Subscribe to CNC Huffpo feed
Chicago news and blog articles from The Huffington Post
Updated: 9 min 46 sec ago

Megabus Rollover In Indiana Injures At Least 28

Sat, 2014-12-20 14:11
Dec 20 (Reuters) - More than two dozen people were injured on Saturday when a commercial passenger bus traveling to Atlanta from Chicago crashed in Indiana, officials said.

The double-decker Megabus with some 70 passengers aboard slid off of Interstate 65 in southern Indiana at about 5:30 a.m. EST and rolled over, Indiana State Police spokesman Clifton Elston said.

It was not clear what caused the bus to slide, but light snow resulted in slick roadways and several other collisions happened in the same area, Elston said.

"It's still ongoing to figure out exactly what happened," he said.

Of the injured, 27 were taken to the Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, a city about 60 miles (97 km) south of Indianapolis, hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Furlow said.

Furlow would not comment on the nature of the injuries, but said no one was seriously harmed.

One other passenger was taken to a separate hospital with more serious injuries, but they were not life threatening, Elston said.

Megabus spokesman Sean Hughes said the company would be providing assistance to all customers involved.

"Safety is our absolute number one priority and we are assisting the authorities with their investigation into the circumstances of the incident," Hughes said in an email. Megabus is a subsidiary of Coach USA, based in Paramus, New Jersey.

In October, at least a dozen people suffered injuries ranging from cuts to broken bones when a Megabus traveling on the same route flipped on its side. The driver had lost control while trying to avoid the site of another crash. (Reporting by Laila Kearney; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and G Crosse)

This Sparkling New Park Was A Toxic Brownfield Just 4 Years Ago

Sat, 2014-12-20 10:43
It is truly incredible what can be achieved when a neighborhood unites.

Though one would never guess by looking at it today, the site of Chicago’s newest city park was a contaminated eyesore not long ago. This turnaround has everything to do with local citizens working together for something better, say community leaders in the Little Village neighborhood, where the park is located.

“It feels good to get to this point and see the impact on the neighborhood,” Antonio Lopez -- executive director for the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, a group that campaigned to make the park a reality -- told The Huffington Post. “We’re just a few days in and to see the community members out there and see the look on their face after we got to this point is really amazing.”

(Story continues below.)

La Villita Park, as it has been unofficially dubbed until the City Council signs off on the name in January, opened Dec. 14.

The 22-acre La Villita Park, which officially opened Dec. 14, was built on a site formerly used by a company called Celotex (which is now owned by Honeywell) to make, store and sell asphalt roofing products. As far back as 1989, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency was alerted to pollution deriving from coal tar that was present on the property. The area was eventually designated a federal Superfund site after it was determined that cancer-linked polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons had been identified in soil on the site, as well as in surface soil in some nearby residential yards.

Seen here in 1999 is the site of what is now the La Villita Park on Chicago's southwest side.

In a Dec. 14 statement, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lauded the project as the largest EPA Superfund-to-park conversion to have taken place in a major U.S. city.

The park includes an array of features geared toward neighborhood youth who, until the park’s opening, lived in what had been designated by the city as one of Chicago’s two neighborhoods most in need of open park space. It boasts artificial turf soccer fields, two basketball courts, a skate park, trails and a large playground. A natural grass baseball and softball field will be opened later.

Its $19 million price tag was split between the city, the Chicago Park District and two state grants.

La Villita Park today.

La Villita did not come easily. Neighborhood groups including the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization worked tirelessly for years to draw attention to the contaminated site and demand that it be cleaned up. Prior to the Chicago Park District obtaining the land and starting work on the new park in 2012, a truck-parking business was illegally operating on the site. The business owner fought the city over the park's sale price, while the neighborhood’s youth were forced to continue playing in the streets instead of in green space.

Given all the obstacles, the park’s opening has been a powerful moment for community organizers.

Lopez told HuffPost that LVEJO’s biggest challenge was to make the case that the opening of park space was not simply a matter of community “beautification.” He believes the park's impact reaches far beyond that factor.

“It was such a hurdle to demonstrate this as an urgent environmental injustice and a public health nuisance,” Lopez said. “These are environmental justice efforts. This is about equitable community development where community members are involved in every process of the planning, design and naming of it.”

Though the park is now open and memories of the Celotex blight are already fading, Lopez’s group is not stopping there. They plan to take an active role in creating programming to fully take advantage of the new park space and push for the building of a field house, which would allow the park's facilities to be used more during the cold winter months.

How To Watch The Ursid Meteor Shower, The Last Shooting Star Bonanza Of 2014

Sat, 2014-12-20 07:42
Skywatchers will have another shot at seeing shooting stars in 2014, thanks to the Ursid meteor shower.

The Ursid shower, which seems to originate in the constellation Ursa Minor, has been active since Wednesday and is expected to peak overnight on Monday, Dec. 22 through Tuesday, Dec. 23.

The best viewing hours for skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere are between midnight and dawn local time.

Ursid meteors active around December solstice

— EarthSky (@earthskyscience) December 19, 2014

The Ursids won’t be quite as spectacular as the Geminid shower that came earlier this month. But the show should be worth watching, with as many as 10 to 15 meteors per hour anticipated at the shower’s peak.

No special equipment is needed to see the meteors. Just bundle up, and find a suitable location from which to watch.

“Get to a dark spot, get comfortable, bring extra blankets to stay warm, and let your eyes adjust to the dark sky,” NASA recommends. “A cozy lounge chair makes for a great seat, as does simply lying on your back on a blanket, eyes scanning the whole sky.”

The Ursid meteor shower recurs every year around the time of the winter solstice. This year the winter solstice falls on Sunday, Dec. 21.

If you can’t make it outside to catch the Ursids in person, the Slooh space camera will live-stream 2014’s last meteor shower on Monday, Dec. 22 starting at 5 p.m. PST/8 p.m. EST. Check it out above.

Why The 'Redskins' Name Can't Be Separated From The Bigger Issues Native Americans Face

Sat, 2014-12-20 06:30
Earlier this year, the on-field humiliation of the Washington football team was briefly overshadowed by increasingly vocal disapproval of the team name and Native American imagery associated with it, even among the team's faithful. But as the NFL season winds down and the organization counts the days until the misery finally comes to an end, the national debate over the franchise's embrace of an un-trademarkable, dictionary-defined racial slur appears to have faded.

Groups like "Change the Mascot" and the National Congress of American Indians are working to keep the issue visible. The country can apparently only handle one news cycle each year focused on offensive Native American mascots, but billionaire team owner Daniel Snyder and the overwhelming -- though slowly shrinking -- majority of Americans who support the name are proof there's plenty of work left to do. Especially after a year that marked the public emergence of a misguided argument in favor of keeping the mascot.

Many of the team's supporters have traditionally relied primarily on ignorance or racism to argue that they shouldn't have to shoulder the inconvenience of changing, well, anything. This year, however, Snyder apparently realized that his organization's image problem was real, and that he needed a new strategy beyond simply telling Native Americans they were wrong to be offended. So he attempted to reinvent himself as a well-intentioned supporter of both his team's name and the people it offensively refers to, creating a foundation intended to help indigenous communities.

"[Native Americans] have genuine issues they truly are worried about, and our team's name is not one of them," Snyder wrote in a letter announcing the program. This basic argument has been tossed around by the team's supporters -- and even among some Native Americans -- for years. And with the most vocal defender of the name now throwing money behind it, it was finally brought fully into the mainstream.

A recent poll suggests Snyder is actually wrong about how Native Americans feel about the name. But more importantly, says Erik Stegman, associate director of the Half in Ten Education Fund at the Center for American Progress, Snyder fails to see the inseparable connection between the so-called "genuine issues" and his team's name.

"If people that we're trying to convince on these policy issues still have the vision of the Washington Redskins or the Cleveland Indians or any of these others as their reference point for an actual group of people, that's a problem," Stegman told The Huffington Post. "It impacts how [Native people] can advocate on all of these other very important issues."

This is particularly significant, because Snyder is right about one thing: Native Americans face many challenges beyond his team's name. Less than a century removed from some of the darkest chapters of U.S. policy on Native Americans, one in four Native people now lives in poverty. More than 16 percent of Native adults have diabetes, one of the highest rates among any ethnic group in the world. Native lands are regularly auctioned off by Congress in sweetheart deals for resource extraction. Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the U.S. And drug and alcohol abuse run rampant in indigenous communities around the nation.

And as Stegman says, making progress is difficult when most of the nation is only aware of Native Americans on game day, and even then, only as caricatures. To many people in American Indian country, no amount of Snyder's money can help address these problems so long as he says he will "NEVER" (in all caps) change a name that serves to perpetuate them. If Snyder genuinely cared about Native communities, opponents of the name argue, he would acknowledge the role his team plays in marginalizing them.

Ray Halbritter, representative of the Oneida Indian Nation and an occasional Huffington Post blogger, says that instead, Snyder and other supporters of these names and mascots are denying Native Americans a simple request to be seen as equals in the eyes of their non-Native peers.

"They're so desensitized, they think Indian people are not real people; our children and our concerns are not real to them," Halbritter told The Huffington Post. "They don't think [the debate] is even real, they don't even think it's even worth bringing up or talking about. We're not human beings, we're not even part of humanity. And that's the problem. They think of us as just something to entertain them, or mascots -- relics out of a museum."

With only 5.2 million Native Americans in the U.S. -- 2 percent of the total population, according to the 2012 Census, with much of it concentrated on reservations in certain areas of the country -- these representations can be particularly hard to recalibrate. Halbritter says teams like Snyder's feed these misperceptions and allow the broader public to ignore the real power these words and images have on actual people.

"Denigrating Native Americans as mascots dehumanizes them and it pretends that their challenges are simply not important, that their children are not as important as white children or any other race," he said. "At the heart of the issues in Indian Country and virtually every organization of people in the world is what they think of themselves. ... It goes to the issue of our children and how they're affected and how their minds are shaped about how think about themselves."

The next generation of Native youth is regularly highlighted in the debate over offensive imagery, and its members have become increasingly visible as both primary stakeholders and leading activists. Earlier this year, Stegman published a report on the social and psychological impacts of these mascots and team names on Native youth. It concluded that the presence of organizations built on Native American stereotypes negatively affects the self-esteem and mental health of young Native American, who are already faced with inferior educational resources and a suicide rate 2.5 times higher than the national average.

"School is a tough place, and when you're a young person having to deal with your identity, in this case as Native people, these representations really matter," Stegman said. "They impact the way that you learn, they impact how you interact with your fellow classmates and they impact how you feel about your own culture and your own community."

People like Snyder often suggest that Native Americans tackle their most pressing challenges directly, rather than focus on a team name. But Native Americans have no intention of choosing between addressing the individual issues and combatting the broader environment of disrespect, ignorance and ostracization that contributes to them. Earlier this month, representatives from the nation's 566 federally recognized Native tribes gathered at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss the state of affairs in Indian country and outline a blueprint for moving forward.

The backlash again Native mascots and team names may have gotten increasing attention for a few weeks this year and last, but Native Americans have been fighting these battles for decades. And few today are downplaying the formidable opponent they face in Snyder and his billion-dollar profit machine. Empathy is hard enough to come by as it is, and in this case, a small minority group is working to win over a sports-obsessed public that feels entitled to a team name and mascot that shouldn't be theirs to define.

But both Stegman and Halbritter are optimistic that the debate is at least headed in the right direction. They see a growth in productive conversations about these damaging depictions of Native people, which have in turn produced some tangible victories. Earlier this month, the Oklahoma City School Board voted unanimously to change a local high school's "Redskins" mascot after impassioned testimony from a number of Native Americans.

It's a small step forward, but Halbritter says if American principles hold true, it will be followed by much larger ones.

"That's one of the fundamental values and principles of this country, that it finds its way to gravitate to doing what's the right thing," he said. "And that's what this is about. It's trying to get the consciousness of America to line up with the principles of America so that the needle aligns to the pole of right and people just do the right thing."

11 Perfect Gifts For The Instagram Addict In Your Life

Fri, 2014-12-19 17:13
Instagram has already blessed us with five new filters and other updates this holiday season. But if you've got friends who just can't get enough of the photo-sharing network (and we all do), you may need even more Instagram-themed gifts.

And wow, there are a lot of them. People have created all sorts of ways to not only improve your Instagram photos, but to bring them out of your smartphone and into your real life. Instagram calendar, anyone? Here's a sampling.

Top-Performing Schools in Some of Illinois' Biggest School Districts

Fri, 2014-12-19 16:52
Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner has said improving education in Illinois will be one of his priorities during his term in office, but before Illinoisans can formulate a plan on how to move forward, it's important to know where we already stand. we looked at the top school in each of the 25 biggest Illinois school districts from the annual Illinois State Board of Education Report Card. The report card includes ratings and summaries of stats about schools across Illinois for the 2013-2014 school year.

The Illinois State Board of Education released its annual Report Card with ratings and summaries of stats about schools across Illinois for the 2013-2014 school year.

We looked at the 25 biggest school districts in the state (across all grade levels) and then picked out the school within each district that is doing the best, or, in other words, had the highest percentage of students who meet or exceed expectations. The list is ranked by school district enrollment size for the 2013-2014 academic year, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. Per-pupil spending includes instructional spending. Note the wide range in per pupil spending in this list. Interesting range of average class sizes, too.

Check out Reboot Illinois to see this info for the 33rd through 50th biggest school districts in the state.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date on all things Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: Top schools in Illinois' 25 biggest school districts


7 New Illinois Laws You're Going to Want to Know in the New Year

Fri, 2014-12-19 15:58
Not knowing a law is not considered a legal defense for not following it. So don't get caught unawares -- new laws will take effect in Illinois in 2015 that could affect the daily life of average Illinoisans. Get up to speed on what new rules you'll be expected to follow in the new year.

Here are seven of the new laws:

1. E-Cigs

  • Must be kept behind store counters and out of reach from children.

  • Vapor refills must come in child-proof packaging.

2. Upped speed limits

  • The speed limit on the state's tollways and interstates will increase to 70 mph; 60 mph for semis.

3. Traffic stops

  • No more ticket quota system for police.

  • If you get pulled over and are issued a ticket, your driver's license won't be held as bond.

4. Pregnancy in the workplace

  • Employers must provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations, or face civil rights violation accusations

5. Homeowner damage disclosure

Home sellers must disclose any door or window damage, including:
  • flood damage

  • lead paint

  • asbestos

  • meth lab

6. Beer tax and milk definitions

  • The beer tax will extend to hard ciders.

  • Milk definition now includes sheep, water buffalo and other hooved animals.

7. Medical marijuana to treat seizures

  • Children who suffer from seizures can qualify for cannabidiol (CBD), which is an orally-administered liquid to treat epilepsy (not the leafy stuff).

Check out Reboot Illinois to see 8 more new laws you're going to want to know about, plus a slideshow from the Senate Democrats explaining each law.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date on all things Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: Proposed Illinois eavesdropping law corrects one problem, but invites many others


Donors Come To The Rescue Of Animal Shelter At Risk Of Christmas Eviction

Fri, 2014-12-19 14:31
It’s got all the makings of a holiday miracle.

Just a week ago, things looked bleak for Cache Creek Animal Rescue, a no-kill, not-for-profit animal shelter with a facility in Joliet, Illinois. The shelter had received an eviction notice telling it to vacate its suburban Chicago facility by Jan. 10, leaving the shelter's dozens of cats and dogs at risk of homelessness.

The shelter, which rescues animals facing euthanasia at shelters largely in southern Illinois and Kentucky, reached out to the public for help and has been “overwhelmed” by the response.

A GoFundMe page created on Wednesday exceeded its $50,000 fundraising goal after the shelter's story was featured by a number of Chicago-area media outlets. As of Friday afternoon, over $64,000 had been contributed to help the shelter continue its work.

Tori Spetz, a kennel hand and office staffer at Cache Creek, told The Huffington Post the shelter initially thought the eviction was “the worst thing that could happen,” but now sees it as a blessing in disguise. She says “the phone hasn’t stopped ringing” since news of the shelter's difficult situation spread, and that the staff has been busy with more adoptions than usual.

"We're so humbled and grateful for everything," Spetz said.

And though the shelter has already met its funding goal, Spetz added it still can use every bit of help and that all additional funding will go toward housing and caring for the rescue animals.

A vehicle used by shelter director Donna Hawk to transport pets to Joliet is in desperate need of repairs, according to the GoFundMe. In addition, the shelter’s main “hub location” for pets, in downstate Anna, is also in rough shape due to a series of flooding incidents.

The specific circumstances of what prompted the eviction notice are somewhat unclear. Hawk told the Chicago Tribune the facility has always paid rent on time, had improved on the property and was hoping to re-sign its two-year lease in July. The only issues she claims the shelter has had were some complaints from neighbors about dog droppings on the property.

The Joliet Herald-News reports the building itself has had multiple code violations, though it is unclear whether either the building’s owner or the tenant -- the shelter -- would be responsible for addressing the violations under the terms of its lease, according to an attorney working pro bono on the shelter’s behalf in the matter.

The shelter also created a YouTube video to spread the word of its plight:

Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter

Petitioners Demand Sony Release 'The Interview,' Stand Up To Terrorist Threats

Fri, 2014-12-19 14:10
Want to see "The Interview"? So do a lot of other would-be moviegoers, dissatisfied with Sony Pictures' decision this week to scrap the controversial film (which depicts the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un). And some have whipped up online petitions in an attempt to change studio executives' minds.

Sony's decision -- made following terror threats sent by the hacker group responsible for breaching the corporation's computer systems in November -- was met with plenty of criticism this week. On Friday, President Barack Obama said Sony "did the wrong thing." Writer and producer Aaron Sorkin called the ordeal "an unprecedented attack" on free speech, while celebrities posted reactions on Twitter in various shades of disgust.

The hackers, of course, were pleased with the company's decision. The group, which the FBI has claimed is connected to North Korea, released a statement calling the decision "very wise" and suggested additional leaks would not be made unless the studio "made additional trouble."

For those who would like Sony to do just that, options are limited. The studio, which not even George Clooney could convince industry leaders to defend, has said it has no plans to release the film in any form. But petitioners hope Sony might listen to the voice of the people.

From "Please release 'The Interview' and stop letting terrorists decide which movies Americans get to see."

From the statement:

When Sony and the major theater groups declined to release "The Interview" because hackers threatened us and told them not to, they literally negotiated with terrorists. And, as even a cursory knowledge of modern American cinema would tell you, negotiating with terrorists is bad.

Add your signature here.

From We the People: "Urge Sony pictures to release the film 'The Interview' and protect our 1st Amendment."

From the statement:

We want our government to defend our first amendment by urging Sony to release "The Interview" and offer protection to movie goers as well as those involved in the production of the movie.

The White House is expected to respond to any We the People petition that receives more than 100,000 signatures within 30 days. You can also add your signature here.

Will signatures get anything done? We can't say. Although their exact impact remains unquantified, online petitions have achieved results in the past.

And besides, there's always the (very, very) slim chance Sony lets Gawker screen the film instead.

Feds Accuse McDonald's Of Violating Workers' Rights

Fri, 2014-12-19 12:59
In a major blow to big franchisers, the National Labor Relations Board issued several complaints against McDonald's on Friday, naming the fast food giant a "joint employer" alongside its franchisees accused of violating labor law.

The fast food industry has been fearing just such a move by the board, since it shows federal regulators are willing to hold large corporations responsible for the labor violations inside franchised stores. Until now, it's generally been the franchisees operating the restaurants who've been held responsible.

"The complaints allege that McDonald’s USA, LLC and certain franchisees violated the rights of employees working at McDonald’s restaurants at various locations around the country," the board said in a statement.

The alleged violations by McDonald's and its franchisees included "making statements and taking actions against [workers] for engaging in activities aimed at improving their wages and working conditions."

The franchise industry has been blasting the board for months for considering issuing such complaints. In a statement issued Friday, McDonald's said the board's actions "improperly and dramatically strike at the heart of the franchise system."

The complaints issued Friday grew out of the Fight for $15 movement that's sprouted in the past two years, with fast food workers staging periodic strikes in cities throughout the country to fight for higher wages. The board's move marks a major victory for the union-backed campaign, as workers have tried to hold major franchisers like McDonald's responsible for the actions of their franchisees.

McDonald's took a shot at the campaign on Friday, saying unions were carrying out an attack.

"These allegations are driven in large part by a two-year, union-financed campaign that has targeted the McDonald’s brand and impacted McDonald’s restaurants," the company said. "McDonald’s has taken the appropriate measures, working properly with its independent franchisees, to defend itself against that attack on its business."

A McDonald's spokeswoman did not immediately respond to HuffPost's request for further comment.

Of 291 charges filed against McDonald's by workers since 2012, the board said it found merit in 86 of them. As is custom, the board's general counsel tried to hash out a settlement between McDonald's and the complainants over the last few months, but only achieved that in a small number of the cases. The remaining charges have been grouped into 13 different complaints that will now be heard before the labor board's regional offices.

Jimmy Fallon Presents His Favorite #ChristmasFails Of The Holiday Season

Fri, 2014-12-19 12:52
Frankincense and myrrh? Even the three wisemen failed Christmas.

You know, for being the "most wonderful time of the year" and all "holly jolly," the holidays can be wonderfully unsuccessful. On Thursday, Jimmy Fallon took us through his favorite Christmas fails of the season, hashtag style.

From awful, unthoughtful gifts to people getting a little too tipsy and speaking their minds. How many things go wrong just in general this time of year? Fallon is doing a real service by helping remove the sheen.

"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET on NBC.

Dog Sentenced To Die In Owner's Will May Have Second Chance

Fri, 2014-12-19 12:26
Connie Ley, an Indiana woman who died in November, put in her will two provisions for her dog, Bela: The healthy German shepherd could either be euthanized, cremated and buried along with her -- or else sent to a no-kill animal sanctuary. As of Friday, it was still unclear which fate Bela will meet.

Eric C. Rayvid, a spokesperson for the Best Friends Animal Society, told The Huffington Post that the group is still working on convincing the will's executor, who has remained anonymous, to allow Bela to be brought to the group's facilities in southern Utah. There the 9-year-old dog would join some 1,700 other cats, dogs, horses, pigs, birds and other animals. Many of the shelter's inhabitants are available for adoption, while others will live out their natural lives amid the state's red-rock mountains.

"We're hoping that Bela will be able to come to our sanctuary," Rayvid said.

Best Friends also released a statement on Facebook, asking supporters to use the hashtag #SaveBela on social media:

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));
Post by Best Friends Animal Society.

While Bela's case has sparked massive outrage, Ley's attorney, Doug Denmure, said public outcry can't preempt the deceased's will.

“The dog was owned by my client and now it’s part of her estate," Denmure told Ohio TV station WCPO. "And those are her wishes, as far as the future of the dog is concerned. Outsiders don’t have the grounds to rewrite the provisions of my client’s will and impose what they want.”

But judges often refuse to enforce dead owners' requests that their pets be euthanized, on the grounds that those requests are "against public policy or unethical," says Gerry W. Beyer, a professor at Texas Tech University School of Law who recently posted a short analysis of these kinds of cases on his blog.

"It is true in our legal system that pets are property, thus giving Connie the ability to determine Bela’s disposition upon Connie’s death. However, courts in the United States in similar cases in the past have been extremely reluctant to honor 'pet killing' provisions," Beyer told HuffPost. "The power to dispose of property does not necessarily include the power to destroy that property. By analogy, it would be unlikely that a court would enforce a will provision stating, 'Place all my property in my house. Then, douse the house with gasoline and burn everything to the ground.'"

Fred Kray, an attorney specializing in dog law, says that even in cases where owners provide for their pets' care, instead of their killing, those wishes may be overlooked.

Said Kray, "Those wills which give dogs millions of dollars, ignoring human heirs, have also run into trouble in the courts."

It's been suggested that Bela has behavioral problems, which may have prompted Ley's bequeathal. Ley's attorney was not immediately available to comment on the dog's temperament.

A friend of Ley's told a local news station that he thinks Bela is unsuitable for adoption and should be euthanized, and that the dog's cremated ashes should be mixed with Ley's, then stay on the farm where the two lived.

“I love the dog. I loved Connie like a mom," Andrew Peters told Eagle Country 99.3 FM WSCH. "I say give her what she asked for. She was specific about what she wanted."

While his future is under consideration, Bela is being kept at an Indiana animal shelter. A post to the group's Facebook page says at least so long as he is there, he will remain safe.

"Bela will not be euthanized at our facility, either by PAWS staff or the Dearborn County Animal Control Officers," the shelter wrote. "If a euthanization decision is reached by the estate, then it will be the responsibility of the estate to make those arrangements elsewhere."

Rudolph Dance Off: One Of The Most Festive Things To Hit Chicago This Season

Fri, 2014-12-19 11:43

Forget those 10 Lords a Leaping. This season, Chicagoans only need two.

Meet co-workers and pals Matt Monnin and Peter Frederiksen. The spunky and enterprising duo have been generating buzz lately with their festive dance battle, dubbed the Rudolph Dance Off. It's one of the more creative endeavors to hit the town in a jam-packed holiday season filled with events all begging to be milked for attention. But this one--it's a keeper.

The concept? Have some fun. Just dance. Twenty-five dances in the 25 days.
The guys take turns sporting their grooviest dance moves to a variety of pop tunes around a boombox placed in front of a unique and different Chicago locale every outing. The dances are posted online and viewers get to vote for their favorite. It's that simple.

But watch the guys in action and you'll soon realize that their spirited endeavor is more than just a dance off. It's a powerful reminder to, well, lighten up, have some fun and pursue your passions--without thinking about recognition and monetary reward. And in a world where we're told by the minute that fame and status hold more value than, say, following your bliss (shout out to Deepak and Oprah here!), this dance soiree is downright refreshing.

Monnin, who is 34 and lives in Lakeview, and Frederiksen, 27, a Logan Square resident, are taking the competition in the spirit of fun. But the guys have some help behind the scenes. Steph Krout is art director on the project, Joel Witmer directs and Chris Mauck shoots and edits. The gang actually are co-workers at Chicago's Ableson Taylor and the genesis of the idea came from Monnin and Frederiksen's co-workers.

The Dance Off announces a winner on Christmas Day. In the meantime, dive in and see where it all began back at Day One and watch some of the other dances.

Chicago Travel Agent Cheated Muslim Pilgrims Over Hajj Trips, Feds Say

Fri, 2014-12-19 11:32
CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago travel agent is accused of cheating more than 50 Muslim pilgrims by selling them package trips to Mecca without the required Saudi Arabian visas.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports 42-year-old Rashid Minhas was arrested at his Chicago home Thursday on mail fraud charges. A complaint says the deception cost customers $525,000.

The complaint says Minhas lied when he told customers headed to the Hajj pilgrimage that package deals included visas. Prosecutors say Minhas' Light Star Hajj Group didn't have authorization to obtain the visas.

Muslims who can afford it and are physically able are obliged to take the Hajj pilgrimage at least once.

If convicted, Minhas faces a maximum 20-year prison term.

There's no public telephone listing for Minhas. A phone message left at his company wasn't returned.

Tina Fey Parodies NPR In Flawless Vintage Improv Sketch

Fri, 2014-12-19 11:21
As though we needed yet another reminder of Tina Fey’s pre-"Saturday Night Live"/"Mean Girls"/"30 Rock" comedic genius, Chicago’s Second City has us covered once again.

This week, the comedy school where Fey and so many other greats got their starts released freshly unearthed footage of Fey, along with Rachel Dratch, Scott Adsit and others, hilariously spoofing National Public Radio in an incredible 1997 clip.

Prompted by the Second City audience’s suggestion of “bananas!” as the troupe’s subject matter, Fey plays the role of an NPR host leading a segment “exploring the banana, its place in religion and history and art, its resonance in our lives” on a segment of the fictional, perfectly titled “Urban Wind” program.

The incredible segment goes on for 15 minutes, never straying from NPR’s signature sincere-and-scholarly, soft-spoken tone. Dratch’s turn as a University of Chicago professor of creative writing, diarist and jewelry maker living in “a barn house in Wisconsin” is particularly on point. Did we detect a note of "Schweddy Balls" in there?

H/T Chicago Sun-Times

Tina Fey Parodies NPR In Flawless Vintage Improv Sketch

Fri, 2014-12-19 11:21
As though we needed yet another reminder of Tina Fey’s pre-"Saturday Night Live"/"Mean Girls"/"30 Rock" comedic genius, Chicago’s Second City has us covered once again.

This week, the comedy school where Fey and so many other greats got their starts released freshly unearthed footage of Fey, along with Rachel Dratch, Scott Adsit and others, hilariously spoofing National Public Radio in an incredible 1997 clip.

Prompted by the Second City audience’s suggestion of “bananas!” as the troupe’s subject matter, Fey plays the role of an NPR host leading a segment “exploring the banana, its place in religion and history and art, its resonance in our lives” on a segment of the fictional, perfectly titled “Urban Wind” program.

The incredible segment goes on for 15 minutes, never straying from NPR’s signature sincere-and-scholarly, soft-spoken tone. Dratch’s turn as a University of Chicago professor of creative writing, diarist and jewelry maker living in “a barn house in Wisconsin” is particularly on point. Did we detect a note of "Schweddy Balls" in there?

H/T Chicago Sun-Times

Beyond Gov. Quinn's much-questioned appointment, should the Illinois Sports Facility Authority even exist?

Fri, 2014-12-19 11:06
When Gov. Pat Quinn last week appointed his former campaign manager Lou Bertuca as the new head of the Illinois Sports Facilities authority, some Illinoisans were suspicious of the patronage feeling to the situation. But Scott Reeder says the bigger issue is not who Quinn chose to fill the position (even after Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner asked him to hold off on big appointments through the end of his term), but that Illinois has a taxpayer-funded agency in charge of its sports teams at all.

Why on Earth are we giving tax dollars to subsidize the wealthy individuals who own professional sports teams? It makes no sense. It's corporate welfare at its worst. The best excuse I've heard is, other states and cities do it.

Well, sports subsidies got their illegitimate birth right here in the Prairie State. And there is no reason their death can't begin here in the Land of Lincoln as well.

I witnessed first-hand the traumatic delivery of the nation's first major sports subsidy bill.

In the waning minutes of June 30, 1988, then-Gov. James Thompson literally was racing against the clock to pass a $120 million subsidy for the White Sox, who were threatening to move to Florida. The measure needed to pass before midnight, when the legislative session would go into overtime and a supermajority would be needed to pass legislation. The measure had the support of House Speaker Mike Madigan, a diehard Sox fan.

Read the rest of Reeder's sports-and-taxes commentary at Reboot Illinois.

While Illinoisans wonder what to do with that part of the state's financial question, one Illinoisan in particular is being singled out for his influence over one of Illinois' very biggest financial questions. Institutional Investor named Rauner as the number one most influential person in the country when it comes to dealing with pensions crises. As the on-deck leader of the state with the biggest unfunded pension liability in the country, Rauner will certainly have a chance to make a difference, but just how is yet to be seen. See who else from Illinois made the list at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: How bad is legal and illegal corruption in Illinois?

Protesting Across America

Fri, 2014-12-19 09:39

Thousands of people all across the United States are protesting on a daily basis to bring more attention to the issue of 'Excessive Force and Police Brutality' in the United States. As a matter of fact, hundreds of people protested in the UK making this a worldwide issue. The majority of protests have been peaceful demonstrations and blessed are the peacemakers. Congressional staffers also made a statement against police brutality on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Will the protest really lead to some serious changes in the area of police policies and strategies in the African American community?

During the years of 2002-2004 Chicago residents filed ten thousand one hundred and forty nine police brutality cases and only one hundred and twenty four were sustained in court leading to nineteen suspensions of at least one week or more. How can police departments across the nation improve relationships with the community when the data suggest that some police do not want to change? People want change and police officials should be open-minded to making the necessary changes in their policies to ensure that no laws are being violated by their police officers. One out of every eight African American youth charged with breaking the law will be convicted and sentenced to longer periods of time compared to their white counterparts. No one is suggesting that police need to go to jail in record numbers but something has to give. That's why a lot of protestors are chanting "No Justice, No Peace or Black Lives Matter."

Attorney General Eric Holder held a session in Chicago with several community leaders, elected officials, police, and faith based leaders but the grassroots people are still waiting on some solutions to the police brutality problem nationwide.

We cannot continue down this road of uncertainty as it relates to this age old problem of police misconduct. It's time for select elected officials and law enforcement officials to step up and make this issue a priority for the entire nation. Otherwise, the people will continue to protest day in and day out costing cities millions of dollars in police overtime. There is no way in the world that the powers that be should ignore all of the protest as if the protesting will stop soon. The protests have hit the United States like a tsunami with thousands of people joining the fight to end Police Brutality everyday. Lesson can be learned from both sides of the issue and there should be some give and take from the police and the community. This will represent a new beginning for the community and police. If major progress is made in regards to changing policing strategies across the nation in the African American community then all of the protests were definitely worth the time and preparation. The good news is some police departments have already made some changes in their policies and this was due to the mass protest.

10 Awesome Holiday Gift Ideas for That Fitness Lover in Your Life

Fri, 2014-12-19 07:11
The holidays are here... there is a chill in the air, lights everywhere, and Christmas music playing in each store you enter. As you are going through your list of people in your life who deserve a little extra something special, there is always that fitness fanatic you want to get the perfect gift for! Now, this can be tricky, since they tend to have every gadget and gizmo you could imagine, but fear not, here is a little guide to get that person the perfect holiday gift!

1. Jawbone UP24

The newest version of the very popular fitness tracker is now wireless, using Bluetooth-powered wireless syncing to track your fitness, sleep, and daily activity. It can be customized to find the perfect size and color.

2. Garmin Forerunner 15

For that hardcore runner in your life, here is the perfect run companion. This watch tracks distance, pace, heart rate and calories. It has GPS and a fantastic battery life! It also tracks steps and activity throughout the day when you are not out on your long trail runs.

3. Smart Body Analyzer

This scale measures weight, body composition, heart rate and even air quality! This scale can pinpoint your body mass by allowing you to choose your body type, since we all know athletes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. All your data can be securely stored on your smart phone, making it easy to track and follow your health and fitness progress.

4. Move Exercise Kit

This all-in-one exercise kit is truly a full-body workout! There are three different levels to each exercise so it is perfect for beginner, intermediate, and advanced fitness lovers!

5. Trigger Point Foam Roller

Every true fitness lover knows the importance of stretching and rolling used muscles. One of the best foam rollers out there today is the trigger point foam roller, your best and worst friend.
This roller works through your tight muscles and knots to get your body moving and feeling better!

6. Lululemon the mat and towel

This gift is perfect for any yogi. This mat is designed to wick away moisture, when you are getting extra sweaty in some downward dogs. The lulu towel is a great prop to be used on top of the mat. This adds a second layer of protection from sweaty palms and feet. You don't want your bakasana pose turning into a diving crow!

7. Oiselle Arm Warmers

Depending where you live, sometimes the holidays does not mean winter weather. For your fitness lover who runs outdoors, these arm warmers are great for when it isn't quite cold enough for long sleeves but a tank will leave you with a chill. They even have thumbholes, and who doesn't love thumbholes!

8. Umoro One

Here is a little something for that weight lifting, protein buff in your life. The Umoro One is great for carrying protein shakes, meal replacements, water enhancers, and sport supplements. The storage compartment is completely leak proof! Now you don't have to keep plastic baggies of mix with you: just one bottle, a push of a button and BAM.

9. The Run Lock

Tired of shoving your key in your sports bra and socks or hiding it under your tire and hoping that isn't the first place someone will look? Well here is the solution for every runner, hiker, biker, and outdoor fitness enthusiast. Just place your car key inside the run lock compartment and secure it to your car door handle. Genius.

10. Health/Wellness Magazine Subscription

This gift is great for anyone who loves fitness, nutrition, or health in general. There are so many magazines that offer amazing information and tips on fitness, nutrition, health and wellness. You can check ones out like Shape, Fitness, Health, Runners World, Yoga Journal, and many more! Now each month when your special someone receives this in the mail they will be reminded of just how thoughtful you are.

Final 'Colbert Report' Ends With Stephen Colbert Becoming Immortal

Thu, 2014-12-18 23:50
After nine years and 1,447 episodes, Stephen Colbert made his last "Report" on Thursday night, not by killing off the character, as was speculated when it was announced that the Grim Reaper would be his final guest, but by becoming immortal.

Colbert killed Death by shooting him during a game of chess.

"I'm ending the 'Report,' and I was going to say goodbye," Colbert said afterward. "But now that I'll live forever, who knows."

Colbert sang "We'll Meet Again" with Randy Newman on piano and dozens of celebrity guests joining in a massive singalong, including: Jon Stewart, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Mandy Patinkin, Big Bird, Cyndi Lauper, Katie Couric, Barry Manilow, Patrick Stewart, George Lucas, Henry Kissinger, Sen. Cory Booker, Michael Stipe, Willie Nelson and HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington -- just to name a few.

In addition, Colbert was joined remotely by U.S. troops overseas, former President Bill Clinton (who texted his contribution to the song), and Smaug the Dragon from "The Hobbit" films (in which Colbert has a cameo).

The show ended with Colbert on the roof with Captain America's shield crying out "What do I do now?" Then Santa arrived with a unicorn Abraham Lincoln smoking an e-cigarette as well as "the one with all the answers." Hidden at first by a hazy white light, "the one with all the answers" turned out to be Alex Trebek, who asked Colbert to join them in Santa's sleigh.

And with that, Colbert flew off into the night... except for a brief return for a round of thank-yous.

"From eternity, I'm Stephen Colbert," he said from the back of Santa's sleigh, signing off. "Jon?"

"Thanks for that Report, Stephen," Stewart replied from the "Daily Show" studios.

Colbert will take over "The Late Show" from David Letterman next year. Letterman's final episode is scheduled to air on May 20, 2015. The debut of Colbert's "Late Show" has not yet been announced, but there is speculation it will be in August or September.