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Restaurant Hilariously Skewers Hot Dining Trends With Brilliant Halloween 'Costume'

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:06
Esoteric name with an ampersand? Check. Artfully coiffed, tattooed waitstaff? Check. Strange "heritage" items of yore used in the kitchen? Check. Absolutely zero menu items that you can recognize? Oh yeah -- check.

It's Halloween at Chicago eatery Real Kitchen, where this year's "costume" is a biting takedown of popular -- and sometimes ridiculous -- restaurant cliches. Real Kitchen branched out and dressed itself as "that new trendy restaurant, whatever one it is today."

The hilarious idea, documented in the video above, comes a year after Real Kitchen famously dressed up as fancy-schmancy, world-renowned Chicago restaurant Alinea. As the folks at Real Kitchen Real Kitchen jokingly lament in this year's Halloween video, when the attention from that stunt died down, they were back to being mistaken for a neighboring pizza chain.

Clearly, this year's "costume" had to be even better. The result? Real Kitchen became the inanely-named "Veritable & The Scullery," featuring all the things the most pretentious of foodies have come to embrace: really expensive cocktails made from hundreds of ingredients, bizarre foraged items, and terribly uncomfortable (but chic!) furniture.

After Halloween, Real Kitchen will go right back to being a gourmet-to-go cafe that's decidedly unpretentious -- but hopefully not mistaken for a pizza place, again.

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Students Ask Not To Be Called African-American; Teacher Allegedly Calls Them N-Word

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:03
Last week, an Illinois substitute teacher reportedly called a group of four middle school girls the N-word after they asked not to be called African-American.

The incident occurred at Jay Stream Middle School in the town of Carol Stream during an eighth-grade social studies class. When interviewed by local news outlet WMAQ, student Mea Thompson, who is of Jamaican descent, said they asked the teacher not to call them African-American since none of them are from Africa.

"She said, ‘It’s the politically correct term.' Then she said, 'Well, back then you guys would be considered the N-word,'" Thompson said, recalling the exchange. "We were so shocked and we were like, ‘What? Excuse me? That's not correct to call us that.' She was like, ‘Well, back then that’s what African-Americans were called.’”

The teacher allegedly used the N-word several times over the 80-minute class period.

“After the shock and hurt, I’m angry,” Thompson's mother, Shayna, said. “It’s a new world, and the people of the past that still hang onto hatred and bigotry don’t belong in this world anymore.”

When reached for comment, the District Superintendent William Shields said the events in the classroom are still unclear, but said the teacher would not be returning to the school.

“We’re finding that an awful lot of the accounts on the specific words and actions are extremely inconsistent, so it's very hard to judge this situation,” Shields told The Huffington Post. “We’re proud of the kids. We want them to be able to come to administrators and teachers to speak about issues of not feeling safe or secure. That being said ... we’re not having the substitute back because the substitute attempted to teach a lesson outside the curriculum, which we didn’t authorize.”

WMAQ readers took to the comments section to weigh in on the story.

"What justifies the use of the N-word in a classroom, regardless what takes place on TV or on the radio?" wrote one.

"What does the history of the N-word have to do with a child requesting to not be categorized in a certain way?" asked another. "She is Jamaican, not African-American."

Strong Winds, Flooding And, Yes, Snow Mark Halloween In Chicago

Fri, 2014-10-31 16:19
Halloween was certainly an eventful day weather-wise for Chicago.

After the city registered its first-ever measurable Oct. 31 snowfall on record earlier Friday, high waves and flooding on account of heavy winds caused city officials to shut down part of the Lake Michigan-adjacent Lake Shore Drive in the afternoon.

As winds gusted above 70 mph Friday afternoon -- part of what a WGN meteorologist has dubbed the "Halloween Howler" -- northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive were shut down between North Avenue and Division Street, CBS Chicago reports.

Harrowing photos and videos of the flooding were shared widely on social media:

Flooded Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.

— Don Breitfelder (@DonBreitfelder) October 31, 2014

Windy City living up to its name today. 21 ft waves are closing parts of lake shore drive

— arielle vasquez (@relle_belle) October 31, 2014

Chicago rapper Chance the Rapper perhaps said it best:

Lake Shore Drive look like The Day After Tomorrow or something.

— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) October 31, 2014

The stormy weather has also meant delays and cancellations at O'Hare International Airport. According to the Chicago Tribune, more than 300 flights were canceled through noon Friday, with more cancelations and delays anticipated. No cancellations or delays were reported at Midway International Airport.

Evening temperatures in Chicago may reach as low as the upper 30s -- making for some chilly trick-or-treating conditions. A lakeshore flood advisory is in effect in the area through 4 a.m. Saturday. Lake-effect snow is also possible in northwest Indiana and the far southwest Chicago suburbs, the Tribune reports.

All The Creepy Laughs From 'The Twilight Zone' Because Evil Is Sometimes Hilarious

Fri, 2014-10-31 14:54
Sometimes evil, sometimes delirious, but always creepy. No one laughed at people quite like "The Twilight Zone."

This month is the 55th anniversary of "The Twilight Zone," and with Halloween upon us, what better way to celebrate than with one of those super creepy laughs from the series. Or all of them. In one glorious mashup.

Check out the supercut above and just remember that no one is laughing with you... in "The Twilight Zone."

BONUS: Here's every Rod Serling opening and closing Twilight Zone monologue made into a word cloud in the shape of Rod Serling.

Voting for the First Time? Check Out These Tips

Fri, 2014-10-31 14:34
Reboot Illinois' Shantae Howell is voting for the first time in the 2014 elections. She shared her top tips for first-time voters:

Were you under the age of 18 last election season? Me too! But don't worry -- you're in good hands. Below is a checklist of all the things first-time voters like you (and I) need to know before hitting the polls.

If you've been getting your driver's license or state ID, chances are you might have registered to vote. Keep in mind that you are only able to vote in the state in which you registered. If you're unsure whether you are registered in Illinois, you can check on the Illinois State Board of Elections' website in less than 15 seconds (I timed myself).

If you're not registered to vote (in Illinois) yet, no worries! Because of same-day registration, you can register to vote up until and on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4. To register, you will need to bring "two forms of identification with at least one showing your current residence address." (Illinois State Board of Elections)

If you are not from Illinois and would like to take part in your home state's election, has a list of the Board of Elections websites for every state. Voter registration laws and voting requirements vary from state to state, so it's important that you do your research before November 4.

Are you like me? Being a first-time voter, I wasn't aware that that every registered voter is assigned a polling location based on their home address. Again, the Illinois State Board of Elections' website is a great resource. Just enter your first and last name along with your zip code to find out where you need to go to vote on Nov. 4th. (It shouldn't be too far from where you live.)

If you'd like to vote early, you can do that until 7 p.m. Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, special early voting locations open at 9 a.m. Check your county clerk or city clerk's website for early voting locations. (You do not go to your Election Day polling location too early vote. Many city halls and county offices have early voting available.) Early voting locations will close at 5 p.m. Saturday and at 4 p.m. Sunday. On Election Day (Tuesday, November 4), regular polling locations will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The moral of the story: no matter what your schedule is, there is plenty of time left for you to cast your ballot.

Listed below are the valid forms of ID voters can use, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, so make sure you have at least one of the bulleted items with you. Other than that, bring yourself and you're set to go.

  • A current and valid photo identification

  • A utility bill

  • A bank statement

  • A government check

  • A paycheck

  • A lease or contract for residence

  • A student ID & mail addressed to voter's residence

  • A government document

Voting is hard, even if it's not your first time. Whether it be your busy work schedule or your undergrad course-load that has prevented you from keeping up with the election coverage thus far, I hope you'll check out Reboot's Election Scorecard. It's a great way to familiarize yourself with the candidates' stances on the different topics important to you. Let's be honest, the less-than-true advertisements probably are not your best source of information.

If this is your first time participating in the democratic process, don't be afraid to celebrate a little. Be sure to grab an "I Voted" sticker or button and capture the moment with a picture.

You're all set! Now you just need to figure out who you're going to vote for. Take this quiz at Reboot Illinois to see if you're ready to vote.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date on Illinois political news.

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Officials: No, Illinois Voting Machines Are Not Fixed For Democrats

Fri, 2014-10-31 14:30
Some people taking advantage of early voting in Illinois have alleged that electronic touchscreen voting machines are registering their selections of Republican candidates as votes for Democrats -- but elections officials say calibration errors to blame for the issue have been pointed out before incorrect votes are cast.

The latest allegations stem from a voter at the Moline public library who claimed that when she pushed the button on her machine for Republican congressional candidate Bobby Schilling, the machine registered her selection as U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, a Democrat.

According to WQAD, the voter flagged down an election judge to help her redo her choice after she noticed the issue. Her vote for Schilling went through as intended on the second try.

A video posted to YouTube this week purports to show similar issues with choices made at the Moline Public Library polls; it has been viewed over 450,000 times as of Friday morning. Some commenters have questioned the angle at which the video is shot.

In response to the complaint, Rock Island County Clerk Karen Kinney told KWQC that machines in Moline have already been re-calibrated while election judges from both parties were present. Officials will continue to monitor for any other issues with the machines, she said.

Jim Moynihan, a Republican state representative candidate, claimed similar voting machine issues were present in suburban Chicago. Moynihan told the conservative blog Illinois Review that when he attempted to vote for himself at the public library in Schaumburg on Oct. 22, the machine selected his Democratic opponent instead. He said the same thing happened when he voted in other races.

CBS Chicago reported the machine Moynihan was using was taken out of service after he was able to register his correct ballot -- and that the votes he had not intended were never registered. A Cook County Clerk spokeswoman told the station only a handful of voters out of tens of thousands had reported any issues voting in suburban Chicago and that any such issues should be immediately reported to election judges at polling places.

Similar issues have been reported in Maryland, but election officials there also say calibration or voter errors are to blame, and that isolated complaints about the machines arise every election and are promptly addressed.

It does not appear that any votes in Maryland or Illinois have actually been cast for unintended candidates after any calibration issues have been brought to officials' attention, though Republicans in the states contend voters not paying close attention could make an unnoticed error.

The voting machine allegations prompted the Illinois Republican Party to issue a "voting fraud alert" robocall on Thursday, the Capitol Fax blog reported.

"Don’t let the Democrats steal this election," said a recording by Tim Schneider, Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, according to Capitol Fax. "Get out and vote, and help us stop voter fraud."

Agent Says Chicago Marathon Champ Rita Jeptoo Failed Doping Test

Fri, 2014-10-31 13:22
STELLENBOSCH, South Africa (AP) -- Chicago Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo failed a doping test in September, the Kenyan runner's agent said Friday.

Federico Rosa told The Associated Press that Jeptoo tested positive for a banned substance in an out-of-competition test in Kenya weeks before she won a second straight Chicago Marathon title on Oct. 12.

"This is true," Rosa said in a telephone interview.

Rosa said Jeptoo's "A" sample had tested positive and they were waiting for her backup "B" sample to be tested. Rosa declined to name the substance.

Rosa said he had learned of the positive test "a few days ago."

"We will legally go after the person or the people that convinced Rita to do this," Rosa said, adding Jeptoo's management had "nothing to do with" any doping. "I am sorry for Rita."

The 33-year-old Jeptoo has won back-to-back titles at the both the Chicago and Boston Marathons and leads the World Marathon Majors series.

The series said earlier Friday that it had postponed Sunday's awards ceremony because of the positive test.

"No athlete can win the World Marathon Majors Series title who has been in breach of IAAF anti-doping rules," the series said.

The IAAF said in a statement that it was "not in position where it can confirm or deny" Jeptoo's positive doping test.

"The case remains in the confidentiality phase," the IAAF said, "although that should be lifted within the next week."

Jeptoo's failed doping test comes as Kenya is under close scrutiny for a recent spike in doping cases.

A report into doping in Kenya was released this month. The investigation found that the East African country has problems with athletes from a number of sports using banned substances.

Chicago Sun-Times Sells Suburban Papers To Tribune Publishing Co.

Fri, 2014-10-31 12:47

CHICAGO (AP) — The parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times announced Friday it has sold six daily newspapers and 32 weeklies in the Chicago suburbs to Tribune Publishing Co., casting the sale as an effort to more forcefully move into digital media.

Sun-Times owner Wrapports LLC said the deal will allow it to focus on its new Sun-Times Network, which launched Friday and centers on a mobile news app tailored to local audiences in 70 U.S. cities. The sale also will financially strengthen the Chicago Sun-Times, the company said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"This transaction and our aggressive digital push will expand the Sun Times brand and ensure the Chicago Sun-Times is self-sustaining and financially healthy," Wrapports CEO Timothy Knight said in a statement.

The strategy shifts the media landscape in one of the country's last two-newspaper towns, where the Sun-Times has grappled with declining circulation. Financial hits and changes in direction have resulted in multiple rounds of layoffs, including of its entire photo staff last year, and led to a 2009 filing for bankruptcy protection.

"Basically what they're saying is that they're moving as much they can out of the print side of the business to try to move into being a digital news brand that's recognized not only in Chicago but around the country," said Alan Mutter, who runs the Newsosaur blog and teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.

Wrapports announced earlier this week that the mobile news app would present national entertainment, sports and political coverage from the Sun-Times along with items aggregated from other media sites in each local market.

Its success will depend on whether it can draw enough eyeballs in places where there's less familiarity with the Sun-Times brand and where there's already a plethora of news aggregators and other media sites, Mutter said.

"I have concerns about whether they can actually bring this to sufficient scale to make this into a business," he said.

Tribune Publishing said buying the papers, which include the Aurora Beacon-News, The Naperville Sun and The Southtown Star, will help the company expand its "hyper local" news content, diversify revenue sources and draw more advertisers.

"These are great brands. They are engrained in the communities that they are in," said Bob Fleck, who will oversee the new papers as publisher and general manager.

11 Times It's OK To Tell A Woman To Smile

Fri, 2014-10-31 11:35
If you've been on the Internet in the past couple days, you've probably seen that viral video showing all the catcalls one woman received while walking around New York City for 10 hours. If you haven't -- go watch it.

As its 16-million-plus YouTube views suggest, the video -- despite presenting problems of its own with its execution -- resonated with many women who have to endure such unsolicited comments on a daily basis, and whose complaints often fall on deaf ears. It's a compliment! You should be flattered! Except a catcall is a bullshit compliment and thinly veiled sexual aggression.

Telling someone to smile might seem particularly innocuous -- you just want her to look happy! But that, too, is a directive that undermines a woman's agency in the name of making her prettier, and thus less threatening. Indeed, the actress who refused to smile in the aforementioned video is now receiving rape threats from viewers who totally missed the point.

The point is this: Don't tell us how to look when we're out doin' our thing. These are pretty much the only situations where it's OK to tell a woman you don't even know to "smile." Ahem.

1. You are a professional photographer taking a picture.

2. You are a sign at a store telling someone they're under surveillance.

3. You are Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.

4. You are dentist tryin' to get a look at some chompers.

5. You are dressed as a clown at a child's birthday party.

6. A woman just asked you, "Do I have lipstick on my teeth?"

7. You are Charlie Chaplin or Lily Allen.

8. You are directing a toothpaste commercial.

9. You are quoting Dr. Seuss.

10. You are the host of "Candid Camera."

11. You are this bird.

And that's it. Got it?

Last-minute vote influences in Illinois's gubernatorial election

Fri, 2014-10-31 11:16
Chicago Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney resigned from his position as Springfield bureau chief after 19 years this month. He said ownership of the paper succumbed to pressure from the Bruce Rauner campaign over a story it didn't like.

In a blog post about his resignation, McKinney said he was taken off his political beat while the paper looked into accusations of a conflict of interest between McKinney's wife, Ann Liston, a Democratic strategist and the outcome of the story. McKinney said there had been no conflict of interest and that he felt like the paper no longer supported him as a reporter.

Friends and political rivals Dave Lundy and Chris Robling discussed whether this would have an effect on Rauner's election efforts.

From Lundy:

[W]hat happened here is...almost Nixonian in its malevolence. Rauner's team had apparently compiled a dossier on Dave McKinney's new wife Ann Liston and was prepared to unload it when they felt threatened by a bad McKinney story. Despite the fact that the story they objected to was reported by Carol Marin and Don Mosely, in addition to McKinney, they successfully pushed to have the paper's top political reporter sidelined three weeks before a major election. It's also worth noting that the Rauner folks didn't object one iota or demand some disclaimer on his reporting when Dave McKinney was writing all of his anti-Quinn pieces on the violence initiative. Over the course of the last year, McKinney probably wrote five negative stories on Governor Quinn for every one he wrote on Rauner. But please don't let the facts get in the way.

From Robling:

This story matters little to voters and it should.

But it became a tempest in the tea pot of Illinois political newsies, especially Democrats, because they saw it as an aid in alienating Bruce Rauner from women voters -- a key political objective in the bailout of the foundering campaign of Hapless Pat Quinn, Illinois demi-Governor.

Read the rest of Lundy and Robling's thoughts on this controversy at Reboot Illinois.

Voter turnout could be another last-minute influence in this election. Both candidates are pushing their supporters to go out and vote Nov. 4. Which kinds of voters decide to show up or sit out the election could make or break the race for both candidates. It's happened before. Watch Madeleine Doubek and Matt Dietrich explain at Reboot Illinois.

13 of the Creepiest Haunted Bars and Restaurants in America

Fri, 2014-10-31 09:09
By: Kristin Hunt

We've all outstayed our welcomes at bars and restaurants from time to time, but some places have pesky customers who have been there for ages. Literally. At these 13 creepy joints, the spirits extend well beyond a nice whiskey list. They include murdered cowboys, slain prostitutes, victims of serial killers, and even the dude who shot Alexander Hamilton. Here are rap sheets for some of America's greatest places to drink with the dead.

More: The World's 10 Weirdest Restaurants

Credit: Flickr/Scott from TX

Poogan's Porch

Charleston, SC
Although it would be adorable, Poogan's Porch isn't actually haunted by a canine poltergeist. The restaurant's namesake went to the light long ago, but the same cannot be said for Zoe St. Amand, a spinster schoolteacher who died in the building in the 1950s. Zoe is apparently a fan of rotating place settings around the tables and forging food orders, as well as hurling bar stools at the staff and busting open doors when she's pissed off. If only Poogan were there to calm her down.

Credit: Old Town Pizza

Old Town Pizza

Portland, OR
Owner Adam Milne is ostensibly the man in charge of this pizza joint, but it's Nina who really runs the show. The ghost has been hanging around the place for a century, and it is not for sentimental reasons. Nina was a sex slave who entertained clients at the Merchant Hotel, where Old Town Pizza now stands atop the city's infamous Shanghai Tunnels. Missionaries came to town and promised to rescue her if she gave up the pimps, which she readily did. Only those guys weren't too pleased about it, and decided to throw her down the elevator shaft as punishment. She supposedly scratched her name into a brick on that elevator shaft, which is now part of a booth, and today frequently appears to watch the patrons eat. If you smell any faint perfume or spot a ghostly chick in a black dress, you've just met Nina.

Credit: Muriel's Jackson Square


New Orleans, LA
In a city like NOLA, haunted buildings are a dime-a-dozen. And while Muriel's doesn't boast the most horrific backstory, it's seen some dark deeds. In the late 1700s, Pierre Antoine Lepardi Jourdan bought the burned-out mansion and restored it to its old charms. Then, in a classic future-ghost move, he bet the entire house in a poker game, which he lost. Because he couldn't bear to leave the place, he killed himself on the second floor, right around where the Seance Lounges stand today. Jourdan spends most of his time there -- he pops up as a shimmery light rather than a complete ghostly form, but he still knocks on the brick wall with the gusto of a full-fledged apparition. And he's got company. Paranormal investigators picked up the voice of a woman in the Seance Lounges, and there's definitely another poltergeist in the Courtyard Bar who's big on smashing glasses. Once they all complete their nightly shenanigans, they presumably enjoy a nice dinner at Jourdan's reserved table, which the staff sets with bread and wine each night.

Credit: Flickr/Brandie Heinel

Tonic Room

Chicago, IL
Plenty of patrons could tell you about the weird mists that show up in selfies they snapped, or the ghostly gangster they swear they saw at the bar, but nothing will scare you more than the Tonic Room's actual history. Members of the Irish North Side Gang frequented the bar in the 1920s before clearing out to make way for the American chapter of Golden Dawn. For those unaware, Golden Dawn is not a forgotten easy-listening jam: it's a secret society that's big on ancient Egyptian symbols and also human sacrifice. In fact, a girl who went with her father to one of these Golden Dawn meetings in the '30s swears she witnessed a ritual killing in the Tonic Room basement. After the murder cult left, a dude named Frederic De'Arechaga turned the space into an occult store in the '60s. He claimed to be a male witch, because of course he did.

Credit: One if by Land, Two if by Sea

One if by Land, Two if by Sea

New York, NY
Many places brag about having ghostly hookers or conmen, but only this NYC spot boasts the spirit of noted Alexander Hamilton-murderer Aaron Burr. The restaurant actually used to be his carriage house back in the day, and everyone thinks he's stuck around with his daughter, Theodosia, to haunt the living. They routinely knock things over, creep down the stairs, and generally pester the patrons -- though they may have additional partners in crime. A parapsychologist who's visited the place claims there are really 20 ghosts there, all from different time periods, including a Ziegfeld Follies girl who might just high-kick you in the back.

Credit: Stone's Public House

Stone's Public House

Ashland, MA
Stone's Public House takes its name from original owner John Stone, who was a very bad man according to one paranormal expert. After speaking with the six to seven spirits who allegedly live at the bar, ghost whisperer Ralph Bibbo claimed they told him Stone killed a boarder who won big in a card game in 1845. He then forced the few witnesses to help him bury the guy in the basement, and made them all promise to take the secret to their graves. But they must have felt guilty, because they never went to their graves. Instead, they float around the bar, making occasional ruckuses and silently judging your drink order.

Want to get spooked while eating and drinking? Head to for 7 more of the creepiest haunted bars and restaurants in the country!

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How Average Neighborhood Dogs Are Helping Communities Take A Bite Out Of Crime

Fri, 2014-10-31 09:06
Walking the dog may be a mundane, everyday activity for some people. But in certain neighborhoods, the daily strolls have become the latest strategy for crime prevention.

Chicago suburbs such as Morton Grove, Northbrook and Prospect Heights are among the most recent towns to get on board with Dog Walker Watch, a crime prevention program launched in April by the National Association of Town Watch.

A Dog Walker Watch participant listens with her four-legged friend during a training session in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania, earlier this year.

“The idea behind it is that there are 75 million dog walkers in the country. The issues is, when they’re out walking, they’re texting, listening to music, checking email, talking on the phone," National Association of Town Watch Executive Director Matt Peskin told The Huffington Post. "But we see those people as extra eyes and ears for local law enforcement to report on crime."

Roughly 1,000 areas have registered as DWW communities, about 350 of them cities in all kinds of neighborhoods "all across the board," Peskin said.

Handouts at a Dog Walker Watch training session in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania, earlier this year.

Peskin said people who walk their dogs are out at all hours and are familiar with their area -- qualities that make them the ideal people to spot suspicious activity.

So, how does the process begin? Registered community members work with a local police officer for a single, hour-long session in which they learn how to better observe and report potentially criminal activity in their neighborhoods.

"[Training] is geared toward things like residential burglary," Peskin said. "What criminal will do nowadays is case the home: Go in a back window or a gate … that kind of person is very difficult to spot if you’re not familiar with what goes on in your neighborhood."

A Dog Walker Watch participant listens with her four-legged friend during a training session in Lower Merion Township, Pennsylvania, earlier this year.

The instructions are typical of neighborhood watch training -- take note if someone doesn't appear to have a destination or if gates and doors that are usually closed are left open -- though Peskin notes DWW "definitely tells people not to get physically involved" if they see a suspicious person.

"We’re very sensitive to that with all the George Zimmerman stuff,” Peskin said in reference to the shooting death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin by the local neighborhood watch coordinator.

The program targets dog walkers who are routinely out in the neighborhood anyway, though Peskin notes participants don't need to have dogs to participate -- they can simply be residents who enjoy walking the neighborhood.

A Dog Watcher Walk participant in Bloomington, Minnesota, is ready for patrol.

Adam Tabor, an officer in Morton Grove, Illinois, where a DWW recently started up, told the Chicago Tribune he hopes the program does more than deter crime; he hopes it builds "a bridge between the police department and residents."

Peskin said while it's too early to measure the effect of the program, participants so far "love it." DWW has made crime prevention more social, he said, which has led to greater buy-in.

“My daughter lives in Philly and I've seen the neighborhoods have more scheduled actives [since DWW] — a dog costume parade for example," Peskin explained. "It’s a new generation of people that are becoming homeowners or renters and they care about where they live. I think we went through a long period of time where people didn’t care. Then we had things like 9/11 and different types of disasters, and people thought 'If we want to make this better, we have to do this.'"

Illinois Governor's Race Pushes Democrats To Dig Deep

Fri, 2014-10-31 08:13
CHICAGO (AP) — At first blush, Illinois would seem to be a lock for an incumbent Democratic governor: The population leans left. Democrats control most of state government, and this year's race is likely to turn on the Chicago area, one of the few places President Barack Obama can still bring large crowds to their feet.

But Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is battling to survive against Bruce Rauner, a wealthy businessman Republicans are banking on to exploit the state's deep economic problems and reputation for cronyism. If he wins, the victory would help complete a near-sweep of the Midwest by the GOP. The stakes, amid a tough midterm election climate, worried Democrats enough that they shifted to an "Obama-style" campaign, employing a strategy the president used in key battlegrounds in 2008 and 2012. It wasn't seen as necessary in Obama's home state — until now.

Quinn, the often-folksy Chicago Democrat who has campaigned with his 97-year-old mother, notes that he also was counted out four years ago but eked out a win. Known as a tireless campaigner, he's held his own despite the state's many crises and assures voters he will power through to Election Day.

"I ain't sleepin'," he says.

Rauner, who's sunk more than $25 million into his own campaign, has blasted Quinn over Illinois' massive budget problems and a plan to make a temporary income tax increase permanent. The first-time candidate also has tried to cast doubt on Quinn's claims he cleaned up state government after taking over for imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"I can't be bought, bribed or intimidated," Rauner says.

Republicans see Illinois as a chance to not only pick up a governorship but also to deliver "a real gut punch" to Obama and his party, said Michael Short, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. He and other Republicans say winning would send a clear message that even voters in Obama's home state no longer embrace his policies.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat, disagreed that the race between Quinn and Rauner is a referendum on the president's agenda.

But he acknowledged that if Quinn loses, some will see it as a loss for Obama, who came to Chicago earlier this month to campaign for Quinn, then cast his ballot for him and rallied volunteers at a campaign field office. First lady Michelle Obama also stumped for Quinn, as did Vice President Joe Biden, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"There clearly is an investment in Quinn's candidacy," Durbin said.

Quinn and other Democrats have campaigned as defenders of the middle class, supporting policies such as an increase in the minimum wage — which Obama also vigorously promotes — and painting Rauner as an out-of-touch multimillionaire who belongs to a $140,000 wine club.

A series of Quinn ads have picked apart deals made by Rauner's private-equity firm, accusing him of outsourcing jobs, putting investments in the Cayman Islands and slashing expenses at a chain of nursing homes so deeply that residents died.

Quinn has also been helped by organized labor, which saw Rauner's early anti-union comments as a sign he could try to curtail government unions the way Gov. Scott Walker did in Wisconsin. Though Rauner has toned down his rhetoric since the primary, unions have continued spending millions to defeat him.

Even before the race became heated, Illinois' top Democrats were collaborating on a plan to counter the typical drop in turnout among the party's base in midterm elections and the historically bad results for a president's party during his final term.

They're using what Durbin calls an "Obama-style model," a coordinated campaign that makes heavy use of both public and private data to identify which voters are most likely to support Quinn and other Democrats and then get them to the polls. Campaigns have used the systems for years — the Illinois GOP has its own voter-information effort — but it was Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns that are credited with fine-tuning it to great success, and Durbin says Illinois Democrats are using lessons learned from those campaigns.

The strategy also focuses heavily on absentee and early voting, with special emphasis on college campuses. The Democrat-controlled Legislature this spring extended early voting and gave the OK to same-day voter registration and on-campus Election Day absentee voting.

Republicans have faced some setbacks, such as when lawyers for top Democrats successfully argued for the Illinois Supreme Court to throw out a Rauner-backed term limits proposal that his campaign had hoped would help get his supporters to the polls.

But they say they're implementing their own efforts to increase turnout, and they feel good about their candidate — and their odds.


Follow Sara Burnett at

The Ballot Box Is the Great Equalizer for Workers

Fri, 2014-10-31 08:03
American workers are facing significant challenges. Whether it's low pay, a system that favors corporations over citizens, a gender wage gap, the effects of unfair trade or a voting system that hampers the most disadvantaged among us, these problems are real. But will those affected the most bother to do something about it?

The public has heard it before, and they will hear it again from me as well - vote. But are people going to do it? The Teamsters have been encouraging our members to do so. In the last few weeks, I've been to Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Illinois trying to convince workers to head to the polls, and right now I'm in my home state of Michigan urging members to make their voices' heard. My Teamster brothers and sisters have gone to workplaces all across the country as well to do the same.

But we know many workers might be mulling whether to skip voting this year. They'll say lawmakers are all the same or that their vote doesn't make a difference. Their frustration with the current system is understandable. I get frustrated too. They shouldn't, however, allow that to cloud their thinking. There's simply too much at risk to do so.

Hardworking Americans saw what happened when too many people didn't show up four years ago. The mass influx of anti-worker elected officials voted into office created a system that is crushing the middle class. And that will only get worse if a new bunch of corporate cronies get added to the mix.

Despite what some might think, there is a big difference between the candidates in most state and federal races. As it stands, the top 0.1 percent's share of U.S. wealth is 22 percent, more than triple what it was three decades ago. That's about where it stood on the eve of the Great Depression! Meanwhile, efforts to raise the federal minimum wage have been foiled again and again by Congress' most conservative elements. That won't improve if those who led the charge in 2010 win again.

If big business succeeds in getting more lawmakers to do its bidding, the only ones getting a helping hand will be them. Right now, the average U.S. family pays $6,000 a year in subsidies to corporate America. How much more assistance is really necessary when companies are raking in record profits while workers can barely support their families?

Low turnout by rank-and-file workers would also continue to stall efforts to ensure women are paid an equal salary to their male counterparts. While this is already a reality for those who work union jobs, statistics tell the story about the disadvantages many females experience in the workforce. It is criminal that the majority gender is facing such discrimination.

Employees nationwide should also be wary about the GOP obtaining a majority in both the House and Senate, given the party's general support of past trade deals like NAFTA. Those agreements have resulted in worker pain while corporations gain. The U.S. economy cannot afford to shed thousands of additional jobs to those abroad just to further line the pockets of the Fortune 500.

And just as importantly, the public should not endorse the continued disenfranchisement of minorities, the elderly, the disabled and young people through the enactment of additional voter suppression laws. Too many states have already taken advantage of such tactics to winnow the amount of people eligible to vote, and it will only get worse if those interested in having less democracy are allowed to win.

So that, in a nutshell, is what is at stake. There are real consequences for workers if they don't make it to the ballot box, and the nation's corporate interests are betting that they won't. But there is still time to prove them wrong. In many states, there is early voting, and I encourage everyone who can to do so.

The Teamsters offer a way for all workers to find out about their candidates and the issues on our website. Feel free to take advantage of it. And remember to vote today, this weekend or on Tuesday for the candidates that promise to put the people above the powerful. Because no one is going to stick up for workers if we don't.

College Students Don't Get Flu Shots And That's A Real Problem

Thu, 2014-10-30 17:10
As some colleges overreact to a disease that virtually no one on campus is at risk of contracting, students are skipping an easy step that actually will help them stay healthy: seasonal flu vaccines.

"[Ebola] is still very low-risk for the majority of the population, but flu is not," said Lauren Drinkard of the University of Pennsylvania's Student Health Service. "The flu spreads really easily, especially in institutions like a university."

Yet according to professor Janet Yang at the University of Buffalo, only about 8 percent of college students received the flu vaccine in one recent year.

Public health experts have been trying to figure out to persuade more students to participate -- for their own sakes and for the sake of their campus communities.

College Students Are Missing Out

It seems like flu shots should be an easy sell on campus.

The flu vaccine is "the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others," states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and should be administered by October every year. Many colleges make getting vaccinated easier by offering flu clinics on campus with free or low-cost vaccines. And as Beth Kotharski, director of Swarthmore's Health and Wellness Services, noted, "college students are in all a very empathic group," willing to act to help others.

Still, they largely avoid the flu vaccine.

In 2010, after the H1N1 pandemic, Yang surveyed 370 college students about the seasonal flu. Among her sample, only 13 percent had received the vaccine during the previous flu season.

Yang suggests that social influence has a significant impact on vaccine rates and that college providers of health information should try to take advantage of that -- by pointing out, for example, that their classmates need students to get a vaccine to protect the community.

Why They Don't Get Vaccinated

Young adults may not be at the highest risk of death from the flu, but the illness can kill people of any age. It hospitalizes some 200,000 a year, according to the CDC. In the best-case scenario, it can sideline those with papers to write, tests to take and games to play.

But because it is a ubiquitous, annual disease, it "kind of becomes old knowledge that especially college kids don’t even pay attention to," Yang said.

Students have what Yang calls "unwarranted optimism" about their own health: They do not see the flu "as a personal risk and tend to overestimate how safe they truly are."

In her study, Yang tested participants' factual knowledge of the illness. Most students, she found, overestimated what they knew.

This overconfidence, Yang said, interferes with their obtaining the real facts about the disease and the vaccine. Instead, she found that some acted based on false information, including students who didn't get the vaccine because they had heard people became sick from it. (In fact, you can't get the flu from a flu shot.)

Economics professor Ellen Magenheim and assistant professor Erin Todd Bronchetti at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, along with former colleague David Huffman, examined what makes an effective flu vaccine campaign. Their paper, currently under review at a journal, explored three scenarios. The first was an email sent from another student at the school urging the recipient to get vaccinated. The second was an email with audio of coughing, to "make the cost of getting sick more salient," Magenheim told HuffPost. The third was an email offering a $30 incentive.

Offering money was the most effective of the three options, but the most costly as well. One promising result from the peer endorsement email was that students were actually opening that message, so perhaps they were receiving the factual information.

The study's biggest finding was how few students who said they were planning to get vaccinated actually followed through. In the control group, only 27 percent of students who said they were going to get the vaccine actually did. Even in the incentive group promised the monetary incentive, only 43 percent followed through.

Get The Timing Right

Participation rates would increase if there was less time between a student's plan to get the shot and the opportunity to actually receive it, Bronchetti told HuffPost.

To make it easier for students to act on a good intention, Swarthmore, for instance, has an "open policy" for flu vaccines. Kotharski said that "in addition to formal clinic times," the health service will "offer and give a vaccine whenever a student would like it."

This year, Swarthmore is also holding vaccination clinics in the dining hall "for students who might otherwise not feel they have a moment to get a flu shot," Kotharski said. The vaccine costs $25 but is covered by most insurance policies.

Bring It To The Students

The University of Pennsylvania similarly hosts clinics in central locations on campus. "We bring the flu clinic to students," said Ashlee Halbritter, a health educator with UPenn's Student Health Service.

Last week's clinic, the first of the academic year, had an average turnaround of eight minutes, according to Halbritter and Drinkard. The longest wait for a vaccine was 15 minutes, they said. No appointments were necessary, and students registered using their ID cards. Aside from signing a consent form, everything was done electronically, including paying the $25.

Some 2,500 people were vaccinated at the clinic, including over 1,900 students, according to Halbritter and Drinkard. These are the highest numbers they have seen.

Fact: Flu is more infectious that Ebola. Arm yourself for the season—get your flu vaccine this Wednesday! More info:

— Healthy Penn (@HealthyPenn) October 26, 2014

The UPenn health service markets its vaccination clinics vigorously even as they're taking place. "We do as much campaigning [for the clinics] the day of as we do the weeks prior to," Halbritter said.

While UPenn does not allow its offices to email the entire student body, the Student Health Service emails staff and faculty asking them to talk to students. The health service also uses traditional posters as well as Facebook and Twitter posts.

The UPenn officials are encouraged by the number of students who chose to get vaccinated last week. "Anybody who comes on their own accord to a clinic like this is interested in taking good care of themselves and probably also has a good idea of public health," Drinkard said.

Jerks Like This Make Us Wonder If We Even Deserve Halloween Anymore

Thu, 2014-10-30 17:04
Halloween is supposed to be easy to love. After all, it's the only holiday in which your sole obligation is to have fun, help others have fun, or, if you're a total grouch, just stay home with the doorbell muted. We get to dress up -- or dress our kids, pets and houses up -- using our creativity and costume-design skills to scare, amuse and impress others.

At least that's what Halloween is supposed to be. In recent years, however, the basic tenets of the holiday seem to have given rise to idiocy and excess, sometimes very real and sometimes mistakenly perceived. Perhaps most visibly, social media has provided a platform to the people who think the "too-soon" costumes are edgy, and the "not-in-a-million-years" ones are downright hilarious. But it's not just the costumes. For some reason, around Oct. 31, people have a strange tendency to take everything too far. The outrage machine then gets cranked up and Halloween ends up being a sad reminder of why we can't have nice things.

So, to the people and things below, screw you, you're ruining this great holiday for everyone else.

On Halloween, some people think it's totally okay to dress up as a domestic abuser!

The Ray Rice scandal sent shockwaves through the nation earlier this year, when surveillance video leaked to TMZ showed the NFL star knocking his then-fiancee, now-wife unconscious in a hotel elevator. After a serious nationwide discussion on domestic violence, people vowed to treat the issue with respect thought it would make a super funny costume, apparently. As if making a joke about domestic violence wasn't bad enough, a few decided to top it all off with a little blackface:

And another one RT @mdlamaster @KeithOlbermann
And we have a winner in the proud daughter sweepstakes for morons.

— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) October 26, 2014

Seriously. This is a couple's costume ...

If you missed this amazing racism and pro-DV bs posted to Instagram by @RitterZac (account now locked)

— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) October 26, 2014

Just why? It's not funny. It's not clever. The Ray Rice costume is this year's Trayvon Martin costume, and yes, it should make you feel physically ill that a sentence like that can even exist.

Blackface is horrible and offensive. But, for some reason, the issue seems to pop up every Halloween. Someone else's race or culture shouldn't be a costume, period. There are plenty of awesome things you can dress up as without deliberately trying to inflame racial tensions or offend people. You know it's going to piss someone off either in person, or on the Internet (when it inevitably ends up there).

This, too, is poor form:

@ellievhall A hijabi friend of mine got this text from a former college classmate:

— Ismat Sarah Mangla (@ismat) October 28, 2014

Meanwhile, others aren't sure if it's Ebola, or EbLOLa.

Here's another horrible costume idea based on a tragic story that’s dominated news headlines in 2014 -- Sexy Ebola Nurse. If "Modest Ebola Nurse" wasn't bad enough, for $59.99, costume shop BrandsOnSale will mail you a tight "lab coat" dress, gloves and a mask to anyone insensitive enough to poke fun at a deadly viral outbreak that has claimed nearly 5,000 lives.

Will people actually wear it? Probably, says ABC News.

And hapless infants are fair territory in this tasteless game of dress-up.

People are now getting their kids involved in their dumb Halloween costume adventures, too. Controversial getups like Baby Cigarette and Baby Pimp are big sellers on BrandsOnSale, owner Jonathan Weeks told CBS Los Angeles. "Halloween is one day out of the year you can dress up and be anything," Weeks said. But just because you can, doesn't mean you need to. Especially when your kids can’t yet tell you what an idiot you are.

When you buy a costume for your baby that proves you weren't ready to be a parent

— Yassir Lester (@Yassir_Lester) October 23, 2014

And it wouldn't be Halloween without some serious body-shaming.

Halloween's great (when people aren't trying to ruin it), but it's not exactly known for its kindness to women. People just love making fun of "slutty" costumes, and everyone has an opinion on whether anyone should wear them. Is a sexy witch costume degrading? Is it fun and empowering? Should we even care how people dress? Navigating this holiday as a girl is already full of body-image land mines, but this week, Walmart took things to a whole new level with a "Fat Girl Costumes" section of its website. There, visitors found a selection of plus-sized costumes.

A screenshot from taken on October 27.

A presumed mistake by the site's developers (the section was removed within a few hours) forced the retail giant's PR team into overdrive, issuing semi-robotic apologies via Twitter. Really, Walmart? Even you should be above this.

And it's cool to poke fun at a neighbor's dead relative this time of year, too, right?

Continuing the theme of poor judgment, a Dallas man recently decorated the outside of his home as an Ebola quarantine zone. Hazmat barrels and caution tape surround the residence, which has understandably raised a few neighbors' eyebrows and garnered criticism from the family of Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola at a Dallas hospital. While the homeowner characterized the display as "all in good fun," Duncan's family called it "insulting."

Well, at least these lawn decorations are there for the taking.

Halloween Grinches descend on tacky home decor every year, but we can only imagine what they plan to do with a massive inflatable haunted train. Seriously, where is someone going to put a "spooky monster butler"? Or an inflatable witch head that belonged to a 5-year-old? Probably the only thing worse than showing off a ghost riding a motorcycle in your front yard is being that asshole who steals it.

Deep. Fried. Candy. Corn.

Halloween candy sales are expected to top $2.5 billion in 2014, and depending on whom you ask, candy corn is either the best or the worst treat for the holiday. Seeing as how this is America, it was apparently only a matter of time until someone decided that deep-frying this polarizing confection would be a good idea.

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Post by OH, Bite It.

Gross. Do not make these.

Halloween is a time for every kid's favorite thing: candy being lectured ...

No one likes people who use Halloween handouts to promote their own agenda. Sure, that goes for dentists who give out floss or toothbrushes, but ESPECIALLY for anti-vaccine advocates who've taken to labeling innocent candy bars with misinformation on vaccines. The National Vaccine Information Center, an anti-vaccine organization, is encouraging people to print their own labels at home, the blog Respectful Insolence first reported. As a reminder, all but a lonely few scientists and medical experts disagree with the suggestion vaccines may be harmful.

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Post by National Vaccine Information Center.

Speaking of propaganda: Religious pamphlets remain the #1 worst thing to give out on Halloween. Even little kids know it.

Chick Publications, purveyor of some controversial evangelical tracts, has a ton of miniature comic books available for purchase on its website with Halloween-themed messages. One shows a young boy getting fatally hit by a car while trick-or-treating, and another tells the tale of a group of high schoolers who summon the devil by sacrificing a black cat on an altar. What Halloween fun! Yeah, no one likes creepy religious pamphlets.

When parents face their worst fear: monsters trying to get their babies high on the pot.

Fear mongering isn't just for anti-vaxxers. Marijuana is now legal in Colorado, and parents in the Centennial State are reportedly worried that some evil person might slip a pot candy in their trick-or-treater's goody bag. The Denver Police Department heard the concern loud and clear, responding with a campaign full of scary graphics proving that marijuana-infused candy looks pretty similar to regular candy.

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Post by Denver Police Department.

Of course, it's unclear why anybody would waste a significant amount of money -- a couple of dollars per candy, if not more -- just to try to get kids high, which would likely be terrifying and unpleasant, though not life-threatening. There's no real precedent for it.

The simple solution, as with previous unfounded scares about poisoned, razor blade-laden candy, is for parents to throw out any candy that isn't in its original packaging and, if you're really paranoid, to make sure that there aren't any misleadingly labeled pot candies in your kid's trick-or-treat bag. That, or splurge on this marijuana candy test kit made specifically for Halloween.

Honestly, there's too much outrage to keep track of. Let's just get offended by everything.

There will be plenty of actual things to be outraged about this Halloween -- let's not invent additional ones.

In New Jersey, a woman came under fire for having Halloween decorations that some neighbors say went too far. The display featured baby dolls hanging from ropes, which could be "frightening to children," one neighborhood parent said. Somehow, the controversy ended up as a local news story, leading the homeowner to say she wouldn't take down her decorations until after Halloween. In Minneapolis, a similar story emerged, but with a yard full of scary zombies.

And in North Carolina, a billboard for a local haunted woods attraction was called too "disturbing" because it featured a picture of undead woman with half of a face. “I don’t want to see violence against women so for me that was something that stood out,” a local mother told WGNO. “Why is it just a female face and why does it look like someone has beaten her?”

Obviously, violence against women is not something to take lightly, as we went over with the Ray Rice-costumed idiots above. But that's really not the issue here. Halloween is supposed to be spooky. And fun! Let's keep it that way.

The Best Halloween Costumes Of 2014 -- So Far

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:51
It's that time of the year, folks. Think you've got an awesome Halloween costume? Well, show us what you got!

HuffPost Comedy is back with our annual round up of the best Halloween costumes of the year. We've kicked things off with some of the best costumes the Internet has to offer, but we need you to complete the list!

Scroll down for our favorites so far and submit your funny, clever or topical costumes by hitting the button below and we may feature your photo in this roundup!

By submitting your image, you are agreeing to The Huffington Post's TOS:

The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Be a Vampire

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:45
Although many people believe vampires to be fictional, their presence is ingrained in our pop culture, thanks to shows like "True Blood," "Twilight," and the latest vampire movie to hit the big screen: "Dracula Untold." Although the rules governing the lives of the undead seem to be as fluid as the blood that they drink, in many of the prevailing tales vampires need to avoid direct sunlight, drink blood from humans and sleep in coffins. With Halloween quickly approaching, we at Redfin decided to sink our teeth into the data and found the best U.S. cities to be a vampire.

Since vampires need to avoid sunlight, we found the average number of cloudy days in a year for each city. Then we looked at how long the bars and clubs can serve alcohol, which is a good indicator of how late places stay open at night (giving vampires something to do). Then we added up the number of blood drives happening in the next month, because the undead need a constant food supply. Finally, we pulled data from a report Redfin published last year identifying cities with the most homes for sale near cemeteries, because vampires wouldn't want to travel too far to get from their home to their coffin when the day breaks.

Read on to find out which cities flew to the top, and which came in dead last. And if you happen to be a vampire, you can start your search for a new home in one of these places.

1. Philadelphia, PA

Cloudy days: 160
Bar Hours: 7 a.m. -- 3 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 548
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 2

It turns out that the City of Brotherly Love is a bloody good place to be for vampires, with plenty of cloudy days, a 3 a.m. closing time and many cemeteries in the city. Philadelphia had the most blood drives planned for the next month -- 548 -- ensuring that vampires would have plenty of places to grab a bite to eat.

Philadelphia vampires would fit right in at the Dracula Ball, a Halloween event taking place at the Trocadero Theatre, or scaring the bejeezus out of people on the street, as one prankster recently captured on camera.

"I'm not surprised Philadelphia tops the list!" said Blakely Minton, a local Redfin real estate agent. "There are a lot of historical homes here, many of which are rumored to be haunted. Examples of places with a spooky past include the Edgar Allan Poe House, Eastern State Penitentiary, the Mütter Museum, the Powel House, the Betsy Ross House... the list goes on. A company called Grim Philly even offers a 'Vampires, Sex and Ghost Tour' that you can take at night."

2. Chicago, IL

Cloudy days: 176
Bar Hours: 7 a.m. -- 5 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 103
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 3

It wouldn't suck to be a vampire in Chicago. Several bars and clubs stay open until 5 a.m., there are more than 100 blood drives in the next month and there are a lot of cemeteries in city limits. Perhaps that's why there's a series of novels called "Chicagoland Vampires" that are set in the city, and why there's a vampire-themed English course at Northwestern University and at the University of Illinois.

Chicago vampires would fit right in at The Vampire Diaries' Official Convention in 2015, the 3rd Annual Zombies vs. Vampires Pub Crawl, or an event hosted by the Chicago Vampire Meetup Group, which boasts 465 members!

"A lot of supernatural tales stem from Chicago's rich history, which includes the Great Chicago Fire, prohibition-era gang activity and the Civil War," said Alex Haried, a local Redfin real estate agent. "The city is home to many places that are rumored to be haunted, including the H.H. Holmes mansion, the Wynekoop Mansion, Jane Addam's Hull House, and more. I'm not aware of any homes that are supposed to be frequented by vampires, but I'm sure those stories are out there."

3. Baltimore, MD

Cloudy days: 152
Bar Hours: 6 a.m. -- 2 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 480
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 1

Baltimore had a high number of blood drives and cloudy days, but it was the number of homes for sale near cemeteries that put the final nail in the coffin. The city was founded in the 1700s and grew over time, so cemeteries became part of the landscape in most neighborhood developments.

Baltimore vampires would fit right in at a Meetup of the House of Maryland By Night Vampire,Witch & Werewolf Alliance, which has 81 members, or perhaps the Mind's Eye Society LARP. On a Saturday night they might attend a Batz over Baltimore event at The Depot Nightclub.

"There are a few ghost tours in Baltimore, including one in Ellicott City where you can walk through older neighborhoods and learn about the history of the city and hear all the ghost stories," said Lynn Ikle, a local Redfin real estate agent. "Some of those historic Georgian-style homes look like they could be the set of a vampire movie."

4. Portland, OR

Cloudy days: 222
Bar Hours: 7 a.m. -- 2:30 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 274
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 8

Portland has the second highest number of cloudy days in a year and hundreds of blood drives in the next month, enabling it to stake its claim at No. 4 on this list. In fact, the gray skies and vegetation were similar enough to Forks, Washington, that the producers of the "Twilight" movies filmed several scenes in Portland, including the Cullens' house, located at 3333 NW Quimby St.

Portland vampires would fit right in on the set of NBC's "Grimm," a fairy-tale inspired hit show filmed in the city, or at an event of the Portland Vampire Meetup group, which has 213 members. Date night might involve a trip to Zompire: The Undead Film Festival or the annual Vampire's Masquerade Ball.

"We like to keep it weird in Portland. You'll find groups of people who are into vampires, zombies, ghosts, you name it," said Wayne Olson, a local Redfin real estate agent. "There's a Zombie Walk every year that started as a flash mob but is now an organized event where hundreds of people roam the streets dressed up as zombies. There's also a ghost tour where they hand out real ghost-hunting equipment! And the Vampire's Masquerade Ball draws a crowd every year."

5. Boston, MA

Cloudy days: 164
Bar Hours: 8 a.m. -- 2 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 470
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 4

Boston has plenty of Bruins, and plenty of ruins. The city had a lot of homes for sale near cemeteries and a lot of blood drives, but fewer cloudy days and late-night options than other cities on the list. However, the city is home to one of the most notorious "vampire killers," James Riva, who claimed to be a 700-year-old vampire when he killed his grandmother in 1980. Perhaps that's what inspired the producers of "Being Human," a supernatural drama about vampires, to set the show in Boston.

Boston vampires would fit right in at the Boston Latin School, which made national headlines in 2009 when police were called in because of vampire-related rumors. Or they could sneak into the Boston area White Wolf LARP Group, which plays role-playing games like Vampire: The Masquerade and Vampire: The Requiem.

"Boston has some of the oldest cemeteries in the U.S., where you can visit the final resting places of people like John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Samuel Adams. A lot of neighborhoods were built around them, so it makes sense that it would rank high in possible Vampire sightings. Boston is filled with spooky old Victorian homes, many of which still have original finishes from hundreds of years ago, so I can see why it made the list," said Katie Gustafson, a local Redfin real estate agent. "It's a city filled with mysterious charm and character."

6. Washington, DC

Cloudy days: 164
Bar Hours: 8 a.m. -- 3 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 471
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 11

Vampires may want to pull up stakes and move to our nation's capital. Although Washington didn't have as many homes for sale near cemeteries as some of the other cities on the list, there were a high number of blood drives and places that are open until 3 a.m.

Washington vampires would fit right in at the Vamp it Up event at SAX, or at a screening of Orlok, the Vampire in 3D at Artisphere. They might also want to start training for the Vampire 5K, which will take place around this time next year.

"Washington went through a lot of turmoil in its early years, and there are plenty of places that are reportedly haunted as a result," said Michael Alderfer, a local Redfin real estate agent. "There are also a lot of historical homes with unique histories. It's no surprise that eventually something like 'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' would come to exist!"

7. Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN

Cloudy days: 169
Bar Hours: 8 a.m. -- 2 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 357
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 10

Vampire rats might not be the only thing out for blood in Minneapolis. With plenty of blood drives, cemeteries and cloudy days, it's not a bad place for vampires to settle down. Perhaps that's why Jonathon "The Impaler" Sharkey -- who believed he was a vampire -- once ran for governor of Minnesota.

Minneapolis vampires would fit right in at Crypticon Minneapolis, Minnesota's No. 1 horror convention. For a laugh, they could attend "Dracula: The Musical" at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center. Or they could blend in on the Transylvania Trolley, a Halloween ride on the Como-Harriet streetcar.

"There are a few places that are rumored to be haunted in the Twin Cities area, including the Wabasha Street Caves, Mounds Theater, The Griggs Mansion, the Lakewood Cemetery, First Avenue Nightclub and the fifth floor of City Hall. A lot of the stories are from the 1800s gold rush days, or from gangster activity in the 1920s," said Chris Prescott, a local Redfin real estate agent. "I'm not aware of any famous vampire stories, but we just broke the record for the largest gathering of zombies!"

8. Madison, WI

Cloudy days: 180
Bar Hours: 6 a.m. -- 2:30 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 180
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: n/a

Madison was the dark horse on the list; it had fewer than 10 homes for sale near cemeteries when we ran the analysis last year, but what it lacks in graveyards it makes up for in cloudy days, serving hours and blood drives. It's also not far from Mineral Point, where there have been reports of a vampire that haunts the Graceland Cemetery.

Madison vampires would fit right in at The Vampire's Ball at Club Inferno; they might even win the costume contest! They could also learn a little bit more about their history at a University of Wisconsin-Madison class called "The Vampire In Literature And Film." If that wasn't enough, they could head to the Madison Public Library for some vampire book recommendations.

"Madison is a very inclusive community, so vampires would likely be accepted for who they are here," said Brian Callahan, a local Redfin real estate agent. "And people in Madison love Halloween! There's a big event on State Street called 'Freakfest' where tens of thousands of people dress up and listen to live bands. It's one of the largest Halloween celebrations in the Midwest."

9. Atlanta, GA

Cloudy days: 149
Bar Hours: 9 a.m. -- 2:30 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 311
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 5

It turns out vampires wouldn't bat an eye at moving to Atlanta. Although it has the least number of cloudy days as any city on the top 10 list, there are plenty of cemeteries in the city where vampires could escape. In fact the Atlanta suburb of Covington, Georgia, is where "The Vampire Diaries" is filmed; those interested in learning more can take the "Vampire Stalkers" Mystic Falls tour.

Atlanta vampires would fit right in at The Atlanta Vampire Alliance, which promotes itself as "a neutral Vampire Community organization." Or they could attend the Atlanta Vampire Meetup Group, which boasts 591 members. For fun they might go to the Masquerade Nightclub, which is rumored to be frequented by vampires. They might also want to start training for the Vampire 5k on December 6.

"A lot of people in Atlanta have an interest in the paranormal, and there are many historical homes and places that are reportedly haunted," said Adam Kappel, a local Redfin real estate agent. "Those spooky-looking places might be why so many scary movies and TV shows are filmed here, like 'The Walking Dead' and 'Vampire Diaries.'"

10. Seattle, WA

Cloudy days: 226
Bar Hours: 6 a.m. -- 2 a.m.
# of Blood Banks and Drives: 98
Homes for Sale Near Cemeteries Ranking: 37

Seattle's cloudy weather made the city's placement on the top 10 list a dead giveaway, but you might be surprised that it came in at the dead end. Seattle had the least number of blood drives and homes for sale near cemeteries, and the bars close at a relatively early time of 2 a.m. However, that didn't stop Stephenie Meyer from setting her infamous "Twilight" novels in Forks, Washington, which is about a four-hour drive from Seattle.

The popularity of the "Twilight" series might have inspired the First Vampire Tour of Seattle, which is no longer operating, but which took curious visitors to "the site of a Blood Letting Den from years past where it's said that vampires will be lurking and fifty eyes will be upon you." It might have also led to the rumors of a vampire attack in Lake Stevens back in 2009. Vampires in Seattle will want to avoid the Seattle Buffy Meetup Group, which has 233 members. But they'd fit right in at the "Choose Your Vampire Adventure" game of flashlight tag at Magnuson Park.

"The Twilight movies definitely put the Northwest on the map as a good destination for vampires," said Dan Mullins, a local Redfin real estate agent. "Forks, Washington, used to be a small town that most people had never heard of, and now it's a tourist destination. But I think vampires would prefer Seattle; it's almost as cloudy and there's a lot more to do!"

5 Cities Where it Would Suck to Be a Vampire

The following cities came in dead last when it comes to ideal locations for vampires. Not only are they too sunny, they all had less than 100 blood drives in the next month, and very few homes for sale near cemeteries. San Diego and Sacramento are particularly dangerous for vampires, because California is the top garlic-producing state!

1. San Diego, CA
2. Sacramento, CA
3. Tampa, FL
4. Austin, TX
5. Denver, CO

We pulled the mean number of cloudy days through 2012 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Information on alcohol serving regulations came from the government pages of each city. We found the number of blood banks and blood drives happening in the next month from directories available at, and local blood centers. The cemeteries ranking came from data Redfin pulled last year for a report identifying cities with the most homes for sale near cemeteries, which looked at 90 U.S. Census MSAs and cemetery data supplied by

Prison Food Scandal Pushed By Dem Group In Tight Michigan Governor's Race

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:30
Protesters took to the street outside the Detroit campaign office of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Wednesday morning, staging a mock cook-off in response to allegations concerning the state's prison food service contract with an outside company.

The protest, organized by progressive activist group Michigan People's Campaign, stems from recent claims that Aramark, the corporation under contract to provide the state's prison food service, fired one of its employees after she brought attention to what she said were disturbing food safety practices -- including the serving of raw meat and food that had fallen onto the floor -- in the kitchens of a state correctional facility.

The worker, Amy McVay, filed a whistle-blower complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Association last week, as the Detroit Free-Press first reported.

Referencing those allegations, the cook-off featured a menu listing dishes such as "chili con larvae" and "dirt cake."

"This is the quality of the food Aramark provides," Michigan Peoples' Campaign spokesman Erik Shelley told The Huffington Post.

McVay's complaint is only the latest trouble Aramark has run into since beginning its three-year, $145 million Michigan prison contract on Dec. 3, 2013.

In August, the state fined Aramark $200,000 due to "unacceptable" problems with the company's performance and upped the monitoring of conditions, the Free-Press reported.

Prior to that, media reports outlined allegations of maggots being found in and near food Aramark served to inmates, and employees smuggling drugs and other contraband items to inmates, as well as workers engaging in sex acts with inmates. A murder-for-hire plot involving an Aramark employee has also been alleged. Over 100 Aramark workers in Michigan have been fired due to misconduct allegations, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Still, Gov. Snyder has declined to forfeit the Amtrak contract. His Democratic challenger, Mark Schauer, has repeatedly urged him to do so, saying the incumbent "continues to put the safety of state employees at risk and waste taxpayer dollars on a failed experiment in privatization." A number of state Democratic lawmakers have also called for the contract's cancelation and pushed for the state's contracting process to be overhauled, as a result of the scandal.

Democratic advocacy group Progress Michigan even used the Aramark allegations in an ad criticizing Snyder earlier this month:

In a statement to HuffPost, Aramark spokeswoman Karen Cutler called the Wednesday protest "yet another example in the long-running series of manufactured attacks against our company" and its Michigan employees. Cutler pointed out that the state and the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) already cleared Aramark of pest and unsanitary food allegations and canceled $98,000 in fines (unrelated to the $200,000 in fines from August).

Schauer has alleged that a Snyder aide played a role in the contractor's fee cancellation, the Free-Press reported.

"We respect our employees’ and our clients’ privacy and do not comment publicly about claims asserted by disgruntled former employees," Cutler said in an email to HuffPost. "However, we investigate every employee concern that is reported to us, including those alleged by former employees. We stand by our food safety record and our employees at the MDOC."

Philadelphia-based Aramark claims its contracts can help save cash-strapped governments and school districts millions of dollars without sacrificing quality, but that hasn't always been the case. Earlier this year, the company faced complaints of maggots being found in food the company's workers served in Ohio prisons. Food and staffing shortages were among the other contract violations that prompted Ohio to fine the company $142,000 in April.

At Chicago Public Schools, where the company holds both a food service and custodial contract, Aramark's work has been the subject of numerous complaints about cleanliness and safety, prompting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to say last month that the company needed to "either live up to that contract and clean up the schools or they can clean out their desks and get out."

Man Convicted Of Double Murder In Landmark Case Released From Prison

Thu, 2014-10-30 16:28
CHICAGO (AP) -- A prisoner whose confession helped free a death row inmate in a case that was instrumental to ending capital punishment in Illinois was released Thursday after he recanted, and a prosecutor said there was powerful evidence that the other man was responsible.

Alstory Simon's confession gained international attention in 1999, largely because of an investigation by a journalism professor and a team of students from Northwestern University that helped secure Anthony Porter's release just days before he was to be executed. He had spent 16 years on death row for slayings he and his supporters maintained he did not commit.

Because of constitutional protections against double jeopardy, there is no legal way to retry Porter.

Simon, wearing a grey hoodie and jeans, told reporters outside Jacksonville Correctional Center that he was angry.

"I'm not angry at the system. I'm angry at the people who did what they did to me," he said, crying as he told reporters that his mother had died while he was behind bars.

Simon was convicted and sentenced to 37 years in prison. But the Cook County State's Attorney's Office began re-examining his conviction last year after his attorney presented evidence that he had been threatened with the death penalty and coerced into confessing with promises that he would get an early release and share in the profits from book and movie deals. And, said Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, he was tricked by a private investigator who stormed into his home and showed him a videotape of a man who said he had seen Simon pull the trigger. The man turned out to be an actor.

"In the best interest of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction," Alvarez said.

The Porter case helped lead former Gov. George Ryan to declare a moratorium on executions in 2003, and he cleared death row by commuting the death sentences of more than 150 inmates to life in prison. Gov. Pat Quinn abolished the death penalty in 2011.

Alvarez did not say whether she believed Simon is, in fact, innocent, but she said there were so many problems with the case - including what she called a coerced confession and the deaths of a number of key figures - that it is impossible to determine exactly what happened on the morning of Aug. 15, 1982, when two people were shot to death as they sat in a park on Chicago's South Side.

She also said there remains powerful evidence that Porter was the gunman, including several witnesses who still maintain their original statements.

"As I stand here today, I can't definitely tell you it was Porter who did this or Simon who did this," she said.

Alvarez said the "tactics and antics" of the investigator, Paul Ciolino, and former Northwestern journalism professor David Protess could have added up to criminal charges of obstruction of justice and intimidation of a witness at the time, but that it is now impossible to file charges because the statute of limitations has run out.

Protess, who retired from Northwestern in 2011 amid questions about his investigative methods, did not respond to phone calls for comment.

Ciolino, who like Protess has denied acting improperly, released a statement that emphasized that Simon confessed multiple times, including to a TV reporter and his own lawyer.

"You explain that," Ciolino said. Nonetheless, he added, no one should be in prison if the state did not meet its burden of proof.