Conscience Laureate

Thursday, June 28, 2012


This week the City of Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) released 18 different sets of public health statistics by community area or Zip code.  

“Increasing the availability of public health information is one of the strategies outlined in Healthy Chicago, our City’s Public Health agenda that outlines 12 public health priorities that are all crossed in these data sets,” said Dr. Bechara Choucair, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

CDPH’s press release   stressed the importance of the data because it will further the work of researchers, help allocate resources based on the needs of  specific communities and help design public health intervention programs promoted by city agencies and community based organizations.

It is interesting, at least to me, to see how different the incident rates are for various categories depending on where a person lives.  In 2010, the communities of Edison Park, O’Hare and Montclare had a zero incident rate of the total number of newly reported, laboratory-confirmed cases of female gonorrhea in women from ages 15-44.  But in Austin, the incidents reported were 368!  That is huge considering that the next nearest number reported was 191 in Greater Grand Crossing.  There were a total of 5,818 newly reported cases in Chicago in 2010 for women.

Newly reported cases for men showed the most again in the Austin neighborhood with 239, but there were many neighborhoods where no cases were reported.  The total new incidents in 2010 for men in Chicago were 4,683.

There are two conclusions we can surmise from the gender variation in reporting statistics.  Since there were 20% more women than men who reported new cases of gonorrhea one could guess that women in Chicago are sleeping with men in the suburbs.  More likely is that men are not going to the doctor and generating a report!  I would go for the second guess!

That is the main problem with these kinds of statistics.  If people don’t go to the doctor or answer surveys honestly, then the data is impotent in the City’s attempt to identify community needs.

This open portal of information about the health of Chicagoans is missing an important component. While the site lists statistics about diabetes, asthma, infant mortality and more, it leaves out the most important health statistic about the city—the financial health. According to the City's retirement security web site, the unfunded liability for the City’s pension funds will reach an estimated $35 billion in 2017. Now that is a statistic that that really makes me sick.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a law last week that revives a good-time credit program for nonviolent offenders. This happened even though two years ago Quinn suspended a similar early release program, Meritorious Good Time (MGT), because it was unsuccessful. Thousands of inmates had been released after only serving a few weeks in prison.

I have been writing about this program for three years. On September 20 2009, I posted a blog, “Quinn Says Let The Prisoners Go,” about the MGT program because it made no sense morally or economically. Then in August 17, 2010, I wrote, “I Told You So,”  about how the plan was not effective and I included a quote from then Governor Quinn’s Chief of Staff Jerry Stermet who said, “The accelerated MGT program was a mistake."

On October 2010, I wrote “Quinn Still Letting His People Go,” and quoted State Senator Christine Radogno (R-41st District), Republican Minority Leader in the Illinois Senate as saying that “Governor Pat Quinn is granting early release to convicted felons on a near daily basis, even as he buys ads and makes public statements designed to portray himself as having shut down discretionary early release programs in Illinois.”

At that time, during Quinn’s gubernatorial race, I pointed out that 2,000 felons had been released in the previous three months even though Quinn was running campaign ads about early release that said he “‘took action and shut it (MGT) down” and added he “stopped it cold.” State Senator Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale) said, “In fact, on the very same day that he began running a commercial claiming to have shut the program down 'cold' he released 22 felons."

The last time the early release program was in existence, dangerous offenders who had committed such crimes as aggravated sexual abuse, aggravated battery of a pregnant person, aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a family member, numerous firearm offenses and murder charges convictions were granted MGT. We found that out because the Department of Corrections was required to post online the names and criminal history. I posted some of the felons and their crimes and it was astounding how violent criminals were given early release.

Those types of criminals were released even though in 2009 Department of Corrections spokeswoman Januari Smith said that the offenders who will qualify for the program will just be “drug and property crime offenders.” We were assured that inmates who were convicted of murder, sexual offensive and domestic violence would not qualify for early release. I guess she was wrong.

Back in 2009, when Quinn first announced the MGT plan to provide early release of 1,000 inmates from prisons, he said it would save the state about $5 million. I pointed out then that since it will cost the prison system about $2 million to monitor those who get out; the math shows a $3 million not $5 million yearly savings. Since the population of the State of Illinois is about 13 million people, that means that the resultant tax benefit was about TWENTY FIVE cents per citizen. I surmised that everyone would be willing to pay 25 cents a year to keep convicted criminals in prison.

Again Illinois has a good-time credit program. Again we are told that it is only for non-violent offenders. Again we are told the early release is only for offenders who complete drug treatment, job training or participate in rehabilitation programs while incarcerated. Again we are told that the new law would require inmates to spend at least 60 days in prison before they could receive early release. Again and again and again we are told the program will work this time, but why should we believe it? I don’t.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I wonder if immigrants who came to America legally, studied for years to pass the Citizenship exam and took an oath pledging to support the Constitution and the laws of the United States, are upset when illegal immigrants demand the same rights as citizens?  What made me think about this is the case of brothers Elfego and Lorenzo Arroyo who suffer from a deadly liver disease and need transplants.  They are illegal immigrants, yet still are demanding to be listed on UNOS, the United Network for Organ sharing.

UNOS is the national  organization that keeps the list of those needing organ transplants and  collects and manages all data that pertain to the patient waiting list, organ donation and matching, and transplantation  As of 10:42 on Monday, the waiting  list  of candidates for any organ was 114,632 with nearly 17,000 people waiting for  a liver transplant. Total donors available are only 3,375.

The brothers Arroyo have a heredity disease, Primary Amyloidosis, that makes the liver produce abnormal proteins that cause other organs to fail.  A liver transplant is the only thing that will save their lives.  Their older brother, Francisco Arroyo, had the disease but he received a liver transplant at Rush University Medical Center because he is a legal resident.

Even if the brothers were to receive new livers, post-transplant medications could run $10,000 a year for life said Dr. David Ansell, senior vice president for clinical affairs and chief medical officer at Rush University Medical Center.

"We know there are thousands of Latinos and (non-)Latinos with no documents who are facing the same situation," Rev. Jose Landaverde said last week during a news conference at Our Lady of Guadalupe Angelican Catholic Mission in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood.

The Chicago Tribune reported last week that, “In December, Landaverde met with Rush officials and discussed the difficulties undocumented immigrants face when trying to get transplants. Since then, Elfego Arroyo has been placed on a wait list for a liver transplant at Rush, where he had been receiving care. Lorenzo Arroyo is being treated at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago, but that institution has not agreed to place him on a transplant list, Landaverde said.

So we have an ethical dilemma here.  Do citizens have the right to life-saving operations more than illegal immigrants?  If illegal immigrants cannot afford the operations and the medical care afterwards, should citizens be responsible for paying the costs?  Are all lives equal?

Would your answer be different if your Mother were waiting for an organ transplant and got bumped from the list?


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


The Newly named Dippin' Dots kiosk at Navy Pier
Cash-strapped Cook County Government has decided to try to raise money by looking for revenue generating streams outside the normal taxation process.  They have issued an RFP (Request for Proposal)#12-90-289-P looking for a firm to serve as managers of an Asset Marketing Program.  The RFP lists many opportunities that would be available for sale—not just naming rights

The County is looking for a comprehensive 5-year plan for selling:

• Advertising ( including Internet banners)
• Signage
• Naming rights
• Corporate sponsorship
• Point of Purchase opportunities (e.g. Vending machines, Kiosks etc.)
• Product or service tie-ins
• Franchises, concessions
• Placement of communications or other technology

The proposal lists 13 specific assets that would be available for deal making:

Cook County Roads/Rights-of-Way
Cook County Website
Criminal Court Administrative Building
DOC Parking Structure
George Dunne Administration Building
County Building
John Stroger Hospital Campus
Markham Courthouse
Oak Forest Hospital Campus
Provident Hospital Campus
Rollling Meadows Courthouse Campus
Beck Lake Dog Park
Whalen Aquatic Center

In a Chicago Tribune story ,”Preckwinkle spokeswoman Liane Jackson suggested a law firm might pay to put its name on the Daley Center law library or a shoe company might pay to sponsor a forest preserve bicycle path. A landscaping company might want to advertise on the envelope flap of a county mailing, or a car shop might want to put a sign up at one of many county garages.”

How has government done in the past trying to raise money through naming rights?

(1)  On July2010, I wrote a blog, “Bridging the Budget Gap,”  about how the City of  Chicago was looking to sell advertising on the bridge houses on the Chicago River and raise millions of dollars.  That was followed up on January 12, 2011 by,” Bridging the Budget Gap Part 2,"  about how there were no takers for the deal.

(2)  Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich tried raising money by selling naming rights to everything from logos on state employee badges to branding such events as Earthquake Preparedness Week.  Not one penny was raised.

(3)  The Chicago Park District launched a program to allow advertising on lifeguard chairs and beach umbrellas.  Nothing happened here either.

(4)  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel put $25 million dollars in his first city budget that he thinks the city will raise through selling branding rights and advertising on municipal owned property.  This program is still in the planning stage so not one penny has been collected yet.

With these recent failures, I wonder why Cook County thinks they will succeed when other bodies of government have failed?  The best naming deal anyone has made in Chicago recently were the owners of the Dippin’ Dots kiosk at Navy Pier.  Producers from the Conan O’Brien Show asked them to hang a sign renaming the booth after the Sears Tower as a stunt for when the show was in town.  They agreed and got the Dippin’ Dots name on a national TV show.  They might not have received any cash, but the publicity was priceless.

I think the only cash that will be made from this latest RFP will be collected by paper companies supplying all the paper to print the 102 page proposal.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Deal or No Deal?

In November of 2009, I wrote a blog about the financial woes of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)  At the time I quoted Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune, who had written, “The average fare collected by the CTA is 98 cents, according to the transit agency. It takes into account full-priced fares, reduced fares, passes and free rides. The cost for the CTA to provide service averages $7 per ride, including some capital costs such as maintenance and some system improvements. The cost per ride jumps to $9.90 if major projects such as the ongoing Brown Line capacity-expansion project or the planned extensions of the Red, Orange and Yellow/Skokie Swift Lines are factored in, CTA officials said.”

Since costs have not gone down for the CTA in the past three years, I feel safe in using those per ride numbers in my upcoming analysis of the CTA’S latest deal with Groupon.  Followers of this blog are well aware that for years, since Groupon started doing business, I have mathematically proven how the company’s business model cannot sustain itself and the company will eventually implode.  There are too many postings to put the links here. But in the case of the recent CTA deal, Groupon won and the taxpayers who support the CTA got screwed!

The deal:

(1) CTA sold Groupon 250,000 three-day passes for $7.53 or a total of $1,882,500.  The normal price of a three-day pass is $14.

(2) If the CTA had sold those passes for the full price of $14, the agency would have received $3,500,000.

(3) So at first look, the CTA  had gross revenues of  $1,617,500 LESS than they would have received if the passes had been sold at full price.  Is this starting to sound like the debacle of selling off Chicago’s parking meters?

The CTA said they were happy to do the deal because the three day passes don’t sell well.  Of course the CTA does not sell a lot of three day passes because CHICAGOANS—the people who support the CTA through their tax money- would buy monthly passes if they were using buses.  Three day passes would be used by tourists coming for a short visit.  There are fewer tourists than there are locals using the buses, so it makes sense that few three day passes are sold.

It is financially better for the CTA if tourists do not buy three day passes because then the agency would receive full fare for every ride they take instead of a discounted fare.

No DeaL

Let’s pretend there had been no deal and  those 250,000 tourists had to pay full fare.

(1)  If they each took four bus trips a day for three days, that would be 12 trips at full fare of a cost of $30.00 per person.

(2)  250,000 people paying $30.00 each would equal a gross revenue of $7,500,000 for the CTA.

(3)  But the CTA accepted $1,882,500 which results in a net loss of potential gross revenue of $5,617,500!

If we take this one step further and accept that the CTA said that each ride actually costs the agency $9.90 per ride once all expansion costs and upgrades are figured in, the loss numbers get really scary!   Because the CTA has sold those passes at the equivalent of $.67 if they are used for four trips a day for three days, the  loss is $9.23  per ride

Simple math:  250,000 people taking 12 rides during a 3 day period is 3,000,000 trips at a negative revenue of $9.23 per ride costs the CTA $27,690,000.

Groupon will be selling those passes for $9.00 each or gross revenue of a positive $367,500.

Deal or no Deal?

(Frank Sennet's Book on the history of Groupon is fabulous!  It is called, "Groupon's Biggest Deal Ever" and can be bought at Amazon.com)

Thursday, June 14, 2012


McDonough Associates, Inc. describes itself on its web site as “a full-service engineering/architectural firm with a professional and technical staff of approximately 135 employees.”  But on the site’s link to “Latest News” the stories about the company’s recent travails are not included.

Last week, Sun-Times reporters Chris Fusco and Tina Sfondeles, chronicled the story of how McDonough Associates had blatantly over-billed the Illinois Department of Transportation.  They pointed out that a July 2011 auditor’s report had “… questioned why McDonough employee bonuses, payments of dividends to the firm’s shareholders and other expenses were recorded as “overhead costs” even though those expenses appeared to have little to do with the work performed. Those expenses included “dinners, golf outings, Christmas luncheons and professional baseball and basketball game excursions involving IDOT employees.”

Bill Grunloh, the state procurement officer who oversees transportation contracts said that, “$46.5 million was improperly included by Contractor in its overhead computation for bonuses and dividends. Grunloh’s report said, “The overbilling took place over the majority of the last decade and ended in a multimillion-dollar overbilling balance . . . . The magnitude of the overbilling and the inability of such a business to prevent this kind of activity is . . . staggering.”

William B. Sullivan, the McDonough attorney, disputed the findings. “My client does not agree that any theft occurred,” Sullivan said. “
The Tribune reported that, “Since 2002, the state, the tollway agency and City of Chicago have paid more than $330 million to McDonough for engineering work, according to online databases maintained by the state and city.”
The June 5th final report of Chief Procurement Officer Grunloh, listing all the allegations concludes with, “Based upon my review of the evidence and analysis of past precedent, I find that McDonough Associates, Inc. should be suspended for a term of three years commensurate with the seriousness of the conduct by adequate evidence.”
My first question is, “How come the suspension is only for three years?  Why wouldn’t the company be barred for life from doing business with the state of Illinois?”
The McDonough web site says that they have “completed more than 1,800 engineering and technical projects with a total value in excess of $5 billion for a client base of more than 500 organizations.” So my second question is,”Are all of those organizations going to do audits to verify that they have not been over-billed also?”
According to state campaign finance records, the company and its officials have contributed more than $700,000 to political campaigns in the last 10 years.  So my final question is, “Will the politicians return the contributed money to the company so it can be used to pay back the taxpayers who have been bilked?”


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chicago Gun Turn-In Days-- Great in theory but what does it really cost?

As the summer months heat up, so do tempers and the number of violent gun related killings.  On Saturday, June23rd, Chicago will hold its annual summer gun turn-in program - "Don't Kill A Dream, Save A Life."  The point of the program is for citizens to turn in any illegal weapons they have with no questions asked.  Thousands of guns are turned in every year—in exchange for gift cards.  Firearms are worth a $100.00 gift card and replica and BB-guns may be turned in for a $10.00 gift card.

Chicago has long believed in the value of Gun Turn-In days, a program run by the Chicago Police Department’s Community Policing Office and faith and community-based organizations, to decrease the number of guns on the streets  Without getting into a debate on gun control, which seemingly has no unanimously agreed upon answer, there is still debate as to whether this voluntary program is affordable to the Police Departments hosting these events.

For the most part, at least in the state of Illinois, guns confiscated by police officers, whether taken from an illegal owner or confiscated as evidence in a crime investigation, are ordered by state law to be destroyed.  The destruction process, governed by the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) includes breaking down the gun and melting the steel, literally never to be identifiable as a gun again.  To do this, however, has a cost. 

Police departments and sheriff’s departments across Illinois are tasked with taking these firearms, in many cases thousands of confiscated guns at a time, to a legally licensed destroyer or steel smelter and then cataloging and tracking the official destruction of each and every gun.  In many cases, this process costs the departments money to have this process completed, but in the best cases, it costs only hours and hours of officer time.  This is time that should be used by officers to tend to other duties, duties that can directly translate into the immediate safety or rescue of a civilian in distress. 

So why, when there is a company like Law Weapons &Supply who is willing, able and eager to provide this service for free to any and all police and sheriff’s departments in the state of Illinois, would any department continue to destroy these guns by traditional means?  Law Weapons is offering to serve these officers and their departments by providing all transportation, all record keeping, all tracking, all official documentation of destruction and all physical handling of these weapons at absolutely no charge to the departments, saving them countless hours of officer time by relieving them of this long and arduous task.

Not only would these departments be taking advantage of a service offered by a locally owned business, increasing relations along the way, but they would be saving themselves countless hours of work and tremendous headaches in the accounting, disassembly and official destruction of confiscated firearms, not to mention any monetary cost involved whatsoever.  Law Weapons & Supply is a small federally licensed gun dealer, started by local police officers and security professionals who literally want nothing more than to serve our local and state police departments wherever they can and help out in whatever way they are able.

It seems to me that if a private, locally owned and operated company, fighting for survival in today’s marketplace is willing and eager to assist our local and state law enforcement at absolutely no charge with any of the many tasks for which they are already understaffed, there should be no question.

Monday, June 11, 2012


(Not Faisal Khan)

On April 13, 2010, I wrote a blog, “As The Alderman Like It,” about  the  passage of a watered-down  Chicago ordinance that would create the office of a “Legislative Inspector General” with the power to investigate Chicago Aldermen and their employees.  It took the City Council 18 months for someone to finally appoint someone to the position and I wrote  about that on November 11, 2011, when a gentleman named Faisal Khan was hired. 

In April of this year I started wondering why six months after his appointment nobody had heard anything about Mr. Kahn. So I wrote a blog called, “What happened to Chicago’s Legislative Inspector GeneralMr. Kahn saw that blog and e-mailed me all his contact information.  We became e-mail BFFs and I wrote about that on April 16th

Mr. Khan and I continued e-mailing, finally our schedules meshed, and we met for coffee last week.  I think he is fabulous!  He told me that he is finally listed on the City of Chicago web site as an employee and the city information number of 311 has him listed.  His office still does not have its own web page on the main city web site because he said he does not have the budget to put one up!  Remember the entire yearly budget to pay for Mr. Khan’s salary and any staff or expenses is only $60,000/year!  

That makes him a part time city employee with basically no resources to do his job which includes but is not limited to,” fraudulent, corrupt or criminal activity, conflicts of interest, unethical conduct, misconduct, and incompetence of City of Chicago Aldermen and employees of the Chicago city council; Work in conjunction with the United States Department of Justice and other federal and state investigative agencies in furtherance of OLIG investigations and prosecutions; Determine and designate appropriate resources and techniques towards initiation of investigative matters, as well as develop rules, regulations, and guidelines for investigative practices; Formally disclose, report, and issue various extensive reports delineating outcomes of investigations, audits, evaluations and inspections to all relevant parties; Conduct extensive legal research of federal, state, and local criminal, civil, and administrative codes and laws for compliance purposes.”

Finding employees is tough when he has no money, but he can hire interns and externs.  I have posted the job requirements below in case anyone knows a law student who is interested and can pass the information along.  Because the positions pay no salary, I think this is one time that a person is allowed to say, “Kathy Posner sent me” and won’t be in violation of Shakman!


The City of Chicago, Office of the Legislative Inspector General Office is seeking students with an interest in local government or criminal justice issues to join our office for an internship. 

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS: Must be a college junior, senior or graduate level student in good academic standing, enrolled in an accredited four year college or university offering a baccalaureate or graduate degree program or an accredited law school,  with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.5/4.0 or 3.5/5.0.
NOTE: Current transcript, resume and original letter of enrollment verification is required at time of application.
Undergraduate and graduate students (including Law Students) should apply.
RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT: Residency is not required
NOTE: These are temporary positions.
CLOSING DATE FOR RESUMES: Applications will be accepted on an on-going basis until all positions are filled.  
DUTIES: The extern’s duties may include: (a) legal research; (b) investigative tasks; (c) researching best practices in governmental management and accountability; and (d) assisting the Inspector General in his projects relating to investigations, law enforcement projects, administration, community outreach.
For consideration, submit resume, letter of interest, current transcripts and current enrollment verification to:

Faisal Khan, Legislative Inspector General
Office of the Legislative Inspector General
740 N Sedgwick Suite 500
Chicago, Illinois 60654

If you are a person with disability and require a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in the application process, please contact the City of Chicago, Department of Human Resources at 312 744-4976 (voice) or 312 744-5035 (TTY). You may be required to provide information to support your reasonable accommodation request.





Rahm Emanuel                         Mayor


Notice of Job Opportunity

Faisal Khan, Legislative Inspector General, Commissioner of Aviation

The Law School Extern will be assigned to assist the Legislative Inspector General with (a) legal research; (b) investigative tasks; (c) researching best practices in governmental management and accountability; and (d) assisting the Inspector General in his projects relating to investigations, law enforcement projects, administration, and community outreach.
In addition, responsibilities may include formulation of legal advice, drafting legal opinions and recommendations, participation in litigation, participation in legislative activities, ensuring compliance with the City’s laws and ordinances and other legal functions affecting the Department.
·         Minimum Law Student as a candidate for a Juris Doctorate.

Knowledge of:
·         Local, State and Federal laws, ordinances, statutes and court decisions relating to municipal operation.
·         Laws and procedures governing elected and non-elected members of City government.
·         Methods and techniques of legal research.
·         Legal research,
·         Investigative tasks and responsibilities,
·         Internet and database research,
·         Formulation of legal advice, drafting legal opinions and recommendations, participation in legislative activities, ensuring compliance with the City’s laws and ordinances and other legal functions affecting the Department,
·         Perform legal research, analyze and prepare formal legal opinions in response to proposals, questions and issues.

Skill in:
·         Performing legal and investigative research on a wide variety of matters,
·         Communicating, orally and in writing, legal advice, opinions and recommendations to the Inspector General on a variety of legal issues.

Ability to:
·         Analyze, interpret and appraise facts, legislation and legal precedents.
·         Interpret Federal, State and local policies, procedures, laws, rules and regulations.
·         Determine the potential consequences of a proposed action and present facts and legal conclusions in a clear and logical form.
·         Perform legal research on a wide variety of legal matters.

INSTRUCTIONS: Interested applicants must submit a cover letter and resume with the following attachments in order to be considered for the externship: Please submit all documents via e-mail to Faisal Khan at faisal.khan@cityofchicago.org, or by mail to Office of the Legislative Inspector General, 740 N Sedgwick, Suite 500, Chicago, Il 60654.

            -     Law School Transcript
-         Writing Sample

NOTE: These are temporary positions. The number of available positions is limited.

POSTING DATE:      April 12, 2012 until filled

Note: Applications must be submitted by the individual applying. No second party applications may be accepted.
City of Chicago is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Another Sister Story

Because my sister is visiting me it gives me the opportunity to show off about her.  I am so proud of her and her work as a Diplomat with the State Department. Yesterday I ran a story about her incredible accomplishment in Pristina, Kosovo. 

Two weeks ago, she represented the United States in opening President Barack Obama's ancestral home in Moneygall, Ireland. Here is the You Tube footage of the ribbon cutting and below is the story that was in the Irish Times.

One year on, Obama's ancestral home opens


A year has passed since US president Barack Obama’s historic visit to Moneygall and the rural Co Offaly village has lost none of its allure and charm.

Moneygall marked the one- year anniversary by officially opening the president’s ancestral home on the Main Street yesterday.
The ceremony was conducted by director of communications at the US embassy, Karen Posner- Mullen, who thanked residents for their “great friendship”.

Canon Stephen Neill told Ms Posner-Mullen the people of Moneygall were very proud to welcome the delegation from the US embassy.
The event was attended by pupils from 10 primary schools, who toured the house, took part in an Obama poster competition and watched The Road to Moneygall in a mobile cinema.

Mr Obama’s eighth cousin Henry Healy said: “It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for Moneygall and for me. To be able to put the final piece of the jigsaw together by opening the ancestral home and letting the people into the final place where the president visited is quite significant; it gives people the full experience of the visit.”

Moneygall’s residents have embraced their new fame. Public interest in the village has not waned over the course of the year, according to local publican Ollie Hayes.

“What a year,” he said. “It’s been an extraordinary year and we’ve had lots of people calling from all over the world. They just love the story and want to see where the president spent his time.”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


(NOTE:  I first posted this blog in November, 2010. When you read all the way to the end, you will understand why I am repeating the posting.)

American and European nations are “breast-centric.” British newspapers feature scantily clad women, and nude beaches abound throughout France.  Women’s breasts are worshiped by men and enlarged by women.  Because of this familiarity, breast cancer and funding for research is a major topic with no embarrassment associated with it. But a cultural taboo exists among Muslim women in discussing cancer or “women’s problems.”

 Last week, in the United States, we celebrated Pink Hijab Day to encourage Muslim women and men to participate in cancer awareness activities.  Started two years ago by a small group of Muslim high school students living in Columbus, Missouri, the event is now becoming a global pink day as the word spreads. 

But three years ago, before Pink Hajib Day was even a thought, a project was started in Pristina, Kosovo, which became the Balkans Breast Care Initiative (BBCI). Aware of the sensitivities of the women in this developing area, and wanting to find a way for them to reach across the divide of their differing ethnicities - Albanian Muslim and Serb Orthodox – to learn about a deadly disease they could fight together, the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) at the U.S. Embassy created the BBCI in late December 2007, in partnership with prominent doctors, non-government officials and breast cancer survivors. 
The project was initially put on hold as Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia, but the Declaration on 2/17/08, and the subsequent fragile stability, allowed renewed outreach to all municipalities and counties of Kosovo.  

In March of 2008, the PAO set up meetings for U.S. breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Ernie Bodai with Kosovo’s Post Office and Ministry of Transportation and Communication to present the Breast Cancer Research Stamp, which Dr. Bodai had initiated in 1998, and which has raised $73M for U.S. cancer research since then.

In July of 2008, the BBCI web page debuted on the Embassy web site and plans got underway for celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, during which the Breast Cancer Research Stamp was issued.  For a Spokesperson, the Embassy invited Fran Drescher, a cancer survivor, and the State Department’s Special Envoy for Women’s Health Issues, to visit Kosovo. Her show, “The Nanny,” is still airing on Kosovo TV. Her appearances on radio, TV and in person Kosovo-wide were a hit! Her billboard (seen above) was all over the country in three languages: Albanian, Serbian and English. Everyone quoted from it: Fran says: “Early Detection = Survivalwhich helped to lower the stigma of going for a mammogram.

 Some of the events of that historic first Breast Cancer Awareness Month, including Kosovo’s First Annual Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness are highlighted below, taken directly from a 14-page timeline history of the BBCI written by the PAO who created the program.  Please scroll through and read the surprise ending of this incredible story.   The surprise ending is bolded in red so you can’t miss it.


 PAO got Kosovo on the schedule of Fran Drescher (“The Nanny”), American Public Diplomacy Envoy for Women’s Health Issues (October 7-9, 2008). She was the KICK-OFF of Kosovo’s Breast Cancer Awareness-Raising Campaign
o SIX Billboards (free) allocated by the Mayor for cancer awareness-raising in the build-up to Kosovo’s First Annual Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness on October 19, along the Pedestrian Zone.
§ They feature Fran informing Kosovo citizens about her visit, the Walk, as well as the mantra: FRAN SAYS: EARLY DETECTION = SURVIVAL. BBCI,Jeta/Vita and U.S. Embassy logos featured

o Free “City Lights” Poster spots along the Pedestrian Zone – for advertising the Walk and the BBCI
o Ms. Drescher presents her own experience with cancer and discusses her experiences with the Women’s Caucus at the Assembly
o She travels to north Mitrovica to talk to Kosovo Serb media TV Most and meets with young Serb and Roma women to discuss early detection at the American Corner.
o PAS translates her DVD “Coffee Talk”–style Roundtable on early detection into Albanian and Serbian. It was aired on all three TV channels, as well as on TV Most and TV Herc (which created a b.c. campaign for north Kosovo). Jeta/Vita will use it in all their Workshops
o Fran tapes a spot as herself for Kosovo’s most popular family sitcom, RTK’s “Familje Moderne,” and talks about the BBCI, the Stamp and the Walk. The show was aired on Sunday, October 19 at 20:15 AFTER the Walk. RTK teaser the week beforehand.
o TEUTA Magazine (most widely-read women’s magazine in Kosovo) featured Fran on their Editorial Page in October’s issue, and discussed her new role as a PD envoy. The Editorial also encouraged their readers to join the Walk. Inside they featured a six-page spread with drawings and photos on self-examination.
o Fran was interviewed by 22 different media, including several K-Serb media outlets during her 48 hours in Kosovo. In particular, KTV used her interview as the introduction to their three-part breast cancer documentary financed as a USG TV COOP project (Part I aired Oct 8 and Part II just before the Oct 19 Walk, and Part III just after the Walk).

o Fran Visited Camp Bondsteel to support the troops and talked to them about early detection for cancer in general
o Follow-up: TEUTA Magazine put Fran on the cover of their March 2009 issue, in conjunction with International Women’s Month, which also featured a two-page interview with Dr. Bodai on the success of the Stamp, and with the PAO about the BBCI (including photos of the Walk and logo). They also provided a 20-page insert on women’s health issues.

*KTV’s three part documentary on breast cancer aired on October 8 (Part 1), and was repeated on October 22. Part 2 aired on October 29. Part 3 aired on November 2 and showed the BBCI as a source of hope for the women of Kosovo. The Documentary’s interviews and meetings were coordinated by the PAO and financed with SEED TV COOP funds. Interviews for the documentary included Amb. Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the “Race for the Cure” in Washington, D.C.; Dr. Rifat Latifi in Arizona (creator of the Telemedicine Center in Pristina, and a Founding Member of the BBCI); Dr. Balazs Bodai in Sacramento, the creator of the U.S. Breast Cancer Research Stamp, who visited Kosovo in May 2008 and convinced Kosovo to become the 8th country in the world to issue this fundraising stamp. KTV Producer: Linda Fetiu.

International Oncology Conference (October 15-18, 2008) in Pristina
o Dr. Bodai returned to Pristina as the Keynote Speaker
o Honored at the Unveiling of Kosovo’s Stamp on October 15
o Traveled to north Mitrovica for interviews with Kosovo Serb media: VOA Serbian and TV Most and presented a lecture on upcoming breast cancer therapies to 30 Kosovo Serb doctors (Media Center in Caglavica)
o Kosovo Albanian Media: Zeri, Koha Ditore, Kosova Sot

· October 15, 2008 - Kosovo issues the first Breast Cancer Research Stamp in the Balkans – 8th country in the world – Remarks by President Sejdiu, Deputy Prime Minister Manaj, Minister of Transportation and Communications Fatmir Limaj and Minister of Health Alush Gashi.
o PTK issues 28,000 stamps
o PTK donates 23,000 euros toward breast cancer research to use for
repair of broken mammogram machines, training of technical personnel to use the machines and analyze results; maintenance; will create an official Registry of Cancer Statistics at the Institute of Public Health
Kosovo’s most renowned thoracic and breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Elvis Ahmedi, sent on International Visitor Leadership Program to participate in Department of State Seminar on Breast Cancer (October 13-20, 2008) as well as to visit cancer research centers and hospitals around the country. ECA A/S Goli Ameri sponsored this Seminar.

Starting October 10: All three major channels aired Public Service Announcements (PSAs) about breast self-examination, “Early Detection = Survival” and telling everyone to “Join the Walk” on October 19.

PAO appeared on RTK’s Good Morning, Kosovo” on Sunday, October 19, and discussed the BBCI and the upcoming Walk.
§ Several people, who had traveled from Peja or other places far from Pristina, approached PAO during the Walk to say they had seen me on television that morning and thought the cause was so important that they wanted to come. I mentioned them.

October 18, 2008: RTK aired a 30-minute Special on Fran Drescher, recapping her visit to Kosovo on Oct 7-9, her new role in cancer awareness, as well as their interview with her earlier in the month.
October 19, 2008: PAO appeared on RTK’s “Good Morning, Kosovo” on Sunday, October 19, and discussed the BBCI and the upcoming Walk that afternoon.
§ Several people, who had traveled from Peja or other places far from Pristina, approached PAO during the Walk to say they had seen her on television that morning and thought the cause was so important that they wanted to come. I mentioned them in my remarks on the podium at the Walk.

October 19, 2008: Kosovo held its First Annual Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness, which brought more than 1,200 participants to downtown Pristina’s Pedestrian Zone along Mother Teresa Street on a sunny Sunday.
o Opening Remarks: Ambassador Tina Kaidanow
o Walk participants also included the President’s wife, Mrs. Fatmir Sejdiu and the Speaker of the Assembly’s wife, Mrs. Jakup Krasniqi
o RTK provided their “Combo Band” and televised the entire event, airing it that night after their Primetime programming.
o Well-known television actresses performed their own play about breast cancer affecting a family, which garnered a great deal of praise from the Walk audience, as well as from the RTK audience that night.
o Musicians, Singers, “Familje Moderne” Actors
o Walk “souvenirs” handed out by volunteers:
§ Pink bracelets: BBCI=HOPE (donated by the Detweilers)
§ Kosovo Breast Cancer Stamp pins (donated by Dr. Bodai)
§ Pink Loops to wear as pins (provided by US Embassy)
§ BBCI T-shirts
§ Self examination brochures in Albanian and Serbian

The BBCI has been called the most important health outreach ever accomplished in Kosovo and other Balkan countries, because of its enormous impact. Not only has the fundraising stamp been issued in Kosovo, but also in Macedonia and, shortly, in Albania. Moreover, it has continued to thrive until this day, bringing in more than $2M in free diagnostic training and mammography machines from U.S. doctors and institutions. AND they just celebrated their Third Annual Walk for Breast Cancer Awareness.

And now for the rest of the story. Who was the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) in Kosovo who created the BBCI?  My very own sister.   I am so proud of her!  

So while my work in Chicago might have a small impact in the community, my sister has impacted millions of women and helped save lives.  That is the “Posner” that everyone should be talking about.