Chicago penguins benefit from coronavirus pandemic

This 17 March 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Penguins wander empty Chicago aquarium during coronavirus closure

While most of the American public is asked to stay indoors amid the coronavirus pandemic, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium took the opportunity to let some of its penguins explore the other side of their glass exhibit. A now-viral video shows the flightless birds wandering the aquarium, looking around at the fish and other fixtures of the space.

This video says about itself:

Without guests in the building, caretakers at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium are getting creative in how they provide enrichment to animals, resulting in a field trip for some of the penguins there on Sunday (March 15 2020). While the aquarium is closed to the public due to coronavirus quarantine, animal care staff and veterinarians are onsite 24/7.

At least 83 people in the United States have died from the virus, as of Monday (March 16), according to Johns Hopkins University and public health agencies, with the hardest-hit state, Washington, accounting for the bulk of the fatalities, including six more announced on Monday.

Chicago striking teachers, students speak

Striking teachers marching in downtown Chicago, USA

From the World Socialist Web Site in the USA:

Chicago Public Schools teachers, staff and students oppose concessions

By a WSWS reporting team

24 October 2019

On Wednesday, tens of thousands of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) teachers, staff and students rallied in support of the teachers and staff strike that began last Thursday.

The WSWS spoke with teachers, staff, parents and students on their demands, on the conditions in the schools and their opposition to the Democratic Party’s decades of attacks on public education …


Glenn, who will start a teaching job in CPS next year, explained why he had come to the morning protest: “What brought me here is that I have three kids in the CPS who are currently at home. I have the view of both a teacher and a parent of three children under five. I know there is a lack of resources in the schools and for the teachers. As a parent, I feel the brunt of it.

“I have seen kids act out, and they don’t have a counselor at the school. School should be a safety net, not a prison.

“The politicians of both parties are fattening their pockets and pursuing their own agenda, not one that helps people who work and make the country go.

Katie has been a teacher for six years and before that she was a teacher’s aide for three years.

She said, “The main issue is student-based budgeting, according to which a certain amount of money is allocated per pupil. This pits schools against one another for pupils. It was brought in by [mayor] Rahm Emanuel.

“The fight for more librarians, counselors, social workers partially combats the effects of per-pupil budgeting. It is a question of fully-staffed schools.

“The wages of support staff are so low they all have second jobs. I’m paycheck to paycheck like everyone else, but we’re not supposed to say we’re striking for higher wages.”

Pierce Elementary School students Shayana (bottom) and Maralyn (center)

Shayana,13, came with a group of students from Peirce Elementary School. She said, “I’m here to support the teachers. My mom used to work at a school. The class sizes were 39-40. That’s crazy. We need to improve the conditions.”

Maralyn said, “I’m striking because we need small classes, social workers and nurses. We don’t have a nurse at our school. A student hit his head and had a concussion, and all they could do was give him an ice pack.”

“In 2012, the union didn’t win a single concession for us. I think that the relationship between teachers and the city of Chicago has been ‘take what we give you and be happy.’ I think they’re just expecting us to roll over and take it, but we’re all here today because we’re sick of it. I think we’re unhappy that [it’s as if] the CTU didn’t even read the contract last time, and because of that, we’ve been grinding it out. What kind of damage is that doing to all of our students?”

Asked about the statements made by Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot that there is not enough money for public education to meet teachers’ demands, the teacher responded, “There is money. The Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds [slush funds that divert property taxes normally meant for schools and services to mayoral control for ‘business development’ increased 27 percent in the last year.

CPS teacher with picket sign

“There have been over a billion dollars spent on the police over the last several years. What about all of the corporate money from companies that are doing business in Chicago that is supposed to be taken to be used to fund the public sector? Why are they robbing from the public to make sure that the private sector keeps doing well?”

Regina, a CPS elementary school teacher, spoke about the lack of resources in the schools.

“I’ve worked at schools on the north side and on the southwest side, and there is a huge discrepancy in funding among some of them. At the school that I work at right now, we only have one nurse that comes in once per week. We don’t have any after school sports or programs for the students to enrich their educational experience.

“This year I have 33 students in a class by myself. It’s really rough. There are class size panels that are held every year for CPS, but the sizes that they decide upon in those panels are never enforced. We should have a cap on class sizes, like they do at some of the schools in the suburbs, such as when a class reaches 25 students, then you need to bring in another teacher.”

A group of high school teachers and staff from the south side of Chicago spoke about their demands.

“We need far more staff in the schools than we have now,” a special education teacher said. “We don’t have enough social workers or counselors for all of the children who come in traumatized. In some schools, we don’t have a nurse. If a student has a medical emergency, then what are you to do? As teachers we are the counselor, the nurse, the social worker, and the trauma center for these children.”

“Being on strike is the best way to serve our students,” a young teacher added, remarking on the calls by the Lightfoot administration and Democratic Party in Chicago that teachers should go back to work while the contract is being negotiated.

“My classrooms all have at least 30-plus [students]. A lot of our students are coming in with trauma, and you can’t teach them until you first unpack what’s going on at home. So making sure that those needs are met is key.”

“There’s a lot of money that’s there and instead it’s being used on things like the Lincoln Yards [luxury development],” another young teacher said. “That’s around a billion dollars that could have been given to help communities that have been economically blighted. A lot of schools were closed five to seven years ago.”

Another teacher spoke about the way that schools in poorer, working class communities were systematically slated for closure.

“The schools that we work at are held to the same standards as the more well-funded schools. Then they tell us that even though we don’t have the same resources that we are underperforming. How can you do that? They know we don’t have the same amenities.

“We’re [scolded by CPS] because our kids aren’t coming in at a 95 percent attendance rate. Well, our kids are coming from bullet-riddled neighborhoods where there are shootings every weekend. They aren’t coming from two-income homes.”

“We’re also fighting for salaries,” the young teacher added. “How can we even afford to live in the city when we’re not nearly being paid enough?”


Marcus, a veteran school worker, said: “I have been in the Chicago Public Schools system since 1994.

“The main issue in the strike is smaller classes. Right now, you have kindergarten classes with 40 students. How do you expect the kids to be able to read under those conditions?

“Since I began teaching, conditions have gotten worse. They are not putting money where it needs to be, for the benefit of the children.

Charter schools don’t help. They are taking away from the student population. I also don’t like standardized tests and evaluations of teachers. If the principal wants a teacher out, he or she will give the teacher a bad evaluation.”

Striking Chicago, USA teachers interviewed

Picket at Senn High School, Chicago, USA

From the World Socialist Web Site in the USA:

Striking Chicago educators speak on their demands

By a WSWS reporting team

23 October 2019

Melisa Watson is a teaching assistant and member of SEIU Local 73 at DePriest High School in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. She explained that she has been working as a teaching assistant for four years, having taken the job after her husband died suddenly.

“We are so necessary in the classroom. If we just struck by ourselves the school system would not work. But I get only $21 an hour. I could not live on that if it was my only source of income. After taxes and other deductions, it comes to about $450 a week.

“The people who work at DePriest are so committed, they work so hard every day. The environment in which the students live is pretty hard. Our boys went through the Chicago Public Schools from kindergarten through the sixth grade. But now it’s like a war zone in this area.

“If someone had told me how angry the children would be coming to school, I would not have believed them. But who knows how many come to school without having slept the night before and what they are going through at home?”


Antonia Saldona has been teaching for 15 years in the CPS system. She currently teaches at Laura Ward STEM school in Lawndale.

“I feel like we got cheated in the 2012 strike. The things we were asking for were not given to us.

“I had at one point 47 students in my classroom and, not having an aide to help me, it was very stressful. Imagine 47 papers for every subject area that needed to be graded, and on top of that, the assessments that needed to be done throughout the year, not having enough time during the day to complete them. And I have to worry about my evaluation, too. It was difficult. To meet every single requirement, at times I felt like it had to be a perfect world with a perfect setting to achieve that.

“We have a nurse who comes in once a day, a social worker twice a day. The school is located in an area that is affected by violence, by drugs. Families have been forced to move two families in an apartment so they can be able to afford the living costs in the city.

“There are days when my students are sick, but we can’t send them to a nurse because we don’t have a nurse. Or students are traumatized because they had a family member who was murdered. There’s a lot of anxiety.

“There’s a lot of poverty in the area and we don’t have the proper staff. They want high scores in tests that the state mandates. How can they achieve those scores when their basic needs are not being met?

“People need to know where their tax money is going. I have been accused of being greedy. But this is not about pay or pensions. It is about having a nurse every day, five days a week, having a social worker that is not doing lunch duty, and not being asked to sub. We don’t have a librarian. How is it possible for our students to read if they don’t have a librarian?

“They want to privatize education. They’re turning it into a business. It’s not a business, it’s about educating children.

“We want affordable housing. We have about 16,000 students who are homeless. The wealthy are benefiting. Their pockets are being lined with our taxpayer money.

“I drive an hour to and from my home to come and serve the community. The children have a future and we need to support them.

“We need our communities to be funded. Our children in CPS deserve a better future. I am not asking a lot to have a nurse and counselor in our school.

“I like that a lot of young people are supporting us and are with us in this movement, because it’s going to affect them in the long run.

“The mayor held her campaign on promises she was going to fund these communities and now she is backing away from her words. I hope that in the next election there is a different turnout and outcome.”

Abigail Taylor, social worker, first year.

“I’m currently serving double the nationally recommended ratio of students to social workers and I’m considered one of the lucky ones in this district. I get to be in my building full-time, which is considered a big luxury.

“We have about 460 students at our school. We are asking that schools be staffed at an adequate level to allow clinicians to fulfill their full responsibilities.

“We have a mayor who came in and gave all the money to Lincoln Yards [a 50-acre proposed luxury development] and says there is nothing left for the schools.”


Kenyatta, from Laura Wade Elementary, has been a teacher’s assistant for seven years.

Laura Ward Elementary was part of a school “merger” in 2013, following the sell-out of 2012. It moved into the nearby Ryerson School building, and the merged schools retained the name Laura Ward.


“We’re doing the best we can with the small amount of resources that we do have. We need more support! Smaller class sizes, more nurses, more support staff, so no one person is trying to teach 35 kids and they are all at different learning levels. How can we meet these kids’ needs?”

On a general strike: “Whatever job you are doing, I believe that we all support one another. We should all come together as one and voice our opinions on equality. And if there is a company on strike, we should be out and supporting them. What one group does is beneficial for the others. I totally agree, we should do it together.”


Ivory teaches on the southwest side. Her class has 37 second graders and she’s one of the few teachers that has an assistant.

“Because my class is over capacity, any time my students go somewhere the TA goes with them to assist the other teachers. So we don’t have time for me training her to do interventions, just modeling lessons for her. We honestly don’t have any time together except our lunch which is 45 minutes.”

When it comes to class sizes, she said, “the smaller the better so there’s more time for individualized attention. We want to make sure that we reach all of our students. Even if I could just get it down to 25, that would be even better because right now I have 8 small groups. It’s an understatement to say that it’s difficult to make sure that all my students get the lessons at the level they need to. I really do love my kids and I want what’s best for them. My teaching conditions are their learning conditions. So all of it plays together.

“There needs to be an appropriate amount for them to do the work they need to do and not just one social worker for four schools. Honestly, asking for one social worker per school is very ambitious! That’s a lot of work for one person to do. Most certainly, one for multiple schools is not right. In the city of Chicago we have a lot of students dealing with trauma that full grown adults can’t even imagine.

“It’s too much to have one nurse spread over multiple schools. You have to provide a child their immediate needs before you can even think about test scores and data. I think it comes down to all of that. Meeting our students’ needs on more than one spectrum.”

About the city Democrats’ lying claim that there is no money for schools she said: “There’s so much money to build up certain parts of Chicago infrastructure. Of course we want to beautify our city, but at what cost? Why is it a priority above the youth of Chicago?”

Chicago Amazon workers fight for their rights

Chicago Amazon workers logo

By George Gallanis in the USA:

Chicago Amazon workers confront management, demand improvements

25 July 2019

At 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 16, the footsteps of 30 Amazon workers were heard walking to the manager’s office of a lower-west-side Chicago Amazon delivery facility, known as DCH1. The workers were part of the night shift that completes the exhausting last and often brutal steps of many before Amazon packages are delivered.

DCH1 Amazon workers were inspired by the multiple Amazon protests taking place around the world. Thousands of workers in the United States and internationally, including the UK, Germany, Poland and Spain, held demonstrations and strikes on Prime Day, Amazon’s annual sales event, which took place this year from July 15 to 16. These protests, reflecting growing universal anger, no doubt played a leading role in the initiative for DCH1 workers to confront management.

Amazon workers across the world face health and safety violations, speedups, increased quotas, harassment and injuries. In 2018, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health placed Amazon on its “dirty dozen” list of employers having unsafe workplaces. Since 2013, seven workers have been killed at Amazon warehouses in the United States.

Conditions at DCH1 are no different. Just last month, a small fire broke out in the facility, but management kept workers at their stations as it burned. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Moreover, inside the un-airconditioned plant, temperatures often reach scorching numbers. At the time of the Prime Day crush, a sweltering heat wave had settled in over Chicago.

DCH1 workers arrived at management’s office demanding the following: an increased pay of $18 an hour, up from the average $15, during all hours of Amazon’s Prime Day and the preparatory days preceding it. In the run-up to Prime Day, workers at DCH1 management asked workers to come in one hour before their shift, and in return they received $18 only for that hour.

During the days before Prime Day, known as “blackout periods”, workers cannot request scheduled time off, and their workload hastily increases and compounds in an effort to prepare for the sales event.

The last two demands are full health care and air conditioning in the DCH1 facility.

Workers receive paltry vision and dental benefits while the un-airconditioned DCH1 facility turns into an oven during the summer months, causing workers to pass out from heat exhaustion. In response to the heat, management passes out popsicles.

In May, DCH1 workers delivered a petition to management asking that water stations be installed in the facility. Soon after, a manager brought water bottles and then water stations were installed.

According to the Facebook group, DCH1 Amazonians United, when workers reached the warehouse manager’s office early Tuesday morning and relayed their demands, the warehouse manager stated he would meet with the group the next morning to discuss their demands. When the time came the next morning, the manager had left the facility and sent notice that he would instead meet with workers individually.

Commenting on the petition, Nye G. said, “This is very inhumane. With Amazon being a billion-dollar company, the workers should be first priority. Also, health care should be provided as well. I am really lost for words.”

“Forcing employees to work with no a/c is inhumane. Even animal shelters have a/c for goodness sake. …,” said Kimberly H. Justice W. remarked, “Labor rights are human rights.” Susan W. noted, “The SPCA won’t allow animals to be kept in a place that’s unbearably hot, so why should employees be treated worse than animals? Time to change things!” David S. declared, “All workers should have medical insurance and a fair wage.” Another commenter, Linda P., said “Always want to help a fellow toiler. We’re all in this together wherever conditions are abysmal.” While Erin S. remarked, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

The actions taken by DCH1 Amazon workers reflect the growing militancy and radicalization of the international working class and follows the wake of teacher strike waves in the United States, strikes and protests by workers in Europe, Iran and Asia, and just this week, massive protests and a general strike consisting of hundreds of thousands of workers in Puerto Rico. These strikes and protests are interconnected, flowing from decades of massive austerity measures by capitalist governments across the world against the working class.

There is growing sentiment among Amazon workers in the US and internationally for an organization that can take on the giant transnational corporation and billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos.

The Taiwanese company Foxconn uses children from 16 to 18 years old in its Chinese factories to produce products for the American tech giant Amazon. The children work too many hours and also have to do night shifts. On the contrary, Chinese law stipulates that school children are not allowed to work night shifts or overtime: here.

The initial results for Seattle’s city council primary elections will greatly sharpen the class divisions in Seattle. Led by Amazon, big business in Seattle is waging a ferocious campaign to defeat every candidate who isn’t firmly aligned with them. Through a record-breaking infusion of corporate PAC money, business-backed candidates made it through the primary in all seven of the council districts, set to face off against more progressive candidates in the November general election: here.

Chicago, USA classical musicians on strike

This music video from the USA says about itself:

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4, 1st mvmt (1st half)

Barenboim conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a stellar performance of Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony in F minor for the opening concert of Carnegie Hall’s 1997 season. Yes, that is the legendary Bud Herseth marshalling the CSO’s incredible brass.

By Kristina Betinis in the USA:

“This is not just about Tchaikovsky, it’s about culture as a whole”

Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians strike to defend pensions

12 March 2019

Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) musicians went on strike Monday morning for the second time since 2012. The contract agreed between CSO and the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208 in 2015 expired on Sunday. Negotiations had been going for more than 11 months.

Historically, CSO labor agreements have established the wage and benefit standard for top-tier orchestras, so CSO negotiations are closely watched.

A section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra strike picket

In 2018, CSO management reported their best year ever in ticket sales, but have complained that the orchestra’s budget is straining under pension costs. However, ticket sales only support a small portion of the orchestra’s costs. To a large extent, the symphony is beholden to the whims of wealthy corporate and private benefactors for its financing.

Among those declaring their support for the musicians has been CSO Director Riccardo Muti, who wrote, “As music director and a musician of this orchestra, I am with the musicians.”

Under the current offer, musician base pay will rise five percent over the three-year term of the contract, which breaks out as a one percent increase in the first year to be followed by two percent increases the following two years, well below the rate of inflation.

Striking Chicago musician

But the main issue in the strike is CSO management’s proposed move from a defined pension benefit plan—or traditional guaranteed pension—to a direct contribution plan, an investment fund that is up to each individual member to manage.

Helen Zell, wife of billionaire Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell, was chosen to chair the CSO Board in 2015. Zell and CSO Board President Jeff Alexander are insisting on the pension cuts to maintain the organization’s solvency.

CSO management stated that the orchestra contributed $3.8 million into the musicians’ pension fund this year—up from $803,000 two years ago because of new federal requirements—and that those annual contributions were projected to continue to rise.

The New York Times reported that the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund, a large, multi-employer plan covering thousands of musicians, including the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208, is itself currently “in critical status.” According to that report, if the pension fund’s condition worsens, it could trigger pension benefit payment cuts for retirees.

In 2016, the $2 billion pension fund declared a $122 million shortfall, and was hit the following year with a class-action lawsuit claiming fund trustees made risky investments, placing the pensions of thousands of musicians in jeopardy.

Last October Chicago Lyric Opera orchestra musicians walked out, ultimately agreeing to a concessions contract that reduced the number of guaranteed weeks of work for the musicians in and reduced the number of full-time orchestra members through attrition to 70.

Some Lyric Opera musicians were picketing with the Chicago Symphony members on Monday.

Michal, who has been a violinist 22 years, joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra three years ago. He told the WSWS, “We’re striking because management is cutting our pension and has also been stalling wages since the 2012 strike. Management wants to cut the pension because they claim the pension has been underfunded—but it has been done by them. They claim that for people like me, who’ve been here three years, it will be a way better benefit—which I can’t dispute, I mean who knows? But it will mean everything is on me to manage that and everything depends on how I do it.

“The bigger problem is the people who have been here for somewhere between 15 and 25 years. For them it just doesn’t make any sense because the benefit they would get, what they have worked for, would be small because they would basically have no time to build up their 401Ks.

“The pension is one of the things that makes the Chicago Symphony Orchestra a place musicians want to work. I auditioned here against 300 other people. I didn’t spend 20 years practicing five hours a day to get here and then have to go get a desk job.

“I’ve had to do this for 20 years to get here. I could go get a different job at any time, but this is what I should be doing.”

Gina, a filmmaker, was on Michigan Avenue supporting the striking orchestra members. She told the WSWS, “I think fully funding the arts is incredibly important. I just graduated from Columbia College right down the street here. It’s an issue in the film industry too, because lots of times people are on contract work.

“You’ll be working months and months on a project, and you might not necessarily, depending on what the budget is, have benefits. Certainly not pensions. It’s incredibly important because people are putting their life and their soul into these works, for the entertainment and appreciation of people.

“For something as iconic as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the Lyric Opera, people travel from all around the world for this, and it’s really upsetting to hear that you guys aren’t being supported the way you should be. It’s the Chicago Symphony Orchestra—you would think you’d be getting proper benefits and compensation. It’s kind of ridiculous considering how much money the Chicago Symphony Orchestra brings in!”

Michal broke in to say, “This is not just about Tchaikovsky, it’s about culture as a whole. This country spends trillions of dollars on the weapons industry, wars that we have been losing. And how much money goes to culture? Think of what the word itself means, to cultivate.”

Gina said, “This reminds of the quote from the film Dead Poets Society: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

“The irony is that people agree but these things are not supported in the society.”

Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) musicians are continuing their strike, which began Monday morning. The contract agreed between CSO and the Chicago Federation of Musicians Local 10-208 in 2015 expired on Sunday. Negotiations had been going for more than 11 months and no new negotiations have been scheduled. CSO Director Riccardo Muti spoke at a lunch hour press conference on Tuesday, surrounded by the horn section of the CSO. “I am here with my musicians,” Muti said, who is known worldwide for his public defenses of funding for the arts and opposition against budget cuts in his home country of Italy: here.

The strike by Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) musicians is now in its second week with management cancelling performances through March 25. Little progress in negotiations has been reported and musicians conjecture online that the strike may go on for weeks or months. In 1982 the Chicago musicians conducted a 21-day strike and a 15-day strike in 1991: here.

Bernie Sanders and his Chicago supporters speak

This 3 March 2019 video from the USA says about itself:

Bernie Returns to Chicago to Launch 2020 Campaign

BERNIE 2020 LAUNCH IN CHICAGO: At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, the time I spent in Chicago changed my life and helped shape me into the person I am today. Tonight we are back in Chicago to launch our campaign for president and say: we are going to transform this country. We are going to build a nation based on justice, with a government and economy that works for all and not just those on top.

By George Marlowe and Marcus Day in Chicago, USA:

“Socialism appeals to me”

Sanders rally attendees speak on socialism, Democratic Party

5 March 2019

On Sunday, US Senator Bernie Sanders continued his initial series of campaign rallies at Chicago’s Navy Pier, following Saturday’s event in Brooklyn, as he again seeks the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Sanders unsuccessfully sought the party’s nomination in 2016, subsequently endorsing Hillary Clinton, the arch-candidate of Wall Street and big business.

The Chicago Tribune estimated that over 12,000 attended. The rally attracted diverse social layers, including many young people who have been increasingly radicalized in recent years: large numbers of high school and college students, along with young workers. Significant numbers of professionals and other sections of both the lower- and upper-middle class attended as well.

Reporters for the World Socialist Web Site spoke with attendees, encountering wide interest in a socialist perspective. Many of those we spoke with were attracted to Sanders’ criticisms of social inequality, “the billionaire class” and other social ills. A number were either skeptical of or openly hostile to capitalism and the Democratic Party


Jesus is 22 and from the Chicago suburbs. He said he had gone to college for two years, studying to become a teacher, before having to quit and work full time at a factory in order to support his family.

He said he had been following the wave of teachers’ strikes in the US over the past year. “With all the effort they put into teaching students, you’d think they’d get paid more.”

He said that he hadn’t given socialism much thought until recently, which he described as Sanders’ proposals to “use taxes for the people not for the corporations, which makes a lot of sense. I think socialism but with capitalism together is the perfect idea for this country. A complete full market and no regulations is really bad. I feel like the Democratic Party has to change, otherwise they’re going to lose a whole generation, again.”

The WSWS reporter explained, however, that genuine socialism and structuring society to meet the needs of the majority of the population are incompatible with the extreme levels of social inequality under capitalism and the monopolization of wealth and political power by the rich. Jesus agreed. …

Asked his thoughts on the previous administration of Democratic President Barack Obama, Jesus responded angrily, “The first two years of his presidency, they had control of both houses [of Congress]. He could have done way more, but they didn’t. And Obama deported way more people than Trump. And then he made the whole DACA thing at the end [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the tenuous legal status for young immigrants], which he knew would get vetoed by a Republican president.

“It’s kind of infuriating, you know? He wasn’t really hope and change.”

Jesus added that he was strongly opposed to the attacks on immigrants. “These people don’t do anything but give to this country”, he said, “and they always live in fear because they might get deported. I think it’s pretty disgusting.”

Alexis and Oliver

Alexis is a 21-year-old student from Chicago who studies political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He spoke of his left-wing views and the need for young people to fight for a better world. “I’m pretty leftist”, he said. “This is as close to the collapse of capitalism I’m going to get. I’m doing everything in my power to make the world a better place. The younger generation needs to be mobilized against a system they deem unfair. I definitely want this president out of office.”

Alexis came to the rally with Oliver, who is 19, from Quincy, Illinois, and also studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “The most important issue to me is the environment,” Oliver said. “A close second is healthcare, education and inequality. The system should never have allowed this level of inequality.” Oliver added, “I’m not a fan of the Democratic Party, but it may be a better of the two options.” …

Alexis agreed and also spoke out on his differences with the Democratic Party, noting, “I generally disagree with the Democratic Party.” He added, “Socialism appeals to me. A lot of left politics becomes coopted by the Democratic Party and because of the cooption we are never able to realize the ultimate goals that we seek. I think that’s very dangerous because it prevents any progress. I think we need to radically depart from capitalism.”

Young people also came from the economically depressed city of Rockford, Illinois. The city had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country after the financial crisis of 2008. Thousands of good-paying industrial jobs have been destroyed in the Rockford area, only to be replaced with low-wage jobs, including at the Rockford United Parcel Service (UPS) air hub, where workers make as little as $13 an hour.

Simon is an 18-year-old high school student from Rockford. He spoke of the economic devastation the city has faced. “I’ve grown up here my entire life,” he said. “It is the epitome of the ‘Rust-Belt’ city. It’s really depressing. There’s a drug issue there. There’s a lot that needs to be fixed. A lot of industrial jobs have left. At the Belvidere Assembly Plant they started laying off 1,400 workers.”

Recently Fiat Chrysler announced that it would eliminate an entire shift at its Belvidere plant near Rockford and lay off nearly 1,400 workers …

Simon and Andrew

Andrew, a 20-year-old worker and friend of Simon’s from Rockford, spoke of the impact of the layoffs. “Rockford is a community that had its roots in industry. There’s a lot of small manufacturing and a lot of workers are struggling,” he said.

“My cousin works at Belvidere Assembly,” he added. “The majority of people employed in the last six years are going to get laid off. It’s a horrible situation. There’s families that get their entire income from the Belvidere Assembly Plant. There’s fathers and mothers that work there together. What are they going to do come May? They’re going to get laid off and have no income. I guess they will get unemployment, but unemployment will only do so much.”

Simon spoke about his desire for free college education. “When Bernie started to run and started talking about free college education for everyone, that is one thing that really struck me,” he said. “Student loan debt is horrible. I’m a senior at Rockford East, and it’s really stressful and so complicated. It’s such a terrible system. If education was free and universal, it would provide equal opportunity for all.”

Andrew noted that he could not afford college. He said, “I’m not actually in college right now. Financial issues for college is a big thing. If college was free, I would definitely take advantage of it and further my knowledge.”


Louis is also 22 and is a college student studying communications in Chicago. “I’ve heard a lot about Sanders, but just wanted to come out and hear what he had to say. I thought he made a lot of good points in his first run.”

Louis listed a number of issues he was concerned about, including “inequality financially, our presence in the political realm, violence in our neighborhood. Police brutality definitely needs to be addressed. But I think if we address those things head on they can change.”

He said that he did not consider himself a Democrat. “I personally don’t put myself in a political party.”

Louis said that he had not given much thought to socialism previously, and said he thought that there were ways to address social problems within “each belief system, whether capitalism or socialism.”

However, when a reporter explained that there was an objective conflict within society, between a reactionary financial oligarchy and the working class which produces all of society’s wealth, he agreed, adding, “I agree with everything you just said. I strongly believe the working class is the whole heart of America, and the world.”

Jake is a 23-year-old, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. “I’m a sales manager in Chicago. Universal healthcare is a big issue for me. Social issues have been quite relevant to me as well. I know Bernie doesn’t go as far on a lot of issues, as far as socialism, that I want though.

“Healthcare matters to me because living should be a human right,” he noted. “We should care about other human rights. The rise of insulin costs is abhorrent. I have four people in my family that have diabetes. Luckily, they are all fortunate enough to be able to afford it. But I’ve heard the horror stories. Nobody should die from a treatable disease. It’s disgusting that a black market for insulin has to even exist. I am young enough and fortunate enough to get insurance from my father. I haven’t gotten any major health issues at this point—and I don’t have to in the near future. But what if my dad lost this job?”

Danny and Jake

Danny is a friend of Jake and a worker in Chicago as well. He contrasted the spending on war with spending on social programs in the United States.

The Pentagon misplaced $7 billion and they don’t know where it went,” he said. “And they can’t afford healthcare? I think saving people’s lives affordably is more important than invading other countries and destroying lives.”

Both Jake and Danny also spoke about … the Trump administration’s efforts to oust the Maduro government in Venezuela, which could create a violent civil war. “We should not be involved in that,” Jake said. “That’s nonsense,” Danny added.

Jake also spoke about other issues that were important to him, including education and the recent strikes of teachers. “The other big issues that matter to me are education—public vs. private. I’ve been following the teacher strikes and I have friends who are teachers in California. My friends were in the Los Angeles teacher strike. Teachers need to be paid a lot more. Education solves a lot of root problems. I’m also really concerned about income inequality.”

This video from the USA says about itself:

I shot some quick video clips at Bernie Sanders campaign rally in Chicago, March 3, 2019.

By George Gallanis in Chicago, USA:

On Sunday night, over 12,000 people gathered at Navy Pier in downtown Chicago to hear Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak, the second of two weekend rallies to kick off his presidential campaign. The first was held at Brooklyn College in New York City Saturday afternoon, also attended by many thousands.

In the Chicago speech, while similar in many ways to his address in Brooklyn, which focused on a “left” appeal for economic equality, Sanders made a shift in emphasis. He appealed directly to racial minorities, referring to his experiences in organizing housing and school desegregation efforts as a student at the University of Chicago, and to police violence, segregation, racial inequality and “institutional racism”, which, he declared, permeates Chicago and the rest of the United States.

Earlier on Sunday, Sanders attended a breakfast in Selma, Alabama, commemorating the 1965 civil rights march that ended in a violent police assault. …

As the choir [the Thompson Community Singers] wound down, six campaign co-hairs spoke on different issues before Sanders made his appearance.

Destiny Harris, from the organization #NoCopAcademy, spoke first, highlighting her experiences leading to her becoming an activist, including the closure of her elementary school in 2013, one of 50 schools closed by Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff. She was followed by the photographer and Sanders’ former roommate, Danny Lyon, who recounted his experiences of Sanders’ involvement opposing housing segregation at the University of Chicago. Following him, Ashley Galvan Ramos from Logan Square Neighborhood association spoke out against gentrification in Chicago.

Ro Khanna, … Representative from California’s 17th Congressional District, … excitedly told the crowd that Sanders would not start another war that was not approved by the United States Congress, although he avoided the term “antiwar”, as did every other speaker. …

Sanders’ speech was very similar to that given in Brooklyn the day before, in which he outlined a series of limited reforms without explaining how any of these could actually be implemented given the hostility of the US ruling elite, including the leaders of the Democratic Party whose presidential nomination he is seeking. …

Save for mentioning a recent vote taken to stop funding for the US-Saudi war on Yemen, Sanders did not mention any country outside of the United States or the mounting danger of war with nuclear-armed powers like Russia and China.

In highlighting his time in Chicago in the early 1960s, where he came as a transfer student to the University of Chicago, Sanders spoke of his experiences in organizing housing and school desegregation efforts. He said, “Have we made progress in civil rights in this country since the early 1960s? No question about it. Do we still have a very long way to go to end the institutional racism which permeates almost every aspect of our society? Absolutely.”

United States prisoners made to work in Arctic cold

This 30 January 2019 CBS TV video from the USA says about itself:

Deadly polar vortex making everyday tasks unbearable

Cities across the Midwest are scrambling to protect people from the deadly polar vortex that’s blasting the region. At least six deaths across the U.S. are connected to the winter storm. Tens of millions of Americans are at risk. DeMarco Morgan reports.

A viral photo of inmates shoveling snow outside a Chicago jail sparked social media outrage this week as the city deals with record-breaking low temperatures that have already killed people.

MIDWEST BLASTED BY ARCTIC FREEZE A blast of Arctic air powered by the polar vortex brought dangerous temperatures to a wide swath of the United States, from the Dakotas through Maine. The Midwest was hit hardest, with temperatures plunging below zero [Fahrenheit]. By nightfall, the mercury was hovering at 0 in Chicago, 7 in Detroit and minus 21 in Minneapolis. [Reuters]

AT LEAST 8 DEAD IN EXTREME FREEZE A blast of polar air enveloped the Midwest Wednesday and headed for the East, debilitating cities with some of the lowest temperatures in a generation and killing at least eight people. Chicago dropped to a low of around minus 23 and similar conditions were recorded in Milwaukee. Minneapolis recorded minus 27, while Sioux Falls, South Dakota, saw minus 25. [AP]

A blast of historic cold temperatures hit the US Midwest, with record lows for both daily high and low temperatures expected Wednesday and Thursday across the region. Wind-chills in parts of northern Minnesota and North Dakota reached negative 60 degrees Fahrenheit (negative 51 Celsius) and even lower. The US Postal Service suspended mail deliveries in ten states Wednesday and Thursday out of concern for the safety of mail delivery personnel: here.

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR DISMISSES COLD Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin responded to the deadly weather in his state by denouncing closing public schools. “I mean, what happens to America?” he said. “We’re getting soft.” [HuffPost]

Woodpeckers’ pecking causing brain damage?

This 2016 video from the USA is called Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Concussions?

From the Field Museum in Chicago, USA:

Woodpeckers show signs of possible brain damage, but that might not be a bad thing

February 2, 2018

Summary: With each peck, woodpeckers absorb more than ten times the force it would take to give a human a concussion. But they seem fine. Researchers examined the brains of woodpeckers in museum collections and saw that the brains showed a build-up of a protein that’s a sign of brain damage in humans. The woodpeckers might not have sustained brain damage themselves, though — the researchers think that protein build-up could possibly be beneficial to the birds.

With woodpeckers, the answer’s in the question — true to their name, they peck wood. And when they do, they peck hard — with each peck, the bird undergoes a force of 1,200 to 1,400 g’s. By comparison, a measly force of 60-100 g’s can give a human a concussion. The fact that a woodpecker can undergo fourteen times that without getting hurt has led helmet makers model their designs around these birds’ skulls. However, a new study in PLOS ONE complicates this story by showing that woodpecker brains contain build-ups of a protein associated with brain damage in humans.

“There have been all kinds of safety and technological advances in sports equipment based on the anatomic adaptations and biophysics of the woodpecker assuming they don’t get brain injury from pecking. The weird thing is, nobody’s ever looked at a woodpecker brain to see if there is any damage”. says Peter Cummings of the Boston University School of Medicine, one of the new study’s authors.

To find the answer to this question, researchers used bird brains from the collections of the Field Museum and the Harvard Museum of Natural History and examined them for accumulation of a specific protein, called tau.

“The basic cells of the brain are neurons, which are the cell bodies, and axons, which are like telephone lines that communicate between the neurons. The tau protein wraps around the telephone lines — it gives them protection and stability while still letting them remain flexible”, explains lead author George Farah, who worked on the study as a graduate student at the Boston University School of Medicine.

In moderation, tau proteins can be helpful in stabilizing brain cells, but too much tau build-up can disrupt communication from one neuron to another. “When the brain is damaged, tau collects and disrupts nerve function — cognitive, emotional, and motor function can be compromised”, says Cummings.

Since excessive tau can be a sign of brain damage in humans, Farah and his team decided to examine woodpecker brains for tau build-up. The Field Museum and Harvard loaned the researchers bird specimens pickled in alcohol — Downy Woodpeckers for the experimental data and non-head-injury-prone Red-winged Blackbirds as a control. The researchers then removed the birds’ brains — “The brains themselves were well-preserved, they had a texture almost like modeling clay,” says Farah — and took incredibly thin slices, less than a fifth the thickness of a sheet of paper. The slices of brain tissue were then stained with silver ions to highlight the tau proteins present.

The verdict: the woodpeckers‘ brains had far more tau protein accumulation than the blackbirds’ brains. However, while excessive tau buildup can be a sign of brain damage in humans, the researchers note that this might not be the case for woodpeckers. “We can’t say that these woodpeckers definitely sustained brain injuries, but there is extra tau present in the woodpecker brains, which previous research has discovered is indicative of brain injury”, says Farah.

“The earliest woodpeckers date back 25 million years — these birds have been around for a long time“, says Cummings. “If pecking was going to cause brain injury, why would you still see this behavior? Why would evolutionary adaptations stop at the brain? There’s possibility that the tau in woodpeckers is a protective adaptation and maybe not pathological at all.”

So, woodpeckers show signs of what looks like brain damage in humans, but it might not be a bad thing. Either way, the researchers believe that the study’s results could help us humans. For example, the knowledge about woodpecker brains that could help make football equipment safer for kids, says Cummings. On the other hand, he notes, “If the tau accumulation is a protective adaptation, is there something we can pick out to help humans with neurodegenerative diseases? The door’s wide open to find out what’s going on and how we can apply this to humans.”

Farah notes that the study relied heavily upon the museum collections that the bird brains came from. “Museums are gateways to the past and a source of new innovation,” he says. “The role of museums in this project was immense — we couldn’t have done our study with just one woodpecker.”

Ben Marks, the Field Museum’s Collections Manager of Birds, said of the researchers’ request to use the Museum’s bird brains, “With one of the world’s best bird collections, we’re always trying to let people know what we have, why we have it, and what it can be used for. We get over a hundred requests for specimen loans every year — this one stood out because it was a novel approach that had real world applications. Some of the specimens used in this study were collected in the 1960s. Our staff cared for them for over 50 years before until they were requested for this study and used in a way the original collector couldn’t even envision.”

Sheltering homeless people from winter, a crime in the USA?

This video about Chicago in the USA says about itself:

Government Threatens To Seize House After Man Shelters Homeless People From Cold

Read more here.

So, not only feeding homeless people seems to be a crime in the USA.

Emilio Estevez’s The Public: The homeless refuse to freeze to death: here.

Canada geese avoid hunters in Chicago city

This video from the USA says about itself:

16 August 2012

Canadian Geese take over front yard of suburban home in Asbury Park, NJ [New Jersey].

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a wild goose with a black head and neck, white patches on the face, and a brownish-gray body. Native to arctic and temperate regions of North America, it is occasionally found in northern Europe, and has been introduced to other temperate regions.

… It breeds in Canada and the northern United States in a variety of habitats. Its nest is usually located in an elevated area near water such as streams, lakes, ponds and sometimes on a beaver lodge. Its eggs are laid in a shallow depression lined with plant material and down. The Great Lakes region maintains a very large population of Canada Geese.

From the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences in the USA:

Smart birds: Canada geese give hunters the slip by hiding out in Chicago

October 23, 2017

It’s open season for Canada geese in Illinois from mid-October to mid-January. Unfortunately for hunters, Canada geese are finding a new way to stay out of the line of fire. Rather than being “sitting ducks” in a rural pond, they’re setting up residence in the city.

University of Illinois ornithologist Mike Ward says he and a team of researchers conducted a recent study to try to find out why there were so many Canada geese in Chicago in the winter. “We thought the geese would fly to forage on nearby agricultural fields during the day, then fly back to the city to roost, but that wasn’t the case. What we learned is that they weren’t going to the city for food, they were going there because there were no hunters,” he explains.

The study finds that 85 percent of the Canada geese wintered in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area, and none made foraging flights to agricultural fields within or outside of the urban area. Their arrival demonstrated uncanny timing as well. Approximately 70 percent of the geese the researchers were tracking returned to the Chicagoland area prior to open hunting seasons.

Ward says survival rate was also high. “All of the Canada geese that spent the winter in Chicago survived, whereas half of the birds that decided to leave the Chicagoland area and go to areas where hunting is allowed, and more prevalent, were harvested.”

According to Ward, the birds’ ability to make use of nontraditional habitats in the city, such as green spaces, rooftops, and rail yards, and avoidance of agricultural fields suggests Canada geese may be minimizing risk rather than maximizing energy intake by using urban areas during winter.

“During mid-November through late February 2014-2016, we captured and attached transmitters to 41 geese within the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area,” Ward says. “To each goose, we attached an aluminum band and a GPS transmitter attached to a white plastic waterfowl neck collar.” The birds were tracked to determine habitat selection and survival.

As the winter months grew colder and the snow-depth increased, the geese chose green spaces 55 percent less often. Instead, they increased their selection of industrial urban areas, such as water treatment facilities and deep-water areas within shipping canals, by over 140 percent.