Friday, April 30, 2010

Proud to receive my 4th Peter Lisagor Award for "In-Depth" reporting from the Society of Professional Journalist's Chicago Headline Club

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I won a Society of Professional Journalism Lisagor Award for a series I did on an American Arab Grocer who claimed he was the victim of anti-Arab bias by the suburban village where his store is located. Had I not written the story, no one in the Chicagoland media would have “wasted” their time covering the complaint. No one would listen to him and for a year, he was being harassed. When I started writing the story, I discovered in fact he was targeted by village inspectors who he said and I believe were trying to shut him down. They arrested him and his wife and son in August 2009 after receiving a complaint that he was “storing” food (that was canned) in a vacant store next to his own. The 911 tapes of police showed – after weeks of trying to get them – that the police had targeted him for being “Arab” – they said they were going to “shut down” an “Arab store owner.”

The Lisagor Awards are the highest honors you can receive from a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. The Chicago Headline Club is the largest US Chapter. They were awarded last Friday April 23. This is my 4th Lisagor; I received three others for column writing. This one was awarded for In-Depth Reporting.

My awards include:

1984, Lisagor Award for Column Writing, Daily Southtown
2002, Lisagor Award for Column Writing, Arlington Heights Daily Herald
2004, Lisagor Award for Column Writing, Southwest News-Herald
2009, Lisagor Award for In-Depth Reporting, Southwest News-Herald
2006, Best Ethnic Columnist in America, New America Media
2009, Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award, the Mehdi Family

I have one more award that will be announced next week.

Thanks everyone for your support.

Thanks so much
-- Ray Hanania

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You know you're hurting when the President has to give you a hug

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Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias got a hug and a "shout out" from President Barack Obama yesterday in Quincy, Illinois at one of several speeches Obama gave during his pump-up-the-economy tour through the Midwest.

If anyone politician needs a hug, it's Giannoulias, the youngest child apparently of the infamous Illinois Democratic family of trouble.

You know the name Giannoulias, but not from his having achieved anything spectacular while her served as Illinois' treasurer. During his entire time in office, it is hard to think of one major policy move he initiated that "wowed" anyone, except maybe his campaign contributors and political cronies.

As treasurer, Giannoulias would put on his Banking Hat -- which is really the only place you know anything about the guy -- and discuss issues like how the State of Illinois COULD HAVE stepped in to help consumers who are being exploited by the Credit Card companies which are charging interest rates that are making the Chicago Outfit blush. Yes, some credit card companies charge 30 percent interest, once you have rackedup enough debt and can't do anything about it except to pay the robbers in three-piece-suits.

When I asked Giannoulias about that last year on my morning Radio Show, he basically said the problem wasn't the credit card companies. The problem is with consumers who don't know how to manage their money. Well, not everyone comes from a family of bankers who have made millions of dollars in profit, and then took $78 million out of their bank months before it became clear that the Federal Government was going to step in and takeover that bank.

Oh, that's right. Maybe Giannoulias, who was an OFFICER at Broadway Bank, might have understood the issues with credit card rip-offs and overcharging and abusing consumers. Maybe that's why, as a banker, Giannoulias thinks the problem with credit cards is not the rip-off policies of the credit card companies, which are OWNED BY BANKS, but rather the problem of the consumers.

Unfortunately, Mr. Giannoulias. The consumers being ripped-off by the credit card companies ARE VOTERS. And right now, not many voters are happy with your selfish insensitivity.

Sure, we are impressed that you won state office, thanks to the millions your family and banking pals and friends poured in to your election to win that office, where you acted like a typical banker, I guess. And sure we are impressed that you are a basketball pal of President Obama's. Wow. That's great for you, not us schlubs, the consumers and voters, of course.

So now Broadway bank is taken over by the Federal Government -- thank God! And your family walks away with how many millions in profits from a bank failing? Usually when a business fails in everyday America, the business owners are the ones that suffer, not the public. Well, at least President Obama's Federal Government stepped in to rescue the bank from your grip, while you go around the state of Illinois and complain that, "Well, I was an officer at the failed bank but I had no responsibility for its problems or bad loans." We've heard that excuse before.

Thanks a lot Alexi for sticking it to the consumers one more time. At least President Obama is there to pat you ont he back and hug you and promise you a big job when the election is over in November. Maybe Obama will put you in charge of overseeing the nation's credit card company and banking fiasco after the November elections when U.S. Congressman Mark Kirk, who cares even less for the public's interests, take office.

You could do the right thing and step down, like Scott Lee Cohen did in the face of scandal that in his case was personal and had nothing to do with his business decisions. Maybe the Democrats can get their act together and appoint someone who has not only a chance of defeating Kirk, the flip-flopper, but also paying more attention to the needs of consumers and voters in this state.

but then, that would be like the credit card companies sending me a letter apologizing for the years of  excess interest rate charges at more than 20 percent, that they jacked up on me after breaking their contracted promise to give me a card at only 14 percent.

Hey President Obama. Here's a shout-out for you. How about some hugs and shout outs for the American people instead of your insider basketball buddy pals?

Wouldn't that be a story!

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, April 26, 2010

Call in the National Guard to fight street and drug gang violence in Chicago

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Why I like Fritchey’s plan to call in the National Guard
By Ray Hanania

Street gang and drug gang related violence is out of control in Chicago. Something needs to be done.

The Chicago Police are overworked, and oftentimes because of political agitation and bad publicity – the CPD needs to do a better job of PR but they don’t – the neighborhoods where the crime is committed do not cooperate.

Although the murder rates have dropped in recent years from the highs of what they were a decade ago – as many as 660 murders in one year, maybe a third now – Chicago is still losing great young minds to needless violence by teenagers who are lost and career criminals who rule the streets and communities.

Most of the street gang violence is concentrated in about 9 percent of the city’s neighborhoods, according to published reports. That means we know where most of the violence takes place. The question for Police Supt. Jodi Weis, a good person with an impossible job, is why? Why can’t we crack down on these criminals.

State Representatives John Fritchey of the North Side and LaShawn Ford of the West Side have proposed this past week that the Illinois National Guard be called in to help patrol these neighborhoods.

That’s a great idea. I’ll tell you why. Sometimes the problem is perception. And the perception today is the Chicago Police can’t do the job themselves in curbing the violence in this most difficult of neighborhoods.

Young people are dying, usually innocent bystanders. The Fritchey and Ford proposal does several things to change those perceptions and, more importantly, make a difference:

First, bringing in the National Guard reinforces the confidence of the public in the neighborhoods, to give them more strength to stand up and fight back. That’s been a big problem. Many living in this crime infested neighborhoods rightly fear speaking out. They need support.

Second, the idea sends out a strong message to the street gangs there’s going to be zero tolerance for street gang and drug related violence and people with guns.

Why don’t we start treating street gang and drug gang members who carry weapons the same way we treat terrorists. Put them in camps and deny them their rights. Round them up and punish them. Force them to change their lives by forcing them to live in tough and brutal conditions.

Maybe there are some who can be saved if we can take them off the streets.

Third, and most importantly, it shows the world and especially the neighborhoods where these murders have taken place that someone cares. Maybe this will encourage more parents and homeowners in these crime infested areas to feel confidence that speaking out will make a difference, not result in retribution against them by the drug and street gang thugs.

Finally, calling out the Illinois National Guard to step in and help also sends a message to those people who think that street gang and drug gang are the problems of other neighborhoods. They are not. The Fritchey and Ford proposal will help makes those people living in more comfortable neighborhoods and the suburbs more aware of the problem and maybe they will start to think about ways we can help.

It won’t be easy sending in the National Guard. There are going to be incidents we might not like.

But the reality is if we don’t do something, the streets of Chicago will continue to be ruled by street gang and drug gang thugs and killers who have so little respect for human life that innocent little children are dying every week.

[Note: John Fritchey joins Radio Chicagoland this morning (Monday April 26, 2010) at 9 am to discuss his proposal. Listen to WJJG 1530 AM Radio or live on the internet at  And call in at 708-493-1530 if you have an idea, too.]

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Saturday, April 24, 2010

The tragedy of Illinois' statewide elections -- the poor voters!

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Broadway Bank, the clout-heavy insider institution smothered in controversy that financed the Giannoulias family, shut down this week. But while it's doors may have closed in one respect -- to be opened and managed by the Federal Government -- it's closing opens a huge and ugly door on the truth about the elections this November.

The poor voters. We get screwed by the Republicans. We get screwed by the Democrats. We get screwed by the Health Insurance robber barons. And we get screwed by the Banks and their credit card rip-off schemes. And now we get screwed again by being denied a decent choice among the disarray of pathetic and poorly qualified candidates running for statewide office this November.

No politically motivated Tea Party Movement pandering to the egos of some maniacal Conservative Republican nut jobs like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin can save us.

We should be screaming about the poor quality of many of the candidates we're being force-fed, but voters are so pathetic themselves they won't even bother to vote. So whose fault is it?

Look at the election "field of screams."

For the race for U.S. Senate, our choice is Alexi Giannoulias, a candidate who made no mark of any significance in the office of Illinois Treasurer, his first real elective office. He did nothing there, except defend the banks and the credit card companies. Now, he wants to be our U.S. Senator, in the seat once held by President Barack Obama and now held by lame duck U.S. Senator Roland Burris.

What is Giannoulias's credentials? He is a basketball pal of President Obama. Not one great idea to helpt he taxpayers. Not one principled stand against the bankers -- obviously because he comes from a banking family that has a history of high profile controversial insider deals. How much money did the Giannoulias family take from Broadway Bank before it shut down? I read someplace they took more than $70 million. Paid themselves first.

And now Giannoulias wants to be our Senator.

No way. No how. And I am a Democrat.

On the other hand, who is our alternative choice. Self-serving PR-savvy double-talking flipflopper Congressman Mark Kirk who built his career exploiting the Iraq War where he served as a celebrity pilot in a reserve unit in the conflict. Not a hero. He just served. For us regular people who served in the military, we barely get a thank you. For Mark Kirk the politician with the mouth that never stops bragging, he wants to use his routine performance in the military -- he did what he was supposed to do and nothing more (which is sadly more than most of the people screaming for war over the past eight years have done), and now he expects to be rewarded with the high-paying powerful job of U.S. Senator.

No way. No how.

Then look at the equally pathetic race for Governor, filling the vacancy left by the scandal-plagued blow-hard and arrogant former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Although he was unfairly treated by the U.S. Justice Department and the Illinois Legislature, the fact is Blow-hard Blagojevich made it all possible with his stupid public comments and his selfish political style.

We're supposed to believe that his successor -- and his former running mate -- Pat Quinn is going to set the boat straight and get this state back on its feet from the deep hole the state's political leaders have dug for the taxpayers over the years by caring for themselves and not caring for the interests of the state's economically deprived citizens.

Quinn is pathetic. A hypocrite. It's all about him. His career. he has been trying so hard to get to the top he has forgotten how to be a reformer. He's arrogant just like everyone of his predecessors and who knows what controversies he will step in when given the reigns of power.

His tax increase is the WORST idea. Instead of tightening his belt and cutting the fat from HIS administration, he's already stripping funds from communities across the state, crippling the budgets of many of the programs the people of Illinois need to survive, and placing the burden of the economic catastrophe we have in Illinois created by Pat Quinn, Alexi Giannoulias, Mark Kirk and all of the statewide elected officials on the shoulders of the taxpayers who never had a chance to begin with.

The elections and the government on the state level are rigged.

No way. No how.

And then there is Bill Brady, the downstate Senator. Such a sad missed opportunity when he was elected instead of State Senator Kirk Dillard, the one person who offered this state hope. Dillard could easily defeat Quinn. Brady cannot. In fact, every time Brady opens his mouth, he "steps in it" and you know what the "it" is. Here is a guy who is so rich that he refuses to release his income taxes. Why? He says because he wants to protect his business partners.

Well, if you really wanted to protect your business partners, you NEVER would have run for public office to benefit yourself. What have you EVER done as a State Senator besides moo with the rest of the herded legislative cows?

Brady is playing a cheap game of deception when he says he will releases his income taxes for three hours only for the viewing of reporters, at his Springfield offices. Not release them to the public. He doesn't want to public to know what he has done and how rich he is and how much he has profited. God forbid we might discover something shady about his business conduct and the only way to know if a politician is "clean" is to see their full tax returns.

The legislature should make it mandatory that candidates for public office should be REQUIRED to release their income tax forms as a part of their filing and all of their subsequent income tax forms MUST be filed ON TIME and in every year they hold public office OR are running for public office. To do anything less is a slap int he face of the voters.

No way. No how.

So who do we vote for? The pathetic third parties who want to tell that one of their candidates "won" 10 percent of a vote in some past election. That's not winning. That's losing by a landslide and it's a reflection on their inability to convince voters of their programs.

We're screwed.

Our only hope is this:

1 -- The Democrats force Giannoulais to step down and replace him with someone else. If they don't Illinois will be stuck with Kirk for six years of misery and suffering and poor leadership. Kirk is a conservative fanatic trying to appease voters with his phony "I'm a moderate Republican" BS.

The sad irony here is that Burris has proven to be the BEST US Senator this state has had in a long time. He has voted his conscience and on what's best for the citizens. All that BS about him being tainted because he was appointed by Blow-hard Blagojevich is Balgojevich Baloney.

2 -- Pat Quinn needs to get his act together and do some serious rethinking of everything he holds dear. Otherwise, we will get stuck with Brady, another Republican insider who will destroy this state through inept leadership and partisan political agendas. Blagojevich was right about Quinn, but not in a caring way for the taxpayers, rather, because it made him feel good about the mess he helped create for himself.

As for the rest of the candidates running for public office. None of them mean a hill of beans if they don't have th guts to stand up and tell the voters what needs to be said. They are so afraid of creating enemies they just want to slink past and win office. They don't want to rock the boat at all. They just want to get back in office, because the only place safe in today's economy is in an elected office where health and pension benefits come almost free picked from the low-hanging taxpayer funded broken state branches.

At least this year, voters who don't waste their time caring about the miserable state of our government and politics will have a legitimate excuse to stay home and let the insiders take everything and destroy everything all at the same time.

We'll be talking about this topic on my radio show this week beginning Monday morning at 8 am. Call in, if you care. Snooze if you're happy with the garbage we call statewide government.

-- Ray Hanania

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Restaurant Review: al Bawadi Restaurant, Bridgeview

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al BAWADI Restaurant
Six Stars
7216 W. 87th Street, Bridgeview, Illinois
(708) 599-1999
Reviewed: April 17, 2010

There are many Middle Eastern and Arabian restaurants in Little Arabia in the Southwest Suburbs between Burbank and Orland Park, but one of the best in terms of both food and presentation is al Bawadi Restaurant.

Opened in 2009, al Bawadi seeks to offer not only great Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food with a Palestinian and Jordinian twist, but also an environment right out of the suburbs of Jerusalem with waiters and staff dressed to the culture and the restaurant decor reflecting an environment as if you had traveled to the Middle East.

The menu is a little pricey but worth it. The food is always fresh and has a family-friendly atmosphere. It offers both lamb and chicken-based specialities as well as vegetarian menus and even has a kid's menu - which is unusual for most Arabian and Middle Eastern restaurants. Baba Ghanouj and hummus dips, and a variety of pre-meal appetizers, stuffed kibbeh and salads including Tahini Salad (Jerusalem Salad) and tabouleh are choice.

Kabobs and skwered meats and sandwiches are popular including Kufta Kabob, which is spiced ground lamb on skewers served with yellow and white rice with almond slices.

This is definitely a good choice for families who want to experience a Middle Eastern flavor along with Mediterranean and Arabian food menu items.

Don't forget to try the fruit juice as a dessert. A mixture of banana, strawberries and more, topped with nuts and pomegranate syrup, this taste better than Jamba Juice (and I LOVE Jamba Juice!)

Visit their web site at


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Zabrocki had warned Arab businessmen they have have been targeted

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Many months ago, Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki had warned several high profile American Arabs who live in Tinley Park that they should alert the community that there was police information that Chicago store owners of Arab heritage might be the targets of thieves.

That came true this week when six gunmen broke in to the Tinley Park home of store owner Abbas Darwish. Darwish live son the 9100 block of Basswood drive in a 4,000 square foot mansion. He owns and operates DIA Food & Liquor in Morgan Park on Chicago's South Side.

Zabrocki had said that reports had surfaced that the Arab grocers might be targeted not in their stores, where they often prepare against theft as do most other small grocery store owners, but in their driveways upon return to their homes late at night after work.

There are about 150 small and medium-sized grocery stores owned by American Arabs in the Chicago area, many in the inner city and African American community.

On Wednesday, around 4 am as Darwish and his wife and children were sleeping,t he six suspects broke in to the home and pistol whipped Darwish demanding his money from the store. 

Police arrested two of the suspects as helicopters and SWAT teams were brought in to hunt down the heavily armed gunmen. Zabrocki and the Tinley Park Police don't mess around and are tough on crime and protecting their community.

Zabrocki said that Darwish had been targeted and the suspects might have followed him home from his business.

Residents of Tinley Park and School District 135 were alerted to the home invasion early Wednesday morning. District 135 schools were placed in a "soft loack-down" meaning that children remained in classrooms. The manhunt for the four remaining suspects was called off in the early afternoon after police concluded they had fled the area. 

-- Ray Hanania 

Photos from Tony Esposito event at Charley Horse Restaurant in Munster, Indiana April 12

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200 sports fans turn out for autograph session with Blackhawks star
Tony Esposito signs autographs at Charley Horse Munster Indiana

Famed Blackhawks super star Tony Esposito signed autographs for more than 200 people during a special event Monday night April 12 at the Charley Horse Sports Bar in Munster Indiana.

Esposito’s autograph is one of the most coveted in the hockey league t. The event was at Charley Horse Restaurant, 8940 Calumet Avenue, in Munster, Indiana, hosted by Bryan Sord, operator of the Charley Horse Sports Bar & Restaurants in New Lenox, Tinley Park, Munster, Indiana and also of 94 West Restaurant in Orland Park.

Photos from the event:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

200 sports fans turn out for autograph session with Blackhawks star Tony Esposito signs autographs at Charley Horse Munster Indiana

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                     Bryan Sord
APRIL 13, 2010                                                                                             219-836-4040

200 sports fans turn out for autograph session with Blackhawks star
Tony Esposito signs autographs at Charley Horse Munster Indiana

Famed Blackhawks super star Tony Esposito signed autographs for more than 200 people during a special event Monday night April 12 at the Charley Horse Sports Bar in Munster Indiana.

Esposito’s autograph is one of the most coveted in the hockey league t. The event was at Charley Horse Restaurant, 8940 Calumet Avenue, in Munster, Indiana.

Charley Horse in Munster is operated by Bryan Sord, who operates two other Charley Horse Sports Bars in Tinley Park and also New Lenox, in Illinois. Sord also operates the popular 94 West restaurant in Orland Park.

“We had a great time last night with Tony Esposito. He’s a big supporter of the community and a frequent guest at our restaurants,” said Sord who opened the franchise in Munster, Indiana in February of this year.

Charley Horse is a very popular hangout for sports aficionados, and offers not only a superb menu of food but also features one of the only “Ice Bars” in the region.

“The Ice Bar is a section of the bar that is made of solid ice. Our customers love it. It is a tough challenge to maintain but it adds a special ambience today’s sports customers demand,” Sord said.

“We are proud to be able to bring some of the best sports personalities to our establishments and Tony Esposito is one of the best. His autograph is a highly sought one by sports memorabilia collectors.”

Past celebrities have included Bobby Hull and Andrew Ladd. Esposito is a former goalie for the Blackhawks and he and his brother, Phil Esposito, a Center, have been honored with admission to the Hall of Fame.

Sord said that Hull will be at the Charley Horse Sports Bar & Restaurant in new Lenox, 901 Lincoln Highway, on Thursday April 22 also signing autographs and watching the 1st round play-offs featuring the Blackhawks and Nashville. The autograph session starts at 6 pm  and costs $35, followed by viewing of the game at 7:30. Sord said there is limited seating for the first 150 patrons. Reservations are required in advance by calling 815-463-1700.

Bryan Sord’s Restaurants include:

94 West Restaurant
15410 94th Ave.
Orland Park, IL 60462
(708) 364-9494

Charley Horse Restaurants & Sports Bars

8940 Calumet Avenue
Munster Indiana

901 Lincoln Highway
New Lenox, Illinois
Fax: 815-463-1717

9501 W. 171st Street
Tinley Park, Illinois