On October 13, 2022, Tillie Deitz, a mother of three young children, died in the Champaign County jail. As I found in my own review of publicly available documents, Deitz admitted to being a drug user upon entering the jail and told officers she was experiencing symptoms of withdrawal. An autopsy ruled that her death was the result an acute toxicity of fentanyl—the synthetic opiate responsible for a growing number of drug overdoses.
I talked with Bethany Little, the founder and CEO of WIN Recovery, a Champaign-based organization which provides housing and treatment for women with addictions. “They put individuals in jail for crimes committed because of addiction,” she told me. “They are not getting any help in the jails, they should not be there in the first place.” Continue reading
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Women’s protest against the severe restrictions on their freedom and bodily autonomy spread to many other sectors and issues.
Public i: Just start with a basic overview of what’s happening now and what sparked it, an update on the latest, and also what do you think people should know that isn’t being covered in the mainstream US media.
Faranak Miraftab: On the surface what sparked it was a young woman from Kurdistan of Iran, [Jina] Mahsa [Amini] [Editors’ note: although the name Mahsa has become a rallying cry across Iran and the world, it was forced by Persian ethnocentric naming regulations; her family used her original Kurdish name, Jina] who was indeed wearing a hijab [head/hair covering, (allegedly) required by Islam for women], but the morality police found not properly done, arrested her and in custody beat her up so badly she ended up in coma at a hospital where two women journalists were able to take pictures and publicize the case. The journalists were arrested shortly after and are still in prison.
Mahbubeh Moqadam: The accusation is they are led by foreigners. Continue reading
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Posted in Feminism, International, International, Section, Voices, Women, wonen's rights
Tagged feminism, hijab, human rights, Iran, protest
The Guardian estimates that more than 6700 kafala workers died while working on World Cup construction
The 2022 soccer World Cup began its takeover of global sports channels on November 20, transmitting endless images of cosmopolitan crowds enjoying the sparkling new stadiums of Qatar to audiences around the world. The country that hosts the World Cup wins one of today’s most coveted advertisement opportunities. Coverage can boost investment, tourism, and trade, and even add to a country’s diplomatic heft. Yet the 2022 host, Qatar, is a country with an atrocious human rights record, especially in terms of labor conditions. Unfortunately, rather than calling attention to the suffering of laborers in Qatar, the World Cup is in danger of showcasing the economic benefits of Qatari-style labor exploitation to the world.
Ballwashing and the Apolitical Soccer Fan
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Posted in International, International, labor, Labor/Economics, Middle East, Section, Sports
Tagged ballwashing, exploitation, human rights, migrant labor, Qatar, World Cup
The New York Times recently published a story about how Medicare Advantage (MA) plans rip off consumers and taxpayers through a range of dubious practices up to and including fraud. These practices contribute to higher profit levels which, in turn, underwrite mergers in the health care industry. Industry colossuses further expand market share by offering seemingly great deals to consumers and to the employers, public agencies, and even unions that offer retiree group health plans. The extension of MA plans threatens the very existence of traditional Medicare, and quality insurance coverage for all our senior citizens.
Consumers often suffer due to these trends, and Champaign County residents are no exception. Continue reading
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Tisha Bryson at her home in central Illinois on Saturday, June 4, 2022. photo by Darrell Hoemann/C-U Citizen Access
Tisha Bryson has been shackled, hospitalized, and shoved to the ground by Champaign-area police while experiencing a mental health crisis more times than she can count.
“I try not to hold grudges,” said Bryson, of Hammond. “But some of the ways I was treated were very traumatizing.”
Bryson’s case also surfaces a regular criticism: that police are not adequately trained to respond to mental health crises and often respond with punitive measures. Continue reading
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Tisha Bryson at her home in central Illinois on Saturday, June 4, 2022. photo by Darrell Hoemann/C-U Citizen Access
Tisha Bryson has been shackled, hospitalized and shoved to the ground by central Illinois law enforcement officers while experiencing a mental health crisis more times than she can count.
“I try not to hold grudges,” Bryson said, a resident of Hammond in Piatt County, about 40 miles southwest of Champaign. “But some of the ways I was treated were very traumatizing.”
Bryson’s experiences speak to the central role police play in mental health treatment in central Illinois and nationwide. Her case also surfaces a regular criticism: that police are not adequately trained to respond to mental health crises and often respond with punitive measures that cause further harm. Continue reading
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Editors’ Note: This article has been held until after the Georgia runoff election so there would be no suggestion of a political endorsement.
Since Donald Trump’s incursion into US politics in 2015, deprecation and intimidation have become pervasive. Trump and his MAGA fascists have launched an assault on the rule of law and the tattered shreds of a “herrenvolk democracy” (one controlled by people of one race or ethnicity). They have harassed poll judges, banned books, intimidated librarians and school board members, and violently attacked those who advocate for an egalitarian multiracial democracy.
Trump’s forces have brought his nightmarish vision and politics of threat to Champaign-Urbana. After my twice-a-month column, “RealTalk: A Black Perspective” appeared in the News Gazette on Sunday, October 23, conservatives and far-right forces began assailing me, my departments at the University of Illinois, and members of the UIUC administration with “derogatory and inflammatory” emails and calls for my dismissal. Continue reading
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The slow police response to the 2021 disappearance and later identification of ISU graduate student Jelani Day contrasted with high-profile investigations of missing white individuals
The issue of unequal representation of cultures has plagued the nation since its birth, often resulting in the perversion of people’s natural rights. In central Illinois, it extends that perversion through aggressive discrimination.
Although minorities have seen more representation on screen, their everyday lived experiences haven’t. Instead, stereotypical mirrors of minorities are represented by America’s dominating culture. This amplifies the cultural disconnect between races, which creates an environment of division and misrepresentation. Continue reading
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Posted in African Americans, African Americans, bigotry, Media, Racism, Section, Violence, Voices
Tagged African American, discrimination, media stereotypes, racism, violence
The author selling Sola Gratia produce at the farmer’s market
Here in Central Illinois, we’re surrounded by prime farmland—miles and miles of crops, primarily corn and soy, growing on some of the most fertile soil in the world. And yet, approximately one in seven adults and one in five children in our community does not know where their next meal is going to come from. This disparity is what the founders of Sola Gratia Farm–visionary members of St. Matthew Lutheran Church and Faith in Place—were responding to when they created this farm in 2012. Continue reading
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Jason Finkelman and Saori Kataoka go at it at an Improvisers Exchange performance
Improvisers Exchange exudes experimental sounds at the Rose Bowl Tavern every first Monday of the month from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Organized and directed by Jason Finkelman, Improvisers Exchange is a fluctuating eclectic ensemble of musicians, all of whom share a buzz for creative communal genesis of sound experiments, more specifically “omni-idiomatic improvisation.” Finkelman thought up this term to denote an ideal approach welcoming all styles, simultaneously integrating any mixture of styles and instruments into a single improv-jam, where sound-comrades may match, blend, or contrast, cultivating a kind of calico cosmos. With participation open to the community, Finkelman also runs the ensemble as a workshop at U of I during school months, and has featured special guests such as Mai Sugimoto, David Rosenboom, and Tatsuya Nakatani. I’ll take you on a musical tour of a few past events. It may inspire you to seek out their future happenings. Continue reading
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Local Pretrial Fairness Act activists and advocates demonstrate at Illinois Terminal in Champaign, outside of State Senator Scott Bennett’s office, on October 3, 2022. Photo courtesy of Karen Medina
Last month, News-Gazette columnist Jim Dey headlined “hysteria” over the provisions of the 2021 Illinois Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA), which will go into effect in January, including the end to cash bail. Predictably, but illogically, Dey located the hysteria on the side of advocates for criminal justice reform rather than right-wing scaremongers who are shrilly shouting “Purge.” [The reference is to the horror media franchise, in which all crimes are allowed for a short period annually.] As if the end of cash bail meant that everyone would be automatically released to the streets. . . . Continue reading
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University Rehabilitation Center, the former county nursing home. Photo courtesy of Karen Medina
Champaign County residents are about to lose another nursing home. But we can stop this from happening, if we work together!
The Rothners, who are the current owners of the former Champaign County Nursing Home, which they bought in 2018, now want permission from the Champaign County Board to sell the nursing home and have it become something other than a nursing home.
This would mean that the Champaign County community would lose another approximately 220 skilled-nursing facility beds. Continue reading
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With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in August, many environmental advocates and others concerned about rapidly rising global temperatures breathed a collective sigh of relief. The US finally is taking historic action to address the climate crisis. The IRA is the largest-ever US investment in tackling climate change. Those who crafted the bill say its $370 billion price tag will allow the US to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 40 percent by 2030.
But among the welcomed parts of the bill—such as expanding renewable energy, supporting energy efficiency, and funding conservation stewardship—there lies a Trojan horse. Billions of dollars are now available to the fossil fuel industry for carbon capture and sequestration, disguised as a fundamental pillar of our nation’s carbon emission reduction plan. The net effect of this giveaway will be a prolonged reliance on fossil fuels and a diversion of much-needed funding away from the more effective and efficient paths of renewable energy. Continue reading
Amy Myers onstage
“Drag is an art. It is a culture.”
As a cis, straight woman, I did not fully understand the cultural importance of drag shows until 2019, when I was managing a community center that has a wonderful zine collection and venue space. 2019 was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising; Krannert Center hosted Sasha Velour’s “Smoke & Mirrors,” and with Sasha came books and zines. The community center was rented out for Gay Ball on the date of the anniversary . . . and the Urbana police were stopping people as they came to the ball. That was the year that I learned why queens had to be fierce, strong, and fabulous. Continue reading
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Guatemalan police units assist with a land eviction
If you want to see what ethnic cleansing looks like in the 21st century, take a trip to Guatemala. Don’t just stay at the charming eco-lodge by the lake under the volcanoes, however, because you might fly home with a false idea of Guatemalan progress. To understand the true cost of your vacation you have to see the original residents the police drove off the land so investors could acquire that scenic view; the nearby farms appropriated by agro-industries responding to foreign, not local, markets; and the courtroom where Indigenous political leaders are rendered invisible in disputes with multinational investors. Those helpful waiters you are tipping? They might have been driven out of their ancestral villages at night by hired thugs from the nearby mine pumping toxic runoff into their water, their family scattered to places as distant as Champaign-Urbana, Illinois in the effort to find the money to keep the next generation alive. This ethnic cleansing is not grotesquely bloody in the way that usually captures international attention, but the results are just the same: a landscape cleared of the culture, institutions, and bodies inconvenient for the more powerful. Continue reading
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The CCA, originally called White Citizens Councils, was a white segregationist/supremacist organization
Late last year, the University of Illinois Press published Dangerous Ideas on Campus by Matthew Ehrlich. It is an excellent book on two professors at the U of I, one of whom was fired, while the other was not. The issue involved both freedom of speech generally and academic freedom that professors—and their professional organization, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)—claim is theirs. Continue reading
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The Public i is partnering with the Education Justice Project (EJP) to share writing completed by incarcerated students at the Danville Correctional Center. The EJP is a comprehensive college-in-prison program based at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Through its educational programming EJP enriches the lives of its students, their families, and the communities to which they return.
Chaos stills, only the eerie sound of silence remains. The clapping of cheap sneakers colliding with the linoleum floor announces the start of a race, a race to the link to a life left behind. The urge to sprint is overpowering. Consideration for others is lost. Jostling bodies clamor together, vying to be first. Silver boxes shine, beacons in the darkness, illuminating hope and giving illusions of relevancy. Hieroglyphic symbols have shaken the hands of more people than any president. Grasping souls look to hold onto a world otherwise lost. The magical device is an escape. Continue reading
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Do Fear the Reaper. An OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib
Women, girls, and all people who can become pregnant need abortions. Before abortion was legalized in the US, almost a million women a year sought illegal abortions. According to the Centers for Disease Control tens of millions of women, girls, and other persons have had abortions since Roe v. Wade legalized them in 1973—one in four women. The peak years for legal abortions (1.5 million annually) were 1975 to 2006, before a cascade of state restrictions made this medical procedure more and more difficult to get.
What I have to say about the US Supreme Court decision (Dobbs v/ Jackson Women’s Health Organization) ending women’s Constitutional right to an abortion by allowing states to prohibit and criminalize it will seem radical to some and reactionary to others. Radical because it includes a critique of the way heterosexual sex is performed and fetishized in patriarchal societies. Reactionary because it includes a critique of the way heterosexual sex is performed and fetishized in patriarchal societies. The act that causes pregnancy is rarely subjected to critical scrutiny. Continue reading
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Shamar Betts is currently serving his four-year sentence in USP Hazelton, a high security federal prison in West Virginia
I, Shamar Betts, incited a riot through a Facebook post encouraging my people to join alongside the rest of the world in an attempt to express our feelings on the tragic death of George Floyd in May of 2020. Although no one was harmed, the results of my uproar led to penalties of four years in Federal prison, three years of supervised release, and a restitution fine of $1,686,170.30 to be paid to the government for merchandise stolen and damages that occurred during the uprising.
Eight months later, on January 6, 2021, Donald Trump incited an insurrection by calling supporters to a rally and publicly addressing his frustration after losing the Presidential election to Joe Biden, which eventually led to hundreds of people bombarding and storming our nation’s Capitol. The outcome of this devious revenge tactic ended with five deaths, 140 police officers injured, and at least $1.5 million worth of damages to one of America’s most treasured landmarks. Continue reading
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Posted in African American, African Americans, BLM, Court System, incarceration, January 6 insurrection, Justice, Prisoners, Racism, Trump, Voices of Color, Youth
Tagged African American, BLM, incarceration, Justice, Trump