Author Archive | aaroncynic

High Tech Lamp Posts To Collect Massive Amounts Of Data In Chicago

2014_6_25_sensorsChicago, one of America’s already most surveilled city, may be getting a new set of potentially privacy invading equipment installed in the downtown area this summer. Called “The Array of Things,” sensors attached to lamp posts and streetlights will measure everything from the weather to foot traffic in the area, using data collected from cell phones. While its creators say they won’t keep any personal information, privacy advocates are still skeptical.

Aaron Cynic writes at Chicagoist:

Researchers hope to gain deeper insight into how Chicago lives and breathes via an ambitious sounding system of sensors placed on lamp posts throughout the city. The “Array of Things,” a project coordinated by the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology and the Urban Center for Computation and Data as part of “Initiative 3” in the City’s technology plan. The project is funded by a $200,000 grant from Argonne National Laboratories.… Read the rest

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Fast Food Strikes Go Global

Striking fast foodworkers in Chicago. Photo by Aaron Cynic

Striking fast foodworkers in Chicago. Photo by Aaron Cynic

What began as a single day walk out in New York City has now become a global movement to raise wages and allow workers to unionize.

Aaron Cynic writes at Chicagoist:

Hundreds of fast food workers in Chicago picketed the Rock and Roll McDonald’s in River North most of Thursday, calling for higher wages and the right to organize a union. The protest was part of a worldwide day of strikes that took place in some 150 cities worldwide. It was the fifth such strike in Chicago calling for a $15 an hour minimum wage, which has since spread across the nation and now across the globe.

“I’d be able to provide my family some of the most basic things,” said Martina Ortega, a mother of three children who works at two different McDonald’s locations on the South Side. Ortega was one of many fast food workers who participated in the strike, including two who walked out of the McDonald’s on LaSalle and Ontario.… Read the rest

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Peoria Mayor Uses Police Department To Raid House Over Parody Twitter Account

341px-Twitter_logo.svgAaron Cynic writes at Chicagoist:

Last week, Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis finally became fed up with a suspended parody Twitter account and enacted swift justice against his would-be social media detractors. Ardis filed a criminal complaint regarding the nefarious internet ne’er-do-well behind @Peoriamayor, who tweeted some 50 times to followers about the mayor’s unverified and supposed drug use and association with prostitutes.

Twitter suspended the account in March, which was marked as a parody a week before it ended, but Ardis understood a social media slight was comparable to lawless anarchy. Realizing a relatively unknown Twitter feed might destroy his reputation as an important civic leader, Ardis made sure the Peoria Police took care of the Internet miscreants. Peoria police executed a search warrant and raided a home in connection with the account, detained several people for questioning and seized computers and smart phones.

“They brought me in like I was a criminal,” Michelle Pratt told the Peoria Journal Star.

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Why No One Really Won In The Trial Of The NATO 3

Aaron Cynic writes at Chicagoist:

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Assistant State’s Attorney John Blakey dubbed the three men “Mr. Cop on Fire,” “Captain Napalm” and “Professor Molotov” respectively, and of hatching a nearly super-villanous terrorism plot that would have included attacks on police stations, President Barack Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters, Chase Tower and burning police officers in the streets.

The trial was the first time the Illinois State’s Attorney’s office prosecuted a case under a 12 year old terrorism law passed just after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Prosecutors argued the three men came to Chicago “ready for war” and presented the jury with inflammatory and incendiary statements the trio made recorded by undercover police, as well as four beer bottles filled partially with gasoline and a collection of various weapons including a bow and arrow, a throwing star, a slingshot and a homemade “shield” emblazoned with the words “austerity ain’t gonna happen.”

If one were to believe Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez Betterly, Chase and Church—who have spent nearly two years in Cook County Jail awaiting trial with $1.5 million bonds—were “cold, calculating terrorists.” Even Judge Thaddeus Wilson seemed to believe the rhetoric (at least in part) when he declined a move by the defense for a direct acquittal.

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Trial of NATO3 Reveals Police Spying Operation

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 9.58.35 AMTestimony from an undercover police officer in the trial of three activists arrested just prior to the Chicago’s NATO summit in May 2012 and now face terrorism charges, revealed a large surveillance operation Chicago Police had months prior to the summit.

The prosecution alleges the three men were planning to build Molotov cocktails to bring to the protests along with discussing “attacking” several locations, including President Barack Obama’s re-election headquarters and police stations. Police also allege they found several weapons including knives and a throwing star, a mortar made from PVC pipe and a bow during the raid.

Much of the case against the three is based on information garnered from two Chicago Police informants who infiltrated local activist groups many weeks prior to the NATO protests. Known as “Moe” and “Gloves,” the prosecution alleges the two officers were inside the apartment where Church, Chase and Betterly were staying when they say they filled beer bottles with gasoline.… Read the rest

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EBT System Glitch Shows Welfare Myths Just Won’t Die

nytimes_welfare_queenAaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

Glitches in the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system caused major problems for recipients of food stamps over the weekend in 17 states. The problems began on Saturday when Xerox, the company responsible for running the system, experienced “technical difficulties” during a “routine test” of its backup systems. In some cases, EBT beneficiaries were unable to use their cards. In others, the spending limit on the cards was removed, allowing EBT users to purchase as much as they wanted.

As typical with any big breaking news story, the internet was flooded with comments and conversation about the matter, and much of the storm was filled with anger at people who receive any kind of government assistance in getting food at all. It seems that the Reagan era myth of the “welfare queen” still lives and breathes along with many other myths about food stamps in America.… Read the rest

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Despite Shutdown Threats, The System Keeps Spinning

Ted_Cruz,_official_portrait,_113th_CongressAaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

Republican Senator Ted Cruz just spent a marathon 21 hours speaking at the Senate podium. While usually, such marathon stints spent in the same place are reserved for people trying to win used cars, Ted was stumping in protest of Obamacare, something so contentious that in addition to Republicans “symbolically” attempting to pass legislation killing it 41 times, both parties are willing to endure a government shutdown while they play political ping-pong over it. For those Americans who think a government normally set at the little turtle on the mobility scooter at the grocery store is bad, just wait until Uncle Sam locks himself out of the front gate completely. But, we don’t need to completely panic. While millions of regular government employees could be out of a paycheck for awhile, there are at least a few things American’s needn’t worry about.

Our leaders won’t go hungry.Read the rest

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Activists Descend On Chicago Hotel To Protest ALEC Conference

Photo by Aaron Cynic

Photo by Aaron Cynic

Aaron Cynic writes at Chicagoist:

Six demonstrators were arrested at the Hilton Palmer House hotel in the Loop for staging a sit-in Monday evening. Dozens of activists held a demonstration in the lobby to protest the upcoming American Legislative Exchange Council conference this week. Calling themselves the Chicago Moral Monday Coalition, demonstrators dropped several banners off the second floor balcony while Rev. Marilyn Pagan Banks, Senior Pastor of Namaste United Church of Christ, spoke:

“The American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, is one of the great nexi where money and politics meet in order to corrupt our democracy. ALEC brings together corporate lobbyists and state legislators in order to create legislation that promotes big business and the 1% while working to disenfranchise ordinary people.”

The Chicago Moral Monday coalition takes its name after the “Moral Monday” protests in North Carolina, a series of rallies that activists have held in the state for nearly three months to protest varying forms of legislation.… Read the rest

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What I Learned Walking The Picket Line

Picket line in front of Wendy's in the Chicago loop. Photo by Aaron Cynic

Picket line in front of Wendy’s in the Chicago loop. Photo by Aaron Cynic

Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

Yesterday’s hardest moment came for me when I watched a worker cry. I had been on the streets for about 5 hours with striking workers from the Fight for 15 movement and their supporters, who held a series of actions for two days in conjunction with a national week of strikes and protests to raise the minimum wage. I met the first picket in front of a Subway in the Chicago loop during the morning rush hour where several workers walked off the job. Organizers planned more than twenty pickets spread throughout the financial heart of the city for the day. Hundreds of demonstrators snaked along the sidewalks, stopping in front of retail and fast food outlets to deliver their message – “We can’t survive on $8.25.”

Morning was slowly turning to afternoon and demonstrators lined the sidewalk in front of a Walgreen’s on State and Randolph, a location sandwiched between the Chicago Theater and a Macy’s outlet in the loop.… Read the rest

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Protestors Plan ‘Birthday’ for Corporate/Government Boundary Busting Organization ALEC

f8b87fea7b913aa669c0cfce825add78Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

The American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization which pushes “model” legislation encouraging privatization in nearly every corner of American life under the guise of advancing “free market” principles, will hold their annual meeting in Chicago the second week of August. For 40 years, ALEC has worked to create deep connections between corporations and lawmakers while simultaneously limiting the rights of the American people to resist a corporate takeover of their democracy.

It’s fitting ALEC would host its annual conference in Chicago this year after Mayor Emanuel has spent his term pushing a model of government the organization has attempted to legislate for 40 years. Between the mayor’s push to privatize city services and attempts to dismantle the public school system along with the state of Illinois’ pandering to huge corporations via millions in tax breaks, Chicago provides a perfect backdrop. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, which publishes the website alecexposed.org, the “corporate bill mill” sponsored 117 pieces of legislation in 2013 alone which limit worker’s rights and keep wages down.

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