Cheryl Corley

Cheryl Corley is an NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk and is based in Chicago. She travels throughout the Midwest covering issues and events throughout the region's 12 states.

In recent years, Corley has reported on the campaign and re-election of President Barack Obama, on the efforts by Illinois officials to rethink the state's Juvenile Justice System, on youth violence in Chicago, and on political turmoil in the Illinois state government. She's reported on the infamous Trayvon Martin shooting case in Florida and covered tornadoes that have destroyed homes and claimed lives in Harrisburg, Illinois; small towns in Oklahoma; and Joplin, Missouri.

In addition, Corley was among the group of NPR reporters covering the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as they tore through the Gulf Coast. She returned to the area, five years later, and joined the reporting team covering the impact of the BP oil spill. Corley also has served as a fill-in host for NPR shows, including Weekend All Things Considered, Tell Me More, and Morning Edition.

Prior to joining NPR, Corley was the news director at Chicago's public radio station, WBEZ, where she supervised an award-winning team of reporters. She also has been a frequent panelist on television news-affairs programs in Chicago.

Corley has received awards for her work from a number of organizations including the National Association of Black Journalists, the Associated Press, the Public Radio News Directors Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists. She earned the Community Media Workshop's Studs Terkel Award for excellence in reporting on Chicago's diverse communities and a Herman Kogan Award for reporting on immigration issues.

A Chicago native, Corley graduated cum laude from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, and is now a Bradley University trustee. While in Peoria, Corley worked as a reporter and news director for public radio station WCBU and as a television director for the NBC affiliate, WEEK-TV. She is a past President of the Association for Women Journalists in Chicago.

She is also the co-creator of the Cindy Bandle Young Critics Program. The critics/journalism training program for female high school juniors is a collaboration between AWJ-Chicago and the Goodman Theatre. Corley has also served as a board member of Community Television Network, an organization that trains Chicago youth in video and multi-media production.

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In Afghanistan yesterday, a security guard open fire at a hospital. He killed three American doctors including a pediatrician from Chicago. Dr. Jerry Umanos was a religious man who traveled often to Afghanistan to train younger doctors. He wanted to make sure people everywhere had good access to medical care.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

The president recently signed an executive order raising the minimum hourly wage to $10.10 for workers employed by federal contractors — including those with disabilities.

That's a victory for disabled workers who can make just pennies per hour at so-called sheltered workplaces.

While some call sheltered workshops a godsend, others say they are examples of good intentions gone wrong.

All throughout the country, supporters of the Affordable Care Act have worked to reach the uninsured, holding health fairs and putting ads on TV and radio.

The push continues to get as many enrolled as possible, especially Latinos — the most uninsured group in the country.

During the morning rush at Chicago's Union Station, commuter trains pull in, the doors open and a crush of people, newspapers and coffee cups in hand, pour off like a flood.

Financial analyst Nader Kouklan says he makes the trip from the suburbs to Chicago's downtown every day.

"It's easier and just a faster way to get to work, rather than having to deal with the traffic of the morning commute," Kouklan says.

Law student Amalia Romano rides Chicago's Metra line, too.

"I take it because I don't want to pay $16 to park every day," Romano explains.

Eliot Ness, the famed Prohibition-era agent often credited with bringing down the empire of Chicago mobster Al Capone, is perhaps best known to many from fictional portrayals on the big and small screens.

Although Ness is a legendary figure, some politicians are debating whether the headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Washington should bear his name.

Ness began his career as a Prohibition agent in 1926. Four years later, he was the special agent in charge of going after Capone's bootlegging operation.

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Refineries looking for a place to store an ashy petroleum byproduct called pet coke can cross Chicago off their list. A new, tough city ordinance bans new storage facilities and prevents existing ones from expanding.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Before pet coke is shipped overseas where it's burned as fuel, huge piles of it are often stored in open air facilities. Residents in Detroit complained so much about swirling pet coke dust, it ordered a company to move the piles out.

Dan Ware has been driving a taxicab in Chicago for more than a decade, but he still doesn't have what many jobs offer: health insurance.

"I'm without health coverage," he says.

And that's not unusual, says Chicago Public Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair. "What we know in Chicago is that around 70 percent of taxi drivers are uninsured," Choucair says.

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Today, the Midwest got a reprieve from this winter's bitter cold. But that long, deep freeze has created so much ice cover on the Great Lakes that it's near record levels. It's also really tempting for many people who want to walk out on the ice.

As NPR's Cheryl Corley reports while that may be fun, it is also dangerous.

Would you notice an unexpected charge of $10 or less on your credit card statement? Lots of consumers don't — and scammers count on that, says Steve Barnas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau in northern Illinois.

But Barnas says the Better Business Bureau is now hearing from consumers across the country about $9.84 credit charges for what look to be very innocuous purchases. But while they may seem legitimate, many are not.

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At the end of December, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said that more than two million people had signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but she didn't reveal information about their ethnicity. Supporters of the law say that Latino enrollment is vital to its success. Latinos are the most uninsured racial or ethnic group in the country and the obstacles to their enrollment remain high.

"Historic" — that's one of the terms being used to describe the brutally cold temperatures across the Midwest and other parts of the country. Some temperatures are the lowest recorded in two decades, many in the single digits or below zero with wind chills predicted as low as minus 50.

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At the start of this new year, a number of cities in the United States, including its five largest, have a common story to tell about crime. In 2013, they all saw violent crime rates drop significantly. Some also saw murder rates drop to historic lows. From Chicago, NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

In 2013, Chicago newspapers and television stations kept a daily deadly count, listing those slain each day, most by gun violence. One of the most noted occurred early in the year when Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was shot and killed about a week after performing at inauguration events in Washington, D.C., with her high school band.

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Crude oil from Canada's tar sands is providing a booming business for American refineries, but residents of one Chicago neighborhood complain that a byproduct of that business has become a health hazard. They want towering mounds of a dusty substance known as petroleum coke, or petcoke, moved out of the city. And as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports, Chicago is now requiring one company storing the substance to do just that.

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Midwestern oil refineries have been going at full steam, processing crude oil from Canada's tar sand fields. While it's been a boon to business, what's left behind is the stuff of lawsuits. Towering mounds of a black, coal-like substance called petroleum coke - also known as pet coke - are making life miserable for some residents of Chicago. The Environmental Protection Agency is now investigating storage sites for violations.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports that residents say they don't want their neighborhoods to be a dumping ground.

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In Chicago, the mayor and school officials say that they're making good on a promise to keep students safe after closing nearly 50 schools. Parents worried about children having to cross rival gang territory to attend new schools. But now, two and a half months into the school year, the district says its program, Safe Passage, is living up to its name.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

For decades, Charlie Trotter's name was synonymous with cutting-edge cuisine. His Chicago restaurant was regarded as one of the finest in the world — a stellar accomplishment for the self-taught chef, who died Tuesday at age 54.

As recently as 25 years ago, there were more than 100 self-described feminist bookstores in the U.S. — stores focusing on books written by and for women. Like most independent bookstores, though, their numbers have dropped dramatically over the years.

Chicago's Women and Children First is among the few feminist stores still standing, and one of the largest. The store opened 34 years ago in 1979. Now, after a long, successful run, the store's owners say they're ready to retire — and they're looking for a buyer to continue the store's mission.

In Illinois, you can face a prison term of one to three years if you use a weapon unlawfully. But you might serve only half that time, or you could get probation or even boot camp.

Chicago alone saw more than 500 murders last year, most by gunfire. Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the current law is not what's needed to fight gun violence in the city.

"In fact, I would like to ... note that the same minimum penalty we have for a gun law is what we have for shoplifting," Emanuel has said.

The United States prison population is still the world's highest, with more than 1.5 million people behind bars. Black men are more likely to be sent to prison than white men, and often on drug offenses. A study from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee looked at that state's incarceration rates and found they were the highest in the country for black men.

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Amidst all this talk of a government shutdown, another big story has gotten less attention today. It's the first day people can sign up for health coverage on the new insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. To get a sense of how things are going, we'll hear several reports throughout the program. In a moment, we'll take you to Florida, where Governor Rick Scott has fought hard against the law.

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For millions of uninsured people, Tuesday is a big day. That's when they can start signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. But for people who speak little or no English, it may be a difficult process. Illinois, which has one of the country's largest immigrant populations, is working to make sure that language is not a barrier to enroll in. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

In Chicago, a late-night shooting Thursday left 13 people wounded, including a 3-year-old boy. The city has been struggling to curtail the city's gun violence, which plagues some neighborhoods on the south and west sides. This latest incident has the Chicago Police Superintendent once again calling for tougher gun laws.

With the skyline of Chicago behind him, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak stands on a rooftop plaza in Boystown, the heart of a predominantly gay community.

He's here on a recruiting mission. Minnesota legalized gay marriage just over a month ago, but Illinois' same-sex measure is stalled in its legislature. So now the mayor of Minneapolis is drumming up business for his city — setting his sight on millions of wedding dollars that could come from Illinois.

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For Syrian Americans, the situation in Syria is emotionally wrenching and the prospect of U.S. intervention leaves them torn. NPR's Cheryl Corley talked with two Syrian Americans in Chicago's suburbs about their hopes and concerns.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: In Dr. Zahur Salool's(ph) medical office, he and a colleague are setting up a computer and cellphone to make a Skype phone call to another physician in Syria.

ZAHUR SALOOL: We're trying to make some connections. Can we plug the microphone in?

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And I'm Melissa Block. The start of the school year in Chicago on Monday comes with extra challenges. Fifty of the city's schools were closed over the summer, leading parents to worry that students would have to walk through neighborhoods where gun violence has been rampant. So the district made a promise it would provide safe routes to schools using an expanded version of a program call Safe Passage. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

The trailblazing strategist behind the 1963 March on Washington will this year be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That's a long way from the days when civil rights activists counted on Bayard Rustin's hard work, but tried to push him aside because he was gay.

For 60 years, Rustin fought for peace and equal rights — demonstrating, organizing and protesting in the United States and around the world.

'Strategic Nonviolence'

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The city of Gary, Indiana has stood as a symbol of the decline of the Rust Belt. The former steel town is battered and depopulated. Well, now its mayor is looking for ways to rebuild Gary and she reached across state lines to ask a neighbor for help, Richard M. Daley, the former and longest serving mayor of Chicago.

NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

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In Chicago, there's a two-and-a-half-mile roadway that the mayor calls the Bat Cave. It's been around for more than a decade, but it's not well known. The mini-highway was designed to ferry conventioneers to Chicago's convention hall.

But as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports, some local politicians are arguing that the Bat Cave is being reserved for politicians with special clout.

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Today the Chicago Public School District began contacting more than 2,000 teachers and other employees to let them know they no longer have jobs. It's the second round of massive layoffs this year in Chicago. The teacher's union there calls it a bloodbath. Here's NPR's Cheryl Corley.

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