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Striking CSO musicians push to restart negotiations

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As the Chicago Symphony Orchestra strike stretched into its seventh week, musicians held a press conference in front of Symphony Center on Wednesday morning urging management to return to the bargaining table.

The gathering occurred after the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, which operates the institution, last week rejected the musicians’ most recent proposal for a new contract. That rejection came after CSO management had presented what it called its “last, best and final offer.”

“We call on the association to resume negotiations,” Stephen Lester, chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee, said in an interview before the press conference.

“Especially in light of the fact that we have two weeks with maestro (Riccardo) Muti coming up, and we want to preserve those, if we can.”

CSO music director Muti is scheduled to return to the podium for subscription concerts starting May 2. To date, all Symphony Center concerts have been canceled through April 30. Also canceled: a May 3 jazz concert featuring Chick Corea and Bela Fleck (those musicians have moved their May 3 performances to the Old Town School of Folk Music).

The same two issues that emerged when the strike began March 10 remain at the heart of the dispute: CSOA’s proposal to switch the musicians from a traditional, defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, and salary.

As for the CSO musicians’ latest proposal, “Basically, what it amounts to is this,” said Lester. “If you take our pension plan as it is and give it a two percent increase – which is like cost-of-living – every year for 10 years, it will cost $11 million less than their plan to convert us to a direct contribution plan.

“And that’s not a surprise. Most of the time, when these conversions are done, it is more expensive. This is so much more expensive that there would be plenty of money to adequately fund the pension, give us adequate cost-of-living increases, plus deal with the other economic issues in the contract, such as salary.”

Lester referred to figures comparing the cost of the current, defined benefit plan, which would total $36.5 million by 2028, to the proposed defined contribution plan, which would cost $47.5 million by that date.

The CSOA attributes that increase to the expense of converting from one plan to the next. Management argues that this shift reduces the risk of potentially unaffordable pension payouts (depending on future interest rates, inflation and other factors that cannot be predicted or controlled).

“It minimizes the risk by shifting all of the risk onto the musicians,” said Lester. “And we’re not willing to do that.

“We’re willing to share the risk. But we’re not willing to assume 100 percent of the risk in investment returns and economic vitality.”

Regarding salary, CSO musicians are urging parity with orchestras in Los Angeles and San Francisco, while CSOA cites the higher cost of living on the West Coast.

Howard Reich is a Tribune critic.

hreich@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @howardreich

MORE COVERAGE: Why striking CSO musicians and management are at an impasse »

Readers sound off on striking CSO musicians »

Please don’t tell me CSO musicians have it easy »


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Bernie Sanders just gave the best answer on impeachment – CNN

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Elizabeth Warren's plan to cancel student loan debt would be a slap in the face to all those who struggled to pay off their loans – Washington Examiner

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In the escalating battle of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to see who can offer the most free stuff, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has taken the extraordinary step of calling for having the government forgive student loan debt. This pander will not only be incredibly costly, but it will be a slap in the face to those who have already struggled to pay off their student loans without government assistance.

The political logic is understandable for Warren, who has been struggling to break through in polls. Like most other candidates, Warren has promised to deliver free college. But free college doesn’t do much for millennials, who make up a sizable portion of the Democratic electorate. They are already past college age, and mostly are not old enough to have kids nearing college. But what they do have is a mountain of student loan debt, so promising to cancel all of their debt would have a huge impact on their finances.

Right now, more than a third of millennials have student loan debt, and studies have shown that the debt is leading them to delay major life decisions including purchasing a house, saving for retirement, and even getting married and having kids. Total student loan debt is now at $1.6 trillion in the U.S., making the money owed high than auto loans and credit card debt and trailing only mortgages in terms of the value of various forms of consumer credit. Unlike other forms of debt that are spread across the whole population, student loan debt is concentrated mostly among younger Americans.

What Warren is proposing is to offer debt cancellation of up to $50,000 to more than 42 million people, or 95% of those with debt. She says that will completely wipe out debt for 75% of borrowers with student loans.

Aside from the cost (which, like her child care proposal), she claims would be covered by her ultra-millionaires tax, the plan would be tremendously unfair to those who have been struggling for years to pay off their student loans.

It’s true, some people may simply earn too little to make a dent in student loans no matter how hard they work and no matter how much they reduce their expenses. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

There are those who may have taken higher-paying jobs they didn’t necessarily want to pay off loans. And there are those who have cut expenses to the bare bones to pay off loans while watching their friends with similar salaries eat out and travel and de-prioritize paying off loans. Those who were more responsible will feel justifiably enraged at the idea that those who may have been more profligate will now get a bailout from the government.

This is the worst sort of pander from an increasingly desperate politician.


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Sunn O))) at Rockefeller Chapel review: A majestic spirituality, bone-rattling intensity

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Ten minutes into its set Friday at a sold-out Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the multi-layered composition Sunn O))) had been building with painstaking focus collapsed on itself. After a sharp pop, everything fell silent. The drone metal band, whose jet-engine-loud volume levels require enormous wattage, overtaxed the power supply.

Given that unplugging and going acoustic is not an option for Sunn O))), which appears again at the University of Chicago venue on Monday, the brief delay seemed like the only conceivable force that could stand in the way of its shape-shifting craft. Two decades into a continually evolving career that includes a sizeable cult following, the collective—named after a defunct albeit still-cherished amplifier brand popular with rock artists in the 60s and 70s— trades in experimental heaviness reliant on distorted guitars, subterranean frequencies and an unhurried pace. The group’s brand-new “Life Metal” album further dispels the restrictive “doom” label often used to describe its style.

Far from gloomy or ugly, the hour-and-a-half-long performance instead conveyed a majestic spirituality associated with ceremonies. Nearly every aspect of the concert assumed the guise of a sacred ritual, not the least of which related to the band striving to create a specific atmosphere: The avant-garde singing of Scott Walker broadcast over speakers well before the show began; the thick curtains of fog that flooded much of the audience and, at times, reduced visibility to two or three feet; the imposing amplifier stacks arrayed in an arc and framed by the church’s canopied pulpit, a presentation that lent the equipment immense gravitas.

Led by guitarists Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, Sunn O))) reflected a similar not-of-this-world aura. Per the group’s tradition, all five musicians played wearing hooded robes, their identities additionally shrouded by fog bubbling up from an invisible cauldron at center stage. They kept movements to a minimum, ceding a majority of the physicality to the arrangements themselves, and saving visual gestures—one arm raised towards the sky, a guitar held aloft, an exaggerated strike of a power chord—for communicating major changes.

For all its bone-rattling intensity and swallow-you-whole massiveness, the wordless music took on a spectral beauty. While the sustained decay, expansive riffs and overlapping textures could easily have turned into disassociated pools of noise, Sunn O))) displayed a discipline and control that molded such sonic magma into recognizable tonal sculptures. Rather than crush or attack, the seismic waves and growling notes vibrated within and enveloped the crowd. Warmth prevailed over violence, light trumped darkness. The slow-motion aural drift also piggy-backed on to successive passages courtesy of ongoing reverberations exacerbated by the chapel’s vaulted ceiling and large stained-glass windows.

Aided by subtle keyboards and the occasional trombone, the band’s oddly symphonic nature became downright meditative during an encore that witnessed a proliferation of bell-like sounds and ambient detail. Showing how extreme decibels can not only energize but actually relax the mind and body, the latest incarnation of Sunn O))) appears to have found new ways into the mystic.

Bob Gendron is a freelance critic.

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Angels' Justin Bour Gave Up An Embarrassing Double-Play Because Of A Massive Brain Fart – Deadspin

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In the bottom of the eighth against the Mariners on Friday, Angels first baseman Justin Bour popped a ball up over the infield on the same pitch that his teammate, Brian Goodwin, had tried to steal second. Bour assumed that the pop-up would result in an easy out and started walking to the dugout straight from the batter’s box before the ball had even fallen into the glove of an opposing player. Because Goodwin had also assumed the play would result in a routine fly-out, he returned to first base. Mariners’ infielder Dee Gordon noticed this and shouted at Ryon Healy to let the ball drop so that they could turn the double-play. The nonchalance with which they pulled it off was both hilarious and humiliating, and, worst of all, it ended the inning.

Bour took full responsibility for his mistake after the game—not that he really had much of a choice—and told reporters, “Honestly there’s really no excuse for it. It’s embarrassing. That’s something you’re taught from the day you start playing baseball. There’s no excuse for it. That can never happen again.”

Manager Brad Ausmus was even pretty understanding of what had happened. Sure, he wasn’t happy, but he expressed confidence in Bour to know that what he did was stupid, according to the OC Register.

Manager Brad Ausmus said he hadn’t spoken to Bour about the play, and didn’t think he needed to.

“That’s the type of thing you don’t even have to explain,” Ausmus said. “It’ll never happen again in his career. It was just an extreme mental error that once it happens, it never occurs (again).”

Ausmus added: “You learn that one early on in Little League.”

There’s obviously not much a manager is usually willing to say to the media when it comes to a player going braindead in these situations, but Ausmus’s response still felt a little subdued given that this was Bour’s second notably boneheaded move in a week. Just last Saturday, the Angel made his way into a Cubs highlight reel when, after being called safe at second, he started walking to the dugout because he felt he got tagged before sliding in. He was officially declared out when he was tagged on his walk back. Replays would later show that Bour probably would have probably been called out after a second look, but from a competitive standpoint it’s never great to just give an opponent a free out.

But Bour’s head-scratching decision looked worse on Friday than it did against the Cubs. The pop-up came late against a division rival in a game his team would eventually lose—the Angels beat the Cubs 6-5—and it happened shortly after Mike Trout had absolutely crushed one into center field and flipped his bat to celebrate tying the game up at 3-3.

If this season ends up as disappointing as the last few have been for the Angels, then this play will serve as an excellent metaphor of the recent history of this franchise—with Trout doing everything he can to help his team win, and his teammates doing everything they can to screw it up.


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Sarah Sanders Tries to Walk Back Her Admission to Mueller That She Lied About Comey – Slate

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Impulsive Hearts is a Chicago band that wants to give something back to the community

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Every band has a mission, but what if your band’s mission was to give back to the community?

Enter Impulsive Hearts, a Chicago-bred band that does more than just craft catchy garage pop tunes. Founded by Danielle Sines, Impulsive Hearts has begun to make a name for itself throughout the Chicago area by operating under its own socially aware agenda.

Most bands may play a one-off benefit show, but spend the majority of their time performing at straightforward gigs. Impulsive Hearts has performed benefit shows for organizations such as Our Music My Body, Planned Parenthood, and Girls Rock! Chicago. And the efforts aren’t just a gimmick. “We do more benefit shows than anything because to me, I have an independent business,” said Sines, who also works as a therapist. “(Therapy) is in some ways my passion. (Music) is my passion, and I’m trying to find ways to balance both.”

Their benefit performances are rooted in the ethos of the band. It’s not that Impulsive Hearts is explicitly political, but it is intentionally thoughtful about how they operate as a group. “Because I’m nervous or self-conscious, I don’t recognize how much good or how much power I have and can reach back and give stuff to people too,” Sines said. Some of that ethos has even begun to seep its way into the very music the group makes. According to Sines, Impulsive Hearts 1.0 was known for uplifting tunes.

“Everything I do is fairly straightforward and simple. The idea is to make it accessible and fun,” Sines began. “This more recent record is not as fun. It’s a lot more stripped down and I think that’s just because from 2016 to 2019, the whole world has sort of changed.”

And although Impulsive Hearts might not have completely abandoned that sound, Sines said the group has also embraced a more explicitly political framework in its lyricism. On their new EP, “metoo: a benefit for Resilience,” many of the tracks are rooted in the tumultuous social and political era we currently live in. “I couldn’t write breezy sort of pop happy songs because I don’t feel any of those things,” Sines admitted.

The EP’s first track, “Alien,” was written around the 2016 election. “The first track is me basically wondering how did we get here, how do we get away from here, feeling a sort of disconnect,” said Sines. “I felt so strange being in Chicago because every place outside of Chicago, I just thought, who are you? What were you thinking and what have you guys done?”

The entire EP benefits Resilience, an organization that empowers survivors and aims to and sexual violence. Released this month and just in time for sexual assault survivors month, “me too” is a thought-provoking and powerful call to action. Sines wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m always thinking of different ways with music to bring people together, to raise money, to have more of a dialogue about certain things,” said Sines.

Britt Julious is a freelance writer.

onthetown@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @chitribent

When: 8:30 p.m. Monday

Where: The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave.

Tickets: Free (21+); emptybottle.com

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Yacht rock is docking in Chicago. What’s yacht rock, and why do I want a pina colada all of a sudden? »


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Jet Airways temporarily suspends all fights – BBC News

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Jet Airways tail fins

Image copyright
Reuters

Troubled Indian airline Jet Airways has temporarily suspended all its domestic and international flights after failing to find fresh funding.

The airline said its last flight would operate on Wednesday as it was not able to pay for fuel and other critical services.

Jet Airways said it had no choice but to suspend the flights, but hopes to start flying again.

It has $1.2bn (£900m) debt and has been in talks with lenders for weeks.

With 123 planes, Jet Airways is India’s biggest private airline, but reports say that just five planes have been in use.

In a statement the airline said it had been forced to ground all its flights because “prolonged and sustained efforts with lenders and authorities did not yield the desired results”.

The Indian government had asked state-run banks to step in with a bailout plan for the airline – which employs 23,000 people and was founded by Naresh Goyal more than 25 years ago. He stepped down as chairman last month

Pilots, engineers, and ground staff have not been paid for months, and passengers have been left stranded around the world as a result of cancellations.

“Late last night, Jet Airways was informed by the State Bank of India (SBI), on behalf of the consortium of Indian lenders, that they are unable to consider its request for critical interim funding,” the airline said.

“Since no emergency funding from the lenders or any other source is forthcoming, the airline will not be able to pay for fuel or other critical services to keep the operations going. Consequently, with immediate effect, Jet Airways is compelled to cancel all its international and domestic flights. The last flight will operate today,” it added.

The banks have been seeking a bidder for the airline, which said it would continue to support them in their efforts.

Etihad Airways already owns 24% of Jet Airways and is reported to have expressed an interest in taking more control.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Naresh Goyal founded Jet more than 25 years ago

“Jet Airways is hopeful that it will be able to bring the joy of flying back to its guests as soon as possible,” the airline said.

It operated 600 domestic and 380 international routes, including out of London, Amsterdam and Paris, and had grown rapidly before it started to lose market share after the entry of low-cost airlines like IndiGo & SpiceJet.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority tweeted advice to customers, outlining different approaches for seeking refunds depending on how the flight was booked.

Jet Airways had said earlier on Wednesday it was working to “minimise guest inconvenience” by using its contact centres and social media teams.

“In parallel, the airline’s management and its key stakeholders including its consortium of lenders, continue to work closely towards resolving the current situation,” a spokesman had said.

“The airline regrets the inconvenience caused to its guests,” they added.


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Wake up, people: You're fooling yourself about sleep, study says – CNN

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Inspired by a galaxy far, far away, these 'Star Wars' mementos could be yours forever

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The stuff of “Star Wars” — and there is unfortunately no better way to adequately describe the Death Star-sized planet of stuff that has been created in response to “Star Wars” since 1977 — filled McCormick Place through Monday. Since many of you weren’t able to make it to Lucasfilm’s extravagant Star Wars Celebration there, I wanted tell you about some of that stuff, because there is so much of it, there should be an official metric for measuring the gross weight of “Star Wars”-inspired objects that exist.

A metric Wookiee?

A cubic Wampa?

Walking around McCormick Place during Celebration, the mind reels at the human ingenuity spent on crafting stuff because George Lucas shot a space movie during the Carter Administration. I wondered if we could cover every square inch of Alaska in licensed, homemade and bootleg “Star Wars” stuff — how many geologic layers-deep would such a coating be? I can’t say. Lucasfilm was too busy to answer.

Anyway, all this stuff.

It’s the lightsaber-happy family sticker that goes in the minivan’s rear window, and the pink bowling ball decorated with Natalie Portman’s resplendent Queen Amidala, and the Wilson “Star Wars” footballs, and the clever T-shirts that say, “May the Mass Times Acceleration Be With You.”

It’s 42 years of Marvel “Star Wars” comic books you can find here, and American Tourister “Star Wars” luggage, and R2-D2 dresses, and Christmas ornaments. It’s Stormtrooper toasters and the R2-D2 popcorn makers and Death Star waffle irons and pizza cutters and oven mitts and frozen-Han Solo ice-cube trays. It’s the $100 Tiki-inspired scorpion bowl shaped like the Millennium Falcon.

And of course, it’s also stuff that isn’t mass produced.

It’s that full-scale German-made Tie Fighter in the corner, and the Belgian-made re-creation of the interiors of the Millennium Falcon — ready for selfies. It’s the work of Trey and Nancy Laymon of Oskaloosa, Iowa, who outfitted the truck bed of their Ford Raptor with a frozen Han Solo — also ready for selfies. It’s the custom “Star Wars” doll clothes by a Chicago-area picture framer; and it’s the faux WWII-esque propaganda posters painted by Cat Staggs of Burbank, Calif., that warn you “The Empire is Listening.”

Let’s not even discuss the collector’s market, the old stuff that competes with new stuff for attention — we’d be here all day. (And why bring up the “Star Wars” trinkets created solely to be traded for other “Star Wars” trinkets, generating more stuff? Why make more stuff when there are Darth Vader-as-Jesus and Yoda-as-Buddha statues?)

Should you wonder where you can find the most “Star Wars” stuff after Celebration ends, there is a display from Rancho Obi-Wan, an archive in Northern California founded by Steve Sansweet, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Lucasfilm employee. Rancho Obi-Wan is a repository of more than 400,000 “Star Wars”-related items, from bad bootlegs to officially licensed housewares to fan-made paintings. For a taste of their stuff, Sansweet brought to Chicago an exhibit of artist-created Stormtrooper helmet — think Stormtrooper heads as jagged disco balls and Stormtrooper heads as Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

I don’t know if Rancho Obi-Wan includes the stuff of Okitsugu Kado, a mainstay of Star Wars Celebrations (which are held in a different city about every two years). But I hope they do. Kado carves food into “Star Wars” characters. He turns yams into BB8s and yucca into R2-D2s. He told me that he gets together about twice a month with his “Star Wars” friends in Osaka and, to pass the time while they are talking, he practices on root vegetables.

He never sells his work, thereby not completely contributing to the crush of stuff of “Star Wars.”

However, should you require something permanent, I noticed a carved wooden Darth Vader, ideal for anyone with a rumpus-room basement and a time machine set on 1978.

There are also a lot of toys; you assumed that.

But did you know, should you stumble into the right panel here, you may have been fascinated by a lecture on the taxonomy of all this stuff? Did you know, for example, that when the now-defunct Cincinnati toymaker Kenner created large action figures of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, they used Hardy Boy dolls as a template ? (An image of a 1980 Lando prototype — a Hardy Boy in blackface — drew groans from the audience; indeed, the toy was never made.)

Actually, there is so much attention here to learning about the stuff of “Star Wars,” there was a panel dedicated to the photography that went on the packaging of Kenner’s “Star Wars” line. The subtext being, the stuff that contains the stuff of “Star Wars” also becomes the stuff of childhoods.

And the stuff of landfills and yard sales and milk cartons gathering dust in your parent’s attic. It’s the stuff of right now, and the stuff of back then, and the stuff of the future.

Someday, it will be the stuff of your children’s children’s children. It always be. And if we removed all the stuff of “Star Wars” from Earth tomorrow? Is it true the weight of the stuff of “Star Wars” is holding our continental plates in place? Is it possible that I just made that up? I’ve been at Celebration for days.

I don’t know anymore.

But I do know the stuff of “Star Wars” is the subtle texture of our world. Which may sound hyperbolic, but the next time you leave home, look for the stuff of “Star Wars” in the wild. You will see it everywhere. And if you have trouble? There’s always a pair of “Star Wars” eyeglass frames to help.

cborrelli@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @borrelli

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