites controlled by the Chicago Park District: Washington Park and Jackson Park. But there was word earlier this month that the Barack Obama Foundation was hesitant.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago was not in its best position we did not have our best foot forward because of questions raised by the foundation,&rdquo; Emanuel said. &ldquo;We can address those questions. So I&rsquo;m gonna take the necessary steps to do that so we can gain the jobs, the economy and the cultural enrichment that would come with it.&rdquo;</p><p>The step Emanuel took Wednesday would transfer that parkland to the city of Chicago, but he promises they&rsquo;d replace whatever open space is used up by the library. For example, Emanuel&rsquo;s ordinance suggests that the library would only take up five acres within the 21 and 20 acre Washington Park and Jackson Park, respectively. That means five acres of open space would be placed elsewhere in the neighborhood.</p><p>The proposal still needs to be voted on by both the City Council and the Park District Board. Over twenty aldermen have already signed on to Emanuel&rsquo;s proposal. At two public hearings hosted by the park district last week, South Side residents came out in droves to share their opinions on the matter. While many said they wanted the library no matter where it was, some stressed the importance of preserving public park land.</p><p>Cassandra Francis, president of the nonprofit group Friends of the Parks, called the mayor&rsquo;s proposal both &ldquo;unprecedented&rdquo; and &ldquo;dangerous.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The attempt to confiscate this parkland for this use is something that has really galvanized people to focus on this issue. And not just related to real property, but other public trust assets and transfers of those out of the hands or the benefit of the public into things that would not necessarily prioritize public use,&rdquo; Francis said.</p><p>Francis said she personally would be thrilled if President Obama chose to bring the library to Chicago, but says it doesn&rsquo;t belong in a public park.&nbsp;</p><p>Francis wouldn&rsquo;t say for sure if Friends of the Parks or any national groups would take legal action over the mayor&rsquo;s proposal.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-introducing-ordinance-use-park-land-obama-library-111427 State of the Union primer: What President Obama proposed http://www.wbez.org/news/state-union-primer-what-president-obama-proposed-111426 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/sotu_wide-456588d57da3d41fbdf48da8113282bc3bbe242a-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Facing a Republican-controlled Congress in his sixth State of the Union speech, President Obama took credit Tuesday for an improving economy and focused on proposals aimed at advancing the middle class.</p><p>After years of recession and war, Obama claimed &quot;the shadow of crisis has passed.&quot; In its place, he asserted, is a future marked by &quot;a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production.&quot;</p><p>Here&#39;s what Obama proposed on the policy front:</p><p><strong>Economy</strong></p><p>For years, Obama has been wary of cheering too loudly about the nation&#39;s economic recovery for fear of seeming out of touch with hard-hit Americans or being caught short by another slowdown. It&#39;s happened before. But after what he called a &quot;breakthrough year,&quot; Obama is setting caution aside.</p><p>&quot;The shadow of crisis has passed,&quot; Obama said. &quot;Tonight, we turn the page.&quot;</p><p>The president has reason to celebrate. Last year saw the strongest job growth in 15 years. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent. Inflation was a non-issue. And with gasoline selling for just over $2 a gallon in many parts of the country, drivers are expected to save hundreds of dollars at the pump this year.</p><p>Polls show Americans&#39; attitudes about the economy are also improving &mdash; and that in turn has boosted the president&#39;s own poll numbers.</p><p>Wages remain stagnant, though.</p><p>The president has offered a variety of prescriptions to address that, and in his speech, he grouped those ideas together under a new label: &quot;Middle-Class Economics.&quot;</p><p><strong>Middle-Class Economics</strong></p><p>Obama&#39;s budget proposal will call for a number of new and expanded tax credits to help working families. He also wants Congress to require paid sick leave for the 43 million American workers who don&#39;t already have it. And because many jobs now require some form of higher education, Obama wants to let anyone attend community college for free, so long as they keep their grades up and graduate on time.</p><p>The president suggests paying for these proposals by raising the top tax rate on capital gains to 28 percent, and extending it to cover inherited wealth. The White House says 99 percent of the additional taxes would be paid by the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. The idea is almost certainly a nonstarter in the Republican-controlled Congress. But Democrats will use it as a rhetorical weapon to campaign on.</p><p><strong>Infrastructure</strong></p><p>The first bill the new Republican Senate took up this year would green-light the Keystone XL oil pipeline, carrying oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf Coast of the United States. Obama has threatened to veto the measure, saying his administration needs more time to decide whether building the pipeline is in the national interest.</p><p>Critics say the pipeline would worsen the problem of climate change by encouraging development of the carbon-intensive tar sands. In his State of the Union address, Obama downplayed the pipeline controversy to focus on broader infrastructure needs, including modern ports, faster trains, and affordable broadband Internet.</p><p>&quot;Let&#39;s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline,&quot; Obama said. &quot;Let&#39;s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year and make this country stronger for decades to come.&quot;</p><p><strong>Trade</strong></p><p>One area where Obama may have gotten more applause from Republicans than from Democrats was his call for &quot;fast track&quot; authority to negotiate two big trade deals &mdash; one spanning the Pacific, the other the Atlantic.</p><p>Many members of the president&#39;s own party oppose the trade deals, and Obama openly acknowledged their skepticism. &quot;I&#39;m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven&#39;t always lived up to the hype,&quot; he said. &quot;But 95 percent of the world&#39;s customers live outside our borders, and we can&#39;t close ourselves off from those opportunities.&quot;</p><p>Republican congressional leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have identified trade as one of the few areas where they think they can find common ground with Obama.</p><p><em>&mdash; Scott Horsley</em></p><p><strong>National Security</strong></p><p>&quot;Stopping ISIL&#39;s advance&quot; is how President Obama described the U.S. bombing campaign against Islamic State fighters in both Iraq and Syria, with the aim to &quot;degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group.&quot; The president touted the U.S. leading &quot;a broad coalition&quot; including Arab nations &quot;instead of getting dragged into another ground war.&quot; Translation: The U.S. will keep fighting an air war while others battle at ground level.</p><p>The president&#39;s apparent resolve not to send in ground troops may help garner support from Congress for the new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) he called on lawmakers to pass. It may also draw opposition from hawks, including Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John McCain, who say U.S. ground forces are needed to push back the gains Islamic State fighters have made this year.</p><p>One other unresolved question about the AUMF: Who&#39;s going to draft (and thus own) the measure?</p><p>House Speaker John Boehner says he wants the White House to send such a proposal to the Hill; Obama simply says he has committed to both parties to working on a text for the AUMF. One thing all parties agree on is that the two AUMFs, from 2001 and 2002, currently being used to justify the air war against ISIS are obsolete and need to be replaced by a measure that has a clear expiration date.</p><p>The president departed from his prepared text in proclaiming, &quot;It&#39;s time to close Gitmo!&quot; &mdash; a task he set for himself at the beginning of his presidency. Obama said he has reduced the prison population at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by half &mdash; and that&#39;s true. What he did not say is that even he thinks there are several dozen detainees being held there who are too dangerous to be set free, but against whom there is insufficient evidence for a court conviction. He did not propose what their fate should be.</p><p><em>&mdash; David Welna</em></p><p><strong>Foreign Policy</strong></p><p>President Obama is defending his new approach to Cuba, saying he&#39;s ending a policy that is &quot;long past its expiration date.&quot; He used his State of the Union address to urge Congress to lift a decades-old embargo on Cuba. Knowing that is unlikely, he has already chipped away at the embargo, easing many travel and trade restrictions on Cuba and sending Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, to Havana this week to begin talks on restoring diplomatic ties and reopening embassies.</p><p>Opponents of the president&#39;s new policy invited some Cuban dissidents to the chamber to remind Obama of the ongoing human rights abuses on the island. The White House guest list included Alan Gross, the U.S. government contractor who was freed in December after five years in a Cuban jail for trying to provide Internet services on the island; Gross&#39; release opened the door to these warming ties. He stood up to say &quot;thank you&quot; as the president spoke about his case.</p><p>On Iran, diplomats trying to resolve the nuclear issue have missed a couple of deadlines, but Obama says there is still a chance between now and the spring to negotiate a &quot;comprehensive agreement that prevents a nuclear-armed Iran.&quot;</p><p>&quot;There are no guarantees that negotiations will succeed,&quot; Obama said in his State of the Union, but he warned lawmakers that any new sanctions will &quot;all but guarantee that diplomacy fails.&quot;</p><p>Obama has made this case before, arguing that the sanctions under consideration would divide the U.S. and its partners. The Obama administration has been working with the U.K., France, Germany, Russia and China and has tried to keep up a united front. Lawmakers that support new sanctions argue that it took economic leverage to get Iran to the table in the first place.</p><p>As he outlined his broader foreign policy agenda, Obama said he plans to lead &quot;not with bluster, but with persistent, steady resolve.&quot; He touted his efforts to work with partners and not to get &quot;dragged into another ground war in the Middle East.&quot;</p><p>Obama says the U.S. is leading a broad coalition to stop the advances of the self-proclaimed Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, supporting Iraqi forces and the &quot;moderate opposition&quot; in Syria to help. However, in Syria, the situation is far more complex. The opposition and some U.S. partners are less focused on countering ISIS than on countering Bashar Assad&#39;s regime.</p><p><em>&mdash; Michele Kelemen</em></p><p><strong>Cybersecurity And Technology</strong></p><p>Obama called on Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation &mdash; something Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he&#39;s open to moving on (unlike immigration). So it&#39;s a good&nbsp;<em>political</em>&nbsp;move. But Obama may be missing the mark in terms of substance &mdash; maybe even making it easier for the private sector to pass the buck.</p><p>In this digital age, as companies throw people&#39;s data into the cloud, they have to treat that data like banks treat money &mdash; with real protections.</p><p>Obama wants more information sharing between the government and companies. But experts say that could give companies an excuse to just wait for federal dispatches or &quot;most wanted&quot; lists, and not vigilantly monitor their own networks for malicious software (malware) and other attacks.</p><p>Obama also wants consumers to be told, in 30 days, if their credit card number was stolen. But, critics say, the retailer Target sending customers a letter doesn&#39;t solve the problem of mangled internal practices.</p><p>And the president is throwing stones from a glass house. So far, government audits indicate that&nbsp;<a href="http://gao.gov/assets/670/662227.pdf" target="_blank">federal agencies are failing</a>&nbsp;to protect Americans&#39; data too, and tell us about it.</p><p>Another concern is that Obama&#39;s move to make tougher criminal justice laws, through changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, will be &quot;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/01/14/obamas-proposed-changes-to-the-computer-hacking-statute-a-deep-dive/" target="_blank">too severe</a>&quot; on low-level hackers (some of whom are in fact white hats &mdash; the good guys telling companies about flaws in systems we use).</p><p>It&#39;s unclear how Obama plans to partner with other countries to take down cybercriminal rings and build international norms. But that&#39;s key, given how the Internet works.</p><p>While the president laid out a cybersecurity platform of sorts, he talked about technology a lot more in terms of economic growth. Just like the manufacturing sector is creating new jobs, he said, &quot;there are also millions of Americans who work in jobs that didn&#39;t even exist 10 or 20 years ago &mdash; jobs at companies like Google, and eBay, and Tesla.&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s not clear what he&#39;ll expect from Silicon Valley in the coming year. Obama says businesses should connect with community colleges. But his plan has been&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/innovations/wp/2015/01/13/if-community-college-is-going-to-be-free-coding-boot-camps-should-be-free-too/" target="_blank">criticized</a>as an ineffective, indirect route to getting young people into tech when he could just support coding boot camps.</p><p><em>&mdash; Aarti Shahani</em></p><p><strong>Justice</strong></p><p>President Obama made only brief reference to ongoing policing controversies in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., perhaps because the deaths of two black men in police-involved incidents remain under federal investigation.</p><p>But he reiterated his call for criminal justice reform, an issue his attorney general and several GOP members of Congress have been advocating at least since 2013. States have been leading the way.</p><p>The president also urged lawmakers to update the 1965 Voting Rights Act, an issue he&#39;ll press in a March 7 visit to Selma, Ala. But voting legislation is all but moribund in the House, where Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte last week said he did not see that any fixes were &quot;necessary&quot; following a sharply divided Supreme Court ruling that gutted the decades-old system for requiring many mostly Southern states to get federal approval before making elections changes.</p><p><em>&mdash; Carrie Johnson</em></p></p> Wed, 21 Jan 2015 08:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/state-union-primer-what-president-obama-proposed-111426 How food gets the 'Non-GMO' label http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-food-gets-non-gmo-label-111423 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/gmo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Demand for products that don&#39;t contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is exploding.</p><p>And now many food companies are seeking certification for products that don&#39;t have any genetically modified ingredients, and not just the brands popular in the health food aisle. Even <a href="http://harvestpublicmedia.org/content/original-cheerios-now-free-gmo-ingredients#.VJBo8zHF_pU">Cheerios</a>, that iconic cereal from General Mills, no longer contains GMOs.</p><p>&quot;We currently are at over $8.5 billion in annual sales of verified products,&quot; says Megan Westgate, executive director of the <a href="http://www.nongmoproject.org/">Non GMO Project</a>, an independent organization that verifies products.</p><p>To receive the <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/28/283460420/why-the-non-gmo-label-is-organic-s-frenemy">label</a>, a product has to be certified as containing ingredients with less than 1 percent genetic modification. Westgate says that&#39;s a realistic standard, while totally GMO-free is not. She says natural foods stores began the process of defining a standard, involving other interested players along the way, including consumers. Now, General Mills is just one of the big food companies selling non-GMO products.</p><p>Sales of food labeled as non-GMO ballooned to over $3 billion in 2013, <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-gmo-fight-ripples-down-the-food-chain-1407465378">according</a> to <em>The Wall Street Journal.</em></p><p>&quot;Interestingly, with all of this traction in the natural sector,&quot; Westgate says, &quot;we&#39;re increasingly seeing more conventional companies coming on board and having their products verified.&quot;</p><p>But how does a company get into the non-GMO game? They might call <a href="http://www.foodchainid.com/">FoodChain ID</a>, a company in Fairfield, Iowa, that can shepherd a firm through the process. It&#39;s one of the third-party auditors that certifies products for the Non-GMO Project.</p><p>&quot;We start looking at ingredients, and we identify what are all the ingredients,&quot; says David Carter, FoodChain ID&#39;s general manager. &quot;And of course, the label itself doesn&#39;t always identify all of those. So we need to be sure that we have a list of all the processing aids, the carriers and all the inputs that go into a product.&quot;</p><p>Next, FoodChain ID figures out where each ingredient and input came from. If there&#39;s honey in cookies, for example, the company will have to show that the bees that make the honey aren&#39;t feeding near genetically modified corn. When there&#39;s even the smallest risk that an ingredient could contain a modified gene, DNA testing is in order.</p><p>FoodChain ID has a lab where a machine can extract the DNA from ingredient samples in order to analyze it. If that test finds no evidence of GMOs, the ingredient can go in the cookies. Carter says he can barely keep up with the number of inquiries coming in from companies that want certification.</p><p>&quot;The demand is now very, very high, and it has been for probably over a year in particular,&quot; Carter says.</p><p>To date, FoodChain ID says it has verified 17,000 ingredients from 10,000 suppliers in 96 countries.</p><p>It may take hundreds of dollars for some products to get a non-GMO label, depending on how many ingredients are already verified as being GMO-free and how many are not.</p><p>But even with the rising demand, non-GMO products make up a small fraction of the marketplace. More than <a href="http://harvestpublicmedia.org/content/acres-genetically-modified-corn-nearly-doubled-decade#.VJBlbTHF_pU">90 percent</a> of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. contains genetically modified traits. And those two crops are ubiquitous in processed foods like packaged cookies. Still, if the current trend continues, it seems likely that more farmers will consider planting non-GMO crops.</p><p>Various companies sell non-GMO seeds, but they can be more difficult to find. Plant breeder Alix Paez hopes his central Iowa seed company, Genetic Enterprises International, can help fill that market niche.</p><p>&quot;We are a very small company,&quot; Paez says &quot;so our strategy is to find niche markets for farmers that are looking for non-GMO products.&quot;</p><p>Farmers pay a premium for seeds that are genetically modified to withstand pests, or <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/01/24/265687251/soil-weedkillers-and-gmos-when-numbers-don-t-tell-the-whole-story">engineered</a> to tolerate popular herbicides, making it easier for farmers to use those chemicals to kill weeds. Paez and his wife, Mary Jane, hope to develop seeds than can achieve the same yields without those expensive, patented traits. This past season, they grew test plots on a farm in Boone County, Iowa, which they harvested this fall with an ancient red Massey Ferguson combine.</p><p>Paez studies the effectiveness of each hybrid seed variety. It&#39;s slow and meticulous work. But the careful data collection is key to determining whether a new, non-GMO hybrid can be competitive in the marketplace.</p><p>&quot;One of the main things is yield,&quot; Paez says. &quot;Stand-ability, consistent performance, disease tolerance &mdash; things like that.&quot;</p><p>If these seeds make the grade, farmers could potentially save some money. And their grain might fetch a premium, especially as demand for <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/02/26/283112526/chickens-laying-organic-eggs-eat-imported-food-and-its-pricey">non-GMO animal feed</a> grows. Because the only way to end up with non-GMO certified meat is to raise animals on non-GMO feed.</p><p>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2015/01/20/378361539/how-your-food-gets-the-non-gmo-label" target="_blank">via NPR&#39;s The Salt</a></em></p></p> Tue, 20 Jan 2015 12:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/how-food-gets-non-gmo-label-111423