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WHAT YOU SAID: Editorial cartoonists still deserve Pulitzer consideration

For Chicago Tribune

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was published in the June 29 edition of Chicago Tribune.

When the Pulitzer Prize committee announced the 2022 winners in early May, one category was missing: There no longer is a prize for editorial cartooning. The entries will now be considered alongside "illustrated reporting and commentary."

As a former editor for the Journal Herald in Dayton, Ohio, with ties to two prominent editorial cartoonists – one won a Pulitzer, and the other was a finalist – I believe the omission of the category is a mistake.

The Pulitzer committee's decision more than hints at the overall challenges that print newspapers have faced for a long time but managed until the past 20 years or so to overcome. Deciding not to honor a subset of the content that has helped keep them afloat suggests that the fight to survive in print journalism already may be lost. It will be a terrible shame.

The Tribune's editorial cartoonist, Scott Stantis, has had a distinguished career with the paper since 2009. His razor-sharp artist's pen conjures words and clever drawings to focus on Chicago's politically messy landscape. I don't know anything about Stantis' personality, but I'm guessing he has a private wit that appeals to him as it does to other editorial cartoonists who demonstrate a bizarre flair on occasion.

For example, Mike Peters, a Pulitzer winner, once dressed up as Superman, hid on a window ledge and leaped into an editorial board meeting to suggest his role wasn't as insignificant as board members thought it was. Another time, he showed up wearing costume clothing to illustrate the point that the editors considered editorial cartoonists to be clowns. While he was pontificating, someone ran his street clothes down to a dry cleaner and handed him the slip to reclaim them.

But the fun and games obscure the singular role editorial cartoonists play in the content of a daily newspaper. No matter how brutal or erudite a written editorial may be, it cannot drive home what an unforgettable little drawing and a few words can in a fraction of a second. When a past contender for the presidency was putting his supporters to sleep with boring speeches, there undoubtedly were lots of words to describe his bland personality. But it was a cartoonist, Peters, who drew a woman smiling and waving while the blank-faced candidate stood behind her in a rumpled suit. Peters said it all: "Behind Every Woman ... there's an incredibly dull presidential candidate."

Bob Englehart, the editorial cartoonist for my newspaper, highlighted his best work in a book with the apt title, "Never Let Facts Get in the Way of a Good Cartoon." I had the opportunity to skewer him somewhat playfully in a column headlined "I am Bob Englehart's editor." Behind my attempt at humor was a column with a serious message: "The editorial cartoon often serves as a counterpoint. It is blunt and caustic in a manner we can never be with written words. ... The cartoons make you laugh. Or your blood boil. They hit home. You talk about them with your friends."

Obviously, some readers didn't always appreciate Englehart's humor or point of view. So they turned their anger toward those who let him spear some issue or politician who was in desperate need of a figurative backstabbing. As some readers observed, the editors were getting paid big bucks to deal with the grief that their employee, the cartoonist, caused. What readers failed to understand was that we relished those moments when they got upset.

It meant they were doing more than glancing at a page filled with words dull editorials and other opinions that went over their heads. They stopped to chuckle or fume over a little block of words and drawings. The editorial cartoon was perhaps the most looked at face of the newspaper.

Unfortunately, that is not as true today as it was then.

When the Tribune hired him, Stantis said he was bullish about the future of newspapers. He said the newspaper believed in editorial cartooning as "an integral part of that future." I wonder if that is true today. One startling fact: There were about 250 editorial cartoonists nationwide when Stantis came to Chicago. Now, one source estimates there are 20 still working for newspapers.

The future for editorial cartoonists is likely to be as rocky as other aspects of print journalism. One major chain, Gannett, is cutting the frequency of editorial pages in its 250 newspapers. It has determined readers don't like to be lectured or told what to think. That conclusion, if accurate, may become even more pronounced as the nation remains severely divided, and opposing sides view each other with outright hostility.

The Pulitzer committee ought to applaud what editorial cartoonists still do to prop up democracy. They should restore the top prize for the best efforts.

Dennis Shere was a contract criminal defense attorney on a case involving one of the two defendants in the Brown's Chicken massacre case.

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Contact Information:
K. Eric Larson
(847) 997-2109

Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestras to premiere new compositions at Terra metallicum on Saturday, April 13

ELGIN, Illinois. (April 11, 2024) – Wanees Zarour, a renowned performer, educator, and expert in Middle Eastern music, will join the award-winning Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestras (EYSO) as guest artist for a genre-bending evening of musical collaboration and performance at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13, in the Auditorium at South Elgin High School at 760 E Main St, South Elgin.

EYSO’s flagship Youth Symphony and its Brass Choir will perform with Zarour, who has been working with EYSO student musicians in rehearsals this past month, and through a masterclass at the high school earlier in the day. They will premiere two new compositions at this concert.

Zarour is an award winning Palestinian-American composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist steeped in maqam and jazz music. His compositional and arranging styles transcend borders and draw from traditions spanning the entire globe. 

For millennia, the complex and rich relationships between the natural world and humankind have captivated scholars, scientists, philosophers, and artists. Fruitful and fraught, timeless, and fragile, these relationships inspire a tremendous spectrum of artistic expressions that imitate, investigate, and emulate the interconnected worlds of nature and humanity. In EYSO's 48th season, explore how sound reflects the natural and built worlds around us — and how the two are united through music.

To see a more complete list of performances or for tickets, go to www.eyso.org/concert. In addition to traditional in-person seating, tickets are available to experience the concerts via live streaming.

About EYSO
The mission of EYSO is to create a community of young musicians, enriching their lives and the lives of their families, schools, communities and beyond, through the study and performance of excellent music.

EYSO serves students from 70 Chicagoland communities and has a national reputation for providing students with an engaging musical experience and a comprehensive learning environment of curiosity, imagination, critical thinking, and collaboration. Students explore a thematic curriculum each season — one that helps students develop artistically and technically, and prepares them for a future of complex ideas, creative risk-taking, and leadership as global citizens. This approach has led hundreds of alumni to successful careers as professional musicians, educators, and strong leaders in every field. The theme of EYSO’s 48th season is GAIA through which students explore how sound reflects the natural and built worlds around us—and how the two are united through music. 

EYSO is accepting applications to audition for the 2024-25 season at www.eyso.org

To learn more about EYSO, visit www.eyso.org or call (847) 841-7700.

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Contact Information:
Monique Whitney
(505) 480-4150
email: monique@truthrx.org greynolds@ipha.org

Illinois pharmacists rally at State Capitol to end prescription drug middlemen patient steering, support increased state oversight

Community pharmacists call attention to increasing prescription drug costs, decreased access to care and emerging pharmacy deserts correlated to pharmacy benefit manager practices.


SPRINGFIELD, IL (March 5, 2024) – Illinois pharmacists will gather at the State Capitol today to rally in support of HB 4548 and SB 2790, proposed legislation which would eliminate controversial practices by prescription drug middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs. The rally is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. and will be held near the Lincoln statue, located at the east end of the State Capitol and will include brief remarks by bill sponsors and constituents negatively impacted by PBM prescription drug pricing practices.

If enacted, HB 4548, sponsored by Rep. Jones, would protect patients’ right to receive prescription medication from the pharmacy of their choice, banning the lucrative PBM practice of “steering” patients to PBM-owned or affiliated pharmacies or mandatory mail order. Sen. Koehler’s SB 2790 would empower the state’s Department of Healthcare and Family Services with greater oversight of PBM contracts; monitoring of payments made to PBMs and pharmacies; and ensuring PBM rebates negotiated on behalf of HFS are fully paid to HFS.

“We applaud Representative Jones, Senator Koehler and the many members of our state legislature who are championing these critical measures that would protect the state’s patients and pharmacy providers,” said Illinois Pharmacists Association President Rupesh Manek, RPh, pharmacist and Rochelle-based pharmacy owner. “The proposed legislation is evidence of a responsible governing body aware of the pitfalls that come with overpaying pharmacy benefit managers for services that should be provided in the interest of fiscal responsibility, not overcompensating shareholders.”

Last May, Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino released the results of a Performance Audit of Pharmacy Benefit Managers, finding the state’s Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) department did not have complete copies of the contracts between managed care organizations and PBMs necessary to conduct monitoring of contract provisions, or between PBMs and pharmacies to be able verify accuracy or rate of reimbursement to pharmacies. The result of passage of SR 792 in 2022, the Performance Audit of the Medicaid Managed Care (MMC) PBMs identified over $200 million over 2 years in spread pricing overbilling to the MMC prescription program.

Anne Cassity, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) said “NCPA commends the Office of the Auditor General for its diligence in revealing gross overpayment to PBMs in Illinois’ Managed Medicaid program. Sadly, Illinois is joining numerous other states in recognizing how PBMs harm both the patients and payers – both public and commercial – they purport to serve. We urge Illinois to join the ranks of states who have established comprehensive PBM regulation with strong enforcement provisions to ensure patient access to pharmacy services at their neighborhood community pharmacy.”

PBMs manage patients’ prescription drug benefit, acting as the liaison between the patient, the pharmacy, and the patient’s employer or health plan sponsor. Since 2019, numerous studies have uncovered evidence of PBMs practices that result in endpayers paying significantly more for patients’ prescription medication than the patient’s pharmacy was reimbursed (a practice called “spread pricing”); and patients “steered” away from their pharmacy of choice to PBM-owned/affiliated pharmacies. Additional studies have shown the drug manufacturer rebates PBMs negotiate increase a drug’s list price year over year, causing patients to pay more out of pocket because of rebate-inflated costs. For more information on the rally or how PBM practices are affecting Illinois patients and taxpayers, contact Illinois Pharmacists Association at IPhA.org. Learn more about NCPA, the country’s largest organization of independent pharmacy owners, at NCPA.org. To understand how PBM practices affect patient care and affordability of medication for consumers and end payers, visit PUTT’s website at TruthRx.org.





Contact Information:
William Nissen, publisher of the elderparole.org website
(312) 882-6338
email: wmjnissen@gmail.com
website: https://www.elderparole.org/

Advocates to deliver letters of support for elder parole bill, HB 2045, to governor, lieutenant governor, and legislative leaders in Springfield on March 6, 2024

CHICAGO (March 4, 2024) - Advocates for the passage of HB 2045, which would establish an elder parole process in Illinois, plan to hand deliver more than 900 signed letters of support for the bill to the Springfield offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and legislative leaders on March 6, 2024.

The elder parole bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-27th), would provide a parole process for approximately 1,000 people in Illinois prisons who are aged 55 years or older and have served at least 25 years.

The letters come from people across the State of Illinois and beyond, including people incarcerated in Illinois prisons. Most of the letters make the following points in support of enactment of the bill:

• The Illinois prison population has been steadily aging.

• Older inmates are often sick and infirm.

• Illinois is not providing the medical care that is needed by these aging inmates.

• A court-appointed monitor has identified elder abuse in Illinois prisons where preventable deaths have occurred due to the state’s failure to provide proper medical care.

• The medical care that is being provided is very costly to the state and the cost will only worsen as more inmates age.

• The Joe Coleman Medical Release Act is not solving the problem because too few people are sick enough to qualify and many of those who qualify are being denied release.

• Many older inmates have maintained close ties to their friends and families, who will support them in transitioning to life outside prison.

Under the bill, no one would be entitled to release, but rather eligible people would be given the opportunity to present their individual circumstances to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board and request release.

The bill requires the board to decide whether to grant parole based on several considerations, including rehabilitation, character references, participation in educational and work programs, and criminal and disciplinary history. The bill also provides that victims’ families would be notified and given the opportunity to participate in the parole hearing.

In 1978, Illinois abolished discretionary parole for those sentenced on or after Feb. 1, 1978. Since then, the growth in the prison population has far outpaced the increase in the state’s general population, and the percentage of the prison population 55 years or older has also increased significantly.

Dr. John Raba, the former medical director of Cermak Health Services, which provides health care at the Cook County Jail, is the court-appointed monitor in a class action where state officials have entered into a consent decree requiring that adequate medical care be provided in Illinois prisons. Dr. Raba has reported that the state is not meeting the needs of older prisoners and does not have the resources to provide such care.

According to Dr. Raba’s reports, the inadequate health care is resulting in elder abuse and avoidable deaths. Dr. Raba has recommended that a pathway to early release of prisoners be established. This bill would establish a reasonable pathway.

Rep. Slaughter has explained the need for this bill as follows: “This bill would establish a much needed mechanism for considering on an individual basis whether there is no longer any public interest to be served by continuing to imprison an individual who has aged and served significant time, because the individual has become rehabilitated, is not a threat to public safety, and neither the public nor the individual would benefit from that individual’s continued imprisonment. The
people covered by the bill are the least likely to re-offend and the most expensive to care for, given medical expenses and end-of-life care.”

Here are links to the text of most of the letters to be delivered and to a fact sheet for the bill:

Text of letter supporting enactment of HB 2045: https://bit.ly/3sd6aE9

Fact sheet for HB 2045: https://bit.ly/3P5jvph

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