The Untouchable Victims

Eliot Ness and The Untouchables must be some of the most well-known figures related to Chicago’s prohibition era and possibly to the city itself regardless of any age. A large part of it is due to the film by Brian De Palma, which spiced up the real story with some fictitious devices and character buildups. It is safe to presume that the city’s law-enforcement agents were largely corrupt regarding the big bootlegging business under Al Capone, prior to Ness’s arrival in Chicago. And the real-life Eliot Ness did make up a team of reliable men, starting with 50 of them then reducing them until he was ultimately left with just nine. These men were called The Untouchables by the media, after Ness exposed an attempt by Capone at bribing one of his agents. James Malone played by Sean Connery in the film was killed by Capone’s agent for revenge, and the real-life Ness had a friend killed too; there were also attempts at his own life by assassins.

Connery’s character Malone was the one who told Ness that the problem was not in finding where the illegal distilleries were, because everyone knew where; it was rather to do with the determination to fight the syndicate, able to kill or reward them in return for no hassle. The actual situation must have been something like that because Ness had succeeded in seizing and bringing to justice illegal stills and breweries worth more than a million dollars in about six months. The overall action involved may have been less spectacular (though perhaps no less intriguing) than the film, however, because wire-tapping was a big part of the actual operation. In 1931 Al Capone was tried and jailed for 11 years for tax evasion, a charge that Eliot Ness led the IRS to bring against Capone, just like it is told in the film.

The real Ness in later years was frequently seen telling exaggerated versions of his deeds as a law-enforcement officer. He was not very successful at business, lost an election as mayor of Cleveland and at one time was in debt that drove him to go through jobs as a small time salesman and clerk. He is said to have been a heavy drinker around this time, not surprising because his cause with Prohibition was only a legal one. His greatest achievement was during Prohibition, which did not (and could not) last; this meant that his footsteps, however significant, would never be followed up specifically by others.

Eliot Ness and his Untouchables can be seen as victims of Prohibition, which, if not imposed in the first place, would never have festered organized crime around bootlegging, which was the most lucrative business for criminals. The loss of his friend by Capone, the energy and time spent to eliminate his activities would have been well spent on other, lasting menaces of urban areas. In today’s world, with rights to distill your own alcohol if you have the license, and all the best copper stills you could wish for readily available, you may agree that the talents of Eliot Ness and the Untouchables may have been put to better usage, not just for a film but affecting their actual lives in a much more positive way.

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Get Creative with the Playground

Kids love to play outdoors. And what’s not to love? The outdoors offer freedom that just isn’t there when you are sitting inside your house or a classroom. When kids are outside they are free to roam and play to their heart’s content.

Backyards and playgrounds are magical places for kids. They are age-old staples of childhood. Everyone has fond memories of running around the playground or backyard when they were young. If you give your kids an outdoor area to play, it will be fun no matter what.

But what if you could make it extra special and customize it just for them? There are plenty of options out there that allow you to do just that. If you are considering the outdoor space at your home, you can add a swing set or jungle gym for your kids to play on. They can spend hours climbing and playing for endless delight! These are great options to provide your kids with backyard entertainment. They will enjoy having an area of the backyard that is set aside especially for them.

For childhood educators, the playground is a sacred space. It is the place that allows kids to run around and spend their energy, which then helps them be more focused in the classroom. For this reason, it is important to make the playground as fun as possible. Chances are the playground already has some equipment such as swings or monkey bars. One option for brightening it up is to add some colorful outdoor furniture. Rainbow furniture such as this will do wonders to make the playground an engaging place for kids.

Making the playground a colorful atmosphere can have many educational benefits. For example, if kids are very young, big swatches of color can help them learn color names. If they are a little bit older, the colors can help to stimulate their minds. They can play and play as their imaginations run wild. In addition, colors can set a distinctive atmosphere. Cheerful yellows can set a positive tone. Deep blues can create a calming atmosphere. Whichever colors you choose, adding a little rainbow to the playground will surely brighten things up. The kids will respond to the colors with excitement and enjoy the enhancement to their play space.

You have several options to choose from if you decide to brighten up the playground. You can go with standard furniture, such as benches and chairs. A bright red park bench can be established as a space just for kids. They will all clamor to be the first to climb up on it. A picket fence can be erected in all of the colors of the rainbow. It will look just like those in a grown-up neighborhood. The kids can pretend to be adults but without any of the responsibility! Finally you can add some miniature play items like kitchen sinks or washing machines. These are great tools to help kids exercise their imaginations! The overall educational benefits of outdoor rainbow furniture will be valuable to childhood educators.


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Rifle Scopes and Hunting Scopes

There will come a time when every hunter decides that they need a rifle scope to enhance their kill rate however, not all rifle scopes are conducive to a hunter’s needs and buying the wrong rifle scope could have an adverse effect on the hunter’s overall tally.

When a hunter feels the need for a rifle scope, it will be a hunting rifle scope that he will need, not one that is designed for target practice or sniper type situations and so they should take special care when selecting which scope to buy. Many hunters will look at hunting rifle scope reviews before deciding which type of rifle scope to buy but even then, having decided on which type is right for them, there are still a variety of choices but which one of those is right for the hunter, is very much a case of personal preference as no two hunter’s experiences and needs are identical.

When you look at rifle scopes, you will see that there are basically three main types, the sniper rifle scope, the laser range finding scope and the compact scope and of these, the compact rifle scope generally makes for the best hunting scopes. The sniper scope is specifically designed for the sniper scenario, where a sniper waits for a target to come into the sight and then it can provide the enhanced vision for a remarkably accurate shot. In being able to accomplish this though, this type of scope has no consideration for the weight of the scope and its often excessive weight, can be more of a hindrance than a help to the hunter. The laser range finding scope, although useful in certain circumstances, once again adds weight to the scope and often only confirms what an experienced hunter has already estimated, close enough to make the shot at least. Apart from achieving accuracy, a compact rifle scope’s main concern is keeping its weight to a minimum and that is what is so appealing about it, to the hunter. The hunter needs a scope that can enhance his accuracy at fairly long distances, ensuring a kill instead of a wound that could take time to track down the wounded target to make a final kill, if it can be successfully tracked. At the same time though, a hunter needs to keep all weight that he carries, to a minimum and this includes their rifle complete with scope. Therefore when selecting which rifle scope to buy, although there may be those with night vision, range finding lasers and variable magnifications, they may not be the ones that are best for the hunter’s unique situation and apart from being a cumbersome weighty burden, are also a wasted expense for the hunter. A good rifle scope, for a hunter, may have the accuracy associated with Nikon lenses and the craftsmanship associated with Leupold scopes and nothing more as anything else may prove, in the field, to be nothing more than just excess baggage.


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Eboni and Julius SternJohn

Eboni SternJohn and Julius SternJohn, an African-American couple, lived in a racially and culturally diverse apartment complex.  According to the complaint they filed in federal court, the defendants terminated the rental leases for the SternJohn family and other African-American residents shortly after the defendants bought the complex.  The residents targeted by the new landlord had lived in the complex for years.  The SternJohns and other African-American residents also alleged that the new landlord failed to perform needed repairs for them, such as fixing the heating system in their apartments during the winter.

The SternJohns charged that, after they reported this improper conduct to the landlord and enforcement authorities, the defendants pursued a campaign of harassment – including filing groundless eviction actions, physical intimidation, and other reprisals.

After over two years of litigation – and a day before trial – the defendants entered a confession of judgment for $1,050,000.  In connection with that judgment for the SternJohn family, the Court imposed a five-year Consent Decree that requires the defendants, among other things, to do the following at their own expense:

  • to use an independent management company to operate the many properties owned by the defendants;
  • to market affirmatively to persons other than White, non-Latinos;
  • to be tested periodically for fair housing violations; and
  • to submit quarterly reports and affidavits to the Court’s designated monitoring agency and to the SternJohns’ attorneys proving that the defendants are fully complying with the fair housing laws.

In the face of the defendants’ initial non-compliance with the Consent Decree, the SternJohn family obtained Court orders extending the Consent Decree for two additional years, imposing monetary sanctions, and awarding attorney’s fees and costs.

Based on the evidence developed in the SternJohns’ case, the U.S. Department of Justice subsequently prosecuted a pattern-and-practice case on behalf of other aggrieved residents and former residents of properties where racial discrimination reportedly occurred.

Justin Cummins and Brendan Cummins, of Miller O’Brien Cummins, PLLP, represented the SternJohns.

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V. Elaine Gross

The level of racial segregation on Long Island has been appallingly high, but it was a problem that was hiding in plain sight.  ERASE Racism decided to fight back.

I’m the President of ERASE Racism, and we first researched and published a report called Long Island Fair Housing: A State of Inequity.  The report identified both the persistence of structural racism and the complete inadequacy of enforcement efforts at all levels of government.

Using the report as a point of departure, we organized a coalition of civil rights advocates to push for comprehensive fair housing ordinances in both Nassau County and Suffolk County.  We helped improve Suffolk’s law, and help completely revamp Nassau’s law to have several provisions that go well beyond the provisions of the Fair Housing Act.

We continue to see towns and villages perpetuating segregation either by resisting affordable housing altogether, or by having housing and planning policies (such as preferences for existing residents) that, in practice, perpetuate racial segregation.

A new report called The Racial Equity Report Card: Fair Housing on Long Island documents the fact that we have a long way to go.

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Margo Borkin

Margo Borkin, an Associate Broker with the Real Estate One office in Farmington Hills, Michigan, faced this problem in the summer of 2007.

Ms. Borkin was helping an African-American family look for a home to purchase in Livonia, a nearby community.  Livonia, which has been called “the whitest city in America” (97% white in a city of more than 100,000 people) has been the site of numerous fair housing litigations.

While showing a home, she found a handwritten note that read: “You sell to those Niggers and you’ll regret it!  You move to an all white area and dump those coon on us, we’ll track you down.  Don’t betray us.”

Instead of destroying the note, or attempting to steer the family to another neighborhood, Ms. Borkin chose to do the right thing. She informed her office manager who in turn informed counsel.   Subsequently, the incident was reported to John Obee, a Cooperating Attorney with the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit.

In view of the threats, the FBI was also contacted.  The FBI investigation revealed that the author of the note had made similar threats to other agents and African American families.  He was charged with three counts of violating 42 U.S.C. § 3631.

The defendant ultimately pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to one year and a day imprisonment.

None of this would have been possible had it not been for the actions of Ms. Borkin, and the support she received.

The African-American families who were victimized by the threats have moved into Livonia.

[Thanks to Michael Olshan, Legal Services Coordination for the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit for bringing this story to our attention.]

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Private attorney general standing

Fair Housing organizations have long relied on the standing rules set forth in Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, but the Havens rules have actually created unexpected difficulties in the application of the “diversion of resources” and “frustration of mission.”  In addition, organizations have generally failed to take advantage on their own behalf of the right not to be denied truthful information about housing availabilities because of protected class.

Unless and until the composition of the Supreme Court becomes friendlier to fair housing,  there is ample reason to fear that the Supreme Court would undercut Havens entirely when it next faces a fair housing standing case.

Thus, there is a pressing need to explore state and local legislative means by which to codify even more expansive standing rules.

The best way to proceed is for states and localities to adopt a simplified “private attorney general” model.  Draft language to achieve this goal can be linked to below, as can an article describing the need for such legislation, and the successful effort to pass such legislation in Nassau County.  That County’s Human Rights Law is also found as a “related resource” to the right. [You need to tunnel down to § 21-9.7(d)(3)(vi).]

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Banning sexual orientation/gender identity bias in fed-assisted housing

For millions of gay and lesbian Americans, the federal Fair Housing Act may provide protection against discrimination based on race or national origin, but no protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Even more remarkable, federal regulation still does not bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity even in federally assisted housing.

There are more than four million units of federally assisted housing in the United States, and the federal government must no longer be a silent partner in discrimination against the LGBT community.

There is a long tradition of taking the initial step of prohibiting discrimination on the federal level by means of an Executive Order.  That is exactly what President Kennedy did when he signed Executive Order 11063 in November, 1962.

That Executive Order prohibited discrimination in federally assisted housing on the basis of race, color, creed, or national origin. As subsequently amended by Executive  Orders 12259 and 12892, discrimination in federally assisted housing is now prohibited on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), sex, disability, familial status or national origin.

President Kennedy told the news conference at which he announced his Executive Order that it was “neither proper nor equitable that Americans should be denied the benefits of housing owned by the Federal Government or financed through Federal assistance on the basis of their race, color, creed, or national orgin.”

He continued: “Our national policy is equal opportunity for all…”

Today, 46 years after President Kennedy acted, is surely is “neither proper nor equitable” for Americans to be denied this housing on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

We urge President Obama to issue an Executive Order extending the principle of equal opportunity in federally assisted housing to the LBGT community; we ask other organizations to join with us in demanding this down payment on basic fairness; and we ask localities to pass resolutions of support.

Our thanks to the Housing Rights Center in Los Angeles for providing the impetus for this effort.

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Take a fresh look at the utility of a Fair Housing Restoration Act

Congress has explicitly overruled the Supreme Court’s narrow interpretations of Title VII in areas including mixed motive analysis and disparate impact. Advocates are celebrating the recent success of the ADA Restoration Act, the repudiation of the Supreme Court’s assault on people with disabilities in cases like Sutton, Murphy, and Toyota. The Fair Housing Act is under as much pressure from regressive forces as other civil rights statutes have been. How do we best respond?

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