Iran nuclear deal raises heat at first Dold/Schneider debate

Sarah Haas

The Iran nuclear deal formed the narrative line of a contentious debate Sunday night between U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, R-Kenilworth and Democrat Brad Schneider, who is trying for the second time to unseat Dold in the 10th Congressional district.

The candidates squared off before a packed house in the auditorium of Lake Forest High School. It was the first of three scheduled debates between Dold and Schneider, and it proved to be as antagonistic as the stream of commercials both sides have been running for weeks.

Though they touched upon a range of topics in the 90-minute discussion, the two men clashed most explosively over the controversial Iran nuclear deal, which became a perennial talking point after both were originally asked about their perspectives on the extensive $38 billion aid package set to be delivered to U.S. ally, Israel.

Continue reading

Shena Gutierrez won’t take U.S. Border Patrol’s ‘no’ for an answer

By Alexa Mencia

Shena Gutierrez’s husband José almost died March 30, 2011.

As the leader of a support network for those affected by the U.S. Border Patrol’s use of force, Gutierrez knows her husband was one of the lucky ones. But after José survived a coma and traumatic brain injuries attempting to cross back into Arizona after being deported, he hasn’t been the same.

“He has multiple personalities now because of the trauma he sustained. I don’t ever know what my day will look like,” Gutierrez said.

“He’s still in danger of deportation. So after everything we went through—all the horrors we went through—they’re still holding it over our heads.”

Continue reading

Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race heats up, and experts expect a Democratic victory

By Maryam Saleh

Wisconsin’s unusual U.S. Senate race between an incumbent Republican and the former three-term Democratic senator he unseated in 2010 is heating up, but experts say Russ Feingold,  appears almost guaranteed to defeat Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

Besides the significance of such a rebuff to the GOP’s surge in the state, Feingold’s win would bring the Democrats one step closer to winning back control of the Senate.

“I don’t think the Democratic Party here in Wisconsin [is] even worried about this race,” said Kathleen Dolan, professor and chair of the political science department at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee.

Continue reading

Chicago Muslim group uses billboard to slam ISIS

By Muna Khan

A group of Muslims in Chicago has banded together to denounce the militant group ISIS with disparaging messages on billboards posted in four cities — Phoenix, St. Louis and Miami, as well as in Chicago.

The billboards, the first of which went up in Chicago on Aug. 5, read “Hey ISIS, You Suck!!!” and are accompanied by a small Quran verse “Life is Sacred.” Each billboard is signed with the social media hashtag “Actual Muslims.”

The initiative is the brainchild of a group of Muslims who approached Sound Vision, a 28-year-old PR and media communication firm based in Chicago. Sound Vision works on issues affecting the Muslim community. Its founder and president, Abdul Malik Mujahid, said the company has been working for two years on campaigns to combat stereotypes about Muslim Americans and Islam. They distribute brochures to explain that the Islam practiced by ISIS terrorists is not the same religion taught by Prophet Mohammed.

The cost of putting up the billboards varied, depending upon the city. The funds for erecting them were raised by Muslims in each community, who pooled their resources through donation drives. In Chicago, for example, it cost $2,500 to erect the billboard; in Arizona it was $4,000 and in Miami it was $5,000. The group plans to erect more billboards across the nation, including in Times Square in New York, where the cost could run as much as $25,000. The group is using a crowd funding platform for this purpose and has raised nearly $15,000 so far.

The billboards are an effort to help debunk the notion spread by Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, among others, that Muslim Americans condone terrorism.

Continue reading

Writer, actor and producer Fawzia Mirza uses comedy to jump start conversations and challenge stereotypes

By Muna Khan

Fawzia Mirza stands on a practically bare stage. Her only companions are three chairs situated on a colorful carpet, suggesting a movie theater where Mirza is pretending to be attending a screening of a film starring famed Indian actor Sharmila Tagore. Mirza tells the audience at the Steppenwolf Theatre about how much she and her mother love Tagore, whose nearly 50-year career as a Bollywood icon is marked not only by her magnetic performances, but by her defiance of societal norms.

Continue reading

Resilient Syrians could use community support

By Maryam Saleh

Wadad Elaly likely has much in common with her classmates at Sullivan High School. Her favorite subject is math, and  least favorite class is gym. She likes to draw, and hopes to someday be a doctor. And like many Chicago residents, she doesn’t much enjoy the weather.

But unlike many of those around her, the 15-year-old girl represents a group that is the subject of a polarized national conversation about American immigration policy.

She is a Syrian refugee.

Continue reading

All-points call for more deputies to police Standing Rock protest draws critics

By June Leffler and Cloee Cooper

The words “Sheriff Mahoney, No Pipeline Guards, Bring Them Home” were found chalked outside a sheriff’s office  in Madison, WI, last week in response to the deployment of deputies to North Dakota to police the protest of a pipeline that will transport crude oil from North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The words resonated. The deputies came back over the weekend.

The aborted mission  undermined recruitment efforts  undertaken by the sheriff in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, who recently began asking for support from law enforcement  across the nation to come to the area around Standing Rock Sioux reservation, 65 miles south of Bismarck.  Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier sent out word early in October because he said his office had run out of personnel and time; his deputies have been working overtime and need rest. In response, two groups – the Western States Sheriffs’ Association and the National Sheriffs’ Association. – pledged to send deputies. Wisconsin and South Dakota are the only states that have sent personnel so far, according to Kirchmeier, who added that he is planning to seek support elsewhere too.

Communities, like Madison, are questioning if the extra manpower is a form of protecting people or big business.
Continue reading

Transgender rights activists claim safe spaces

By Jordan Gaines

Like many transgender women across the nation, T.T. Saffore found no safety in law enforcement, and threats of violence were a normal part of life. When the 27-year-old hairstylist was found murdered Sept. 11 in Garfield Park, she had not shared a recent threat to her life by another transgender woman three days before, friends say.

It was no surprise, then, that a recent vigil of 200 people who came to honor Saffore quickly turned into a protest, blocking traffic, drawing police: “Turn up for T.T.! Turn up for T.T.! Turn up for T.T.!,” protesters shouted the night of Oct. 5 in the Boystown area of the Lakeview neighborhood, demanding justice for Saffore and other slain black transgender women across the nation.

A UCLA survey reports that transgender people make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population.  Despite that, according to the Human Rights Campaign and the Advocate, over 40 transgender individuals have been murdered in the past two years and the number is increasing as more homicides have been reported since those numbers were released. Most of the victims were transgender women of color. Many of their murders remain unsolved.

Continue reading