• Chicago Cubs’ star and cancer survivor, Anthony Rizzo, makes major contribution to children’s cancer hospital

    Rizzo fights back tears as he visits children at the ribbon cutting

    The Chicago Tribune reports:

    “Geez,” said Rizzo, sniffing, turning away and fighting back tears during a ceremony to commemorate his foundation’s $3.5 million commitment in May to fund programs for patients and families dealing with cancer.

    “I remember sitting with my mom saying we were going to do this 10 years ago. And it’s just a little step toward our mission,” the Cubs first baseman said.

    Rizzo was diagnosed in April 2008 with Hodgkin lymphoma, which has since gone in remission. –Chicago Tribune

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  • Kudos to “The Marks Project,” Its Leader, Jaby Denton, Willie Lockett and Alcorn State University

    They are helping out–everyday–in an area that really needs it

    Jaby Denton comes from Marks, my hometown in the Mississippi Delta south of Memphis.  It’s the area where the blues were born, and there’s plenty of blues to go around these days. The small towns are getting smaller, and many don’t have the resources to pay for the schools, roads, and police they need.

    Most of all, it’s a place where poor kids can be trapped in poverty, a hard life at home, and limited horizons.

    That’s where Jaby has done so much to help.

    For some years now, he’s been giving back–most of all with “sweat equity”–through the Marks Project he founded.

    It focuses on enriching the lives of children there, most of them black and poor. They have all sorts of activities where adults can give guidance and advice to kids who are eager for it.

    Now, the project is reaching out to do more, involving more people in helping each other. That does more than give material aid, much as that is needed. It builds a community. That is needed just as much.

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    Kudos today to Willie Lockett, who is one of the people giving what they can to help their neighbors.

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  • Eugene Lang: For his spur-of-the-moment generosity that changed countless lives for the better

    Eugene Lang, who just died at 98, was a very successful investor who rose from poverty.  But that is not what makes his story so remarkable.

    It was something he began, on an impulse, in June 1981, when he spoke to a class of sixth graders at a Harlem Public School.

    The 61 students were black and Hispanic, and poor–as Mr. Lang himself had been at their age.

    He began by telling them how inspiring Martin Luther King had been, how important hard work is, and other familiar observations about how to make your own life and others’ better.

    But he quickly realized that these kids were on another planet and would simply ignore an old, rich white man, even though his background was as impoverished as theirs.

    He had grown up in a $12-a-month cold-water flat in New York, graduated from high school at 14, and went to work in a restaurant. A regular customer there talked with him, realized how brilliant his waiter really was, and arranged a college interview. Lang was accepted to one of America’s best colleges, Swarthmore, and given financial aid to make it possible for him to attend.

    As he spoke to the kids in Harlem, he must have seen a chance to pay back that regular customer a half-century later.

    So, on an impulse, he told the class something remarkable.

    He said he would give each of them a college scholarship if they were admitted to a four-year college.

    Stunned silence.

    Then, after the principal told him that only one or two would make it to college, he began to do more.

    He “adopted” the class and the school and began contributing in ways that would make them ready and eager to take advantage of his offer.

    With Lang’s help and the students’ commitment, the success rate was much higher, around 50%. As the New York Times says in his obituary:

    At least half of the original 61 sixth graders — they called themselves Dreamers — enrolled in public and private colleges, although The Daily News later reported that some students had misunderstood the offer as a promise to pay tuition even at expensive colleges and were bitter. Of those who passed up college, Mr. Lang often found them jobs.

    “I know I’m going to make it,” Aristides Alvarado, then a 20-year-old junior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told an interviewer in 1989. “And someday I’ll be big — real big — and pay the tuition for my own class of Dreamers.”

    Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers at the time, observed: “Lang put up a lot more than money. He put himself on the line, too.” –New York Times

    Lang founded the “I Have a Dream Foundation” and established year-round enrichment programs. He persuaded many rich friends to open similar programs or contribute to his or others.

    Over his lifetime, he gave $150 million to charities, including $50 million to his alma mater, Swarthmore, and another $20 million to the New School for Social Research in New York.

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    Eugene Lang: a true mensch.

    May his memory be a blessing.

     

  • ZipDialog’s Roundup of News Beyond the Front Page . . Monday, February 6

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     “Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles” (New York Times)

    The bungled rollout of his executive order barring immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a flurry of other miscues and embarrassments, and an approval rating lower than that of any comparable first-term president in the history of polling have Mr. Trump and his top staff rethinking an improvisational approach to governing that mirrors his chaotic presidential campaign, administration officials and Trump insiders said.

    This account of the early days of the Trump White House is based on interviews with dozens of government officials . . . At the center of the story, according to these sources, is a president determined to go big but increasingly frustrated by the efforts of his small team to contain the backlash. –New York Times

    Comment: Some of the new administration’s problems are the policies themselves. Others are the failure to vet them carefully before rolling them out. Still others are failures to think through the details of implementation.

    Some, such as communications, vetting, and implementation, should improve as the administration learns the ropes, assuming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is given scope to fix these issues. 

    Initial reports were that Trump dismissed the early problems as minor glitches that were overblown by a hostile media. Recent reports are that he now sees the problems as more serious–and more damaging. The media is hostile, of course, but the Trump administration’s serious mistakes have given reporters plenty of grist.

    I assume the President is getting candid feedback from VP Pence, as well as Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They will surely tell Trump that massive screwups, like the immigration mess and thin-skinned tweets, can imperil his big initiatives on taxes, regulations, and health care. If the President doesn’t know that already, he will learn it soon . . . the hard way. (Charles Lipson comment)

     Republicans and Trump supporters attack news reporting as biased

    One scorching, well-documented attack on media coverage is Clarice Feldman’s column: The Press Eunuchs Ratting Their Cups (American Thinker)

     “Trump’s Continued Defense of Putin Confounds Republicans(Washington Post)

    He seemed to equate the United States with its adversary when pressed by host Bill O’Reilly, who said: “But he’s a killer, though. Putin’s a killer.”

    “There are a lot of killers,” Trump said in the interview, which aired Sunday before the Super Bowl. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

    Trump’s comments came even as his U.N. envoy, ­Nikki Haley, on Thursday condemned Russia’s “aggressive actions” in eastern Ukraine and as both the Senate and House intelligence committees launched investigations into alleged hacking by Russia of the U.S. election that the intelligence community believes was intended to benefit Trump.–Washington Post

     Good economic news from Germany: Factory orders surge, due to demand for capital goods (Bloomberg)

    Comment: The German economy is Europe’s driver. Strong performance there not only helps Germany, it helps all its trading partners. Good economic news is particularly welcome for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose popularity has plummeted because of her immigration policies.

     Google “Home” apparently doesn’t like being talked about on TV  (USA Today)

    Google used the Super Bowl to plug its Google Home connectivity service, but the TV commercial apparently confused the systems in homes of those who already have it. For them, Google Home went whacko.

    Those who already have Google Home took to Twitter to complain that it interfered with their units. Apparently, the home systems heard the TV broadcasts calling its name, and it became befuddled. –USA Today

     China is now the world’s largest producer of solar power  The smog problems in Beijing are legendary. And the country is constantly building more coal-fired power plants. But it is also adding solar capacity. Non-fossil fuels currently account for 11% of Chinese energy–and solar only 1%–but Beijing planners hope to triple renewables over the next 15 years.

     Congratulations to NFL players, Eli Manning and Larry Fitzgerald, honored with the league’s Walter Payton Award for their charity work. Manning, who starred at Ole Miss, is the NY Giants’ Quarterback. Fitzgerald is wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. The generosity of these players–and many others–sets a standard for the rest of us.

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  • Parents volunteer to help Chicago school kids; teacher’s union blocks them

    It breaks your heart.

    Chicago’s public schools are broke–and broken.

    Overburdened by excessive pension obligations (because city politicians deferred payments for so long), the city has asked the state for money.

    The state is broke, too, so the Chicago schools won’t get anything close to what they need.

    That leaves the schools with serious budget gaps. That, plus declining school enrollments, has led to some layoffs for teachers, administrators, and support personnel.

    Among those laid off: the new librarian at the Pritzker Elementary School, who replaced a long-serving librarian who retired.

    The loss of Pritzker’s librarian galvanized the parents, who want to support their children in a quality school.

    The parents did a wonderful thing: they pitched in and volunteered to staff the library in rotating shifts.

    That exactly the kind of civic engagement we need in cash-strapped cities.

    The Teacher’s Union Says Volunteer Librarians Will Hurt Their Members

    Teachers’ unions constantly say, “it’s all about the children.”

    It is not.

    It is all about the union’s members. That’s what unions do, just as corporations maximize profit.

    If the children’s interests overlap those of union members, that’s great because it builds political support.

    If not, tough luck for the kids.

    That’s what happened at Pritzker Elementary.

    “NO WAY we’re gonna let volunteers run this school library,” said the Chicago Teacher’s Union. (DNA Chicago)

    The Chicago Teachers Union filed a grievance against the school because the roster of 40 volunteers would be taking a union-based job, Pritzker Principal Joenile Albert-Reese confirmed Monday, one day after the conundrum made national headlines when Pritzker parent Michael Hendershot penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about the issue.

    The WSJ op-ed is here.

    Why was the librarian laid off? Because the school’s pupil-count was a bit low, which meant the school received less city and state money than expected.

    The Union Does What Unions Do

    The Teacher’s Union does exactly what unions are designed to do. It fights for its members.

    That’s true even if their members’ interests are directly opposed to the best interests of children, their parents, and taxpayers.

    Parents and taxpayers are supposed to defend themselves, and in our political system, they have every opportunity to try.

    Because teachers unions are well-organized and powerful, however, because their members’ livelihoods are at stake, they have compelling reasons to mobilize politically. In city after city, in state after state, they have persuaded politicians to back their position, not that of disorganized parents and taxpayers.

    The results are predictable. In big cities with entrenched teachers unions, schools are designed around the main goal of adult employment, union employment. That showed up in stark relief at Pritzker Elementary.

    When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the poor kids,” remember that 47% of Pritzker students are poor. (Data from the WSJ article.)

    When you hear the teachers unions say “it’s all about the minority kids,”remember that 47% of Pritzker students are minorities.

    When you hear nothing at all from the unions, remember they are thinking, “it’s all about us.”

    Again, that “me, first” approach does not make them different from other organizations, whether they are manufacturing unions or profit-making businesses.

    The question we as outsiders should ask is whether, in helping themselves, they are helping or hurting us.

    The Political Connection

    The nexus between unions and politicians shows up across the country, but it is particularly strong in deep blue cities, the last redoubt of unions.

    But even in blue cities, things are changing.

    The pushback against politically-connected teachers unions is growing because the financial costs have been so high, the educational results so mediocre.

    This pushback will soon gain a powerful ally in Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s newly-designated Secretary of Education.

    That is exactly why Senate Democrats will resist her confirmation with every bone in their body (excepting, of course, their backbone).

    For children who want a better education, that fight is one of the most important in the new Congress.

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    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip to
    ◆ Joe Morris
     for highlighting this story