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Black pastors disagree over gay marriage
L. Bernard Jakes, the pastor at West Point Baptist Church in Chicago, supports gay marriage.
June 20th, 2013
01:08 PM ET

Black pastors disagree over gay marriage

By Nova Safo, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @nova_safo

Chicago, Illinois (CNN) - L. Bernard Jakes, the pastor at West Point Baptist Church, has come out in support of a gay marriage bill in the Illinois legislature. He has the support of a majority of his congregation, but not of his fellow pastors.

[2:15] “I’ve definitely been criticized. There are many that have bastardized me, said that I was going to hell on social media. There was even one radio station that encouraged their listeners to call here to the church and tell me I was going to hell.”

The Illinois senate approved a gay marriage bill in February, but it has gotten stalled in the house, where it is short of having enough votes to pass. Legislators are expected to take up the measure again in the fall, and the traditionally liberal black caucus in the state house has emerged as an important voting block.

Caucus members are facing pressure from black pastors both in favor and opposed to gay marriage, even though only two of the caucus’ legislators have so far come out in support of gay marriage.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Culture • Same-sex marriage • Soundwaves • Stories
Closures signal perfect storm for public schools
Protesters march in Chicago, where 48 public elementary schools are being closed this summer.
June 7th, 2013
11:46 AM ET

Closures signal perfect storm for public schools

By Nova Safo, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @nova_safo

Chicago, Illinois (CNN) - When Chicago students return to school after summer break, they will do so in 48 fewer elementary schools. The city is closing a record number of schools to deal with a $1 billion budget shortfall.

The closures are just the latest in a string of public school closings around the country, according to Emily Dowdall of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Dowdall has been looking into the causes of public school closures:

[4:08] "And those are a decline in the school-age population, the rise in charter school enrollment, and finally, tight budgets that are forcing districts to act."

In Chicago, the schools that are being closed are in mostly African-American neighborhoods, where the recession has hit hard. Lack of jobs and rising crime have driven out many middle class families, and their school-aged kids have gone with them. FULL POST

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Filed under: Education • Soundwaves • Stories
Uncertainty, paperwork greet Oklahoma tornado victims
It will take a long time before insurance adjusters make their way through 12,000 damanged homes in Moore, Oklahoma.
May 27th, 2013
04:02 PM ET

Uncertainty, paperwork greet Oklahoma tornado victims

By Nova Safo, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @nova_safo

Moore, Oklahoma (CNN) - Homeowners in Moore, Oklahoma have begun facing the lengthy insurance claims process following the destruction of their homes by last week's deadly tornado that paved a 17-mile path of destruction.

Twenty-four people lost their lives, including children as young as four months old. More than 300 were injured. The estimates for the total cost of insurance claims range from $2 billion to $5 billion.

President Obama toured the area Sunday and pledged sustained support for the rebuilding effort. “It’s going to take a long time for this community to rebuild, so I want to urge every American to step up,” the president said.

For the thousands of homeowners who have already filed insurance claims, it’s becoming clear just how long "a long time" will be. Many, like Alberto Laija, still have multiple challenges ahead.

Laija’s house looks deceptively intact, at least from the outside. Inside, the ceiling is starting to bow in places – evidence of water seepage from a damaged roof. In some parts of the house, the ceiling has already given way. FULL POST

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Filed under: Nature • Soundwaves • Stories
Shelter for all, a new mantra in Moore
Tasha Hames rode out the Moore tornado in her shelter that's bolted to the ground in her garage.
May 25th, 2013
07:00 AM ET

Shelter for all, a new mantra in Moore

By Nova Safo, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @Nova_Safo

Moore, Oklahoma (CNN) - In the aftermath of the monster tornado in Oklahoma, there’s been a lot of discussion about storm shelters. Tornadoes are common in the area, but few buildings have basements or above-ground shelters.

Students at the elementary school that collapsed could only huddle in a hallway as 200-mile-per-hour winds tore apart their building. Seven children died.

Now there’s an effort to bring shelters to Oklahoma’s schools, especially in Moore.

Mark McBride, who represents Moore in the Oklahoma legislature, has teamed up with other lawmakers to create a fund. The money will go to placing storm shelters inside schools. They’ve already received a $500,000 donation from an Oklahoma-based company.

This tornado was an F-5. The top of the scale. The last one of the same magnitude was in 1999.

[1:16] "What’s the odds of having two F5 tornadoes in your lifetime? You don’t expect that. A structure like this would withstand an F2 or 3, you know. It’s kinda how we’ve done things." FULL POST

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Filed under: Environment • Nature • Soundwaves • Stories
Trying to get back to 'normal' in Moore
Donations are sorted for victims of the Moore tornado
May 24th, 2013
02:11 PM ET

Trying to get back to 'normal' in Moore

By Nova Safo, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @Nova_Safo

Moore, Oklahoma (CNN)  – Residents have started to return to some of the worst-hit areas by Monday’s tornado. They’re assessing the damage, collect belongings that are left and begin to rebuild their lives.

Their journey is likely to take them past a small patch of land where a grill is set up in a parking lot. Here volunteers are offer, food, water, toiletries and boxes for gathering belongings from destroyed homes.

Across the street is the First Baptist Church of Moore. It’s a huge complex. And that’s where the Red Cross and FEMA have set up camp.

The tornado is now in the past. And people must now face their future.

That’s been hard for Bridgette Lunsford. She rented an apartment that’s now destroyed. She can’t get financial assistance from a home-owners insurance policy – and she’s out of money:

[2:20] "I heard from some of my co-workers at the grocery store that they were writing out checks for us to get gasoline and go stay at a hotel room and stuff. And when we got out here to FEMA, they turned us away." FULL POST

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Filed under: Soundwaves • Stories
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