WBEZ | Barack Obama http://www.wbez.org/tags/barack-obama Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Obama vows to flex presidential powers in speech http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-vows-flex-presidential-powers-speech-109595 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP283719503471.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Seeking to energize his sluggish second term, President Barack Obama vowed Tuesday night in his State of the Union address to sidestep Congress &quot;whenever and wherever&quot; necessary to narrow economic disparities between rich and poor. He unveiled an array of modest executive actions to increase the minimum wage for federal contract workers and make it easier for millions of low-income Americans to save for retirement.</p><p>&quot;America does not stand still and neither do I,&quot; Obama declared in his prime-time address before a joint session of Congress and millions of Americans watching on television.</p><p>Draped in presidential grandeur, Obama&#39;s address served as the opening salvo in a midterm election fight for control of Congress that will quickly consume Washington&#39;s attention. Democrats, seeking to cast Republicans as uncaring about the middle class, have urged Obama to focus on economic mobility and the gap between the wealthy and poor. His emphasis on executive actions was greeted with shouts of &quot;Do it!&quot; from many members of his party.</p><p>Declaring 2014 a &quot;year of action,&quot; Obama also sought to convince an increasingly skeptical public that he still wields power in Washington even if he can&#39;t crack through the divisions in Congress. Burned by a series of legislative failures in 2013, White House aides say they&#39;re now redefining success not by what Obama can jam through Congress but by what actions he can take on his own.</p><p>Indeed, Obama&#39;s proposals for action by lawmakers were slim and largely focused on old ideas that have gained little traction over the past year. He pressed Congress to revive a stalled immigration overhaul, pass an across-the-board increase in the federal minimum wage and expand access to early childhood education &mdash; all ideas that gained little traction after he proposed them last year. The president&#39;s one new legislation proposal calls for expanding an income tax credit for workers without children.</p><p>Republicans, who saw their own approval ratings fall further in 2013, have also picked up the refrain of income inequality in recent months, though they have cast the widening gap between rich and poor as a symptom of Obama&#39;s economic policies.</p><p>&quot;Republicans have plans to close the gap, plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts and red tape,&quot; said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., in the Republicans&#39; televised response to the president&#39;s speech.</p><p>The economy and other domestic issues, including health care, dominated the president&#39;s address. He touched only briefly on foreign policy, touting the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan this year and reiterating his threat to veto any new sanctions Congress might levy on Iran while nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic are underway.</p><p>Even as Washington increasingly focuses on income inequality, many parts of the economy are gaining strength, with corporate profits soaring and the financial markets hitting record highs. But with millions of Americans still out of work or struggling with stagnant wages, Obama has found himself in the sometimes awkward position of promoting a recovery that feels distant for many.</p><p>&quot;The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by, let alone get ahead,&quot; Obama said. &quot;And too many still aren&#39;t working at all.&quot;</p><p>The president garnered some of his loudest applause &mdash; at least from Democrats &mdash; when he took on lawmakers who oppose his signature health care law, which floundered in its initial rollout last fall. Obama said that while he doesn&#39;t expect to convince Republicans on the merits of the law, &quot;I know that the American people aren&#39;t interested in refighting old battles.&quot;</p><p>The president&#39;s speech drew an eclectic mix of visitors to the House chamber. Among those sitting with first lady Michelle Obama were two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as Jason Collins, an openly gay former NBA player. Republican House Speaker John Boehner brought business owners from his home state of Ohio who say Obama&#39;s health care overhaul is hurting their companies. Willie Robertson, a star of the television show &quot;Duck Dynasty,&quot; also scored a seat in the House gallery, courtesy of the Republicans.</p><p>Though Obama sought to emphasize his presidential powers, there are stark limits to what he can do on his own. For example, he unilaterally can raise the minimum hourly wage for new federal contractors from $7.25 to $10.10, as he announced, but he&#39;ll need Congress in order to extend that increase to all of America&#39;s workers.</p><p>The executive order for contractors, which Obama will sign in the coming weeks, is limited in its scope. It will not affect existing federal contracts, only new ones, and then only if other terms of an agreement change.</p><p>Republicans quickly panned the executive initiative as ineffective. Said Boehner: &quot;The question is how many people, Mr. President, will this executive action actually help? I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero.&quot;</p><p>White House officials countered by saying many more working people would benefit if Congress would go along with Obama&#39;s plan to raise the minimum wage across the board.</p><p>&quot;Give America a raise,&quot; Obama declared.</p><p>Among the president&#39;s other executive initiatives is a plan to help workers whose employers don&#39;t offer retirement savings plans. The program would allow first-time savers to start building up savings in Treasury bonds that eventually could be converted into traditional IRAs. Obama is expected to promote the &quot;starter&quot; accounts during a trip to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.</p><p>The president also announced new commitments from companies to consider hiring the long-term unemployed, the creation of four &quot;manufacturing hubs&quot; where universities and businesses would work together to develop and train workers, new incentives to encourage truckers to switch from dirtier fuels to natural gas or other alternatives and a proposed tax credit to promote the adoption of cars that can run on cleaner fuels, such as hydrogen, natural gas or biofuels.</p><p>The president&#39;s go-it-alone strategy is in many ways an acknowledgment that he has failed to make good on two major promises to the American people: that he would change Washington&#39;s hyper-partisanship and that his re-election would break the Republican &quot;fever&quot; and clear the way for congressional action on major initiatives.</p><p>Some Republicans have warned that the president&#39;s focus on executive orders could backfire by angering GOP leaders who already don&#39;t trust the White House.</p><p>Obama isn&#39;t abandoning Congress completely. He made a renewed pitch for legislation to overhaul the nation&#39;s fractured immigration laws, perhaps his best opportunity for signing significant legislation this year. But the odds remain long, with many Republicans staunchly opposed to Obama&#39;s plan for creating a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people already in the U.S. illegally.</p><p>Seeking to give the GOP some room to maneuver, Obama did not specifically call for a citizenship pathway Tuesday, saying only, &quot;Let&#39;s get it done. It&#39;s time.&quot;</p><p>Opening a new front with Congress, the president called for an extension of the earned-income tax credit, which helps boost the wages of low-income families through tax refunds. Obama wants it broadened so that it provides more help than it does now to workers without children, a view embraced by some Republicans and conservative economists.</p><p>Obama singled out Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has proposed replacing the tax credit with a federal wage supplement for workers in certain low-paying jobs. Unlike Obama, however, Republicans have suggested expanding the tax credit as an alternative to increasing the minimum wage.</p><p>Pivoting briefly to foreign policy, Obama reaffirmed that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan will formally conclude at the end of this year. But he said a small contingent of American forces could be left behind if the Afghan government quickly signs a bilateral security agreement, a prospect that looks increasingly uncertain.</p><p>The president also warned lawmakers in both parties against passing new economic sanctions against Iran while the U.S. and international partners are holding nuclear negotiations with the Islamic republic. He renewed his commitment to veto sanctions legislation if it passes, arguing that a new round of penalties would upend the sensitive diplomacy.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 21:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-vows-flex-presidential-powers-speech-109595 Jobless aid available for those hit by tornadoes http://www.wbez.org/sections/work/jobless-aid-available-those-hit-tornadoes-109298 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP116418840387 (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois&#39; Department of Employment Security says people who lost jobs as a direct consequence of the Nov. 17 tornadoes and high winds could qualify for federal unemployment aid.</p><p>That option arose after President Barack Obama recently designated parts of the state disaster areas.</p><p>Two massive tornadoes killed seven people and injured many others. Washington was among the hardest hit communities. The state agency said in a Tuesday statement that tornadoes and winds destroyed or damaged more than 2,400 homes.</p><p>Individuals can receive benefits as long as their unemployment continues to be a consequence of the storms. Eligibility is determined on a week-to-week basis. The longest period someone can qualify is 27 weeks</p><p>The disaster declaration also makes it possible for residents seeking to rebuild to receive grants and loans.</p></p> Wed, 04 Dec 2013 11:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/work/jobless-aid-available-those-hit-tornadoes-109298 Obama's Syria speech and a preview of Chicago's World Music Festival http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-09-11/obamas-syria-speech-and-preview-chicagos-world-music-festival-108654 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP271407432433.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Obama addresses the nation and U.S. policy in Syria. The 15th annual World Music Festival returns to Chicago, we&#39;ll tell you what to expect.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F109916081&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-obama-s-syria-speech-and-a-preview-of-ch/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-obama-s-syria-speech-and-a-preview-of-ch.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/worldview-obama-s-syria-speech-and-a-preview-of-ch" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: Obama's Syria speech and a preview of Chicago's World Music Festival" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 11 Sep 2013 11:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-09-11/obamas-syria-speech-and-preview-chicagos-world-music-festival-108654 Wariness, optimism from IL Congressmen after Obama’s Syria speech http://www.wbez.org/news/wariness-optimism-il-congressmen-after-obama%E2%80%99s-syria-speech-108651 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP199828675580.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Congressmen are having mixed reactions to President Barack Obama&rsquo;s decision to hold off on a military strike against Syria. The administration is working out a developing diplomatic deal aimed at destroying Syria&#39;s stockpile of chemical weapons.</p><p>The plan Obama outlined in his speech Tuesday likely means Illinois&rsquo; congressional delegation won&rsquo;t have to take a tough vote in the near future about whether to authorize a strike, which polls show has become increasingly unpopular among a war-weary American public.</p><p>Democratic U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, her party&rsquo;s House chief deputy whip, said the president made a strong moral argument to keep up the threat of military action against Syria.</p><p>Schakowsky, from Evanston, said she was especially stirred by the president&rsquo;s graphic description of a Syrian father trying to rouse his children after they had been gassed.</p><p>&ldquo;Part of my decision is informed by my being a Jew, whose people were gassed and the world stood by,&quot; she said, &ldquo;And I think the U.S. can save innocent children by deterring the use of chemical weapons.&rdquo;</p><p>Schakowsky said that moral argument would incline her to vote in favor of a military strike if the issue comes up for a vote, though she&rsquo;s hopeful that recent discussions about having Syria turn over its chemical weapons to Russia might spur the international community into acting before that.</p><p>Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton, the House GOP chief deputy whip, criticized the president for seeming to take two options off the table: overthrowing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and having the U.S., itself, secure Syria&rsquo;s chemical weapons.</p><p>&ldquo;What the president is basically arguing for is for a gesture, for a response,&rdquo; Roskam said. &ldquo;And I think that he&rsquo;s not made the case that American military might is going to be unleashed in such a way that it will make a difference.&rdquo;</p><p>Hours before the president&rsquo;s speech, Roskam announced he was bucking the House GOP leadership in opposing a military strike on Syria, though he wouldn&rsquo;t say specifically what - if anything - the U.S. should do if diplomacy fails.</p><p>Before Tuesday&rsquo;s developments, the vast majority of Illinois&rsquo; 20-member congressional delegation said they were still undecided on whether to authorize a strike. Some were deeply skeptical, citing overwhelming constituent opposition to U.S. intervention. Only three lawmakers - Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, both Republicans - had spoken in favor of a U.S. strike.</p><p>But as flurry of diplomatic activity surrounding the so-called &ldquo;Russian plan&rdquo; put the brakes on a possible strike authorization vote Tuesday, some Illinois congressmen seized on the diplomatic option as a possible way out of a military strike.</p><p>Earlier in the afternoon Tuesday, Chicago Democratic Congressman Danny Davis announced he would have likely voted against a military strike. And after the president&rsquo;s speech, Democratic Congressman Bill Foster, of Naperville, urged diplomacy to move ahead, with a military strike as a &ldquo;last resort.&rdquo;</p><p>But Democrat Rep. Brad Schneider, of Deerfield, also expressed a wariness about whether Syria and Russia could be trusted to make good on their diplomatic vows.</p><p>&ldquo;[It&rsquo;s] a positive potential development,&rdquo; Schneider said after Tuesday&rsquo;s speech. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll have to see and let it play out. I still, as the president said, believe that the United States has to stand ready. It can not be an effort to delay or stall or extend Assad&rsquo;s ability to use his chemical weapons.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 11 Sep 2013 08:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/wariness-optimism-il-congressmen-after-obama%E2%80%99s-syria-speech-108651 Obama tries persuading the skeptical on Syria http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-tries-persuading-skeptical-syria-108582 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP202254590244 (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; President Barack Obama, working to persuade skeptical lawmakers to endorse a U.S. military intervention in civil war-wracked Syria, hosted two leading Capitol Hill foreign policy hawks for talks and directed his national security team to testify before Congress in a determined effort to sell his plan for limited missile strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad&#39;s regime.</p><p>After changing course and deciding to seek congressional approval for military action, Obama is confronted with one of his most difficult foreign policy tests and faces a Congress divided over the unavoidably tough vote-of-conscience on overseas conflict rather than the more customary partisan fights over domestic policy.</p><p>Lawmakers from both parties have expressed an array of views ― from opposition to any military intervention to a desire for even more robust action than that envisioned by the president.</p><p>Sen. John McCain, Obama&#39;s White House opponent in 2008, was joined at the White House meeting Monday afternoon by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Graham, like McCain, has argued that Obama must not only punish the Syrian regime with surgical missile strikes but must seek to change the course of the civil war and oust President Bashar Assad from power.</p><p>On Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to testify publicly before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Earlier Tuesday, other members of the administration&#39;s national security and intelligence teams were to hold a classified, closed-door briefing for all members of Congress. A similar session was held Sunday and more will be held Thursday and Friday.</p><p>Kerry will also testify Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Kerry and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will hold a classified briefing Wednesday with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.</p><p>Members of the House Democratic caucus participated in an unclassified conference call Monday with Obama national security adviser Susan Rice, Kerry, Hagel, Clapper and Dempsey.</p><p>Obama has said he wants limited military action to respond to an attack in the Damascus suburbs last month that the U.S. says included sarin gas and killed at least 1,429 civilians, more than 400 of whom were children.</p><p>McCain and Graham, both Republicans, represent the most aggressive faction in Congress and have called on Obama to launch more comprehensive strikes with an aim of destroying President Bashar Assad&#39;s air power, his military command and control, Syria&#39;s ballistic missiles, and other military targets while at the same time increasing training and arming of opposition forces.</p><p><a name="Kirk"></a>Meanwhile, Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said Monday that he would support the sort of limited air strike the president has called for. But he criticized the Obama Administration for dragging its feet and failing to build international support for such a move.</p><p>Last week&rsquo;s surprise decision by the British Parliament not to back military action in Syria could make some congressional lawmakers hesitant to authorize a U.S. strike, Kirk said.</p><p>&ldquo;When you have your act together, you really will build a large coalition, especially when you&rsquo;re the United States,&rdquo; Kirk said. &ldquo;And I think the president has been halting here, and unsteady, that I think is difficult to build allied support.&rdquo;</p><p>Kirk urged Illinois House members to vote in favor of authorizing a strike, but he seemed to think the vote may have a tougher time in the Senate.</p><p>Illinois Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said over the weekend that he has not yet made up his mind on whether to support military intervention in Syria.</p><p>&ldquo;Of course if anyone attacks the United States, there&rsquo;s no question of his authority as commander and chief,&rdquo; Durbin said. &ldquo;But in this case we&rsquo;re dealing with an atrocity which occurred within another foreign country &ndash; not an ally of the United States, and what our responsibility might be. This is new territory for a president to embark on. I can hardly think of many examples in the past quite like this. &rdquo;</p><p>In a statement, Durbin indicated he may be open to some sort of U.S. strike, as long as it doesn&rsquo;t lead to war or another some other drawn-out military engagement.</p><p>On the other hand, some Republican and Democratic lawmakers don&#39;t want to see military action at all.</p><p>&quot;I think it&#39;s very early for a lot of people and I think people are skeptical because they&#39;re hearing questions at home and they are surprised that the president decided to come to Congress,&quot; said Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Relations committee. Engel, appearing on CNN, says he supportsObama&#39;s position but said the president has to make his case to Congress.</p><p>The White House is engaging in what officials call a &quot;flood the zone&quot; persuasion strategy with Congress, arguing that failure to act against Assad would weaken any deterrence against the use of chemical weapons and could embolden not only Assad but also Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.</p><p>Obama&#39;s turnabout decision to seek congressional authority on Syria sets the stage for the biggest foreign policy vote in Congress since the Iraq war.</p><p>On Sunday, Kerry said the U.S. received new physical evidence in the form of blood and hair samples that shows sarin gas was used in the Aug. 21 attack. Kerry said the U.S. must respond with its credibility on the line.</p><p>&quot;We know that the regime ordered this attack,&quot; he said. &quot;We know they prepared for it. We know where the rockets came from. We know where they landed. We know the damage that was done afterwards.&quot;</p><p>On Capitol Hill Sunday, senior administration officials briefed lawmakers in private to explain why the U.S. was compelled to act against Assad. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also made calls to individual lawmakers.</p><p>&quot;The American people deserve to hear more from the administration about why military action in Syria is necessary, what it will achieve and how it will be sufficiently limited to keep the U.S. from being drawn further into the Syrian conflict,&quot; said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, reflecting a more cautious approach to a military strike.</p><p>McCain said Obama asked him to come to the White House specifically to discussSyria.</p><p>&quot;It can&#39;t just be, in my view, pinprick cruise missiles,&quot; the Arizona Republican told CBS&#39; &quot;Face the Nation.&quot;</p><p>In an interview with an Israeli television network, he said Obama has &quot;encouraged our enemies&quot; by effectively punting his decision to Congress. He and Graham have threatened to vote against Obama&#39;s authorization if the military plan doesn&#39;t seek to shift the momentum of the 2 &frac12; year civil war toward the rebels trying to oust Assad from power.</p><p>Obama is trying to convince Americans and the world about the need for action.</p><p>So far, he is finding few international partners willing to engage in a conflict that has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the past 2&frac12; years and dragged in terrorist groups on both sides of the battlefield.</p><p>Only France is firmly on board among the major military powers. Britain&#39;s Parliament rejected the use of force in a vote last week.</p><p>Russia&#39;s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Monday the information the U.S. showed Moscow to prove the Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack was &quot;absolutely unconvincing.&quot;</p><p>With Navy ships on standby in the eastern Mediterranean ready to launch missiles, Congress on Sunday began a series of meetings that are expected to continue over the next several days in preparation for a vote once lawmakers return from summer break, which is scheduled to end Sept. 9.</p><p>Senior administration officials gave a two-hour classified briefing to dozens of members of Congress in the Capitol on Sunday.</p><p>Lawmakers expressed a range of opinions coming out of the meeting, from outright opposition to strident support for Obama&#39;s request for the authorization to use force.</p><p>Among Democrats, Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan said he&#39;d approve Obama&#39;srequest and predicted it would pass. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland said he was concerned the authorization might be &quot;too broad.&quot; Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, the senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said the administration still has &quot;work to do with respect to shoring up the facts of what happened.&quot;</p><p>Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington said she was concerned about what Congress was being asked to approve. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said the war resolution needed tightening.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t think Congress is going to accept it as it is,&quot; Sessions said.</p></p> Mon, 02 Sep 2013 11:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-tries-persuading-skeptical-syria-108582 Zimbabwe sanctions plot involves a well-connected black nationalist group founded in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/zimbabwe-sanctions-plot-involves-well-connected-black-nationalist-group-founded-chicago-108325 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/soul vegetarian.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago founder of a well-connected group of black nationalists is accused of trying to persuade lawmakers to oppose sanctions against Zimbabwe.</p><p>Federal prosecutors announced charges Tuesday against Prince Asiel Ben Israel, 72, and C. Gregory Turner, 71.</p><p>They are accused of illegally lobbying U.S. lawmakers, including four from Illinois, to lift sanctions against longtime Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and members of his regime in exchange for a promise of $3.4 million.</p><p>The charges were unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.</p><p>The complaint says the men met with Mugabe, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Gov. Gideon Gono and other officials &quot;multiple times&quot; in the U.S. and Africa, and allegedly agreed to lobby U.S. federal and state officials on Zimbabwe&#39;s behalf in exchange for the promised payments, which the defendants apparently weren&#39;t able to collect in full.</p><p>No lawmakers have been accused of wrongdoing, although the investigation is ongoing, the U.S. Attorney&#39;s Office in Chicago said in a news release. It&#39;s not illegal for public officials to meet with sanctioned Zimbabweans, but individuals cannot provide lobbying services to those subjected to U.S. sanctions, prosecutors said.</p><p>Mugabe&#39;s government has been under sanctions since 2003 for alleged democratic violations.</p><p>Ben Israel appeared in a federal courtroom in Chicago Tuesday, where the terms of his bond were changed to require him to remain in contact with the court&#39;s pretrial services department. His wife, Hattie Brown, also appeared in court, promising U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys that she would turn in her husband if he attempts to flee.</p><p>The complaint alleges that the defendants violated the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. The violation carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.</p><p>Ben Israel&#39;s attorney, Viviana Ramirez, said Tuesday that it&#39;s too early to address the merits of the case. Turner, a Chicagoan, is believed to be currently living in Israel. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.</p><p>Ben Israel founded the group the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. The group believes that African Americans descend from Israelites, that Israel is part of Northeastern Africa and that one day they will return to the Holy Land. They are influenced by black civil rights leaders and writers and consider themselves to be nationalists.</p><p>They maintain a vegan diet and are known to own a chain of vegan or vegetarian restaurants throughout the country.</p><p>Ben Israel owned Soul Vegetarian restaurant on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side.</p><p>Israel, previously known as Ben Carter was a factory worker from Chicago. He claimed that the angel Gabriel appeared to him in a vision and told him to lead African Americans back to the promised land. Carter changed his name to Ben Ammi Israel and founded the Chicago chapter of the African Hebrew Israelites.</p><p>Reporter Benyamin Cohen <a href="http://www.ajlmagazine.com/content/032007/blackhebrews.html">wrote extensively about the group</a> and was able to research an outpost in Atlanta, Georgia.</p><p>He said the group was cagey. It took him several months to get a response to his request to interview anyone from the group.</p><p>&ldquo;Then one day, I got a call. It was almost like getting a call from the White House. I got a call from a secretary who said &lsquo;The Prince is on the phone, he will speak to you now.&rsquo;&rdquo; Cohen recalled.</p><p>Cohen met Israel shortly thereafter when Israel traveled to Atlanta for a fundraising event. He recalled sitting next Prince Israel and another man who referred to himself as Prince Asiel, the group&rsquo;s second in command. In the 1980&rsquo;s, Asiel was found guilty of selling stolen airline tickets and using fraudulent credit cards. The convictions were overturned and Asiel pleaded to a lesser charge.</p><p>At their meeting, Cohen, Asiel and Israel drove off in the backseat of a brand new Cadillac. Their conversation covered personal and professional topics. Asiel admitted to having four wives. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;My impression was that he was a very good politician, for better or worse. He&rsquo;s a very gregarious people people, always looking you in the eye and smiling and making a joke, but I somehow got the feeling that was kind of a facade and that there was much more to him that meets the eye,&rdquo; Cohen said.</p><p>Throughout his research, Cohen learned that Black Hebrews owned what Cohen called &ldquo;front operations.&rdquo; The place he visited had a block&rsquo;s worth of retails shops that included barber shops, restaurants, bookshops all owned by Black Hebrews. Cohen said he believed the group used those operations to fund their organization.</p><p>&ldquo;But perhaps that wasn&rsquo;t enough,&rdquo; Cohen said, &ldquo;you have a people at the top who are very powerful who are trying to wield that power, there was a lot of shady activity, a lot of mob like activity, credit card fraud, passport fraud and even discussions of murder.&rdquo;</p><p>Cohen said he was not surprised to hear about the recent federal charges against Israel.</p><p>According to the federal complaint, Ben Israel and Turner began talking with Mugabe and other Zimbabwe leaders in early November 2008 regarding the influence they could exert to lift the sanctions originally imposed by President George W. Bush.</p><p>The defendants allegedly discussed with Mugabe, Gono and others their ties to several public officials who supposedly had close connections to then-President-elect Barack Obama.</p><p>The complaint states that Ben Israel and Turner engaged in public relations, political consulting and lobbying efforts and had a Nov. 26, 2008, &quot;Consulting Agreement&quot; that called for an initial payment of $90,000 and three subsequent equal installments of $1,105,000.</p><p>The defendants allegedly arranged for Ben Israel to travel to South Africa with two Illinois lawmakers &mdash; referred to as &quot;Illinois State Senator A&quot; and &quot;Illinois State Representative A&quot; in the complaint &mdash; in early December 2008. Travel records show the two lawmakers traveled to Israel, but did not return as scheduled and extended their overseas stay, the complaint states.</p><p>Three days after the lawmakers&#39; return in mid-December, a scheduler for President-elect Obama&#39;s transition team sent an email to another transition team member stating that State Representative A &quot;wants a phone call from (transition team officials) regarding a meeting he had last week in Zimbabwe. I am not sure who to pass this on to but it&#39;s the second time they have called.&quot;</p><p>The transition team forwarded the email to the FBI based on its concerns that the state representative may have violated sanctions by traveling to Zimbabwe, according to the complaint.</p><p dir="ltr">Obama has decided each year of his presidency to keep the Zimbabwe sanctions in place, most recently in March.</p><p>Mugabe, 89, has been president of Zimbabwe for 33 years. He was re-elected by a wide margin last week, although his political opponents say voting wasn&#39;t free or fair and was marred by widespread irregularities.</p></p> Wed, 07 Aug 2013 16:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/zimbabwe-sanctions-plot-involves-well-connected-black-nationalist-group-founded-chicago-108325 South Side neighborhoods vie for presidential library http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/south-side-neighborhoods-vie-presidential-library-107926 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/lakeside-kari-lydersen.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>A biting wind blew off the lake. A group of Southeast Side residents pulled their coats tight and gazed north to the downtown skyline. On this raw March day, they stood on the northern edge of the former site of U.S. Steel&rsquo;s South Works mill. The plant closed in 1992, and now all you see is rubble, weeds and mud.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But LaMeise Turner and her neighbors envision a glorious future for this spot. &quot;I would love to see the Obama library here,&quot; Turner said. &quot;I think that would be good, it would give access not just to the neighborhood but to everybody. Because he&rsquo;s the first African American president, the first one from Chicago, so I think this is an ideal place for it.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>It&rsquo;s right on the lake and the view is spectacular. Fertile mud from the Illinois River was trucked in to grow native plants and flowers. And if developers have their way, these hundreds of acres will be home to a glistening new neighborhood with tens of thousands of homes and businesses.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Dan McCaffery, the developer spearheading the project known as Lakeside, said the Obama library would bolster this development and help revitalize the whole area. McCaffery said, &quot;I noticed in <em>Time</em> magazine September 2008, one quote of his is: &#39;I found my calling to public service in a community devastated by the loss of steel workers.&#39; So I think this would be a very nice way for him to put his imprint permanently in that community. We have a gorgeous site, sits on the lake, looks back at the city. So Dan McCaffery thinks Mr. President, you ought to be there.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There are 13 official presidential libraries spread across the country. President Obama won&rsquo;t formally make the decision about his library until he&rsquo;s out of office. But the courtship has already begun.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There&rsquo;s no guarantee Obama&rsquo;s library will be in Chicago; the University of Hawaii is mulling a bid.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But the top contender appears to be the University of Chicago. Obama was on the law school faculty there for years, and Michelle Obama held administrative positions too. A university spokesman said it is &ldquo;premature&rdquo; to comment, but many people think it&rsquo;s a done deal.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>This upsets Harold Lucas, who knew Obama in his days as a community organizer. Lucas said, &quot;I remember when he came to Chicago with his big ears sitting off his head, little bitty skinny guy. We went out to the Gardens. That&rsquo;s where I met him.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lucas is president of the Black Metropolis Convention and Tourism Council in Bronzevile. He&rsquo;d like the library to go on the site of the old Michael Reese Hospital. &quot;Knowing that Bronzeville began in 1916, we want to celebrate our centennial in 2016; the cherry on the sundae would be the presidential library,&quot; Lucas said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Then there are at least two other Chicago candidates for the library. Like the U.S. Steel site, they are on the Far South Side where Obama cut his teeth in community organizing.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Chicago State University has enlisted former State Senate President Emil Jones to lure the library to its campus.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Others are pushing the historic Pullman neighborhood, near the Altgeld Gardens public housing complex. Tom Shepherd and other local history buffs have been trying for years to create a railroad museum in the old Pullman rail car factory.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The University of Chicago, they already have so many resources,&quot; Shepherd said. &quot;I&rsquo;m sure they&rsquo;re going to make a big push for it, but I just feel that by bringing some of the university resources out to a neighborhood like Pullman would help Pullman, help Roseland, the neighboring communities that are really troubled right now.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Ed Gardner, 88, is founder of Soft Sheen products and a long-time proponent of African American empowerment and economic development.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He&rsquo;s been a major Obama supporter and donor. He&rsquo;s also a big backer of Lakeside Development on the U.S. Steel site, and he thinks the Obama library would be the crowning touch.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Downtown or even the University of Chicago, they have their pluses,&quot; Gardner said. &quot;But President Obama came from the people, and they&rsquo;re the ones who put him into office, who worked these streets on the South Side of Chicago and all of the state of Illinois and the whole country. He would want the world to come through this part of the city on their way to see the library.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Chicagoans like Ed Gardner still feel a strong connection to the president. Just as Obama started his career trying to help Chicago communities, now the decision about the library could go a long way toward revitalizing the South Side.</div></p> Wed, 03 Jul 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/south-side-neighborhoods-vie-presidential-library-107926 Obama's climate plan aims to break political deadlock by taking it head on http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/obamas-climate-plan-aims-break-political-deadlock-taking-it-head-107845 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yooperann/7936573880/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/coal%20train%20by%20yooperann.jpg" style="height: 343px; width: 610px;" title="A coal train in DuPage County. (Flickr/Ann Fisher)" /></a></div><p>President Barack Obama <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/power-plant-limits-center-obama-climate-plan-107830">laid out his plan to tackle climate change in a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University</a>. The centerpiece initiative, limiting greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, <a href="http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2013/06/25/environmental-groups-rally-to-support-power-plant-rules/">is something environmental groups have long called for</a>.</p><p>The speech, given in front of the same university building George Washington spoke from in 1797, effectively embraced a narrative that many environmentalists feared had fallen on deaf ears after the demise of cap-and-trade legislation gave way to a period of relative silence and inaction on climate change. <a href="http://blog.algore.com/2013/06/statement_on_president_obamas_1.html">Al Gore called Obama&#39;s remarks</a> &ldquo;by far the best address on climate by any president ever.&rdquo;</p><p><strong><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=syEvjcNGFTI">Watch the President&rsquo;s full speech here</a>, and <a href="http://thehill.com/images/stories/news/2013/06_june/25/obama-climate-plan.pdf">read the administration&#39;s climate action plan here</a>. <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/share/climate-action-plan?utm_source=email&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_content=062513p2&amp;utm_campaign=climatechange" target="_blank">Here it is in graphic form</a>.</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/climate-change-warnings-sharp-relief-104942">The latest in a series of National Climate Assessments requested by Congress</a> warned of dire consequences to inaction, many of which Obama acknowledged in setting the stage for his long awaited plan of action &mdash; climate change contributed to the swollen storm surge in New York harbor, exacerbating the effects of Hurricane Sandy; Midwest farms <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/all-snow-are-we-still-drought-105764">scorched by drought</a> were then <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/climate-change-could-worsen-chicago-floods-106174">scoured by extreme floods</a>.</p><p>So were the proposals as significant as the framing? The plan largely circumvents Congress, relying on a few key efforts:</p><ul><li>Limit greenhouse gas emissions from both new <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/power-plant-limits-center-obama-climate-plan-107830">and existing power plants</a>, using the Environmental Protetion Agency&#39;s authority under the Clean Air Act. The plan also includes up to $8 billion in Energy Department loan guarantees for carbon capture technology that could rein in pollution from power plants, which contribute roughly one third of the nation&rsquo;s greenhouse gases.</li><li>Speed up and expand renewable energy permitting on federal land. Obama pledged that the federal government will get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020.</li><li>Tighten energy efficiency standards for appliances and vehicles.</li><li>Invest in climate adaptation. Any new project with federal funds needs to prove preparedness for heavier floods, Obama said, and cities and states must assess climate risks.</li><li>Help other countries leap frog polluting technology. Obama said the government would apply &ldquo;private sector tech know-how in countries that transition to natural gas,&rdquo; which he praised as a &ldquo;transition fuel&rdquo; bridging coal and future renewables-based electricity generation. He called for &quot;global free trade in environmental goods and services,&quot; including an end to most public financing for new coal plants overseas. &ldquo;They don&rsquo;t have to repeat all the same mistakes that we made,&rdquo; Obama said.</li><li>Reduce emissions of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) &mdash; an incredibly potent greenhouse gas.</li></ul><p>Those are substantive steps, and not just when measured against the status quo doldrums. David Roberts at <em>Grist</em> has a great post on <a href="http://grist.org/politics/no-drama-obama-unveils-series-of-modest-sensible-steps-on-climate-change/?utm_campaign=daily&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_source=newsletter&amp;sub_email=cabentley234@gmail.com">how Obama&#39;s seemingly bureaucratic indifference to the climate movement actually belies a pragmatic devotion to behind-the-scenes progress</a>. And while it&rsquo;s no carbon tax, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/25/is-a-carbon-tax-more-effective-than-epa-rules-you-might-be-surprised/?a">exercising the Environmental Protection Agency&#39;s legal authority to limit carbon emissions just might be more effective</a>.</p><p>Emissions reduction by regulation, instead of a sweeping market-based solution like cap-and-trade or a carbon tax, is a blunt instrument. But it&#39;s the one Obama has. And depending on how the rules shake out (Will offending power plants be given the option of offsetting emissions with investments in energy efficiency in and around their facilities, as well as reducing their own emissions? What role do state EPAs play?), the downward pressure on greenhouse gas emissions could create a de facto price for carbon in a roundabout way.</p><p>Though most observers expected him to avoid the issue of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico, Obama made <a href="http://grist.org/news/obama-will-ok-keystone-only-if-it-wont-increase-carbon-emissions/">a surprise announcement</a> about the controversial project (emphasis mine):</p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&ldquo;Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation&rsquo;s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. <strong>The net effects of the pipeline&rsquo;s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward</strong>.&rdquo;</p><p>People on both sides of the issue were heartened by the announcement. It <a href="https://twitter.com/samsteinhp/status/349578426765676545">buoyed the hopes of those against the pipeline</a>, but <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/25/did-obama-leave-himself-some-wiggle-room-to-approve-keystone-xl/">left sufficient wiggle room for the President to still approve the project</a>:</p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Clarification to what <a href="https://twitter.com/samsteinhp">@samsteinhp</a> posted: Obama will say <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23KXL&amp;src=hash">#KXL</a> won&#39;t be approved if it would emit more GhG than not building it, sources say.</p>&mdash; Juliet Eilperin (@eilperin) <a href="https://twitter.com/eilperin/statuses/349583024679157763">June 25, 2013</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>&nbsp;</p><p>It&rsquo;s still a major shift in the national dialogue &mdash;&nbsp;carbon is now at the center of what was previously too often cast as a jobs-versus-dirty-hippies dichotomy.</p><p>Before the plan was even on the table, <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2013/05/epa-could-lose-its-power-fight-climate-change-using-it/65354/">legal challenges and political opposition were a foregone conclusion</a>. A National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman told <em>The Hill</em> that Obama&rsquo;s plan will &ldquo;effectively crush the economy in West Virginia, Kentucky, Alaska, Arkansas, and Louisiana &mdash; not to mention plenty of other states like Michigan.&rdquo;&nbsp; House Speaker John Boehner called it &ldquo;absolutely crazy.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/307507-obama-unveils-climate-plan-that-goes-around-congress">The President&rsquo;s opponents could use the Congressional Review Act, a law from the 1990s that lets Congress overturn agency regulations</a>, or <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2013/05/epa-could-lose-its-power-fight-climate-change-using-it/65354/">challenge the plan in court</a>.</p><p>Conservative politicans<i>&nbsp;</i>have labeled the plan &quot;<a href="http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/06/25/obama-declares-war-on-coal/" target="_blank">Obama&#39;s war on coal</a>,&quot; seizing on the administration&#39;s preference for comparatively cleaner burning natural gas. Coal <a href="http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources/electricity.html" target="_blank">contributes about 40 percent of the country&#39;s electricity, but 80 percent of the sector&#39;s CO<sub>2</sub> emissions</a>. New natural gas-fired power plants have helped expand the domestic energy supply just as efficiency programs have reduced demand. Wholesale electricity market rates have dropped along with stock prices for coal companies.</p><p>Anticipating political antagonism, Obama implored people to speak up, &ldquo;push back on misinformation,&rdquo; and &ldquo;broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future.&rdquo; He also apparently endorsed, in passing, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/chicago-students-push-divestment-fossil-fuels-105650">the burgeoning divestment movement underway on hundreds of college campuses</a>. (Or if not their campaigns explicitly, their central message of divesting from outmoded and uneconomic technology.)</p><p>&ldquo;The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it&rsquo;s too late,&rdquo; Obama said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society.&rdquo; That barb turned out to be more pointed than perhaps the President intended &mdash; even the leader Flat Earth Society (yes, it exists) <a href="http://www.salon.com/2013/06/25/flat_earth_society_believes_in_climate_change/">believes the (flat) Earth is warming</a>:</p><p>&nbsp;</p><blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Even the president of the Flat Earth Society now thinks humans are warming the planet: <a href="http://t.co/qlS4869DAb">http://t.co/qlS4869DAb</a></p>&mdash; brad plumer (@bradplumer) <a href="https://twitter.com/bradplumer/statuses/349615293695410177">June 25, 2013</a></blockquote><script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/syEvjcNGFTI" width="610"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/Cementley">@Cementley</a></em>.</p></p> Tue, 25 Jun 2013 16:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/obamas-climate-plan-aims-break-political-deadlock-taking-it-head-107845 Obama returns to Chicago to boost Dems in 2014 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-returns-chicago-boost-dems-2014-107420 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP636967575193.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama is returning home to Chicago to help fellow Democrats who want to take back some House seats in 2014.</p><p>The midterm elections may be 18 months away--but the president&rsquo;s party is gearing up for a fight.</p><p>And after the beating Democrats took in 2010, who could blame them?</p><p>They&rsquo;ll need to pick up 17 seats to regain the majority in the House. That may not sound like too tall an order--but when you consider Democrats lost nearly quadruple that in the last midterm, it&rsquo;s no small potatoes either.</p><p>But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee&rsquo;s chairman, Congressman Steve Israel, says it&rsquo;s doable--with a little help, from a lot of friends.</p><p>&ldquo;We had four days last year where we raised over $1 million dollars online in average donations of about $30. You know how many $30 donations it takes to get to a million? A lot!&rdquo; Israel explained.</p><p>It doesn&rsquo;t hurt to have some heavy hitters in the dugout either.&nbsp;</p><p>President Obama is, after all, the most successful fundraiser in history.</p><p>But Chairman Israel looks to another Chicago politician for guidance...literally.</p><p>&ldquo;I have his picture hanging in my office at the DCCC. He taught me almost everything I need to know--with a few less curse words,&rdquo; Israel explained.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel aggressively spearheaded victories in both chambers as chairman of DCCC during the 2006 midterm elections.</p><p>Israel said the mayor&rsquo;s photo serves as more than a personal reminder of his predecessor.</p><p>&ldquo;When people come into talk to me, whether it&rsquo;s candidates or colleagues, and they think I&rsquo;m giving them a tough time, I point to that picture and say, &lsquo;Look, it could be a heck of a lot worse,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Israel.</p><p>The chairman will get a face-to-face reminder Wednesday night when he joins the mayor, the president and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a fundraiser in Chicago.</p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 15:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-returns-chicago-boost-dems-2014-107420 Pritzker faces few tough questions at Senate hearing http://www.wbez.org/news/pritzker-faces-few-tough-questions-senate-hearing-107341 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP090520015810.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago businesswoman and current Commerce secretary nominee Penny Pritzker faced few tough questions at her Senate hearing Thursday. Pritzker, a long-time friend of and fundraiser for President Barack Obama, was nominated to the post earlier this month.</p><p>Pritzker seemed prepared for the two-hour hearing, answering a questions on topics including cyber security, job creation, manufacturing, travel and the fishing industry.</p><p>&quot;The calls you&rsquo;ll get will be about fish,&quot; Alaska Senator Mark Begich (D) told Pritzker. &quot;You will think they&rsquo;re about trade and agreements and tourism&nbsp; - it&rsquo;s gonna be about fish.&quot;</p><p>Pritzker was expected to face tough questioning on a few issues. Her family owned 50 percent of the Superior Bank of Chicago, which failed after losing millions of dollars on risky mortgage loans to borrowers with bad credit. Republican Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the ranking member on the committee, was the only senator to inquire about Pritzker&rsquo;s role in the bank&rsquo;s collapse.</p><p>&quot;Unfortunately, when problems arose, my uncle had recently passed away,&quot; Pritzker responded, saying she was never an officer of the bank or involved in management. &quot;I stepped in on behalf of the 50 percent ownership of my family to try and salvage the situation.&quot;</p><p>Pritzker said after the bank failed, she went to the FDIC herself, and her family voluntarily agreed to pay $450 million.</p><p>When Thune asked Pritzker what she&rsquo;d say to the depositors affected by the bank&rsquo;s failure, she responded that she regretted the outcome of the bank.</p><p>&quot;I feel very badly about that,&quot; she added.</p><p>Pritzker was also questioned about her family&rsquo;s offshore trusts, an issue that was expected to be a point of conflict at the hearing.</p><p>&quot;I am the beneficiary of off-shore family trusts that were set up when I was a little girl,&quot; Pritzker said. &quot;I didn&rsquo;t create them. I don&rsquo;t direct them. I don&rsquo;t control them. I have asked the trustee to remove themselves and appoint a US trustee.&quot;</p><p>Rocky relations between labor unions and the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, where Pritzker is a board member, barely entered the questioning. Union members of Unite Here in Chicago have protested Pritzker&rsquo;s nomination over low wages.</p><p>Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) mentioned the back and forth between the union and hotel management in her questioning, but didn&rsquo;t directly ask Pritzker about her role.</p><p>Pritzker was introduced at the hearing by both Illinois U.S. Senators Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin. Kirk was reportedly on the fence at first about Pritzker&rsquo;s nomination, but came out with his endorsement earlier this week.</p><p>&quot;I see her as a voice for business that the president will have to heed,&quot; Kirk told the committee Thursday.</p><p>Pritzker&rsquo;s nomination still has to face the full Senate.</p><p><em>The Associated Press contributed to this report.</em></p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ&rsquo;s Morning Producer/Reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 23 May 2013 15:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/pritzker-faces-few-tough-questions-senate-hearing-107341