Black youth take biggest hit for pot

The news: A study published by the Archives of General Psychiatry found that African-American teens are less likely to use drugs, including marijuana, than their white or Latino counterparts. Behind the news: A Chicago Reporter review of criminal court records found that African-American teens still bear the brunt of marijuana charges in Cook County’s courts. When convicted, those adolescents were more likely to face stiffer sentences than their white peers. Court records show that black teens accounted for eight out of every 10 of the 5,563 misdemeanor marijuana cases opened countywide in the past five years. A vast majority of the teens charged were from the South and West sides of Chicago.

Refinances needed, few given

The news: Less than a year after its launch, the Federal Housing Administration’s Short Refinance program has come under attack in recent months by Republicans looking to tighten the federal budget by slashing the program. Behind the news: Many homeowners are still drowning in debt after the federal government created a program to bail them out.The refinancing program was launched last September and allows homeowners with a non-FHA loan to refinance into one if the original lender agrees to write off at least 10 percent of the mortgage balance. The problem, however, is that the program is underutilized. As of May 24, just 169 of those refinance loans had been approved. Among those, only four were in Illinois.

Thousands of students, few graduates

The news: Former Chicago Bull Wallace “Mickey” Johnson of North Lawndale recently ran for alderman of the 24th Ward on a platform that included improvements to the local education system. Behind the news: During his five years as a basketball coach at Malcolm X College in the 2000s, Johnson said that he was the first coach there to have playersgraduate. Often, he said, these players were trying to move on to four-year universities, focusing more on their game than their studies. But graduation data for the City Colleges of Chicago from the National Center for Education Statistics show that the problem isn’t confined to athletes. The center in 2008 surveyed students who entered Malcolm X three years earlier to determine how many had completed the two-year degree.

Bridging the gulf

Ahlam Mahmood has long been compelled to help her fellow Iraqis. Her first stab at humanitarian aid work came shortly after the war began in her homeland in 2003. But her effort came to a screeching halt in 2005, when she and her family had to flee the country to escape the violence. Her family eventually resettled in Damascus, Syria. There, Mahmood resumed her social work–”this time for the Iraqi refugee community.

Unemployment rate hits 33 percent for some

The news: Illinois’ unemployment rate of 9.8 percent as of October was worse than the national average of 9.6 percent, despite recent gains. Behind the news: The unemployment rate among Illinois’ young black population is the third worst in the nation, topped only by Indiana and Massachusetts. In Illinois, one in every three black people–”or 33.1 percent–”ages 20 to 24 is unemployed, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2009, the most recent year for which the data are available. That’s more than twice the state average for the same age group. In comparison, the rates for white and Latino people within the same age range are 13.6 and 15.2, respectively.