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Uber Adds 'Safe Ride Checklist' For Users In Boston And Chicago After Rape Allegations

Mon, 2015-01-05 17:28
Uber has released a "safe ride checklist" for app users in Boston and Chicago, following allegations that drivers in those cities sexually assaulted female passengers.

“We are being responsive,” Uber Chicago general manager Chris Taylor told The Chicago Sun-Times. “Given there have been some accusations... we want to make sure everyone knows how to use the platform in the safest way possible.”

The checklist, which Galen Moore tweeted a screenshot of on Jan. 2, includes three bulleted points:

Uber should roll out these checklists in cities where its customers haven't been raped yet. http://t.co/kIeeDIJubY pic.twitter.com/anUS4JY4yu

— Galen Moore (@galenmoore) January 2, 2015


The checklist comes in the form of an in-app pop-up screen, encouraging riders to make sure that they get into the correct vehicle with the correct driver. Anna Merlan at Jezebel pointed out that, while the guidelines themselves are sensible, the checklist does not address the existing issue of registered Uber drivers assaulting passengers:
Certainly no one can argue with "make sure you're getting in the right car." But the issue has never been that women are getting in the car with someone pretending to be an Uber driver. In virtually every incident we've heard about, the women are getting into cars with actual Uber drivers, who then assault them.

Incidents involving Uber -- such as the alleged kidnapping and rape of a young female passenger on Dec. 6. -- are not limited to Chicago and Boston. In October, a Los Angeles woman claimed that an Uber driver kidnapped her and took her to an empty parking lot. The ridesharing app was banned in New Delhi after a driver there allegedly raped a female passenger. And in December 2013, law enforcement declined to prosecute an Uber driver accused of raping a 20-year-old woman after driving her home in Washington, D.C..

When asked if the checklist was directly related to the sexual assault allegations, a representative for Uber told The Huffington Post: "Uber is committed to developing new technology tools that improve safety and communication. The Safety Checklist was developed to ensure that safety features built into the app are being fully utilized."

Abigail Tracy at Vocativ called the checklist "disappointing," writing that it puts the responsibility on the customer not to get assaulted. "Here’s the bottom line: A company probably shouldn’t have to advise its customers on how not to get sexually assaulted by its employees," she wrote. "And if it does, a 'How Not to Get Raped' FAQ is a pretty lame response."

Learn more about Uber's new safety initiatives here.

17 Kiss Cam Moments That Went Wonderfully Wrong Or Terrifically Right

Mon, 2015-01-05 17:01
It's one of the staples of modern sports arenas: force people sitting next to one another and kiss.

Are some of the these kiss cam moments staged? Probably. But that just adds to the fun and spontaneous excitement of them. Kiss cam videos have been flooding the Internet over the last few days, hitting not just reddit and normal web watering holes, but the local news as well. So we thought we would compile some of the best ones right here.

Warning: Some of these end not in kisses, but embarrassment.

Sometimes, the kiss cam is about acknowledging who or what is most important to you.

Via Reddit



Even if that "who" is also sitting right there.

Via Reddit



Having a lot of options isn't a bad thing, but it can be exhausting.

Via Reddit



The key to the kiss cam is not to overdo it.

Via Reddit



And never assume.

Via Reddit



Even if you're a movie star.

Via Reddit



Be mindful of people around you.

Via Reddit



And also the person you've got your eye on. You may lose that eye.

Via Reddit



That's why it's important to choose the person you sit next to very carefully.

Via Reddit



Though, it's tough if you're on the team.

Via Reddit



Or calling the game from the broadcast booth.

Via Reddit



True fans don't let the kiss cam get in the way of their team allegiance.

Via Reddit



But even if you're the president, you must respect the power of the kiss cam.

Via Youtube



If you're a guy, be respectful of her space. Like a cobra, if you surprise someone on kiss cam, they might strike!

Via Reddit



And if you're a girl, try to gross him out all you want, he still wants the kiss.

Via Giphy



Above all though, don't hesitate, because you may miss your chance.

Via Gifbay



And then someone else will walk off with your sweetheart.

Via Youtube

Can Illinois Learn From New York's Victory Against Fracking?

Mon, 2015-01-05 16:41
Illinois environmentalists are cheering the spectacular success of the movement to ban fracking in New York. The victory is justifiably spurring reflection on how it was done. What happened in New York that Illinois environmentalists can learn from?


  • Environmental and public health groups made an unambiguous, united push for a ban or moratorium, not regulation.

  • They kept constant, aggressive grassroots pressure on Governor Cuomo and other politicians, especially during election season.

  • State government conducted a thorough study on potential public health impacts before fracking began.

  • They took the fight to small towns and potentially impacted rural areas, not just New York City.

  • As Mark Ruffalo wrote, "The fact that we didn't let the big greens come in and make back room deals was also important to note."

  • They engaged in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, including over 90 arrests near Seneca Lake since October.



Essentially, New York fractivists took the opposite approach of most big green groups active in the Illinois statehouse.

Illinois greens started with a basic chemical disclosure bill several years ago rather than organizing the passionate grassroots desire for a ban. Although there were efforts to ask legislators to pass a moratorium, statehouse green groups remained focused on various regulatory bills. Some of them eventually won a seat at the negotiating table with industry lobbyists to write a regulatory law by ignoring the loud and frequent objection of environmentalists in impacted areas who said regulation cannot make fracking safe.

During the past year, pro-regulation groups joined Governor Pat Quinn in remaining silent about his unpopular support for fracking. Sierra Club even issued a greenwash endorsement of Quinn as a "climate leader" despite his horrible record on fossil fuel extraction.

Several groups continued to engage in the regulatory process without meaningful buy-in or communication with the downstate anti-fracking movement. They tell environmental audiences they prefer a ban, but told legislators they'll settle for regulation. The result is a deeply divided movement that's less effective on all energy issues.

What's next for Illinois?

More fractivists are focusing on county government, like a victory lead by Illinois People's Action to stop a proposed oil drill in McLean county. Union county is forming a group to study the impacts of fracking and conventional drilling at the urging of the Shawnee Sentinels. There's a good reason why Illinois law doesn't allow counties to ban fracking. Some of them would actually do it.

In southern Illinois, lifelong residents and grandmothers are training to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience to stop fracking operations. Additionally, momentum is building to form a coalition similar to New York that will coordinate statewide action between groups.

Illinoisans made their opposition to fracking clear through unprecedented participation in the public hearing process and by choosing not to show up for Pat Quinn on election day. But the industry's farcical campaign to marginalize fractivists as a tiny fringe continues to have lingering influence among legislators and reporters in the statehouse. One result is inadequate coverage given to the anti-fracking movement. Fractivists can't rely on regional news outlets traditionally sympathetic to fossil fuel interests to get our message out.

What the movement does next year won't make the impact it should if most of the public and politicians don't hear about it. That's why the movement needs it's own source for accurate, full coverage of how extraction industries are impacting the state.

Illinois environmentalists had discouraging setbacks in 2014. Resolving to follow New York's example will bring more success in 2015.

15 Calendars For People Who Need To Laugh Every Day Of 2015

Mon, 2015-01-05 16:33
Well, it's a new year and you promised yourself that this year you're really going to fulfill your resolution to become more organized and to stop asking your neighbor to tell you the date.

And while we are fully aware that everyone's phone these days has a fully functional calendar in it, those are just so boring. You should really consider investing in a wall calendar this year. Yes, calendars are so grown up, but when they are this funny, they'll be the one thing you're thankful for each and every day of this year. We found the best 15 calendars for every person out there:

1. For the person who has a traditional sense of humor ...




2015 someecards Wall Calendar




2. ... And for the person who has a more sophisticated sense of humor.




Cartoons from The New Yorker 2015 Wall Calendar




3. For the person who loves a good chuckle (and the art of David Olenick).




Keep It Shrimple, Stupid: The Art of David Olenick 2015 Wall Calendar




4. For the person who still likes to play with toys.




Toy Confidential: The Secret Life of Snarky Toys 2015 Wall Calendar




5. For the parent who likes being sarcastic with their kids ...




Parenting: Illustrated With Crappy Pictures 2015 Wall Calendar




6. ... And for those parents who are simply ecstatic about their new bundle of joy.




Baby Memes 2015 Wall Calendar




7. For the animal lover who loves to be zen ...




2015 Yoga Cats and Dogs Wall Calendar BrownTrout




8. ... And for the person who plans their pet's outfit every day along with their own.




Zoo Portraits 2015 Calendar




9. For the person who has a deep connection with their dog.




2015 A Dog's Life Wall Calendar




10. For the person who hates everything as much as penguins do.




Penguins Hate Stuff 2015 Wall Calendar




11. For the girl who is just so sick of all that diet talk.




2015 Mary Phillips 16 Month Spiral Planner




12. For the person who doesn't take religion too seriously.




Nuns Having Fun 2015 Wall Calendar




13. ... And for the person whose parents take religion pretty seriously.




2015 Nice Jewish Guys Wall Calendar Jumbo Jet Productions

14. For the history buff who likes their history to be completely pointless ...




Stupid History 2015 Day-to-Day Calendar




15. ... And for the person who likes their advice to be as funny as possible.




The Oatmeal 2015 Poster Calendar

Benny The Bull Intervenes After Guy Is Caught Ignoring Girlfriend On Kiss Cam

Mon, 2015-01-05 16:03
Leave it to one of America’s most beloved sports mascots to come to the rescue of a woman apparently being completely ignored by her boyfriend while caught on an arena “kiss cam.”

During the Celtics-Bulls game at Chicago's United Center on Saturday, the kiss cam caught a Celtics fan and his girlfriend having a fight, and the Chicago team’s Benny the Bull mascot was simply not having it, local outlet WGN reports.

In a statement, Bulls Manager of Corporate Communications Beth Esler confirmed that the incident was actually a skit staged to help rally fans and keep them engaged in the game.

Benny’s chivalrous (and hilarious) act may have provided some good luck to the Bulls, who won the game 109-104 in overtime.

H/T Bleacher Report

This story has been updated with new information from a team rep.

2014 Was a Surprising Year for Illinois Politics

Mon, 2015-01-05 14:34
2014 was always destined to be a big year for Illinois politics, what with the big money spent on the gubernatorial race and waiting to hear what was going on with the new pension reform law. But it turned out to be way more exciting than anyone expected.

Republican gubernatorial primary

What we expected: A tight, four-way race with Treasurer Dan Rutherford, state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, Treasurer Dan Rutherford and political newcomer Bruce Rauner attempting to win over the party's most conservative faction without alienating the suburban independents and Democratic crossover vote they'd ultimately need to win in November. As 2014 dawned, Rutherford led in polling and he and Rauner were outpacing Dillard and Brady in fundraising.

What we got: On Jan. 31, Rutherford held a press conference in Chicago in which he accused Rauner of trying to sabotage his campaign after a treasurer's office employee filed a harassment lawsuit against Rutherford. It was the start of a bizarre turn of events that included an investigation instigated by Rutherford that he said would exonerate him. But when Rutherford delayed releasing the report, the whole ordeal overtook his campaign. By the March 18 primary, the GOP race had become a Dillard-vs.-Rauner contest with Rauner enjoying a large lead in pre-election polling.

Unexpected twist: Rauner's strong opposition to public employee unions mobilized union leadership and members to support the moderate suburbanite Dillard. Rauner's double-digit lead in polls shrank to a 1.9-point margin of victory over Dillard, who got considerable help from Democrats who voted in the Republican primary. Rutherford finished a distant fourth with 4.9 percent.

Treasurer's race

What we expected: Republican State Rep. Tom Cross entered the race for state treasurer with more than a decade of statewide name recognition thanks to his long service as House Republican Leader, a position that placed him opposite House Speaker Michael Madigan. Cross generally was viewed as the favorite against state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, and polling consistently showed him in the lead. Still, this race was expected to be competitive.

What we got: Frerichs pulled out a close victory, winning by .3 percentage points -- a total of 9,225 votes.

Unexpected twist: New rules that allowed same-day voter registration and the popularity of early voting meant that thousands of ballots went uncounted until after the polls closed on Election Day. Cross had a lead of more than 21,000 votes in regular voting, but ballots counted after Election Day quickly turned the race into a contest that separated the candidates by only a few hundred votes out of more than 3.5 million cast. It took two weeks for the counting to be complete, and Cross conceded on Nov. 18.

Check out Reboot Illinois for more analysis about what we expected and we got in Illinois politics in 2014, including the general election and the comptroller's race.

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

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


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Link Between Cold Weather & Colds Is No Medical Myth, According To Study

Mon, 2015-01-05 14:00

By Sharon Begley

NEW YORK, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Whether cold temperatures have anything to do with catching a cold has long been a question that supposedly separates believers in old wives' tales from the scientifically savvy. But while the cold-cold connection is widely considered a medical myth, a new study finds otherwise.

Even a slight chill increases the speed at which rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold, multiply in lab mice, said the study published on Monday by Yale University scientists. Cold temperatures also trigger immune-system changes that let the viruses replicate virtually unchecked.

Scientists have suspected for more than half a century that rhinoviruses thrive in a slight chill. A 1960 study found that they multiply more quickly at 33 degrees Celsius (91.4 Fahrenheit) than at body temperature (37C, or 98.6F.).

The new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirmed that finding, showing cold viruses replicated more efficiently and produced higher levels of infectious particles at the lower temperature.

But it also extended the 1960 results, pinpointing three biological effects of chilly air that can increase the likelihood of developing a cold.

In cells lining the mice's nasal passages, genes that produce the virus-fighting protein interferon were less active at 33C than at 37C, Yale immunologist Akiko Iwasaki and her colleagues reported.

In addition, molecules that detect viruses inside cells and then order the cell to produce interferon were less sensitive at colder temperatures. That lower sensitivity reduced production not only of interferon but also of proteins that chop up virus genes, block the release of virus and kill virus-infected cells.

Exposure to a rhinovirus is still a prerequisite for catching a cold. But once a few viruses have entered cells of the nasal cavity, Iwasaki said, inhaling cold winter air exposes those cells to the chill "that the virus likes to replicate" and causes the immune system to respond less aggressively.

"Altogether," she added, "these temperature effects can result in an 100-fold difference in the level of cold virus" at 33C compared with 37C after three days - enough to turn an asymptomatic viral population into sneezing, runny-nosed misery. (Reporting by Sharon Begley; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Accidental Photobomb Happens When Child Grabs Waiter's Crotch

Mon, 2015-01-05 13:25
No one's letting go in this photo.



This superbly accidental photobomb has been trending on Reddit and it's easy to see why. First of all, it's a perfectly timed photo. Second of all, DAMN that waiter is good. How he was able to realize what was happening, make that face and NOT drop the food is beyond us. We salute you, sir.

[Photo via Imgur]

Shaw: The best way to honor Topinka is to implment her idea

Mon, 2015-01-05 13:03
Though Illinois' late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka won't serve the term she was elected to in November, her views could still make an impact on the office. Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association says that the best way to honor Topinka's memory and continue her legacy into the office's new term would be to combine the state comptroller and treasurer positions, an idea Topinka advocated for during her life. He thinks Gov. Pat Quinn should take up the issue during the special legislative session planned for Jan. 8, which already has questions about how to find Topinka's successor on the agenda.

Shaw writes:

The situation also raises another question voters should answer sooner rather than later: Whether to save money and improve efficiency by combining the state offices of comptroller and treasurer.

Topinka favored consolidation, which could save taxpayers $12 million a year, and supported a proposal in 2011 to consider mandating a merger by amending the Illinois constitution.

The Senate unanimously approved a voter referendum, but the House never took up the issue. "Give me a vote straight up or down," Topinka reportedly asked Speaker Michael Madigan, but the House leader ignored the request, voicing concern that a single office would deprive the state of sufficient fiscal oversight.

For the record, the Better Government Association wholeheartedly supports the consolidation of government offices when it's likely to eliminate duplication, expand services and save tax dollars. We call that "smart streamlining" and it's the key to reducing Illinois' most-in-the-country units of government.

Read the rest of Shaw's thoughts on government consolidation at Reboot Illinois.

Another government change that would be welcomed by many in 2015: redistricting reform. I'm getting an early start on my Christmas 2015 list. I wanted to get to work on it now so soon-to-be-Gov. Bruce Rauner will have plenty of time for the shopping, bartering, haggling and (his specialty) deal-making that'll be required to get it.

The best thing Gov. Rauner could give his constituents as he nears the end of his first year in office is a constitutional amendment to give all Illinois voters fair legislative district maps. That is to say, maps that aren't rigged to protect incumbents for as long as they choose to hold office.

It's something we voters almost got for ourselves this year. A massive citizen initiative called Yes for Independent Maps worked for more than a year to meet the state constitution's strict standards for placing a constitutional amendment proposal before voters. But the effort failed after too many of signatures collected by volunteers and paid workers were ruled invalid.

Find out at Reboot Illinois how Rauner could make this happen by the time the holidays roll around again.

NEXT ARTICLE: Top six challenges Illinois faces in the new year

Sister Tricks Brother With Video Selfies Again And Again And Again

Mon, 2015-01-05 12:44
Ah, sibling rivalries caught on camera.

Anyone with a brother or sister knows that there lies a deep-seated urge to beat, outwit and otherwise embarrass our dear siblings for our own amusement.

YouTuber Jillian Haker took her 2014-long feud with her brother to the next level: making a video compilation and sharing it with the Internet! What her brother believed were single moments of brother-sister selfies were actually video clips of him standing there looking awkward. Over and over and over again.

Brother, oppressed siblings everywhere are waiting for your retaliation video. Don't let us down.

U.S. Ski Team Prospects Ronnie Berlack, Bryce Astle Die In Avalanche

Mon, 2015-01-05 12:14
Two prospects from the U.S. Ski Team were killed in an avalanche Monday while skiing near their European training base in the Austrian Alps.

The U.S. ski team said Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, died in the incident near the Rettenbach glacier near Soelden, the venue for the annual season-opening World Cup races. Berlack, from Franconia, New Hampshire, and Astle, from Sandy, Utah, were part of a group of six skiers who were descending from the 3,056-meter Gaislachkogel when they left the prepared slope and apparently set off the avalanche. The other four skied out of the slide and escaped unhurt.

Officials in the Tyrolean region said an avalanche alert had been declared for the area after days of heavy snowfall and mild temperatures.

"Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport — both on the race course and skiing the mountain," U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw said. "Our hearts go out to the Berlack and Astle families, as well as to their extended sport family. Both of them loved what they did and conveyed that to those around them."

Berlack grew up racing in New Hampshire and had been a student-athlete at Vermont's Burke Mountain Academy. He was named to the so-called development team for potential World Cup racers following two top-20 finishes at the 2013 U.S. national championships and a spring tryout camp.

Astle was invited to train with the development team this season after strong early season results, including two top-10 results at NorAm Cup races last month in Canada.

The tragedy has left the U.S. ski team "in shock," Alpine director Patrick Riml told The Associated Press in Croatia, Zagreb, where the American slalom team was preparing for a night race on Tuesday.

"We are all very close," said Riml, an Austrian who was born and grew up in Soelden. "We train a lot in Park City. We'll see how they handle the whole thing and how they react."

Riml added "it's a shock for everybody. Two great boys, great athletes, good skiers. They were fun to have around. We are all in shock, still. It's very tragic."

Berlack and Astle were part of a group of 10 skiers on the development team who gained experience in the Europa Cup and were preparing to race on the top-level World Cup.

"They all have the potential (to be on the World Cup)," Riml said. "These two boys were among the other eight boys who are our future. We believed in these guys, that's why we selected them."

Soelden has been the European base for the U.S. ski team since 2011.

The 14 Biggest Restaurant Closings of 2014

Mon, 2015-01-05 12:02
By: Lee Breslouer

According to the great philosophers in Semisonic, "every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end" -- and if that's the case, these 14 restaurants met their beginning's end in 2014. Pour out some beer for spots that opened up the doors and let you out into the world... forever.

More: The Best New Restaurants In America Of 2014

7A

New York, NY
If you walked around the East Village any time in the past few decades, 7A would be open. The 24-7 diner never seemed to lack a crowd (especially during brunch). Now, there's one less place for hungry New Yorkers to eat eggs at 2 p.m. Luckily for them, there's at least 10 more options.

Chaya Brasserie

Los Angeles, CA
Not many restaurants in the country can lay claim to creating a dish that's been copied on menus across the country. And yet, the original Chaya in Beverly Hills is where Shigefumi Tachibe whipped up tuna tartare for the first time. The good news is you can still hit up their other locations after they close on New Year's Eve, or just make it at home.

Hamersley's Bistro

Boston, MA
Twenty-seven years ago -- way before Top Chef ever filmed an episode there -- Boston wasn't known for its culinary offerings. Hamersley's helped change that with the a seasonal menu and an ever-popular roast chicken dish. And the benefits to Boston's food scene didn't stop at plates of delicious poultry, as generations of chefs were schooled in that kitchen before moving on to bigger and better things, including the Top Chef Master behind Trade.


Credit: Flickr/Ed Fisher aka Gleam

Hot Doug's

Chicago, IL
Hot Doug's was just a hot dog stand like the sun is just a yellow thing in the sky. In many Chicagoans' eyes, both were equally life-giving -- just ask this guy. From duck-fat fries to craziness like a salsa verde wild boar sausage with chipotle Dijonnaise and jalapeño bacon, it's easy to see why lines at Doug's were routinely wrapped around the block.

Joe's Cable Car

San Francisco, CA
Plenty of restaurants are named after a guy who no longer works there anymore (we've never seen royalty behind the counter at Burger King). But at Joe's, a guy actually named Joe made hamburgers he called "fresh ground beef steak" up until he retired in March 2014 at the spry age of 75. He'd been in the burger game for 49 years, and figured it was a good time to retire.

Johnny's Grill

Chicago, IL
Chicagoans appreciate a good greasy spoon -- and we've got nine examples that back up that claim. Johnny's surely would've made the list of late-night eateries had it not closed too soon. The nation has lost another spot to have a cheap breakfast (and kill time for a few hours, if you were so inclined).


Credit: Chona Kasinger

La Bête

Seattle, WA
Why yes, that is one of the restaurants that used to serve one of the best burgers in the country. And it also dished out pork rinds that the dining public spoke well of. That's the bad news. The good news is that the burger is still served there -- albeit as part of a new concept inside the same space called Spaghetti Western. Same chef and everything. All is not lost.

Head over to Thrillist.com for 7 more of the biggest restaurants that sadly shuttered their doors in 2014

More from Thrillist:

The Best New Burgers of 2014

The 44 Worst People In Every Restaurant


Follow Thrillist on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Thrillist

Girl Scouts Add 3 New Flavors To Their Cookie Lineup, Including 2 Gluten-Free Options

Mon, 2015-01-05 11:55
It's just the first week of January and the year's already shaping up to be a sweet one. Girl Scouts announced today, January 5, that they will be adding three more flavors to their iconic cookie lineup. On February 27, which also marks the start of National Girl Scout Cookie Weekend, the Scouts will debut Toffee-tastic, Trios and Rah-Rah Raisins cookies.



You might be able to guess a couple of the ingredients mixed up in these cookies, but here's the breakdown: The Rah-Rah Raisin is an oatmeal raisin cookie with raisins and Greek yogurt–flavored chunks. The other two cookies are both gluten free; Toffee-tastic is a buttery cookie mixed with pieces of toffee, and Trios contain peanut butter, chocolate chips and oats.

Girl Scouts can go out into the world and sell treats beginning on the first of February, and there are several ways ensure your pantry is stocked with Girl Scouts this year. You can befriend a Scout and order your cookies online. You can download the Girl Scout Cookie Finder mobile app (iOS, Android) to find cookies in your area. Or you can warmly open your door when a Scout comes a' knockin'.

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Student Tuition Now Officially Pays More Than States For Public College Funding

Sun, 2015-01-04 19:00
Students now pay more of the cost of attending public universities than state governments, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report, and the federal agency says it's making college unaffordable.

Tuition officially surpassed state funding in fiscal year 2012, the GAO found, accounting for 25 percent of public college revenue. Meanwhile all state sources dipped from 32 percent in 2003 to 23 percent in 2012.

"These increases have contributed to the decline in college affordability as students and their families are bearing the cost of college as a larger portion of their total family budgets," the GAO wrote.

The report was submitted on Dec. 16, 2014 to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the outgoing chair of the Senate Education committee, just as most college campuses were emptying out for winter break. The study looked at the revenue sources for state universities from 2003 through 2012.


(Click chart to expand)

According to the Delta Cost Project, many public, four-year universities were already getting more than half their revenue for educating students from tuition by 2008. It's a dramatic shift from the 1970s, when around three-quarters of the revenue for public colleges came from state governments.

The GAO report reinforces a study by the New York Federal Reserve that found state budget cuts drive up tuition at public colleges. However, a Harvard University Institute of Politics poll found many young Americans typically blame colleges -- public and private -- for rising student debt.

Considering the tuition increases, the federal government's Pell grant now covers smallest portion of the cost of college in the program's history.

During that period, state funding decreased by 12 percent, while the median published tuition prices have increased by 55 percent and average out-of-pocket costs have increased 19 percent since FY 2003, according to the GAO report.

"The reductions in state funding to public colleges are even more significant when enrollment levels are taken into account," the report states. "The number of students enrolled in public colleges rose by 20 percent from school year 2002-2003 to school year 2011-2012. Correspondingly, median state funding per student declined 24 percent -- from $6,211 in fiscal year 2003 to $4,695 in fiscal year 2012."


(Click chart to expand)

[h/t USA Today]

10 of the Top High Schools in Illinois

Sun, 2015-01-04 16:16
Illinois high school students will be heading back to class after their winter breaks very soon. According to City Described, students at 20 Illinois high schools will be making that return to a better environment than the rest of the state's students.

Education has been a hot topic in Illinois politics in 2014, and the conversation is likely to continue into 2015, with debates on a school funding bill in the General Assembly around the corner and discussions about Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner's education plan on the horizon.

These are the 20 schools that City Described says are the best in the state right now. See stats about the schools from City Described below the graphic.



20. Riverside Brookfield High School

  • 75 percent proficiency in reading and math

  • 62 percent participation in Advanced Placement

  • 66 percent instructors for its 1,400 students


19. Lane Technical High School

  • Selective Enrollment

  • New science and technology curriculum

  • 4,000 students


18. Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy

  • pened in 2001

  • 769 students

  • 90 percent pass rate for Advanced Placement tests


17. New Trier Township High School Winnetka

  • $15,000 per-student spending

  • 98 percent college-bound students in 2013

  • 120 state athletic championships


16. Lincoln Park High School

  • 2,200 students

  • Offers the International Baccalaureate Program

  • 65 percent of students met or exceeded reading standards


15. John Hersey High School

  • 85 percent pass rate for Advanced Placement exams

  • Offers Chinese language classes

  • Named one of the top 30 high schools in the country by U.S. News and World Report


14. Hinsdale Central High School

  • $11,000 per-pupil spending

  • 89 percent math competence

  • 98 percent graduation rate


13. Highland Park High School

  • 61 percent of students

  • First place in the Model U.N. Club competition

  • 99 percent four-year graduation rate


12. Adlai E. Stevenson High School

  • Nearly 4,000 students

  • 2010 National School of Distinction in Arts Education award recipient

  • 86 percent AP test pass rate


11. Deerfield High School

  • Boys and girls tennis champions 2004-2005 and 2005-206

  • 89 percent met or exceeded district math and reading standards

  • Named a 2009 Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education


See the top 10 schools as ranked by City Described at Reboot Illinois, plus more statistics about each top schools.

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

Stuart Scott, Longtime ESPN Anchor, Dies At 49

Sun, 2015-01-04 09:00
Stuart Scott, one of the most recognizable anchors in Sportscenter history, died of cancer at the age of 49, according to an ESPN press release. “ESPN and everyone in the sports world have lost a true friend and a uniquely inspirational figure in Stuart Scott,” said ESPN president John Skipper in the statement.

Scott, who had two daughters, was known for his boisterous, high-energy delivery and catchphrases like "cool as the other side of the pillow." He had been public about his long fight with the disease, which he was diagnosed with in 2007. He remained highly active throughout his treatment, using mixed martial arts training to counteract the effects of chemotherapy.

After news of Scott's death broke, ESPN ran a 15-minute tribute to him. Watch below:



MORE FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) — Stuart Scott, the longtime "SportsCenter" anchor and ESPN personality known for his enthusiasm and ubiquity, died Sunday. He was 49.


Scott had fought cancer since a diagnosis in late 2007, the network said, but remained dedicated to his craft even as he underwent chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.


ESPN President John Skipper said in a statement that Scott was "a true friend and a uniquely inspirational figure" and that his "energetic and unwavering devotion to his family and to his work while fighting the battle of his life left us in awe, and he leaves a void that can never be replaced."


Scott accepted the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYs in July. During his speech, he told his teenage daughters: "Taelor and Sydni, I love you guys more than I will ever be able to express. You two are my heartbeat. I am standing on this stage here tonight because of you."


Born in Chicago, Scott attended high school in North Carolina. After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 1987, Scott worked at three TV stations in the southern U.S. before joining ESPN for the 1993 launch of its ESPN2 network. He often anchored the 11 p.m. "SportsCenter," where he would punctuate emphatic highlights with "Boo-ya!" or note a slick move as being "as cool as the other side of the pillow."


Scott went on to cover countless major events for the network, including the Super Bowl, NBA finals, World Series and NCAA Tournament. He also interviewed President Barack Obama, joining him for a televised game of one-on-one. In 2001, Scott returned to Chapel Hill as the university's commencement speaker.


Scott was first diagnosed with cancer in November 2007 after he had to leave the "Monday Night Football" game between Miami and Pittsburgh to have his appendix removed. Doctors discovered a tumor during surgery. He underwent chemotherapy again in 2011.


Scott made a point of continuing to live his life — at work and outside of it.


"Who engages in mixed martial arts training in the midst of chemotherapy treatments?" Skipper said in ESPN's statement. "Who leaves a hospital procedure to return to the set?"


Scott is survived by his parents, O. Ray and Jacqueline Scott; siblings Stephen Scott, Synthia Kearney and Susan Scott; his daughters Taelor, 19, and Sydni, 15; and girlfriend Kristin Spodobalski.


As he accepted the award named for former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano, who died of cancer in 1993, Scott noted: "When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer.


"You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live," Scott said. "So live. Live. Fight like hell."

Midwest And Eastern U.S. Bracing For Arctic Blast, Subzero Temps

Sun, 2015-01-04 02:21

CHICAGO (AP) — The Midwest and eastern parts of the U.S. on Sunday braced for Arctic temperatures that were expected to arrive during the next few days.


A mix of precipitation on Saturday that included snow, ice and rain affected a swath from the Oklahoma Panhandle — where several inches of snow were in the forecast — to southern New England, where up to a quarter-inch of ice is possible in the eastern Berkshires.


Freezing rain and ice factored into numerous accidents in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio and threatened an outdoor hockey game in Toledo.


And parts of the southern U.S. saw heavy rain and thunderstorms, leading the National Weather Service to issue tornado watches and warnings in Mississippi and Louisiana and a flash flood watch for portions of Arkansas.


The weather service reported at least two confirmed tornadoes in Mississippi. Greg Flynn of Mississippi's Emergency Management Agency said homes were damaged in several counties, power lines were downed and there were reports of flooding.


"Thankfully, in all of this, there are no injuries reported anywhere," Flynn said.


Meanwhile, blowing and drifting snow was a problem in the northeast Colorado plains, while a blizzard warning was issued for northern North Dakota and Minnesota. Winds between 30 to 40 mph blew snow that fell overnight in the Red River Valley, weather service meteorologist Tom Grafenauer said.


That area will be the first to feel the effects of a strong cold front, he said, with temperatures reaching 20-below and wind chills approaching minus 50 by Sunday morning.


By Tuesday, parts of the Midwest will see below-zero temperatures, while lows will reach single-digits along the East Coast. The chilly weather is even expected to move as far south as New Orleans.


Meteorologist Ryan Maue of the private Weather Bell Analytics has called it "old-timer's type of cold."


___


Online:


National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center: http://www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/index.shtml

7-Year-Old Girl Survives Kentucky Plane Crash That Killed 4: Police

Sat, 2015-01-03 07:20
KUTTAWA, Ky. (AP) — Bleeding and alone, 7-year-old Sailor Gutzler had just survived a plane crash that killed her family. She walked through about a mile of woods and thick briar patches, wearing a short-sleeve shirt, shorts and no shoes in near-freezing temperatures when she saw a light in the distance.

The beacon led her to Larry Wilkins' home, police said, and she knocked on the door. Wilkins answered to find a thin, black-haired girl, whimpering and trembling. "I come to the door and there's a little girl, 7 years old, bloody nose, bloody arms, bloody legs, one sock, no shoes, crying," Wilkins, 71, told The Associated Press on Saturday. "She told me that her mom and dad were dead, and she had been in a plane crash, and the plane was upside down."

Federal Aviation Administration officials arrived at the crash scene Saturday to try to determine why the small Piper PA-34 crashed on Friday evening, killing four people, including the girl's parents, Marty Gutzler, 48, and his wife, Kimberly Gutzler, 46, authorities said.

Also killed were Sailor's sister Piper Gutzler, 9; and cousin Sierra Wilder, 14. All were from Nashville, Illinois. The bodies have been sent to Louisville for autopsies.

The plane reported engine trouble and lost contact with air traffic controllers around 5:55 p.m. CST, authorities said. Controllers had been trying to direct the pilot to an airport about 5 to 7 miles from the crash scene, authorities said.

About 40 minutes later, 911 dispatchers received a call from Wilkins, who reported that a girl who had been involved in a plane crash had walked to his home.

Wilkins told the AP he brought the girl inside, got a washcloth and "washed her little face off and her legs."

"Brave little girl, outstanding little girl," he said. "I feel real bad for her."

The girl had a broken wrist, but was coherent and calm when interviewed by authorities, Kentucky State Police Lt. Brent White said.

White and Wilkins described the terrain she walked through as heavily wooded with thick brush. White said the girl traversed two embankments, a hill and a creek bed. The temperatures were below 40 degrees when the girl showed up at Wilkins' door.

"She literally fell out of the sky into a dark hole and didn't have anybody but her own will to live and get help for her family," White said. "Absolutely amazing."

The girl was treated at Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky, and released early Saturday to a relative, Kentucky State Police said.

In Nashville, a man stepped outside the family's white, split-level home on Saturday and politely waved off a reporter.

"Not now," he said, his head lowered, before he stepped back inside.

Neighbors said Marty and Kim Gutzler had lifelong roots in the largely rural southern Illinois town about 50 miles east of St. Louis.

Marty ran the furniture store that his father started, and the couple was well-known and well-liked, said neighbor Carla Povolish.

With two basketball hoops in the driveway, the Gutzlers' home was the center of neighborhood fun on a block full of children.

"All the kids in the neighborhood are just so upset about this," she said.

Povolish said the two sisters — Sailor and Piper — were together constantly.

"That's what's going to be so devastating for the little one," she said.

The FAA said late Friday that the plane had taken off from Tallahassee Regional Airport, Florida, and was bound for Mount Vernon, Illinois. Kentucky State Police Sgt. Dean Patterson said the girl indicated that the plane had left from Key West, Florida.

Attorney Kent Plotner, who was serving as family spokesman, said the Gutzler family was devastated by the loss.

"We ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time. Please pray for us, especially for Sailor Gutzler," the family said in a statement.

___

AP reporter Jim Suhr contributed from Nashville, Illinois. Adrian Sainz reported from Memphis, Tennessee.

3 Challenges Facing Illinois in 2015

Fri, 2015-01-02 14:48
The new year has a lot in store for Illinois, with a new governor, the process of replacing late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and the prospect of more polar vortices. And 2015 brings a new set of challenges to the state. Many, many challenges.

Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek outlined a few:

1. Taxes and budgeting.

As we said, whether Rauner will be able to keep the income tax rate at 3.75 percent for long is perhaps the biggest question Illinoisans want answered. It won't be easy. Since his victory, Rauner repeatedly has warned the budget is a big mess. We knew last spring lawmakers passed a way-out-of -whack spending plan, borrowing from various funds to make it appear as if the budget were balanced. With the income tax rate drop, Rauner and lawmakers just lost about $2 billion in revenues this fiscal year and about $4 billion in the next full one. Rauner has said he's learned state department heads are seeking another $760 million just to get through the rest of the fiscal year which ends at the end of June. Rauner has talked, without much detail, of a complete tax overhaul. Whether he can balance the budget will go a long way in determining how credit rating agencies assess Illinois and how we're rated will determine what kind of interest rate we pay when the state borrows money. One last reminder: Illinois starts 2015 owing about $4.5 billion to people who already have provided services to Illinois and its citizens.

2. Pensions.

We're sure you're aware, Illinois has the worst pension crisis of all 50 states. Rauner recently was named by Institutional Investor, a financial trade publication, as the most powerful person in the nation when it comes to shaping pension policy. Perhaps the publication should have named the Illinois Supreme Court as the most powerful entity when it comes to shaping pension policy. As it now stands, that court later this year will have a huge say in how pensions may or may not be funded here. Rauner will have to respond after that and get control over a now $111 billion shortfall that threatens retirement security for teachers, state troopers, prison guards and plenty of other public service workers. Will Rauner move new state workers into a 401(k)-style plan as he has indicated he wants to do? Even if he does, that doesn't fund the $111 billion gap. What will he do to fix the single biggest drain on Illinois' ability to operate, get good credit, fund schools and social services, prisons and fix our roads, bridges and other infrastructure?

3. Schools and their funding.

Rauner pledged during the campaign to boost school funding as one of the most important things we can do to improve the future of Illinois and the lives of our children. But the devil is in the details and the details were lacking. State Sen. Andy Manar, a central Illinois Democrat, has a plan to revise the way schools get funded in Illinois, essentially taking money, over several years, from wealthier school districts and giving it to poorer ones, but Rauner said during the campaign the legislation needed more work. SB16, as it is known, would take money primarily from suburban districts and give it to downstate districts, a plan which has many suburban residents concerned. Rauner and his wife, Diana, for years have immersed themselves in education policy. Making a difference here likely is at the top of the soon-to-be governor's list of resolutions. It should also be on all Illinoisans. A better education and better-funded education is a basic birthright for every child that will mean each has a more productive adulthood, hopefully in Illinois.

Check out Reboot Illinois to see what other issues Illinois, its leaders and its citizens might have to face in the new year.

One challenge Scott Reeder believes Rauner may have headed off early is the question of state unity. Reeder says Rauner's decision to live in the governor's Executive Mansion in Springfield is a sign of good faith from the governor-elect. First, though, Rauner said he would fund some repairs to the building himself, because in its current state the building is unliveable. Read why Reeder thinks this all matters for state morale at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois 2014 political recap

NFL MVP Race Includes J.J. Watt And 4 Other Guys Not Named J.J. Watt

Fri, 2015-01-02 13:09
By Joel Corry, National Football Post

50 members of the media will vote on the 2014 Associated Press NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) award before the playoffs start on January 3. The NFL’s MVP voting procedure differs from the other major professional team sports in this country because a points system isn’t used. For example, the NBA MVP is determined by voters ranking their top-five candidates on a 10-7-5-3-1 points system. Instead, each NFL voter selects a single player as MVP, with selectors sometimes splitting a vote between two players. The results will be announced on January 31, the day before Super Bowl XLIX, during the NBC televised NFL Honors Awards Show in Phoenix, Arizona.

Here are the top-five MVP candidates in the order in which they should finish, but won't:

1. J.J. Watt-Houston Texans

Watt should be the 2014 NFL MVP despite history working against him. The only two defensive players to win the MVP are Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Alan Page in 1971 and New York Giants outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1986. The last MVP from a team that didn’t make the playoffs was Buffalo Bills running back O.J. Simpson in 1973.

Watt had one of the most dominant seasons ever for a defensive player. His historic performance was better than his 2012 season when he was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. Watt became the first player in NFL history to have multiple 20 sack seasons by tying his career high with 20.5 sacks. He had a league leading five fumble recoveries, tied for second with four forced fumbles and was second in sacks. Advanced metrics better capture Watt’s dominance. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Watt had a career-best 119 quarterback pressures (combined sacks, hurries and hits) to top has previous high of 85 in 2013. NFL sacks leader Justin Houston was second this year to Watt with 85 pressures.

Watt was an occasional two-way player as a red-zone threat on offense. He also became the first player in NFL history with an interception return for a touchdown, a fumble recovery touchdown and three touchdown receptions during a season. Although the Texans narrowly missed the playoffs with nine victories, Watt led the team to the NFL’s biggest win improvement in 2014. The seven-game turnaround from a league-worst two wins in 2013 occurred without a legitimate starting quarterback or another elite defensive player to turn the opposition's attention away from Watt. It will be a surprise if Watt wins the MVP because of the advantage quarterbacks have by impacting the game on practically every offensive play. A quarterback has been named MVP in 37 of the 57 years of the award. Watt should get more than four votes, which would be the most for a defensive player during the 21st century.

2. Aaron Rodgers-Green Bay Packers

Rodgers probably clinched his second MVP award with a gritty performance against the Lions in the season finale. After an aggravation of a left calf injury that forced him out of the game in the first half, Rodgers returned in the second half to break a 14-14 tie and lead the Packers to their fourth straight NFC North title. Rodgers completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 4,381 yards to post a 112.2 passer rating (second-best in the NFL). He threw 38 touchdown passes (third in NFL) and only five interceptions, which are the fewest of his career since becoming a starter in 2008. The 2011 NFL MVP was extremely consistent throughout the season with his only major hiccup coming in a Week 15 loss to the Buffalo Bills when Rodgers completed only 40.5 percent of his passes (17 of 42 attempts) for a career-worst 34.3 passing rating.

3. Tom Brady-New England Patriots

It’s hard to believe that there was a rush to judgment about Brady being washed up when New England had a 2-2 record given the way the season unfolded. In the first four games, Brady only threw for 197.8 yards per game, completed just 59.2 percent of his passes, had four touchdown passes and two interceptions with a 79.1 passing rating. The two-time MVP rebounded from the slow start to give the Patriots home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. New England’s 12 wins put them in a tie with four other teams for the NFL’s best record. It’s hard to ignore that Brady’s resurgence coincided with All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski shaking off the rust after receiving limited action initially during his return from a 2013 ACL tear. In the eleven games with a healthy Gronkowski (he sat out the season finale for precautionary measures), Brady had a 66.2 completion percentage and 104.4 passing rating while throwing for 294.4 yards per game with 29 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

4. DeMarco Murray-Dallas Cowboys

Murray started the 2014 season like gangbusters as the Cowboys transformed into a rushing team after running the ball 36.4 percent of the time in his first three NFL seasons. He broke Jim Brown’s 56-year-old NFL record of six consecutive games with 100 rushing yards or more to begin a season with an eight-game streak. At the midway point of the season, Murray had 1,054 rushing yards and 1,293 yards from scrimmage, which put him on pace to break Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record of 2,105 yards by three yards and Chris Johnson’s single season yards from scrimmage record (2,509 yards). Murray couldn’t sustain his pace of production, but the Cowboys rode him to a 12-4 record to win the NFC East crown. Murray broke Emmitt Smith’s single season franchise rushing record of 1,773 yards by gaining 1,845 yards on the ground while playing through a late season broken left hand. The NFL’s rushing leader had almost 500 more yards than runner up Le’Veon Bell. Murray also tied for the NFL lead with 13 rushing touchdowns and was tops in the NFL with 2,261 yards from scrimmage.

5. Tony Romo-Dallas Cowboys

Romo made a late season MVP push with his stellar play in December, which should earn him the final NFC Player of the Month award of the season. During December, he led the Cowboys to a 4-0 record by completing 74.8 percent of his passes (83 of 111) for 987 yards with 12 touchdowns and one interception to post a 133.7 passer rating. Less has been more with Tony Romo, as the quarterback attempted only 29 passes per game after throwing 35.7 and 40.5 per game in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Romo’s efficiency has never been greater with the Cowboys becoming more reliant on the running game. He led the NFL in completion percentage (69.9 percent), passer rating (113.2) and yards per pass attempt (8.52 yards).

Follow me on Twitter: @corryjoel

Joel Corry is a former sports agent who helped found Premier Sports & Entertainment, a sports management firm that represents professional athletes and coaches. Prior to his tenure at Premier, Joel worked for Management Plus Enterprises, which represented Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ronnie Lott. You can email Joel at jccorry@gmail.com.

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