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Michael Jordan's Tune Squad Uniform From 'Space Jam' Is Hitting The Auction Block

Fri, 2015-08-28 16:33

Michael Jordan's most important uniform -- you know, the one he wore while saving the earth -- is hitting the auction block this fall.

Starting on Oct. 1, fans of Jordan and the 1996 sports entertainment classic "Space Jam" can bid on the actual Tune Squad uniform Jordan wore during the making of the movie. Despite there being "signs of wear" and "minor staining" on the uniform, it'll be available for bidding through online auction house Invaluable via Los Angeles-based auction house Profiles In History.

Invaluable estimates the price to fall between $10,000 (the starting bid) and $15,000, but in the past, Jordan memorabilia has been auctioned off for upwards of $100,000

Think you can afford it? 

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NLRB Joint Employer Ruling, Good for Workers and Businesses

Fri, 2015-08-28 12:45
The National Labor Relations Board in the Browning-Ferris Industries case revised standards for determining joint-employer status on Thursday. The Board found that Browning-Ferris Industries was a joint-employer of workers hired by a contractor to staff the company's recycling center. The joint-employer designation gives workers stronger employment protections and enhanced collective bargaining rights with large corporations that play a role in determining salaries, working conditions, and hours.

I strongly support the NLRB's amended standard for determining joint-employer status. Workers should not be prevented from bargaining with the companies that help set their wages, benefits, schedules and workplace conditions. This ruling will restore workers' rights.

The rise of franchising, contracting and other similar employment practices has made it harder to enforce worker protections like minimum wages, overtime pay and the right to unionize. This ruling is a win for nearly three million workers, their families, and their communities.

With this decision, workers will be able to bargain with every employer who helps to determine the rules of their employment. Employers who help set those rules will no longer be able to utilize temp agencies or contractors to evade their responsibilities to workers who provide services or create goods on their behalf.

This isn't just a win for workers - it's a win for businesses that do right by their employees because it requires their competitors to rise to their standard.

Again, I commend the NLRB for this important definition change. I am disappointed - although not surprised - that some of my Republican colleagues have already announced their intention to block this rule, which could result in higher wages and better working conditions for all our constituents. I will continue to do all that I can to ensure and enhance worker protections, including the right to bargain collectively.

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Illinois' Comptroller Position Gets Exciting for Leslie Munger

Fri, 2015-08-28 12:39
Earlier this week I wrote that the race for Illinois comptroller might be one of the hottest contests of next year's election.

I contrasted the sizzle of the election -- which will pit incumbent Leslie Geissler Munger against either state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, or Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza -- with the relatively mundane nature of the office. The comptroller keeps the state's checkbook but doesn't make the policy that decides what goes into and out of the checking account.

Maybe I spoke too soon. This week in federal court in Chicago, we're learning that even being the state's check-writer can generate controversy and political intrigue. At issue is why the comptroller's office didn't make court-ordered payments to providers of services for the disabled. This started Aug. 6 when a group of service providers filed a lawsuit alleging that the comptroller had failed to make the payments and was putting care for thousands of developmentally disabled Illinoisans in jeopardy.

The comptroller's office this week said the state didn't have enough cash on hand to make the payments, and that's where the controversy started. A lawyer for one of the plaintiffs said at a hearing on Wednesday that he believes Munger's office and Gov. Bruce Rauner deliberately manipulated payments for political advantage in the state budget impasse. The Chicago Tribune reported on the hearing:

The judge also said she understood the comptroller's predicament. Without a budget, state government has been spending at a rate billions of dollars beyond what it is set to take in, mostly because of a series of maneuvers by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled legislature and a number of court orders requiring it to continue paying for services during the impasse.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

To check out a more complete back story on Munger's interactions with a judge this week, check out Mark Fitton's article at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Editorial: Let Rauner do what he was elected to do

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Starting Today, Your Favorite River Is Better Protected

Fri, 2015-08-28 10:20

Credit: MNStudio, Shutterstock

This weekend Americans will head to our local river for a float trip or fishing excursion, to our favorite lake for a refreshing swim, or to the beach to ride the waves and soak up the last of the summer sun.

Our enjoyment of these waterways will be particularly sweet over the next few days, not just because we'll mark one of the last hurrahs of the summer season, but also because our favorite rivers and lakes are now better protected from pollution than ever before.

Thanks to the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule that takes effect today (in most places), polluters can no longer dump into our streams and developers can no longer pave over our wetlands unheeded. Before today's rule, 2 million miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands, which flow into our favorite waterways, from the Puget Sound to the Chesapeake Bay, had lacked clear safeguards under the Clean Water Act, following a pair of polluter driven lawsuits that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2001 and 2006.

Court decisions in these two cases had left the streams and wetlands that feed our rivers, lakes, and the drinking water supplies for 1 in 3 Americans vulnerable to polluters and developers, who could use these waters as dumping grounds or pave over them without any federal oversight or limits. In fact, in a four-year period following the decisions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had to drop more than 1500 investigations against polluters, according to one analysis by The New York Times. Similarly, an investigation by Pro Publica found oil companies and other polluters dumping into streams without consequence.

The Clean Water Rule, adopted in May following a decade-long push by Environment America and many others, ensures that such pollution cases can be prosecuted. On the front end, federal officials can now protect these waters with enforceable limits on pollution.

The joint rule by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is backed by robust scientific review and has gained broad support across a wide range of constituencies, including mayors, brewers, kayakers, anglers, small businesses, and small farmers.

The public strongly backs the rule. In May a Hart Research Associates poll showed that 80 percent of voters surveyed across party lines favored it. Americans submitted more than 800,000 comments in support of the restored protections.

Despite the public's backing of the Clean Water Rule, oil and gas companies, developers, and other polluters have waged a bitter campaign against it. Congress has largely sided with the polluters, with the U.S. House and key Senate committees passing bills to undo the restored protections.

Moreover, polluters and their allies have turned once again to the courts. Those bringing lawsuits against the Clean Water Rule now include Murray Energy (the largest privately held coal company in the U.S.), agribusiness interests, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and several state attorneys general.

Yesterday, a federal judge in North Dakota granted a motion to halt the rule in 13 states pending the outcome of litigation by their attorneys general. It's frustrating to see clean water delayed and denied to the people of these (mostly Western) states, including Colorado and New Mexico.

Yet we know that the Clean Water Rule is on solid legal ground and backed by more than 1,000 scientific studies showing how streams and wetlands are vital to the health of our rivers, lakes, and bays.

And so, with enough support from key senators and continued strong backing from the Obama administration, we're confident that the restored protections for our streams and rivers will survive and thrive. That way, our favorite places for swimming, boating, and fishing will be cleaner today, this weekend, and for many summers to come.

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Roanoke: He Was Not One of Us

Fri, 2015-08-28 09:16
I imagine I am Alison Parker, doing a live shot, yet another live shot, one of a dozen that will fill the work week.

I imagine how the sun rises behind her in the moments before it happens, how her photographer Adam has to adjust his camera to accommodate the encroaching fingers of light.

Maybe she learned her assignment that morning, when she walked into her newsroom at 3:30 AM and a producer told her she would be interviewing a woman about business redevelopment.

Maybe they were lucky to be able to park their truck near somewhere with a bathroom, so they could drink coffee in between live shots and stay awake until the show ended and they got their next assignment for the day.

Maybe they chatted between their two to four live shots, sharing the sort of intimacy that comes from spending the majority of your waking hours together.

Maybe Alison already knew, even in her short time in the business, that if news broke, the chamber of commerce story was out the window and she was off to the shooting/car crash/fire/robbery.

I can barely stand to think about the seconds leading up to the shooting. I have been her, hundreds of times in 23 years, ignoring the person I see walking up out of the corner of my eye. I cannot look at or be distracted by the passersby, the lookie loos or the rabble rousers, because I am on live television.

Live from Russia

But I see you. And I hope that you let me finish my live report before you do whatever it is you've walked up to do.

Sometimes they simply want to say hello. Sometimes they want to cause a scene or get behind me and attract attention for themselves. I have been spit at and spit on and cursed at and yelled at and shoved and goosed and grabbed over the course of my career.

I have been frightened. I have heard gunshots, witnessed fights, have had photographers fend people off for me while I am still making coherent complete sentences on live television.

The live aspect of our business is just one of the many reasons that television news is not for the faint of heart.

Nor is it for the thin-skinned.

And in the hours after we found out that Adam and Alison's killer was someone who had been a journalist, I had one thought -- he wasn't one of us.

The evil that slithered up behind them as they tried to simply do their job was not one of us.

I consider myself somewhat of an expert on us.

I do not delude myself. We are not curing cancer. Some of us have egos the size of Donald Trump. Some of us just really, really like being on TV.

But most of us, the VAST majority of us are the same.

People who try mightily to get it right

We are the same in that we will never get rich doing this. Many of us qualified for food stamps in our first TV jobs and spent a decade trying to hit the $40,000 mark.

We are the same in that we will live in cheap, crappy apartments in cities where we don't know a soul, schlepping off to work in our TJ Maxx clearance TV clothes, hoping to do a good job, so we can move up to the next slightly better paying job, where maybe we can afford to shop at Macy's.

We are the same in that we miss major life events. You name it. Funerals and births, first words and first steps, Christmas and Thanksgiving, reunions and anniversaries.

We are the same because we are used to people calling us the mainstream, lame stream, left wing, right wing media.

People swear we have an agenda, a bias, a slant, an angle. They stop us at the grocery store and give us a piece of their mind about us, critiquing our looks and our reporting, telling us we need to fire this one or that one. As we're trying to find a cereal on sale, they accuse us of being in bed with the Mayor/Obama/FOX News/Muslims/Christians/CNN.

It's enough to make you wonder, who in the hell would want to do a job like that?


Because deep down inside, we are the same in believing that we can make a difference.

We can change things.

We can expose rot.

We can give a voice to the voiceless.

We can make people happy.

We can make them angry.

We can be the catalyst for change.

We are the ones at the shooting, the city council meeting, the hospital bedside, the big high school game, the war zone, the grieving family's living room.

We take what we hear and I swear we do our damndest to regurgitate it back to you the best we can.

We want you to know what we know.

I didn't know Alison Parker or Adam Ward, but I would bet they entered this business with an idealized, deep desire to make the world a better, more informed place. They wanted to tell good stories. They wanted to be part of the change.

One person, a Glock and possible GoPro-toting person, stole the promise of their lives, ensuring they would experience no more 'firsts,' of any kind.

I beg of you to remember one thing.

He was not one of us.

This post was originally published on Jaye Watson Online.

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'Uptown Girls' Jennifer Lawrence And Amy Schumer Dance On Billy Joel's Piano

Fri, 2015-08-28 08:10

We didn't start the fire; Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer did.

The pair burned up the stage dancing at Billy Joel's concert at Wrigley Field on Thursday. (As the girl on fire, Katniss Everdeen, JLaw should be pretty used to that.) Lawrence and Schumer started out in a group before ditching their shoes and dancing on the piano during Joel's performance of "Uptown Girl."

Schumer tweeted out an even closer look at the performance along with a pretty fitting message:

Uptown girls

— Amy Schumer (@amyschumer) August 28, 2015

JLaw fan accounts are also sharing another angle, which appears to show Lawrence kissing Schumer's foot when she gets on the piano:

Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer dancing on stage at the Billy Joel concert in Chicago last night (via @jlawspanish)

— Jennifer Lawrence (@JLdaily) August 28, 2015

Yeah, that's a little weird. But they are playing sisters in an upcoming movie together, so they can probably get away with that stuff. And besides, to paraphrase Joel, we like them "just the way they are."

H/T Billboard

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A Group Of Chicago Residents Are Starving Themselves To Save A School

Thu, 2015-08-27 21:24

A group of Chicago residents finished the 11th day of a hunger strike Thursday in an attempt to move the Chicago School Board to make a decision over the fate of a local school, Dyett High School. 

The group of 12 has been going without solid food since Aug. 17, even after medical professionals expressed concern for their health.

While Dyett was once slated to close, the Chicago School Board is now set to weigh plans to reconstitute the school, although this process has been rife with delays. The protestors -- part of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School -- want the board not only to take immediate action, but also to accept their proposal to reopen the school as a district-run one that focuses on science.

The hunger strike has so far caused two protestors, Jeanette Taylor-Ramann and Irene Robinson, to spend time in the hospital. Both protestors still intend to forgo food for the indefinite future, fellow protestor Jitu Brown told The Huffington Post.

#FightForDyett Even in the hospital, hunger striker Irene Robinson refuses to eat and says she is "hungry for Dyett!"

— Jitu Brown (@brothajitu) August 25, 2015

As a result of these health issues, a group of medical professionals urged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to intervene.

 "We consider the current situation to be a deepening health emergency in our city," said a letter from a group of medical professionals delivered to the mayor Thursday, per DNAinfo. "It is one you can abate by reaching out to the strikers, entertaining their grievances and accepting their proposal."

As of Thursday afternoon, the mayor had still not reached out to protestors. A request for comment from his office was not returned.

In 2013, Emanuel closed 49 Chicago schools that were underutilized and academically low-performing -- a move that angered many local residents and advocates for neighborhood schools. In 2012, plans to close Dyett were announced for similar reasons. Protestors have worked for years to keep Dyett alive, but say the district’s reluctance to make a decision on this issue is unacceptable.

At a press conference Thursday, Emanuel said there are a lot of schools in the Dyett area, so it might not make sense to "talk about another one when even some of the high schools within the three-mile radius are not at capacity yet,” according to DNAinfo.

A statement from CPS CEO Janice Jackson says the district is “is continuing to work through our process, but we are mindful of the declining population in the area, which is losing students and already has 12 high schools within a 3-mile radius. We respect the community’s passion for Chicago’s children, and we will make the best possible decision to give all the children of the city a good education.”

Protester Jitu Brown says the district "refuses to work with the community."

“What school district in their right mind would demonize and run away from parents that are activated to improve their schools?” said Brown.

He continued, “They just ignore us because they were hell-bent on closing this school and several other schools in this neighborhood, as if there’s no hope for black kids in neighborhood schools, and that’s just not true.”

Rev. Robert Jones, a community pastor, does not have a child in the district, but is fasting with protestors because “the moral of it is right.”

“I pastor people in this community and interact with people in the community and what’s happening to them is wrong,” he said.

The protestors have gained the support of those in the community. On Thursday, Brown estimated that 40 locals visited them, bringing water and juice. On Wednesday, the president of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, Randi Weingarten, joined the protestors.

These hunger strikers are pursuing justice — not for themselves, but for our children,” Weingarten said. “And they’re not simply saying to the mayor or the school board ‘Do something.’ They have a plan that they have worked on. It is a fantastic plan. . . . This is a community that’s saying ‘We want to take responsibility,’” said Weingarten, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. 

Hunger strikers at Dyett HS at start of press conference w/@aftunion @rweingarten #savedyett #CPS

— Bob Morgenstern (@MorgyWV) August 26, 2015

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Rewriting the Human Story

Thu, 2015-08-27 17:00
Oh, sacred planet.

The terror of climate crisis is a long time in the making. As I read about the mass mobilization forming around the upcoming U.N. climate change convention, which is likely to accomplish far too little -- because what's needed is change at the roots of civilization -- I feel a desperate impatience, a tearing at my soul. What can I do that's bigger than anger, bigger than a demand for governmental and corporate entities to make changes they are essentially incapable of making?

Maybe I can help rewrite the story of civilization, which means unwriting the present story. From the Dark Mountain Manifesto, for instance, here are two of the "eight principles of uncivilization":

"We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilization: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from 'nature.' These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.

"We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality."

With this in mind, I think about my family's trip to Yellowstone National Park when I was a teenager (sometime in the previous century) and the tourist awe I felt as I gaped at Old Faithful and the gurgling springs and the incredible vistas of the Yellowstone River. America, America, God shed His grace on thee . . . know what I'm saying?

We've been preserving slices of scenic "wilderness" -- keeping them out of our own exploitative reach -- for 150 years now. What could possibly be wrong with that?

The problem, it turns out, is that the national park system is full of the bloodstains of American history. Manifest destiny meant the conquest of nature as well as the conquest of the continent's indigenous inhabitants. It was all part of the same militarized arrogance.

"The modern conservation movement began at dawn on December 8, 1850, above the north fork of California's San Joaquin River," Eric Michael Johnson wrote a year ago in Scientific American, describing a vicious U.S. military attack on the Ahwahneechee tribe, whose forebears had lived in -- and been deeply part of -- the Yosemite Valley (as we renamed it) for thousands of years. Before we created the national park system, we drove out the people who lived there and, ironically, functioned as stewards of the land. They had kept it in eco-balance with a remarkably complex understanding of nature. Too bad. Now the land "belonged" to the newcomers, who had long, long ago dismissed the value of such understanding.

Turns out eco-stewardship doesn't mean simply putting "nature" behind a glass case. Human beings have an active role to play in sustaining, as opposed to merely exploiting, the Earth's ecosystems. After a century of U.S. occupation and the disappearance of controlled undergrowth burning, Johnson noted, "the Yosemite Valley biodiversity had actually declined, trees were now 20 percent smaller, and the forest was more vulnerable to catastrophic fires than it had been before the U.S. Army and armed vigilantes expelled the native population."

And we didn't simply expel the native population. We did our best to drive it -- both the people and their cultural wisdom -- into nonexistence. What we couldn't kill we humiliated.

"Native Americans were evicted from almost all the American parks, but a few Ahwahneechee people were tolerated inside Yosemite for a few more decades," Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, wrote recently at Truthout.

They were forced to serve tourists and act out humiliating 'Indian days' for the visitors. The latter wanted the Indians they saw in the movies, so the Ahwahneechee had to dress and dance as if they were from the Great Plains. If they didn't serve the park, they were out -- and they all did finally die or leave, with their last dwellings deliberately and ignominiously burned down in a fire drill in 1969.

The American conservation movement, Corry maintains, was just another aspect of colonialism. This was Western civilization in high gear, busy dominating tribal cultures and nature itself, proceeding with utter certainty, both moral and scientific, that it had no need to be part of the circle of life.

Only now, with Western moral rectitude in an advanced stage of collapse -- and environmental catastrophe looming -- are people in large numbers coming to realize how deeply, profoundly problematic our domination-based worldview really is.

"Even without considering questions of human rights and the intrinsic value of cultures," environmentalist Alan Durning told Worldwatch Institute, "indigenous survival is a matter of crucial importance. We in the world's dominant cultures simply cannot sustain the earth's ecological health without the help of the world's endangered cultures."

And so the new story begins here, as we grope wondrously for the wisdom we've forgotten. How do we heal -- and atone for -- the damage we've done? How do we reclaim a sacred connection with our planet? How do we stop killing ourselves?

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at


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After Years of Hardship, Rock Band Achieves Dream Gig

Thu, 2015-08-27 14:34

When you read about bands that struggled before becoming successful, it's always inspiring. But with Strand of Oaks, that struggle is taken to a different level. For the bandleader Tim Showalter, the obstacles were beyond anything most people or bands could endure, yet, he used those obstacles to his advantage.

The years of struggle are at the core of the Strand of Oaks' most recent album HEAL, an album that has been resonating with fans ever since its release. Throughout his songwriting, Showalter tells us that when we get knocked down, we must take that knockout and learn from it.

When our crew showed up to film a few days with the band in Tennessee and Kentucky, the venues were packed wall-to-wall. You'd think that a guy with such success with a new album would have a little swagger, but not Tim. He seemed to be genuinely grateful that anyone would show up to hear his music. He was glowing before each show like it was a first, yet he had already been playing sold-out venues for months. His regular guy persona reminded me of Springsteen a bit, that's why I'm confident he'll be successful for many years to come. He's just a genuine guy who has found his calling.

Tim and the band were genuinely excited about being chosen for the Lollapalooza line-up. For them, it's not just another festival date, it's the festival date. Each band member spoke about it as being the most significant milestone yet and embraced the historic nature of it.

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12 Top-Ranked Colleges in Illinois, According to Forbes

Thu, 2015-08-27 12:40
In its annual list of top colleges, Forbes includes schools from all over the country. Most recently, Forbes published its list for 2015. Forbes used the following five factors in their methodology to determine which schools are the best:

  • Student Satisfaction (25 percent)

  • Post-Graduate Success (32.5 percent)

  • Student Debt (25 percent)

  • Four-year Graduation Rate (7.5 percent)

  • Academic Success (10 percent)

The idea behind using this methodology is to base the greatness of a college on what students get out of their institutions. Caroline Howard, Forbes staff member, writes:
We're not all that interested in what gets a student into college, like our peers who focus heavily on selectivity metrics such as high school class rank, SAT scores and the like. Our sights are set directly on ROI: What are students getting out of college?

College has become one of the biggest financial decisions students and their families make. They deserve all the information they can get on the questions that directly concern them: Will my classes and campus experience be interesting? Is it likely I will graduate in four years? Will I incur a ton of debt getting my degree? And once I get out of school, will I get a good job and find success in my career? We pointedly ignore any metrics that would encourage schools to engage in wasteful spending.
Out of the list of best colleges in the country, these were 12 of the highest-ranking Illinois schools:
*To see where each school ranks nationally, click here.
17. Millikin University
16. North Central College
15. Elmhurst College
14. Illinois State University
13. University of Illinois, Chicago
12. Lake Forest College
11. Loyola University Chicago
10. DePaul University
9. Augustana College
8. Illinois Institute of Technology
7. Illinois Wesleyan University
6. Bradley University


To see the top 5 colleges in Illinois, as well as where all 17 college rank nationally, check out Reboot Illinois.

 NEXT ARTICLE: This Illinois college will give you the biggest bang for your buck

  1. The most expensive private Illinois colleges...#2 might surprise you

  2. A pension plan to solve all our problems...this might do the trick 

  3. Looks like movies that shoot in Chicago rake in big bucks...

  4. Where is Bruce Rauner making donations...other than to his own campaign?

  5. Only in Illinois: Taxes are going up, but which ones?

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.

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Judge Says State of Illinois Could Be Held in Contempt of Court if Comptroller Doesn't Pay Social Service Providers

Thu, 2015-08-27 12:20
What happens when the state government is held in contempt of court? The Illinois News Network's Mark Fitton explains how that question even became necessary:

SPRINGFIELD -- U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman is keeping an eye on how well Illinois complies with her order to meet its obligations to citizens with developmental disabilities.

Coleman on Wednesday ordered the state to submit in writing by noon Friday what payments it has made, which payments it has not paid and when any outstanding payments will be made.

The judge also ordered the state to detail all payments it made that may have affected its ability to meet the deadlines she had previously set.

The hearing in Coleman's Chicago courtroom Wednesday morning was sought by advocates for the developmentally disabled. They had filed an emergency motion arguing the state was not meeting its financial responsibilities despite a consent decree and two earlier orders issued by Coleman.

"People with developmental disabilities have been needlessly put at risk of serious harm because of the state's failure to comply with the judge's order," said attorney Barry Taylor, who is leading the case for the advocates.

"While we are pleased that the state has finally begun to make the mandated payments, we will not rest until all services for all of our clients have been paid for by the State," said Taylor, who is vice president for civil rights litigation for Equip for Equality, one of the advocates.

Wednesday afternoon, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger issued a statement saying she appreciated the court's patience and her office would do all it can.

"In the absence of a balanced budget for this fiscal year, my office will continue to work to meet the payment timelines set by the courts despite the state's limited resources," said Munger.

"To be clear: taxpayers deserve better than government by court order," Munger said.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

If Munger and the state can't figure out a way to pay those social service providers, some of them will have to stop providing help to Illinoisans who need it. Mark Brown at the Chicago Sun-Times spoke to one family who relies on help from a group home and who will be put in a difficult situation if it shuts down due to inadequate funding. Check out their story at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Editorial: Let Rauner do what he was elected to do

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Katrina: Where Faith and Interfaith Groups Picked Up as Federal Government Failed

Thu, 2015-08-27 11:21
Katrina was among the worst natural disasters of the last 100 years of American history.

Moreover, the failure of the strongest government in the world was of historic proportions.

But faith and interfaith communities made history. They were the first responders, if not the only help, for most people over the course of several weeks. Today, after 10 years, some of these organizations still continue their work with survivors.

Being a neighbor and providing services are the reasons why religion is frequently rated among the top trusted institutions in the U.S. while media and the congress are rated at the lowest level by the Gallup Poll.

However, this remains a hidden success story of interfaith. No documentary was made about this historic contribution. Hardly any 60 Minutes or 20/20 TV spots thought it worthwhile to point it out. Even a Google search does not bring out very many hits since faith and interfaith groups have yet to master the art of telling their story.

For this reason, the world failed to learn an important lesson from this extraordinary episode. At the 10th anniversary of this disaster, it is important to bring back the good memories lost in that tragedy about the positive contributions of faith communities and their interfaith cooperation.

In the last week of August 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, killing more than 1800 people, destroying more than 600,000 homes, and causing more than 100 billion dollars in damage. Hurricane Katrina forced the largest displacement of people in U.S. history: about 1.5 million people were evacuated from the Gulf Coast. These survivors were eventually spread across all fifty states.

Churches, mosques, and temples suspended all their activities aside from worship and turned their buildings into a base for volunteers, as a warehouse for supplies, and as a shelter for displaced people.

At some places, an "Interfaith Disaster Task Force" was born; in other places they just collaborated without a formal name; and in some places they put the existing format of interfaith cooperation into work.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which maintains a website named (ironically), was found absolutely not ready.

Even when FEMA did finally show up, its haphazard work style squandered an enormous sum of of $1.7 billion of tax money, as reported by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security. The wastage included the shocking $24 million spent on unused ice, after which the federal government wasted another $3 million to melt it. I wish they had let the faith communities figure out how to melt it.

The image of tens of thousands of frightened, helpless people sleeping on the concrete floor of a leaking Superdome, without food and water, is etched in our memory as the great failure of our government. We are thankful to our media for those images.

FEMA's reckless wastage also included FEMA trailers that sat vacant for years.

Consider, on the other hand, the faith communities' work, as defined by an eye witness:"I have got to tell you, without the religious/faith community in where I was and throughout the Gulf, Lord only knows where they would be now. I mean, it is truly amazing.

We met religious leaders who have their church, house of worship, synagogue or mosque -- and they are offering daycare programs, child care and all the things that a house of worship does. A lot of them that we met have completely stopped doing those, other than just a basic one-hour Sunday service, because they have turned their house of worship into either a food bank, or a shelter."

This is a story which most of the media failed to report.

A 2006 report by the Federal Government finally noted the contribution of the faith-based organizations in the following words:
Over the course of the Hurricane Katrina response, a significant capability for response resided in organizations outside of the government. Non-governmental and faith-based organizations, as well as the private sector all made substantial contributions. Unfortunately, the Nation did not always make effective use of these contributions because we had not effectively planned for integrating them into the overall response effort.

Faith-based organizations also provided extraordinary services....They used their facilities and volunteers to distribute donated supplies to displaced persons and to meet their immediate needs. Local churches independently established hundreds of "pop-up" shelters to house storm victims.

In Mississippi, faith-based groups were operating up to 53 percent of all shelters. A building donated by the Islamic Relief USA for a health-care center which was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, is still serving the community.

In Houston, Muslims took turns along with other faith leaders in feeding around 28,000 survivors each day at the downtown Houston, TX convention center. More than 2,000 Muslims volunteered just in Houston.

The city of Baton Rouge doubled in size almost overnight as people ran away from New Orleans. A pastoral letter from a Unitarian congregation in Baton Rouge which sheltered 400 people noted:

Tens of thousands of American citizens, almost all of them poor and black, living in unimaginable conditions with no food and water, waited for days while evacuation buses passed them by to pick up tourists at luxury hotels . . . .

Even 56 days after the disaster no Federal money had arrived in Baton Rouge. But the faith communities kept up taking care of the survivors.

This faith-based disaster work developed into long term relationships as many faith leaders collaborated with each other. Working with the United Methodist Church, a Muslim organization ICNA Relief became so involved that even 5 years after Katrina they had 100 full-time staff working in the rehabilitation of displaced people from Katrina.

The volunteerism of Muslims was memorialized in Dave Eggers' Zeitoun, a book about a Muslim family's sacrifices and turmoil as it dedicated itself to rescuing people in New Orleans. The book became a national bestseller providing a window into the days and nights of New Orleans.

In a rare media coverage Kim Lawton of PBS noted:
Hundreds of faith-based volunteers rushed into the devastated areas to help with rescue operations, while others mobilized to provide desperately needed food, medicine, and shelter. Southern Baptists initially committed to provide 300,000 meals a day for the next 90 days, but a spokesman expected that number to rise to more than one million. Congregations from almost every denomination opened their facilities and became emergency shelters. National Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim groups all set up emergency relief funds and issued special appeals to aid the victims.

The power of faith and interfaith-based support is not just apparent in the example of Katrina relief. The same thing was observed when a tsunami hit Indonesia, India, and Sri Lanka. The people of faith communities were not only the first responders but they were also the interface with the government -- when it finally showed up -- to assist the victims.


In light of potential disasters that loom due to climate change, it is critical that the world be more prepared to handle them. Houses of worships reside in people's neighborhoods and are connected with people who trust them. These houses of worship must serve as part of all disaster management planning.


It is also critical that more research is done to critically assess post-Katrina disaster relief work done by the faith and interfaith-based organizations. When I interviewed people for this article their memories were already fading. Several master level theses that entail some field work are likely to bring up quite a bit of data as well as recommendations for the future. It would be also interesting to see how cost effective the faith-based organizations were as compared to FEMA in delivering services.


While the faith-based organizations have their own funding mechanisms, the interfaith funding model is still not clear. Interfaith remains the only movement that engages people of faith with one another in neighborly relations. Diversity is going to be as American as apple pie in the future, and the interfaith movement is going to be crucial for social cohesion. Strengthening the grassroots networks of neighbors working with neighbors, therefore, is critical for disaster coordination when, God forbid, a disaster strikes.

Church and State

The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships does not need to remain mainly a vehicle for top-down communication as it has been during the Obama and Bush administrations. It needs to evolve as a proper bridge between faith-based organizations, the interfaith movement, and the guiding institutions. FEMA would have been better off working to strengthen the work already being done by faith-based organizations -- since, as local organizations on the ground, they know the streets, the neighborhood and the people.

The State of Louisiana still has about $150 million in unspent disaster aid that it received after Katrina. I hope they use this to strengthen the interfaith networks at the grassroots level which performed so well as the first responders.

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I Am an Anchor Baby

Thu, 2015-08-27 09:46

My mother's eldest sister was a tall, slim, beautiful woman, with impeccable manners and a lilting laugh. She had black hair that reflected bluish hints in the sunlight, and pale skin that contrasted strongly with it. With her penchant for bright colors and pretty jewelry, I always felt my aunt and I had a lot in common; we both liked shopping, eating, and having a good time, gravitating to posh, feminine things, not a tomboyish bone in either of our bodies. I imagined my aunt could easily have been a star on a telenovela. Other times I pictured her as a high-powered exec, preferably working for an important NGO or non-profit; someone making decisions that would help people and improve our world, but who would do so while dressed to the nines and looking fabulous. (You can't look fabulous and help people? Why not?)

I also pictured her this way because my aunt had a distinct accent. She pronounced all of her Ts even better than most British people, and the fact that she had lived much, though not all, of her early life in Mexico made itself felt in her English. Many of her Ss and Zs sounded exactly alike, and she clearly had translated certain phrases literally, in ways that stuck. (If she asked me to turn on a light, for instance, she would say, "Mari, put the lights," having figured out in her youth a way to turn "ponerse la luz" into English, and never having let go of it.) I loved my aunt's accent: it seemed very much of a piece with her general elegance.

In reality, my aunt never acted in telenovelas or made life-altering decisions for Unicef or Doctors Without Borders. She worked as a secretary for decades; then, when our lexicon changed, she worked as an "administrative assistant," and did the same things she'd always done before. I don't think she ever made much money; her elegance was very much budgeted. She helped make order out of the paperwork of organizations; she sat at the front desk of offices and was their public face; and of course, she answered the phone. So lots of other people got to hear her wonderful voice. But apparently not everyone was like me and thought it was so wonderful, and more than a few times, the person on the other end of the line would tell my aunt to go back where she came from.

"I'd love to!" my aunt would invariably sneer. My aunt could do a haughty sneer like nobody's business. "I'm from Chicago, and it's a lot better than this place!" At this point the caller would usually hang up. But she would come home infuriated, aflame, indignant at having had to deal with gente mal educada who used her accent as an opportunity for a cheap shot.

Her beautiful accent. Now I tell myself, only an asshole would not have seen the beauty in her voice. An unmitigated, pinche racist.

(FYI: My aunt never would have said pinche. Mal educado was her favorite insult, and if you know the class implications of that phrase, you'll understand its bite.)

My aunt was not the only member of my family to hear this snarling retort from someone who wasn't getting what she wanted. "Go back where you came from!" "Go back to Mexico!" Everyone in my family has heard that, and over the last weeks and months, every Latino in both North and South America has heard it come hurtling, a poisoned javelin, out of our political discourse.

"Go back to Univision" is just a particularly specific form of it. "Rapists and murderers." "Somebody's doing the raping!" "No more anchor babies!" "We're gonna build a wall!" "We'll make the illegals build the wall!" "Repeal the 14th Amendment!" There is no beauty in these voices. Whatever leads us to our next president, I fear there will be nothing inspirational, sublime, or hopeful about it. The hateful hounds are already loose, and they are very, very loud.

Regardless of whether we call ourselves Latino or Hispanic, Mexican, Cuban, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Chilean, Ecuadoran, Bolivian, Boricua; Angeleno or Tejano; Latinx or Latin, these hounds are coming after all of us. Do you really think that the career thugs who attacked a homeless man in Boston last week -- urinating on him and beating him, saying "Trump was right, illegals gotta go" -- actually asked to see the man's documents first? You imagine having the "right" papers will save you from this kind of bigotry? Do you think the people yelling "white power!" at Trump rallies actually care where I or my aunt, my friends, neighbors, co-workers and their parents were born? Whether it be Northern California or Baja California, I doubt very much that it makes any difference.

And we must not forget that these exultations of white supremacy are unfolding, unchecked, a mere two months after an avowed white supremacist slaughtered nine black people in their own church. He prayed with them, and then he killed them. Do you really believe that kind of hatred will pause to make distinctions among us, legal or illegal, alien or native, legitimate or illegitimate? If you think so, my friend, I must tell you: you are a fool. No one is "legitimate" in the face of hate.

So to hell with legitimacy! Imagine this being said in my aunt's accent: I am an anchor baby. I am anchored here in the strongest ways possible, through my ancestors' lives and the love with which they kindled me. I am anchored through my Indian ancestors, whose lives here defy the markings of time; by my African ancestors, who paid for their passage with their freedom and their very selves; and by my Spanish ancestors, whose tones resonate in my voice, echoes over centuries. They all anchor me. I cannot be moved. More so: I will not be moved.

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Moving to Chicago When You Don't Know a Soul

Thu, 2015-08-27 09:42

From deep dish pizza to "Da Bears," Chicago is a town known for its killer food and die-hard sports fans. Hometown pride is front and center in this Midwestern cultural hub. Now that you've made the move to Chicago, it's time to settle in and make the Windy City feel like home.

Even if you made the move on your own, it won't take long to make connections and get into the Chicago groove. To help ease the transition, here's a list of musts for every new Chicagoan.

Settle in at Home
To make your new home fully functional you need to have all the proper accoutrements in place. In addition to a cozy sofa and cute accent rug, you'll need to take care of the standard moving musts: change your mailing address, apply for an Illinois driver's license if you plan to drive, set up your Chicago utilities, choose an ISP, and register to vote.

Get to Know Your Neighborhood
Take a walk around your neighborhood and find out what amenities are close by. While you do your neighborhood stroll, keep an eye out for local coffee shops, neighborhood markets, a nearby gym, and a post office or drop box, as well as emergency services like hospitals and police and fire stations. It's reassuring to know what kinds of resources are nearby. Getting to know the vendors in your neighborhood also adds to a feeling of community, especially when you're the new kid on the block.

Find a Great Hangout
Whether you like to kick back in a coffee shop or prefer after-work cocktails, Chicago has tons of awesome spots to check out. Visit local favorites like Ipsento and Bridgeport Coffee Company for coffee made from freshly roasted beans and interesting people-watching. Ipsento even has nitro coffee on tap and offers a regular selection of classes that make it easy to get to know new people.

When it comes to finding an after-work hotspot, try the happy hour deals at Union Sushi and Barbeque Bar or classic pizza and beer specials at Nellcôte. Union serves up one dollar oysters and four dollar shrimp tempura rolls every evening. And you can't get more Chicago than kicking back with a slice and a frosty mug for just $10 at Nellcôte.

Find more great local spots by checking out restaurant finder apps like Yelp. You can read what the locals think and find out which places are truly special and which are just a lot of hype.

Network with Locals
It doesn't matter if you're climbing the corporate ladder or hitting the books at university, networking is a tried-and-true way to find like-minded others and start making friends. You can find a slew of Chicago networking events for professionals by going to Network After Work. The local Chamber of Commerce is another robust resource for all business-related events happening in the Windy City.

Meetup also offers opportunities to meet people based on shared interests. You can find people who are into everything from photography and film to hiking and poker. Also look for happenings at local shops, like The Book Cellar, where wine and the written word come together in a variety of events offered each month.

Hit the Town
Chicago offers just about every type of entertainment you could want. From major sporting franchises to state-of-the-art concert venues, there is always something happening in this exciting city. Local event calendars list everything from the ballet to the next White Sox game, and usually provide links to buy tickets.

If you're into music, there are several small clubs off the beaten path that offer everything from swingy jazz to hard-core rock. Find the latest avant-garde jazz craze at Constellation or relax to soothing classic jazz at the Green Mill, where Al Capone and his cronies used to wet their whistles.

For rock there's no better place to hit than the Empty Bottle, where you'll find live acts from across the country and the world. Another great place to get your rock on is Reggie's. This favorite local "dive" showcases every musical taste from punk and garage to power-pop.

Exploring your new city should be an adventure. Use this guide to help you plot a course that will get you out and about in the bustling, diverse Windy City. Before you know it, you'll be giving others restaurant recommendations and showing off your insider knowledge of Chicago's best local spots.

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This Women's Equality Day the Fight for Equal Rights Continues

Wed, 2015-08-26 15:18

I join many across the country today in celebrating Women's Equality Day. Ninety-five years ago, advocacy from a dedicated group of women and like-minded men led to the 19th Amendment -- ensuring that women in the United States have the right to vote.

This right was not secured overnight. Countless suffragettes and their supporters marched, petitioned, faced imprisonment and showed tremendous courage in the struggle for women's rights. The first major women's rights conference in our country took place in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 -- 72 years before the 19th Amendment was adopted.

We have come a long way. I am proud to be one of 100 women serving in Congress -- a historic number that we reached this year. Few things give me more pride and hope for our future than when I see women, of all ages and backgrounds, in leadership roles. We need even more women in elected office, running businesses and guiding organizations.

However, we still have a long way to go to reach full equality for women. We need equal pay for equal work. Women still make only 78 cent for every dollar men make -- and it is even less for women of color. We must end all attacks on women's reproductive rights. We must protect and expand Social Security and Medicare because women rely on these programs even more than men. We must ensure that there's paid sick leave and child care for all, so women can balance life at work and at home.

In addition, earlier this year we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the marches in Selma, Alabama and the enactment of the Voting Rights Act. Unfortunately, some want to take us backward. Republican leaders in many states across the country are trying to make it harder for Americans to vote. We must reject these efforts and work together to pass a restored and strengthened Voting Rights Act.

As a member the Democratic Women's Working Group and Co-Chair of the Congressional Seniors Task force, I will keep fighting for women's rights until they are completely secured. My daughters and granddaughters, and millions of women and girls nationwide, deserve our tireless efforts until we become a country where there is truly equality for all.

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These 3 Illinois neighborhoods rank among the nation's most dangerous

Wed, 2015-08-26 14:02
Some places in Illinois have earned a spot on a violent list yet again. Of the communities on this list, four can be found in Illinois.

For many Americans in residential neighborhoods, violence and crime remain a concern. According to recent crime data analyzed by NeighborhoodScout, Illinois has four of the 25 most dangerous neighborhoods in the country. NeighborhoodScout looks at FBI data collected by 17,000 local law enforcement agencies in order to determine which neighborhoods made the list. Crimes analyzed include murder, rape, armed robbery, and aggravated assault.

NeighborhoodScout explained how it develops its rankings:
We then researched and developed mathematical algorithms to statistically estimate the incidences of violent crimes for each neighborhood in America. The resultant formulae produce numbers of crimes and crime rates for neighborhoods with upwards of 90% accuracy in most cases. We use a total of twenty different formulas to increase the accuracy of our estimates, and apply them based on city or town characteristics, to produce the best model fit in each case.

We do this same process for every neighborhood in the United States, due to the agency-centric way that crimes are reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, rather than reporting crime in a location-centric way.  That is, our analysis is not to find the agencies who report the most violent crimes, but rather the neighborhoods which have the highest rates of violent crime, as reported by all of the agencies with law enforcement responsibility within the neighborhood's respective city or town.
The following are 11 of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country, according to NeighborhoodScout. To see the full methodology for the report, click here.

25. Philadelphia, PA (N. 15th St/W Dauphin St) has a violent crime rate of 57.87 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

24. Chicago, IL (S. Pulaski Rd/W Adams St) has a violent crime rate of 57.90 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

23. Kansas City, MO (Brush Creek Blvd/Prospect Ave) has a violent crime rate of 61.46 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

22. Memphis, TN (Thomas St/Frayser Blvd) has a violent crime rate of 64.53 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

21. Saginaw, MI (Perkins St/S 17th St) has a violent crime rate of 64.91 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

20.  Jackson, TN (James Buchanan Dr/1st st) has a violent crime rate of 68.39 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

19. Rockford, IL (Kishwaukee St/Grove St) has a violent crime rate of 68.65 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

18. Milwaukee, WI (W Clybourn St/N 27th St) has a violent crime rate of 69.45 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

17. East St. Louis, IL (Caseyville Ave/N Park Dr) has a violent crime rate of 70.10 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

16. Detroit, MI (Trumbull St/Lincoln St) has a violent crime rate of 71.39 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

15. Oakland, CA (West Oakland) has a violent crime rate of 72.23 per 1,000

Photo source: NeighborhoodScout

To see where another neighborhood in East St. Louis ranks in the top 14 dangerous neighborhoods, check out Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: 50 safest cities in Illinois

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  5. Want to tell your elected officials what you think of the state of government in Illinois? Use our Sound Off tool!

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To Save Black Lives, Take Money Out of Politics

Wed, 2015-08-26 13:56
The political financing system we have in this country empowers rich donors, but it also disempowers those who do not provide large donations. Unfairness exists on both sides. One has too much political power; the other too little. The difference is that political weakness can be life-threatening.

Data on political contributions by race are hard to come by. But a recent analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics demonstrates that the country's Black population is almost entirely unrepresented within the political donor class. Not a single Black person was listed as one of the top 200 political contributors, and only one was among the top 500 contributors.

The consequences are devastating. The Black community's political clout is far less than the 13 percent that its share of the population would accord it in a political system of equality. Because of that, it has been unable to beat back federal legislation that has been racist in effect, though not explicitly discriminatory. It is this problem that the Black Lives Matter movement has confronted.

During this year alone, according to the website "The Counted," developed by The Guardian, 195 Black males have already been killed by police in the United States. This is a rate of 4.67 deaths per million. In contrast, the rate for White people is 1.85. Both of those numbers, as well as the rate of 2 for Hispanics, are shamefully high -- far higher than in any other developed country. The racial element in the use of police violence is suggested also by the fact that as of July 1, almost one-third (32 percent) of the Black Americans who were killed by police were unarmed, a substantially larger percentage than that for White people.

What lies behind these numbers is law-enforcement legislation concerning the distribution and use of illegal drugs. Data prepared by the Bureau of Prisons indicates that almost half of the incarcerated population is in prison for "drug offenses." In a separate study prepared for Human Rights Watch, the nationwide black prison male admission rate for drug offenses was more than 10 times that of whites (495.5 per 100,000 compared to 42.1). As Jamie Fellner puts in that report, "whites are relatively untouched by anti-drug efforts compared to Blacks."

Fellner cites the experience in Seattle as representative. There, almost two-thirds of drug-related arrests were of Blacks, a pattern that occurred because "the Seattle Police Department's drug law enforcement efforts reflect implicit racial bias..." Such a pattern, as Fellner puts it, "can be found across the country."

With this the case, confrontations between police and "suspects" occur much more frequently among Blacks than Whites. Drugs need not even be involved. Police, sometimes inadequately trained or excessively zealous, are poised to react to petty crimes with unnecessary deadly force. And violence is latent in all such interactions. The result in too many cases is tragedy.

To say that this situation reflects Black political weakness of course does not absolve the police from its responsibility to behave professionally. But the fact is that the police are acting in a context that is political in nature. They are enforcing laws created by legislatures, and their training and leadership is similarly determined by elected officials. It is very doubtful that the current emphasis on arrests for petty drug transactions would escape unscathed if, in the political process, Black communities in the country could match the influence of big donors.

The killings have triggered outrage -- an outrage that is more than justified. The movement that has emerged possesses the moral high ground -- too many lives have been cut short and not enough has been done about that. But there is a real risk that Black Lives Matter activists will confine themselves to protest. That would be a mistake - the same mistake that Occupy Wall Street activists made. Protest should be seen not as an end, but rather as a galvanizing strategy to achieve a political outcome. Racism manifests itself in legislation. To be defeated it must also be confronted in the political process.

The grassroots pressure to change police behavior has to be sustained. But the basic problem is that in a political system built on mega-donors, the Black community and its allies do match the influence associated with wealth. To advance the cause of racial justice, the political system has to be changed. To save lives, we need a financing system that allows for political equality.

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Is It Time for an Artisanal College Movement?

Wed, 2015-08-26 11:53
In recent decades, as we have come to feel increasingly distant from the sources of our food and of much else, there has grown a desire to know where our products come from, to see the hands that made them, to understand how they came to be. As this desire for artisanal or craft products and services reaches a peak, can colleges be far behind? When the world -- including education -- seems so big and mass-production has gotten so good, many of us crave the personalized and individualized, the small and handmade, something to restore our sense of scale.

While artisanal does not exactly mean local, it does offer some alternative to the ongoing emphasis upon the global and perhaps even the neoliberal. Take, for example, craft beers. As defined by the Brewer's Association, an American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional. Originally the Association also emphasized the use of barley -- that is, ensuring the actual content of the bottle or barrel mattered. Yes, sometimes craft breweries are equated with microbreweries. And yes, sometimes the definition is arrived at through a kind of via negativa: A craft beer is a beer that is not made by a mega-brewery.

With this is a not-so-subtle message that the artisanal or craft product is tastier, better, worth more. There is an occasionally joking sense that knowing who raised your chicken or made your cheese makes eating it a more meaningful encounter. Underneath all of this, perhaps, is a new economy of scale, a new economy of self-sufficiency, a new economy of making.

This new economy is not so new, really. Terms like artisanal and craft harken to "yesterday" -- reminding us that today's ways of making and acting are not eternal and perhaps not always preferable to those of yesteryear. The terms seem to say, "We want the best of the past without the worst of the past" -- hand made, artisanal, craft without (for example) the hygienic concerns or exhaustion of makers of our distant (imagined) past. We want, as it were, fair trade artisanal, artisanal with reasonable labor practice. We want traditional tweaked with the best of today, what in another context has been called "invented traditions." We want to slow down, not speed up, and time-consuming practices, we know, are also (on occasion) labors of love.

So what happens when we put these notions alongside the idea of American higher education? What I have in mind is not institutions that train craftsmen or artisans (though those exist), but education accomplished in ways that are analogous to artisanal or craft production: a non-mechanized, artisan-produced liberal education, an intentionally small community of inquiry that is, in some very real sense, hands on. Like artisan and craft foods, such institutions do not merely reproduce the past, they reflect on it, and choose methods that are human scale.

Imagine an association like the Brewer's Association -- let us call it the Artisanal College Association -- defining artisanal education. What would it be? What institutions might count? Within higher education, there is an argument that scale matters. That usually means being large enough to be fiscally viable and have impact through the large numbers of students we educate. Some colleges, such as the one I lead, are intentionally small and see small size as relevant to their educational mission in significant ways. Small size allows hands-on, community transformation alongside individual growth. This then is artisanal education, with the push to learning communities within mega institutions analogous, perhaps, to big business artisanal labeling.

As important is the human touch, in the traditional form of seminars, discussion-based reading, human-to-human interaction. In artisanal education these are core to teaching and learning. Here, the skill, the handmade, is the teaching -- and the learning. (And, no, this is not Luddite, as artisanal methods are themselves rooted in particular well-honed technologies.)

So, like artisanal cheese or craft beers, the artisanal college is anachronistic and avant-garde. We are, perhaps, all striving to find the artisanal, either as learning communities or college houses or as micro-colleges. We are all striving to make the artisanal or the craft not the preserve of the privileged - more expensive and thus out of reach - but a large enough part of the market to be accessible, affordable, and enabling the passions of makers and artisans to shape all of our minds.

We should desire -- and demand -- products, services or, yes, educations, that aren't generic, mass-produced and one-size-fits-all.

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Immense Corn Production in 5 Illinois Counties

Wed, 2015-08-26 09:17
Illinois takes pride in its corn production. This can be seen in the fact that sweet corn is even the state's official vegetable. (However, for the record, the Whole Grains Council and the Illinois Department of Agriculture label corn as a grain, not a vegetable.)

The crop makes up a large portion of Illinois' 27 million acres of farmland, says the Illinois Department of Agriculture, with soybeans by its side. Much of the corn produced in the state is processed not very far away from its source--Chicago is the No. 1 food processor in the country, with $180 billion in sales per year. Corn sales alone generate about $10.3 billion annually, says the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

With about 75 percent of Illinois' total land area devoted to farmland, that adds up to a lot of corn. The Associated Press reports that while Iowa is still the top corn-producing state in the country, the designation of top-producing counties belong to Illinois communities.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture reports that with an average 10- to 12-degree difference in temperature between the northern and southern tips of Illinois, corn production varies throughout the state. Which counties produce the most in the state? Are there regions of the state that have conditions more conducive to yielding bigger harvests?

The United States Department of Agriculture released the 2014 final corn production numbers for Illinois by county, showing that in total, the state saw nearly 12 million acres of land planted with corn crops, yielding about 2.35 billion bushels of corn, or an average of about 200 bushels per acre. For comparison, the U.S. produced 12.4 billion bushels as a whole in 2011. (One bushel of corn weighs between 35 and 70 pounds, depending on the type.) The Wall Street Journal reports that Illinois' 2015 corn crop is expected to drop about 14 percent to about 172 bushels per acre instead of 2014's 200 bushels per acre.

These Illinois counties are among those to have harvested the most bushels of corn (in millions) in 2014, according to the USDA (click on the map to see the list of all 10 counties):

10. Logan County--46.2 million bushels

9. Vermilion County--46.3 million

8. Lee County--48.2 million

7. Sangamon County--51.1 million

6. Bureau County--53.9 million

To see the five counties that harvest the most bushels of corn in Illinois, as well as some amazing corn facts you have to read to believe (including that corn can grown three to four inches in one night!), check out Reboot Illinois.

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The Job Of An Abortion Doula

Wed, 2015-08-26 08:57

The word "doula" is evocative of the birthing process. And, over the last decade, it has also been extended to include the end-of-life process.

But recently, Gaylon Alcaraz told me about her work as another type of doula, an abortion doula. She supports women during what is, for most of them, one of the most difficult decisions of their lives.

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