Goverment Twists Fracking Report

 

Image result for photos fracking

 

EPA’s late changes to fracking study downplay risk of drinking water pollution

Ray Kemble holds two samples of well water from his neighborhood in Dimock, PA. He says the water was contaminated after fracking.
Ray Kemble holds two samples of well water from his neighborhood in Dimock, PA. He says the water was contaminated after fracking. – Amanda Hrycyna for APM Reports

This story was reported in conjunction with APM Reports.

Top officials of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year made critical changes at the eleventh hour to a highly anticipated, five-year scientific study of hydraulic fracturing’s effect on the nation’s drinking water. The changes, later criticized by scientists for lacking evidence, played down the risk of pollution that can result from the well-drilling technique known as fracking.

Documents obtained by APM Reports and Marketplace show that in the six weeks before the study’s public release, officials inserted a key phrase into the executive summary that said researchers did not find evidence of “widespread systemic impacts” of fracking by the oil and gas industry on the nation’s drinking water.

Earlier draft versions emphasized more directly that fracking has contaminated drinking water in some places.

The documents also show that the news release accompanying the scientific study was changed on June 3, 2015, the day before it was made public. A draft displayed a conclusion that the EPA had identified “potential vulnerabilities” to drinking water. But the final release dated June 4, concluded: “Assessment shows hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts to drinking water resources and identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.

In a conference call with reporters about the study on the day it was released, the EPA’s deputy administrator, Tom Burke, highlighted the lack of “widespread, systemic impacts” as the agency’s top finding.

In fact, scientists had found evidence in some places that fracking activity had polluted drinking water supplies.

In all, the agency identified more than two dozen instances in which hydraulic fracturing had an impact on water resources. The agency also identified hundreds of other spills, many of which reached soil and water.

It’s not clear precisely who inserted or ordered the new phrasing. But emails acquired via the Freedom of Information Act show EPA officials, including press officers, met with key advisers to President Obama to discuss marketing strategy a month before the study’s release. The emails also show EPA public relations people exchanging a flurry of messages between 4 and 11 p.m. on the eve of the study’s release.

The authenticity of the documents — before and after the changes — was confirmed independently by three people with knowledge of the study.

In interviews with 19 people familiar with the research, some characterized the “(no) widespread, systemic” language as a “bizarre conclusion” and “irresponsible.” Others said they were “surprised and disappointed” that top EPA officials used the phrase and said they had no idea it would become the headline until it came out.

The revised summary was quickly embraced by the oil and gas industry, which for nearly a decade had been fighting off environmentalists’ attacks and negative news coverage about fracking’s alleged harm to the environment.

Industry representatives cheered the findings, touting them as validation that fracking is safe.

Media organizations big and small highlighted the conclusion in headlines and sound bites. In a 140-character information ecosystem, suddenly the industry had the benefit of government assurance that fracked wells did not pose a significant threat to water supplies.

Those reports won the day, dominating the news cycle despite the EPA report noting that fracking activities, including chemical spills and faulty well construction, did have an impact on drinking water resources.

It’s not unusual for government agency reports to be edited and crafted in a way that provides positive context for a preferred policy. When research is mischaracterized by policy-makers, however, it raises concerns about the politicization of government science.

“There’s not really a wall between science and politics,” said Dominic DiGiulio, a former EPA scientist. “In my opinion, that statement was put in there to ensure that there would not be blowback from the oil and gas industry.”

The oil and gas industry, along with Republican allies in Congress, has regularly criticized the EPA for investigations into fracking, arguing that state regulators have primary responsibility over the oil and gas sector. Even as it was conducting the broad study, in three instances the EPA withdrew abruptly from investigations into landowner complaints over water contamination related to fracking.

Agency scientists are revising the study, a standard process with all EPA research that involves input from the public and the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, a peer review group that provides scientific advice to the agency.

EPA officials say they hope to release the final version of the $29 million study by the end of the year.

Burke and his boss, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, declined requests for interviews. Asked about the late changes in the news release, Tom Reynolds, who ran the agency’s communications office when the study was released, declined to comment.

The revelations come as Republican President-elect Donald Trump is set to take office on a pledge to abolish the EPA and eliminate regulations on oil and gas activities to boost energy exploration. It might be difficult for Trump to eliminate the agency, but even slight reductions could have a major effect on an agency that already has been hit by budget cuts.

Areas where hydraulic fracturing is being used to extract oil or natural gas. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Areas where hydraulic fracturing is being used to extract oil or natural gas. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. – APM Reports

Between 2010 and 2016, the EPA’s budget was reduced $2.1 billion, or 20 percent. There are also 1,902 fewer EPA employees than in 2010.

Congress called for study

The oil and gas industry has used hydraulic fracturing for decades. The process sends a mix of water, chemicals and sand into the subsurface at high pressure.

In the past 20 years, its use has dramatically increased as technology has combined with horizontal drilling techniques to produce vast amounts of affordable fossil energy from shale rock formations.

Gas, thought to have fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than coal, has been replacing coal steadily for U.S. electricity generation for more than a decade. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. 
Gas, thought to have fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than coal, has been replacing coal steadily for U.S. electricity generation for more than a decade. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.  – APM Reports

The number of hydraulically fractured wells drilled nationwide has jumped from 24,000 in 2000 to 300,000 in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As natural gas production has grown over that decade, the portion that is coming from fracked wells has grown to two-thirds. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.
As natural gas production has grown over that decade, the portion that is coming from fracked wells has grown to two-thirds. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. – APM Reports

Fracking has been the linchpin in the nation’s energy economy for the past decade. It has unearthed huge amounts of oil and gas, reducing the nation’s dependence on coal for electricity generation and its reliance on foreign oil.

The government reported in May that hydraulically fractured wells provided two-thirds of U.S. natural gas production in 2015 – nearly 10 times the amount produced in 2000.

Natural gas is also seen by many, including the Obama administration, as a cleaner-than-coal bridge to a time when most electricity will come from renewable sources. In addition to making the U.S. less dependent on foreign sources of oil and natural gas, fracking has delivered an economic boost to many parts of the country.

But like many industries relying on natural resources, the prospect of jobs has collided with environmentalists and residents worried about clean air and clean water.

Landowners in many states, including Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Wyoming, have complained that their drinking water was contaminated after fracking activity occurred near them.

Concerned about the complaints and potential impacts, Congress in 2009 urged the EPA to study fracking’s impact on drinking water. Supporters of the congressional action cited a 2004 EPA study that said fracking was safe; they claimed the study politicized the science and played down negative findings.

So EPA scientists spent years evaluating scientific reports from academics, industry, non-governmental organizations and government agencies. They took their own water samples, conducted laboratory analysis, did computer modeling of potential contamination, interviewed residents reporting water quality changes and negotiated with oil and gas companies to acquire proprietary well drilling data.

The study was highly anticipated and in the months before its release in June 2015, a draft assessment was shared with top policymaking and public information officials, according to internal emails.

A gas well pad in Dimock, PA.
A gas well pad in Dimock, PA. – Amanda Hrycyna for APM Reports

Meetings involved White House advisers Candace Vahlsing and Dan Utech and officials from the Energy and Interior departments. Vahlsing and Utech declined to comment, a White House spokesman said.

White House Assistant Press Secretary Frank Benenati also was involved in the study’s “messaging,” according to the emails. Benenati, now the EPA’s director of communications, didn’t respond to specific questions about his involvement with the study.

A former EPA official involved in the study defended the controversial line about no “widespread systemic impacts,” saying the lack of a definitive conclusion required the agency to give a nuanced view of fracking. “In this area, there’s incomplete information,” said Ken Kopocis, who was the deputy assistant administrator for water at the EPA. “And so scientists will introduce some element of judgment in drawing their conclusions.”

Kopocis also said it’s common for the White House to be involved in meetings discussing major scientific reports because it’s necessary to inform other agencies involved in oil and gas issues.

The EPA report did note a number of instances in which fracking activity, including poorly designed well construction, chemical spills, well blowouts and direct drilling into formations containing water, had a “documented impact” on drinking water.

The findings included a 2010 chemical spill in Kentucky that killed threatened fish, a well blowout in North Dakota that resulted in chemicals potentially reaching a nearby aquifer and direct drilling into drinking water resources in Wyoming.

The report concluded that 9.4 million people lived within a mile of a hydraulically fractured well between 2000 and 2013.

The agency also reported 457 spills related to fracking in 11 states between 2006 and 2012. In 324 of those cases, the EPA said spills reached soil, surface water or ground water. A spreadsheet of those spills was included in the study.

On the day of the release, when asked to quantify the risks of fracking, Burke demurred. “The study was not, nor was it intended to be, a numerical catalog of all episodes of contamination,” he said.

The examples of documented contamination were overshadowed by the last-minute changes that shifted the tenor of the report.

Some experts in hydraulic fracturing say the late edit exonerated the practice in the public eye.

“It’s not Watergate, but it completely alters the take-home message of the report,” said Rob Jackson, a researcher at Stanford University, who believes hydraulic fracturing can be done safely.

He worries that the EPA’s decision to minimize the vulnerabilities has reduced the urgency for government regulators and oil and gas companies to push to make the process safer. “It’s still making a big, big difference because it supports the narrative that there aren’t problems,” Jackson said.

DiGiulio, after leaving his job as an EPA scientist, joined Jackson in a research project at Stanford that found fracking had a “clear impact” on drinking water in Pavillion, Wy.

The agency had earlier abandoned its research into problems at Pavillion and turned the investigation over to the state. It was one of the three instances in which the EPA withdrew from investigating suspected contamination incidents in the past four years. The others were in Dimock, Pa., and Parker County, Texas. The agency did not include water testing data from those cases in its national study on drinking water.

The EPA’s Science Advisory Board, however, suggested the agency “should include and critically analyze” findings from those three locations. The advisory board also rebuked the EPA’s conclusion of no “widespread systemic impacts.”

Calling the phrase “ambiguous” and inconsistent with the observational data, the advisory board directed the EPA to show the underlying data to back up its claim of no “widespread, systemic impacts”.

“We suggested that they provide a definition of ‘systemic,’ a definition of ‘widespread’ and then provide quantitative data to support the conclusion,” said Peter Thorne, a University of Iowa environmental scientist who chairs the Science Advisory Board. “That is all a way of asking them to put that kind of scientific rigor behind a statement as broad as that.”

Near Dimock, Pa.
Near Dimock, Pa. – Amanda Hrycyna for APM Reports

Study took pressure off industry

McCarthy, the head of the EPA, said at the National Press Club last week that the agency will soon release the final study. She also said her agency is balancing the requests of the 30-member Science Advisory Board with the study’s limitations. During her remarks, McCarthy noted that the four board members with oil and gas ties dissented from the criticism of the phrase.

This was one science advisory board that was as fractured as the subject matter,” McCarthy said. “While I can’t tell you the direction it is going to take, we are going to listen to all sides in terms of what the members thought, and we’ll come to the best decision that we can.

The EPA has the authority to manage drinking water impacts to water resources and to oversee drinking water impacts through several federal laws, including the Clean Water Act and the Safe Water Drinking Act.

But states largely oversee oil and gas development.

The industry, heavily invested in continuing the practice, has steadily battled the EPA. The companies and their industry groups have also repeatedly said there have been no confirmed cases of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing.

That’s why the outcome of the EPA study was important.

If the study had emphasized major problems with the practice, it could have meant increased oversight by state regulators, a call for banning fracking in certain communities and even calls for additional federal oversight.

Instead, the draft study took pressure off the industry.

When the federal Environmental Protection Agency says that technology causes no widespread, systemic risk, that’s a big deal,” said Kevin Book, head of the research team at ClearView Energy Partners, which advises oil and gas investors. “That reinforces the sense that there’s nothing to see here, folks. Move on.”

How the language changed

The documents obtained by APM Reports and Marketplace show that on April 24, 2015, an executive summary was circulated that said “hydraulic fracturing activities have contaminated drinking water resources in a variety of documented cases. Despite these risks, the number of documented impacts is quite low.”

Nowhere did the draft state that there was no widespread, systemic impact on water.

On May 4, EPA officials met with key advisers to Obama, officials from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy to make sure they were “clear on messaging,” according to public documents.

By May 12, the executive summary had changed to include the phrase: “We did not find evidence of widespread, systemic impacts.”

And on May 20, another change deleted a sentence that said “a low rate of documented impacts does not minimize the effects experienced by citizens whose drinking water resources have been impacted.”

The agency’s news release also was altered in the days before the draft study was released.

A version circulated internally in early June featured a headline emphasizing vulnerabilities to drinking water.

But the news release issued publicly on June 4 featured a less forceful headline and a smaller, second headline saying that fracking had not “led to widespread, systemic impacts” and that the study “identifies important vulnerabilities to drinking water resources.”

Within a day, the Marcellus Shale Coalition from Pennsylvania put together a collection of TV news reports, all emphasizing the lack of impact and largely ignoring the vulnerabilities.

Industry has battled EPA

Today the oil and gas industry continues to use the study to advance drilling around the world.

The Maryland Petroleum Council is highlighting the research as it pushes to allow fracking in that state. And earlier this month, the American Petroleum Institute, a lobbying group, urged the EPA to keep the language in the study. It said the report could affect New York’s statewide ban on fracking and influence whether other countries adopt the practice.

The American Petroleum Institute released its own industry-backed study confirming that hydraulic fracturing has led to no widespread, systemic impact to drinking water.

“It has plenty of supporting evidence for its conclusion, yet hydraulic fracturing and its peer-reviewed studies continue to face misinformed attacks on scientific conclusions that support the value and safety of the process,” said Erik Milito, director of upstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute.

Milito also said he believes the EPA’s Science Advisory Board raised questions about the report because it was swayed by the testimony of landowners who were complaining about their drinking water.

In addition to requesting supporting evidence, several members of the board characterized the phrase as a “value statement,” not a scientific one.

Board member Thomas Young, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California-Davis, said he believes the phrase is misleading because the federal agency may not have found a widespread impact, but impacts could still be occurring.

“When you say that there’s no impact, people leap to the conclusion that there is no way in which this material is making it to water resources,” he said. “And I do not think that has been proven.”

Young said he was unaware that the EPA had made last-minute changes to the study or the news release. He said he would have chosen different wording but understood the push to put a conclusion on a multiyear study that cost millions.

Congress, the oil and gas industry and environmental groups would not have settled for a report simply calling for additional research, Young said. “Most people don’t really want to spend millions of tax dollars on a study that comes up with the answer of ‘more study is needed.’”

The study ran into a number of difficulties when it began five years ago.

The EPA, for example, tried to work with oil and gas companies to conduct testing on sites before, during and after a fractured well is drilled. Called “baseline testing,” it would have allowed scientists to see whether the process resulted in any contamination of groundwater. Despite pledges of cooperation from the industry, the EPA could never reach agreement with any company to conduct the tests.

“Initially, industry was very supportive of working together with the EPA to do some field studies,” said Robert Puls, a scientist who oversaw the study in 2010 and 2011. “As the details for doing those studies got closer and closer to actual implementation, their resistance seemed to grow.”

Puls said he left his position at the EPA in 2011 partly because he was frustrated with resistance by oil and gas companies to work with the EPA on the study.

“They didn’t protect my water”

The Science Advisory Board isn’t the only group questioning how EPA officials could make the general claim that fracking caused no “widespread, systemic impacts” without scientific basis.

Many landowners who believe their water was harmed by hydraulic fracturing say the EPA let them down by minimizing the impact.

“They’re supposed to protect my water,” said Bill Ely, who owns land in Dimock, Pa., and settled a lawsuit with Cabot Oil and Gas over tainted water. “I pay them to protect my water. They didn’t protect my water or these people in this area here.”

Bill Ely is one of several dozen landowners in Dimock who noticed water was changing color once drilling started in their community in 2009.
Bill Ely is one of several dozen landowners in Dimock who noticed water was changing color once drilling started in their community in 2009. – Amanda Hrycyna for APM Reports

A spokesman for Cabot did not return messages. Company officials have said that any problems with the water in Dimock occurred long before the company drilled in the area.

Ely is one of several dozen landowners in Dimock who noticed water was changing color once drilling started in their community in 2009.

The complaints from landowners placed Dimock at the center of the fight over the environmental safety of fracking. Movie stars and environmentalists visited the small, northeastern Pennsylvania town and called for the practice to be banned. Industry groups countered with analysis that the practice is safe and brings money and jobs to an economically depressed area.

Since the first incident occurred in 2009, state and federal regulators became heavily involved in Dimock.

In 2010, Pennsylvania regulators announced a settlement with Cabot Oil and Gas that required the company to pay $4.1 million to residents for drilling violations. Regulators said Cabot’s drilling practices allowed combustible methane to contaminate drinking water. And this year two families also won a $4.2 million court case against the company for negligence and creating a nuisance. More than a dozen other families settled with the company for an undisclosed sum.

Cabot has not disclosed terms of its settlement with landowners. Attorneys for Cabot said in court that the methane leaking from the wells was occurring naturally and was a problem before the company drilled in the area.

In 2012, the EPA conducted a study of private water wells of 64 homes in Dimock. The agency eventually determined “that there are not levels of contaminants present that would require action by the agency.”

But another federal agency, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, looked at the same data and concluded in June 2016 that chemicals in the water wells in 27 of the 64 homes were high enough to affect human health.

Some landowners are still pushing for the government to do more.

Every few weeks, Ray Kemble, who said he has one of those 27 homes, has to fill two 325-gallon tanks with water. The tanks, which sit in a shed outside his home, ensure he has clean water. His property, which sits across the street from a well pad, is covered with anti-fracking signs.

Ray Kemble has to fill two 325-gallon tanks with water every few weeks to ensure he has a constant supply of clean water. His home is one of the 27 in Dimock that have a high concentration of harmful chemicals in their water wells.
Ray Kemble has to fill two 325-gallon tanks with water every few weeks to ensure he has a constant supply of clean water. His home is one of the 27 in Dimock that have a high concentration of harmful chemicals in their water wells. – Amanda Hrycyna for APM Reports

Kemble has been questioning the EPA’s conclusion of no widespread, systemic impact, including publicly testifying before the Science Advisory Board. He said he’s disappointed that regulators, including the EPA, didn’t do more for him.

“Why do we have to fight the government when the government was supposed to be protecting us?” he said. “Those agencies were put there to protect the people from stuff like this from happening.”

Drilling provides economic boost

Though some landowners in the Dimock area are unhappy with fracking in the community, it has provided an economic boost.

Cabot has a major presence in the community and says it has invested $1.5 billion in Dimock and surrounding areas in Susquehanna County. Cabot trucks can be seen regularly throughout the rural community and the company has a new corporate office in nearby Montrose.

Cabot is among many companies to tap into the energy rich Marcellus Shale Formation that lies under parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. Landowners are paid monthly, and drilling has increased employment in rural parts of the country. Jobs in the oil and gas extraction sector grew nationally by 33,600 between 2006 and 2016, government figures show.

Bill Aileo, a homeowner in Dimock, said the natural gas boom has helped the community. He wouldn’t say how much he’s being paid for his mineral rights but said a majority of landowners are happy with the natural gas activity in the area.

“We’ve had a shot in the arm,” he said. “It’s probably the best thing that’s happened to this community in 50 years.”

Bill Aileo, a homeowner in Dimock, said the natural gas boom has helped the community. 
Bill Aileo, a homeowner in Dimock, said the natural gas boom has helped the community.  – Amanda Hrycyna for APM Reports

Obama’s embrace of fracking has forced him to walk a fine line.

He acknowledges that the fracking process, along with transporting and storing oil and gas, could release methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The outgoing administration this month issued rules to prevent methane leaks on federal lands. But Obama has said that gradually transitioning from coal to natural gas has reduced U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.  “We’re going to have to straddle between the world as it is and the world as we want it to be and build that bridge,” he said in October.

The specifics of Trump’s approach are unknown. Last Monday, Trump issued a video statement saying that energy issues, including fracking, will be a top priority when he takes office.

“I will cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy, including shale energy and clean coal – creating many millions of high-paying jobs. That’s what we want. That’s what we’ve been waiting for,” he said.

Trump has appointed Myron Ebell, a climate change skeptic, to lead the transition at the EPA. The president-elect also has pledged to further deregulate the oil and gas industry, but his position on fracking has been contradictory. In September, he vowed to expand natural gas production from fracking and coal production, two competing energy resources.

In August, Trump told a Colorado TV station that he was willing to let voters have a say on fracking bans, but in April he criticized New York state’s ban on the practice.

The disagreement over the environmental impact of fracking will continue in the Trump administration. In addition to finishing the study on hydraulic fracturing’s impact on drinking water, the EPA will continue to pay for research on fracking.

In September, it announced a $2 million study that will examine how oil and gas development is affecting water quality and its impact on human health. The study is focused on an area that includes Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio.

Some scientists, landowners and environmental advocates believe that the EPA lacks credibility to research fracking’s impact on drinking water. They have grown suspicious about how the EPA handles fracking issues.

“They don’t know who to trust,” said Raina Rippel, who directs the Southwestern Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project, which tracks health impacts on people in high-fracking areas. “They don’t necessarily feel that the state regulatory agencies or the federal regulatory agencies are listening. They feel so severely betrayed right now.”

Correction: The original text inaccurately named the Clean Water Act. It has been corrected.

Follow Scott Tong at @tongscott.

Those Big Boxes

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The Shipping Container    LISTEN at source  (9 minutes)

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Shipping goods around the world was – for many centuries – expensive, risky and time-consuming. But 60 years ago the trucking entrepreneur Malcolm McLean changed all that by selling the idea of container shipping to the US military. Against huge odds he managed to turn “containerisation” from a seemingly impractical idea into a massive industry – one that slashed the cost of transporting goods internationally and provoked a boom in global trade.

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Trump U. Racket Costs Him $25MM

 

New York Attorney General Says Trump Agrees To Trump University Settlement

Donald Trump at a 2005 news conference about Trump University. Now, the New York attorney general says Trump has agreed to a $25 million settlement with over 6,000 plaintiffs who said the university had defrauded them.  Mario Tama/Getty Images

A $25 million settlement agreement has been reached in the civil fraud lawsuits against President-elect Donald Trump and Trump University, according to New York’s state attorney general.

Eric Schneiderman called the settlement “a stunning reversal by Donald Trump and a major victory for the over 6,000 victims of his fraudulent university” in a written statement. The allegations have been a major point of controversy for the President-elect for years.

“Donald Trump fought us every step of the way, filing baseless charges and fruitless appeals and refusing to settle for even modest amounts of compensation for the victims of his phony university,” Schneiderman added. “Today, that all changes.”

Schneiderman’s office told NPR’s Ina Jaffe that the settlement agreement applies to three separate lawsuits. Schneiderman filed the lawsuit in New York, and there are also two federal class-action lawsuits in California.

“Every victim” will receive a share of the settlement, Schneiderman said. He added that Trump has agreed to pay $1 million in penalties to the state of New York “for violating state education laws.”

Alan Garten, EVP and general counsel of The Trump Organization issued the following statement:

“We are pleased to announce the complete resolution of all litigation involving Trump University. While we have no doubt that Trump University would have prevailed at trial based on the merits of this case, resolution of these matters allows President-Elect Trump to devote his full attention to the important issues facing our great nation.”

The agreement “does not require Trump to acknowledge wrongdoing,” according to The Associated Press.

Students who purchased classes at Trump University have complained that “the promised Donald Trump investment techniques were mostly stuff that you could find on the internet. They say that the promised mentoring was worthless, that the instructors were unqualified and were not hand-picked by Donald Trump, as he claimed,” Ina reported.

Trump has repeatedly denied those characterizations, Ina said, “and in his deposition, Donald Trump said the students gave the courses a 97 percent approval rating and not even Harvard gets that.

As The New York Times wrote, “The deal, if approved, averts a potentially embarrassing and highly unusual predicament: a president-elect on trial, and possibly even taking the stand in his own defense, while scrambling to build his incoming administration.”

A hearing for one of the lawsuits, in a federal court in San Diego, had been scheduled for today. Ina reported that Trump was requesting that the judge postpone the trial until after the inauguration.

A court document filed by Trump’s lawyers last week requested time to “allow the President-Elect to focus on the enormous responsibility of transitioning to the most demanding and important office in our government.” It also asked for Trump to be allowed to testify by video.

During his presidential run, Trump elicited criticism after he argued that Indiana-born Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is of Mexican heritage and presiding over both California cases, could not be fair to Trump because he has vowed to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Curiel had “urged both sides to settle” in the California suits, according to Reuters.

MORE at N.Y. Times

How Lesbians Saved Subaru

 

Subaru’s marketing strategy had just died in a fit of irony. 

It was the mid 1990s, and sales of Subaru cars were in decline. To reverse the company’s fortunes, Subaru of America had created its first luxury car—even though the small automaker was known for plain but dependable cars—and hired a trendy advertising agency to introduce it to the public. 

The new approach had fallen flat when the ad men took irony too far: One ad touted the new sports car’s top speed of 140 MPH, then asked, “How important is that, with extended urban gridlock, gas at $1.38 a gallon and highways full of patrolmen?”

After firing the hip ad agency, Subaru of America changed its approach. Rather than compete directly with Ford, Toyota, and other carmakers that dwarfed Subaru in size, executives decided to return to its old focus on marketing Subaru cars to niche groups—like outdoorsy types who liked that Subaru cars could handle dirt roads.

This search for niche groups led Subaru to the 3rd rail of marketing: They discovered that lesbians loved their cars. Lesbians liked their dependability and size, and even the name “Subaru.” They were four times more likely than the average consumer to buy a Subaru. 

This was the type of discovery that the small, struggling automaker was looking for. But Subaru had been looking for niche groups like skiers and kayakers—not lesbian couples. Did the company want to make advertisements for gay customers? At the time, in the mid 1990s, few celebrities were openly out. A Democratic president had just passed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and after IKEA aired one of the first major ad campaigns depicting a gay couple, someone had called in a bomb threat on an IKEA store.

Yet Subaru decided to launch an ad campaign focused on lesbian customers. It was such an unusual decision—and such a success—that it pushed gay and lesbian advertising from the fringes to the mainstream. 

If you’ve ever wondered why people joke about lesbians driving Subarus, the reason is not just that lesbians like Subarus. It’s that Subaru cultivated its image as a car for lesbians—and did so at a time when few companies would embrace or even acknowledge their gay customers.

You Are What You Drive

How do you advertise a car that journalists describe as “sturdy, if drab”?

That was the question faced by Subaru of America executives in the 1990s. After attempts to reinvigorate the company’s declining sales with a sports car and a hip, young ad agency failed, they turned to their niche marketing strategy.

“That was and still is a unique approach,” says Tim Bennett, who worked as Director of Advertising. “I’m always amazed that no one copied it.” Instead of fighting every other car company over the same demographic of white, 18- to 35-year-olds living in the suburbs, Subaru would target niche groups of people who particularly liked Subarus. 

In the 1990s, Subaru’s unique characteristic was that the company increasingly made all-wheel-drive standard on all its cars. When Subaru marketers went searching for people willing to pay a premium for all-wheel-drive, they identified four core groups who were responsible for half of the company’s American sales: teachers and educators, healthcare professionals, IT professionals, and “rugged individualists” (outdoorsy types).  

Then they discovered a 5th: lesbians.

“When we did the research, we found pockets of the country like Northampton, Massachusetts, and Portland, Oregon, where the head of the household would be a single person—and often a women,” says Bennett. When Subaru marketers talked to these customers, they realized these women buying Subarus were lesbian.

“There was such an alignment of feeling, like [Subaru cars] fit with what they did,” says Paul Poux, who later conducted focus groups for Subaru. The marketers found that lesbian Subaru owners liked that the cars were good for outdoor trips, and that they were good for hauling stuff without being as large as a truck or SUV. (In a line some women may not like as much, marketers also said Subaru’s dependability was a good fit for lesbians since they didn’t have a man who could fix car problems.) “They felt it fit them and wasn’t too flashy,” says Poux. 

Many of them even felt an affinity with the name. 

‘Subaru’ is the Japanese name for the Pleiades, a six-star constellation. When Kenji Kita, the CEO of Subaru’s parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries, chose the name in 1954, he chose it to represent how six Japanese companies had merged to form Fuji Heavy Industries. But in English, the constellation is also known as the Seven Sisters—the same name as a group of American women’s colleges. 

An example of Subaru’s niche marketing—in this case to appeal to outdoorsy types. Photo courtesy of Subaru

Of all the niche groups, lesbians may have exhibited the most fervor. “These women were practically commercials for Subaru,” John Nash, the creative director of the ad agency that ultimately made Subaru’s gay and lesbian advertisements, recalled in 2004. 

Subaru’s strategy called for targeting these 5 groups and creating ads based around its appeal to each. For medical professionals, it was that a Subaru with all-wheel-drive could get them to the hospital in any weather. For rugged individualists, it was that a Subaru could handle dirt roads and haul gear. For lesbians, it was that a Subaru fit their active, low-key lifestyle.  

But it was easier to get senior management on board with making ads for hikers than for lesbians.

From Subaru to ‘Lesbaru’

Talking with people involved in Subaru’s 1990s marketing campaign, the constant refrain is how different the environment was back then. 

“I can’t emphasize enough that this was before there was any positive discussion [of LGBT issues],” says Tim Bennett. Gay causes seemed to be on the losing side of the culture war: the Clinton Administration had just created its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding homosexuality in the military, and in 1996, Congress would pass the Defense of Marriage Act. 

Pop culture had also yet to embrace the LGBT cause. Mainstream movies and TV shows with gay characters—like Will & Grace—were still a few years away, and few celebrities were openly gay. When Ellen Degeneres became a rare exception in 1997, and her character in the show Ellen came out as gay in an episode of the sitcom, many companies pulled their ads. 

”We don’t think it is a smart business decision to be advertising in an environment that is so polarized,” a spokesperson for Chrysler explained after the company pulled its ads. ”The environment around this is so angry we feel we lose no matter what we do.”

Gay-friendly advertising was largely limited to the fashion and alcohol industries. When a 1994 IKEA ad featured a gay couple, the American Family Association mounted boycotts, and someone called in a (fake) bomb threat on an IKEA store. 

Today, this IKEA ad of a gay couple shopping for a dining room table seems mundane. But in 1994, the film crew was tense, and its airing incited backlash and New York Times op-eds.

As marketer Paul Poux explains, the attitude of most businesses toward LGBT advertising was: “Why would you do something like that? You’d be known as a gay company.”

In the 1990s, Poux worked at Mulryan/Nash, an agency that specialized in the gay market. Early in his career, he made cold calls to ask companies for their business. “All the rules of marketing went out the window at this fear” of marketing to gays and lesbians, he says. “People would choke up on the phone. It was tough.” 

It was in this context that Subaru marketers like Tim Bennett and Director of Marketing Tim Mahoney hired Mulryan/Nash, the ad agency, and pitched Subaru’s Japanese management on ads for lesbian customers. Reporter Ron Dicker ably captured some of the cultural confusion that followed:

When one Subaru ad man, Tim Mahoney, proposed the gay-targeting ads in talks with Japanese executives, the executives hurriedly looked up “gay” in their dictionaries. Upon reading the definition, they nodded at the idea enthusiastically. Who wouldn’t want happy or joyous advertising?

“It was certainly a learning process for everybody,” says Bennett. 

According to Bennett, who is gay, they never faced disrespect within Subaru. But Bennett did not reveal his sexual orientation, fearing it would overshadow the effort, and it took a year and a half to get everyone at Subaru onboard. For a car company, openly marketing to gay customers still felt new, if not taboo. Bennett recalls holding company meetings with names along the lines of “Who Are Gays and Lesbians?” 

A fifty-year-old business conglomerate like Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru, is not normally where you’d look for a leader in social progress. But the corporate environment did have its advantages. 

For starters, there was a great business case for the marketing campaign. Subaru was struggling, and its niche marketing campaign was plan A for redemption. 

The internationalism of global business also had its advantages. The Subaru team knew they had to support their gay and lesbian employees if they wanted to appeal to lesbian customers. So they scheduled a meeting with a senior Japanese executive to make the case for domestic partnership benefits. 

Bennett and his colleagues had prepared to argue their case at length, but the meeting lasted 20 seconds. The executive, who had worked for Subaru in Canada, already knew about benefits for same-sex couples. “He said, ‘Yeah that’s fine. We did that in Canada years ago. Anything else?’” says Bennett. “It was the easiest thing we did.”

By 1996, Subaru ads created by the Mulryan/Nash ad agency were appearing both in gay publications and mainstream media.

Although the marketing team worried about conservatives mounting a boycott, Subaru developed a public stance: Since Subaru sold cars to a “diverse and well educated” group of people, their customers wouldn’t be offended by the ads. 

Inside Subaru of America, though, not everyone was united on the effort. There was public backlash, and Tim Bennett says the campaign survived naysayers inside Subaru only because their team really cared about the project and had the support of straight allies in the company.

And the Subaru company line did have some truth to it. In response to the ads, Subaru received letters from a grassroots group that accused the carmaker of promoting homosexuality. Everyone who penned a letter said they’d never buy a Subaru again.  

But the marketing team quickly discovered that none of the people threatening a boycott had ever bought a Subaru. Some of them had even misspelled “Subaru.”

Like nerds who grow up to confront their bullies, Subaru executives realized that the people opposing the acknowledgement of gays and lesbians were not as imposing as they seemed. 

An Open Secret

Lesbians’ affinity for Subaru is a popular punchline: Like wearing birkenstocks, it’s the stuff of Saturday Night Live sketches and self-deprecating jokes about lesbian stereotypes. 

Subaru’s seminal role in gay advertising is famous in the business and marketing world, but the carmaker’s role in cultivating its lesbian-friendly image is less well known among laypeople. That’s likely because so many straight people were blind to the advertisements. 

For their first Subaru ads, Mulryan/Nash hired women to portray lesbian couples. But the ads didn’t get good reactions from lesbian audiences. 

What worked were winks and nudges. One ad campaign showed Subaru cars that had license plates that said “Xena LVR” (a reference to Xena: Warrior Princess, a TV show whose female protagonists seemed to be lovers) or “P-TOWN” (a moniker for Provincetown, Massachusetts, a popular LGBT vacation spot). Many ads had taglines with double meanings. “Get Out. And Stay Out” could refer to exploring the outdoors in a Subaru—or coming out as gay. “It’s Not a Choice. It’s the Way We’re Built” could refer to all Subarus coming with all-wheel-drive—or LGBT identity.

“Each year we’ve done this, we’ve learned more about our target audience,” John Nash, the creative director of the ad agency has said. “We’ve found that playful coding is really, really appreciated by our consumers. They like deciphering it.”

The delight among niche audience groups in “uncoding” the hints in Subaru ads surprised the marketing team—and in the case of its gay-friendly ads, so did straight audiences’ ignorance. While gay and lesbian consumers loved the shout outs in the license plates, straight people would only notice features like a bike rack. Paul Poux, who helped come up with the license plate idea, says he held focus groups with straight audiences where he’d show ads featuring gay couples. Even after an hour of talking about gay issues, they’d think a man was shopping with his uncle. 

In articles at the time, Subaru executives said they felt uncertain about the “intrigue” created by the perception of “secret coding.” But Paul Poux says there was some comfort to the fact that the gay marketing went under the radar. As more companies began marketing to LGBT audiences, secret coding became something of a playbook known by the term “gay vague”—a way for companies to reach queer audiences with minimal risk of a conservative backlash. 

This famous Volkswagen ad, which was perceived as gay-friendly, is incredibly subtle. But it aired in 1997 during the famous “coming out” episode of the sitcom Ellen.

That said, Subaru did not hide its support of gay and lesbian customers. While Volkswagen played coy about whether an ad perceived as gay-friendly really portrayed a gay couple, Subaru sponsored events like gay pride parades, partnered with the Rainbow Card, a credit card that instead of cash back offered donations to gay and lesbian causes, and hired Martina Navratilova, a lesbian and former tennis pro, to appear in Subaru ads. 

Navratilova’s role in Subaru’s ads held a level of poignancy. She had been publicly outedagainst her will, and while she spoke honestly about her identity, she had lamented that gay athletes had “to hide in the closet to sell [themselves] to Madison Avenue.”

For her to become the face of a car company during her retirement because she did not hide that she was gay, says Rainbow Card co-creator Pam Derderian, was a beautiful, full circle moment. 

The Subaru Legacy

Subaru’s gay and lesbian focused marketing campaign was a hit, and the company’s efforts continue today.

Not only is the association between lesbians and Subaru part of pop culture. But in focus groups and online polls, gay and lesbian customers consistently choose Subaru vehicles as their favorite cars or Subaru as the most gay-friendly brand. As one participant put it, “Martina Navratilova is a spokesperson. What more do you want?” 

That reputation translated into financial success. As a Harvard case study on the lesbian-focused ad campaign noted, Subaru’s flat sales turned into steady growth. Subaru’s parent company recently rebranded the entire company under the Subaru name due to the car’s surging popularity. In the 2010s, only Tesla grew faster than Subaru, which led Subaru’s president to worry that Subaru could get “too big.” 

Lesbians buying Subaru cars did not single-handedly resurrect the carmaker—lesbians were just one of five niche groups Subaru targeted in the nineties. But the gay market was one of the best for Subaru. The carmaker tracked the effectiveness of its niche marketing by partnering with 40-50 organizations—like outdoor associations and the Rainbow Card—to offer discounts on Subaru cars. Every year, Tim Bennett says, the LGBT organizations were in the top 5 in terms of cars sold.

Subaru was not the first company to create advertisements for gay and lesbian consumers, but it was the first major company in the United States to do it so transparently and consistently. Subaru’s lesbian-focused ad campaign was widely discussed in the New York Times, Washington Post, and trade magazines, and its success helped spur wild growth in gay and lesbian marketing. By the early 2000s, marketers were writing articles that calledgays and lesbians an “underserved market” and “perfect consumers.”

It was an uncomfortable embrace. The perception of the gay market as “a goldmine” relied on a misperception of all gay people as part of Dual Income, No Kids couples. A number of academics criticized corporate America’s embrace of the LGBT community as commodification: While companies wanted the profits that came from marketing a gay sense of style, they focused on upper-class and white gay identities—never gay people of color or those unable to afford medical treatment for HIV/AIDS. 

But according to Pam Derderian, who co-created the Rainbow Card with her partner Nancy Becker, that perspective underestimates the intelligence of LGBT consumers. 

To show that Subaru cared about its gay and lesbian customers, she says, the carmaker supported causes that they cared about. Through its sponsorship of the Rainbow Card, Subaru, along with other companies like Visa and British Airways, contributed millions of dollars to HIV/AIDS research and LGBT causes that helped both their customers and gay and lesbian people who could never afford a Subaru. 

Moreover, Derderian, like many gay people who see a company advertising to the gay market, vetted companies interested in sponsoring the Rainbow Card by seeing if they ensured fair policies (like benefits for same-sex partners) for their employees. This led to a trend of companies making their internal policies more gay-friendly when they wanted to advertise to gay customers. When Ford created gay-friendly ads, it revised its policies for its workforce of over 100,000 employees. 

There’s a tendency to view companies’ involvement in causes as greedy ploys. This author feels that way, especially given the cynicism-inducing conclusions of previous Priceonomics investigations. Looking into the history of engagement rings led us to marketers who made up the tradition to sell more diamonds. Searching out the origins of the phrase “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” revealed that it’s a 1944 ad campaign designed to sell more breakfast cereal. 

In this case, it’s heartening that the origins of lesbians’ stereotypical affinity for Subarus is not a cynical marketing campaign, but a progressive one. In a sense, all Subaru did was notice a group of customers and create ads for them. But that was a big deal. Subaru’s ad campaign acknowledged a group that often felt unwelcome and invisible. 

So today, in 2016, which group is next?

Guns in Our Country

When our kids were small, one of the boys disappeared.  We didn’t panic, but did search pretty carefully.  Finally, Joanne learned that he had gone out of the neighborhood to visit a friend in his home.  We got the boy home, and Joanne called the mother to ask that she call if our boy showed up at her house again.  The woman said that we needn’t worry about his being safe because they had a gun in every room of the house.   rjn

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source  The New Yorker   A REPORTER AT LARGE     

MAKING A KILLING

The business and politics of selling guns.

Bars in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia let out at 2a.m. On the morning of January 17, 2010, two groups emerged, looking for taxis. At the corner of Market and Third Street, they started yelling at each other. On one side was Edward DiDonato, who had recently begun work at an insurance company, having graduated from Villanova University, where he was a captain of the lacrosse team. On the other was Gerald Ung, a third-year law student at Temple, who wrote poetry in his spare time and had worked as a technology consultant for Freddie Mac. Both men had grown up in prosperous suburbs: DiDonato in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia; Ung in Reston, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

Everyone had been drinking, and neither side could subsequently remember how the disagreement started; one of DiDonato’s friends may have kicked in the direction of one of Ung’s friends, and Ung may have mocked someone’s hair. “To this day, I have no idea why this happened,” Joy Keh, a photographer who was one of Ung’s friends at the scene, said later.

The argument moved down the block, and one of DiDonato’s friends, a bartender named Thomas V. Kelly IV, lunged at the other group. He was pushed away before he could throw a punch. He rushed at the group again; this time, Ung pulled from his pocket a .380-calibre semiautomatic pistol, the Kel-Tec P-3AT. Only five inches long and weighing barely half a pound, it was a “carry gun,” a small, lethal pistol designed for “concealed carry,” the growing practice of toting a hidden gun in daily life. Two decades ago, leaving the house with a concealed weapon was strictly controlled or illegal in twenty-two states, and fewer than five million Americans had a permit to do so. Since then, it has become legal in every state, and the number of concealed-carry permit holders has climbed to an estimated 12.8 million.

Ung had obtained a concealed-carry license because he was afraid of street crime. He bought a classic .45-calibre pistol but later switched to the Kel-Tec, which was easier to carry; for a year and a half, he stowed one of the pistols in his pocket or in his backpack. He had never fired it. Now, on the sidewalk, he held the Kel-Tec with outstretched arms. A pedestrian heard him yell, “You’d better not piss me off!” Ung maintains that he said, “Back the fuck up.” DiDonato thought the pistol looked too small to be real; he guessed that it was a BB gun. He spread his arms, stepped forward, and said, “Who are you going to shoot, man?” Ung pulled the trigger. Afterward, he couldn’t recall how many times—he said it felt like a movie, and he was “seeing sparks and hearing pops.”

Ung hit DiDonato six times: in the liver, the lung, the shoulder, the hand, the intestine, and the spine. When DiDonato collapsed, Ung called 911 and said that he had shot a man. On the call, he was recorded pleading, “Why did you make me do it?” DiDonato, in a weak voice, can be heard saying, “Please don’t let me die.” When police arrived, Ung’s first words were “I have a permit.”

More American civilians have died by gunfire in the past decade than all the Americans who were killed in combat in the Second World War. 

Read much more, especially about business and politics of guns, here.

Bad packaging = $3b in drugs wasted this year

Bad packaging means $3b in drugs will be wasted this year

By Dan Gorenstein   source   March 01, 2016
Listen to this story

Gettyimages 56293183 – Marko Georgiev/Getty Images
Patients, insurance companies and the federal government are on track to spend about $3 billion this year on cancer drugs that will be thrown away, according to a report on pharmaceutical company profits in BMJ – formerly known as the British Medical Journal – that was released Tuesday.

At the same time, drug makers, hospitals and doctors are profiting from the way these drugs are packaged, researchers found.

At his office at Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan – a leading cancer center – Dr. Leonard Saltz shows off a drug.

“So this is a box that contained a vial of Keytruda at 100 mg,” he said. “About the size of a small salt shaker. So this would cost approximately $5,000, a little bit over.”

Keytruda is part of a new wave of promising oncology drugs. It mobilizes your immune system to fight the cancer for you.

“There is no question that this is a drug we want to have available for our patients,” Saltz said.

But Merck packages this valuable drug in only one size in the U.S.: 100 mg.

The typical patient needs 150 mg, which means half of the second vial is thrown away.

“It’s going to cost in excess of $5,000, and you have a situation where each time you treat the patient you need to put half of it in the trash,” Saltz said.

Saltz – one of the study’s authors – said at this rate Merck is in line to be paid more than $1 billion dollars over the next five years for leftover drugs that aren’t used.

The report names Eli Lilly, Genentech, Amgen and Bristol-Myers Squibb among others that package top-selling cancer drugs in a limited variety of sizes that causes waste.

“We don’t stumble across areas very often where we can be 100 percent confident patients are not benefitting,” saidDr. Peter Bach, lead author of the report.

He says companies are taking advantage of ambiguous if not contradictory regulations on packaging size.

Using Keytruda as an example, Bach says while Merck makes the 100 milligram doses here, the company sells 50 milligram does in European countries.

“Serious thought is going into how big the vials should be and these are highly skilled, sophisticated companies who understand the sources of their revenues,” he said.

Bach said drug companies could either produce a variety of dose sizes or refund the cost of leftover drugs.

Merck said it’s moving to a fixed dose 200mg size that will eliminate waste.

In a statement, Amgen said offering additional vial options is misguided and threatens patient safety.

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company and Genentech declined to comment for this story.

At Home in the Woodlands

Newspaper story about George and Susan’s neighborhood.  source

Neighborhood profile: Lakeview Woodlands

A look down North Lakeview Circle in the Lakeview Woodlands neighborhood.

 

 

Many houses back up to a private lake in Lakeview Woodlands, a neighborhood in unincorporated Wauconda.

  Many houses back up to a private lake in Lakeview Woodlands, a neighborhood in unincorporated Wauconda.  Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Because all homes were custom built, no two are the same in Lakeview Woodlands. this house is on North Orchard Drive.

Many houses back up to a private lake in Lakeview Woodlands, a neighborhood in unincorporated Wauconda.

An open, arboreous ambience, picturesque ponds and an abundance of wildlife attracted Susan and George Nowak to Lakeview Woodlands almost 20 years ago.

“This is like our own little sanctuary, wooded and quiet, yet only a 10-minute drive to town,” George Nowak said.

The neighborhood is beautiful in the fall and winter, and it comes alive in the spring with the singing of frogs and toads that breed in the ponds, Nowak said.

“It’s really nice. We like being so close to nature. In our yard, we’ve had a deer and two fawns, and we’ve had 10 pheasants at one time,” he said.

“The exterior of our home looks like an old traditional Southern home you would see in Kentucky with large front and back porches and beautiful hardscape through the front yard to the porch. Yet the interior is modernized with a 16-foot ceiling in the great room, a big fireplace, vaulted ceiling in the foyer and 9-foot ceilings in the rest of the house. It’s a very nice open concept and a nice mix of the two styles.”

The couple lives across from the Crown family farm, which is the last dairy farm in Lake County and the site of the Wauconda rodeo. “It’s nice that they’re here and not intending to sell their land,” Nowak said. “A lot of developers would love to buy that property and put in a subdivision.”

Lakeview Woodlands sits west of Darrell Road and north of Route 176 in unincorporated Wauconda and borders Island Lake on the east.

Homebuilding in the subdivision started in the 1960s and continued through the 1990s, said Yolonda Moenning, broker associate with RE/MAX Center in Grayslake. “It’s unusual to see a neighborhood built over such a long period of time.”

The subdivision features a variety of custom homes — sprawling ranches, English Tudors, contemporaries, two-story, split- and multi-level homes — with 2,000 to 3,500 square feet, three to four bedrooms and 2½ to 3½ baths. Most homes sit on a one- to two-acre homesite. No two houses are the same as each was built by the owner’s builder of choice.

“Only a couple homes go up for sale each year, which means there is little turnover, and people want to stay in the subdivision,” Moenning said. “Some homes are on a private lake, which is a very nice feature. Also, there’s no association, so residents don’t have the rules that you have with that.”

Neighbors are very friendly, she said. A lot of people get out and walk for exercise and when they run into their neighbors, they stop and visit.

“Another big draw is that kids go to excellent schools. Matthews Middle School is newer, and residents really love the school,” Moenning said.

The location is good with easy access to Route 120 and Rand Road, and 10 minutes to Wauconda’s historical business district. There is plenty of shopping, restaurants and entertainment along Rand Road, and for major shopping, residents can head to Deer Park or the Hawthorn malls in Vernon Hills.

For recreation, the 300-acre Bangs Lake is a natural glacial lake and a popular destination for family recreation.

The Wauconda Bog Nature Preserve is a natural landmark owned by the Lake County Forest Preserve District. It is a mature bog that contains no open water, but serves as a refuge for more than 100 different plants. There is no developed access to the preserve.

Unions in Our Lives

I was a member of the teachers’ union, American Federation of Teachers, all the thirty-some years I worked at Niles Township High Schools, served a term as local president, and worked several years as grievance officer.  I know what the union did for members and for non-members who were required to pay a fair-share of union expenses, less political contributiions.  In all that time, no non-members ever made and issue of having to pay their “fair-share”.    rjn

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As justices debate, remember the middle class,
Unions are to thank for shared prosperity

 Chicago Tribune  1.26.16

Ron Grossman

   I don’t belong to a union. I didn’t have to because my maternal grandfather was a member of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America. His brother was, too, and their sister belonged to the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. Another brother drove a taxi, a union button pinned to his cap.   They were part of a labor movement that was midwife to the American middle class.   Unions never enrolled a majority of workers. At their high point in the 1950s, they counted a third of American workers as members. But their impact was far greater.

Where unions are strong, nonunion workers benefit because employers offer competitive wages to keep their workforce from defecting.   That’s how I got to wear a white shirt and tie, the dress uniform of the middle class.

I was a child during the Great Depression, when my father sometimes drove a cab. Other times he was a furniture mover, and most often he was out of work. Then defense production for World War II kicked off an economic boom, and my father became a department store salesman.   There was no union, as many white-collar workers disdained the labor movement as beneath their newfound dignity. But salaries were decent, buoyed by the general rise in pay as unions got members a bigger slice of the pie. My father could afford for me to stay in school and go to college. So here I am. And not just me. Such was the experience of myriad families. 

  Think about that as the U.S. Supreme Court wrestles with the issues in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.   Earlier this month the justices heard oral arguments in the case that turns on the so-called no-free-lunch provision of the union contract in a school district near Anaheim, Calif. It requires teachers to pay a portion of the union’s dues even if they choose not to join.

Several teachers sued, claiming that violates their First Amendment rights. Unions take political positions, the teachers noted, with which they might not agree.   By the union’s logic, all teachers benefit from the salary scale it negotiates. So shouldn’t all have to pay their share of the cost of negotiating a contract?

Can’t the free-speech issue  be addressed by giving nonmembers a discount — subtracting an amount proportional to what the union spends on political activities?   Some legal scholars say it’s hard to imagine a line cleanly separating politicking from collective bargaining. Fair enough, but should the justices agree, it will close a chapter of what, in the heady days of the 1960s, was proclaimed “People’s History.” The story of the little guy. The kind who carries a lunchbox and a thermos to work. 

  Before unions, he long got the short end of the stick. His work day was arduous — 10 and even 12 hours was the norm — and extra pay for overtime was unheard of. In the needle trades, when orders backed up, the boss’ mantra was: “If you don’t come in on Sunday, don’t bother to come in on Monday.” Unions were handicapped by courts declaring them a “conspiracy.” Even when unions got a toehold, progress was painfully slow.   My grandfather supplemented his sweatshop wages by working evenings at home. I can still see him sitting behind a sewing machine, occasionally joining the conversation between running a line of stitches. Yet even then, the union provided a benefit: an exhilarating sense that a worker wasn’t on his own. My grandmother complained that all her husband wanted to talk about was “shop, shop, union, union.”  

The benefits got more tangible in the postwar decades. Industries that had held union organizers at bay were organized. Assembly line workers got contracts, and the nation’s demography was radically altered.

Most societies look like a pyramid: a few rich people at the top, a lot of poor people at the bottom, and a small middle class in between. But America’s profile got a potbelly: the middle class grew until, by 1971, it was larger than the upper and lower classes combined.   Ordinary folks bought homes and, every few years, could trade in their car for a newer model. They proudly watched their kids go off to college.   But beginning in the 1970s, the process was reversed.

Decade after decade, the middle class declined and its clout was lost proportionally. Now a week doesn’t go by without the media or a blogger proclaiming that America’s middle class is getting squeezed out.   As the Great Recession eased, upper-income folks did nicely. Middle-class families went back to the short end of the stick. No voice insisted that they get a fair share of the pie — as the labor movement did at the end of the Great Depression. Union membership has declined to about 11 percent of the workforce. Organized labor’s remaining strength is in public-sector unions, and that is up for grabs — pending the Supreme Court’s ruling on the no-free-lunch issue.   Yet if its fate is sealed, it deserves a proper obituary. So let us remember the mothers and fathers of the middle class, brave souls who persuaded others to sign petitions asking for union representation. Who denied themselves a paycheck by voting to strike. Who walked picket lines. Who came home bubbling over with news of the shop and the union, the shop and the union.   rgrossman@tribpub.com

 

Tour of “Hidden Union Station”

 

Furnished by John

November 11, 2015

The hidden Union Station: Take a tour        source

crains-tours-hidden-union-station.jpg

A historic photo of Union Station’s old ticket room, now being converted to a first-class passenger lounge.

Anyone who’s seen “The Untouchables,” the Kevin Costner version, has an idea of how stunning Chicago’s Union Station used to be.

The famous baby-carriage scene in the 1987 film showed some of the station’s beauty, set on marble steps flanked by brass railings that flowed into a huge room. It suggested what used to be the reality: Union Station was the O’Hare International Airport from the mid-’20s until the Korean War, the meeting place for the nation.

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The famous Union Station staircase scene from “The Untouchables.”

Recently, Crain’s photographer Manuel Martinez and I got a chance to look at what is hidden behind the walls of the million-square-foot structure. And, despite tarnish and dust and soot, it’s a lot.

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One of the many hidden areas of Union Station that commuters don’t see.

Tucked behind impervious walls and locked doors or accessed only by keyed elevators is a different world—700,000 or so square feet of empty but usable space, below, which station owner Amtrak is seeking partners to redevelop.

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The entire west wall of the building, flanking the Great Hall, used to be a mass of men and women’s lounges, a 17-barber barbershop and three-story Fred Harvey House Restaurant, both a cafe and a fine-dining room.

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Above, historic photos of Union Station’s cafe, barbershop and dining room. Below, the barbershop then and now.

The cafe closed after a fire in 1981 and is empty—except for the Christmas decorations and fixtures stored in a corner, the blackened walls and the boarded-up three-story windows.

One small room in the station has been redeveloped as a lounge with Wi-Fi, satellite and other perks, at $20 a day. But at the moment, that’s about it.

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The redeveloped lounge.

There’s almost as much space on the east wall, underneath Canal Street. That used to be high-end retail, with a Marshall Field’s-esque look. Included: a false exterior wall with no ceiling (below), designed to give retailers a place to display their wares to pedestrians and to let a little more natural light enter. One section is being eyed for an indoor/outdoor cafe. Another room, once used to sell tickets, is being remodeled into a lounge for first-class passengers.

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The remains of the false exterior wall today.

Lightwells are a frequent feature of the building, which was partially designed by Daniel Burham—of Burnham Plan fame—before his death. “Daniel Burnham was a pain in the butt because he was a build-forever (type of guy),” says Amtrak building manager Paul Sanders. “Well, guess what. We’re at forever.”

That’s seen even better upstairs, in the seven empty floors that used to house railroad offices and that flank the Great Hall’s glass atrium, which, miraculously, is still there.

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Above, a now-empty area where a new first-class lounge could be located.

The offices are empty, stripped to the walls, wheelchair accessible and ready for development, Sanders enthuses.

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A walled-off area in Union Station that used to house a women’s lounge.

The area collectively is referred to as the station headhouse, and Amtrak is hoping to return it to what it looked like when it opened after 10 years of construction in 1925—and to make a few bucks off of it, too.

Union Station’s Great Hall, then and now.

Amtrak also is hoping to peddle adjoining air rights, too. If responses come in to its bid requests, the passenger rail service will get some badly needed money. And Chicago will get a piece of its history back.

Changes coming? Above, Union Station’s cafe, then and now.

Update, 12: 45 p.m. — In a somewhat related matter, two Illinois Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Dan Lipinski, have been named to the Senate/House conference committee that will hammer out the first multi-year road and transit bill in a decade.

The bill at the moment does not include financing for Amtrak, which is expected to be funded in a separate bill. But one key item is support for freight rail, with several projects in the pipeline that would help unclog Union Station, which was built as a long-distance rail hub but now mostly houses Metra’s commuter service. There’s also some pots of money at issue that Amtrak could tap for Union Station work.

Lipinski told me in an interview that his priorities in the conference include freight rail, as well as securing the somewhat higher overall spending level the Senate wants. Lipinski said he believes funding problems involving Chicago Transit Authority projects—especially extension of the Red Line south to the city limits and rebuilding the Red Line north—appear to have been taken care of. But the situation remains flexible until a bill is enacted.

Present-day photos by Manuel Martinez; historic photos via Amtrak.