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Fixing Our Food System Shouldn't Be A Partisan Issue

Fri, 2016-09-23 16:19

Whether it’s the massive amount of food we waste, the burden large agribusinesses places on our environment or the staggering number of children who go to bed hungry every night, the American food system is obviously quite far from perfect.

The question of how to address the above failures is, of course, a tough one. In fact, it’s a question so tough it’s gone mostly ignored, so far, in the presidential contest.

The answers that some call for involve the implementation of further regulations for farmers, food manufacturers and consumers alike, and advances in these areas are often touted as successes by “good food” activists like Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

But not all food rules are good food rules, and many regulations concerning the American food supply have actually had a negative impact on food producers, particularly small ones, while incentivizing instead the sort of practices preferred by larger, corporate producers.

Such is the argument laid out by food writer, attorney and professor Baylen J. Linnekin in his new book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us, out this month.

In just one example, Linnekin points out how the cosmetic standards laid out by the EPA and USDA and adhered to by many retailers result in countless pounds of “ugly” but otherwise delicious produce — an estimated half of all the produce grown in the U.S. — going uneaten.

The book makes a strong case that the biggest issues facing our nation’s food supply are ones deserving of bipartisan solutions — and that those solutions might actually entail fewer, better food laws instead of a spate of new ones.

The Huffington Post recently spoke with Linnekin.

What was the inspiration behind your new book? Who did you write it for?

Obviously, I would never have written the book if I didn’t think sustainability in our food system wasn’t an important goal. But I think people look at sustainability as something that must be supported always by stricter and stricter, more and more, greater and greater regulations. I think that would turn off anyone who identifies as a conservative or libertarian and I think that’s too bad. As I point out in the book, this is not the case.

I think I’m appealing to the people on the ideological right to recognize that there are ways to have a sustainable food system that don’t involve the government telling us everything to do. I’m also pointing out the ways that some on the right, like Michele Bachmann, the former representative of Minnesota, are big recipients of farm subsidies and are hypocrites on these issues. And to the people on the left, I’m suggesting that not all regulations are bad. The book is about how some regulations are bad, and if we’re unwilling to repeal the bad regulations that harm the food system you want to exist, I think you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

None of these are political issues that belong to either the Democratic or Republican or Green or Libertarian Party. These are issues everyone can, should and does care about.
Baylen J. Linnekin, food writer, attorney and professor

This is, essentially, a conservative case for fixing our food system. Would you agree with that assessment?

I should stress that I identify as a libertarian and not a conservative. There are people that I portray in the book, like Thomas Massie, a more libertarian-minded member of Congress who raises grass-fed beef on his farm in Kentucky, who has co-sponsored legislation with Chellie Pingree, a stalwart liberal member of Congress who is, likewise, an organic farmer who lives on an island off Maine. I think that’s a great example of the actual food movement, the people who really care about the small farmers on the ground and the individuals that want to make their own food choices, rather than the sort of politicized food movement. They recognize that so many regulations value large producers over small ones, wasting food and getting in the way of people growing fruits and vegetables in their own yards.

None of these are political issues that belong to either the Democratic or Republican or Green or Libertarian Party. These are issues everyone can, should and does care about. I’m not trying to discourage people from getting too “political” about their food, but I think that when some of the ideology gets in the way of recognizing that there is room for collaborating with people who you don’t agree with on some issues to create meaningful change, you’ve got blinders on. I hope this book will be a way to look at food regulations and food sustainability in a different way such that people will come to see others, whether they be Republicans or Democrats, as a partner on food issues instead of this sort politicized enemy.

In your book you discuss food waste reduction efforts as a promising example of bipartisanship on this. Could food waste activism provide a model of collaboration going forward?

We certainly need less partisanship on issues like this. Some of the good food rules I cited in the book are ones that have tackled food waste. The Emerson Act was named after a Republican congressman who passed away before that law took effect and was sponsored during the Clinton administration, which was not exactly an era of cooperation, but was very successful in the Republican House, and President Clinton signed it gladly. The PATH Act was sponsored by [Republican] John McCain and several Democrats. Those are both efforts to increase food donations with the ultimate goal of reducing both hunger and food waste.

I think food safety is another area where there’s a divide, particularly on the left, between supporters of local food and supporters of increased food safety. I don’t know exactly how to bridge that schism between people like Pollan who identify as local food supporters and people like Marion Nestle who are more aligned with food safety rather than local food. I think my appeal would be for food safety supporters to rally support for regulations that actually make our food safer.

You do criticize some individuals and programs typically revered by the food movement — not only Pollan, but also the Michelle Obama-backed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, as two examples. Were you nervous to air these critiques of folks held dear by many who would be considered your book’s target audience?

I wasn’t the least bit nervous. I think that disagreement and debate is healthy. I’m certainly not lashing out at Pollan [for his support for the Food Safety Modernization Act] or calling him names. I think it’s important to add to the discourse and constructively dialogue with one another. With the first lady and the National School Lunch Program, it’s important to point out that the idea that the first lady created food waste in the program is absurd, but it’s worth noting that food waste has increased due to some of the measures in the act.

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There is obviously a lot of work to be done to get both these “bad” food laws repealed and “good” ones passed. What do you think all of us can do, as consumers and eaters, to speed up progress?

Some of the things I talked about in the book include the role of consumers in, say, ugly fruits and vegetables. The regulations the USDA and EPA have established make wasting the “ugly” fruits and vegetables often times easier than actually picking them at the farm and trying to sell them. The government’s at fault there, full stop. But it’s also incumbent upon consumers to change their behavior and recognize that.

Now, I’m not a food anarchist and this is not a book about eliminating all rules. This is about eliminating the bad ones, but also changing our own behavior and expectations to also improve the food system and make it more sustainable.

Are you optimistic that we are on a path toward a better food system?

I think I am optimistic. I think there is a growing interest and understanding about food and sustainability, and people increasingly care about this even if it’s not sort of traditionally in their political or ideological wheelhouse. I think that trend will only continue.

If you look back maybe 10 years — even 5 years — food waste, for example, was an issue very few people were talking about and now it’s very much at the forefront of the food system. As I note in the book, if food waste were a country in terms of how much waste it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, it would be the third largest country in the world, behind the U.S. and China in terms of its GDP. I think that shows the potential impact reducing our food waste from the 40 percent we currently waste to even cutting it in half would have on both the food issue and climate change.

If readers take one thought away from reading your book, what do you hope that will be? 

I hope that people who are skeptical of sustainable food because they think it’s a system that requires billions of new regulations will read this book and come to embrace sustainability in food not as something that requires this huge new regulatory structure, but as something that would actually benefit from deregulation in many ways.

And I hope supporters of sustainable food who I think are sometimes guilty of thinking we just need more rules will instead recognize that the people arguing against more regulations aren’t always wrong and that perhaps these two groups can meet somewhere in the middle and hold hands and eat a sustainably raised, grass-fed hamburger.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email

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Mired In Personal Attacks, The Kirk-Duckworth Campaign Hasn't Lived Up To Its Billing

Fri, 2016-09-23 14:30

The Mark Kirk-Tammy Duckworth U.S. Senate race early on had all the markings of a campaign that would rise above the personal attacks and innuendo typical of modern politics.

Kirk in 2012 suffered a serious stroke and his recovery won him universal admiration. In his first term in the Senate, Kirk distinguished himself as arguably the most moderate Republican in the chamber.

Duckworth, now serving her second term representing Illinois' Eighth Congressional District, is a decorated war hero who lost both legs and nearly was killed when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2004.

The two candidates have differing views on important issues like immigration and national security, but so far those have not been the focus of the campaigns.

Kirk has done everything possible to link Duckworth to imprisoned former Gov. Rod. Blagojevich, who appointed Duckworth to head the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs. Kirk has made an 8-year-old workplace retaliation lawsuit by two workers at the Anna Veterans' Home a focal point of the campaign. A recent ad featured the plaintiffs in that suit claiming Duckworth retaliated against them to protect Blagojevich.

Duckworth's campaign has sought to link Kirk to Donald Trump and also has emphasized episodes from Kirk's 2010 Senate run in which he was found to have exaggerated his military activities.

The tone of the campaign may change once the candidate meet face to face for their first debate on Oct. 3 at the Chicago Tribune.

That's what we're talking about on this week's "Only in Illinois."

Recommended: Tax burden in Illinois continues to grow, report finds

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'Married... With Children' Star Opens Up About Show's 'Shocking' Cancellation

Fri, 2016-09-23 05:30

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For “Married... With Children” star David Faustino, playing wisecracking son Bud Bundy on the provocative series was something of a dream. Though Faustino wasn’t quite as outgoing as his character, he and the other stars often seemed as close as a real family, and, as Faustino tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, it was the camaraderie and talent on set that made “Married... With Children” a work experience they always wanted to continue.

“It was such a well-oiled machine and so easy and so much fun and we got along so well that I don’t think that any one of us were ready for it to end,” Faustino says. “We were like, ‘Let’s just ride this thing until the wheels fall off.’”

However, the network felt differently. After weekly episodes of the popular show had aired for 10 years, ratings reportedly declined and FOX cancelled “Married... With Children” in a manner that Faustino found extremely abrupt.

“It was pretty shocking,” he says. “They made just a real hard, cold business decision, like, while we were shooting the last season. It was like, ‘Oh, no, we’re cutting it. That’s done.’”

As upset about the cancellation as Faustino and the close-knit cast were, he says that there are others who also took the news pretty hard ― and still do, to this day.

“The fans are really the ones that got kind of screwed over,” he says. “They didn’t get any resolution or end or something cool as a last episode. Fans are still pretty ticked about that.”

Catch up with more celebrities on “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, airing Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. You can also watch full episodes on demand via the Watch OWN app.

Another television favorite:

“Gilligan’s Island” star reveals co-star romance that might have been

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Millie Brown's EXPO CHICAGO Artistic Takeover

Thu, 2016-09-22 16:46
Millie Brown is a British performance artist, who began her career at the age of seventeen. Constantly praised as one of the new YBA's (Youth British Artists), Brown is an artist who explores the synergy and separation of mind, body, and spirit. While she is mostly recognized for her artistic collaborative projects with global icons like Lady Gaga, Millie is committed to expanding her work and continuing to shed light on the natural beauty of the world.

Fortunately for the arts, curators, and art enthusiasts of Chicago, Millie Brown will be bringing her talents to the Windy City during the well-regarded EXPO CHICAGO art exposition which is taking place this upcoming weekend. Hosted by Virgin Hotels Chicago, guests will experience and see the artist's work through a custom paint & glitter splattered painting on Miss Ricky's windows, a "glowing" dinner in the dark, a screening of the artistic visual titled Pendulum, and a live art performance by Millie Brown and music by Pablo Dylan.

All of this artistic amazingness will begin on Thursday, September 22, with an "Illuminating" dinner in the dark hosted by Millie herself and this once in a lifetime experience will be immediately followed by the highly anticipated screening of Pendulum. If you miss any of the fun you can feel free to catch other screenings of Pendulum as well as her displayed work at Virgin Hotels Chicago anytime this weekend.

Millie Brown's Chicago Takeover will come to an end on Sunday, September 25th with a "Glowing" brunch which is also graciously hosted by Millie and Virgin Hotels Chicago. If you are a true artist, a pure creator or just a human who enjoys weird & whacky wildness, you will not want to miss out on this experience! For more information go to in order to learn more about this special Chi-town experience.

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Gun Rights Advocates Go Silent When Trump Wants To Frisk Black People

Thu, 2016-09-22 16:10

WASHINGTON ― The nation’s top gun rights advocates were notably quiet this week after Donald Trump proposed more aggressive stop-and-frisk policing with a focus on taking away people’s guns.

“If they see a person possibly with a gun or they think may have a gun, they will see the person and they’ll look and they’ll take the gun away,” Trump said Thursday on Fox News, laying out his vision of how the practice works. “They’ll stop, they’ll frisk, and they’ll take the gun away and they won’t have anything to shoot with.”

“I mean, how it’s not being used in Chicago is ― to be honest with you, it’s quite unbelievable, and you know the police, the local police, they know who has a gun who shouldn’t be having the gun. They understand that,” Trump added.

The Republican presidential nominee was following up on comments he’d made the previous day at a Fox News town hall event on “African American concerns,” when he said he “would do stop and frisk” to address violence in black communities. (After Wednesday’s interview, Trump’s campaign suggested he was only calling for more stop-and-frisk policing in Chicago.)

All that sounds like the kind of initiative that should disturb gun rights advocates.

As Leon H. Wolf, a writer for the conservative website, put it on Thursday, “Seems like the sort of thing an organization committed to the preservation of the Second Amendment rights of all citizens should be vigilant against and using its considerable political power to oppose, right?”

But spokespersons for the National Rifle Association, (which has endorsed Trump for president), the National Association for Gun Rights and the Second Amendment Foundation did not answer multiple requests for comment in response to Trump’s remarks.

Their silence was not new: Many of the same people arguing for more access to firearms don’t stand by that support when it comes to fellow citizens of color. 

The NRA was criticized earlier this year for taking two days to comment on the death of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot multiple times by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota. Castile had just informed the officer that he had a gun in the car and a permit to carry it. 

Stop-and-frisk tactics have been broadly condemned for disproportionately targeting minorities while only incrementally reducing crime. Such efforts were even found unconstitutional in New York because they amounted to racial profiling. But a vigorous stop-and-frisk policy was championed by then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has endorsed Trump. 

Black gun rights activists were, in fact, more willing to speak out against stop-and-frisk policies on Thursday. Philip Smith, founder of the National African American Gun Association, said he’s always concerned when people talk about taking away firearms.

“Thinking someone has a gun as opposed to them actually doing something with a gun illegally is two different things,” Smith said. As for police stopping and frisking more people, he said, “I think that’s the wrong way to go to have any kind of community building and community relations.”

Smith said he still wasn’t sure whom he’ll support for president. Neither is Maj Toure, who founded the group Black Guns Matter.

“That particular thing that he said about trying to add more stop and frisk: no,” Toure said. “That is directly adverse toward people’s constitutional rights to exist without being harassed.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for clarification of his remarks.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly .com/entry/donald-trump-violence_us_56e1f16fe4b0b25c91815913">incites political violence and is a serial liar .com/entry/9-outrageous-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-latinos_55e483a1e4b0c818f618904b">rampant xenophobe .com/entry/donald-trump-racist-examples_us_56d47177e4b03260bf777e83">racist .com/entry/18-real-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-women_us_55d356a8e4b07addcb442023">misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Stop The Killing

Thu, 2016-09-22 16:01
Maybe half a million dead, half a country -- 10 million people -- displaced from their homes, jettisoned onto the mercy of the world.

Welcome to war. Welcome to Syria.

This is a conflict apparently too complex to understand. The U.S. brokered a ceasefire with Russia, then proceeded to lead a bombing strike that killed 62 Syrian troops, injured another hundred -- and gave tactical aid to ISIS. Later it apologized . . . uh, sort of.

"Russia really needs to stop the cheap point scoring and the grandstanding and the stunts and focus on what matters, which is implementation of something we negotiated in good faith with them."

These are the words of U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, as reported by Reuters, who went on to point out, with exasperation, that the U.S. was investigating the air strikes and "if we determine that we did indeed strike Syrian military personnel, that was not our intention and we of course regret the loss of life."

And. We. Of. Course. Regret. The. Loss. Of. Life.

Oh, the afterthought! I could almost hear the "yada, yada" hovering in the air. Come on, this is geopolitics. We implement policy and make crucial adjustments to the state of the world by dropping bombs -- but the bombing isn't the point (except maybe to those who get hit). The point is that we're playing complex, multidimensional chess, with, of course, peace as our ultimate goal, unlike our enemies. Peace takes bombs.

But just for a moment, I would like to step back into the middle of that quote by Samantha Power and point out that, in the wake, let us say, of 9/11, no one in the United States, speaking in any capacity, official or unofficial, would have spoken thus about the victims: with cursory regret. The fact that their deaths occurred in a complex global context didn't somehow minimize the horror of the event.

No. Their deaths cut to the national soul. Their deaths were our deaths.

But not so with the dead of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan -- not so with the victims of our bombs and bullets, the victims of our strategic vision. Suddenly the dead become part of some larger, more complex picture, and thus not our business to stop. The "regret" we express is for PR purposes only; it's part of the strategy.

So I give thanks to Jimmy Carter who, in a recent op-ed published in the New York Times, took a moment to look beyond the moral unintelligence of our militarized worldview. Speaking of the fragile Syrian "ceasefire" brokered by the United States and Russia, he wrote: "The agreement can be salvaged if all sides unite, for now, around a simple and undeniably important goal: Stop the killing."

He presented this not as a moral imperative but a strategically smart plan:

"When talks resume in Geneva later this month, the primary focus should be stopping the killing. Discussions about the core questions of governance -- when President Bashar al-Assad should step down, or what mechanisms might be used to replace him, for example -- should be deferred. The new effort could temporarily freeze the existing territorial control . . ."

Let the government, the opposition and the Kurds keep their arms, focus on stabilizing the territory they control and guarantee "unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, a particularly important demand given the strike on an aid convoy near Aleppo," he wrote, detailing some of the long-term realities and urgent needs any legitimate peace negotiations must confront.

Compare this with the simplistic moral righteousness of bombing our way to peace. Last June, for instance, the Times reported: "More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration's policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country's five-year-old civil war. . . .

"The memo concludes," the Times informs us, "'It is time that the United States, guided by our strategic interests and moral convictions, lead a global effort to put an end to this conflict once and for all.'"

Oh yeah, that should pretty much fix everything. War is addictive, whether you wage it from a terrorist cell or from some perch in the military-industrial complex of the most powerful country on the planet.

The Center for Citizen Initiatives responded at the time: "Similar statements and promises have been made regarding Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. In all three cases, terrorism and sectarianism have multiplied, the conflicts still rage, and huge amounts of money and lives have been wasted."

The statement, signed by 16 peace activists, also says: "We are a group of concerned U.S. citizens currently visiting Russia with the goal of increasing understanding and reducing international tension and conflict. We are appalled by this call for direct U.S. aggression against Syria, and believe it points to the urgent need for open public debate on U.S. foreign policy."

The time is now. Foreign policy should no longer be classified, hidden, the province of an unelected government engaged in a game of global chess and high-tech terror, a.k.a., endless war.

Peace starts with three words: Stop the killing.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Contact him at or visit his website at


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Politifact Illinois Can Fact-Check, But Can't Make Politicians Listen

Thu, 2016-09-22 12:46

On Sept. 15, a fact check I researched and wrote for PolitiFact Illinois gave a "Mostly True" rating to Tammy Duckworth's statement that Mark Kirk had embellished his military record "at least 10 times."

One of the 10 incidents on which the statement was based, I found, had been updated since its initial publication and should not have been included on the list. Nine out of 10 ain't bad, but it's also not "at least 10."

A few weeks earlier, I had checked a statement by Gov. Bruce Rauner in which he said Democrats "are cutting our school funding. Four times in the last 10 years before we came into office." This statement earned a "Mostly False" rating because state school funding -- the part controlled by Democrats in the years in question -- had gone up slightly. Overall funding had declined not because Democrats cut it, but because federal stimulus money went away.

Fast-forward to Monday morning, Sept. 19. A new TV ad by Mark Kirk's campaign featured the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Duckworth accusing her of covering up abuse of veterans while serving as director of veterans affairs to protect then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

How did the Duckworth campaign respond? It issued a statement that included the line, "Senator Kirk, on the other hand, has lied at least ten times about his own military record."

As that news was breaking, I was attending a press conference in which Gov. Bruce Rauner answered a question about changing the system by which the state funds schools. Rauner said this was a major concern because "four times in the prior 10 years to me becoming governor the Legislature cut school funding. It's... atrocious what we've done to our public schools."

We didn't partner with PolitiFact because we expected politicians to heed our rulings as gospel and change their messages -- though we'd like them to consider it. The fact-checking we do is intended to give citizens/voters a clearer look at what's behind the statements their leaders make.

As demonstrated above, once a message becomes engrained in an official's platform, it's probably not going to change, no matter how much we point out the inaccuracies behind it. Political campaigns paint with the broadest of brushes and they rarely yield the canvas to those who point out what they consider to be minute, subjective technicalities. And in political messaging, unfortunately, the ends generally are considered to justify the means.

As a voter, though, you deserve to know what kind of evidence goes into building these claims.

I'd write more but an urgent email from the Tammy Duckworth campaign -- subject line: "BREAKING: Kirk's new lie about his military record" just dropped into my inbox:

Mark Kirk has told at least 10 different lies about his military service during his political career....

I guess "at least nine" doesn't pack quite the same punch.

Recommended: Top 25 best and worst cities for Illinois homeowners

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Carson Wentz Is Exceeding Even The Loftiest Expectations In Philly

Thu, 2016-09-22 11:33

One-year starters in high school are not supposed to do this. Neither are FCS quarterbacks with scant Division 1 interest. But then, Carson Wentz isn’t your normal 23-year-old rookie quarterback.

While his counterpart, No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, rides the bench with a clipboard for the Los Angeles Rams, Wentz has calmly helped the Philadelphia Eagles start a season 2-0. And he’s done so without committing a turnover ― a feat that no rookie quarterback has ever accomplished. In fact, Wentz is just the fourth rookie QB since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger to win his first two starts.

What seems to separate Wentz, whom Philly traded up for to select with the second pick last April, is not merely the remarkable physical tools, but the intelligent pre-snap reads, surprising toughness and sound mechanics. Having a 6-foot-5, 237-pound frame, along with a cannon arm and deft feet, doesn’t hurt either. 

As I first reported on April 14, Jared Goff is #Rams choice. The decision is now final, source confirms. #NFLDraft

— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) April 26, 2016

On Monday Night Football, with the entire nation watching his first-ever road start, Wentz came out slinging, throwing six straight passes and completing 8-9 on the Eagles’ opening drive, including a crucial fourth-down conversion. So much for Eagles rookie head coach Doug Pederson’s plan to ease his young signal caller into the game.

“He’s commanding the huddle,” Pederson ― himself a former NFL quarterback who took over for the controversial Chip Kellysaid after his team’s 29-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. “It’s something a nine-, 10-year veteran would do. It’s showing his maturity and the ability that he has to play quarterback.”

Talk to anyone around the league ― offensive players, defensive, coaches, GMs ― and they will all tell you that playing quarterback in today’s NFL requires more savvy and intelligence than ever before. Formations are considerably more complicated than even 10 years ago, when guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Phillip Rivers were entering the league. And defenses have developed counters to answer the trendy spread and up-tempo offensive schemes. Just the language quarterbacks now have to use can seem foreign.

While his numbers are good, they’re nothing a fantasy football owner would think twice about. He has completed nearly 61 percent of his passes to go along with three touchdowns. But what makes him so special and rare is the overall command ― the ability to check out of a running play to the left because he reads blitz, only to call a run away from the blitz. Or changing his protection with a disguised safety blitz. Or even bouncing back from a surefire touchdown after an inexcusable Jordan Matthews dropped pass right before halftime.

It’s only been two games, against the Bears and lowly Browns, but Wentz has executed his offense to near perfection.

These are things that longtime NFL quarterbacks struggle with ― just look at Jay Cutler on Monday ― and yet Wentz, who played his collegiate ball at North Dakota State and has yet to throw a pick, looks like a seasoned vet.

Perhaps Wentz’s confidence stems from those collegiate days, where winning and marshaling the line of scrimmage became habitual. The North Carolina native (his family moved to North Dakota when he was 3 years old) won five consecutive national titles, two of which came with him under center.

It’s ironic that it took a Teddy Bridgewater injury and Sam Bradford trade for Wentz to become the starter in Philly. Remember, he suffered a hairline rib fracture early in training camp and had been considered the third string option, slotted behind both Bradford and pricey free agent acquisition Chase Daniel.

But his time, unlike Goff, is clearly right now.

“I just have fun with it,” Wentz told SportsCenter after the game. “You just gotta have confidence. Confidence goes a long way.”

Email me at, ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report. Also, check out my SiriusXM Radio show, weekdays from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. ET on Bleacher Report channel 83.

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Theaster Gates Wants to Turn Former Chicago Police Station Into Art Center

Wed, 2016-09-21 13:48

This article originally appeared on artnet News. 

Chicago artist Theaster Gates has revealed plans to establish an arts center in a disused police station on the city’s South Side.

The police station was shuttered in 2012 in a cost cutting effort by police that combined the city’s Prairie and Wentworth districts.

At a community meeting in the city’s 4th ward on September 19, Gates laid out a $7.5 million plan to refurbish the building and transform it into an arts center. The artist proposed to reopen the space for artisans working with ceramics, metalwork, and glass, corresponding to the career center’s focus on training students to become tradesmen. “If we can get that started, it’s very easy to imagine jewelry classes,” Gates added.

According to DNA Info, the audience gathered at a career center in the Douglas neighborhood of Chicago was largely supportive of the proposal.

In response to questions over how he plans to integrate the community’s relationship with the police into the building, the artist said that “simply reactivating the building feels like a step in the right direction.”

Gates told DNA Info that he initially wanted to include the police station in a $10.25 million dollar civic building revival project sponsored by four major foundations that is part of the four-city “Reimagine the Civic Commons” initiative. He couldn’t gain approval from the city in time because of the resignation of former 4th ward alderman Will Burns, who stepped down this February.

Newly-appointed 4th ward alderman Sophie King told DNA Info after the meeting that she would like to meet Gates one-on-one to discuss his proposal in detail before handing the building over to him. “Theaster has a great track record in the city and I would have to have him come into the community,” she said.

Meanwhile Gates told the audience that the project could be completed by 2019. “Our hope is this will be part of our next three years of ‘placemaking’ he said.

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20 of the Best Eats on Illinois Route 66

Tue, 2016-09-20 10:16

The 300-mile stretch of Route 66 that connects Chicago to St. Louis is a treasure trove of roadside attractions, historic sites and good eats.

With so many restaurants dotted along the Mother Road, it's tough to pick out which ones best capture the nostalgic charm that draws travelers from all over the world.

While this isn't a definitive list of the best restaurants on Route 66, they are some of the most famous and best reviewed.

In no particular order, here are 20 must-try restaurants on Illinois Route 66.

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Rauner Denies Connection to Anti-Madigan Documentary

Tue, 2016-09-20 10:03


I have not yet viewed the Illinois Policy Institute's upcoming documentary, "Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics.," but I'm prepared to make a prediction: Its release next month will have a hard time matching the buzz stirred up in the last few days by news of its very existence.

Seldom has the connecting of dots in current events been as compelling as it's been since news broke about this project on Sept. 15.

Rauner's statement (above) at a Sept. 19 press conference that he knew nothing in advance about the Madigan video, to be released by the lobbying arm of the policy institute, only made this whole story better. I was in the room and heard no audible guffaws when Rauner said it, but the vibe of suppressed eye-rolling among the media was unmistakable. At least to me.

The Illinois Policy Institute bankrolls a professionally produced, 60-minute documentary about Rauner's nemesis -- House Speaker Michael Madigan -- for release just before an election that will test whether Rauner has cut into Madigan's iron-grip power in the General Assembly and Rauner had no idea it was coming?  Good one.

Back story

Before he became a candidate for governor, Bruce Rauner's family foundation had donated $625,000 to the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank founded in 2002 and dedicated to "generating public policy solutions aimed at promoting personal freedom and prosperity in Illinois," its website says.  "I'm a free-market conservative, and I've supported many causes around the nation for free-market conservative principles," Rauner told The State Journal-Register in Springfield in 2013.

With a large staff at its offices in Chicago and Springfield and several specialized subsidiaries -- Illinois Policy Action (lobbying), Illinois News Network (news and opinion), Illinois Radio Network (radio news), Liberty Justice Center (litigation) -- the policy institute has become arguably the state's strongest force in conservative advocacy. When Rauner took office, the institute became a staunch proponent of the business and political reforms in his Turnaround Agenda.

Inner circle

A report in the Daily Herald on Sept. 12 showed that Rauner regards the policy institute as more than just an external advocate. Illinois Policy Institute CEO John Tillman recently was on a panel, along with Rauner, interviewing candidates to replace departing state Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine. As columnist Kerry Lester reported:
After initially staying out of the process of selecting a replacement for departing GOP state Sen. Matt Murphy, the governor's office and its allies have jumped into the fray. They held interviews for the six candidates Friday in Chicago. Among those questioning the candidates were the governor, chief political strategist Mike Zolnierowicz, John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute and Senate GOP Leader Christine Radogno.
That report prompted Rich Miller, publisher of Capitol Fax whose weekly column appears in Reboot Illinois, to comment:
Also, some folks are really starting to get nervous about all the influence that John Tillman appears to wield over Rauner these days.

Three days later, Natasha Korecki of Politico Illinois reported that the documentary was in the works:
Illinois Policy Action, an arm of the Illinois Policy Institute, is backing a new documentary called "Madigan: Power, privilege, politics," which the group has dubbed "an unprecedented look at the life and influence of Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, one of the state's most powerful political figures of all time."

The 60-minute documentary is to be released in October -- weeks before the November election -- and will be available online and at "select movie theaters throughout the state," a statement from Illinois Policy said.
The trailer for "Madigan: Power. Privilege. Politics." makes it clear that this documentary is intended to be to Madigan what "Hillary: the Movie" was to Hillary Clinton in 2008.

But that's not how it was billed to potential interview subjects who were sought by the production company.

Miller, who just days earlier had noted on his blog concerns by some Republicans about Tillman's increasing influence on Rauner, said he felt "duped" into doing an interview for the video. In a post titled "Duped," he explained:
This is the explanation I was given by the documentary's producer...
'Emergent Order, based out of Austin TX is trying to create a dialogue about why the state of Illinois is in poor shape. Many fingers have been pointed at Michael Madigan, but we're trying to do a fair/balanced piece about what's really at the center of it all. We've interviewed both people who support and dispute that Madigan is to blame. Interested in your take on that and any other relevant info you'd be willing to contribute.'

State Journal-Register political columnist Bernard Schoenburg, whose voice can be heard quizzing Rauner about the documentary in the clip at the top of this post, followed up with Miller for his Sept. 18 column.

""I ... wouldn't have consented if the project was backed by the Illinois AFL-CIO, either," Miller told Schoenburg.

No press is bad press

All this adds up to a raft of free publicity that has ginned up a level of interest much higher than usually could be expected for this kind of project.

As already noted, though, I suspect the final product will have a hard time living up to the anticipation created by this dust-up. Like "Hillary: The Movie," it'll be dismissed by detractors of the Illinois Policy Institute and Rauner (even if he really didn't know about it) as propaganda and hailed as gospel by those who already want Madigan out.

In other words, it'll be a nice metaphor for the Rauner-Madigan rivalry over the last 18 months.

Recommended: 20 must-try restaurants along Illinois Route 66

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How U.S. Cities Might Look If They Polluted Like China

Fri, 2016-09-16 11:34

American cities would probably look radically different if we hadn’t taken major steps to limit air pollution. For example, you might not be able to see them at all.

New visualizations from Save on Energy, a company that lets consumers compare electricity plans, imagine life without the regulations enshrined in the Clean Air Act.

The images show what several U.S. cities might look like today if air contamination matched the levels in Xingtai, an industrial Chinese city that’s home to more than 7 million people ― as well as constant smog and some of the worst air pollution in the world.

Here’s New York City:

Save on Energy determined the potential air pollution levels, measured by the concentration of fine particles in the air, by using Xinghai’s pollution levels and adjusting for each U.S. city’s population. The company then considered how that would affect visibility, and applied an equivalent smog filter to images of each city. 

The World Health Organization, which tracks cities’ smog levels, ranked Xingtai as the city with the eighth worst air pollution in the world earlier this year. Seven other Chinese cities were in the top 50 of WHO’s rankings, though the country is trying to tackle its pollution problem.

Air pollution comes from a number of sources, including emissions associated with cars, factories and power plants. The energy industry is a major contributor to air pollution, which plays a role in health problems like heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Air pollution is linked to the early deaths of about 6.5 million people a year worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency.

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The Clean Air Act, originally passed in 1970, created restrictions on different kinds of harmful emissions and tasked the Environmental Protection Agency with making sure businesses complied. Between 1970 and 2014, emission levels of six common pollutants (particles, ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide) dropped about 69 percent in the U.S., according to the EPA.

“Without these regulations, the air in U.S. cities could be as bad, if not worse, than that of Chinese cities,” the Save on Energy report states. “Rather than stretching up into a clear blue skyline, U.S. cities would be polluted with smog, limiting visibility and posing a public health risk to everyone exposed to it.”

Still, more than half of Americans are breathing unhealthy air where they live, and there remain plenty of challenges to reducing air pollution. Last year, the EPA strengthened regulations limiting ground-level ozone pollution. The House of Representatives promptly passed a bill catering to business groups that would delay the change to EPA standards by a decade

Here’s what eight other U.S. cities might look like if their pollution levels matched Xingtai’s.


Kate Abbey-Lambertz covers sustainable cities, housing and inequality. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.   


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Poll: 62% of Chicago Voters Support Sales Tax Hike on Booze to Fund Mental Health, Drug Treatment

Thu, 2016-09-15 12:09
Concern over funding for mental health care and drug treatment services is acute enough that even tax-weary Chicago voters back a sales tax hike on hooch to provide more money to those programs, a new poll says.
Despite registering overwhelming opposition to a flight of property tax and water/sew fee increase questions to bolster public employee pension funds, respondents to an August 29 automated poll commissioned by The Illinois Observer finds that Chicago voters strongly back "a plan to raise the state sales tax on beer, wine, and liquor to provide more money for mental health care and drug treatment"
The survey of 582 likely 2016 voters, which was conducted by Illinois Public Opinion Strategies, Inc., reveals that 62.6% back "approve" of the sales tax plan hike and 26.2% "disapprove" and 11.2% are undecided. The poll's margin of error was +/- 4.75%.
Mental health care and drug treatment services have deep wells of public support in Chicago.
The survey says that a whopping 83.7% of voters want to "invest more money for mental health care" and just a fraction, 9.0%, want to "invest less." A minuscule 7.3% are undecided. Support for drug treatment lags but still draws a robust 63.0% support from those voters who want to "invest more money" compared to 22.6% who want to "invest less." 14.4% are undecided.
Statewide, a July 26 automated poll commissioned by The Illinois Observer of 826 likely voters found that 70.1% back "investing more money in mental health care" and that 55.4% support the same for drug treatment.
Behavioral healthcare advocates have long eyed a "sin tax" on booze to fund mental health and addiction programs, but have come up short in their advocacy to create a dedicated revenue stream.
But as lawmakers mull a post-election "grand bargain" on the budget with Governor Bruce Rauner and with the political pull that those programs now have - witness Hillary Clinton's 7-point mental health care plan rolled out recently - such a tax could be in the mix for revenue-starved Illinois.
Of course, the powerful Illinois Beer Distributors Association, which possesses great sway among lawmakers and a cash-rich PAC, would, among other influential players, likely stand in the way.
Still, with a heroin crisis digging in its heels across Illinois and a bi-partisan legislative consensus that pledges support for mental health after each firearm-linked massacre in the U.S., lawmakers could find themselves forced to fork over more cash for behavioral health in any budget deal.
Or not.
Lawmakers handed the Beer Distributors and other special interest groups a big victory last year when they approved the return of happy hour drink specials to Illinois bars, a move aimed at boosting the bottom line of the state's hospitality industry. Behavioral health care advocates may be tempted to say to legislators that they should share in the happy hour bounty, whatever it is.
They could also pointedly note - at least to Chicago lawmakers - that their causes are far more popular than happy hour.
The Insider poll finds that just 44.5% of Chicago voters approve of lawmakers' votes to return happy hour to bars and that 38.8% disapprove. 16.7% are woozily undecided.
Both sides may have to belly up to the rail and battle it out.

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Stop Suspending Driver's Licenses For Unpaid Fees

Thu, 2016-09-15 12:03
Alyssa's nightmare experience with the debt trap of fines and fees in our criminal justice system began with a $25 ticket. It ended with a total bill of $2,900.

The first ticket was for failing to update the home address on her driver's license within the 10 days required by California law, an oversight we could all make. But Alyssa, like so many Americans living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to survive, couldn't afford to pay the fine.

A traffic judge suspended her license, and she continued to accumulate fees and penalties for late payment until she owed almost $3,000. Worse, Alyssa lost her job as a bus driver and now is forced to rely on public assistance to survive.

How did a single ticket end in disaster for Alyssa?

Look no further than the cruel, ineffective system of fines, fees, and suspended licenses that has trapped Americans across the country.

Since 2010, all but three states have increased the number and amount of fees and fines for civil and criminal charges - on top of the original penalties. In some cases, counties finance court costs through these fees, giving judges every incentive to charge poor defendants ever-higher fines.

These charges have a way of multiplying exponentially.

In Alyssa's home state of California, for example, fees and penalties can raise a $100 fine to $490, or $815 if the initial deadline is missed. A $500 traffic ticket can actually cost $1,953, even if it is paid on time.

As fines for everything from broken taillights to court appearances increase, many Americans are left unable to pay, and courts rarely consider people's ability to pay when assessing penalties. Faced with a tide of people unable to pay escalating fees, courts have responded in the least helpful manner possible: By regularly suspending driver's licenses.

In Virginia, nearly 1,000,000 people (1 out of every 6 people in the state,) had suspended driver's licenses due to one or more unpaid court costs or fines.

Last year, the DMV suspended almost 400,000 driver's licenses because of unpaid fines or fees - and 38 percent of those were for charges completely unrelated to driving.

Nationwide, 40 percent of people who lose their driver's licenses do so for reasons that have nothing to do with bad driving.

Experts say that not having a driver's license is one of the biggest barriers to getting a job.

In Texas, there are around 1.8 million people whose licenses have been revoked for failure to pay justice system fees and fines. The same is true of nearly 1 in 6 California drivers. These Americans are disproportionately black, brown, and poor. Many simply don't have the money to pay.

Suspending a license does not magically fill an empty bank account.

There is no evidence that suspending licenses helps recoup fees or change behavior. It just makes life harder - and can even trap people in a cycle of debt.

Experts say that not having a driver's license is one of the biggest barriers to getting a job.

Even if you have a job, losing your license could make it impossible to get there. You may be unable to get your kids to school. And if you have no choice but to drive, and are caught? You could face misdemeanor charges, more and more fines, higher and higher fees.

You can even go to jail.

James Goodwin has a family with six young children. He paid thousands of dollars and served 7 months in jail for failure to pay a $35 traffic fine.

Kenneth Seay of Tennessee wants to work, but has trouble holding a good job because his driver's license was revoked and he keeps being tossed in jail for his inability to pay nearly $5,000 in penalties. Angel Hinton owns her own business. After missing a court date for expired tags that she wasn't notified of, there was a warrant issue for her arrest, and she struggles to work without being able to drive.

There are countless such stories, of Americans ground beneath the gears of a justice system that is too often unjust and ineffective.

So what can we do?

Thankfully, there are courageous organizations leading the charge to end this abuse. The Brennan Center is a non-partisan public policy institute dedicated to fundamental issues of democracy and justice, with criminal justice debt at the forefront of their work.

They have released a powerful report on the failures of the current system, and a toolkit with materials and suggestions for better policies. Today, the Brennan Center is working with the Texas Public Policy Foundation under an Arnold Foundation grant to conduct a study to measure when and if issuing fines and fees makes financial sense.

Suspending driver's licenses takes people who are poor, and traps them in debt. It takes Americans hanging on by a thread, and robs them of their livelihoods.

The Texas Fair Defense Project filed a class action federal lawsuit against the City of Austin and the practices of the Austin Municipal Court on behalf of plaintiffs like Valerie Gonzales, who struggled with traffic fees and suspended licenses. It's part of their ongoing battle against policies that create modern-day debtors' prisons filled with poor people unable to pay court imposed fines and fees. They push for reforms that would allow indigent individuals to participate in pretrial diversion programs currently unavailable to them, instead of being trapped in debt.

In Virginia, the Legal Aid Justice Center, which provides legal representation for low-income individuals, filed a federal class action lawsuit against the state's DMV in July. The lawsuit claims Virginia's practice unconstitutional stating:

Those who can afford to pay, generally do, but hundreds of thousands of people have lost their licenses simply because they are too poor to pay, effectively depriving them of reliable, lawful transportation.

Suspending driver's licenses takes people who are poor, and traps them in debt. It takes Americans hanging on by a thread, and robs them of their livelihoods.

Those who are trying to change their lives after serving time, it puts on a path back to jail. And it does little to make the rest of us safer or more secure.

We need to start unraveling the net of fines and fees capturing millions of Americans - and ending the punitive practice of revoking licenses is the place to start.

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Senator Skewers GOP's Irrational Fear Of Refugees

Wed, 2016-09-14 16:30

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WASHINGTON ― President Barack Obama’s decision to bring 110,000 more refugees to America next year “is principled and is necessary,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Wednesday, arguing that Republicans who oppose the move have an inexplicable and misplaced fear that people who claim to need help will actually be terrorists.

“The number of refugees in the world today is at an all-time high,” Durbin told reporters in his Capitol Hill office when asked about the administration’s decision. “We are facing a true humanitarian crisis when it comes to Syria and the people who have been displaced by that war.”

Republicans have hammered the Obama administration’s new plans to increase the number of refugees. About 85,000 refugees were settled in the United States this year, including 10,000 Syrians.  

“The American people do not support these radical plans, which amount to a complete betrayal from their leaders in Washington,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, said of the news.

Republicans have been especially opposed to Syrian refugees, arguing that they pose too great a threat to be allowed into the United States, at least for the time being.

But Durbin pointed to Canada, which has already accepted more than 25,000 Syrians, and to European allies that have taken in about 1 million of some 5 million displaced people.

“The United States can and should do more,” Durbin said, emphasizing that he thought 100,000 Syrian refugees would be a good number, considering the need.

He argued that it makes no sense for Republicans to fear terrorism from people who are themselves fleeing terrorists ― especially since refugees must go through a lengthy screening process that has a strong track record.

“For the record, 800,000 refugees have been accepted in the United States since 9/11,” Durbin said. “Not one has been engaged in domestic terrorism. All right?”

The senator appeared to be overlooking a handful of cases that could be tied to terrorism, but his larger point still stands: The number of refugees linked to terror activities in the United States is minuscule, according to an extensive analysis by the Cato Institute that found 20 examples of refugees linked to terrorism out of more than 3.2 million refugees admitted since 1975.

Durbin said Republicans would be much better off focusing on the nation’s massive flow of visitors who receive no background checks.

“We have 20 million visa waiver visitors to the United States each year,” he said. “If you want to talk about security and foreigners in this country, for goodness sakes, if we did a fingerprint, biometric investigation or evidence accumulation before they got on board the plane, [it’s] not too much to ask, and it would make us safer.”

“Why the Republicans, in particular, are focused so much on these heavily vetted refugees, who have a history of being good citizens when they become part of America, I don’t understand,” he added. “Let us focus instead on vulnerabilities, and one of them is the visa waiver program.”

Elise Foley contributed reporting.

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The Dakota Access Pipeline Is An Example Of A Much Bigger Problem

Wed, 2016-09-14 10:58

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline is showing no signs of losing momentum.

Last week, protesters looking to block the construction of the massive oil pipeline in North Dakota scored a significant, if temporary, victory as three federal departments halted the project and placed it under review, overruling a federal judge’s denial of the tribe’s request for an emergency injunction.

The protesters have argued that the pipeline construction will disturb sacred lands and burial grounds. In addition, the tribe is worried about the environmental impact of the pipeline, since it will run under the Missouri River, which supplies the tribe’s drinking water.

The tribe has attracted thousands of supporters to its protest site, including representatives of more than 200 other tribes. Solidarity demonstrations have been held throughout the world.

On Tuesday, Kelcy Warren, CEO of Energy Transfer Projects, the pipeline’s developer, defended the project that will transport oil across 1,200 miles from North Dakota to southern Illinois. In a letter, Warren downplayed its cultural impact and called the protesters’ water safety concerns “unfounded.”

But amid the controversy about the project comes the question of what comes next.

To answer that, we must better understand how we got here in the first place.

Doug Hayes, a staff attorney at the Sierra Club, has been involved with a number of battles over the construction of oil pipelines, including the Keystone XL, which the Obama administration rejected last year.

Hayes sees what’s happening in North Dakota as the latest in a series of recent pipeline projects convened without federal agencies undergoing the necessary environmental review processes. The agencies’ inaction, he argues, has put other communities at risk of oil spills and often threatened the safety of their drinking water sources and local ecosystems.

But Hayes says there’s something unique at work in this particular battle. The Huffington Post recently spoke with the attorney about the Dakota Access protests and what may be different this time.

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What is the historical context for what is happening with the Dakota Access pipeline?

I would say the main point in terms of historical context is that these oil pipelines — the Keystone XL, Enbridge and other companies’ pipeline expansions throughout the Great Lakes region, the growing natural gas pipeline buildout — have always undergone an environmental impact statement that looks at the impacts and alternatives and so forth before they are allowed to go forward. It’s required by law under the National Environmental Policy Act. The Keystone XL controversy really was a turning point. Since then, we’ve seen the Army Corps of Engineers, in particular, and other agencies basically approve pipeline after pipeline without any environmental impact statements. That’s what happened here.

To put a finer point on it, the tribes are concerned about, among other things, water quality, and no agency has ever analyzed the risks or impacts of oil spilling from this pipeline, in any state of review. Not a single word.

The way the Corps has begun avoiding this transparent process is through what’s called nationwide permit 12. It’s essentially a blanket permit for pipelines up to a half-acre of impact, a pre-issued permit. The Corps has begun treating these 1,200-mile pipelines like a series of half-acre projects that each qualify under that exemption. This is a general permit that doesn’t mention oil spills or climate impacts and never talks about Native American tribes and cultural significance and sacred sites.

Obviously there are a number of unique layers to this fight: the historic coming together of tribal communities and other groups, including even some farmers, against this. Is that what makes this battle so unique?

This is an unprecedented coming together of tribes around the country and the world, really. It’s not just an environmentalist issue, though there are certainly a lot of environmental concerns we care deeply about. It’s ranchers in very often conservative parts of the country that are seeing their land taken away by corporations to build these pipelines through their property through imminent domain, for the private gain of these corporations. In the Keystone XL fight, that was a good example of this, a pretty diverse coalition of groups coming together — the tribes in South Dakota and Nebraska were crucial in that fight, as well as landowners along the pipeline.

The first Keystone XL pipeline was supposedly the safest one ever built and it spilled oil 12 times in its first year of operation. One of those times, there was a 60-foot geyser of oil in South Dakota that a local rancher just happened to see and called into the pipeline company. And with this pipeline in particular, they originally proposed to build it near Bismarck, but they determined that it’s a more highly populated, higher-income part of the state and they were worried about the stress to their water supply. So they moved it out to the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and its drinking water supply. I think that decision is a perfect example of what sparked such an outrage here.

This is not the first time a controversial project like this has been placed on or near tribal land and threatened water quality for Native communities, of course. How does that trend play into what’s happening here?

The short answer is it’s easier for the industry to build these without significant opposition in places where there are lower-income communities. There are the massive oil spills you hear about on the news several times a year, but there are hundreds of others that happen too.

The Kalamazoo spill in Michigan was an incident where the pipeline spilled for 17 hours into the river before they detected it. Then you have really egregious examples like just last week in Louisiana. In the last three years, there have been over 200 crude oil spills. They happen all the time. And those are just the ones where you get the data. All the pipelines’ leak detection systems are only set up to detect spills of greater than 2 percent [of their liquid]. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you have a pipeline pumping 470,000 barrels of oil every day, it is. These pipelines are often seeping or leaking in small places and we don’t have any way to detect them. These are the types of concerns the tribes have and they’re, frankly, very well-founded.

There’s also the issue of drilling these pipelines under waterways, like they are in the Missouri River by the Standing Rock reservation. The Yellowstone River spill several years ago was an instance where the river pipeline drilled under the river eventually eroded and spilled up into the river. It’s a whole other series of issues that haven’t been addressed here. 

Given the Obama administration’s action to block the pipeline, are you optimistic that more good news is coming for the protesters?

It’s definitely a great and encouraging first step. The administration is clearly listening to the Standing Rock tribe and its indigenous allies that have gathered there and we’re hopeful they’ve committed to looking at the process and whether a further environmental review is needed. I think the answer to that is clearly “yes.”

With a project of this magnitude — 1,200 miles going through the ancestral lands of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal nations and communities along the pipeline route — there’s a risk of spills, a climate impact and everything else points to a thorough, transparent environmental review like we’ve seen with the Keystone and other pipelines. I’m hopeful the administration is going to agree this pipeline warrants further review.


Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email

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The Presidential Candidates Still Aren't Talking About Our Food Supply

Tue, 2016-09-13 17:28

If the two major party candidates for president care about our nation’s food supply, they certainly aren’t doing much to indicate that. 

About six months ago, The Huffington Post sent a list of eight questions concerning food and agricultural policy to all the Republican and Democratic campaigns. We received no responses.

Since then, of course, the field of contenders has winnowed to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump. But when it comes to what the candidates have said concerning hunger, nutrition, GMO labeling or sustainable agriculture, little has changed.

Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio says he thinks the candidates’ virtual silence on these issues is unacceptable, but it’s not surprising given the tone of the race. 

“What’s going on right now [in the election] is not about policy at all. It’s only about optics at this point, which is really depressing,” Colicchio told HuffPost.

Nevertheless, Colicchio is pushing for food policy discussion to enter the fray. In his role as co-founder of the advocacy group Food Policy Action, the “Top Chef” judge spoke at rallies held in conjunction with both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions this summer.

The rallies are part of the “Plate of the Union” food truck tour Colicchio’s group is sponsoring this summer alongside two other organizations. The tour continues with a stop in Washington, D.C., this week before making a series of additional stops concentrated largely in the Midwest region through the end of October.

At those rallies, Colicchio has called for political leadership on food issues. The chef said that based on the crowds at their events and the responses to their petition, the message appears to be resonating. 

“I think the conversation is starting to change,” Colicchio said. “It’s not sensational like ISIS or national security, but people are starting to understand these issues and pay attention to them.”

Two weeks out from the first presidential debate, however, that momentum has yet to translate into much conversation.

For Trump, much has been made of his dietary preferences, which would prove alarming to most nutrition experts. The New York Times described him as aiming to be “the nation’s fast food president” thanks to his penchant for dining on buckets of KFC fried chicken and Big Macs aboard his jet. 

But neither Trump nor his team have communicated much in the way of food policy positions.

In November, the billionaire alluded to rolling back the number of participants in the SNAP food-stamp assistance program and mocked a protester who appeared to be angered by that comment, calling him “seriously overweight.” Campaign positions on his website do not include policies related directly to food or agriculture. 

On the other side of the aisle, Clinton’s platform references increased support for family farms and local food systems and acknowledges the role immigrants and migrant workers play in supplying the nation’s food, but doesn’t touch on other related issues such as equitable food access or the state of the government’s dietary guidelines. 

The Democratic candidate also pledged in a campaign factsheet to protect SNAP benefits and expand them to improve users’ access to healthy foods. 

But that’s about it. FPA is looking for more detailed answers to its food-related questions.

The organization created its own food policy questionnaire in partnership with researchers at Johns Hopkins University and expects to release any responses it receives in October.   

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The continued silence from the candidates on these issues has come as a disappointment to other activists in the burgeoning food movement. One of them is Michael Dimock, president of Roots of Change, a San Francisco-based food advocacy group. 

Dimock said he’s “concerned and disappointed” the candidates lack stances on most food issues. But he still hopes that, in lieu of attention on the national stage, food policy concerns are gaining increasing momentum at the state and local levels.

Dimock’s group is a big part of that progress. Founded in 2002, the organization helped create a statewide network of food policy advocates that ultimately morphed into the California Food Policy Council

In partnership with its colleagues on the council, the group has successfully fought for new statewide sustainability programs like a healthy soils initiative that provides resources to help farmers and ranchers reduce their farms’ greenhouse gas emissions and increase their ability to “farm” or store carbon in their soil. Dimock called it the nation’s first program of its kind. 

Wins like these could serve as examples to inspire copycats elsewhere, perhaps even on the national stage, Dimock hopes.

“We’re trying to generate a politically active and effective food movement in the state of California, and we’re trying to make some changes that could be models for the rest of the country to follow,” Dimock told HuffPost.

There’s significant progress happening on the municipal level, too. In recent years, more than 20 cities across the country have hired food systems experts to help them address food-related issues, including obesity and equal access to healthy foods.

Among those cities is Minneapolis, where City Councilman Cam Gordon, of the Green Party, has helped encourage more food growing and small-scale production within the city.

In recent years, Gordon fought to require corner stores to sell at least a small selection of fresh fruits and vegetables to increase access to fresh produce in low-income neighborhoods. He’s also authored legislation that set new standards for farmers markets that protected local growers and also helped reform previous zoning laws that inhibited urban farming operations in the city.

These efforts have been among the most attention-grabbing of any of the legislation he’s worked on, Gordon, who serves on the city’s Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, told HuffPost. He thinks that’s with good reason, and he hopes it’s a sign of what’s to come.

“There seems to be a shift happening,” Gordon said. “People want to be healthy and want to know where their food’s coming from.”


Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email

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The University Of Chicago Strikes Out

Tue, 2016-09-13 15:01
My alma mater the University of Chicago has managed to get what it's always wanted: attention from the national press. Unfortunately, it did so by sending a completely unnecessary letter to incoming students announcing the school's opposition to trigger warnings and safe spaces, concepts the letter doesn't seem to understand at all. So let me wade into this muck in the hope of achieving some clarity. As the University of Chicago taught me, it's best to begin by defining one's terms.

Just as sexual harassment is a form of expression which is nonetheless regulated to make it possible for women to function in the workplace, various kinds of campus behavior are forms of expression which may nonetheless be regulated to make it possible for non-majority students to function in academe. Surely there are ludicrous examples of demands for trigger warnings and safe spaces, just as there are egregious examples of on-campus hostility and discrimination (e.g. men parading outside a women's dorm yelling "No means yes! Yes means anal!"). The issue in either case is the boundary between free expression and expression designed to intimidate or silence. No one can deny that a burning cross is an example of expression but as its purpose is to terrorize, it's considered to be on the wrong side of that boundary. So, in Europe, is Holocaust denial, though it's tolerated on American college campuses (while assertions that the earth is flat, say, would not be).

Thus people who take seriously the possibility that a person calling black women "water buffaloes" intends to demean and silence them are simply engaging in the type of critical thinking to which universities are supposed to be dedicated as well as the complementary analysis of what is necessary to protect an environment of civil discourse.

I'm a passionate advocate of the educational experience I had at the U of C, and nonetheless I think the letter to incoming students could more succinctly have been rendered as "F**k you if you imagine anything you think will be of interest or concern to us; you must have mistaken us for someplace that cares. And if you don't like it take your female and black and brown and queer sensibilities elsewhere." And I am revolted that my alma mater decided its reputation was best spent on that kind of dog-whistle right-wing nonsense.

You don't want to use trigger warnings? Don't. But there's no need to denounce them unless your real purpose is to let people (especially, perhaps, donors) know that you're indifferent to any concerns about mistreatment based on identity, and that any complaints about such mistreatment will be met with dismissiveness and derision because how dare any of these 21st Century concerns impinge on the 19th Century approach to which we've apparently dedicated our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor?

When I spoke up at the law school, I was thanked for expressing "what the women think." When a classmate objected to the teaching of Plato's Symposium as though it didn't refer to gay love, he was told that the University didn't "cater to special interests." When students and faculty spoke out for diversifying the curriculum beyond the dead white "mods and greats" beloved of the British university system, the response (from Saul Bellow, no less) was "where is the Proust of the Papuans?" though the whole point of his query was to ridicule the idea of our finding out.

There was nothing "micro" about these aggressions; they were perfectly visible examples of the majority's desire to humiliate and stifle the minorities. And the University's admissions policies in those days (though not now, happily) were carefully designed to make sure that black and brown and even female people were in the tiniest minorities possible.

So the U of C has a long history of behaving as if modernity were a personal insult, and this letter to first-years is as much in keeping with that tradition as any boob's expressed desire to make America great (meaning white) again.

I've heard there are donors to other schools who've withdrawn their support when their alma maters have acknowledged their role in slavery or in any way made a reckoning with the imperfections of the past. So just to balance things out, I'm withdrawing my support of an institution which seems to glory in denying there ever were any such imperfections or that any discrimination or hostility continues to exist today. The U of C exercised its privilege of flipping the bird to its incoming students and I'm exercising my privilege to flip the bird to the U of C.

I hope the faculty and administration don't experience that as traumatic; but just in case I'm providing this trigger warning.

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Expect More Dictatorship in Springfield After 2016 Elections

Tue, 2016-09-13 10:28
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

Why should we care about what happens in contested state legislative races all over the state this year? Each really is about the battle for control between GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. You knew that, but perhaps you didn't realize we all will lose no matter who wins.

Every election cycle, there typically are a couple dozen hotly contested state legislative races, even after one political party or the other gets done rigging maps in their favor. Each party in both chambers has seats they can swipe from the other side. It's in those races, traditionally, where most of the money is raised and spent.

This year is no different. But where it has changed, is that Republicans now are energized because of GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner. Rauner changes the political landscape in Illinois with his determination to shake up Springfield and his bottomless checking account. After years and years of failure, Republicans have their best shot in decades at winning the nuclear arms race that is funding and winning campaigns.

Scott Kennedy, the terrific analyst and former Democratic party and government operative who now works in the private sector, keeps track of reams of data on state races at his website, Illinois Election Data.

At the end of June, Kennedy estimated $128 million already had been spent or collected for on state elections. In an email, he told me he thinks it's reasonable to expect $150 million will be spent on primary and general election state races.

Kennedy also ranked which districts are most mathematically winnable for each party in each chamber based on 2014 election results.

In several contested races, Rauner and the GOP have been hard at work running against Madigan, who is one of the most negatively viewed politicians around. Rauner is trying to tie him like a noose around the necks of Democrats and squeeze the knot. Madigan and the Democrats have been doing the same to Rauner with reporters for months. Soon, they'll start spending gobs of money, too, aiming to make every contested Republican look as extreme, heartless and cruel as Madigan claims Rauner and GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump are.

So what? Let's not forget our physics lessons: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Rauner shook up Springfield all right. Now, instead of one dictator, we now have two.

Rauner and Madigan control how much money goes into the key races like never before.

That's the action. The reaction? In a state that had very little bold independence, we will have far less of it.

Consider a few top races:

  • The GOP is targeting state Sen. Gary Forby, a downstate Democrat, for defeat. Forby has collected more than448,000 from the state party or leadership committees (really Madigan). That figure is 46% of his975,000 total. His opponent, Republican Dale Fowler, has collected more than237,000 from his party or leadership, a figure that's almost 78 percent of his305,000 total.

  • The Democrats are after GOP state Sen. Sue Rezin, who raised nearly586,000. Of that,286,000, or 49 percent, came from the GOP. Her challenger, Democrat Christine Benson, has raised171,000, with142,000 from top Democrats. That amounts to 83 percent.

  • In the House, one of the top races that looks best for Republicans is the downstate race between Democratic state Rep. John Bradley and Republican David Severin. Bradley has raised more than986,000. Only74,000 has come from the party so far, or 7.5 percent of the total. Severin, though, has raised304,000 and a whopping 90 percent, or more than274,000, has come from Rauner and the GOP.

  • The top House race that looks mathematically best for Democrats to pick up is the northwest side district of Republican state Rep. Michael McAuliffe. He's being challenged by Democrat Merry Marwig. McAuliffe has raised1.3 million. More than1 million came from Rauner's party, or 84 percent. Marwig has raised nearly157,000, with about104,000 coming from the Democrats for nearly 67 percent.

How can we constituents fight to be heard when the politicians all owe their jobs to Madigan and Rauner?

One more note:

Political scientist/commentator extraordinaire Paul Green probably would laugh at what I just wrote and tell me, "Doubek, that's the way party politics is supposed to work." Green, who died suddenly Saturday, helped me and countless others learn the ropes and filled our columns with lively quotes for decades.

On the last night of the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego, I was running for a bus back to the delegation hotel when I caught up with Green, who offered me a wild ride. Literally. Green's wife, Sharon, drove a car all over San Diego trying to find shortcuts and avoid convention backups to get us to some adult beverages ASAP. The entire time, the Greens had me grinning from the back seat with their repartee as the three of us told political tales. Ever since then, every time he saw me, he'd loudly refer to our "threesome," and say, "Doubek, remember, we'll always have San Diego!"

I'm so grateful we did. There will never be another man as quick-witted and generous as Paul Green. I can't believe you're gone, Paul.

Next article: Budget impasse affecting enrollment at Illinois public universities

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ETHS Class of 1966' 50th Reunion: You CAN Go Home Again

Mon, 2016-09-12 12:46
Recall Thomas Wolfe's 1940 novel, YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN, about a fledgling writer, George Webber, whose successful book makes more than an occasional reference to his town whose residents resent how they are characterized and whose depiction of them is distorted, so much so that Webber is sent menacing correspondence and even death threats from the town's citizens. Wolfe's exploration of America's changing society of the 1920s/30s prevented Webber from ever being able to return, "home again".

Not so for the 50th high school reunion of the Class of 1966 from Evanston Township High School (ETHS) in Evanston, Illinois held the weekend of September 9-10, 2016. This writer happens to be one of those graduates.

This reunion for a class of a little over 900 graduates drew nearly a third, or about 300 attendees, to the main affair on Saturday night the 10th. It was quite a high-water mark, though preceded that day by a tour of the high school followed by a luncheon. The night before was an informal get-together at a locally, well-known restaurant that well outdrew the anticipated attendance.

One classmate would go on to describe the main event party as a "love-fest" 50 years in the making, but involving many having not interacted with one another for that long period of time, absent some sort of social media connection in recent years. After all, we all are 50 years older, with some aging in different ways; some gracefully, others not and to an extent that that we could no longer be recognized from our youthful days as high school students absent others taking a stare or two at our name tags affixed to our chest-high clothing. Then there were others whose basic physical characteristics absent some hair loss, a bit more weight, a limp in our gait, and certainly imbued with more wrinkles than ever before, changed little from those days long since gone. Some also achieved material or financial success as well as recognition by others with words on paper, hardware or from some other form of praise and worthiness during that time; others were equally rewarded from the ensuing years after high school by hooking up with a loving and caring spouse (or two or three?), best friend or partner; blessed children; grandchildren; assisting those less fortunate; or undertaking charitable or community service. And there were others, to be sure, that fell on hard times or had a troubled life. Existence can be a crapshoot, as we know only too well. Of course, there were those who were no longer with us, totaling close to 110+. Knowing of those losses brought a tear to more than one attendee.

But what wasn't missing and that shown brightly throughout the evening affair was the camaraderie, the spirit, the enthusiasm, and, well (once more), the "love", for each other who attended the evening party. This was infectious, even the spouses and guests of classmates caught this "fever". The festiveness and exquisite feeling for the occasion reflected all the long hours put in for over a year by a hard-working reunion planning committee headed by Karen Miller Hudachko. The big ticket items like the site of the party-the Monaco Ballroom at the Doubletree Hotel in Skokie, the yummy food, and the DJ spinning the '60s tunes to the small items like the green screen and camera used for complimentary photographs, and a continuous running on a TV screen of those who have passed were the bailiwick of Sue Ann Keller Mandel and her husband, Larry. The creativeness and artistry of the decorations went to Marc Bermann, Joyce Weber and their respective reunion committee members. There was even a table with photocopies of certain pages of old copies of the Evanstonian, the school newspaper, highlighting events from the class, from sports to academics to the arts. Recall Streisand's song, Memories....

The surprise of the evening was when Larry (Mandel), also serving as our unofficial emcee that introduced the evening's agenda, asked us to first bow our heads, maybe, we thought, in silence to remember the nation's losses on 9-11, to occur the following day, or as a remembrance of those from our class we have lost. Wrong. The school's fight song was then played and without any advance notice, the current high school cheerleaders in their regalia trotted to the dance floor to lead us all in the song and their cheers---we were all back at one of our high school's football games, even for the few minutes the song blared over the DJ's loud speaker. We all sang proudly and applauded these young women whose parents might not even have been born back in 1966. Yikes. But what an astoundingly, absolute delight to hear and see it all!

The real significance, though, of our evening's gathering was having those that attended come back home to a time before the challenges of life were to meet and hit us all head-on. I first wrote about this in a piece titled, "Noted Evanston High Class to Hold 50th Reunion" ((Nov. 8, 2015) ( The only difference between 1966 and now was, of course, those pesky 50 years of subsequent experiences---and a lot happened during those years, like the Viet Nam War; like the mop-tops coming from across the pond; like racial strife raising its ugly, but necessary, head; like having to matriculate the rigors of a college education, or having to go directly to work for one reason or another; and like having to deal with death of a loved one.

As if by metaphor of what others of my class must have experienced in their neighborhoods of Evanston over the weekend of the reunion, I grew up in south Evanston, a new, middle-class part of town in the late 1950s. Six of us (Mike Feinstein, Barry Bochner, Frank Ling, Tom Leeds, Sheldon Lebovitz and yours truly) assembled for our reunion before the party by revisiting earlier in the afternoon each of our homes that we grew up in five decades earlier. Yes, those structures remained the same as we recalled growing up in them, only weathered by time. They were our sanctuaries from which we carried forth and expanded the experiences of our youth and inside of which we tackled our homework assignments (well, maybe not all the time). Those abodes seemed small by today's standards, but they were nonetheless our homes for which none of us ever complained. We remembered them with fondness in our minds to be as big as the Taj Mahal too, but, obviously, never came close to fitting into even a small part of it. We also visited sites we frequented in the city, even going to the playground of Dawes School, where we went for grades K-6. We tried a bit of touch football on the grassy area where we did it years ago as kids, but our lungs were not what they used to be back then, so our "3 on 3" game lasted all of about 15 minutes. We also tried the game of what we called, "fast-pitch", where the pitcher threw a rubber ball the size of a hardball to the batter, standing 50' away in front of a brick ball that became an automatic ball return-backstop. Suffice it to say, none of us could throw more than 35 MPH (normal now-a-days is 90+)---hoping not to hit the batter with our pitches---and most only swung at the thrown balls without connecting. Who cared about performance; it was all fun, and merely another measure of being "invited" back home by reliving a best part of it again.

The evening of nearly six hours went by oh so quickly, filled up by food, entertainment and dancing (ok, our step was not as lively as long ago but our hearts carried the rhythm of the songs as always). More significantly, we engaged in conversation from meeting and greeting long-lost friends and high school schoolyard chums. The (re)-connections from days gone by could not have been stronger or more inviting.

At its end, one of our classmates developed a medical condition requiring the attention of health care personnel, now goodness resolved without complication. Yet, what took place initially reminds us, as if in microcosm, that life can be short but certainly no less precious for any one of us, to be guarded jealously as best as we are able to muster. After all, there won't be a second 50th reunion for any of us, lest we set a world record for longevity, and we may never again see others we conversed and hung out with at the reunion party.

In a blink of an eye, the evening soiree was over. Gone but for the existence of memories revived, photos taken of others or with us, relationships renewed, and new, additional memories stored away. So, to any other 50th reunion class that takes place every year across the land, be rightfully jealous---no class will ever have what members of our class had over this past weekend.

In contrast to Thomas Wolfe's Webber, recall the fictional author again who couldn't return home, those in attendance at the 50th reunion for ETHS' Class of 1966 did comfortably and proudly return home again, and a fine and welcoming "home" it was!

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