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If You're Anti-Gay, Indiana Wants You To Visit

2 hours 39 min ago
Bigots need vacation, too.

Indiana's so-called "religious freedom" law, seen by many as enabling discrimination against the gay community, has opened up a new avenue for state tourism in Funny Or Die's ad spoof. (Warning: The video contains some NSFW language.)

While Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) has promised changes to the bill, FOD's faux welcome to the intolerant gets the message across loud and clear -- and hilariously.

Not So Simple Machines

4 hours 5 min ago
My second grade daughter has lived through an extreme fixation on the study of simple machines at school. My sixth and eighth grade kids also studied simple machines when they were in second grade, but it involved a few worksheets and a classroom project designed to catch a leprechaun. My current second grader has studied simple machines via classroom discussions, sing along songs, the leprechaun project, worksheets, homework, study guides, quizzes AND a final test. What follows is the conversation I had with my eight year old after finding the "Simple Machine Test" in her backpack. The publisher of the test, has the words "Second Grade, Simple Machines Made Simple" written in small print at the bottom of each page. They may want to rethink that title. Here's the conversation:

"I found your Simple Machine Test. You got 32/43 points. You missed a few huh? Let's see what happened to those questions. You can tell me what you were thinking okay?"

"Okay. It was really hard though. Everyone said so."

"No big deal. I just want to see what you were thinking as you answered these. Okay, first one you missed, true or false, a screwdriver is a kind of wheel and axle. You said false. It's true."

"What wheel? Where's the wheel in a screwdriver? Did they mean a power screwdriver? Because there's no wheel in the hand kind, not that I can see. I can see the axle part, but where's the wheel?"

"Yeah. That's a little tricky. Next one. True or false, a nail is an example of a wedge. You said false. It's true."

"A nail doesn't look like a wedge to me. A wedge looks like a slice of pizza or pie."

"I can see your point. Next one. A pencil sharpener is a type of pulley. You said true. Honey, there is no pulley device in a pencil sharpener."

"You know, I've never seen the inside of our pencil sharpener. How do I know what's in it? Maybe when you stick the pencil in the sharpener, and the motor starts going, and a pulley type thing pulls the blades around and around the pencil. I don't know."

"I think they meant the little cheap hand sharpeners. Not the electric kind."

"It didn't say that."

"And even the electric kind don't use pulleys."

"Now I know that. I didn't before."

"True or false, a car is an example of an incline plane. You said true? How did you figure that a car is like an incline plane?"

"Mom, come here. Look out the window at our van. Do you see the front of it? The windshield? It's Incline plane."

"Yeah you're right it is. Okay next section on the test. It says to label the simple machine in each picture. You said the picture of the bucket and well was a pulley. It's a wheel and axle."

"Maybe the illustrator of this test just can't draw very good pictures, because THAT picture looks like a pulley using rope to pull up a bucket from a well. It does not look like a wheel and an axle."
"And you labeled the actual picture of a pulley as being the wheel and axle."

"That's because I already used pulley to label the picture of the bucket and well. I couldn't use it twice. I think this guy just couldn't draw very good pictures."

"Okay. Next section. What two simple machines are in a pair of scissors? Wow. Even I would have to think about that one. You said wedge, and wheel and axle. The wedge is right. There is no wheel and axle in a scissors."

"There is that middle circle that holds the two blades together. It looks like a wheel. Maybe there is a tiny axle that attaches it to the circle on the other side. Wheel and axle."

"I think it's a screw"

"Screws have a pointy end. The only points on a scissors are the tips of the blades."

"I can see how you were thinking with that one. Here's a straight question. What simple machine would you use to open a door? Sweetie you put down wedge. How can a wedge open a door?"

"A wedge can HOLD OPEN a door, you know KEEP the door OPEN. It doesn't stay it had to be opened up for the first time."

"How about the next question. What simple machine would you use to hold two boards together? You said wedge again. How did you think a wedge would hold two boards together?"

"Well, I was actually thinking about making a teepee shape thing with the two boards, like two slides. If you tipped the two boards together like a triangle, they wouldn't hold for long, BUT if you put a wedge in the middle and leaned the two boards up against it, they would be able to stay together at the top see? Leaning on the wedge."

"The answer was screw."

"Two boards screwed together wouldn't make a very good teepee slide."

"You are right again. Well, I can completely understand why you answered those questions the way you did."

"Do you see what I mean Mom? It was a hard test. I just don't always get what they are asking. You know what it is? I just don't think like they do."

No she doesn't, and I hope it lasts.

Total Lunar Eclipse On Saturday Will Last For Just 5 Minutes

8 hours 23 min ago
Keep your eyes on the skies on Saturday morning for what promises to be a spectacular -- if brief -- total eclipse of the moon.

The totality will last for less than 5 minutes, making it the shortest lunar eclipse of the century, according to NASA. During some lunar eclipses, totality can last for more than an hour.

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon enters Earth's shadow. In this case, the moon is entering the very edge of that shadow instead of running right through the heart of it, which is why the eclipse will be so fleeting.

NASA has prepared a map showing where the eclipse will be visible. In the United States, the total eclipse will be observable from the West Coast to the U3 line (which runs roughly along the Mississippi River), while a partial lunar eclipse will be visible east of that line, with sunrise cutting the event short:

More diagrams of the eclipse are available on the Sky & Telescope website.

The eclipse will begin at 3:16 a.m. PT when the shadow of the earth begins to cover the moon. Totality will begin at 4:58 a.m. PT, with the greatest eclipse at 5 a.m. and totality ending at 5:03 a.m. The remaining partial eclipse will last until 6:45 a.m. PT, according to NASA.

Because the moon can look red during an eclipse, the event is sometimes called a "blood moon."

This eclipse is the third in a tetrad, or a period of four eclipses, which began on April 15, 2014. The next and final lunar eclipse in the cycle will be on Sept. 28.

A map of that event is visible here.

For those unable to see the eclipse, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center will provide a livestream.

In addition, NASA astronomer Mitzi Adams will answer questions on Twitter (@NASA_Marshall) from 6 a.m. ET until the end of the eclipse.

Dog Flu: Canine Influenza

Tue, 2015-03-31 19:52
Approximately three weeks ago, my Chicago practice experienced a tremendous rise in the number of dogs experiencing respiratory diseases. Initially many of these dogs were energetic with deep, harsh coughs without a fever. The doctors at Animal Medical Center of Chicago tentatively diagnosed them with Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis, or "Kennel Cough". Viral agents, like Canine Adenovirus 2 or Canine Parainfluenza, and bacterial agents, like Bordetella Bronchiseptica and Mycoplasma, can cause Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis. All of our patients responded well to supportive therapy, which included antibiotics and cough suppressants. However, recently we have been seeing a number of dogs with more severe respiratory disease. These dogs are presenting with high fevers (103 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit), moderate to profound lethargy, nasal discharge, depressed appetites and labored respiration. These patients, we suspect, have Canine Influenza caused by the Influenza virus H3N8 strain.

Canine Influenza Facts:

Morbidity: 20-50 percent of the dogs exposed to this virus will make antibodies against this virus and will successfully clear the infection. These pets will not show overt signs of their infection.

50-80 percent of the dogs exposed to the virus will show flu like symptoms -- like fever, lethargy, coughing and purulent nasal discharge. A small percentage of these pets will develop pneumonia and it is this population that is at risk for death.

Mortality: 5-8 percent.
Most pets will recover with supportive care only.

Incubation Period: 2-5 days.

Length of Infection: 2 weeks.

Transmission: The virus can persist on toys, bedding, clothing, leashes and other objects for days. Regardless if they display illness or not, all dogs infected with the virus will shed the virus in their respiratory secretions for 14 days. People exposed to dogs with Canine Influenza should wash their hands and change their outer clothing to minimize the spread of this virus to other dogs.

During the next few weeks in Chicago, I would strongly advise all pet owners to avoid or at best, minimize, your dog's exposure to other dogs and areas of high concentration of dogs, such as dog parks, boarding, grooming and training facilities. If you chose to go to these facilities, please call them in advance of your pet's arrival to see if any ill pets have been there recently.

Treatment: Supportive therapy may include intravenous fluid therapy, antibiotics for secondary bacterial infections, nebulization therapy, and/or cough suppressants. As a result of viral damage to lung tissue, opportunistic bacteria invade the lung and may cause pneumonia.

Immunity: Dogs that recover from Canine Influenza are believed to be protective for 2 years. A Canine Influenza (H3N8) vaccine exists and aids in reducing the shedding and severity of the infection. This vaccine does NOT prevent the disease. The vaccine is given in two doses separated by 2-3 weeks. Yearly re-vaccination is recommended for high-risk dogs.

Dogs that travel, who have contact with many other dogs, frequent boarding or training facilities, or go to dog parks may benefit from this vaccine. At this time, Canine Influenza vaccine is not considered a core annual vaccine, which means it is not a vaccine recommended to all dogs. Just because a vaccine exists, does not mean that your dog should receive it. Please consult with your veterinarian to assess your pet's risk for acquiring Canine Influenza virus and need for this vaccine.

Zoonosis: No. This strain is not contagious to humans.

If your pet is experiencing flu-like symptoms, like coughing, runny nose and lethargy, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for medical advice. This disease can progress quickly and it is best to medically address it as soon as possible to increase your pet's chance of a swift recovery.

Dr. Donna Solomon is a veterinarian at Animal Medical Center of Chicago and invites you to email her your questions or future topic ideas to

The First Annual Huffington Post Weedvent Calendar

Tue, 2015-03-31 17:00
It's that time of year again, HuffPost readers, and we know for some of you the anticipation of the national 4/20 holiday is almost too much to bear. We're here to help with our first annual Huffington Post Weedvent Calendar.

Weedvent is exactly like Advent, but without any of the meaning. Each day you come back to your Weedvent Calendar, a new video will appear. We've picked videos that we hope will educate you, outrage you, make you laugh and make you think.

As Budweiser might say: Happy 420, and please enjoy responsibly.

Want to Solve Inequality and Child Poverty? End the War on Drugs

Tue, 2015-03-31 16:06
Robert Putnam, the author of Bowling Alone, has just published an exhaustively researched book on inequality, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (2015). He explores the differences between rich children, defined as those with parents having college degrees, and poor children, parents with high school degrees or less. With social science survey data complemented by vignettes showing the lives and choices of young people and their families, he documents a steadily-increasing divergence in opportunity between rich and poor.

Putnam identifies a number of factors that contribute to rising inequality, including the loss of factory wages that stabilized blue collar families, the deteriorating quality of public schools in poor neighborhoods, and personal choices such as eating unhealthy food and smoking cigarettes. The thread that runs throughout, however, is the breakdown of families.

Though such a large problem seems insurmountable, Putnam points out one key factor that is both within our power to change, and likely to have a real and immediate effect on family dysfunction and hence on inequality: ending the War on Drugs. He cites the drug war and related "three strikes" sentencing policies that created the sharp increase in incarceration since 1980 as contributing to family breakdown (pp. 76-78). Incarceration divides and impoverishes families, removes adult males from communities, and leaves men even less employable.

Those with convictions are consequently less marriageable, leading to even lower rates of strong, cohabitating family formation. While poor women are as likely as wealthy women to aspire to marriage, a poor woman could sensibly conclude that a man with no job and a criminal record is a poor prospect. It is no wonder that marriage promotion programs have failed. They have the causality backwards. It isn't lack of marriage that leads to poverty; it is poverty that leads to low rates of marriage.

Incarceration is a major factor contributing to child poverty. The U.S. now has the world's highest incarceration rate: 707 per 100,000. Russia is the runner-up, with 474 per 100,000. With violent crime dropping across the country, it is largely drug cases that account for the high U.S. prison population. As the ACLU has documented, the drug war comes down most heavily on minority communities even though rates of drug usage are similar across races. According to the U.S. Department of Justice figures, about one in three black American males can expect to spend time in prison.

Parental incarceration puts poor children at an even further disadvantage (with stigma and reduced future family prospects on top of absence), and children of color are more likely to have one or more parents incarcerated. The Sentencing Project reports that in 2007, one in 15 black children, one in 42 Latino children, and one in 111 white children had a parent in prison. Putnam notes that the pernicious effects of parental incarceration "spill over" to affect even classmates whose fathers are not incarcerated. Perhaps this is the "PTA effect" at work -- fewer engaged adults per classroom, resulting in a detriment to all. In A Plague of Prisons; The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America (2012), Ernest Drucker explores in even more depth the terrible societal costs of American overincarceration for families and communities.

Stopping the drug war is a major change that, in one fell swoop, would ameliorate a whole host of problems for poor children and their families. Both liberals and conservatives are getting behind the idea. For conservatives, ending the drug war may be the best marriage-promotion program on offer. With no need for special programs or incentives, it automatically changes the dynamic in impoverished communities. We simply remove the obstacles presented by the drug war and let the market and individual choice work. For liberals, ending the drug war would reduce the damage to minority communities.

All this would happen at no additional cost to the taxpayer, which should delight both the left and right, because we would be dramatically reducing spending in this area -- on the DEA, police and court time, jail and prison costs, drug eradication and interdiction overseas. With money freed up, we could even spend more on treatment for those who are addicted, and maybe also try to address the social problems that lead young people to turn to drugs in the first place.

Of course, simply stopping the war on drugs is not a panacea for the issue of increasing inequality, especially because many problems, such as lack of education, role models and parenting skills, have been generations in the making and will take time to overcome. However, it is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet. We can be quite confident that repealing prohibition would start to reverse the inequality trends because the interrelationships among criminality, employment, incarceration, child welfare, and education are already so well mapped out by Putnam, Drucker, and others. Other suggestions for addressing inequality -- raising the minimum wage, investing in pre-K education, more mentoring -- are neither systemic nor scalable. Stopping the drug war is a systemic nationwide policy change that we can and should take immediately.

How This D.C. Clinic Wants To 'De-Medicalize' Abortion

Tue, 2015-03-31 14:18
“Abortion. Yeah, we do that.”

That's one of the advertising slogans used by Carafem, an abortion clinic opening this week in Washington, D.C. The clinic plans to approach abortion as a straightforward part of women's health care, hoping to make the procedure a streamlined process that is easy to access.

Carafem will provide the abortion pill to women who are less than 10 weeks pregnant. Patients will be able to book appointments -- offered on evenings and weekends, as well as during weekdays -- through an online portal or via a 24-hour hotline manned by multilingual staff members. The clinic also promises a short procedure time of around one hour, and a lower-than-average price point of approximately $400 for an abortion.

Image via

Terminating a pregnancy with the abortion pill involves two steps. Patients take the first pill, mifepristone, which stops the embryo from growing and detaches it from the uterine wall. Between 24 and 72 hours later, they take the second pill, misoprostol, which causes the uterus to contract and expel the embryo. Carafem patients will take the mifepristone pill at the clinic after undergoing tests and speaking with a doctor, then be sent home with the misoprostol pill. Staff members will follow up with each patient to ensure that the termination was successful.

Chris Purdy, the president & CEO of Carafem, told The Huffington Post that he came up with the idea for the clinic around 18 months ago, after returning from 20 years working for family planning programs in Turkey, Ethiopia and Indonesia. Purdy was shocked to find that it was still so difficult for many women in the U.S. to access abortion care. He worked with Melissa S. Grant, a former Planned Parenthood director who is now Carafem's vice president of health services, on a model to provide early-term abortion services that reduce some of the barriers women seeking abortion commonly face, and make the experience less clinical.

"We wanted to make the experience one that was more caring and more kind," Purdy told The Huffington Post. "Very professional, focused on the quality of care, the woman and her experience."

Grant told HuffPost that they hope to "de-medicalize" the procedure as much as possible, providing "non-judgmental and unapologetic care." The pair has worked to eliminate some of the intimidating sights, noises and smells of a traditional doctor's office. Patients will speak with medical staff one-on-one in small, comfortable rooms devoid of intimidating medical equipment. As much of the testing and preliminary work as possible will be carried out in one room, rather than moving the patient from place to place within the clinic. And, while staff members are fully briefed on security and safety procedures, the abortion clinic will look no different from any other office.

“It was important for us to try to present an upgraded, almost spa-like feel,” Grant told The Washington Post.

Grant and Purdy stressed that they wanted women who visited the clinic for an abortion to be completely educated on each step of the procedure, and to feel comfortable and supported throughout. Grant emphasized the clinic's focus on "the language that we use, the welcoming policies and procedures that we put in place, and making sure that if a woman needs additional time with a doctor, she has it."

Ultimately, their hope is to demonstrate a new standard of care for women seeking abortions.

"There is a myth that abortion clinics are lonely and scary places," Grant said. "That doesn't have to be true."

6 Worst Relationship Myths Women Believe

Tue, 2015-03-31 12:57

Several notable men--fitness advocate Vince Adams, motivational speakers Dwayne Bryant and Vincent K. Harris, political analyst Maze Jackson, and hip hop icon/activist Che Rhymefest Smith--held court at the 21st annual Black Women's Expo and told the captive audience what many were shocked to learn.

The relationship panel, Wives, Girlfriends and Side Chicks Decoded, facilitated by the lifestyle bloggers Six Brown Chicks, exposed several destructive relationship myths that women tend to believe.

6 Worst Relationship Myths Women Believe

I can put on my best face on our date. "Before the date, a person can (and will) spend time on your Facebook page to know exactly what you're about," says Vince Adams. You can't pretend to be Miss Goody Two Shoes on your date when your posts present you in a totally different manner.

Potential lovers avoid me because I have children.
"Women put themselves in that box of having kids and making it a negative," explains Maze Jackson. "[Men don't mind] if the children are well-behaved. What you see oftentimes is a woman so interested in keeping up with the dude that she neglects the kids. That has a negative effect on how a man sees you; it tells that man something about your character."

My long-term relationship will lead to marriage.
Read this carefully: You are wasting your time if you've been dating someone for two years or more and you do not have a commitment, according to Dwayne Bryant. "I will only commit to a woman that I think has the capacity to be my wife," says Bryant. "If she is bringing greatness to the table, and is an asset, it won't take more than a couple months (for a commitment)--a few at the most."

I have too much baggage with my ex, and no one will want me. Your drama-filled past will not halt you from starting a future with someone else, says Che Rhymefest Smith, because most people have drama in their pasts. "My ex-wife took me to court while I was running for public office, and she worked in the office of my opponent," Che Rhymefest Smith says. "A lot of times men have more drama because we were with women we shouldn't have been with in the first place."

My lover cheated on me because I am not enough. More often than not, a man's desire to cheat has nothing to do with you. "I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, and didn't think I was handsome as a child. When I went to college and realized women found me attractive, I cheated just to make up for lost time. It was revenge," says Maze Jackson, who is now engaged. Vincent K. Harris adds: "I juggled women just to see what I could get away with; but having side chicks is expensive," so that behavior ceased.

I must let him know upfront how valuable I am. It may be best to demonstrate your character rather than talk about it, says Che Rhymefest Smith. "When someone says, 'I can do this, and I can do that,' I think, well you're okay then [by yourself]. Why don't you just do what you say you are? People do too much talking about who they think they are and not enough DOING who they are."

(Photo by Bobby Barnhill/KP Enterprises: l. to r. Maze Jackson, Vincent K. Harris, Dwayne Bryant, Vince Adams and Che Rhymefest Smith.)

Acadia's Special Chef, Ryan McCaskey

Tue, 2015-03-31 12:34
Memory is a strange thing. And food memory, one's remembrance of not just the first time they tasted something, but the exact taste for the first time, is even stranger.

"As a kid, I didn't eat a lot of fresh vegetables or have exposure to them until I tried them from my grandparents' garden," Chef Ryan McCaskey of Acadia told me while we were filming for the upcoming April 6th Dinner Party. "That was where the learning and eventual epiphany happened. I remember the first time I had a radish and I was blown away. It was so hot!"

Chef also remembers the first time he had a banana and mayonnaise. "I don't know why. I can remember all of these tastes and experiences as if they were yesterday." Pretty handy if one is the Executive Chef of a three-time Michelin Star decorated restaurant and two-time Five Diamond award winner. All that and his restaurant Acadia only opened in 2010.

In addition to Chef's incredible food memory, Acadia does something else that is very special, something that most Michelin Star restaurants don't do, which why I was quick to have him on my show. Acadia's bar is open late and it serves bar food. And what's so special about that? Well, it isn't any ol' bar food. Acadia serves gourmet bar food, with most dishes $16 or under, at the chill-chic front of the house bar.

Now, many restaurants claim to have gourmet bar food, but what they usually mean is French fries in duck fat or a gussied up burger. Not here. Acadia is the real deal. At the bar, one can order Oxtail Agnolotti, Parmesan Broth, Wild Mushrooms, $15, Pork Banh Mi, Daikon, Carrot, Jalapeño, Cilantro, $10, Korean Fried Jidori Chicken, Cole Slaw, Sesame, $12, Potato Wild Garlic Soup, Lentils, Caviar, Black Trumpet Mushroom, Truffle, Celery, $12...well, you get the drift. Although they have burgers, it's not your typical bar menu and it isn't your typical restaurant bar scene. Chic is as chic does and Acadia pulls in an elegant, jet-set crowd that considers both the restaurant and bar fair dining game.

Enjoy the videos below to watch Chef McCaskey work his magic in the kitchen making menu items of Slagel Farm Pork Belly, Grains, Kohlrabi, Smoked Banana Puree with Uni and Slagel Farm Beef Tri-tip over Vegetable Ash, Baby Leek, Garlic, Celery Root Gratin, Tokyo Turnips, with Oxtail Prune Consomme, both of which will be served to the audience at the April 6th Dinner Party. The Dinner Party will also feature Chaz Ebert, international photographer, SANDRO and classical pianist and Beethoven Festival Founder, George Lepauw for an evening of unscripted conversation and extraordinary food, preceded by a reception benefiting Common Threads.

My Q and A With Insomnia Expert Gregg Jacobs

Tue, 2015-03-31 11:49
Gregg Jacobs is an insomnia specialist at the Sleep Disorders Center at the UMass Memorial Medical Center and the author of Say Good Night to Insomnia. In answer to my questions, he shared his insights on how human sleep patterns have changed over time, healthier and more effective alternatives to sleeping pills, and how to reverse our worst sleep habits and behaviors.

Describe your research on insomnia.

I have a longstanding interest in the relationship between the mind and health. My doctoral research, which assessed the ability of the mind to control physiology, showed that it was possible to use deep relaxation techniques to voluntarily produce brain wave patterns that were identical to the initial stages of sleep. My postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School included research on the meditative practices of Tibetan monks. This research, conducted in a Tibetan monastery in Sikkim under the auspices of the Dalai Lama, revealed that advanced Tibetan monks possess remarkable control over their brain waves and physiology. This led to my efforts to develop a safe, drug-free intervention for insomnia, called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), over the past 30 years at the Harvard and University of Massachusetts medical schools. This research culminated in a landmark study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, showing that CBT-I is more effective than Ambien. Because few people have access to CBT-I, my more recent efforts have focused on making CBT-I widely available in an inexpensive, practical format through my website, Numerous studies have recently demonstrated that internet-based CBT-I can be delivered as effectively as face-to-face CBT-I and is more practical and cost-effective.

You've discussed the history of segmented sleep. Do you believe we have evolved past this pattern, or are our bodies struggling against us when we try to sleep in one chunk of time? How does insomnia relate to this?

Research suggests that we may have displayed a polyphasic (i.e., multiple periods) sleep pattern for virtually all of our evolution until the recent advent of nighttime lighting. Prior to that, humans likely went to sleep soon after dusk and awakened at dawn in longer sleep periods that consisted of alternating bouts of sleep and wakefulness. This non-continuous sleep pattern is characteristic of virtually all mammals and is also the pattern we experience early and late in life. It is only in adult life, and the last 350 years of human history, that a more consolidated nocturnal sleep pattern is apparent. However, many adults still experience polyphasic sleep in the form of insomnia, and regular intervals of waking are still experienced in normal sleepers today, as evidenced by six to 12 brief awakenings per night (which most of us don't recall, for they are too short). Evidently, this polyphasic sleep pattern lies dormant in our physiology, met an evolutionary need, and therefore may be adaptive rather than a sleep disorder.

In segmented sleep, how was waking time between the two sleeps spent?

In prehistoric times, it may have been spent tending to the fire, being vigilant for predators, in deep relaxation, for creativity and problem solving, and a channel of communication between dreams and waking life. Historical accounts suggest it was used for sexual activity and socializing, reading and writing, praying, meditating on dreams, or tending to the fire in the cold months.

Tell me about cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. How does this treatment for insomnia compare with other methods like sleeping pills? What successes have you seen among your patients, and how can others incorporate the strategies into their sleep habits?

CBT-I is the most effective psychology-based treatment for a health problem and has consistently been proven to be the most effective first-line treatment for chronic insomnia. It improves sleep in 75 to 80 percent of insomnia patients and reduces or eliminates sleeping pill use in 90 percent of patients. It is so effective that I am surprised if my patients do not report improvement in sleep, or a reduction or elimination of sleeping pills, from CBT-I. And in three studies published in major medical journals that directly compared CBT with sleeping pills, including my study at Harvard Medical School, CBT-I was more effective than sleeping pills. CBT-I also has no side effects and maintains improvements in sleep long-term, and new research shows that CBT-I doubles the improvement rates of depression compared with antidepressant medication alone in depressed patients with insomnia.

In contrast to CBT-I, sleeping pills do not greatly improve sleep. Objectively, newer-generation sleeping pills such as Ambien are no more effective than a placebo. Subjectively, they only increase total sleep time, and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, by about 10 minutes. Furthermore, these small to moderate short-term improvements in sleep are often outweighed by significant side effects and risks, particularly in older adults. These include impairment of alertness, driving, and learning and memory (including sleep-dependent memory consolidation); increased mortality risk, as shown in almost two dozen scientific studies; and dependence, addiction, and activation of the same neurobiological pathways involved in drugs of abuse.

CBT-I is based on the idea that some individuals react to short-term insomnia (usually caused by stress) by worrying about sleep loss. After a few weeks of lying awake at night, frustrated and anxious about insomnia, they start to anticipate not sleeping and become apprehensive about going to bed. They soon learn to associate the bed with sleeplessness and frustration; consequently, the bed quickly becomes a learned cue for wakefulness and insomnia. As a result, they begin to engage in these types of maladaptive sleep habits, thoughts and behaviors that exacerbate insomnia that must be changed with CBT-I (sleeping pills are marginally effective because they do not change these behaviors):

  • Negative, distorted thoughts and beliefs about insomnia such as "I must get eight hours of sleep" or "I did not sleep a wink last night."

  • Going to bed too early or sleeping too late and spending excessive time in bed.

  • Irregular arising times.

  • Trying to control sleep rather than letting it happen.

  • Lying awake in bed, frustrated and tense.

  • Using the bed and bedroom for activities other than sleep.

  • Use of electronic devices before bedtime.

Betty White Doesn't Understand Why People Say She's Had A 'Comeback' (VIDEO)

Tue, 2015-03-31 11:28
Betty White is, as Oprah calls her, a "national treasure." For the last seven decades, White has delighted audiences in sitcoms, commercials and films -- and she doesn't show any signs of slowing down. Now 93, the TV legend says she is thrilled to be able to continue working, which she understands is not a guarantee for someone at her age.

"When you're as blessed as I am with the good health I have, that's the bottom line," White tells Oprah in the above video. "I never take it for granted. I appreciate it more than I can say."

Though the actress credits good genes as the main cause behind her strong health, White also cites a rather unusual exercise routine as another factor. "I have a two-story house and a very bad memory," she says. "So I'm up and down those stairs all the time!"

On a serious note, Oprah mentions that White never caved into the pressure of the rather common Hollywood practice of lying about her age.

"There was no need to," she says simply. "What's the point of trying to fool anybody? Besides, my mother always said, 'Don't lie about your age. You'll forget and you'll slip up, and then you'll look ridiculous.'"

As the years went on, White's career began to evolve. Then, in 2010, a new generation of fans started to take notice. White had all but stolen the show opposite Sandra Bullock in "The Proposal," had viewers falling out of their seats in a hilarious Super Bowl commercial and quickly found herself in the midst of a social media campaign to have her host "Saturday Night Live." Soon, the media began covering White's "comeback," as they called it, dubbing her the Golden-Girl-turned-It-Girl of Hollywood.

As grateful as White is to still be working, she admits that the "comeback" label is a little confusing.

"I don't know where the 'comeback' story came [from]," White says. "I've been working steadily for the last 70 years!"

Even now, with this incredible professional longevity, White says she never imagined her career lasting as long as it has.

"Who would ever dream that I would not only be this healthy, but still be invited to work?" White says. "That's the privilege... To still have jobs to do is such a privilege."

Also in the interview: White shares her biggest regret from the last 93 years.

"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

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These Events Were Canceled Because Of Indiana's New Anti-Gay 'Religious Freedom' Law

Tue, 2015-03-31 10:27
WASHINGTON -- Indiana has been facing a national backlash after Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a "religious freedom" bill into law last week that could open the door to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow any individual or corporation to cite religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

The criticism is already hitting the state economically. The governors of Connecticut and Washington have imposed bans on state-funded travel to Indiana. Organizers of Gen Con, which has been called the largest gaming convention in the country, are also considering no longer having their event in Indiana.

Cities like Chicago are capitalizing on the controversy, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) trying to lure Indiana-based businesses into his city.

Here are some of the events that have been canceled in the state since Pence signed RFRA:

Wilco Concert

Indie rock band Wilco tweeted Monday that it will cancel its May 7 show in Indianapolis because RFRA "feels like thinly disguised legal discrimination." "Hope to get back to the Hoosier State someday soon, when this odious measure is repealed. Refunds available at point of purchase," the band added.

Comedy Show

Comedian Nick Offerman, perhaps best known for playing Ron Swanson on NBC's "Parks and Recreation," tweeted Tuesday that he is canceling a May 16 show in Indiana. He and his wife, fellow comedian Megan Mullally, are touring the country with their "Summer of 69: No Apostrophe" comedy-variety show. They will go ahead with their appearance at Indiana University Wednesday but will be donating the proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign.

AFSCME Conference

On Monday, Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, announced that he was pulling the union's 2015 Women's Conference out of Indianapolis in October. "The 1.6 million members of AFSCME cannot in good conscience make such a sizable financial investment in Indiana knowing that women and men in that state are deliberately being targeted for discrimination," said Saunders. A new location has not yet been chosen.

Angie's List Expansion

Indianapolis-based business Angie's List has cancelled a planned $40 million headquarters expansion, a move that could cost the city 1,000 jobs over a five-year period. "Angie's List is open to all and discriminates against none, and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents," said CEO Bill Oesterle, who used to be an aide to former Gov. Mitch Daniels (R).

Tech Conference Sponsorship

Marc Benioff, CEO of tech giant Salesforce, said he is canceling all company travel to Indiana in the wake of RFRA. This means Salesforce will no longer sponsor or attend the Indy Big Data Conference set to be held May 7 in Indianapolis. EMC, Cloudera, Pivotal and Platfora have pulled their sponsorships as well. Conference organizers issued a statement calling on state politicians to come up with "an immediate correction to this law in order to prohibit discrimination in Indiana on any grounds.”

HUFFPOST READERS: If you live in Indiana, we want to hear about how this law is affecting you. Email your story or any tips to Please include your name, the city you live in, and a phone number if you're willing to be contacted by a reporter.

Hero Drives Jeep Off Tow Truck, Escapes In A Flash Of Glory (VIDEO)

Tue, 2015-03-31 09:11
Tow trucks are the bane of the working man's existence.

We've all been there: You spend your hard-earned cash on a few groceries after a long day of work and think to yourself, "I deserve a coffee at that fancy hipster joint across the street." You do! But what you don't notice are the sharks circling your vehicle. The moment you walk out of the grocery store lot, your precious Toyota Camry is gone, on its way to the tow pound along with your dignity and temper.

This is our plight. But there is a shining light in our midst. A man willing to stand up for what's right. A Katniss Everdeen to our District 12. A King Leonidas to our Sparta. He's a Jeep owner in Chicago, and he's the first hero on record escaping a tow by driving his vehicle off the truck that victimized him.

In dramatic footage caught by Tony Marengo on Sunday night, the Jeep driver can be seen sitting in his vehicle -- which was atop the tow truck at the time -- yelling at the driver to stop. The tow truck pulls over.

"We could hear the guy in the driver’s seat of the car yelling out of the window," Marengo told NBC Chicago. "He was like, ‘Hey! Hey! Hey, buddy!'"

Then, our hero leaps into action, doing what none of us ever had the guts to do: He guns it, and makes a clean getaway (video above).

We'll go out on a limb and assume that the mean old tow truck driver got the Jeep's info before the great escape -- but it's a small victory, and a small victory we'll take.

May the odds be ever in your favor, Jeep driver.

How Police And Prosecutors Are Treating 'Rapping While Black' Like A Crime

Tue, 2015-03-31 06:34
Since the birth of rap music, artists have written songs about pretty much everything: progress, struggle, success, failure, societal ills and the responsibility of hip-hop, even an “extraterrestrial time-traveling gynecologist and surgeon from the planet Jupiter.” Sometimes, their lyrics are an unvarnished reflection of the realities they live. Other times their words are less grounded in the truth, or are complete fiction. Rap, like any other musical genre, is about artistry, expression and entertainment. It has no obligation to absolute accuracy.

But what happens when a rapper's lyrics are used against them, cherry-picked by police and prosecutors and held up as evidence of a crime? A number of recent cases have highlighted this concern, reigniting debate around the controversial practice and how it is applied exclusively to rap music.

Last week, a San Diego judge threw out felony conspiracy charges against Brandon Duncan, a 33-year-old rapper who goes by the stage name Tiny Doo. He had been accused of contributing to gang activity. Prosecutors offered the lyrics of Duncan's self-produced mixtape, released in 2014, as proof. Duncan had faced the possibility of life in prison under a 2000 California law that has been used to crack down on gang activity and those who promote or benefit from it. In some cases, however, critics claim the law is also used to criminalize black culture.

“This is one of the most disturbing examples of where kids are using poetry to get out of the hood and we are sending them right back in,” Erik Nielson, a professor at the University of Richmond who has studied the prosecution of rap lyrics extensively, told The Huffington Post.

Duncan was being prosecuted under California's Street Terrorism and Prevention Act, or STEP Act, which deems it illegal to “willfully promote” or “benefit” from criminal gang activity. At the time of Duncan's arrest, he had no criminal record and no idea that he was facing nine felony conspiracy charges based almost entirely on rap lyrics published in his latest album, “No Safety.” Prosecutors argued that the material in the mixtape -- which includes lyrics like “Ain't no safety on this pistol I'm holding," and a sample of a speech by Black Panther Fred Hampton, also used by electronic artist Thievery Corporation -- had inspired a series of local rival gang shootings the year before.

Duncan claimed he was not a gang member, and that he hadn't even profited from his mixtape. One fact was never in doubt throughout the legal proceedings: Prosecutors did not believe Duncan was directly involved in any of the gang crimes. But they maintained they had enough evidence to link Duncan's rap lyrics -- which he says reflected his experience growing up in a rough San Diego neighborhood -- to crimes allegedly committed by other gang members.

“What is so frightening and disturbing about his case is that they were going to essentially pin the whole murder charge on this outrageous theory that because he was a rapper, his street credibility and therefore his popularity in records sales would have increased as a result,” Nielson said.

Duncan spent seven months behind bars after his arrest. Earlier this year, he posted bail after successfully petitioning to have it reduced from $500,000 to $50,000. While Duncan’s charges were ultimately dropped, his case highlights a disturbing trend of rap lyrics being used in courtrooms across the country, often in the absence of more traditional forms of hard evidence to link suspects to a crime.

“It is a cheap way to get a conviction, and we found in many cases that prosecutors are likely to do so when they don't have much evidence otherwise,” Nielson said. “No one seems to understand the severity of the problem.”

In one such case in 2000, up-and-coming rapper McKinley "Mac" Phipps was charged with first-degree murder after a concertgoer was shot during one of his performances near New Orleans. Phipps had no prior criminal record, and prosecutors for the state had no forensic evidence to tie him to the murder. Instead, they turned to his rap lyrics to attack his character. In his closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Bruce Dearing took lyrics from Phipps' song "Murda, Murda, Kill, Kill” and stitched them together with altered lyrics from another song, "Shell Shocked," presenting them to the all-white jury as proof that Phipps was a killer.

"This defendant who did this is the same defendant whose message is, 'Murder murder, kill, kill, you f**k with me you get a bullet in your brain,'" he said. "You don't have to be a genius to figure out that one plus one equals two."

The actual lyrics, "Ya f--k with me, he'll give you a bullet in yo brain," were about Phipps' father, a Vietnam War veteran. But the jury bought Dearing's simple math and found Phipps guilty. He was eventually sentenced to 30 years in jail.

"The rap got his mind all messed up," jury foreman Robert Hammell told The Huffington Post of the jury's decision to convict. "He was living a life that he thought he was a gangsta. He was making it big time with the gold chains and all that s**t that went with it. To shoot somebody in a public place on the dance floor, you gotta think you're a bad son of a b***h."

Phipps performing "Murda, Murda, Kill, Kill” at a concert in 1999.

In the past few months, the prosecution’s witnesses have come forward and recanted their testimony, citing bullying by authorities who allegedly forced them to lie under oath. The allegations have added another wrinkle to an already complicated case, and again led to questions about how significant Phipps' lyrics were in obtaining a conviction.

Rap music -- and particularly what has become known in some circles as "gangster rap" -- often delves into violent and obscene topics. It's not unusual for these songs to cover details of actual events. But rap is also a genre in which stories are regularly told through the lens of a fictional persona assumed by the artist. With the success of amateur rappers often relying on their ability to come across as authentic in their music, performers may recount episodes that are well-known in a community but that they themselves weren't necessarily a part of. In other instances, rappers might simply embellish or fabricate details of an encounter or their involvement in it, in an effort to advance their career. The criminal justice system often appears disinterested in these nuances.

Critics also say there's a clear racial dynamic in how rap lyrics are seized upon and used against suspects.

“A lot of people have a difficult time viewing young men of color and frequent producers of rap lyrics as artists in the first place,” Nielson said. “It's a potent tool for prosecutors because, frankly, they can serve a guilty verdict by playing into those stereotypes.”

In effect, people are more willing to take the content of a song at face value if the lyrics reinforce racially charged preconceptions about young, black males, particularly regarding sexuality and violence.

This makes rap a perfect weapon for law enforcement and prosecutors. Police have been encouraged to parse rap songs to see if they can make a connection between lyrics and unsolved crimes. As NPR noted in 2014, a sergeant for a Virginia gang task force told a German newspaper that his officers regularly scour social networks and amateur videos for potential clues, effectively spending about as much time on the computer as they do on the street. In 2006, the FBI advised prosecutors to examine suspects' rap lyrics, suggesting they should be considered literal reflections of "true-life experiences."

Prosecutors have introduced lyrics both as evidence of an actual crime, and of a suspect's supposed capacity to commit a crime. There are concerns that rap music is regularly misinterpreted or deliberately manipulated in these legal settings, leading to unfair trials that can end with an innocent person being convicted. And the controversy stemming from these practices extends beyond Duncan and Phipps.

In 2014, Antwain Steward was convicted on weapons charges linked to a 2007 double-murder in Newport News, Virginia. Steward was charged years later, after a detective assigned to the case was tipped off to a YouTube video of his song, “Ride Out,” which police said boasted about his role in the shootings. While there were clear discrepancies between the lyrics and the details of the crime, the prosecution brought forth witnesses that, years later, corroborated their claims that Steward was the shooter. During the trial, the defense cast doubt on the credibility of these witnesses. The prosecution objected to any mention of the lyrics that had led to the trial in the first place. The jury found Steward not guilty on the murder charges, but guilty on the weapons charges. He is now serving a 16-year jail sentence.

A recording of "Ride Out," by Steward, also known as Twain Gotti.

In Pennsylvania, Vonte Skinner is currently standing trial for a third time on charges that he shot and paralyzed a drug dealer in 2005. Skinner had previously been convicted for the crime and given a 30-year jail sentence after prosecution introduced rap lyrics as evidence of his violent predisposition and involvement in the shooting. The New Jersey Supreme Court later overturned that ruling, declaring his rap lyrics inadmissible and offering him another trial.

In March 2014, The New York Times reported that rap lyrics had played a significant part in nearly 40 prosecutions over the preceding two years. In a recent article for Vox, Nielson and co-author Michael Render -- the rapper better known as Killer Mike -- say they've "identified hundreds of cases so far, and we suspect that's just the tip of the iceberg."

Nielson told HuffPost these cases expose a deeply flawed double standard in determining what is real and what is metaphorical when it comes to artistic expression. He believes “the rules of evidence should automatically preclude the introduction of rap as evidence.” Such lyrics, Nielson says, should be protected as a nuanced art form, not put up for analysis under the hyper-literal mindset typically undertaken in the courtroom.

"The vast majority of aspiring rappers are spending hours a day working on rap music ... to escape a life of violence, not to perpetuate it."

Even if a guilty defendant is prosecuted and convicted with the help of rap lyrics, should those words be allowed to serve as a replacement for more traditional forms of evidence? Do we think it's fair for a prosecutor to tell a jury that they must judge a rap song's lyrics as an honest reflection of the artist's mental psyche, especially knowing the underlying racial biases likely to be at play? And more generally, which forms of expression should be protected and which should be allowed to be used against the person expressing them? The Supreme Court will take up this last question in a case later this year.

Enabled by murky legal territory, cultural ignorance and engrained racial bias, police and prosecutors have been rewarded for criminalizing aspects of an art form overwhelmingly practiced by young, black men. Nielson believes there's a particularly troubling irony in this trend of targeting.

“What most people are missing is that the vast majority of aspiring rappers are spending hours a day working on rap music and, regardless of the content, the reason they are doing it is to escape a life of violence, not to perpetuate it."

Reflections from Rosebud Reservation

Mon, 2015-03-30 22:12

This past week, I joined 11 other medical students from the University of Chicago in volunteering at a Lakota Native American reservation in Rosebud, South Dakota. We spent some of our time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, and some time shadowing physicians at the local Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital. This experience was a great opportunity to not only learn about health care challenges on reservations, but also to reflect on the intersections between religion, service, and medicine.

Aside from astronomically high rates of chronic conditions such as Type II Diabetes, obesity, depression, and alcoholism, patients at the IHS clinic often lack access to cancer screenings because the small facility does not have the resources to provide those services. As a result, it is not uncommon for treatable conditions to cause life-threatening complications. I was shocked to learn that some patients suffered from tuberculosis, a disease that I thought had been mostly eliminated from the United States. Finally, patients routinely resort to using the emergency room often need to be air-evacuated to other hospitals for minor complaints that cannot be addressed on the reservation.

However, there were also several positive aspects of the IHS. First, The primary care doctors I shadowed were able to spend lots of time with her patients, talking through diagnoses and medications at length. Second, the reservation community was very close-knit, and physicians (even those who lived outside the reservation) were well-acquainted with Lakota traditions and had a strong desire to be part of the local culture. Finally, although the IHS is woefully under-funded (annual health spending per person for the overall U.S. population is over $9000, in comparison to about $2400 per person in the IHS), it is still a single-payer system that guarantees coverage to all Native Americans with documented membership in a federally-recognized tribe. Although IHS insurance may be less effective outside IHS facilities, this federal program ensures that virtually everyone on the reservation is insured.

While learning about Lakota history, I was intrigued by the changing roles of religious groups over time. Until the mid-20th century, many Western churches saw the Native Americans as "savages," and many priests sought to "educate" the Lakota in such a way that they would forget their old ways and completely adopt Western customs. Fortunately, there now seems to be more mutual understanding between different spiritual traditions. Christian institutions provide a large number of social services, and serve as community centers for various activities. Churches and religious leaders now run many charities, including the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. However, many Lakota traditions such as sweat lodges, vision quests, and Sun Dances are also practiced, and some reservation residents observe Christianity alongside the traditional Lakota religion.

Indeed, I was struck by the contrast between hopelessness and optimism on the reservation. On one hand, unemployment is well over 70 percent, the life expectancy can be less than 50 years, suicide rates are extremely high, and families are often trapped in cyclical poverty. On the other hand, reservation residents speak fondly of Sinte Gleska, an accredited Lakota university that provides a wide array of degrees, and cheer for their young students who have won full scholarships to major national universities like Stanford and Dartmouth. Others express hope for the in-progress Crazy Horse Memorial, and how it can someday stand as a symbol of the unvanquished Native American spirit for generations to come.

Photo from the campus of Sinte Gleska University.

Through my conversations with the people of Rosebud, I was constantly reminded of a verse from the Quran that speaks of resilience: "Verily, with every difficulty there [comes] relief" (Quran 94:6). Throughout my life as practicing Muslim, I always took this verse for granted; whenever I struggled with something, I found comfort in the fact that relief would eventually come. However, this past week has shown me that for many people, hardship can often be followed by an even greater hardship. Finding any "relief" can be very difficult, and it can be tough to persevere when faced with such overwhelming odds.

I have been inspired by the various people I have met on this short trip, from the recent high school graduate who strives to learn at least "one new fact" every day and someday teach English abroad, to the tireless educator at Sinte Gleska University who motivates her students to follow their dreams, to the hospital worker who speaks fluent Lakota with local elders, keeping an ancient language alive.

These friends I made, and many others, illustrate my religion's core tenets of humility, service, resilience, and community engagement. As a result, I have become more motivated to reflect on my own practice of Islam, and will strive to exhibit those virtues throughout my medical career.

Before we left to return to Chicago, our Rosebud host told us, "It doesn't matter if you never return here. Just promise me this: never forget us, and never forget what you learned here."

That is a promise I intend to keep.

Rahm Emanuel Wants To Capitalize On Controversy In Neighboring Indiana

Mon, 2015-03-30 21:02
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) isn't letting the crisis in neighboring Indiana over a controversial religious freedom law go to waste.

Emanuel, who faces re-election next week, has urged about a dozen Indiana businesses to move to Chicago as many have publicly expressed their concern that the law permits discrimination against LGBT employees.

In a letter to the Indiana businesses, Emanuel said that the new law would lead to discrimination against LGBT employees in Indiana and harm the state's ability to attract top talent, Crain's Chicago Business reported.

"But (Chicago's) great strength is the quality of our workforce and the fact that Chicago is a welcoming place," Emanuel wrote in the letter, according to Crain's. "As Gov. Pence changes state law to take Indiana backwards, I urge you to look next door."

Pence has said that the law does not permit discrimination, but Indiana corporate leaders have said that they were "deeply concerned" about the impact the law could have on their employees.

Both Illinois and Chicago have anti-discrimination measures in place that include protections for LGBT individuals. While Indianapolis currently has similar protections in place, Pence has said that he is uninterested in pursuing similar protections at the state level.

Emanuel aides told Crain's that they haven't heard back from any businesses interested in relocating to Chicago.

H/T Crain's Chicago Business


Mon, 2015-03-30 17:27
The anxiety comes and goes. Sometimes it gets pretty heavy, enough to cause me to dry-heave, instantly. I don't handle it very well.

It was Friday the 13th of March, just two weeks ago. I had recently been given an opportunity to present my business plan to a small group of well-qualified investors. The excitement was overwhelming. This is what I've wanted from the beginning. It's what any entrepreneur without a bankroll would want. All your passion, creativity and purpose are given a chance to be bought into, believed in and shared by others; others with lots and lots of money.

After this temporary elation, the reality set it. Pictures of the room, the table, the men -- how loud, what do I handout, what do I wear, what they're wearing -- all of it, everything -- started filling my brain and changing me. Worry, to say the least, was back. This is not good. It's like a dream you're trying to act in, but something won't let you. You think you should have better control of yourself but you don't.

I called a friend.

He said, "Pick five scenarios that you think MIGHT happen at this investor presentation, write them down and get it out of your head." It reminded me of the chorus to The Cranberries' "Zombie." I've been here before, I'll keep fighting.

Everything that I thought might be, creating an mirage expectation of the future, will most likely never happen. When I'm in the thick of worry, it's a hard thing to get back into the present. What logically needed to happen was to figure out what options I'd give them, as investors, and how much of the heart and soul I'd be exchanging for a financially beneficial (or horribly tragic) position in my company. My business plan was created along with the guidance of Larry Ray, a damn good business adviser through the Cal State Bakersfield's Small Business Development Center, months before.

My eight-to-five is for a data management and software company. If you want to meet with me, it has to be before or after work. And I'm an early riser, so mornings work better for me. The more often I speak with someone from the East Coast, or a developer in another country, I'm more convinced that Pacific Standard Time means less to me. When stuff needs to get done, and you're the one with the passion, time becomes a moot point. If I can get it done now, why do I need to wait, even if it's 3 a.m.? We confirmed our initial hour and a half meeting for Wednesday, October 29 at Lorene's Coffee Shop in Downtown Bakersfield. 6 a.m.

I left with a stack of papers, guidelines and sincere advice. We exchanged emails and had one other follow up meeting.

And on January 26th, 2015, a three month process, the business plan was complete. Total out-of-pocket expenses: One Coffee and One Senior Menu Breakfast Entrée, and I was not required to pay for that. I was grateful. If you are in need of help for a business idea, or you're currently in business looking for help, may I highly recommend the Small Business Development Center. Don't be fooled, Larry didn't do my plan for me. He was a guide that kept me accountable for the tasks ahead, and a voice of clarity when my written word confused him. This whole entrepreneur thing isn't about making gigantic chomps in all you do. It's a nibbling process, especially on stuff you DON'T feel like doing. Tasks need done, and you're pretty much the only option when you can't afford an employee to delegate it to. The SBDC can help your business or idea, especially when you are limited on resources, just like me.

The plan has seen three revisions since the day I said it was first completed; minor edits that bent the plan at its slightest. I've sent it out to friends and family, and a few family law attorneys that have expressed interest. No one wants to read a business plan, I sure in the hell don't want to. Expressing interest, and actual interest, are two separate things; I know that now.

Without knowing whether he read the plan or not, I called another friend. We share lots of stories together, mostly absurd ones, but he really is a smart guy. I look up to him, how he does business and with his straight-shooting, handshake mentality, I needed simplicity in what I'd try to exchange with these investors. Ten minutes was all I was getting, and I needed to make the best of it.

So we created a plan, and shared ideas for about an hour over a 1,500-mile phone call. I felt confident about what we came up with. The anxiety withered away. The comfortable feeling of gratitude showered me. Within the next three days, I needed to create a presentation, a business plan to bind professionally, and make this the best ten minutes of my life. I knew exactly what I'd be doing. Now it's time for the literal executions of the requirements. It became time to get it done.

Then, later that night, I received a text from him. It started with, "How about this..." but basically went on saying that he'd provide the funds I needed. My business plan had been funded. The innermost parts of me went wild until it ended with him needing to get his wife's blessing first. Okay, minor snag. Like a condition to a sale, this wasn't a guaranteed thing. She could say no, or that I joke around on Facebook too much. This was another situation I had no control over except this time, I realized this new worry wasn't worth it. I'd go ahead and believe it would happen exactly as I hoped, and started working on it anyway. The next day I received a text from him:

Green light buddy.


Parts of me believe my friend truly believes in the passion and determination I've had for the last four years, and that's why he is doing this. The other parts of me believe my friend didn't want me walking into a Shark Tank-style pitch in a desperate position. The truth is that I've put blood, sweat and tears into my business has little-to-no value for an investor. Most investors want to see projected gains, and for an LLC that's made diddly squat in income, it's hard to prove your valuation. And that's exactly what they would want, along with a solid business plan. I had one, but not the other. Now, I'd come to the table with both.

And on March 17th, 2015, the 13th birthday of Genesis herself, I walked towards Wool Grower's with bagpipers bellowing Irish sound in an Old Town Kern parking lot. This was ten times better than my worry could have imagined. The luck of the day was upon me. Right before I got to the door of the restaurant, an old friend called. "Hey Jon, how've you been man," he started, but I had to stop him and explain, as quick and best as I could, the situation I was walking into. There were no worries given or taken, he understood entirely. All he wanted was the domain for my app because his friend was going through a divorce and wanted it. It was the best phone call at the worst time. Maybe it was the best time. Whatever time is was, it was perfect, in retrospect.

I'm not going to discuss the details of the 10-minute pitch that turned to 20, and a request for another presentation in the near future. I did good. Scratch that. I did great! The restaurant, a place where Ronald Reagan was known to love their fries, was bustling with St. Paddy Day celebrations and shenanigans. And though I had the money already, I wasn't going to ruin an opportunity to present my plan to these guys. Many entrepreneurs struggle with this, venture funds and angel investors controlling our future, only if you are so lucky to get the opportunity. If you ever get the chance to present to legitimate investors, give it your best. If you are waiting for that chance, add value in the meantime. Do more with less -- and make it a point to keep that mindset.

The Bible says to be anxious for nothing. To me, it's a verse that can mean two things. One is more literal meaning in that it's good to be anxious for absolutely nothing. There is a teaching in worry, and worry is a-ok; we are human, remember. In a sense, worry can help us grow as long as you are aware that it is affecting you. The other meaning suggests to me to not worry about anything, and just acknowledge Jesus in all I do and he'll take care of the rest.

Either way, it doesn't matter. God knows I haven't given up. And sometimes, that's all that really matters. Exactly a year ago, I was interviewing for the position I'm in now, still working full-time. And nibble by nibble, countless 5 a.m. mornings at Starbucks (just like today), and tons of undue worries later, I now prepare for the launch of the Genesis Child Custody Manager to the American Bar Association TechShow in Chicago next month. April 16th & 17th to be exact.

And Genesis herself will get to go with me. That's the best part of all, even if I walk in with regurgitated deep dish pizza all over my shirt. It will all be worth it.

Artist's Reimagined Cardboard Signs Help Shine A Light On Chicago's Homeless

Mon, 2015-03-30 15:26
In a project called the Urban Type Experiment, a Chicago art director is redesigning homeless people’s signs help raise awareness about homelessness as a larger issue.

The art director, who chooses to remain anonymous, has been working on the Urban Type Experiment for about eight weeks. He is keeping track of each person he helps, and their responses, on his Tumblr.

“I've left my name off the site because I don't want the project to become about me,” he told The Huffington Post in an email.

Each week, he introduces himself to a different person he sees on the streets of Chicago holding a cardboard sign. “I'll approach them and ask if I can talk with them,” he told HuffPost. “Usually they're a little unsure at first, but once I explain the project and show them some examples, they're more than willing to help out with the project.”

Once he gets permission, the art director spends about a week illustrating the sign’s original message in a bold, eye-catching design. He delivers the sign, and then checks back in a week later to see if his efforts have helped. For now, the response is small, but recipients of the signs have introduced the art director to other people who could benefit from his work. His hope is that the redesign will help individuals’ causes as well as provoke a larger discussion about homelessness.

The project began when the art director was enrolled in an expressive type class, where developed an interest for hand-lettering. Walking home after class each day, he passed multiple people on the streets holding signs and was inspired to use his skillset for a greater good.

“I feel like the signs are doing a really good job of grabbing people's attention and initiating more interactions,” he told HuffPost. “[They] give people passing by something to talk about. It's a conversation starter.”

H/T Adweek

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The Angst of the Rich and Powerful

Mon, 2015-03-30 14:44
There have been a couple of recent articles that relate to money and politics that, while infuriating on many levels, have also struck me as very funny.

One of them came out yesterday, a broadside no doubt planted by a Wall Street lobbyist intending to frighten Democratic party leaders into trying to shut up Elizabeth Warren (good luck with that!), Sherrod Brown, and other populists who challenge banking malfeasance. It is a classic story about today's bizarro world of big-money-dominated politics:

Big Wall Street banks are so upset with U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren's call for them to be broken up that some have discussed withholding campaign donations to Senate Democrats in symbolic protest, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Representatives from Citigroup, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, have met to discuss ways to urge Democrats, including Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, to soften their party's tone toward Wall Street, sources familiar with the discussions said this week.

The Wall Street lobby is the richest and most powerful constituency in D.C., and they have been pretty successful over the last couple of decades at getting their way on policy and shutting up politicians who take them on. This kind of ham-handed threat might have worked in the past, but we are living in a new era where the progressive movement, in combination with leaders like Warren and Brown, isn't backing down. It is worth noting this article, though, and keeping it in your file of favorite clip; this kind of moment is one to be savored. There will be more to come as the challenges to the Wall Street establishment keep growing.

There was another remarkable article on the front page of the Washington Post the other day, this one about millionaire bundlers for presidential candidates who were feeling hurt that candidates, now more focused on billionaires, weren't courting them in the manner to which they were accustomed.

I feel for these poor but very rich souls. Having been in presidential politics since 1984, I can tell you that these millionaire bundlers really used to be the top dogs in the game. While there are always reasons to court the profoundly wealthy, because presidential campaigns couldn't take unlimited money directly, it was actually more important for them to have the folks who had the ability to put together $100,000, $250,000, or $500,000 in $1,000 and $2,500 checks, but no more, not with billionaires happy to write $1 million and $10 million checks to super PACs that openly support these campaigns.

And the angst of these millionaires is bipartisan. The ultimate pal for Wall Street and big money in the Democratic Party may fall to a crashing defeat: Rahm Emanuel is in real trouble.

Through his massive amounts of campaign spending, his association with Obama, and his wide initial lead in name recognition, Rahm Emanuel had a plurality lead of 45-34 over Chuy García in the first round of the Chicago mayoral race and has kept a modest lead in some of the public polls since. But the dynamics on the ground are rapidly changing, and the momentum in the race is now with the García campaign. In the private polling that we and our allies have done, and in the early-voting numbers where Chuy's wards are coming in very strongly, it is clear that this race is moving in Chuy's direction. Here are the fundamentals in this race:

  1. There is now a private poll taken by an ally of the García campaign that shows him with a 7-point lead, but even the polls that still show us a few points down have Rahm losing 5 to 7 points over the last week, and stuck at 45 percent or below. With Rahm's approval ratings still in the 30s, and with undecided voters decidedly unhappy with him, the undecideds are likely to move strongly Chuy's way. And when asked which statement most closely represents their views about the mayoral election, 54 percent say "Chicago needs a change," while 39 percent say "Chicago can't risk putting an inexperienced leader in charge."

  2. Almost entirely because of Obama's endorsement, Rahm won a big plurality among African-American voters in the first vote and in the early polling right afterwards, but the dynamics are changing dramatically in the African-American wards. A series of endorsements from major Chicago African-American leaders including Jesse Jackson, Obama mentor Emil Jones, and a series of influential ministers, along with an outstanding field operation and some great ads on black radio, have caused a big upsurge in African-American support for Chuy, and a drop in support for Rahm from 58 percent to 41 percent. The campaign's voter-ID program in the predominantly African-American wards is now showing Chuy at 52 percent of the vote.

  3. Youth support for Chuy is surging, and particularly among voters below the age of 50. Young and Latino voters are the two hardest-to-reach voting segments in public polling, one reason that Chuy was polling at only 22 percent in the polls leading up the first round of voting, yet ended with 34 percent.

  4. Rahm's voting base leans heavily on Republicans who don't like Rahm but are holding their nose to vote for him, and on older white voters who aren't sure that Chuy can handle the job. There is no enthusiasm in either of those voting groups, so a turnout operation for Rahm is going to be tough going. On the other hand, the enthusiasm level for Chuy among his base voters -- Latinos, younger voters, white liberals, union members -- is sky-high. Just as importantly, the Democratic base groups that do the best get-out-the-vote operations -- groups like AFT, NEA, SEIU, MoveOn, and DFA -- are working for Chuy. The field operations include more than 70 full-time field organizers, more than 6,000 volunteers, and more than 100 staging locations for knocking on doors and getting out the vote.

Rahm still has more money than God (he outspent Chuy 12 to 1 in the first round and will outspend him by many millions again in this round), and he is a street fighter who won't hesitate to use every trick in the book to win this race, so this race will be tough to the finish. But the fact that a grassroots community leader is in the hunt to win this race against an incumbent who raised an unprecedented $30 million from 100 donors and has the support of Obama and other establishment Democrats is a sign that things are changing in this country. Politicians aligned with the rich and powerful had better watch out.

In this era when Citizens United has unleashed a tsunami of money into the political system, the large majority of it on the Republican side, and the Koch brothers plan to spend $1 billion on the 2016 elections without breaking a sweat, Democrats need to adapt a new political strategy, one pioneered by Elizabeth Warren and now being used by Chuy García: Run as unapologetic populist progressives, and don't worry about raising corporate cash. The Democratic Party would miss getting Wall Street money and would likely be outspent in most elections, but like Warren and García, they could make up for it with online donations and grassroots movement passion. The Koch brothers and Wall Street guys are going to make sure we get outspent in virtually every election anyway. Let's walk away from their money and run as real Democrats. It is our best hope.

Meteorologist Forgets Coat Hanger In Suit, Awkwardly Pulls It Out Mid-Broadcast

Mon, 2015-03-30 13:57
Hang on, Steve, your coworkers will help you in a minute. They just have to stop laughing first.

Fox9 Minneapolis meteorologist Steve Frazier had a bit of a fashion emergency earlier this week when he forgot to remove the coat hanger from his suit jacket, then wore it on-air. Frazier, understandably uncomfortable, opted to deal with the hang-up during the broadcast, stopping mid-sentence to awkwardly remove the unsuitable object:


"I'm sorry," he says in the clip, stopping a report about chill as he gropes his hand around behind his neck and the hosts look on, bewildered.

"The chill has a kink in your neck?" one of the anchors asks, as the other stares with an open mouth.

"I've got... never mind, forget it!" Frazier laughs as he pulls the offending hanger out of his coat, tosses it onto the anchor desk, then throws his hands up in defeat.

That moment when you're on air and realize you left the hanger in your suit... @FrazierFox9 #OhMyGosh

— FOX 9 News (@MyFOX9) March 28, 2015

The anchors cradle their heads in their hands, laughing, while Frazier haltingly explains, "I... I thought it was just the tight button, but never mind, let's... can we just go to the weather? I couldn't... I... never mind."

Later in the broadcast, while laughter sounds off-camera, Frazier pauses the weather report to again defend himself.

"Let me tell you the story," he says. "I went to the gym today and this suit was fitting tight. I couldn't figure out why, and ... I must've put it on a little too quick."