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Updated: 29 min 35 sec ago

Huge Stakes As Supreme Court Takes Third Crack At Obamacare

2 hours 12 min ago
WASHINGTON -- Obamacare faces its strangest challenge yet when the Supreme Court takes up the law for the third time Wednesday, but the oddity of the lawsuit shouldn’t obscure the cataclysm that a loss for President Barack Obama would provoke.

The Supreme Court case is the latest legal effort by political opponents of the Affordable Care Act to ruin Obama’s signature domestic achievement. If successful, the suit would tarnish Obama’s legacy, foment infighting among Republicans, aggravate bitter partisanship between the GOP Congress and the White House, and threaten chaos in the health insurance market. But the worst consequences would fall on the estimated 9.6 million people who would lose their health insurance.

The lawsuit, King v. Burwell, isn’t like the previous two Obamacare cases that came before the Supreme Court. Three years ago, in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate that most Americans obtain health insurance. The Supreme Court last year weakened Obamacare’s birth-control coverage rule in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, a case with religious-freedom implications.

This time, the high court will hear oral arguments in a lawsuit engineered by conservative and libertarian think tanks that claims a handful of words deep within the Affordable Care Act -- “an exchange established by the state” -- makes it illegal for the government to issue tax credits for health insurance in more than 30 states with federal health insurance exchanges.

The plaintiffs’ picayune contention has dire implications for low- and moderate-income people receiving those subsidies in states where the federal government, not the state, created a health insurance exchange under Obamacare. Just 13 states and the District of Columbia are fully operating these marketplaces. The federal government controls 34, and three states that established exchanges later turned over enrollment to federal authorities.

As of last month, 8.8 million people had private health insurance policies obtained via the exchanges in the 37 states using the federal system, not counting millions more who used state-based marketplaces. Since sign-ups began in October 2013, the share of customers on federal exchanges receiving tax credits for their coverage has been above 85 percent. The average value of those subsidies is $268 a month, and brings down the average price to $105 for subsidized enrollees, data from the Department of Health and Human Services show.

If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs when justices issue their ruling, expected in June, a majority of the public wants the subsidies restored, one way or another, according to a survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The poll revealed that 64 percent of Americans believe Congress should enact a fix, and 59 percent think their own states should set up health insurance exchanges.

But a fix very well may never come. Congress could have made the Supreme Court hearing unnecessary by passing a simple amendment clarifying the intent of the Affordable Care Act, but has refused to consider one. And the Obama administration maintains there’s nothing it can do on its own to mitigate the disappearance of subsidies.

States could evade the consequences of a high court ruling against the subsidies by establishing health insurance exchanges, but Republicans control at least one branch of government in nearly all of the states that would be affected by this case, and none has taken steps to begin the contentious, time-consuming and costly effort to do so.

In Congress, a viable path for a legislative solution is difficult to envision. Recently, Republicans expressed openness to providing unspecified temporary assistance to those who lose their tax credits. Even that vague promise is couched in a plan to scrap Obamacare and reduce or undo health insurance subsidies down the line, which would jeopardize coverage for more people.

But in the five years since the Affordable Care Act became law, the GOP has failed to agree on any “replacement plan,” and it's highly uncertain leadership would even have the votes to protect the subsidies until Republicans find that consensus, if they ever can. Pressure could build once millions of their constituents find themselves in the lurch, but it will be countered by conservatives satisfied with nothing less than full repeal of Obamacare. And this internal argument would take place while Republicans are in the midst of a hotly contested presidential primary.

Wiping out the subsidies in more than 30 states would deepen the divide between the haves and have nots in the American health care system, and residents in red states, and in battleground states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, would bear the brunt.

Regions of America with smaller and shrinking shares of uninsured residents, mostly in the Northeast and on the West Coast, would sustain their progress, while those in mostly Southern states, where fewer people had health insurance before Obamacare, would regress. What’s more, federal taxpayers in generally poorer states without subsidies would underwrite health care for people in mostly richer states and get nothing in return.

Among those who would lose coverage, 62 percent live in Southern states -- mostly governed by Republicans -- 81 percent are employed and 61 percent are white, according to the Urban Institute.

The disruption wouldn’t be limited to people who qualify for health insurance subsidies. It would have profound effects on health insurance markets in the affected states. The Rand Corp. predicts 1.2 million of the 9.6 million who would become uninsured after a Supreme Court ruling against Obamacare aren’t even receiving subsidies.

That's because the parts of the Affordable Care Act requiring health insurance companies to accept customers with pre-existing conditions and the law’s mandates for basic benefits would remain, but the coverage would be unaffordable for a growing number of people over time, forcing them to drop their coverage.

Industry jargon describes the worst-case scenario as a “death spiral.” Those who can afford to pay full price would remain, but sicker people with higher health care costs would be the most likely to do so. Their medical expenses would force insurers to raise rates, making coverage too costly for even more people.

This cycle could continue until the health insurers’ customers are so unhealthy, some companies can’t afford to do business in those states anymore, and pull out, further limiting access to insurance.

Why Even Small, Progressive Grinnell College Has Trouble Dealing With Sexual Assault On Campus

3 hours 24 min ago

On April 10, 2012, Emily Bartlett received a few text messages from a guy who had left her Grinnell College dorm room about 10 minutes earlier. "If you ever tell anyone God help you," one read.

Bartlett did tell someone: That night she told a confidential advocate on the Iowa campus that the male student had sexually assaulted her. A few days later she went to campus security and filed an official report, but she was unsure whether she wanted to see her alleged attacker punished. She said college administrators suggested she request a mediation session with him, a practice the U.S. Department of Education had explicitly prohibited one year earlier in a letter to all colleges.

The male student "took responsibility for what he did and regretted it" during the mediation, according to a school document shared with The Huffington Post. But the mediation proved to be a failure, Bartlett said, because it retraumatized her and didn't bring a resolution to their case. She moved forward with a hearing process.

Despite what Bartlett considered a confession made during the mediation, text message evidence and photos of deep bruising on her body, the college hearing found the accused not responsible for sexual misconduct. He was instead deemed responsible for "disorderly conduct" and "psychological harm" and punished with a year of probation. Campus officials issued the two students a no-contact order. The accused would still be allowed to play baseball and take the same courses as her.

"The no-contact order was a joke," Bartlett said. "I had a class with him through all of this."

On paper, Grinnell was doing everything right: It received praise for putting an affirmative consent standard in place in 2012, and its annual stats for sex offenses were among the highest per capita for colleges -- suggesting students there were comfortable coming forward to report their assaults. The school even includes gender-neutral pronouns in its student handbook. There are no rowdy frats or big-time Division I sports stars to blame for rape culture, as has happened elsewhere.

But in some cases, Grinnell forced students to attend class with men the school acknowledged to have sexually assaulted them. The college made offenders write short apology letters to victims as their punishment. When some women struggled in classes due to stress related to their assaults, they say, the college pushed them off campus. And when students confronted Grinnell over its failings, student magazine editors lost their jobs and administrators told activists they were being intimidating.

One student, India Vannoy, was placed on academic suspension from the college while her offender was allowed to return to campus. Another woman, a senior who asked to be identified by only her first name, Anna, saw her attacker punished with “conduct probation.” He was also ordered to write an apology letter, but allowed to stay in her classes. He later landed an on-campus job -- as head of student security.

While these three cases might not represent the way Grinnell has handled the majority of reported sexual assaults, their consequences have driven two victims away from their dream school and caused daily anxiety for the third, who stayed on campus. The women filed a federal complaint against Grinnell in February due to their concerns the college's handling of their cases violated Title IX, the gender equity law requiring colleges to address to sexual misconduct on their campus.

Grinnell, with its relatively progressive policies surrounding consent, a student body that’s buying into rape-prevention efforts and an administration actively working to address sexual violence, may be a bellwether for how difficult it will prove for any college to fully address the needs of assault victims. If a prestigious, close-knit college like Grinnell cannot avoid letting down students who report rape, it raises the question of whether any school truly can.

Grinnell said federal privacy law limited how much they could comment on sexual assault cases. However, in anticipation of this article's publication, the school announced Monday it had requested that the Education Department launch a federal investigation of how it responded to reports of sexual violence.

"Grinnell has a longstanding commitment to creating and fostering an environment free from discrimination and harassment," Grinnell President Raynard Kington told The Huffington Post. "Despite its small size, Grinnell has embraced its Title IX obligations and in recent years taken significant and expansive steps to assure that our policies, procedures, and practices are legally compliant, trauma-informed, and consistent with promising practices across the country."

Frustrations over how the college handles sexual assault have enveloped the tiny Iowa campus, creating a face-off between the administration and an activist group of survivors and allies called Dissenting Voices. A progressive student body that views the "only yes means yes" consent standard as a settled discussion -- and is proud of its school for having it -- is caught in the middle.

"People want to see change happen now and it's frustrating to know this is a system that goes so deep it's going to take time," said Joyce Bartlett, a senior who works as a peer advocate, meaning she's trained to provide help to victims of sexual violence on campus.

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One of the residence hall buildings at Grinnell College that are located in three areas of the campus. Students who reported being sexually assaulted say they struggled with seeing the accused students in the lounges of their buildings.

The liberal arts college dominates the isolated town of Grinnell, Iowa. Fewer than 10,000 people live here, and 1,600 of those are undergraduates at the private school. The student nightlife largely takes place on campus, and it's roughly an hourlong drive on the highway to the nearest metropolitan city.

"The campus is so tiny, everyone's lives are all wrapped up in each other," said Lisa Stern, a junior who works with victims through a hotline run by Grinnell's Domestic Violence Alternatives Student Assault Center. "It's really challenging to navigate how to be in different social situations around people's assaulters."

The way no-contact orders are enforced on such a small campus is key to how some students say Grinnell failed them, but also shows the challenges for administrators in a tight-knit community.

When a professor told the administration Anna's offender was sitting next to her in class, for example, the college said there was nothing they would do.

"The burden is placed equally on both of us to not communicate, so if I would say, 'Get the fuck away from me, don't sit here,' like I wanted to, I would be in just as much trouble," Anna said.

Andrea Conner, the current dean of students, points to several features that limit school administrators' ability to enforce no-contact orders: "We have one dining hall, the campus is roughly a four-block radius, there are not multiple sections of every course."

"We work with our students to understand the challenges of navigating a no-contact order in the context of a small geographical area with shared common facilities," Kington added in a statement. "We also take strong action when the terms of a no-contact order are violated. We recognize the tension inherent in meeting the needs of a complainant and a respondent when both co-exist on the campus and -- where possible, based on the facts and circumstances -- separate the parties’ housing and class schedules."

But even experts who acknowledge those hurdles criticized Grinnell's approach.

"I have trouble understanding what an institution could call a no-contact order that allows a respondent to regularly come in close proximity and not violate the no-contact order," said John Wesley Lowery, chair of the student affairs of higher education department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

"The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights has never said that expulsion or suspension is required to remedy a hostile environment. But they have said sufficient steps must be taken to remedy that hostile environment," said longtime campus safety advocate S. Daniel Carter of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, a nonprofit born out of the Virginia Tech massacre. "No-contact orders can be part of that, but they must be effective at separating the victim and the assailant."

Seeing her alleged attacker around Grinnell’s campus became too much for Bartlett, who transferred to the University of Missouri in 2013. As recently as December 2014, Grinnell sent Bartlett a letter asking if she would consider returning to the college, and asked her why she "chose to leave."

"I loved Grinnell, or I loved what I thought Grinnell was," Bartlett said. "But after all that there was just no way."

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Clockwise: Text messages Emily Bartlett said a male student sent her just after he sexually assaulted her; An apology letter from the student after a hearing into the alleged assault; A portion of the letter describing the punishment the student received for disorderly conduct and "psychological harm."

India Vannoy left the campus after reporting a sexual assault too, but she didn't leave by choice.

Vannoy said a classmate in her scholarship program sexually assaulted her in April 2012 during a prospective students' weekend before she ever started classes.

"The day I was raped I was at the [college] president's house -- literally five hours before I got raped I was with the president," Vannoy said.

Vannoy filed school conduct charges against the male student in September 2012, as did another woman who said she was assaulted by the same man.

During a January 2013 hearing, Grinnell found him responsible for psychological trauma in Vannoy's case; psychological trauma and sexual misconduct in the case of the other female student; and selling or distributing illegal drugs, according to college documents. He was suspended for three semesters and eligible to petition to return to school in spring 2014.

After the hearing, Vannoy was clinically diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and took the rest of the spring 2013 semester off to recover. She returned in the fall, but landed on academic probation due to her declining grades, and had to appear before the Committee on Academic Standing.

Grinnell Title IX Coordinator Angela Voos said the college typically would do "anything we can think of to help people navigate this difficult thing," which may include reaching out to professors on a victim's behalf.

But Vannoy said she did not receive the assistance she needed. An administrator told her she was "mentally unstable" and suggested she "should really take some time to get yourself together and get over this," Vannoy claimed. She was placed on academic suspension, and her petitions to return have so far been denied by Grinnell -- meaning the attacker is allowed back on campus, but Vannoy is not.

"That's where I started my education; that's where I'd like to finish," Vannoy said. "I worked very, very hard to get into a school as rigorous as Grinnell."

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Grinnell College has a small campus, located in a rural part of Iowa near Interstate 80. It's an hourlong drive to Des Moines, the state's capital, or to Iowa City, where the University of Iowa is located.

Grinnell's hearing panel for rape cases is like that of many colleges: It includes a student, a professor and a staff member who received special training about sexual violence and Title IX. Yet like many colleges, it's moving toward a single-investigator model. The school is hiring former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Marsha Ternus to handle future assault cases.

Most of the student victims Voos speaks with don't want to engage in an adjudication process, according to numbers that she tracks. Anna's frustrating experience may provide clues as to why.

When a hearing panel took up her case in May 2012, they asked her what kind of bra she was wearing the night of the incident, Anna said, and allowed the accused student to directly question her, a practice "strongly discouraged" by the Department of Education. Anna said the accused asked her, "Why are you doing this to me? Why couldn't we have just talked about this?"

When Anna got to speak, she described explicitly saying "no" and crying during the assault.

"He said he was essentially teaching me about sex and he had a better idea about what I wanted than I did," Anna said.

Anna's offender was found responsible for "disorderly and disruptive behavior," "psychological damage" and "sexual misconduct," according to documents obtained by HuffPost. The school didn't find him guilty of rape -- a criminal term -- but did find him accountable for "nonconsensual penetrative intercourse." Conduct probation would serve as his punishment.

He also had to write a letter of apology, which the college delivered to Anna in July 2012. In the letter, which is five sentences long, he admits his "actions on the night of February 9th did not meet the definition of effective consent," and says he hopes he will "never commit such a heinous offense ever again."

When a student is found responsible in sexual misconduct cases, the college's first consideration as a sanction is always dismissal, said Conner, the dean. Grinnell then works backward from there depending on "mitigating or aggravating factors," she added.

"We do our best for our sense of ethics and appropriateness," Conner said.

Anna stayed on campus, but in September 2014 gave up on trying to get the college to hold her offender accountable for the alleged violations of the no-contact order, or for harassment she reported by his friends. Adding salt to her wounds, he was hired by the college this academic year for a student security job that gave him oversight of campus events, essentially to make sure students are being safe at parties. The college recently said any student still on probation would not be eligible for this position in the future, and he resigned his position as Anna raised concern on campus about his role.

The accused student in Anna's case told HuffPost he realizes he did violate the school's consent policy at the time, but chalks it up to "mixed signals" and doesn't consider it rape. At the time, Grinnell used an "effective consent" policy that stipulated consent must be "informed, freely and actively given," and could not come from the use of "intimidation, or coercion." The school switched to "affirmative consent" in fall 2012, which states that consent must be given for "each act of sexual activity," and can be withdrawn at any time.

The accused student said he's "pissed" with how Grinnell handled the case as well: The no-contact order meant he could stay in school but couldn't take certain classes, and to avoid violating his probation he had to take routes far out of his way at a time when he was on crutches due to an athletic injury.

"If the school really thought that I was guilty of this, I shouldn't be here; if my case was as serious as Anna made it out to be, I shouldn't be here right now," he said, adding, "I'm grateful it hasn't changed my views on how I saw rape -- I'm not questioning every single woman that said that it happens to them."

Vannoy's alleged assailant maintains it was consensual intercourse, and his attorney sent a statement suggesting colleges are elevating regretted sex to sexual misconduct. Bartlett's alleged assailant could not be reached for comment. The accused men are not being named because they have not been charged with a crime in connection with these cases.

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The anger may never have become so public had an editor for a student magazine not been fired for running an op-ed by Anna criticizing how the college punishes sexual assault.

Frustrated with portrayals in various news outlets of Grinnell as a shining example of a college handling sexual assault responsibly, Anna wrote an op-ed in October 2014 for the Grinnell Underground Magazine, or GUM. In it, she criticized how the school punished her attacker, and Grinnell's administration was outraged she used the phrase, "The student was found responsible for raping me."

After meeting with Grinnell administrators, the head of student media fired Linnea Hurst, the editor who published the op-ed, for flirting with "libel and slander" by allowing a phrase she allegedly knew to be "factually inaccurate" be published. The student media leaders feared a lawsuit, though they truly had no idea who -- if anyone -- was going to file one. Another sin the student media leaders said Hurst committed: She didn't give as much Facebook promotion to the administration's response op-ed as she had to Anna's piece.

Hurst said she couldn't understand why the school was so upset by the phrase, since, after all, "You can't say she was 'sexually misconducted.'"

"I thought Grinnell was a pretty good place for women," Hurst said. "I thought it was fine, then everything was exposed to me. That got me very aware very quickly it was a huge fight."

Students formed the group Dissenting Voices and began demonstrating on campus after the flap at the GUM. When administrators would speak about sexual assault, the protesters would show up with red tape over their mouths to symbolize what they felt as their freedom to use the word "rape" being silenced. After one forum, administrators called the protesters "intimidating," student activists said.

Grinnell officials said they have tried to explain to student activists the school can't use "rape" because it's a legal term. Voos also suggested it's "heteronormative."

"Schools have no legal authority to determine a crime has taken place," explained higher education consultant Brett Sokolow, president and CEO of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management. When a school requests a student avoid using the term, "it's not meant as a gag order, it's just that most victims don't understand how litigious these things can be."

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Grinnell students organized a protest in fall 2014 after a student was reprimanded for an article criticizing the school's response to rape.

Grinnell is not under federal investigation yet, but has acted similarly to colleges that are. It hired well-known campus sexual assault consultants Gina Smith and Leslie Gomez to review its policies. It has an ongoing task force on the issue. Voos said she informally provided guidance on the sexual violence policies at Occidental College, another small liberal arts school accused of handing out lax punishments for rape.

"We're a small community. I think we're doing pretty well so far; not everybody's happy and we know that," said Jim Reische, Grinnell's vice president for communication.

The college declined to speak on specific cases, citing federal privacy law. But Kington, the school's president, did note Grinnell no longer uses mediation in sexual assault cases, and it stopped allowing accused students to directly question complainants in 2013. Kington, who took charge of Grinnell in 2010, said the school "proactively initiated a number of changes after commissioning a thorough external review" two years into his tenure.

"Our changes took into account the actions OCR was requiring of other institutions," Kington said. "Our external review also included seeking feedback from complainants and respondents about their experiences with the College’s processes. That feedback was instrumental in guiding our actions."

Some students, like Grinnell soccer player Michael Hurley, feel like the college is "really ahead of the curve" with its policies. But as Dan Davis, a Grinnell senior, pointed out, "We're doing better than 95 percent of colleges, but 100 percent of colleges are doing terrible.”

Many students who spoke with HuffPost felt the affirmative consent standard was widely accepted among students. But they acknowledged there was tension on campus between activists and the administration over its handling of cases.

Opeyemi Awe, president of the student government, said she doesn't feel like students are constrained by administration policies at all. She and others proudly noted the affirmative consent policy came at the request of students three years ago.

"I would say we have primary control -- we very rarely have members of the administration stepping in and saying, 'You can't do this, and you can't do this.’ So Grinnell is different in that way,” Awe said. "We are so involved in how we create the culture that we also have a responsibility to change that culture."

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Student leaders are exploring changes they can push for beyond the investigation process and consent policy. The Grinnell Student Government Association is currently leading a working group on the conduct process, soliciting input from students for further reform proposals.

It's hard to ignore Dissenting Voices' opinion at this point, which Awe described as "one extreme.” She said she feels like "other students are put off by their tactics."

Activists with the group said in response that they spent three years holding quiet meetings with college administrators, to no avail. They also pointed out that some of their actions have come in the form of documentary screenings and a bake sale to raise money for victim services.

"Yes, sometimes action looks scary and confrontational … when such action is motivated by deep sympathy and compassion," members of the group said in a statement. They said they think all administrators and students want the campus to be as safe as can be, and that their protest "should be a cause for concern and an opportunity for engagement and empathy from the rest of the community."

College officials acknowledge they'll have to continually adapt to federal guidance and concerns brought forward by community members. Yet they are also clearly concerned by how complicated these cases are, and how difficult it can be to assist students going through traumatic experiences. Additionally, due to confidentiality issues, it’s not always possible to discuss every critique.

"You are never going to hear about the cases that students are satisfied with the outcome," Voos notes. "That's really OK, but it's unfortunate, because it's a very lost conversation."

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Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.

Olive Garden's New 'Buy One, Take One' Deal Sends Diners Home With A Free Meal

4 hours 34 min ago
Research underscores the importance of eating dinner together as a family: The routine can help relieve stress, save money and even teach your kids to learn to love vegetables. Olive Garden is working to get its customers these benefits, offering a special little deal in hopes of bringing busy families together for a meal.

The restaurant's new Buy One, Take One promotion provides guests with two entrées intended to last for two meals (go four times, and it'll kind of be like an Olive Garden Hanukkah).

Diners can select one of seven featured menu items (see below), which are served with unlimited bread sticks (haaay!) and a choice of soup or salad. When their plates are clean, guests are entitled to take home an additional meal from a list of four entrées (see below), which Olive Garden will package in to-go containers. According to the chain's press release, the second meal is intended to be enjoyed "around the table" at home.

"Whether you're dining with us in our restaurant, or enjoying your second meal at home, Buy One, Take One makes it easy for families to spend quality time together," Jose Duenas, executive vice president of marketing for the restaurant, said in a statement.

But, let's be real: Now you don't have to spend money on tomorrow's lunch.

However you decide to use or abuse the Buy One, Take One deal, Olive Garden's sentiments are nice, and starting at $12.99, could really help a person eat well on a budget. The promotion runs through April 12, 2015, so carbo-load while you still can.

Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.

America's Original Speakeasies (PHOTOS)

5 hours 48 min ago
The thirst for neo-speakeasies--that is, vintage bars with atmospheres and cocktail menus to reflect the clandestine 1920s glamour of the Prohibition Era--has not abated in the years since the first, Milk & Honey, opened on Manhattan's Lower East Side. As the contemporary speakeasy trend rages on, it seems apt to also celebrate the many American bars operating today that were actual speakeasies. San Francisco's popular Bourbon & Branch, for example, was the location of JJ Russell Cigar Shop, which was a front for a speakeasy for 10 years. Impressively, it wasn't raided once.

--By Spencer Spellman

See all of America's original speakeasies.

More from Travel + Leisure:
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America's Best Beer Bars
America's Coolest Rooftop Bars

More Than 1,000 Colleges Request To Host Screenings Of 'The Hunting Ground'

5 hours 55 min ago
More than 1,000 colleges and universities have requested to host screenings of "The Hunting Ground," a new documentary examining how higher education institutions handle sexual assault on campus, the filmmakers told The Huffington Post on Tuesday.

Fifty-two higher education institutions already confirmed with RADiUS, the film's distributor, that they will host screenings on their campuses. That list includes several colleges under federal investigation due to concerns with how they've handled reports of sexual violence, including Brown University, the University of Virginia, Iowa State University, Dartmouth College, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Kansas and Columbia University.

"The Hunting Ground" examines several college student sexual assault cases, including that of Erica Kinsman, who reported Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston for rape in December 2012. The film then tracks how Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino, two University of North Carolina graduates, worked with other activists to file federal complaints accusing universities of mishandling rape. The U.S. Department of Education is currently investigating how 97 colleges responded to sexual violence reports.

"With more than 1,000 invitations to screen 'The Hunting Ground' on college campuses across the country, it’s a promising sign of leadership and courage inside the ranks of higher education," filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering wrote in a statement to HuffPost.

"The Hunting Ground" debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January, hit New York and Los Angeles theaters last weekend and will air on CNN later this year.

Dick and Ziering are the Academy Award-nominated team behind "The Invisible War," a 2012 documentary about sexual assault in the military.

Another documentary about campus rape, "It Happened Here," is also being screened on college campuses in conjunction with the White House's "It's On Us" anti-sexual violence campaign.

The following schools have confirmed they will host screenings of "The Hunting Ground," according to Dick and Ziering:
  • Brown University

  • Claremont McKenna College

  • Trinity College

  • Rutgers University

  • University of Delaware

  • Augustana College

  • Montana State University

  • University of San Francisco

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • California Institute of the Arts

  • Southern Oregon University

  • California State Polytechnic University Pomona

  • University of Iowa

  • University of South Carolina Upstate

  • University of Virginia

  • Loyola University New Orleans

  • Tulane University

  • Iowa State University

  • Spring Hill College

  • Ball State University

  • Assumption College

  • Adams State University

  • Bucknell University

  • Loyola Marymount University

  • Union College

  • California State University, Fresno

  • Dartmouth College

  • Lycoming College

  • Columbia Business School

  • Loyola University Chicago

  • College of DuPage

  • Lafayette College

  • University of Massachusetts, Lowell

  • Johns Hopkins University

  • University of North Carolina, Wilmington

  • Central Oregon Community College

  • Georgetown University Law Center

  • University of Colorado, Boulder

  • California State University

  • Santa Monica College

  • High Point University

  • University of St. Thomas

  • University of Kansas

  • Stanford University

  • University of Colorado, Denver

  • University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

  • Walla Walla Community College

  • George Mason University

  • Southern Oregon University

  • Columbia University

  • Northwestern University

  • College of William & Mary

Blizzard Conditions Hit Parts Of Upper Midwest

6 hours 14 min ago
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Residents across the Upper Midwest got some of the winter they had so far missed on Tuesday, as a fast-moving storm dumped several inches of snow and made travel treacherous in some areas.

The storm dropped up to 6.5 inches of snow in western Minnesota, while far eastern South Dakota got 3 inches. But blizzard warnings for Minnesota and South Dakota were lifted. Meteorologist Jim Taggart with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minnesota, said the state has seen about half its usual snowfall this season. But the quick-hitting storm could be winter's last blast for the region, said Minnesota Public Radio meteorologist Paul Huttner. Forecasts call for high temperatures above freezing this weekend and into next week.



Snow turned the morning commute in the Twin Cities into a slippery mess. The State Patrol reported 250 crashes and nearly 30 vehicles that slid off roads or spun out by midafternoon. A state trooper's squad car was struck and badly damaged on I-494 near Concord in South St. Paul, Minnesota, while that trooper was investigating a crash.

Authorities closed a slippery stretch of Interstate 94 in central Minnesota for a time due to numerous accidents. The most serious involved a semi that hit a car whose driver had pulled over to change a tire, said State Patrol spokeswoman Lt. Tiffani Nielson. One person in the car was hurt.

One person died in a crash on Highway 41 in Brown County of northeastern Wisconsin. At least four school buses got stuck in traffic behind the crash scene.

The storm forced officials to temporarily close the Apostle Islands ice caves to tourists. Around 12,000 people have visited the ice caves along the south shore of Lake Superior since they opened over the weekend. But the National Park Service said high winds and blowing snow could make the ice leading to the caves unsafe.



Many schools from the eastern Dakotas to western Minnesota delayed classes or closed for the day. South Dakota's Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist warned it would be "a dangerous spring storm."

"Just another day in South Dakota," said Jessica Martin, who works at the Crossroads Truck Stop in the eastern South Dakota town of Colman. "We're way ready for spring."

Heavy snow and gusty winds also struck much of Wyoming, causing road closures and prompting transport officials to warn against all but essential travel across much of the state. Three people were killed in a three-vehicle crash north of Casper, Wyoming, on Monday night as the storm blew into the state, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

Icy roads were making travel treacherous in Iowa and Nebraska, leading to at least one fatal traffic accident in Omaha. Rain and freezing rain remained in the forecast for both states.



The Boston-area transit system is considering ways to compensate customers for weeks of weather-related delays and breakdowns as the area has received 8½ feet of snow.

A Massachusetts Bay Transportation official said Tuesday the options include a week of free fares, which he estimated would cost the agency $6 million. Other possibilities include rebates or discounts for monthly pass holders, or letting customers with monthly passes use them for another month.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation board will vote next week on whether to approve any of the plans.

Officials estimated the cost to the transit system of the winter storm cleanup is $36.5 million to date.



The mid-Atlantic region braced for another shot of snow, sleet and freezing rain in time for the evening rush hour. A winter weather advisory was effect in the Baltimore and Washington areas.

The federal government in the Washington region was open, but workers were given the option of taking unscheduled leave or teleworking. Several school systems canceled evening events and a few closed early.



Organizers of Boston's annual St. Patrick's Day Parade say the event will go on as planned March 15, despite the 8½ feet of snow that has fallen on the city this winter — but they are asking for help in clearing the route.

Brian Mahoney, commander of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, is asking unions, businesses and residents to help shovel snow. He said it would be impossible to postpone the parade.

The city is just short of surpassing its 20-year-old snowfall record. Sunday's snowfall brought the city's total to 103.9 inches. It needs 3.7 inches more to break the 1995-1996 record of 107.6. Snow forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday could tip that total over the edge, according to Frank Nocera, a NWS meteorologist in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Oprah's Harpo Studios Closing In December

6 hours 42 min ago
CHICAGO (AP) -- Oprah Winfrey will close Harpo Studios in Chicago, where she filmed "The Oprah Winfrey Show" for more than 20 years, this December, and will transition production for her cable network to a studio in California.

Harpo Studios and the Oprah Winfrey Network made the announcement Tuesday. OWN recently moved into a new studio in West Hollywood, California, and work currently done at Harpo Studios in Chicago will now be done there.

Winfrey sold the Harpo Studios property in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood to a developer last year for about $32 million. She said in a statement Tuesday that Harpo Studios has been a "blessing" in her life and she's now "looking ahead" to inhabiting her California studio.

The city named the street outside Harpo Studios "Oprah Winfrey Way" in 2011.

Did You Know These 7 Famous Athletes Were From Illinois?

7 hours 11 min ago
Illinoisans are almost as divided on their sports loyalties as they are on their political preferences. Whether you're from downstate and prefer to identify with St. Louis teams, or live up north and call yourself a cheesehead, no one can deny Chicago is the mecca for the state's professional sports teams, and also home to some of the world's most valuable franchises.

Here are some notable athletes (in no particular order) who were born in Illinois, along with a few of their career highlights that make them standout stars.

1. Kirby Puckett (March 14, 1960-March 6, 2006)

  • Born: Chicago

  • Sport/position: Baseball, center fielder

  • Team: Minnesota Twins

  • Career highlights: Hall of Famer, 10x All-Star, 2x World Series Champ, 6x Silver Slugger Award winner, 6x Gold Glove Award winner.

2. Hank Bauer (July 31, 1922-Feb. 9, 2007)

  • Born: East St. Louis

  • Sport/position: Baseball, right fielder

  • Teams: New York Yankees and Kansas City Athletics

  • Career highlights: 3x American League All-Star, 8x World Series champion

3. Shannon Sharpe (June 26, 1968-present)

  • Born: Chicago

  • Sport/position: Football, tight End

  • Teams: Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens

  • Career highlights: Hall of Famer, 8x Pro Bowler, 3x Super Bowl champion

4. Ray Nitschke (Dec. 29, 1936-March 8, 1998)

  • Born: Elmwood Park

  • Sport/position: Football, middle linebacker

  • Team: Green Bay Packers

  • Career highlights: Hall of Famer, 5x NFL champion, 2x Super Bowl champion

5. George "Mr. Basketball" Mikan (June 18, 1924-June 1, 2005)

  • Born: Joliet

  • Sport/position: Basketball, center

  • Teams: Chicago American Gears and Minneapolis Lakers (National Basketball League)

  • Career highlights: Considered the "original center" and pioneer of modern basketball, 7-time champion, All-Star MVP, holds three scoring titles.

6. Isiah Thomas (April 30, 1961-present)

  • Born: Chicago

  • Sport/position: Basketball, point guard

  • Team: Detroit Pistons

  • Career highlights: 2x champion, NBA finals MVP, 12x NBA All-Star, Hall of Famer

7. Otto Graham (Dec. 6, 1921-Dec. 17, 2003)

  • Born: Waukegan

  • Sport/position: Football, quarterback

  • Teams: Cleveland Browns

  • Career highlights: Hall of Famer, 3x NFL champion, 5x Pro Bowler

Check out 13 more famous Illinois athletes at Reboot Illinois, including tennis stars, Olympic medalists and basketball greats.

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NEXT ARTICLE: How much did Illinois colleges make in 2014?

New Cannes Award Called 'The Glass Lion' Created To Honor Work That Challenges Gender Bias

7 hours 50 min ago
With the support of, Cannes Lions created the Glass Lion award to recognize progressive work that promotes more inclusive and equal representations of all genders.

"The Glass Lion will award highly creative, positive and progressive contributions to gender representation within creative advertising and communications," Senta Slingerland, the director of Brand Strategy for the Lions Festival, told The Huffington Post.

The Glass Lion will be awarded at this year's Cannes Lions festival in Cannes, France. Cannes Lions is an annual festival that honors creative projects in all different types of communication fields.

The award was an idea Sheryl Sandberg brought to the table after Slingerland launched the See It Be It program, an initiative that promotes female creatives, in 2014.

Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn and IfWeRanTheWorld consultancy, was appointed president of the jury that will vote on the winner of this year's Glass Lion award. She said the award will celebrate work "that will set gold standard for creative and sociocultural change," in a Cannes Lions press release

Gallop explained a vision of the award to Adweek: "It's about celebrating [women] and should show great work that represents the world around us today," she told Adweek. "Young men as well as young women should want to win this award with great work that reflects the future of our industry."

Sandberg also noted her enthusiasm in the press release, stating, "If our messages to women -- and men -- portray equality, we will help create a more equal world. LeanIn.Org is thrilled that Cannes Lions is making The Glass Lion a reality so we can all applaud advertising that is more representative of the world as it should be.”

The winner of the Glass Lion is awarded points that will go towards other special honors such as Network of the year and Creative Marketer of the year.

"We've created this award to encourage content creators, and clients buying content, to produce stories that present a more gender-neutral view of the world, a more respectful image of gender and its nuances, a more inclusive world, and a more progressive way forward," Slingerland told HuffPost. "That is the key real to gender equality: a culture shift."

H/T AdWeek

Chicago Could Wind Up Broke Like Detroit If Rahm Emanuel Isn't Re-Elected, Sen. Mark Kirk Warns

8 hours 45 min ago
Chicago must re-elect Rahm Emanuel as mayor, or else the city could collapse into bankruptcy and wind up like Detroit, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) warned Monday.

At a ceremonial event for Casimir Pulaski Day in Chicago, Kirk said Emanuel's challengers "don't have the gravitas with the bond market."

"I would worry about the value of the Chicago debt if Rahm was not re-elected," Kirk told reporters. "It’s a concern if we have some of the less responsible people running against him.”

“None of them could command the respect of the bond market," he continued. "A collapse of Chicago debt, which already happened with Detroit, I think would soon follow if somebody who was really inexperienced and irresponsible replaced Rahm.”

Just days earlier, Chicago moved closer to a "fiscal free fall" after Moody's Investors Service downgraded the city's bond market rating to Baa2 -- two steps above junk status, Reuters reports.

Though Kirk spoke of "people" and never mentioned Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia by name, Garcia is the incumbent mayor's only challenger in the April 7 runoff election.

Kirk repeatedly dodged the question as to whether his statements were an endorsement for Emanuel, instead telling reporters, "I think that Rahm's re-election is essential to maintaining the value of Chicago's debt market. You’ve got to have a strong, capable leader. The people that I’ve seen running against him are not that leader.”

Emanuel's failure to secure 50 percent-plus-one vote in the Feb. 24 mayoral election was seen as a huge political embarrassment to the incumbent mayor who outspent challengers 12-1 and counted President Barack Obama and other top lawmakers among his vocal supporters.

Emanuel's inability to cinch a clear victory marked the first time an incumbent mayor has been forced into a runoff since Chicago mayoral election rules changed 20 years ago. Emanuel won 45 percent of the vote to Garcia's 35 percent.

Garcia, a longtime politician who once worked with Chicago's only black mayor, Harold Washington, found success tapping into the anti-incumbent sentiment that has been strong among Chicago's working class. Garcia has been endorsed by groups like MoveOn, as well as noted Emanuel foe Karen Lewis, the powerful Chicago Teacher's Union president.

H/T Chicago Sun-Times

Jeremy Roenick: Patrick Sharp 'Doesn't Deserve' To Be Treated Like This

8 hours 57 min ago
Jeremy Roenick is one of just three American-born players in NHL history to reach the coveted 500-goal mark. Over his decorated career, Roenick earned nine All-Star appearances as well as a silver medal with Team USA during the 2002 Olympics.

The 45-year-old Roenick caught up with me on HuffPost Live to discuss the current state of the NHL and why the safety of the players isn't merely about rule changes. Roenick also talked about his "love" of shootouts, why the Patrick Sharp criticism is unfair and how the league's trade deadline will impact the playoffs.

Find out why Roenick says that Sharp "doesn't deserve" this controversy.

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Click below to hear the reason why Roenick is such a proponent of the shootout.

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Click below to learn why the New York Rangers were the biggest trade deadline winners.

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Click below to see Roenick discuss why "respect between players is diminished."

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Email me at or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure and catch my NBC Sports Radio show, Kup and Schultz, which airs Sunday mornings from 9-12 ET, right here.

Moody's downgrades Chicago in an financial version of the polar plunge

9 hours 47 min ago
Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn't do the Polar Plunge this year, but Chicago's credit rating took an icy dive. That's bad news for everyone in Illinois, not just Chicagoans.

Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek writes:

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel didn't seem to be around for the "Polar Plunge" fund-raiser for Special Olympics this year like he was last year.

No matter. He, mayoral contender Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and the rest of Chicago, whether they seem to be aware, got a bracing bucket full of frosty cold water thrown on them the day before by Moody's Investors Service.

Missed this one? Pay attention. Even if you're one of the Chicago haters. If the state's pre-eminent city takes a dive, we're all going down under with it. Perhaps that's a bit of hyperbole, but just a bit. If Illinois' premier city at the Midwest crossroads goes belly up, the collapse will reverberate across the state.

Moody's just lowered the rating on the city's debt again to Baa2, or two notches above "junk" status.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois to find out what the consequences of such a downgrade could be for the city and its residents.

More in bummer news for Chicago: Oprah Winfrey is moving her Harpo Studios TV production out of the city. Some of the 200 employees affected by the move will be able to relocate to Los Angeles with the company, where her OWN television network is based. Check out Reboot Illinois to see what Winfrey said about the move.

NEXT ARTICLE: Devils Advocate: When will legal marijuana come to Illinois?

The Case for Restorative Justice

10 hours 3 min ago
On a Sunday in March 2014, an afternoon basketball game in Chicago among young teens ended abruptly as shots rang out and one of their friends fell to the ground. Luckily, the boy survived, but this incident is like too many others that occur daily in inner city America. The ongoing violence among our youth leaves us to question why this happens. Do the reasons lie in law enforcement, education, economics, parenting, or elsewhere? Or does the structural violence built into deeply racist systems lead "hurt people to hurt people"?

The young people playing ball that afternoon attend a school where we engage in restorative justice (RJ). The next day, we held a peace circle with these boys, each of whom was a friend or family member to the boy who was shot. The feeling in the room was heavy as the circle began. As the circle keeper, I began the process by building relationship and trust, necessary in order to move to the deeper level of sharing and ultimately begin the healing process. Recounting what happened was not easy, but the heaviness was slowly replaced with a sense of safety and a place for the boys to begin to share and process the events, emotions, fears, insights, and sadness about what they witnessed. We moved between talking about the incident to stories that illustrated our strengths, vulnerabilities, and hopes. Empathy was built, which led to an interconnectedness that was powerful.

Afterwards, I couldn't help but wonder, without the circle, how would they have been able to walk into school that morning and engage in their classes. It is practically impossible for our young people of color to avoid victimization by the violent systems of oppression that work to hold them back.

Each time I sit in a circle with young people, I am amazed at their resilience in a world where the deck is stacked strongly against them. They articulate their hopes, dreams, and fears and become empowered to succeed in an unjust world. The space provides opportunities to heal, build confidence, a sense of belonging and significance necessary to work toward a better future.

There's little doubt that our communities are broken. Systems of racial and social control marginalize and criminalize those for which the formal economy has little use. Even with all of the data that shows America's incarceration rate is greater than any other country, we continue to turn our heads, especially given the disproportionate number of incarcerated black and brown people. We become accustomed to pervasive systems of racial inequality in our society. Just as we once accepted slavery, black codes, and Jim Crow laws, we now uphold the school to prison pipeline, racial profiling by police, disproportionate minority contact (DMC), and mass incarceration. Marginalizing black and brown people is part of the American DNA.

It is easy to believe these systems and an "eye for an eye" are the ways to stay safe, with no alternative. But change is possible, and it begins by healing and building relationships, as illustrated in the circle at the school. Restorative justice has the capacity to empower those who have not been empowered in the past. Individuals and communities begin to act collectively, which is necessary in order to challenge the punitive structures that keep our young black and brown boys from succeeding.

Of late, the restorative justice philosophy and movement are finally gaining respect and recognition. After battling an image of being soft on crime or "touchy-feely," RJ is becoming recognized for its principles and values. RJ is understood as a way to shift the punitive mindset, so ubiquitous in our culture. Living the philosophy changes how we treat one another and becomes a "way of being" that embraces inclusivity, community building, empathy, and accountability. It is the antithesis of the dehumanizing, power-based, retributive systems that have been devastating our communities. Punishment and shame shouldn't be the deliverables; people and relationships are the deliverables.

In order to lead to sustainable positive change, it is vital that the foundational principles are learned and remain deeply entrenched wherever RJ is practiced.

Elements missing in our communities, which existed before the age of mass incarceration and the prison pipeline, are a sense of belonging, interconnectedness, and collective responsibility. Jonathan Braithwaite made a valid point that this loss of "a sense of community" is a catalyst for crime and violence (Braithwaite, 1989; Moore, 1997). This leads to increased incarceration, which leads to the breakdown in our communities -- a vicious cycle.

The result is an increased reliance on government and state-run institutions. Many believe the public sector exists as a service to society and is the way to have safe communities. This is an illusion. These are the very institutions that fuel the prison pipeline. Instead of turning to punitive systems, restorative justice makes it possible to rebuild our interconnectedness and heal from decades of mass incarceration.

The concept of RJ is not new. In fact, indigenous communities have relied on non-punitive models to address harm for generations. What is new is that many governmental organizations and non-profit entities that have previously supported oppressive systems are claiming to "adopt restorative practices." For one, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is implementing RJ district-wide as a way to end the school to prison pipeline. Any institution should be commended for wanting to incorporate RJ, but the philosophy should not be lost in the process.

RJ practitioners, community leaders, academics, and experts in Chicago came together to create the document, "Grounding Principles of Restorative Justice," to safeguard against any momentum towards a "practice" mentality without the foundational elements. The hope of this collaborative effort is that it will be used by any stakeholders that embrace RJ and want to embed it into their work and lives in a meaningful manner.

Powerful and inspiring work is happening in our communities, schools and systems around restorative justice. This gives us hope that transformation is possible. When someone asks, "What is restorative justice anyway?" share the "Grounding Principles of Restorative Justice" with them. Or, to request these grounding principles in a pdf document format, contact

Prescription Drug Abuse Linked To Indiana HIV Outbreak

10 hours 15 min ago
Indiana is grappling with an outbreak of HIV that local health officials say is connected to prescription drug abuse.

Since mid-December, there have been 27 confirmed and 10 preliminary -- meaning they need to be confirmed with further testing -- HIV-positive cases in the state, according to an announcement from Indiana health officials on Friday. The infections are largely concentrated in the southeast corner of the state, and in all cases, the patients had reported injecting the prescription opioid oxymorphone hydrochloride, known by the brand name Opana. For local health officials, this raises concern about addiction in the area.

“It’s very concerning to me that most of the individuals who have tested HIV positive have only recently contracted the virus,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams in a statement released Feb. 25 about the HIV outbreak. “Because prescription drug abuse is at the heart of this outbreak, we are not only working to identify, contact and test individuals who may have been exposed, but also to connect community members to resources for substance abuse treatment and recovery.”

Opana comes in either injection or pill form and contains the active ingredient oxymorphone. The opioid painkiller is usually prescribed to treat back pain or pain related to cancer or osteoarthritis. It’s also more potent per milligram than OxyContin, another commonly prescribed and abused opioid painkiller.

Opana's manufacturer, Endo Pharmaceuticals, did not respond to requests for comment.

In response to reported cases of Opana misuse and abuse, Endo Pharmaceuticals reformulated the pill in 2012. The company made the pill difficult to crush and made it so that it took on a sticky feel when combined with liquid.

Nabarun Dasgupta, an epidemiologist who studies the abuse of prescription painkillers, told The Huffington Post that this abuse-avoidance strategy may have led some people to turn to riskier methods of taking the drug, such as injecting it. He said he was not surprised to learn that Opana has been linked to the spread of HIV.

"If the pills are harder to crush and inject, the amount of active ingredient in each preparation will be lower, and the nasty [fillers] will be be greater," Dasgupta, who is the chief data scientist at public health data company Epidemico, wrote in an email. "So, to achieve the same high or stave off withdrawal, there has to be more injection events. More events are more opportunities for HIV and hepatitis transmission."

To illustrate this theory, Dasgupta pointed to a 2009 study of 41 people who injected the drug Suboxone. The study showed that when abuse-deterrent formulations of the drug hit the market in 2006, 44 percent of participants actually increased their number of daily injections, while 54 percent continued to inject the same amount of drugs as before.

To help stem the outbreak of HIV, Dasgupta encouraged separating the issue of drug abuse from HIV transmission, in order to tackle the more immediate threat first. He suggested a variety of tactics, from connecting people to substance abuse treatment -- which is Indiana’s official approach -- to programs that would distribute clean needles.

“Basically, anything that helps people inject less often is part of the solution,” Dasgupta said.

Adam Carrico, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, who focuses on the intersection of drug abuse and HIV, pointed out that “harm reduction” strategies like needle exchange programs can also act as a hook to draw drug abusers into services that will eventually lead them to drug treatment programs like opiate replacement or self-help groups.

“People don’t want to get HIV, but maybe they’re not motivated at that point to abstain from drugs or pursue drug treatment,” he said. “We can use needle exchanges almost like a net to move them into more comprehensive approaches, so that they hopefully become abstinent through biomedical and behavioral approaches that we know work."

Opioid painkillers like Opana connect with reward centers in the brain, which creates a sense of pleasure and euphoria. However, drug users can build up a tolerance to opioids, which means it takes more of the drug to achieve the same sense of satisfaction over time. This, in addition to accidental combinations with alcohol or other drugs, can lead to overdose and death.

A 2013 report by Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit organization focused on disease prevention, showed that overdose deaths had quadrupled in Indiana since 1999, and that most of them were caused by prescription drugs like the opioids oxycodone (known as OxyContin or Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), fentanyl, morphine and methadone. Indiana is hardly alone when it comes to prescription drug abuse. Deaths from drug overdose are rising in the U.S., and prescription painkillers are largely to blame, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is estimated that there were 2.1 million people in the U.S. addicted to prescription painkillers in 2012, while about 467,000 were addicted to heroin.

Other professionals suggest a different approach to treating opioid addiction. In her 2014 testimony before Congress, Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health, said that medications like methadone, which act to block opioid receptors in the brain, can help people beat opioid addictions. These medications can ease withdrawal symptoms that may trigger a relapse, which in turn helps people regain control of their lives.

However, as Jason Cherkis of HuffPost showed in a investigative report on heroin addiction published in January, there is a cultural reluctance to kick drug addiction with the help of another drug. Instead of working off evidence-based recommendations that show methadone helps people gain control over their opioid addiction, he writes, many publicly funded drug abuse treatment centers are "driven instead by a philosophy of abstinence that condemns medical assistance as not true recovery.”

Opting Out of PARCC Testing for Children With Special Needs

10 hours 32 min ago
March madness begins soon, and I am not referring to basketball. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) standardized testing begins in Illinois. For many children with special needs, this madness will also become a nightmare.

The story of two sisters, ages 9 and 11, who are scheduled to take PARCC, illustrates the absurdity of the educational policy surrounding this test. The older sister has special needs, so her parents wrote a letter on her behalf requesting that she be permitted to opt out of taking the test. This request was denied by her school district. She must opt out herself, according to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

Meanwhile, her younger sister, for whom the test might be annoying and time wasting but not harmful, will be permitted to opt out. After her computer froze during a practice test, losing all of her work, she declared to her third grade teacher, "That's it. I'm opting out of taking this test." And it was as simple as that.

If her older sister were capable of making a similar declaration, her parents would not have submitted a written request. But they knew that she might not be able to summon up the right words or the courage to say that she refuses to take the test. Thus, her anxiety and challenges with verbal communication may trap her into taking a test that will do great harm to her.

There are many good reasons why she should be permitted to take a different assessment, or no assessment at all.

  • There are no appropriate accommodations in place for children with special needs who are being required to take the PARCC test.

  • The test is already very long, and since her Individualized Education Plan (IEP) specifies extra time for testing, it could take over 20 hours for her to complete this test. Those hours are lost time for the specialized instruction she desperately needs.

  • Because she has an IEP, she is constantly assessed. Nothing new or useful will be gained from her taking PARCC.

  • There is no doubt she will become frustrated and dysregulated by the disruption to her school routine and the demands of the test, particularly those related to taking it on a computer. So add on more hours with the social worker and occupational therapist to calm her down enough to function in school.

  • The outcome of this testing for her is highly predictable. She will fail.

Here's what failure looks like for a child who already knows too much of it. Another child in her sister's school who has diagnosed special needs, including dyslexia, was forced to take the PARCC practice test. He received a score of 20 percent correct and was demoralized. It validated everything he already believed to be lacking about himself, further damaging his confidence and fragile self-esteem. It did nothing to inform his instruction at school. He has already been tested multiple times and the school has a record of the results. While the support he needs for his dyslexia is often not there, he is expected to take a high stakes test that will waste precious time that could be spent helping him with his learning disability.

So what are the options for the sister with special needs?
  • She can practice saying, "I do not want to take this test," and hope those words come out of her mouth every time she is presented with a section of PARCC.

  • She can write a letter that states she will not take the test but needs to remember to present the letter every time a session of PARCC testing takes place.

  • She can scream and cry during all of the hours and days of testing.

  • She can waste countless hours attempting to take a test she will certainly fail.

It seems so unfair that her younger sister can opt out of PARCC because she is clever and verbal. The younger sister will be permitted to read quietly in a different room during testing sessions. She loves to read and at least she will learn something. Amazingly, a third grader can make a decision about taking this test, but the parents of a child with special needs have no right to do so on her behalf? That feels like a violation of parental rights and the rights of children with special needs. It makes no sense at all.

As usual, it is those who need the most help who are crushed under the heel of the educational-industrial complex. Even if the child with special needs remembers to opt out each time PARCC is presented, what plan is there for her during all of these hours of testing? How well will she be able to handle the complete disruption of her school routine?

Students with IEPs are constantly assessed to see if they are on target to meet their goals. Forcing them to sit for a meaningless and time-consuming test is abusive. It is disrespectful of the children and does not meet any of the goals expressed in their IEPs, which may even be a violation of the law.

Shame on the "educators" at ISBE who made this decision.

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Chicago's Retired Cardinal Francis George Admitted To Hospital

10 hours 46 min ago
CHICAGO (AP) -- Chicago's retired Cardinal Francis George has been admitted to the hospital for evaluation after he stopped treatment for kidney cancer more than a month ago.

The Archdiocese of Chicago said Tuesday morning that George was admitted to Loyola University Medical Center on Sunday. Archdiocese officials say he'll stay there several days while tests are done. The statement didn't say what prompted George to be admitted to the hospital.

George said in January that doctors have run out of options for his cancer treatment and he was focusing on quality of life rather than a cure. He stopped receiving an experimental drug treatment in December because it wasn't working.

George stepped down as leader of Chicago's more than 2 million Roman Catholics in November. Blase Cupich (blayz SOO'-pich) became Chicago's archbishop.

My Q and A With Christian Benedict on the Link Between Sleep and School Performance

11 hours 28 min ago
After many years of neglecting sleep's importance in our lives, we've entered a golden age of sleep studies. We now know that sleep plays a central role in everything from creativity to memory consolidation, and that sleep deprivation, in addition to being associated with a range of debilitating conditions, can leave us with the same cognitive capacity of someone legally drunk.

Christian Benedict is helping lead this scientific movement. A neuroscientist at Uppsala University in Sweden, Benedict has particularly focused on how sleep is connected to performance in school. And as this incontrovertible science piles up, more and more schools are taking note in ways that can really make a difference in young people's lives. In answer to my questions, Benedict shared his insights on the importance of understanding young people's sleep patterns, how school start times may be a bigger factor in student success than previously thought and simple tips to help adolescents get a truly good night's rest.

You've researched the link between lack of sleep and failure at school. What did you find?

Studies have shown that sleep supports a variety of functions that children require to perform well at school. For instance, sleep was demonstrated to promote university students' ability to solve mathematical problems. Sleep is also integral to the consolidation of newly learned declarative (e.g., facts) and procedural (e.g., playing a piano piece) memories. Finally, restful slumber is a prerequisite for your brain to work at full capacity during the day. With this in mind, my sleep group at Uppsala University, Sweden, sought to investigate if self-reported sleep problems are linked to academic success at school.

To this aim, we utilized survey data involving more than 20,000 Swedish adolescents aged between 12 and 19. This survey involved questions related to the adolescents' habitual sleep duration and sleep disturbances (e.g., problems falling and/or staying asleep), as well as their performance at school. One important finding of our study was that about 30 percent of the adolescents reported sleep problems; that means either sleep disturbances or sleep duration less than seven or eight hours per night. In my view the latter finding is quite alarming, since adolescents are typically recommended to sleep between nine and 11 hours per night (e.g., by the U.S. National Sleep Foundation). We also demonstrated that reports of sleep disturbance and habitual short sleep duration were associated with an increased risk of failure at school, as measured by the number of failed subjects during the school year, supporting the view that restful slumber, of sufficient duration, matters for a child's academic performance.

Which age group has the biggest risk of poor academic performance linked to poor sleep?

Humans have individual differences in the timing of their behaviors (e.g., preferred working hours, sleeping habits). At one extreme are the so-called morning types (larks), at the other extreme the evening types (owls). During puberty most adolescents tend to shift toward being evening types and, as such, do not have the feeling "Now it is time to go to bed" before late evening hours (e.g., 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.). Typical school start times in many countries are at 8 a.m. or even earlier, which means that adolescents must get up around 6 or 7 a.m. This means the adolescent owls are predisposed to run the biggest risk of being short on sleep and, accordingly, to perform poorly at school.

What changes can be made to reduce the risk of students failing out of school because of poor sleep?

One intervention to give all high school students equal academic opportunities could be delaying school starting times and delaying all examinations until the early afternoon. Supporting this view, a recent study involving 741 Dutch high school students ages 11 to 18 years revealed that the lowest grades were obtained by students who were used to going to bed late.

How would you advise educators and parents to help students struggling with sleep?

In addition to delaying school starting times and scheduling examinations in the afternoon, one possibility to help students struggling with sleep would be for educators to increase parental awareness of the importance of sleep for their child's ability to perform at full capacity (e.g., by means of parent-teacher conferences). In addition, there are several recommendations that may facilitate an adolescent's ability to fall and stay asleep:

  • Avoid caffeine (found in carbonated beverages, coffee and dark chocolate, for example) in the evening.

  • Switch off blue-light-emitting devices about one hour before bedtime. The use of electronic devices able to access the Internet (e.g., tablets, smartphones and LED screens) close to bedtime may also cause sleep problems, as they can emit blue light, which was shown to suppress the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin and alter sleep quality.

  • Be physically active three to four hours before bedtime.

  • Dim room light 30 to 60 minutes before bed.

  • Your bed is a place for sleep, not for work.

  • Reduce environmental noise exposure.

  • Consult a medical doctor if you snore. It may indicate that you are at increased risk for poor-quality sleep.

  • Empty your bladder before going to bed, and avoid drinking too much before sleep.

The Dinner Recipe Your State Googles More Than Any Other State

11 hours 51 min ago
Ever wonder if your friends in Minnesota are cooking the same dinner as your friends in Florida? Do you think the most popular dinner recipe is the same in Alaska as it is in New York? Of course you don't, and thanks to Google Trends, you can see exactly how different those dinner recipes are.

While it's not the most scientific, Google Trends can tell you the dinner recipes that each state is searching for online more than any other state. According to the fine folks at Google, if you live in Colorado, for example, you're likely searching for chicken fried steak. If you live in Nebraska, you're most likely searching for brisket. (We'll take Nebraska for the food, Colorado for the... mountains.)

Based on their list, not surprisingly, many states are Googling chicken, spaghetti and steak. Somewhat mysteriously, on the other hand, some states (we don't want to name names, but that's what we're here to do, North Dakota) are searching for chicken spaghetti. Check out the list below to see what dinner recipe is the most popular unique search in your state. Who knows? Maybe you'll be inspired to move to Idaho!

As you can see from the map, the categories of food are well dispersed throughout the country. States interested in bread and pasta aren't all clumped together, and neither are states searching for seafood recipes. A bit of a red meat belt exists in the South, and chicken is popular in the Northeast, but beyond those loose generalizations, the map looks pretty random, and also unexpected. We would have guessed, for example, that states on the coast would be more likely to search for seafood recipes over landlocked states, but this map disproves that assumption. We're not sure which one is more curious: that Wyoming is searching for lobster or that Hawaii is searching for chicken salad. In any case, we're proud of Oregon and South Dakota: they're both searching for ramen recipes more than any other state.

Alabama: Potato Salad
Alaska: Prime Rib
Arizona: Shrimp
Arkansas: Tortillas
California: Chicken Breast
Colorado: Chicken Fried Steak
Connecticut: Moroccan Chicken Thighs
Delaware: Dinner Salad
District of Columbia: Stuffed Peppers
Florida: Chicken
Georgia: Lemon Pepper Chicken
Hawaii: Chicken Salad
Idaho: Tilapia Fish Tacos
Illinois: Salmon
Indiana: Potato Skillet
Iowa: Pizza Dough
Kansas: Casserole
Kentucky: Sweet Potato
Louisiana: Chili
Maine: Boiled Ham
Maryland: Chicken
Massachusetts: Chicken
Michigan: Meatloaf
Minnesota : Salmon
Mississippi: Steak
Missouri: Chicken Wrap
Montana: Bean Taco Soup
Nebraska: Brisket
Nevada: Indian Dinner
New Hampshire: Corned Beef
New Jersey: Chicken
New Mexico: Egg Burger
New York: Chicken
North Carolina: Chili
North Dakota: Chicken Spaghetti
Ohio: Spaghetti
Oklahoma: Steak
Oregon: Ramen
Pennsylvania: Steak
Rhode Island: Butternut Squash
South Carolina: Steak
South Dakota: Ramen
Tennessee: Grilled Ribs
Texas: Chicken
Utah: Spaghetti
Vermont: Chicken
Virginia: Paneer
Washington: Fried Rice
West Virginia: Tacos
Wisconsin: Rice Ball
Wyoming: Lobster

Photo credit for main image: A Beautiful Mess

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House and Senate Dems, Show Up for Bibi Please!

12 hours 3 min ago
To House Democrats, Democratic Senators, your taxpaying constituents pay your salaries for you to show up.

Whatever you think of the man, you need to honor and respect his office. Benjamin Netanyahu is the head of state of Israel our longtime, most loyal ally in the Mideast.

By boycotting his appearance before Congress, what message does it send to the rest of the world, especially to those who bear no goodwill towards Israel and/or the Jewish people? It encourages more attacks on Israel and Jews all over the globe.

Just as President John F. Kennedy went to Berlin and said, "Ich bin ein Berliner" (translated from German to English, "I am a Berliner"), we are all Jews. Anyone who doesn't think that's true, consider this. What's to stop your ethnic background, your religion, your physical characteristics from being targeted next?

It is not confined to Jews. It never is, nor ever has been. Polish jokes, Italian jokes, Irish jokes, name-the-nationality jokes, the dumb blonde jokes, the fat jokes, the too-skinny, too-short, too-tall jokes and on and on. There are comedians who have made fortunes over the years telling those jokes based on ugly stereotypes. They laughed all the way to the bank.

Go to hear what Bibi has to say this morning. Show up. You don't have to stand up. You don't have to clap. But you need to be in your seat.

The dog-ate-my-homework excuses--otherwise known as House Speaker John Boehner who invited Bibi is a Republican, and I'm not going to help Republicans--ain't gonna fly this time around.

Your constituents who vote for you, whom you dial for dollars, and ask to volunteer their time and treasure on your behalf, will be watching.

Don't be conspicuous by your absence. -0-

Lonna Saunders may be contacted at

Kurt Braunohler Talks 'Roustabout,' Stand-Up & Goats On 'Too Long; Didn't Listen' Episode 13

12 hours 36 min ago
What happens when you ride a personal watercraft from Chicago to New Orleans? If you're comedian Kurt Braunohler, the answer is biker gang comedy shows, severe wet suit rash and raising a bunch of money for charity.

On the 13th episode of "Too Long; Didn't Listen," Braunohler discusses the nine-part Comedy Central digital series, "Roustabout," a week-long Jet Skiing comedy mission to raise $50,000 for Heifer International to send 500 goats and 1,000 chickens to Africa. The hope is to create sustainable mini-economies for families in need, plus, as Kurt says, goats and chickens just happen to be "The funniest animals out there."

We also talk about his new direction in stand-up -- "It's a mix of absurd stupidness and then also heartfelt concern for the world" -- his work on "Bob's Burgers" and the biggest lesson he learned on his trip, which included more electrified rivers than one might expect.

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