Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

US Airfares At Cheapest Levels Since 2010, Government Says  

The average round-trip U.S. airfare was $372 in the third quarter, the cheapest price for a ticket since 2010, the federal government said Tuesday. The price was down 6.2 percent from the same period in 2014, according to the Transportation Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Airlines have been passing along some of their fuel cost savings…

Photo: Airplanes are seen parked on the tarmac at the international airport of Santiago, Chile December 17,  2015.  REUTERS/Carlos Vera 

Putin As America’s Frenemy

Chicago Tribune (TNS)

The following editorial appeared in the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday, Nov. 18:

How much do we trust Vladimir Putin? Not at all, even when he does the right thing.

Russia on Tuesday launched cruise missiles toward Syria from the Mediterranean, but it seemed a good idea to double-check reports that the target was an Islamic State stronghold. The missiles easily could have been meant for U.S.-supported militias on the ground, since Putin’s hit them as well.

The reports were true, though. Russia went after numerous Islamic State positions, as did French warplanes. The U.S. Defense Department said the Russians even followed safety procedures by giving notice before launching the missiles, as they had promised. Putin also ordered a missile cruiser to cooperate with the French “as allies” on Syria operations.

Vive les frenemies!

The teamwork, however long it lasts, is a direct response to terror. The French are bombing Islamic State territory in retaliation for the Paris attacks. On Tuesday, Russian officials confirmed that an explosive hidden on board took down a Russian jetliner over Egypt on Oct. 31, killing all 224 passengers and crew. Islamic State’s Egypt branch had claimed responsibility. Russia did not name Islamic State as the culprit, but within hours Russia was firing missiles toward its headquarters in Raqqa.

“We will search for them everywhere, no matter where they are hiding,” Putin said of the perpetrators. “We will find them at any point on the planet and punish them.”

If the U.S., France and other allies end up fighting alongside the Russians to take down Islamic State — in partnership again as in World War II — that would be gratifying and logical. It also would be … weird. Out of character, at least, given Putin’s rogue ambitions.

In Europe, let’s not forget, the U.S. and its NATO allies are trying to figure out how best to contain Russia in the wake of its seizure of Crimea and adventurism in Ukraine. In Syria, the Russians quietly took over an airfield in territory controlled by the besieged madman President Bashar Assad. Putin indicated his forces would support Assad, an ally, by targeting Islamic State. Soon it became clear Islamic State was an afterthought: Mainly the Russians have been firing at areas held by anti-government rebels — our friends.

Putin’s main reason for being in Syria is to protect Assad and project Russian power. Russia is still at odds with President Barack Obama because the U.S. wants Assad out. Assad’s a brutal dictator who slaughters his own people. We saw the first slight signs of a shift on this point at Syrian peace talks in Vienna, where the U.S. signaled some patience on the subject of Assad’s future. Putin, with his forces in the air and on the ground, forced the point.

No one envisions the Vienna talks going anywhere quickly, but Islamic State’s horrible deeds have retribution on the minds of friends and frenemies alike. Russia is an American adversary but also a victim of terrorism. At the G-20 summit in Turkey over the weekend, Obama and Putin spent 30 minutes in conversation. That doesn’t happen very often.

My enemy’s enemy is … in this case, my enemy. You go, Vlad.

©2015 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: President Obama chats with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin prior to a working session at the Group of 20 leaders summit in the Mediterranean resort city of Antalya, Turkey, November 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kayhan Ozer/Pool

Butchers, Electricians Among Jobs Hardest To Fill, Manpower Says

Chicago Tribune, (TNS)

Sorry about this Mr. Candlestick Maker, but employers aren’t looking for you. Companies do, however, need butchers, bakers, mechanics and electricians.

Jobs in the trades top the list of the hardest-to-fill positions in the United States, followed by drivers and teachers, according to Manpower’s survey of employers conducted during 2015’s first quarter.

These positions also are the hardest to fill globally, for the fourth consecutive year. Globally, the survey included responses from more than 41,700 employers in 42 countries and territories.
After those three, the other seven U.S. jobs where there are talent shortages are sales representatives, secretaries/receptionists, managers/executives, nurses, technicians, accounting and financial staff and engineers.

Globally, 38 percent of employers reported they were having trouble filling jobs in 2015, compared with 22 percent of companies in the United States.

(c)2015 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
Photo: Handy with wires? Electricians are in demand. Tom Fowler LJTX via Flickr.

Chicago Boy, 9, Slain: ‘I’m Praying For The Whole City’

Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — Antonio Smith liked to tease girls and show off his dance moves in front of his buddies. He loved playing football. Pretty much like any 9-year-old boy.

Wednesday afternoon, Antonio was found in the backyard of a house in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, shot in the chest, hands, and arms. He died an hour later.

“He just didn’t make it. He just didn’t make it,” said Antonio’s mother, Brandi Murry. “I’m praying for the whole city right now. I don’t want no other parent to ever go through this. I feel your pain. It’s bad and it hurts so much.”

She and other relatives couldn’t explain why anyone would want to gun down the boy, who was going to be a fourth-grader this fall.

“He liked to joke, he liked to play,” Murray said outside her home today. “I don’t understand why anybody would do this.”

“He was just a child, just a baby,” added a cousin, Kenya Eggleston. “Still had a whole life ahead of him. And why? Just a child. When is it going to stop?”

“I want whoever did this to turn himself in because he is an innocent baby,” said another cousin, Rasheda Eggleston. “He didn’t deserve it.”

No arrests had been reported Thursday morning, and no description of the gunman was released.

Antonio was shot around 4 p.m. Wednesday in the 1200 block of East 71st Street, a few blocks from where he had lived with his mother, older brother, and older sister, according to police and relatives. His body was found in a small backyard near train tracks, on a block lined with three-flats and single-story yellow brick ranch homes.

Police said a dispute between two factions of the Gangster Disciples gang has recently flared in the neighborhood, but they don’t believe Antonio had any gang ties and said he came from a good family that recently moved into the area.

Antonio’s mother said her son had begun pee wee football a few weeks ago in the afternoons.

“He was the type to make friends with everybody,” Murry said. “They all playing together. That was the type of kid he was.”

Antonio had appeared on a float in the annual Bud Billiken parade, an event that was marred this year by gunfire near the route.

He liked the rapper Chris Brown and loved to dance. “He always liked to give a show,” Murry said. “At dance contests, birthday parties, he loved to dance. I have video of him dancing in the house.”

Antonio had spent most of his days this summer either in his house, his stepfather’s house, or at his grandmother’s, Murry said.

On his free time she tried to make sure he read, Murry said. He was good at reading and, although “a little bit iffy” in math, he earned mostly As and Bs school. He was supposed to start the fourth grade at Hinton Elementary after Labor Day.

“I tried to keep him in something,” Murry said. “He had a good summer.

“I don’t think anybody can process losing a child,” she said.

Though he was new to the neighborhood, Antonio left an impression on 16-year-old Lanayiah Clayton. She frequently visits her aunt at the boy’s apartment complex and often spent time in a small park with Antonio and other neighbors to play sports and goof off. Antonio called her “my girlfriend.”

Marrieal Winchester, 13, last saw Antonio hours before he was killed. She bought him a sandwich, fruit cup, and milk from a lunch truck that often passes through the complex.

Her mother, Chrishawda Wilcox, remembered Antonio as “energetic” and “a little wild and crazy.” Antonio liked to dance in front of everyone to hip-hop beats, she said.

Wilcox got teary-eyed and flailed her arms in disgust when she learned the boy died. “I’m just going to put them in my prayers,” Wilcox said of Antonio’s family. “Everybody’s killing each other.”

She said gunshots are a familar sound around her complex in Grand Crossing.

Her daughter Marrieal pointed toward a playground at the edge of the park. It’s a short walk from her apartment but she stays away. “Too much shooting over here,” she explained.

Wilcox said Antonio’s death is a grim reminder of the dangers her five children face. “I can’t even grasp no words to tell you how I’d feel. … I’m gonna die,” she said. “I love (every) one of my kids. … This is a mother’s fear.”

Photo: David D’Agastino via Flickr

Interested in national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!