WBEZ | News http://www.wbez.org/news Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 10 years later, Chicago Red Cross worker remembers Katrina efforts here http://www.wbez.org/programs/all-things-considered/2015-08-28/10-years-later-chicago-red-cross-worker-remembers-katrina <p><p>This weekend it will be 10 years since Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. The Category 5 hurricane killed more than 1800 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.</p><p>Yvette Alexander-Maxie is Manager of External Relations for the American Red Cross of Chicago &amp; Northern Illinois. She was part of the team 10 years ago that played a big role in finding shelter for displaced Katrina residents. She joins host, Melba Lara.</p></p> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 17:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/all-things-considered/2015-08-28/10-years-later-chicago-red-cross-worker-remembers-katrina Street where Sandra Bland was arrested renamed in her honor http://www.wbez.org/news/street-where-sandra-bland-was-arrested-renamed-her-honor-112768 <p><div><em>TRANSCRIPT</em></div><div>AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A city in Texas will rename a major street in honor of Sandra Bland. She&#39;s the African-American woman who was found dead in her jail cell last month days after being stopped by a state trooper. From Houston Public Media, Syeda Hasan reports.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>SYEDA HASAN, BYLINE: Even weeks after Sandra Bland&#39;s death, people still feel passionately about what happened.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Sandy still speaks, Sandy still speaks.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>HASAN: Dozens of people marched this week more than a mile to Prairie View City Hall when the council voted to rename University Drive as Sandra Bland Parkway. It&#39;s a busy roadway that leads to Prairie View A&amp;M, a historically black university which is Bland&#39;s alma mater. She had just moved back from Illinois to begin a job there when she was arrested during a traffic stop on July 10. Officials say Bland hanged herself in her cell at the Waller County jail three days later. Her apparent suicide was one of the latest in a string of deaths of African-Americans while interacting with law enforcement. Resident Denise Mattox says the street will honor Bland&#39;s memory in a community still shocked by her death.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>DENISE MATTOX: And maybe because we are remembering every day, with every citation that&#39;s written, every time we turn down this road, we&#39;re remembering what can tragically happen if we don&#39;t do things correctly.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>HASAN: In dash cam footage of Bland&#39;s arrest, she can be heard complaining she&#39;s in pain as she&#39;s put in handcuffs. The white state trooper who arrested her has since been removed from patrol duty. Prairie View A&amp;M graduate, Michael Moore, thinks it&#39;s good to rename the street.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>MICHAEL MOORE: When police officers stop any of our students at Prairie View that they&#39;ll always be able to write that name, Sandra Bland, just to remind their consciousness that, hey, look, I can&#39;t treat this person bad or do any kind of unlawful things to the students.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>HASAN: For Bland&#39;s family, it&#39;s an important step as they continue to seek answers. They&#39;ve commissioned an independent autopsy and filed a federal lawsuit against Waller County and state officials. Bland&#39;s sister, Sharon Cooper, lives in Chicago and thinks of the activists in Prairie View as ground soldiers honoring her sister&#39;s memory and holding authorities accountable.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>SHARON COOPER: I think that the reminder that&#39;s there is that there&#39;s more work to be done from a community policing standpoint, and so naming that street in her honor is a reminder of that, not just to law enforcement in that community, but to the citizens in that community as a whole.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>HASAN: The name change is expected to go into effect in October. The city also voted to build a park named after Bland. For NPR News, I&#39;m Syeda Hasan in Houston.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&mdash; <em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/08/27/435273211/street-where-sandra-bland-was-arrested-renamed-in-her-honor" target="_blank">NPR News</a></em></div></p> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 15:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/street-where-sandra-bland-was-arrested-renamed-her-honor-112768 White House explores ways to do business with Cuba http://www.wbez.org/news/white-house-explores-ways-do-business-cuba-112755 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/gettyimages-483711172_wide-dab18d4d4e6ce1cfa38f290f818727773a1fa941-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>The Obama administration is considering ways to further ease travel and restrictions on Cuba. There is still an embargo in place and it would take an act of Congress to lift that.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The president, however, does have ways to make it easier for Americans to go to Havana or to sell goods there. A lot has changed already since the White House announced its new approach last year.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Washington, D.C. lawyer Robert Muse managed to get a U.S. government license to start ferry services to Cuba. He describes the process this way:</div><div>&quot;As Ernest Hemingway wrote about going bankrupt, it happened both slowly and then suddenly. I had applied for the license several years ago and it just sat there in a kind of policy void.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Once President Obama announced an opening with Cuba late last year, everything changed. &quot;Out of the blue,&quot; Muse says, &quot;suddenly the license was granted.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That doesn&#39;t mean this is a done deal. Cuba still has to agree to allow ferries to bring people and goods from Miami. But at least on the U.S. side, he says, it is getting easier to get licenses, especially for sales to Cuba&#39;s small, but emerging private sector.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;That could be anything from a pizza oven to restaurant lighting to napkins and chairs. Anything you could think of. So the authority exists,&quot; Muse says.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He&#39;d like to see the Obama administration go further to boost trade. So would Sarah Stephens of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, who has taken U.S. lawmakers and others to Cuba for many years.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;One thing that we are seeing is that many of these companies, U.S. companies that are going down to learn what they can about the market and Cuban priorities are coming back and applying for licenses and getting them,&quot; Stephens says.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>She&#39;s asked the Treasury Department to change the regulations for travel too to make it easier for individuals to go &mdash; as long as they are on educational, cultural, religious or family visits, as required by U.S. law.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;If individuals are going to Cuba, the money they are spending is going directly into the hands of individual Cubans and that&#39;s really the goal,&quot; Stephens says.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Not so says Frank Calzon of the Center for a Free Cuba.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The folks who travel to Cuba today are subsidizing the Cuban military and the security forces because the Cuban travel industry is completely controlled by the Cuban military. That&#39;s a fact,&quot; he says.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Despite warmer relations with the U.S., he says Cuban authorities still routinely round up and beat up dissidents. He argues that having more Americans going to Cuba or doing business there won&#39;t improve things for average Cubans.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The contrary happens,&quot; Calzon says. American corporations that are in Cuba become lobbyists of the Cuban dictatorship because they are afraid of what the Cuban government can do to their investment.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Calzon argues that President Obama has already gone too far to undermine an embargo that was put in place by Congress.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But Muse, the D.C. lawyer, says the president can still carve out exceptions, and should before he leaves office.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The president can leave the U.S. embargo on Cuba like a piece of cheese that&#39;s far more holes than cheese,&quot; he adds.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The White House will only say that it &quot;continues to explore regulatory changes to provide new opportunities for American citizens and U.S. businesses.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/08/28/435416074/white-house-explores-ways-to-do-business-with-cuba?ft=nprml&amp;f=435416074" target="_blank"><em>Parallels</em></a></div></p> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 10:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/white-house-explores-ways-do-business-cuba-112755 Tax on sugary drinks gets pushback http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/tax-sugary-drinks-gets-pushback-112752 <p><p dir="ltr">Just weeks after Chicago Ald. George Cardenas&rsquo; proposed a penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks, the soda industry shot back with a battery of testimonials.</p><p dir="ltr">They came from an industry funded group called the<a href="http://illinoisbeverage.org/chicago-coalition-against-beverage-taxes-launches-opposition-to-discriminatory-beverage-tax/"> Chicago Coaltion Against Beverage Taxes</a>. And among its members is the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Omar Duque leads the chamber and says its members would be &ldquo;adversely affected by the tax&rdquo; because it would drive soda sales down.</p><p dir="ltr">But that&rsquo;s exactly why Esther Sciammerella of the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition supports a tax.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We see the increases in obesity in children and adults in the Hispanic community, and the issue of diabetes and metabolic syndrome has become epidemic,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So we advocate drinking water, not soda.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="The proposed tax on sugary drinks would fund obesity prevention programs, but the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes says soda taxes don't better public health. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/HKNfY0sCT1cBDGupbjiw643iZ_PT5_P6HVlAG1TU2CQh3aMsZruWsf9-2AmnRNTlPjR3i2vOIuZb4Id3RDqEgi3-KRaYMH-pwn76XmRpVefHSeBk3Rq3XkVG2CT99CUK1MzvMyw" style="text-align: center; font-family: Arial; font-size: 14.6666669845581px; white-space: pre-wrap; border: none; transform: rotate(0rad); height: 241px; width: 300px; float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The proposed tax on sugary drinks would fund obesity prevention programs, but the Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes says soda taxes don't better public health. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Duque says he recognizes that Latinos suffer from high levels of sugar-related disease. &nbsp;But he doesn&rsquo;t think a local soda tax--that builds on sugar taxes already in place--would help.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Our particular opposition is specifically focused around the fact that studies show that punitive taxes around this don&rsquo;t solve the issue,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;An excise tax on sugared beverages would drive down product sales, but it would not really push the needle to reduce obesity.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">As evidence, he cites taxes on sugary beverages in Arkansas and West Virginia, which have some of the highest obesity rates in the nation. But Elissa Bassler of the Illinois Public Health Institute--which is also backing a<a href="http://iphionline.org/2015/03/heal-act-reintroduced-makes-a-splash/"> state soda tax</a> to fund Medicaid--believes the comparison is inappropriate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The [soda] taxes in those states are much much lower and they don&rsquo;t go to fund prevention programs like the proposals in Chicago and Illinois&rsquo;,&rdquo; she said. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The proposed city soda tax would fund health programs in Chicago Public Schools. And supporters of the state tax say it could raise $600 million for Medicaid and obesity prevention each year.</p><p dir="ltr">For many, soda taxes are complicated issues in low-income minority communities. According to <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/163997/regular-soda-popular-young-nonwhite-low-income.aspx">2013 Gallup data,</a> whites drink sugary soda only about half as often as minorities. &nbsp;And those who make more than $75,000 a year are half as likely to drink regular soda as those who make less than $30,000 a year.</p><p dir="ltr">So Bassler concedes that the excise tax could affect the pocketbook of low-income minorities more than others.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;But we need to remember [minorities] are also disproportionately targeted by the marketers for sugary drinks,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And those are the communities that are most impacted by the health problems attributable to excess consumption of sugary drinks.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago Coalition Against Beverage Taxes is not the first such coalition funded by the soda industry. Similar groups crop up in most places taxes are proposed. A <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/nyregion/behind-soda-industrys-win-a-phalanx-of-sponsored-minority-groups.html?_r=0">2013 New York Times investigation</a> also detailed millions in soda industry funding to minority groups who would later come out vocally against soda taxes.</p><p dir="ltr">Duque says Coca-Cola is, and has been a dues-paying member of his organization for around 20 years. But he says that has nothing to do with his opposition to the tax.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We are not being paid off to be part of this,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We represent businesses in our community, that hire people and have a positive impact in the communities in which they operate and their employees live. They&rsquo;re telling us that they would be adversely affected by this tax. The more we can help these business to continue to operate and be profitable, the more of an impact we&rsquo;re going to have on our economy.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Still, Sciammerella of the Chicago Hispanic Health Coalition questions those priorities.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What is the positive role of businesses who are not helping the health of the community?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m pro-health and helping people to be less sick. What good are profits if they come with the consequence of increased illness in the community?&rdquo;</p><p><br /><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>&nbsp;or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em><br /><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 15:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/tax-sugary-drinks-gets-pushback-112752 Virginia television station holds moment of silence to honor slain journalists http://www.wbez.org/news/virginia-television-station-holds-moment-silence-honor-slain-journalists-112749 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/ap_954292224719_custom-63145b03f0f015c2c2db5883ecac619b855f8eb9-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Virginia television station that found itself making the news yesterday held a moment of silence during its 6 a.m. newscast to remember reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, who were shot and killed during a live broadcast.</p><p><a href="http://www.news-journalonline.com/article/20150827/NEWS/150829601/101040?Title=On-air-killings-gripped-millions-in-social-media-storm">The AP reports</a>:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;During the moment of silence, WDBJ showed photos of the two victims during the live broadcast of its &#39;Mornin&quot; show.</p><p>&quot;Just before the moment of silence, anchor Kim McBroom joined hands with weatherman Leo Hirsbrunner and anchor Steve Grant, who came in from sister station KYTV in Springfield, Missouri, to help the grieving station.</p><p>&quot;She said: &#39;Joining hands here on the desk. It&#39;s the only way to do it.&#39; &quot;</p></blockquote><p>Just after that, Hirsbrunner went on to do the weather, but his voice trembled.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t even know how to do weather on a day like this,&quot; he said.</p><p>McBroom comforted him: &quot;Good job, partner. We&#39;re going to get through this together.&quot;</p><p><a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/26/434868666/two-journalists-killed-in-shooting-during-a-live-broadcast-in-virginia">As we reported</a>, police said that Parker and Ward were gunned down by 41-year-old Vester Lee Flanagan, who used to be a reporter at WDBJ-TV but was fired a few years back.</p><p>Flanagan fled after the shooting and police caught up with him on Interstate 66. They found him with a self-inflicted gunshot wound and he died at a hospital in Fairfax, Va.</p><p>On a Twitter feed that appeared to be under his control, a video was posted that showed the shooting from the gunman&#39;s perspective. The Twitter feed also included accusations that Flanagan&#39;s former employer discriminated against him.</p><p>Jeffrey A. Marks, WDBJ-TV&#39;s general manager, told reporters that Flanagan had complained about discrimination in the newsroom to the station&#39;s human resources department. Every instance, he said, had been investigated, but was found to have no merit.</p><p>Marks said Flanagan filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but it too had dismissed those complaints.</p><p><a href="http://video.foxnews.com/v/4446038671001/exclusive-alison-parkers-father-boyfriend-on-tragedy/?intcmp=hpbt1#sp=show-clips">In an interview with Fox News</a>, Parker&#39;s father, Andy, said his daughter had just turned 24 years old but she was &quot;happy with her place in life.&quot; He said that he took &quot;some solace&quot; in knowing that she had led a wonderful life.</p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://video.foxnews.com/v/embed.js?id=4446038671001&w=466&h=263"></script><noscript>Watch the latest video at <a href="http://video.foxnews.com">video.foxnews.com</a></noscript><p>But, Parker said, he would also dedicate the rest of life to secure gun-control legislation.</p><p>&quot;He was a crazy man who got a gun,&quot; Parker said. &quot;We&#39;ve got to do something about crazy people getting guns.&quot;</p><p><em>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/27/435147559/virginia-television-station-holds-moment-of-silence-to-honor-slain-journalists">NPR News</a></em></p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 11:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/virginia-television-station-holds-moment-silence-honor-slain-journalists-112749 Despite the drought, California farms see record sales http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/despite-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales-112741 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/gettyimages-471006602-99705b6d250521f4014e8c84f29849326d342a59-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>While prolonged drought has put a strain on California agriculture, most of the state&#39;s farms, it seems, aren&#39;t just surviving it: They are prospering.</p><p>The environment, though, that&#39;s another story. We&#39;ll get to that.</p><p>But first, the prosperity. According to new&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/farm-income-and-wealth-statistics/annual-cash-receipts-by-commodity.aspx#P892cc423657a499584e30a89895d0f4d_2_16iT0R0x5">figures</a>&nbsp;from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2014, the year the drought really hit, California&#39;s farmers sold $54 billion worth of crops like almonds or grapes, and animal products like milk.</p><p>That&#39;s an all-time record, up 5 percent over the previous year, and an increase of 20 percent from 2012.</p><p>If you&#39;re surprised by this, you haven&#39;t been paying close attention, says&nbsp;<a href="http://are.ucdavis.edu/en/people/faculty/daniel-sumner/#pk_campaign=short-name-redirect&amp;pk_kwd=sumner">Daniel Sumner</a>, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. It&#39;s been clear for some time, he says, that California&#39;s farmers did very well last year.</p><p>There are two keys to the record-breaking revenues. The first is prices. &quot;You have all-time high prices over the whole range of crops,&quot; says Richard Howitt, another economist at UC Davis.</p><p>Second, even though farmers didn&#39;t get their normal supply of water from rivers and reservoirs, they pumped it from underground aquifers instead. According to a&nbsp;<a href="https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/DroughtReport_23July2014_0.pdf">report</a>&nbsp;that Sumner and Howitt co-authored last year, farmers in 2014 replaced about 75 percent of their surface water deficit by draining their groundwater reserves.</p><p>James McFarlane, who grows almonds and citrus near Fresno, is one of those farmers. He says that drought has been &quot;beyond terrible&quot; for some farmers. But for him personally? &quot;It&#39;s been a good year. We&#39;ve been able to make some money, and you have to just count your blessings and call that a good year,&quot; he says.</p><p>McFarlane has received some irrigation water from Kings River, via the Fresno Irrigation District, but he is also pumping water from his wells. &quot;If it weren&#39;t for the wells, we couldn&#39;t have made it work,&quot; he says.</p><p>Howitt says that there are two contrasting realities in California agriculture these days. &quot;Some people just don&#39;t have the underground water. You meet these people and they really are in poor shape,&quot; he says. But where there is water, &quot;you have investors pouring money into planting these almond trees at a rate that they&#39;ve never seen before.&quot;</p><p>But this is also where the environmental damage comes in. Those underground reserves are getting depleted, wells are going dry, and in many locations, the land is sinking as water is drawn out. When this happens, it permanently reduces the soil&#39;s ability to absorb and store water in the future.</p><p>California has enacted new rules that eventually should stop farmers from pumping so much groundwater, but for now, it continues. This year, California&#39;s farmers are still pumping enough groundwater to replace about 70 percent of the shortfall in surface water, according to a new UC Davis&nbsp;<a href="https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/Final_Drought%20Report_08182015_Full_Report_WithAppendices.pdf">report</a>.</p><p>Such massive use of groundwater can&#39;t continue forever, and high commodity prices probably won&#39;t, either. Milk prices already have fallen, and if China stops buying so much of California&#39;s nut production, those prices may crash as well.</p><p>On the good side, though, maybe rain and snow will return, filling the reservoirs again.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/27/434649587/despite-the-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales?ft=nprml&amp;f=434649587" target="_blank"><em>NPR&#39;s The Salt</em></a></p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 05:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/despite-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales-112741 Here's why they call this the corpse flower http://www.wbez.org/science-friday/2015-08-27/heres-why-they-call-corpse-flower-112750 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/corpseflower.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>A rotten stench has been wafting through a greenhouse at the Denver Botanic Gardens &mdash; and visitors are all too eager to breathe it in. Who knows if they&rsquo;ll ever get a second chance?&nbsp;</div><div style="text-align: center;"><img alt="This corpse flower in Denver has now died, but another in Chicago is about to bloom. " src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/original_image/public/13465-v1-480x.JPG?itok=m5MCplbT" style="text-align: center; margin-top: 5px; margin-bottom: 5px;" title="This corpse flower in Denver has now died, but another in Chicago is about to bloom. (Scott Dressel-Martin)" /></div><div>The odiferous offender is a plant native to the Indonesian island of Sumatra and known commonly as the &quot;corpse flower&quot; &mdash; for reasons that are pungently apparent when it starts blooming. At that point, it becomes a botanical stink bomb, emitting a noisome odor evolved to attract certain beetles and flies, which unwittingly spread the plant&rsquo;s pollen. All told, the blooming process can take about 36 hours and won&#39;t happen again for years &mdash; if ever.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s something that is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see,&rdquo; says Nick Snakenberg, curator of tropical plants at the Denver Botanic Gardens. &ldquo;We made the mistake of saying it might bloom on [August] 16th, and we had people lined up at the gate.&rdquo; The garden has several corpse flowers, but this is this particular flower&#39;s debut bloom. The process started on Tuesday evening and finished on Thursday. This week, a corpse flower is expected to bloom in Chicago.</div><div>The corpse flower belongs to the same family as common houseplants such as philodendrons and peace lilies. But unlike its more domestic cousins, the place you&rsquo;ll most likely find this tropical species &mdash; which can reach 15 to 20 feet in its vegetative state, according to Snakenberg &mdash; is in university and botanical garden collections. In the floral stage, the plant is shorter.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It takes a lot of energy, and a long time, to build up a bloom. When a corpse flower finally starts the process &mdash; the Denver specimen is an estimated 12 or 13 years old &mdash; a leaf-like sheath called a spathe unfurls, revealing a ruffly, burgundy interior that starkly contrasts with the plant&rsquo;s green exterior. In its fanciful shape and two-toned hues, the structure is reminiscent of a weird hat you might see in a Tim Burton film.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the plant&rsquo;s true centerpiece is a fleshy, protruding structure called the spadix, which inspired its scientific name, Amorphophallus titanum. Translation? &ldquo;The giant misshapen phallus,&rdquo; says Snakenberg. The spadix also heats up, probably as a way to better waft the stench to would-be pollinators.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Out of sight at the base of the spadix hides the actual flower &mdash; or flowers, to be more precise. In fact, the corpse flower is the largest unbranched inflorescence, or collection of individual flowers, on earth. The female flowers mature first, followed by the male ones, which produce the pollen that the insects collect.</div><p><img alt="The corpse flower draws crowds eager to smell it's awful odor" src="http://cdn1.pri.org/sites/default/files/styles/original_image/public/13466-v1-250x.JPG?itok=OyLOUZew" style="float: left; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" title="The corpse flower draws crowds eager to smell it's awful odor. (Scott Dressel-Martin)" /></p><div>The odor that emanates from the flowers is a putrid potpourri of chemicals, explains Todd Brethauer, a science education volunteer at the United States Botanic Garden, in a video produced by the American Chemical Society. Characteristic molecules include dimethyl trisulfide, &ldquo;which you can sort of describe as the smell of rotting onions or rotting cabbage,&rdquo; says Brethauer, as well as trimethylamine, &ldquo;which is the essence of rotting fish,&rdquo; and isovaleric acid &mdash; &ldquo;essentially the smell of old sweat socks.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Given the plant&rsquo;s fetid scent, why do visitors come in droves to sniff and see? &ldquo;I think people have a similar reaction to this as they would to, say, a roller coaster ride or a haunted house or something like that,&rdquo; says Snakenberg. &ldquo;I think it&#39;s just wanting this sensory overload in a safe environment. A shock to the system.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But maybe those visceral thrills will translate into something with staying power &mdash; at least, that&rsquo;s what Snakenberg hopes, anyway.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the way that big cats and bears excite zoo goers about the animal kingdom, &ldquo;I think having plants like the Amorphophallus titanum species in our collection is a real strong tool to excite people about plants,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;and when we get excited about plants and about animals, we get excited about conserving them in the wild and protecting their environments. And when we protect the megaflora and the megafauna, just by default, we&rsquo;re protecting everything else that lives in those environments&rdquo; &mdash; the stinky, the sweet and all that&#39;s in between.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&mdash;<a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-08-26/when-corpse-flowers-bloom-people-flock" target="_blank"><em>Science Friday</em></a></div></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 20:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/science-friday/2015-08-27/heres-why-they-call-corpse-flower-112750 Chicago Board of Education passes budget, banks on imaginary money http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-education-passes-budget-banks-imaginary-money-112740 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/boardofed_lutton.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago Board of Education unanimously approved a multibillion dollar budget that relies on imaginary money on Wednesday.</p><p>District officials admitted the $5.7 billion operating budget will need to be amended after the school year starts.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We recognize this is a budget that is far from ideal,&rdquo; said Ginger Ostro, Chicago Public Schools Chief Financial Officer.</p><p>The budget relies on almost $500 million from Springfield, even though the Illinois General Assembly hasn&rsquo;t agreed to send the district any additional money. CPS leaders are in conversations with top state lawmakers.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS will also rely on a $1 billion short-term line of credit to make all of its payments on time. Ostro outlined the cash flow problems it keeps running into in February and June thanks to large debt and pension payments the district is required to make.</p><p>&ldquo;You can see that it comes very close,&rdquo; Ostro said, pointing to a chart showing revenues and expenses over the course of the school year. &ldquo;Unfortunately, those payments are due right before we get those big boosts in revenue (from property taxes).&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Legally, CPS and all districts in Illinois must pass a budget before the school year starts, and amendments made later on aren&rsquo;t unprecedented. CPS amended its operating budget for the 2012-13 school year in October, after the district settled its contract fight with the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz asked district budget officials to brief Board members every month until the budget is truly finalized.</p><p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size:24px;">More high level departures</span></p><p>Two top officials announced Wednesday they&rsquo;d be leaving CPS, continuing a flurry of leadership changes for the district.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS General Counsel James Bebley announced his retirement from the Board of Education during Wednesday&rsquo;s meeting and later in the day, Aarti Dhupelia, told WBEZ she would leave her post for a new opportunity at National Louis University.</p><p>Dhupelia led the district&rsquo;s Office of College and Career Success for the past two years, overseeing college counseling, attendance and truancy, student discipline and the expansion of STEM and International Baccalaureate programs in many of the district&rsquo;s high schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Her last day will be Tuesday, September 1 and later next month she will take over as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the downtown Chicago university.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s really an extension of the work I&rsquo;ve been doing in CPS, because I&rsquo;ve really been focused on how do we prepare students to be successful in college, career and life,&rdquo; Dhupelia told WBEZ over the phone late Wednesday.</p><p dir="ltr">One key initiative Dhupelia will be tasked with overseeing is the Harrison Professional Pathways Program at NLU, which allows eligible students to earn their bachelor&rsquo;s degree at a reduced tuition rate of $10,000 per year.</p><p>NLU President Nivine Megahed said the first group of about 85 students start the program next week and will also receive counseling and other help that will prevent them from dropping out. Megahed first met Dhupelia working on an initiative CPS launched to improve the number of public school graduates who finish college.</p><p dir="ltr">Dhupelia said the choice to leave had nothing to do with leadership change at the top of CPS.&nbsp; Last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed close confidant and government fixer Forrest Claypool.</p><p>&ldquo;I know you joked when we got on the phone that I should be smiling because I&rsquo;m leaving CPS, but I&rsquo;ve loved it here,&rdquo; Dhupelia said.</p><p dir="ltr">The district&rsquo;s General Counsel James Bebley will retire from the Board after 22 years. He served as the district&rsquo;s top attorney since 2012 and most recently dealt with federal subpoenas related to an investigation by the FBI into former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and a no-bid $20.5 million contract awarded to her former employer, SUPES Academy.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Dyett hunger strike in Day 10</span></p><p dir="ltr">A group of 12 parents and community activists from Chicago&rsquo;s Bronzeville neighborhood continued their hunger strike over the re-opening of Dyett High School.</p><p>Several people involved in that fight made the trip downtown to speak to the Board. Jeanette Taylor Ramann was one of them. She took the mic after Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) ceded her time at the beginning of the public comment period.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I should not be hungry in 2015 over a neighborhood high school that is supposed to belong to the community,&rdquo; Taylor Ramann said, shortly before she tried to leave the Board chambers and nearly collapsed. District officials called an ambulance and a paramedic treated her as the meeting continued. One board member, Jesse Ruiz, got up from his seat briefly to check on what was happening. It is unclear what Taylor Ramann&rsquo;s status was as of publication.</p><p>The struggle over Dyett High School goes back to the rapid loss of enrollment the school experienced when the Chicago Housing Authority tore down high-rise public housing in Bronzeville. In 2011, CPS put it on the list of schools it planned to close, and stopped adding new grades in fall of 2012.</p><p dir="ltr">The group that&rsquo;s now on a hunger strike fought the closure and in 2013, created a plan to open a new neighborhood high school, called the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. After about a year and a half of trying to get the Board&rsquo;s attention, former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett agreed to reopen the school, but put out a request for proposals instead of picking up the group&rsquo;s plan.</p><p>The coalition submitted their plan in the RFP process, which was supposed to end with a voteat Wednesday&rsquo;s board meeting, but the change in leadership at CPS prompted officials to push a decision out to September.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. You can reach her at bvevea@wbez.org and follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/wbezeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-education-passes-budget-banks-imaginary-money-112740 Southwest Side braces for loss of Oreos, and 600 jobs http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/southwest-side-braces-loss-oreos-and-600-jobs-112739 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Oreos_resize1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Growing up in the 1950s, Jim Capraro remembers the sweet aroma of cookies that wafted through homes on the Southwest Side, one of the perks of living near the giant Nabisco plant at 73rd and Kedzie.</p><p dir="ltr">Capraro says he used to tease relatives who lived several miles away.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My cousins who lived in the Back of the Yards lived next to the stockyards and we used to say our smells are better than your smells,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Decades later Capraro got to visit the factory &mdash; then the biggest bakery in the world &mdash; and witnessed a Willy Wonka-like operation.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The top floor is a whole floor of these huge mix masters. Each one of them looks like an 18-foot swimming pool,&rdquo; Capraro said. &ldquo;The flour and sugar and chocolate all goes to the top floor and then the dough is put on conveyor belts and it&rsquo;s actually gravity that brings them down to the second floor where they&rsquo;re cut into cookie shapes.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Oreo cookies, one of Nabisco&#39;s most beloved, best-selling brands was baked there. But that will soon change.</p><p dir="ltr">Parent company Mondelez International is shipping the production of the cookie, and 600 jobs, to Mexico instead of upgrading the local facility.</p><p dir="ltr">For years, Oreos and other iconic brands like Chips Ahoy generated huge profits and provided thousands of well-paid union jobs. Many lived in the surrounding neighborhoods of Chicago Lawn, West Lawn and Marquette Park.</p><p dir="ltr">Then, more than 20 years ago parent company RJ Reynolds threatened to move those jobs out of state. By this time, Capraro led the Greater Southwest Development Corporation.</p><p dir="ltr">He remembers getting a call from Valerie Jarrett, Chicago&rsquo;s commissioner of planning and development at the time. Jarrett is now a top adviser to President Barack Obama. Back then she worked with Capraro to keep the plant on the Southwest Side by giving Nabisco $300 million in tax increment financing dollars. The TIF money helped pay for infrastructure improvements.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I justified in my own mind working to support them. One was that &lsquo;the jobs would stay here,&rsquo; I thought, forever. Turns out I may be very wrong on that,&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p dir="ltr">This summer Nabisco&rsquo;s current parent company, Deerfield-based Mondelez International announced it was shipping 600 jobs &mdash; half the plant&rsquo;s workforce &mdash; to Mexico.</p><p dir="ltr">That could affect Michael Smith, a utility worker at the plant. He said workers often wore shirts of the snack they baked.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We proudly wore that shirt because we represented a company that said you produce a product that&rsquo;s televised, that&rsquo;s on the radio and kids and adults alike across the country love,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p dir="ltr">Fellow worker Sabrina Pope is known as the Oreo queen. She&rsquo;s a processor at Nabisco who earns more than $26 an hour. The 35-year veteran originally had only planned to stay for three.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The pay was good. I was raising a son at the time and it was the American Dream that I had security there. I had security,&rdquo; Pope said. &ldquo;Right now, I don&rsquo;t even know what my future&rsquo;s going to bring because I&rsquo;m not old enough to retire. I got the years to retire but I just don&rsquo;t have the age to do it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The city said it wanted to work with Mondelez to keep the jobs here and discussed various incentives, but the company never took officials up on it.</p><p dir="ltr">Mondelez officials said its upgraded facility in Salinas, Mexico will open in the middle of next year. The jobs in Chicago will be phased out and Oreos will be made at other U.S. sites. Company officials said the Nabisco plant won&rsquo;t shut down entirely.</p><p dir="ltr">But Jim Capraro worries about the future of an area that already has a higher unemployment rate than the city&rsquo;s average.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It was places like Nabisco and the companies around it that gave me hope that we could offer alternatives to the underground economy that exists on the South Side of the city to young people who need to live, who need to work,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Capraro points to another big plant that used to be on the Southwest Side. More than a decade ago the Kraft-owned Kool-Aid factory closed its doors.</p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of jobs were lost and never came back.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a>&nbsp;is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter.<a href="mailto:mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>.&nbsp;You can follow Natalie on&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" target="_blank">Google+</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 16:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/southwest-side-braces-loss-oreos-and-600-jobs-112739 How the prescription painkiller fentanyl became a street drug http://www.wbez.org/news/how-prescription-painkiller-fentanyl-became-street-drug-112737 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/fentanyl_custom-8cc981c9db2d7c6f162198d89af8bae8d73a6ecc-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If you&#39;ve ever had surgery, you may have been given an analgesic named fentanyl.</p><p>Fentanyl is a favored painkiller because it acts fast. But it&#39;s also 80 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The powerful drug has made its way to the streets and increasingly is being used to cut heroin &mdash; resulting in a deadly combination.</p><p>Fentanyl abuse first became a problem some 25 to 30 years ago, way before it started being mixed with heroin, says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gatewayrehab.org/spokesmen-bios">Dr. Neil Capretto</a>, an addiction physician at the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gatewayrehab.org/">Gateway Rehabilitation Center</a>&nbsp;in Aliquippa, Pa.</p><p>Fentanyl, Capretto explains, was originally invented to relieve pain and is often injected in patients prior to surgical procedures. The synthetic opioid can also be prescribed in a lozenge or patch to treat the severe pain associated with metastatic, colon and pancreatic cancer.</p><p>&quot;Patterns of abuse actually began with hospital workers, anesthesiologists and nurses,&quot; Capretto says. &quot;There were a rash of [health specialists] dying from overdose. You&#39;d hear of them getting it in the operating rooms by drawing out fentanyl from vials and putting saline in its place.&quot;</p><p>Later, when take-home fentanyl patches were invented, patients began abusing the painkiller, too.</p><p>&quot;There were occasional cases of people eating [the patches] or steeping them like tea,&quot; he says. &quot;And because fentanyl is so powerful, we started seeing more drug overdoses and death.&quot;</p><p>Today, drug dealers are adding fentanyl to heroin because it creates an intense high. Between 2005 and 2007, more than 1,000 U.S. deaths were caused by fentanyl-heroin overdoses, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Seizures of drugs containing the painkiller jumped from 942 to 3,334 between 2013 and 2014. In March, the DEA issued a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2015/hq031815.shtml">warning</a>&nbsp;on fentanyl as a &quot;threat to public health and safety.&quot;</p><p>The combination of the two drugs makes users feel drowsy, nauseated and confused, but also euphoric.</p><p>The euphoria probably hits a lot faster when fentanyl is mixed with heroin, says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/abenstein-john-p-m-d/bio-20053032">Dr. J.P. Abenstein</a>, president of the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.asahq.org/">American Society of Anesthesiologists</a>. It&#39;s that super-quick potency of fentanyl that makes it dangerous; a little can go a long way.</p><p>&quot;What happens is that people stop breathing on it,&quot; Abenstein explains. &quot;The more narcotic you take, the less your body has an urge to breathe. And it makes sense that a lot of people are overdosing on it because they aren&#39;t sure how much to take.&quot;</p><p>Capretto agrees. The rehab physician recently treated a heroin addict who tried fentanyl for the first time and overdosed. &quot;Before he even took the needle out of his arm, he was unconscious.&quot;</p><p>Paramedics administered Naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioids overdoses, just in time to save the man&#39;s life.</p><p>Illegal drug labs are concocting fentanyl from scratch, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/fentanyl">National Institute on Drug Abuse</a>. Authorities have&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dea.gov/divisions/hq/2015/hq031815.shtml">raided</a>&nbsp;several labs in Mexico that were receiving chemicals from China and Japan to create the drug, according to the DEA.</p><p>But Capretto thinks there are labs in the U.S. making fentanyl, too.</p><p>&quot;Drug dealers are in the business of making money and I&#39;ve heard it&#39;s very easy to make, so that means they can save money [by doing it themselves],&quot; he says. &quot;I wouldn&#39;t be surprised if there were real Walter Whites out there. Chemists and pharmacologists can turn to the dark side, just like in&nbsp;Breaking Bad.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em><a href="http://nadiawhitehead.com/">Nadia Whitehead</a>&nbsp;is a freelance journalist based in El Paso, Texas.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/08/26/434867357/how-the-prescription-painkiller-fentanyl-became-a-street-drug?ft=nprml&amp;f=434867357" target="_blank"><em>NPR Shots</em></a></p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/how-prescription-painkiller-fentanyl-became-street-drug-112737