Monday, January 12, 2009

Chicago buried in murders, BY ADAM LISBERG

CHICAGO - For a few days last week, the weed-choked South Side block where Jennifer Hudson's family was killed became an oasis of safety in the nation's deadliest big city.

"If she wasn't famous, all of the media wouldn't be here," said Michelle Strickland, 23, standing near the hundreds of teddy bears piled in tribute. "The crime rate is really, really high here."

Cops parked in front of the white clapboard house, detectives worked the streets nearby and TV trucks shone spotlights into the dark - while the drug dealers, gang members and random gunmen who terrorize the Englewood neighborhood moved elsewhere.

"Before this happened, you could just stand out here at night and hear the gunshots all around," said one neighbor, who heard one shot the morning of the murders and thought nothing of it. "You just drive around and you see bears and bottles of liquor. Every time you see that, you know someone got killed there."

More people have been murdered in Chicago this year than in New York - even though New York's population is three times greater. When Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were killed last month, they pushed the city's homicide total for the year to 436 and counting. New York has had 430 homicides.

"We're not proud of it," Mayor Richard Daley said last week, as the killings put new scrutiny on Chicago's out-of-control crime as the city bids for the 2016 Olympics. "We'll get it down next year. We'll get it down. We'll do things differently."

Cops and criminologists say Chicago's stubborn murder rate is a product of larger forces that are tough to control - entrenched street gangs, a heavy drug trade and a culture of gunplay.

"Everyone has a gun," said Chicago police spokeswoman Monique Bond, who said a recent gun buyback program netted 7,000 weapons in three hours. "We've got 75,000 gang members - that's almost six gang members to one police officer."

The NYPD was able to make remarkable strides against seemingly intractable crime in the 1990s - tracking statistics to isolate hot spots, then flooding violent blocks with cops.

Chicago has tried similar strategies, creating a platoon of cops to saturate bloody neighborhoods.

Academics who study crime, though, say Chicago cops' history of brutal misconduct hurts their ability to curb violence - whether because residents don't trust police or because officers have recently been forced to abandon aggressive tactics.

Chicago also must deal with decades of gang warfare that divides the city, a factor that makes it harder to drive down crime with New York-style tactics.

"It's intergenerational," said Loyola University Chicago criminologist Arthur Lurigio. "If you ask gang members today, 'Why are you shooting and killing each other?' they can't really explain."

Chicago's new police superintendent, former FBI agent Jody Weis, is under pressure for results, especially if hometown hero Sen. Barack Obama is elected President from the country's big-city murder capital.

Weis plans to launch a mobile strike force of officers to saturate violent areas, search for gang members and arrest offenders who have open warrants.

But the city council has for decades resisted plans to redraw the police patrol map, permanently shifting cops from low-crime to high-crime areas.

Meanwhile, the economy is getting worse - which means cops, experts and average Englewood residents are bracing for more abandoned buildings, more desperation, more crime and more violence.

"There's no block safe right now because of the economic situation," said Gary Chapple, 41, who moved from Englewood to the far South Side to escape the violence - and hopes a President Obama can help bring change to his hometown.

"His message is about change, but he can't do it by himself," Chapple said. "It's going to focus attention. Everybody's going to wait to see what's going to happen. I pray that something strong happens."

Outdoor alcohol advertising and problem drinking among African-American women in NYC

January 12, 2009 -- New research conducted at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health indicates that the advertising of alcohol in predominantly African-American neighborhoods of New York City may add to problem drinking behavior among residents. Prior studies have shown that alcohol advertisements are disproportionately located in African- American neighborhoods, but the impact of such advertising on alcohol consumption has been unclear. The study is currently published online by the American Journal of Public Health.

Participants were 139 African-American women between the ages of 21-49 who resided in Central Harlem. The women were eligible to participate if they reported having at least one alcoholic beverage per month for the past six months, but had no history of a formal medical diagnosis of alcohol or substance abuse. Of the sample, 31% were reported to be problem drinkers, defined in the study as endorsing behaviors such as needing a drink first thing in the morning or feeling guilty about drinking.

The Mailman School researchers examined the relationship between alcohol advertisements in the women's neighborhood blocks and being a problem drinker. The findings showed that both exposure to alcohol advertising and a family history of alcoholism were related to being a problem drinker. But even after the researchers statistically controlled for the effect of having a family history of alcoholism, exposure to advertisements was significantly related to problem drinking. While the advertisements did not target women in particular, the language, imagery, and themes clearly targeted African-American people, the researchers noted.

"We found that, on average, exposure to each alcohol ad in a woman's residential block was associated with a 13% increase in the odds of being a problem drinker," says Naa Oyo Kwate, PhD, assistant professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School, and the principal investigator of the study. "This finding is significant for public health because residents in the study area were highly exposed to alcohol advertisements, and the associations between exposure and outcome persisted after we controlled for other potential causes of problem drinking."

"Because we did not assess participants' perceptions about the advertising content, or how salient it was for them, the mechanisms by which outdoor advertisements affected problem drinking remain unknown," suggests Ilan Meyer, PhD, associate professor of clinical Sociomedical Sciences and a co-author of the article. "Advertisements may prime people for alcohol consumption, and in turn, high levels of consumption may increase the risk for abuse and dependence."

"Advertisements also may increase the likelihood of problematic drinking patterns among individuals who are already susceptible. That is, individuals who are at risk for, or already contending with, alcohol abuse or dependence may be more likely to continue this behavior in an environment where cues that promote alcohol use are prominent," notes Dr. Meyer. The Mailman School team believes that future study is needed to further investigate possible pathways to problem drinking and the role that exposure to advertisements may play in causing drinking problems.

Dr. Kwate also noted that according to other earlier research, residents often perceive these advertisements to be unfairly marketed toward African American individuals and represent a deliberate targeting scheme for products that damage health. "Thus, to the extent that these advertisements are perceived as manifestations of racism, they may increase the odds of problem drinking," she says.

Who Is Valerie Bowman Jarrett?

Valerie Bowman Jarrett (born November 14, 1956) is a Chicago lawyer, businesswoman, and civic leader. She is best known for her role as an advisor to President-Elect Barack Obama. Jarrett has been appointed a senior advisor in the incoming Obama administration. She is currently serving as a co-chairperson of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.

Early years

Jarrett was born in Shiraz, Iran, where her father, Dr. James Bowman, ran a hospital for children as part of a program that sent American doctors and agricultural experts to developing countries to help jump-start their health and farming efforts. At age 5, the family moved to London for one year, then returned to Chicago in 1963. Her father, who is of African American descent, is a pathologist and geneticist. He is currently Professor Emeritus in Pathology and Medicine, University of Chicago.[ Her great-grandfather was the first African-American to graduate from M.I.T., her grandfather was Robert Taylor, the first black man to head the Chicago Housing Authority, and her father, Dr. James Bowman, was the first black resident at St. Luke’s Hospital. Her mother, Barbara T. Bowman, is an African-American early childhood education expert and co-founder of the Erikson Institute for child development.

She graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon, a New England boarding school, in 1974. She earned a B.A. in Psychology from Stanford University in 1978, and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981.


Chicago politics
Jarrett got her start in Chicago politics in 1987 working for Mayor Harold Washington as Deputy Corporation Counsel for Finance and Development.Jarrett continued to work in the mayor's office in the 1990s. She was Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Richard Daley, during which time (1991) she hired Michelle Robinson, then engaged to Barack Obama, away from a private law firm. Jarrett served as Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development from 1992 through 1995, and was Chair of the Chicago Transit Board from 1995 to 2005.

Business career
She is currently the CEO of The Habitat Company, a real estate development and management company, which she joined in 1995. She was a member of the board of Chicago Stock Exchange (2000-2007, as Chairman, 2004-2007).

She is also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago Medical Center, Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago and a Trustee of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.Ms . Jarrett serves on the board of directors of USG Corporation, a Chicago based building materials corporation.

Advisor to Barack Obama
Jarrett is one of Senator Obama's longest serving advisors and "closest campaign aide[s] – an insider widely tapped for a top position in an Obama administration."

“ Unlike Bert Lance, who arrived from Georgia with President Jimmy Carter and became his budget director, or Karen Hughes, who was President George W. Bush's communications manager, Ms. Jarrett isn't a confidante with a particular portfolio. What she does share with these counterparts is a fierce sense of loyalty and a refusal to publicly say anything that may reflect poorly on the candidate — or steal his thunder. ”

President-elect Barack Obama on November 14, 2008 selected Jarrett as White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison. Jarrett will manage the White House Office of Public Liaison and work with state and local governments.

Personal life
Jarrett was married to William Robert Jarrett from 1983 to 1988. Their daughter, Laura, is a Harvard Law student.

MLK: Uncensored