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Chicago Teachers Strike Over Pay, Class Sizes, and More

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  • Around 25,000 teachers and educational staff members in Chicago began striking Thursday, leaving 300,000 kids out of class.
  • The Chicago Teachers Union is demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, as well as more nurses, social workers, counselors, and librarians. 
  • The city’s mayor and Chicago Public Schools have announced plans that include these demands, but the Union says the contract language does not hold CPS accountable enough for these terms.
  • While the strike continues, schools will be open even though classes are canceled. Principals and associate principals will still on campuses, and breakfast and lunch will sill be served.

Chicago Public School’s Plan

Around 25,000 teachers and educational employees in Chicago began striking Thursday morning, demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, and more efficient staffing.

The strike was announced Wednesday night when Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers’ Union failed to reach a deal. Chicago is home to the third-largest school district in the country, which means close to 300,000 students have been left without classes to attend.

CPS’s announced a plan that would, among other things, raise teachers’ salaries by 16% over the course of five years. According to Fox Business, the starting salary for Chicago teachers is already the highest in the state of Illinois, coming close to $53,000 a year. By the end of this five-year time period, that salary would increase to $72,000. CPS Says that the average salary would be close to $100,000.

Their plan also included adding a nurse to every school by 2024 and doubling the number of social workers. 

What the Union Wants

CTU was not satisfied with the offer. First, they thought that CPS’s numbers were wrong and that the average salary would only get to $85,000. Raises were also not the only issue at stake for them. 

CTU is asking for a hard cap on class sizes and for teachers to receive a stipend if that cap is ever exceeded. They want support for hiring social workers, counselors, nurses and other positions at recommended ratios, as well as a librarian and restorative justice coordinator in every school.

Another priority for them is to make sure these positions, social workers in particular, have an appropriate workload. Some schools have counselors that only come in a couple of days a week but have around 100 cases to work on. So, when they are unavailable, teachers find that they end up acting as counselors themselves. 

While CPS’s plan did include increases for nurses and social workers, the CTU says it is not enough. They say that CPS is not putting the exact terms in the contract language allowing them to not be held explicitly accountable for these terms. Even when CPS added more to their plan in regards to these demands earlier this month, CTU still criticized the contract language. 

Mayor Lightfoot’s Role

On Thursday morning, Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot held a press conference regarding the strike. She maintained that the union was being offered a good package and that she hoped for a deal to be reached.

We don’t have unlimited resources, but having said that, we put very generous offers on the table both for teachers and support personnel,” she said. “And I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to bring them back to the table and resolve all the open issues.” 

Lightfoot is new to the role. She took office in May, making this one of the first hurdles she has had to face as mayor. 

The CTU is accusing her of not fulfilling campaign promises As far as staffing, they claim she fully supported hiring full-time nurses, social workers, and librarians, but that she has rejected contract language that would hold CPS accountable for this. 

The Union also claimed that she supported additional counselors. Now, however, she and CPS “want to issue tentative assignments for next year by June 15 instead of May 15, creating more uncertainty for educators.”

What Is Being Said at the Strike

Frustrations with Lightfoot were made clear during the strike, with reports saying participants chanted things like “Lightfoot Lightfoot, get on the right foot.” 

A Chicago Sun-Times reporter spoke to a teacher who mentioned Lightfoot. He said he was not looking forward to striking but added, “We’re teachers. Sometimes we’ve got to teach the mayor.”

CTU’s President, Jesse Sharkey, attended a strike outside of an elementary school and defended their demands.

“Our demands are significant, and we have real demands, but that’s because the needs are significant,” he said according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  We ask for a lot because we give a lot. All of our schools here deal with real traumas, and we need support.”

Options for Students

Because of the strike, Chicago has to find something to do for the hundreds of thousands of students who do not have classes to attend. Lightfoot said that while classes are off, the schools will be open during their normal hours. Principals and Associate Principals will be on hand, and breakfast and lunch will still be served. 

Other camps and the YMCA are also offering programs, though unlike the schools, they will not be free. 

But not all students are taking the day off. Some are supporting their teachers and attending the strike. The Chicago Sun-Times spoke to Senior Jude Greneir who went to hand out snacks and beverages.

“My teachers are striking so everyone has equal resources,” she told them. “I hope the city understands. My school is very lucky, but every school needs a nurse and proper resources for their children.”

Another senior, Anthony Jordan, joined his teachers in a picket line.

“I want to support my teachers because they taught me everything I know,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Our class sizes are too large. We really do need more nurses. It’s worth being out here because it’s for a good cause. It will help us all in the end.”

Right now, it is unclear how long the strike will last. Lightfoot said a deal could be struck as early as today, but members of CTU do not anticipate that soon of an end. Schools will remain closed for class until further notice. 

See what others are saying: (Chicago Tribune) (Chicago Sun-Times) (Fox Business)

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Veteran Burial Problem: Why Veteran Cemeteries Are Running Out of Space & What’s Next

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Over the last few decades, veteran cemeteries throughout the US have been facing an ongoing problem — they’ve been running out of space. In an effort to address this, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, specifically the National Cemetery Administration, has been working to acquire new land to expand current national cemeteries and establish new ones.

They’ve also launched the Urban Initiative and the Rural Initiative in order to improve accessibility for veterans living in densely populated cities and in more rural parts of the country, respectively. But the challenges don’t end there. As it stands, national cemeteries are still at risk of running out of room within the next twenty to thirty years. And as a result, new changes are being proposed; changes that would impact eligibility requirements and potentially limit which veterans can and cannot be buried below ground. Watch the video to find out more.

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BART Apologizes After a Man Was Handcuffed for Eating a Sandwich on a Train Platform

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  • Protestors have staged “eat ins” and spoken out on social media in support of a BART rider who was handcuffed and cited for eating a sandwich on a train platform, a violation of CA law. 
  • BART’s General Manager noted that the man refused to provide identification, and “cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm throughout the entire engagement.”
  • But still, the official apologized to the rider and said the transit agency’s independent police auditor is investigating the incident.

Viral Video 

A transit official in California’s Bay Area apologized Monday after a video showed a man waiting to catch a train being handcuffed and cited for eating a breakfast sandwich on the station platform. 

In a now-viral video posted to Facebook Friday, a police officer is seen detaining a man who has since been identified as 31-year-old Steve Foster. Foster was heading to work around 8 a.m. on Nov. 4 when an officer stopped to tell him he was breaking the law by eating on the platform.

According to Bay Area Transit Authority (BART) General Manager Bob Powers, before the video starts, the officer asked the passenger not to eat and decided to move forward with a citation when he continued to do so. 

The video shows the officer holding onto Foster’s backpack as the two argue. “You are detained and you’re not free to go,” the officer says.

“You came up here and fucked with me,” Foster responds. “You singled me out, out of all these people.”

“You’re eating,” the officer says.

“Yeah, so what,” Foster responds.

“It’s against the law,” the officer says. “I tried to explain that to you. It’s a violation of California law. I have the right to detain you.”

The officer threatens to send Foster to jail for resisting arrest and eventually calls for backup. Foster’s friend, who filmed the encounter, tells the officer that there are no signs in the station that say passengers can’t eat on the platform. 

“Why is there a store downstairs selling food if we’re not allowed to eat up here?” she says. 

“Where is the sign up here that says we can’t eat on the platform? We know we can’t eat on the train.”  

Foster continues to eat and tell the officer he does this every morning. The officer continues to hold onto the backpack to detain Foster for refusing to give his name. Foster becomes more frustrated and throws profanities at him.

“You don’t get no pussy at home. I know you ain’t. When was the last time you got your dick sucked? I know it’s been a while,” Foster tells the officer before asking him to call his supervisor.

“I just missed two trains because of your fa**ot ass. You fucking fa*. Ask your momma what my name is,” he also tells the officer. 

“Show me a sign where it says I cant eat on the platform,” Foster says, but before the officer can respond he shouts in his face. “Shut up n***a. You ain’t got shit to say and now you feel stupid n***a…You nerd. You fucking nerd. Let my bag go.” 

After a few minutes, three other officers arrive and handcuff Foster before walking him down the platform and through the station. One of the officers then tells him he is being held because he matches the description of someone who was creating a disturbance on the platform. 

In a second video, the officer tells Foster’s friend he was initially responding to a report of a possibly intoxicated woman on the platform, whom he never found. That’s when he spotted Foster and let him know there is no eating on BART. He also tells the friend there are in fact signs that say there is no eating in the paid area of BART.

Foster was given a citation for the infraction and released after providing his name to the police. 

Reactions

After the footage circulated across social media, (in some cases, shorter edited clips) many users and BART riders expressed their frustration.

The incident even sparked protests and “eat ins” over the weekend, with more scheduled to continue. One Facebook event for this coming Saturday is called “Eat a McMuffin on BART: They Can’t Stop Us All.” 

According to BART Communications Director Alicia Trost, eating is prohibited in the “paid area” of the transit stations, meaning once passengers pass through the ticketing gate. The specific California law is PC 640 (b) (1): “Eating or drinking in or on a system facility or vehicle in areas where those activities are prohibited by that system.”

Though many social media users thought Foster was arrested for the incident, the BART spokesperson clarified that he was only issued a citation for eating. The spokesperson said Foster was “lawfully handcuffed when he refused to provide his identification,” and added that “the court will determine level of fine he should pay.”

Similar statements were provided on social media to users who had questions about the situation.

BART Apology 

In his Monday statement, General Manager Powers said, “As a transportation system, our concern with eating is related to the cleanliness of our stations and system.”

“This was not the case in the incident at Pleasant Hill station on Monday,” he continued. 

He noted that Foster, “refused to provide identification, cursed at and made homophobic slurs at the officer who remained calm through out the entire engagement,” but added that context of the situation was important. 

The officer was doing his job but context is key. Enforcement of infractions such as eating and drinking inside our paid area should not be used to prevent us from delivering on our mission to provide safe, reliable, and clean transportation. We have to read each situation and allow people to get where they are going on time and safely.”

“I’m disappointed [by] how the situation unfolded. I apologize to Mr. Foster, our riders, employees, and the public who have had an emotional reaction to the video,” he added.

In response to the statement, Foster told KGO–TV “I’m definitely upset, mad, a little frustrated, angry about it.”

“I hope they start focusing on stuff that actually matters like people shooting up dope, hopping the BART, people getting stabbed.” He also told other news outlets that he believes he was singled out because of his race and want the officer who cuffed him to be disciplined.

Foster said he is looking into his legal options as of now. According to Powers, the transit agency’s independent police auditor is investigating the incident.

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (NBC Bay Area) (CNN)

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ABC News Defends Its Epstein Coverage After Anchor Blasts the Network in Leaked Video

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  • In video leaked by Project Veritas, ABC anchor Amy Robach is seen criticizing the network for not airing a 2015 interview with one of Jeffrey Epstein’s most prominent accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre.
  • “She told me everything,” Robach said in the video. “She had pictures, she had everything. She was in hiding for 12 years. We convinced her to come out. We convinced her to talk to us. It was unbelievable what we had.”
  • Both ABC and Robach now say the network, at the time, could not corroborate the evidence presented in the interview but continued to investigate and report on Epstein.

Project Veritas Leak

ABC News is defending its decision to not air a 2015 interview with a prominent accuser of Jeffrey Epstein after a leaked video showed anchor Amy Robach blasting the network for the decision.

In the video leaked Tuesday by the right-wing activist group Project Veritas, Robach — caught on a hot mic — told an off-camera employee about how she had worked for three years to convince ABC to air the interview with Virginia Giuffre, then Virginia Roberts.

“She told me everything,” Robach said. “She had pictures, she had everything. She was in hiding for 12 years. We convinced her to come out. We convinced her to talk to us. It was unbelievable what we had: Clinton, we had everything. I tried for three years to get it on to no avail and now it’s all coming out and its like these new revelations and I freaking had all of it. I’m so pissed right now. Like, every day I get more and more pissed, ’cause I’m just like, ‘Oh my God! It was — what we had, was unreal.’”

The same year as her interview with ABC, Giuffre filed a civil lawsuit against Epstein claiming that he had held her as a teenage sex slave. She also claimed that, among other people, Epstein trafficked her to the United Kingdom’s Prince Andrew.

Following the accusation, both Prince Andrew and Buckingham Palace denied the claim, calling it “false” and “without foundation;” however, the two are known to have met at some point, with a photo showing Prince Andrew and a then-17-year-old Giuffre side-by-side. In the photo, the prince holds her midriff while she wears a crop top.

Source: Florida Southern District Court

In fact, in her castigation of ABC’s handling of the interview, Robach references the situation with Prince Andrew. 

“First of all, I was told, ‘Who was Jeffrey Epstein? No one knows who that is. This is a stupid story,’” she said. “Then the palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways. We were so afraid we wouldn’t be able to interview Kate and Will that we, that also quashed the story.”

The video was reportedly recorded in August, two days after NPR published a story where Giuffre told the outlet that she had spoken with ABC in 2015 but had never been told why the story didn’t air. She said, at the time, she had viewed the ABC interview as a “potential game-changer.”

“Appearing on ABC with its wide viewership would have been the first time for me to speak out against the government for basically looking the other way and to describe the anger and betrayal victims felt,” she told NPR.

Robach and ABC Exec Responds

By Tuesday evening, both ABC and Robach confirmed the footage to be real and explained why the interview never aired. According to Executive Vice President John Rouse, the network had been unable to corroborate the details of Giuffre’s claims, so it chose not to air the piece.

Notably, Rouse also said ABC never stopped investigating Epstein, which is true. The network has repeatedly published or aired stories regarding Epstein since Giuffree filed her lawsuit against him in 2015. Despite never broadcasting her interview, in July, Nightline aired an interview with two other alleged Epstein victims.

In another statement sent out by ABC, Robach backtracked from the comments she made in the leaked video.

“I was caught in a private moment of frustration,” she said. “I was upset that an important interview I had conducted with Virginia Roberts didn’t air.”

Like Rouse, she then said the interview did not meet ABC’s editorial standards. 

“My comments about Prince Andrew and her allegation that she had seen Bill Clinton on Epstein’s private island were in reference to what Virginia Roberts said in that interview in 2015,” she adds. “I was referencing her allegations — not what ABC News had verified through our reporting.”

“In the years since, no one ever told me or the team to stop reporting on Jeffrey Epstein, and we have continued to aggressively pursue this important story,” she ends the statement. 

Epstein’s Lawyer Calls ABC About the Interview

NPR’s August interview with Giuffe, however, also reveals another incident involving that 2015 interview. 

After receiving word that ABC had flown Giuffre to New York to interview her, one of Epstein’s top lawyers, Alan Dershowitz, reportedly called ABC to keep the network from going through with the story. Dershowitz said he believed he spoke with two producers and a lawyer.

“I did not want to see [Giuffre’s] credibility enhanced by ABC,” he told NPR. 

Along with Prince Andrew, Giuffre has alleged that Epstein trafficked her to Dershowitz, but he’s denied those claims.

Also in that article, unlike ABC, Julie Brown of the Miami Herald said she found Giuffre’s claims credible and went on to say there were other pieces of evidence that supported Giuffre’s story. Because of her reporting, Brown has been credited with helping to reopen and bring national attention to the Epstein case.

See what others are saying: (Axios) (Washington Post) (Page Six)

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