The Public Square

The Public Square is no longer in production, but presented here are the archives from its beginning in 2004.

WILL - The Public Square - April 12, 2013

Barbara Ford on UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

By Barbara Ford

Hello, my name is Barbara Ford. I am a resident of Champaign and serve as Director of the Mortenson Center for International Library Programs at UIUC.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) was established to create conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures, and peoples based upon respect for commonly shared values.  Nothing is more important in todays world.  In 2011 I was appointed as a member of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. Since then I have realized how important UNESCO is to much of the world and how little many of us in this country know about the activities of this important international group.

UNESCO promotes the advance of education and freedom of expression around the world, including a free and open internet and media sector. It also promotes the sharing of scientific knowledge and cultural understanding through  preservation of world heritage sites and encouragement of intercultural dialogue. 

While the United States played a leading role in the creation and development of UNESCO, it stopped funding UNESCO in late 2011 after the agency admitted Palestine into its membership. This created  a 22% cut in UNESCOs budget that may either cancel or jeopardize countless programs that improve peoples lives.   We need to encourage Congress to take action so the U.S. can again pay its UNESCO dues and become a fully functioning member of the organization.

Learning more about UNESCO and its work is very important.  To help with this on a local level, a new UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship will make its community debut at a public ceremony and reception in the Robeson Rooms at the Champaign Public Library on Monday, April 15, 5:00pm  7:00pm. Mr. Guy Djoken, Executive Director of the UNESCO Center for Peace in Washington, D.C., will formally welcome UCGC into the UNESCO network of over 3,800 affiliates in more than 80 countries. The mayors of both Champaign and Urbana will be on hand to mark the occasion. The public is invited to the event.

The Center for Global Citizenship becomes only the second UNESCO affiliate in the United States.  We hope the Center can draw upon the wealth of knowledge in our university and community to build a deeper understanding of global issues affecting the worlds population and to show how UNESCO contributes to the eradication of poverty, sustainable development, intercultural dialogue, and the building of peace.

Our desire to start the UNESCO Center for Global Citizenship springs from the belief that a world -- starting with our own community -- that is open to different perspectives is a better, safer and more peaceful place in which to live. UCGC programs and events will include guided visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Cahokia Mounds in southwestern Illinois, museum tours, reading/discussion groups, guest speakers, school events, traveling exhibitions, and partnership ties with UNESCO associations across the world.

UCGC has its administrative home with the University of Illinois Center for Global Studies. Partnership and project proposals are welcome. Please join us on Monday evening at 7:00 at the Champaign Public Library. Thank you.


WILL - The Public Square - March 12, 2013

Arthur Cronkhite on Gun Rights

By Arthur Cronkhite

Hello, my name is Arthur Cronkhite.

Once again, we debate our personal rights, granted in the second amendment of our Constitution. Although the courts have assured our right to possess guns, the debate now centers on the slippery slope in what kind of guns.

This recent debate, was the result of the Sandy Hook event - that to-date, has many questions still outstanding, un-asked by today’s media. One example of our media’s neglect, is the lack of reporting that handguns and not an “assault” rifle, was used at Sandy Hook.

A highly-suspect, under-reporting, especially when you consider that today’s media, on average, has aired, pro-gun-control reports at a ratio of 8 to 1. And the 1 - many times, is a lackluster, poorly delivered, and/or negative example of gun ownership.

But the greatest omission and probably best example of our media’s complicity, is the silence, surrounding a singular common factor in the vast majority of school and public shootings, that of; Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors – referred to as SSRI drugs.

There have been nearly 2 dozen international warnings, concerning this class of psychotropic prescription drugs, whose side effects include; mania, psychosis, aggression, violence, suicidal and homicidal ideation. Drugs that most of the shooters had been on, and were on, at the time of their attacks.

As one of the media’s largest advertisers and biggest political campaign contributors, the Pharmaceutical industry, has little desire for Americans to contemplate that their drugs might be part of the problem.

So, to make it appear that mental health issues are being properly addressed, debate has focused on the need for “more” mental health, which in today’s Psychiatric practice that does less talk therapy and more pill prescription, means more psychotic drugs to more people and therefore higher profits.

Until we demand greater accountability of our media and honesty from our politicians, this kind of subversive Orwellian farce will continue, as our liberties are further challenged. And is “the” primary reason why ammunition is in short supply and some guns are difficult to keep in stock.

Recent statistics show that some 325 people died by rifles while at the some time, 450 died falling out of bed. So for what possible reason would certain politicians, continue to lie about an assault rifle being used at Sandy Hook, with a focused effort, against high capacity magazines? I can tell you why!

For the statement rarely made and the reason seldom given, is that assault rifles and high capacity magazines are “most coveted” not for hunting or home protection, but are “the” guardian-device against tyranny. Because without them, “we the people”, would no longer be a potential threat to bad governance, as our founding fathers intended and admonished - - us all to be.


WILL - The Public Square - February 03, 2012

Gary Storm on Author Mark Braverman

Hello, my name is Gary Storm. I am a resident of Urbana and a member of the Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative. Most serious commentators on Middle Eastern affairs have long recognized that unresolved tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians over land inhabited by the Palestinians when the state of Israel was created by the United Nations in 1947 is the most likely source of wider conflict in the area. Mark Braverman is a Jewish American scholar who discusses these tensions and their causes in his book, Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land. In the book, Braverman argues forcefully that there is nothing inconsistent about supporting a national homeland for the Jews while at the same time criticizing the Israeli government's policies regarding the occupation of Palestine. Nor is such criticism anti-Semitic. As a Jew himself, Braverman criticizes the injustices of the occupation and calls for an end to settlement building and to extensions of the separation wall, armed military checkpoints and Israeli-only roads that have imposed such immense hardships on the daily lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank. He also calls for removal of the blockade of Gaza. Personally, I concur with all of these positions. I also concur with Braverman in his belief that these hardships have fueled widespread frustration, resentment and anger among Palestinians and their sympathizers throughout the Arab world, factors that have led the most radical among them to resort to violence. In short, we believe that it is not Israel's demand for a national homeland but its brutal occupation of Palestine and its expansionist colonial policies there which stand in the way of peace in the region. This view is supported by the fact that, in polls, most Palestinians and Arabs-at-large are prepared to recognize Israel's right to exist in exchange for an end to the occupation and reasonable compensation for injustices imposed by Israel upon Palestinians since its founding in 1947. In Fatal Embrace, Braverman calls for Christians, Jews and others to examine their moral commitment to social justice and human rights everywhere, including Palestine, and to act on their consciences to craft and/or support agreements that will end the Israeli occupation and bring peace and security to the region. Please consider attending one of several local presentations that Braverman will make next week, including one at the Champaign Public Library on Friday February 10th at 7:00 p.m. There will be plenty of time for discussion after the presentation. Many points of view on this long standing conflict need to be expressed and, hopefully, reconciled.

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WILL - The Public Square - November 11, 2011

Donna Camp on Hunger and the Wesley Evening Food Pantry

Hello, My name is Donna Camp. I am the director of the Wesley Evening Food Pantry in Urbana. We are one of the few food pantries in Champaign County with regular evening hours.

The need in our community is great, and often invisible. Feeding America estimates at least 79,000 people in east central Illinois don't have enough to eat. A quarter of them are children. You probably know someone who needs help and don't even realize it. They are our neighbors, not strangers: the nursing assistant at the hospital; children in band with our children; the person waiting on you in your favorite store, the grandmother reading to her granddaughter at the library. City employees, university employees, people working two jobs with no health insurance or sick leave.

The Wesley Evening Food Pantry is open on the 3rd Thursday of every month from 5:00pm to 7:30pm. On that one night a month we serve 800 to 1,500 people. Each family gets to shop for their own groceries, as if they were in a grocery store. If you need food, we are located at Green & Goodwin in Urbana. Anyone who gets here before 7:30pm receives groceries. We have never run out of food.

Whether you need food or want to help, or both, I encourage you to learn more about the issue of food insecurity in our community. One such learning opportunity will be next week when WILL-TV and radio feature the program Growing Hope Against Hunger: An Illinois Response at 8:00pm, Tuesday, November 15th. As one of the panelists on this program, I hope you will tune in to learn more. There will also be an hour-long online chat after the program at willconnect.org that you are welcome to join for live discussion.

To learn more about Wesley Evening Food Pantry, please visit us at www.wesleypantry.org. Thank you.

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WILL - The Public Square - October 28, 2011

Gary Storm on Non-violent Peace Initiative for Palestine/Israel

Hello, my name is Gary Storm. I am a retired faculty member from the University of Illinois at Springfield who is now active with the Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative. What images come to your mind when I mention the Palestinian/Israeli conflict? Many Americans will probably think, first, of rock throwing Palestinian youth or of crude rockets or occasional suicide bombers being dispatched into Israel by Palestinian "terrorists". It is far less common for Americans to think of Israeli bulldozers pushing over Palestinian homes and olive orchards in the West Bank to seize land for construction of State-subsidized settlements or of the so-called "Security Wall" winding its way not along the border between Israel and Palestine, but within the West Bank separating Arab families from one another and from their agricultural land, water resources, schools, businesses and places of worship. We need a more balanced understanding of this part of the world. While Palestinian violence directed at innocent civilians is never justified, neither is the destruction of Palestinian lives, neighborhoods and hospitals caused by massive Israeli air raids and tank bombardments, even when justified as "retaliation" for Arab violence. Who can rightly be said to be retaliating against whom? The repeated cycle of violence merely results in deeper poverty and resentment among Palestinians and continued expansion of Israeli controlled territory. It fails to achieve peace and security for all in the region. This Sunday afternoon at the Champaign Public Library, area residents will have an opportunity to view a film that highlights a different approach to resolving conflicts in Israel and Palestine, namely, one of passive resistance and non-violent social action. The film documents efforts of peace-seeking activists from Palestine, Israel and elsewhere who join the citizens of Budrus, a small town in the West Bank, to block an extension of what they call the Israeli "separation wall" through their community. Similar efforts are increasingly widespread in the West Bank, supported by Palestinians and Israelis alike. They offer brighter hope for achieving a lasting peace in the area, whether a two-State solution or otherwise. The film, which begins at 2 p.m., will be followed by comments from a panel of individuals with education and experience relating to this part of the world, and there will be time for questions and discussion afterwards. The program is being sponsored by the Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative in order for local citizens to learn more about how nonviolent social action can be used to address international conflicts. More programs dealing with this theme will be scheduled later in the year.

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WILL - The Public Square - September 02, 2011

Robert Naiman on the Congressional Super Committee for debt reduction

Hi. I'm Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, which works to reform U.S. foreign policy so that it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

A Congressional "Super Committee" has been created to produce a plan by Thanksgiving to reduce projected government debt by $1.2 trillion over the next ten years. This Super Committee has a historic opportunity to cut projected military spending.

Many bipartisan groups of experts - including the majority of the President's bipartisan deficit commission - have a called for a trillion dollar cut in the projected "base" (non-war) Pentagon budget over ten years. That would return annual Pentagon spending to its 2007 level - still more than what we spent on the military during the Cold War. Given the cuts in projected military spending that the President and Congress have already agreed, a trillion dollar cut in projected military spending over ten years would meet half of the Super Committee's goal.

In addition, the Super Committee can find another $200 billion in savings - 1/6 of the Super Committee's debt reduction goal - by withdrawing our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan as currently scheduled rather than allowing the Pentagon to establish permanent military garrisons in these countries, which would continue these wars indefinitely.

East Central Illinois Representative Tim Johnson has been a leader in Congress in working to end the wars. We urge Representative Johnson to use this opportunity to press his colleagues to include ending the wars as part of the deal to reduce the government debt.

You can learn more about this historic opportunity to cut projected military spending by visiting our website, www.justforeignpolicy.org.

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WILL - The Public Square - August 19, 2011

Connie Georgoulis on Illinois Cares Rx

Hi, my name is Connie Georgoulis. I am a volunteer with Champaign County Health Care Consumers and a member of CCHCC's Medicare Task Force. I'm also a senior and a beneficiary of Illinois Cares Rx, a prescription drug assistance program that was cut in half by this year's state budget. Since 2005, Illinois Cares Rx has helped thousands of low-income seniors pay their Medicare Part D premiums and co-payments and provided discounted prescription drug coverage, allowing them to avoid more expensive health care, such as hospitalization, when they cannot follow their doctor's prescribed drug regimen due to high out of pocket costs.

Beginning on September 1st, anyone currently enrolled in Illinois Cares Rx with an annual income of over 200% of the Federal Poverty Level will lose their benefits. For those still eligible, their co-payments will increase by more than double for many prescription drugs. For most seniors, paying for multiple prescription drugs is already a significant expense, and will only become more difficult to afford after September 1st.

While we still have some time before these changes go into effect, I want to offer a few suggestions to support the more than 200,000 seniors across Illinois who will be impacted by these cuts. First and foremost, don't wait till September when your coverage changes to make a plan. Now is the time to figure out how these changes will affect your monthly budget and health care and prepare for them.

Think back to when you applied for Illinois Cares Rx and whether your income has changed...you may still be eligible! Talk to your local agency that helped you enroll in the program to fill out a new application. In Champaign County, the IL Cares Rx support agency is Family Service Senior Resource Center.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist and ask if there are generics for the drugs you are taking or even free samples. Ask for a 90-day prescription and fill it before September 1st. This way you can get your drugs at the current (lower) co-pay levels for another 3 months.

Finally, other programs are available that can lower your drug costs. Prescription Assistance Programs provided by drug companies and charitable foundations can help with co-pays, Part D premiums, or drug rebates. Also, check out drug discount cards, such as Needy Meds and the Illinois Rx Card, which can be printed directly from the website for immediate use.

If you have questions or need help to plan for these changes to your Illinois Cares Rx benefits, don't wait till September. Call Champaign County Health Care Consumers at 352-6533 or visit us at www.healthcareconsumers.org today!

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WILL - The Public Square - May 13, 2011

Robert Naiman on troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

Hi, I'm Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, which works to reform U.S. foreign policy so that it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

The death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan gives us an opportunity to reconsider whether we should keep 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

As President Obama considers how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan this year, Illinois Senator Mark Kirk could help bring our troops home by co-sponsoring S. 186, the "Safe and Responsible Redeployment of United States Combat Forces from Afghanistan Act," which would show support for President Obama's promised "significant" drawdown this year and would also require the President to give Congress a timetable for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is already a co-sponsor of this legislation. 15th district Representative Tim Johnson is a co-sponsor of similar legislation in the House.

While nearly three-quarters of the American public support the withdrawal of a "substantial number of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan this summer" - including the majority of Republican voters - the Washington Post reports that the Pentagon continues to pressure President Obama to make the promised drawdown "small to insignificant".

Senator Kirk's co-sponsorship of S. 186 would help President Obama withstand the Pentagons pressure and begin an end to the nearly decade long war which has taken the lives of over 1,500 U.S. troops and unknown thousands of Afghan civilians, while currently costing American taxpayers more than $100 billion a year.

You can learn more about efforts to press for a substantial drawdown of U.S. troops and a timeline to end the war on our website, www.justforeignpolicy.org

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WILL - The Public Square - April 22, 2011

Nick Quealy-Gainer on Share A Meal with Community Shares

My name is Nick Quealy-Gainer and I am asking people to join us for the 8th annual Share A Meal with Community Shares, next Tuesday, April 26th at restaurants around Champaign-Urbana. Proceeds from the event will benefit Community Shares of Illinois to help support over 70 member non-profit organizations, including 11 in Champaign County, working to address issues such as affordable housing, hunger, health care, civil rights and more.

People can come out and enjoy a great meal with family and friends and give back to the community at the same time.

Six restaurants in Champaign-Urbana will donate 20-30% of their sales to Community Shares and its member organizations.

This year, our restaurants include:

-Siam Terrace in Urbana for dinner -Milo's in Urbana for dinner -Great Impasta in Urbana for lunch & dinner -Black Dog Smoke & Ale House in Urbana for lunch & dinner -Farren's Pub & Eatery in Champaign for dinner, and -My Thai in Champaign for lunch & dinner

If you were already going to eat out that day, we're just asking you to choose to dine at one of these great local restaurants. And if you weren't planning to eat out, you should skip cooking and have a nice meal cooked for you while you support a great cause.

Share A Meal is sponsored by Community Shares of Illinois along with First Midwest Bank, Illinois American Water, Martin, Hood, Friese & Associates and Fasprint.

We appreciate all of our corporate sponsors, but the event will only be a success if people pack these restaurants next Tuesday, so make your reservation today!

For more information about Share A Meal, including a list of our members and participating restaurants, visit our website at www.share-a-meal.org or you can contact us at 352-6533.

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WILL - The Public Square - February 11, 2011

The Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative welcomes Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

The Urbana-Champaign Peace Initiative has arranged for Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish to come to our community for a 2-1/2 day visit this weekend. From world press and Internet coverage given to the tragic death of three of his daughter's caused by Israeli shelling of their home in Gaza in 2009 and, more recently, from publicity given to his new book entitled, "I Shall Not Hate", Dr. Abuelaish has come to be known by many simply as "the Gaza doctor".

The doctor's story is an amazing one. Born into extreme poverty in a refugee camp in Gaza, his Palestinian parents did everything they could to encourage his pursuit of education and, through a scholarship to study medicine in Cairo, he eventually went on earn degrees in Obstetrics and Gynecology in London and to complete a 6-year residency at the Soroka Medical Center in Israel. During and after the residency, he lived in Gaza and practiced medicine in both places, coping with extraordinarily frustrating travel restrictions during his weekly commutes and a paucity of medical resources in Gaza. During this period, however, he gained the respect of many patients and professional colleagues, Palestinian and Israeli, and formed his strong belief that medicine could bridge the divide between the two groups.

Deciding that if he wanted to make a larger difference for the Palestinian people, he needed to acquire management and policy-making skills, Dr. Abuelaish enrolled in a masters program in public health at Harvard University before returning to Gaza and being hired as a senior researcher at a large hospital in Tel Aviv. He was commuting weekly between the two places when his daughters were killed.

As stated on the cover of his book, Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hated, Abuelaish called for the people of the region to start talking to each other. His deep hope is that his daughters will be the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis. After the death of his daughters, Dr Abuelaish formed a foundation dedicated to improving the health and education of women in the Middle East.

Please find time to listen to and talk with this extraordinary guest to our community. He will be at the Urbana Free Library tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. and at the Provena Covenant Auditorium at 4:00 p.m.. He will also be at CIMIC , the local Islamic mosque, at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday before appearing live on WILLs Keeping the Faith at 6:00. There will be opportunities to buy his book and get it signed at some of these venues.

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