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The NRA Is Quietly Fighting For Your Right To Kill Elephants For Their Ivory

Tue, 2014-08-12 12:56
Last year, people around the world watched as a gun lobbyist with his own NRA-sponsored cable TV show stalked a large bull elephant in the African bush, raised his rifle and shot it two times in the face, killing it. The hunter, NRA strategist Tony Makris, and his guide later sipped champagne and relished the "special" act of bringing back the animal's ivory to camp.

The segment was filmed for part of an "Under Wild Skies" show that was later canceled by the NBC Sports Network after international outrage. It served as a graphic reminder that a number of African nations still allow hunters to purchase permits -- some 1,000 of which are issued to Americans every year -- to kill elephants from their ever-dwindling populations, even amid reports that illegal poaching already claims the lives of up to 35,000 African elephants a year. This is allowed for the stated purpose of conservation: The hefty fees paid by these tourists are supposed to go toward efforts to rehabilitate and protect wildlife on these reserves, though critics say the process is marred by corruption and ineffectiveness. More stringent bans were recently enacted in some nations following catastrophic declines of elephant populations.

But this hunting isn't just for sport (and supposed "conservation"). It's also for the elephants' valuable ivory tusks, trophies that American hunters had, until recently, largely been permitted to ship back to the United States for non-commercial purposes. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service data in a recent National Geographic report, several hundred sport-hunted elephant trophies -- including tusks, skins and bones -- have been imported into the U.S. each year over the past decade. While the sale of this ivory is banned, the practice has given rise to a system that allows hunters and poachers to see elephants in much the same way: The bigger the tusks, the better the prize. Language on the websites for Safari Club International, a hunting advocacy group, and other African safari tours both contain language touting elephants that are likely to carry more or "really good ivory."

Trophy hunters recently suffered a setback in their quest for ivory, however, when President Barack Obama's administration unveiled a set of efforts designed to restrict the material's trade in the U.S., which for years has been the second-largest retail market for illegal ivory, behind only China. In April, the FWS announced a suspension in ivory imports from elephants killed in Tanzania and Zimbabwe during 2014, claiming that even legal hunting in these countries "is not sustainable and is not currently supporting conservation efforts that contribute towards the recovery of the species." Trophy imports from other nations are still allowed, provided the hunter receives proper documentation under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

These new regulations followed a higher-profile set of restrictions cracking down on the sale of items containing ivory, unless the seller could provide documentation that items were more than 100 years old or were imported into the U.S. prior to regulations governing ivory sales. These new guidelines outraged the National Rifle Association, which claimed they were an attack on gun owners wishing to sell firearms that contained ornamental ivory.

The NRA found their preferred solution in the form of a pair of Lawful Ivory Protection bills sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). In a release decrying the administration's "overreach of authority," the group called for members to stand up for "honest, law-abiding Americans" wishing to sell their ivory-containing possessions by calling on their representatives to support these bills. Tucked away in the last sentence was a mention of the legislation's secondary purpose, to protect the right of Americans to legally kill elephants for their ivory.

"Your actions today may determine if the sale and trade of firearms that contain ivory, as well as the importation of sport-hunted elephants, will be banned," it read.

Indeed, S.2587 - Lawful Ivory Protection Act of 2014 would amend existing laws to ensure that they don't "prohibit or restrict the importation of such ivory that was lawfully importable into the United States on February 24, 2014," before the more recent trophy import laws went into effect. So while the NRA claims to be fighting for the little gun owner's right to more easily sell an antique pistol with an ivory grip, it's also fighting to make sure the wealthy safari-goer can not just hunt for African elephants, but do so in hopes of bringing home the largest ivory trophy.

Do recent polls really spell certain victory for Bruce Rauner?

Tue, 2014-08-12 11:37
As the end of the summer heats up, so does the end of the Illinois' governor's race. In the political polls conducted so far, the Republican challenger Bruce Rauner seems to be leading Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, but the margins vary based on polling entity. Two Reboot Illinois/We Ask America polls had Rauner winning by 10 and 14 percentage points, but CBS/New York Times, Harstad Strategic Research and Rasmussen Reports polls showed him ahead by only a few percentage points. On the other hand, a Chicagon Sun-Times/We Ask America poll had Rauner ahead, leading by 13 points.

Why such large margins of differences?

Even as we conducted our own polls, we've consistently cautioned that polling represents a snapshot in time. It's a measure of the attitudes of a random pool of respondents on the day they're surveyed. Check out graphs on Reboot Illinois that show the differences between polls from several organizations based on timing and the particular sample pools that each poll captured.

Despite such varied margins of a lead, the polls still present a compelling argument for a Rauner victory in November. But Madeleine Doubek said it's still too early to call Quinn toast. He is a well-established political player in the state. In those same polls, Quinn was generally ahead in Chicago, where a significant portion of Illinois voters come from on Election Day, meaning things could swing the other direction fast. Plus, many non-binding ballot questions in Chicago and across the state about the minimum wage, birth control and gun control may persuade Democratic-leaning voters to come out.

Of course, Rauner's campaign also has been busy spending millions on political ads that could counteract Democratic efforts. At this point, anything could happen.

8 Facts That Show Us Elephants Are People, Too

Tue, 2014-08-12 11:30
Okay, fine -- elephants aren't people. But they're like people in a lot of ways, and on World Elephant Day, that counts for something.

And yet around 35,000 of these pachyderms were killed in 2013 alone, and there's a continuing demand for their valuable ivory tusks. If we aren't careful, most of these creatures could be extinct by 2020, according to some conservationists.

It's a tragedy for any animal to face extinction, but it would seem like a special tragedy to lose this one. Our very history is entwined, with elephants and humans evolving in parallel hundreds of thousands of years ago. While we're still learning about elephant intellect -- a far greater number of studies have been conducted on other large-brained mammals like chimps -- what's been found so far suggests a creature that's kind, self-aware and very loyal. Surprisingly, elephants aren't so different from us.

1. They have a sense of self, like chimps, dolphins and humans...

In a 2006 study of three Asian elephants, Emory University researchers placed a mirror in the enclosure of three female Asian elephants. Each creature investigated the mirror by touching it with their trunks to see if it was really another elephant, exploring the back side to see if there was another elephant hiding there, or inspecting some part of herself to see if the reflection copied her. One, named Happy, even passed the "mark test," which included touching a white X the researchers had painted on her (and the other elephants') foreheads, only visible in the mirror.

The fact that Happy passed that test, the researchers said, indicates the capacity of elephants to recognize themselves as individuals rather than just part of a pack. And while the other two seemed ambivalent toward the white marks, the researchers noted that only around half of chimpanzees -- generally held up as one of the most intelligent creatures -- pass such tests.

Another test showed that elephants understand pointing, using, of course, their trunks. It sounds simple, but pointing indicates a sense of self, too -- your independent thoughts may be communicated to another through gesture. Even chimps have trouble with pointing.

2. Which allows them to be more empathetic.

Having a sense of self, the Emory researchers suggested, may be a reason for elephants' social and altruistic habits. Evidence suggests helping one another out is a regular part of life in an elephant herd.

Researchers at an elephant park in Thailand studied 26 elephants in six groups to determine that elephants comfort other elephants during suffering. (No, they didn't stress the creatures out on purpose -- they waited for such an occasion to present itself naturally, like a snake rattling in the grass or the sound of a dog nearby.) They saw the elephants make chirping noises and reassure the unhappy ones with a kind "hug." Previously, this behavior was only seen in apes, wolves and some kinds of birds.

Certain anecdotes suggest their compassion extends to other creatures, as well. An elephant in India trained to lower heavy wooden posts into pre-made holes once refused to place one of them until a sleeping dog was shooed from the bottom of the hole.

3. Elephants are also understand teamwork.

In a 2011 experiment, researchers in Thailand devised a system in which two elephants could reach a platform of food only if each pulled her own rope. Pulling one end got them nowhere. Not only did all of the test subjects figure out the rope system, but they understood the importance of a helping hand trunk -- they couldn't get to the food by themselves.

One especially clever elephant, though, thought up a way to game the system. Instead of pulling on her end of the rope, she simply stood on it, forcing her partner to do all the work in pulling. (There's always that one.)

4. And they grieve for their loved ones.

It's long been thought that elephants grieve -- they're even capable of shedding tears. Deceased elephants are buried under dust, branches and leaves, and a mother elephant may stay with the body of a deceased calf for days. In one experiment, researchers at the University of Sussex found elephants have a strong interest in their own dead, preferring to investigate the skull of a deceased elephant over a piece of wood or the skull of a rhino. When members of a herd pass a dead elephant, they've been observed silently touching the bones, perhaps out of respect. And when members of a herd lose a beloved family member, they become visibly and audibly distressed. Other herds may visit the body, as well.

Although elephants have been observed displaying markedly less interest in the carcasses of other animals, one anecdote suggests otherwise. In 2004, an African elephant trampled a human mother and child to death in Kenya. Before leaving the scene, however, it covered the bodies in leaves and twigs.

5. After all, elephant families have a lifelong bond.

Unlike most human societies in history, elephant herds are matriarchal, where one female cow presides over a herd of females and adolescents. Adult males, meanwhile, roam either alone or in bachelor herds. The strongest relationship is between mother and child -- mothers and daughters, in particular, will usually remain together their entire lives until the mother passes away. And it's not uncommon for responsibility of the herd to be passed down to the deceased matriarch's closest female relative.

6. And they're smarter than we give them credit for.

Research in the past decade has shown elephants to rival the brainiacs of the animal kingdom in their ability to use tools. Elephants have been observed using tools in captivity and the wild, including branches to swat away flies. In one study, however, researchers were able to show just how insightful this species can be. After hanging a delicious cantaloupe treat in the enclosure of seven-year-old Kandula -- just out of reach -- researchers observed him rolling a square cube to the treat, standing on it for better reach. What was remarkable about that feat, the researchers explained, was that Kandula did it without any trial and error, demonstrating an understanding of cause-and-effect problem-solving. Watch him here.

7. Some of them are even gay.

Bonds between male elephants of the same sex have been observed in the wild -- homosexual mounting and erotic play being a fairly common sight between young males in particular.

And it's also been observed at a certain zoo in Poland, angering a local politician. ("We were supposed to have a herd, but as Ninio prefers male friends over females, how will he produce offspring?") Unlike humans, elephants are probably a little more accepting of others' personal preferences.

8. Elephants are all-around curious and creative creatures.

Prepare to be dazzled by the not-entirely-harmonious piano stylings of this elephant named Peter and his human friend!

Advice for College Freshmen

Tue, 2014-08-12 11:19
Get live in '89. '89 get live! Get all the way live in '89. '89 get live. That is 1989.

June 1989, I graduated high school and immediately began packing for college. I was a first generation college student. I was ready to live on campus, which I imagined to be like Cosby's "A Different World." August arrived and freedom beckoned me. While my other 300 dorm residents cried and begged their parents to stay the weekend, I kicked my parents off campus shortly after they unloaded the van. By the end of the weekend, the girls on my floor dubbed me their "fearless leader" and decided that I should run for dorm president.

Being from Chicago had its advantages. I knew running as an unknown was disastrous. Therefore, I decided to run on a ticket with two other girls from my floor. There is strength in numbers. It worked to our advantage that our campaign slogan borrowed from the New Kids on the Block -- "We Got the Right Stuff."

Election night, I became dorm president winning by an 80 percent margin becoming the first African-American president of the dorm -- impressive because in a dorm of over 300 girls, only five were African-American. Freshman year was a blast academically and socially. Unfortunately, lack of financial aid meant not returning. I took a year off between freshman and sophomore year before transferring in-state. Transferring did not hold me back. I stuck to my motto of study hard during the week and play hard on the weekends. I graduated with distinction and later went to law school.

In 2006, I began mentoring a group of Chicago high school teens on college and career preparation. Most were going to be first generation college students. I shared my experience as a first generation college and law student. Every August as a few students prepared to leave for college, I would give them a gift and a letter. My niece just arrived on campus for her freshman year. As I was preparing to send her this letter, I thought I should share it.


You will be leaving for college soon. A college education opens many doors. However, much depends on what you make of the experience. You need to learn to be proactive, network with colleagues and professors, develop and nurture your talents, and have fun at the same time.

Buddy System

You need to have a network of three to four close friends on campus that you can chill and be yourself around. During the first six weeks, come out of your shell and get to know as many freshmen as possible. You may not like them all, but make the effort. The people you meet in college will most likely be your friends and job connections after you graduate college.

Study Groups

Your study group should not include your party buddies, unless they are smart and serious about their GPA. My study group was made up of geeks that took good notes and were as serious about succeeding as I was. In every class, you should befriend the geeky note taker in case you are sick and miss class, that person will always have notes. November all partying stops and everyone gets serious about prepping for finals.

Speak Up

You pay a lot of money to go to college. If you have questions, speak up and ask or go to the professor's office hours if you are afraid to ask in class. Get to know your professors. You will need them for scholarship recommendations, job applications, internships, etc. I am not saying brown nose, but do not be the kid that the professor does not know is in his class. Some professors have coffee/tea at their home for students, go to a couple. Your future success in the professional world will depend on your networking skills. Do not be overbearing, but let them know you exist.


Almost every college has a tutoring center. If you are not "getting it" by the fourth week, talk to your professor or get tutored. If your midterm grades are not at least a C or better, think about dropping or withdrawing from the class. Stay on top of your assignments and turn them in on time. Most profs deduct points or a grade for late assignments. The first week you will receive a syllabus with every assignment due for the entire semester. No one is going to beg you to turn in assignments. Make-up work exists for medical or family emergencies only.

Give Back

Noblisse Oblige means the noble/fortunate are obligated to help. You have been fortunate to go to college. I ask that on your break, you volunteer to share your experience with high school youth.


Use the buddy system when hanging out late at night. Go to a football and basketball game. It is part of the collegiate experience. Give friends and family your address. It is old school, but people cannot tweet a care package to you. Have fun, just not so much that the dean or police calls home.

19 Boardwalk Foods You Must Eat This Summer

Tue, 2014-08-12 06:00
Newsflash: Summer is almost over. And if you haven't spent some time on a boardwalk yet, we suggest you start planning your next trip stat. The season is not complete without one relaxing day strolling around those wooden planks, taking in the beach views, and most importantly, eating some delicious food.

You could say that boardwalk foods are the ultimate indulgence. They're usually fried and either extremely salty or extra sweet. But what better way to celebrate summer than with a hot dog after an ocean swim or some frozen custard to cure you from the sweltering heat?

Since there are only a few weeks left, we thought we'd ask everyone we know and scour the web to find you the best of the best when it comes to boardwalk food, so you know which treats to seek out. Behold, the 19 boardwalk foods you just have to try.

1. Caramel Corn From Dolle's Candy In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

For a little over five dollars you get a gallon (!) of the most succulent and sticky caramel corn ever. Dolle's has been making their corn with Spanish peanuts, salt, caramel and butter since 1910.

2. Fries From Thrasher's In Ocean City, Maryland

Once you read the steps on how these fries are made your mouth won't be able to stop salivating. First, they fry them in peanut oil. Then they fry them again. Then they sprinkle a good amount of salt on them. And, finally, here's the kicker: They douse them in apple cider vinegar.

3. Chocolate-Covered Bacon From Marini's Candies In Santa Cruz, California

This boardwalk staple combines two favorite foods: chocolate and bacon. Joseph Marini III, the fourth-generation candy maker who has been selling the bacon goodies at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, credits his success to the fact that he makes sure the bacon is always very crispy before covering it with chocolate.

4. A Hot Dog From Peaches Corner In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

It has been a neighborhood tradition since 1937 to grab some grub at Peaches Corner. The hot dog is one foot long and oftentimes wrapped in bacon.

5. Fish Tacos From Rockaway Taco In Rockaway Beach, New York

It's safe to say that no trip to Rockaway Beach is complete without waiting in line at this eponymous taco shack and chowing down on some perfectly crispy-on-the-outside-yet-moist-on-the-inside fish tacos. It's simply a New York City summertime must.

6. Donuts From The Fractured Prune In Ocean City, Maryland

You get to select which glaze and toppings you want on your donut (or donuts) and then you get to watch your beautiful creation get made by the donut wizards at the shop. Oh, and did we mention the flavors and toppings are awesome? You can choose from key lime, mint and mixed berry glazes and you have the option of topping those with graham crackers, marshmallows and even crumbled bacon.

7. Fried Artichokes From Surf City Grill In Santa Cruz, California

Artichokes are probably one of the most unique foods one could fry, and Surf City Grill fries theirs in a special secret batter which includes garlic that they source from the nearby town of Gilroy.

8. The Lobster Roll From Bayley's Lobster Pound In Scarborough, Maine

According to legend, Bayley's is the place where the original "Maine style" cold lobster roll was invented. The roll comes to you on ungrilled bread that is filled with a mix of both claw and tail meat lightly coated in mayo.

9. Orange-Vanilla Custard From Kohr Brothers Down The Shore

Who doesn't love a classic Creamsicle? The answer is no one. And Kohr Brothers makes the orange and vanilla custard mix perfect every time. There's nothing like strolling down the boardwalk on a sticky night while trying to eat your Kohr Brothers' custard as fast as possible before it melts all over you.

10. "Dodge Balls" From The Alumni Grill In Wildwood, New Jersey

Photos by Adam Kuban

One could say that these little balls are the perfect stoner college student munchie food. "Dodge balls" are deep-fried mashed potato balls served with a sweet honey-jalapeño dipping sauce. You know you want it.

11. The Short Rib Tacos From Taco Beach Shack In Hollywood, Florida

For some unconventional yet totally tasty beachside eats, check out the Taco Beach Shack on the Hollywood Boardwalk. Their most popular item is the taco combo -- more specifically the Korean short rib taco combo. Three tacos are topped with kimchi slaw and served with rice and beans and roasted Parmesan corn. It's the Mexican-Korean fusion food you never knew you needed.

12. Salt Water Taffy From Shriver's In Ocean City, New Jersey

According to Lisa Glaser Whitley, the executive vice president of sales and marketing for the James Candy Co., the company sells close to 600,000 pounds of salt water taffy a year.

13. A Corndog From Jane's Corndogs In Newport Beach, California

It was California who cheekily came up with the idea of the "hotdog on a stick" (which, if you ask us, is a very smart idea). You may want to call it a corndog, and hey, Jane's Corndogs will happily oblige your whim as they serve you one of their famous dogs right out of the fryer.

14. Fudge From The Fudgery In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

At The Fudgery, not only will you eat some of the best melt-in-your-mouth fudge, you'll also have one hell of a good time. When you enter the shop, employees sing to you and beg you to try a free sample of the famous fudge.

15. Sandwiches And Smoothies From Greenman Juice Bar & Bistro In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

After all the fried food and sweet treats, sometimes you just need something healthy to cleanse your system. And thankfully, Greenman Juice Bar & Bistro makes sure their healthy breakfast and lunch items are also totally delicious. If you still feel like indulging, we suggest you go for breakfast and try their famous "Creme Brulee French Toast."

16. Italian Sausage From Jodi Maroni's Sausage Kingdom In Venice Beach, California

There are five main sausages that everyone must try at the famous Jodi Moroni Sausage Kingdom: the andouille, the chicken apple, the bratwurst and, of course, the hot and sweet Italian sausages.

17. Churros From The Churro Factory In Chicago, Illinois

Nothing beats eating the best crunchy-yet-chewy churro in Chicago while taking in the views of the city from the Navy Pier. Plus, the factory is conveniently located smack dab in front of the famous ferris wheel!

18. Stone Crab From Billy's Stone Crab In Hollywood, Florida

Just because you're on a boardwalk doesn't mean you can't get a little fancy. At Billy's, you get to sit on the dock and feast on fresh-caught Florida crabs and fish as you take in the beautiful Intracoastal view.

19. A Hot Dog And Fried Clams From Nathan's In Coney Island, New York

For some people, America's boardwalks = Coney Island = Nathan's and his famous hot dogs. While the hot dog is a classic, you should also check out their newest addition: the clam bar. Why? Because Nathan's can do no wrong, especially when those clams come with wine.

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Robin Williams Quotes That Will Stay With Us

Mon, 2014-08-11 21:23
It was with heavy hearts that we received the news of Robin Williams' death. While the many, many performances, interviews and memories of Williams could fill a lifetime and more with joy and laughter, his death will always feel too soon. However, we must preserve the smiles he has given us, and learn to live a lighter, happier and more loving life through his words. Ahead, 14 of the best Robin Williams quotes that will stay with us for a long time.

Robin Williams Dead: Beloved Actor Dies In Apparent Suicide

Mon, 2014-08-11 17:54
Beloved actor Robin Williams was found dead on Monday, police reported.

He was 63.

The apparent cause of death was suicide by asphyxiation, authorities said. According to his publicist, Williams had been battling severe depression and spent time in rehab as recently as July.

Police said that Williams was found unconscious around noon in his home in Tiburon, California, near San Francisco.

Williams was best known for his starring roles in classic comedies like "Mrs. Doubtfire," "Good Morning, Vietnam" and "Jumanji," but also in acclaimed dramas such as "Dead Poets Society." He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Dr. Sean Maguire in "Good Will Hunting." He rose to fame while playing Mork the alien in the TV show "Mork & Mindy," a "Happy Days" spinoff.

In "Dead Poets Society," Williams plays John Keating, an electric English teacher at an elite all-boys high school. In a quintessential speech, Keating tells his students:

To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

Williams in Dead Poets Society.

Most recently, Williams had starred in the new CBS sitcom 'The Crazy Ones.' It was cancelled after just one season. At his time of death, btfire-sequel-works-696958" target="_hplink">a sequel to "Mrs. Doubtfire" was in the works.

Susan Schneider, the actor's wife, released the following statement to the New York Times' Dave Itzkoff:

"This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin's family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope that the focus will not be on Robin's death but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions."

Williams guest-hosted "Saturday Night Live" in 1984. He's shown here with SNL stars Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo, via AP.

In 2006, after 20 years sober, he checked himself into rehab for alcoholism. He opened up about his struggles with addiction to alcohol and cocaine in a powerful interview with The Guardian and on "Good Morning America."

"It's not caused by anything, it's just there," he said. "It waits. It lays in wait for the time when you think, 'It's fine now, I'm OK.' Then, the next thing you know, it's not OK. Then you realize, 'Where am I? I didn't realize I was in Cleveland.'"

Last month, he spent time at Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center in a continued sobriety program. His publicist told HuffPost at the time that he was doing well.

Here is the full press release on his death, courtesy of Marin PD.

Fellow actors took to Twitter to express deep sorrows on the death of the popular actor.

"I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul," said Steve Martin.

"Terrible, terrible news," Fred Willard tweeted. "Comedy has lost a great man."

"Shocked by the news of Robin Williams passing. Rest in peace my friend," said Albert Brooks.

Williams hosting the Academy Awards in 1996, via AP.

Though Williams was most celebrated for his acting career, he is also remembered his charitable endeavors. Williams spearheaded Comic Relief, which holds concerts and variety shows to raise money to help the homeless.

In a statement, President Obama said that Williams "was one of a kind... He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets."

The actor was also an avid gamer and named his daughter Zelda after the popular video game character. In his last post to Instagram, he paid tribute to his young daughter on her birthday. Zelda Williams is also an actress.

Williams was born in Chicago, Illinois and studied acting at the Juilliard School in New York City.

Williams in "Mrs. Doubtfire."

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Here are some of our favorite Robin Williams memories:

Organizer Of Parade Where 2 Teens Were Shot Faults Media For 'Unfair' Coverage

Mon, 2014-08-11 17:38
The organizer of one of Chicago's most popular annual parades -- and the nation's largest African-American parade -- is lashing out after a shooting wounded two teens and overshadowed the rest of the day's festivities.

The incident occurred around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, after two young men got into a confrontation near the route of the Bud Billiken Parade, leaving an 18-year-old shot in the arm and a 17-year-old shot in the right hand, CBS Chicago reports. Both teens survived and no arrests had been made, as of Monday evening.

The incident caused spectators at the 85th annual parade to scatter from the scene of what is typically a peaceful tradition revered in the community. Held to mark the end of summer and the arrival of the new school year, the parade attracted an estimated 1 million spectators and some 60,000 participants.

Beverly Reed-Scott, the parade's organizer, said at a Sunday news conference that, despite the violence, she was disappointed to see headlines about the parade focus on what she described as a "minor incident," per the Chicago Sun-Times.

Appearing on Fox Chicago on Monday, Reed-Scott said that coverage leading off with the shooting was "unfair to the thousands of children that practice six months waiting for this one day to have their moment to shine."

"The parade is for the families of the African-American community to celebrate going back to school and at the very least that could have been the lede in the story, not the shooting," Reed-Scott continued.

According to the Sun-Times, she said she "absolutely" believes if the Chicago media would stop covering violence, it would have an impact on the issue.

The parade shooting comes at a time when some are questioning the role local media coverage is having on gun violence in the city.

In an Aug. 5 story, the Columbia Journalism Review reported that many Chicago journalists are in agreement that too much "scoreboard" reporting on violence, focusing primarily on the sheer number of victims over a specific period of time, is taking place. They say coverage aimed at "humanizing" victims is better, but that it typically does not tackle the roots of violence.

Natalie Moore, a reporter for Chicago Public Radio, told the CJR she wonders what the purpose of media covering such violence is or should be.

“What do we want people to know? Are we just trying to tell them to avoid the neighborhoods with many homicides?” Moore said.

While violence in Chicago has been back in the spotlight since a particularly violent Fourth of July holiday weekend, the Chicago Police Department has noted that through the first half of the year murders citywide were actually at their lowest level since 1963.

At a City Council hearing this month, Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy blamed the media for a "steady drumbeat of shootings, shootings, shootings, murder, murder, murder" that fails to give equal play to progress his department has made, according to DNAinfo.

Jimmy John's Accused Of 'Systematic Wage Theft'

Mon, 2014-08-11 16:51
Jimmy John's, the "freaky fast" sandwich staple of America's college towns, is being sued by two former employees for what they describe as "systematic wage theft" at the fast food chain.

In their lawsuit filed Friday in federal court, Karolis Kubelskas and Emily Brunner claim that they were forced to regularly work off the clock because of unreasonably low payroll budgets provided to individual Jimmy John's stores, leading to minimum wage and overtime violations.

Jimmy John's has "intentionally and repeatedly misrepresented the true time worked by their hourly employees" in order to keep costs down and dodge overtime laws, the complaint alleges. The lawsuit is a proposed class action, with Kubelskas and Brunner arguing that such pay practices come from "corporate set policies" and would apply to other workers.

Jimmy John's did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Kubelskas and Brunner, Jimmy John's workers aren't given enough time to complete all their closing duties at the end of the day, at which point managers clock them out regardless of whether or not they continue to work. The practice is exacerbated, they claim, by a company policy that bases managers' bonuses largely on whether or not they hit their targets on labor costs.

The system, they say, "has the practical effect of creating widespread wage theft."

Brunner originally filed suit against the company in July, but she refiled a joint complaint with Kubelskas last week. The suit names JS Fort Group, which it describes as a franchisee, as a defendant alongside Jimmy John's Enterprises.

Founded in Illinois in 1983, Jimmy John's has built its foundation on the "irreverent attitude and dirt-cheap prices" championed by its founder, Jimmy John Liautaud, according to the company's website. The sandwich chain now has more than 1,900 locations throughout the U.S., and it was often highlighted as an entrepreneurial success story by failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the 2012 campaign trail.

Of Jimmy John's employees, the company's site says, "They don't mind doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Their hustle is part of how they live their daily lives, and they enjoy the fruits of a hard-earned entrepreneurial lifestyle."

The proposed class action isn't the first time Jimmy John's has been the target of a lawsuit from workers. Last November, 300 delivery drivers sued a major Jimmy John's franchise operator, claiming that the auto expenses they were forced to bear pushed their earnings below the minimum wage.

In 2011, a group of 10 Jimmy John's locations became the target of a heated labor organizing campaign by the Industrial Workers of the World, who'd launched a then-rare bid to unionize fast food workers. The union narrowly lost the election, and six workers later claimed they were fired due to their union support. In 2012, an administrative law judge sided with the workers.

6 Primaries To Watch This Week: Looking For The Next Michele Bachmann

Mon, 2014-08-11 14:20
WASHINGTON -- Voters in Connecticut, Minnesota and Wisconsin head to the polls for primary contests Tuesday, with crowded GOP fields in several high-profile contests. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) faces a long-shot challenge from a man with a very similar name, Republicans are vying to succeed Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and one of Wisconsin's most conservative state lawmakers is making a bid for Congress.

In Wisconsin, election observers also worry that there may be confusion over whether voters will need to show photo identification to vote. (They won't.) Although the state Supreme Court recently ruled that the law is constitutional, it will not be in effect Tuesday. But the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin told The Associated Press that it's worried people who don't have the proper ID will be discouraged from voting.

"There's certainly some potential for confusion," said Larry Dupuis, an attorney with the group. "There's always some risk because if people only see a headline or the beginning of a TV news report and the takeaway is it's been upheld, there's a risk people won't look beyond that. And there's also the rumor mill."

MINNESOTA GOVERNOR: Though Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has the state Republican Party's endorsement in the race to challenge Gov. Mark Dayton (D), he's locked in a competitive primary with businessman Scott Honour, former state House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and former House Speaker Kurt Zellers. Whoever wins the GOP nomination will have a shot at ousting Dayton: Though polls have found a majority of voters approve of his performance as governor, he led Johnson by just 6 points in a June KSTP/SurveyUSA poll. The gubernatorial map is considered favorable to Democrats this cycle, so the state is one of the few where the GOP has an opportunity to move into the governor's mansion.

WISCONSIN-6: Four Republicans are vying to replace retiring Rep. Tom Petri (R) in the most high-profile race in the state Tuesday. The man with the biggest target on his back is state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R), who has made a name for himself championing conservative causes. He sponsored legislation that repealed the state's Equal Pay Enforcement Act, fought for a seven-day workweek and proposed a bill that would have considered single parenthood "a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect." State Sen. Joe Leibham (R) and state Rep. Duey Stroebel (R) also describe themselves as conservatives, although Leibham has stressed his ability to build consensus and Stroebel has talked up his business background. The fourth candidate in the primary race, Tom Denow, is a political newcomer and is considered the dark horse candidate. The winner of the GOP primary will face Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris (D). The district leans Republican.

MINNESOTA-6: It's the end of an era, as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) is retiring after four terms in the House. The state's 6th District voters will no longer have a representative who has called for a 100 percent tax on remittances sent to Latin America from undocumented immigrants, claimed that "the gay community" has "bullied the American people" and "intimidated politicians," and charged that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the highest levels of the U.S. government. Bachmann, a founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, can now devote her time to the children and foster children she has at home, though she has said she will stay involved in politics and is still under investigation for alleged campaign finance violations from her 2012 presidential campaign. Conservative radio host, attorney and former state Rep. Tom Emmer is the favorite to succeed Bachmann, though he must first beat Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah in Tuesday's GOP primary. Emmer, who barely lost to Gov. Mark Dayton (D) in 2010, has name recognition, as well as endorsements from the state Republican Party and Bachmann. He supported an amendment to the state's constitution that would allow for federal laws to be ignored at the discretion of the state and would define Minnesotans as "sovereign individuals," and he is known for his denial of climate change and strong distaste for marriage equality.

CONNECTICUT GOVERNOR: Two Republicans are competing to take on Gov. Dan Malloy (D) this fall. The race is between Tom Foley, the businessman who received the GOP nomination in 2010 but lost to Malloy, and John McKinney, the state Senate minority leader. Foley had an unfortunate press conference in late July, when he appeared at a closed mill intending to highlight the failed policies of Malloy. But supporters of Malloy commandeered the event, and Foley ended up telling attendees -- including workers at the mill -- that the closure was their own fault. McKinney ran a last-minute ad after the debacle that called Foley "arrogant, ill-informed, uncaring." A poll in May showed Foley with a wide lead over McKinney.

MINNESOTA SENATE: In the 2008 race for this seat, Al Franken (D) eked out an exceedingly narrow victory over then-Sen. Norm Coleman (R) in a drawn-out battle that went from a recount to a legal challenge. Now, he's waiting to see whom he will face in November in what may be another close contest. Financial executive and investment banker Mike McFadden has a sizable amount of cash in the bank and the state Republican Party's endorsement, though he faces a handful of lesser-known primary opponents. McFadden may want to shrug off his reputation for avoiding specific answers to policy-based questions if he moves on from the primary, though he faces a delicate balance in appealing to the state's moderate voters as well as tea party activists, who have bitterly told him to "go to hell" for avoiding them. Franken is running television ads highlighting his work on behalf of constituents in the Senate, in the hopes of cultivating a pragmatic, bipartisan image. He is staying away from references to his former career as a political satirist, radio host and "Saturday Night Live" star.

WISCONSIN-1: There's little chance that Rep. Paul Ryan (R) will lose his primary contest Tuesday, but Jeremy Ryan wants to try. Jeremy Ryan, who is not related to the congressman, is also known as "Segway Jeremy Ryan" because he rode around on one of the two-wheeled vehicles during the labor protests at the state Capitol in 2011. He does not live in the district but would reportedly move there if elected. According to the GazetteXtra, Jeremy Ryan also considers himself a progressive in the tradition of Republicans such as former President Teddy Roosevelt.

Foo Fighters Announce 'Sonic Highways' Album Title, Reveal Tracklist & Cover

Mon, 2014-08-11 13:49
Foo Fighters have announced the title for its upcoming eighth studio album will be "Sonic Highways." While the album shares the same title as Dave Grohl's forthcoming HBO documentary series, the record is not a soundtrack for the docuseries. The band's members also shared the album's tracklist and cover on their website.

"This album is instantly recognizable as a Foo Fighters record, but there's something deeper and more musical to it," Grohl said in a statement. "I think that these cities and these people influenced us to stretch out and explore new territory, without losing our ‘sound.'"

The band also recently posted a short clip of Grohl getting a tattoo of an infinity symbol along with the words "In the end, we all come from what's come before."

"Sonic Highways" is out on Nov. 10, and you can preorder the album or one of the many bundles on the band's store.

"Sonic Highways" tracklist:

1. "Something From Nothing"
2. "The Feast and the Famine"
3. "Congregation"
4. "What Did I Do?/God as My Witness"
5. "Outside"
6. "In the Clear"
7. "Subterranean"
8. "I Am a River"

Become the Change You Want; Correcting Police With a Discipline Movement

Mon, 2014-08-11 13:20
Over the weekend, National Action Network (NAN) and I renewed our commitment towards seeking justice for Eric Garner, the father of six who died after NYPD officers placed him in an illegal chokehold according to videotape capturing the horrific incident. On August 23, justice caravans of cars and buses will be crossing the Verrazano-Narrows bridge into Staten Island and to the site where he was killed. We will march tot he office of the Staten Island District Attorney and demand that those responsible for Garner's death be held accountable without delay. As I was touring churches and mobilizing people for this "We Won't Go Back" march, I received a distressing call from Leslie McSpadden, grandfather of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Through his pain and grief, he told me the story of how his unarmed grandchild was shot multiple times by police in Ferguson, MO (as is widely reported now in several outlets). He knew of my work in this area, and asked for my assistance. I assured him that NAN will stand with the family, as we have done numerous times for families around the country, and assist in any way that we can through the peaceful tradition of this nation's greatest civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For those distracting from the family's wishes, I have a message: Don't become what you are fighting.

As I have often stated, not all police officers are bad. In fact, I believe most of them truly are doing their best to protect people and reduce crime. But it is blatantly clear that there are some bad ones who have violated their own policing protocol, and it is those that must be dealt with immediately. Just like police officers don't think everyone in our community is bad, we don't believe all of them are bad, but we want to catch the bad ones just like they want to catch the bad ones. If we do not prosecute and discipline officers who break the law and who abuse their positions, then what sort of message does that send to the others? What kind of police culture does that create? And what does that say to the people they were hired to serve and protect? Whether it's Staten Island or Ferguson, one incident is one too many.

After my call with Michael Brown's grandfather, I read reports of alleged looting and violence (mostly property damage) in Ferguson. Like many, including the family of Brown, I was saddened by these images and stories. Instead of keeping the focus on justice for the deceased teenager, the behavior of some attempted to take attention away from the fact that another unarmed child was reportedly shot and killed by police. While there is understandable frustration and outrage in the community, we cannot push back against the disregard for human life by threatening it ourselves. We cannot fight a police officer's inability to control his/her anger and emotions by demonstrating our own inability to control ours. The moment we lose our pledge to a non-violent movement, we become part of what we claim to be fighting. Do not allow this to happen; we must remain dedicated to a higher moral commitment.

Now there are some who simply may not believe in the ethical principles of Dr. King and Gandhi like I do, but they should at least have the strategic intelligence to know that they are playing into the hands of their adversaries. When you loot or behave violently, you give grounds to those that try to justify illegal police abuse. You become the poster child for them to say, see, we have no choice but to shoot and kill, or use a chokehold, because just look at the way they behave. When negative images and stereotypes are already etched in their minds from popular culture, do not validate their preconceived ideas. This does nothing to alleviate the root problem of some officers violating their own procedures and killing unarmed men and women. We must keep the focus on this and nothing else. We must get justice for the families of victims like Brown and Garner.

"Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral," stated Dr. King. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

He continued: "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. Indeed, it is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it."

As we continue to push for accountability and justice from Staten Island to Ferguson and around the nation, let us all remember that we achieve much more by arming ourselves with knowledge and peaceful strategy than anything else.

We must always be the change we want to see.

Is Bruce Rauner more of a reformer than Gov. Pat Quinn?

Mon, 2014-08-11 12:36
From the day he first entered politics, Pat Quinn has made his name on being a reformer. Most famously, Quinn spearheaded a protest against legislative pay raises that led to the 1980 "Cutback Amendment," which cut the size of the Illinois General Assembly by a third.

But a new Chicago Sun-Times/We Ask America poll shows Quinn may face a challenge for his reform crown from his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner. Despite the Quinn campaign's efforts to call the ethics of Rauner's business dealings into question, poll respondents overwhelmingly deemed Rauner the candidate of reform over Quinn. Perhaps more surprising was Rauner's edging Quinn out as the candidate most respondents believed was best in touch with their everyday concerns.

The poll also found Rauner with a 13-point lead when respondents were asked for whom they'd vote if the election were today. That's consistent with a July 28 Reboot Illinois poll also conducted by We Ask America.

Rauner's strong showing on the reform issue - respondents deemed Rauner the reform candidate by a 47-21 margin - may be related to the ongoing controversy over Quinn's $54.5 Neighborhood Recovery Initiative anti-violence program. A federal investigation is under way regarding misuse of public money in that effort. A legislative committee also has begun its own inquiry.

The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative was the subject of a critical op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on Aug. 8. The Journal noted that the poor handling of the Illinois program was a vivid contrast to other, similar programs in U.S. cities.

"Perhaps no government program could save Chicago, but the NRI's failure isn't an indictment of antiviolence programs themselves. Rather, it may simply show what happens when funds are distributed haphazardly. Other state and federally funded anticrime programs--such as the federal "Weed and Seed" program in Pittsburgh in the 1990s, or Baltimore's "Safe Streets" program in the 2000s--have proved effective and were characterized by close monitoring and narrow targeting."

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Wake Up and Face the Music, Chicago

Mon, 2014-08-11 11:44
In the wake of the Fourth of July holiday weekend in Chicago, where 82 people were shot in an 84-hour window, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Wednesday that Forty Illinois State Police troopers will work with the Chicago Police Department's fugitive unit to apprehend wanted criminals. That's all well and good. Get the fugitives off the street and Chicago will be a little bit safer. Maybe slip down a couple of notches from its "Murder Capital" title bestowed upon it in 2012. But what about future fugitives? The future criminals of America. Kids who are wandering the streets without purpose, turning to lives of crime because they have no other options. What can we do as a society, if anything, to save them?

Chicago native Franklin Vanderbilt, who has spent the past seven years touring as a drummer with Lenny Kravitz, has a suggestion: Start intervention a lot sooner in life. Swap a gun with a guitar or a set of drum sticks and you never know what kind of an influence you can make in a child's life.

You credit the arts in Chicago schools for saving your life. How so?

They definitely saved my life. Arts and determination were my way out.

I was fortunate to have exposure to the arts at a young age. Especially in high school. I attended Carl Schurz High School Music Academy and was involved in the all-city band and orchestra program. The band director, Carl Annis taught me to never give up and instilled a strong work ethic in me. He encouraged me to stay on the path I was on.

I was also in ROTC which taught me discipline. Ricardo Garcia -- who ran the ROTC Drum and Bugle Corps -- was a major mentor and influence in my life. I'm also a product of the Ravinia Jazz Mentors Program. Some of the Chicago greats who took me under their wing were: Ramsey Lewis, Clark Terry, Ernie Adams, Willie Pickins, Orbert Davis and Marlene Rosenberg. They've all played a hand in my career success thus far. Kids need more people like this these days to shift their focus.

In what part of the city did you grow up?

I grew up on Chicago's west side in a neighborhood called K-Town. It was a rough neighborhood. Before I was born, my grandmother was carrying a .38 in her purse. I remember witnessing gang fights. I even saw a dead body in between a house before. But I have to say, that even back then, it was a little different than it is now. It's a lot more intense.

How did you avoid the peer pressure and being a statistic yourself?

For awhile my parents and I lived in my grandparents duplex with my two sisters. And we had a church in the basement of that house. That's where I started to play drums. Because of that church, and that drum set, I kept myself out of trouble.

When I was in school, I had a bad habit of beating on my desk. Because I was able to keep a beat in class, I gained a little popularity. The girls liked it, too (smiles). I would see certain gang members or whatever, one of them considered himself a rapper, and he would look over and he would start rapping. When I realized that people were accepting of what I did, I didn't have to do what they did to be cool.

Do you think the recent school closures in Chicago will contribute to an increase in crime?

I went to Goldblatt Elementary School. This is one of 53 schools -- 61 buildings -- that were closed by the city in 2013. This school saved my life. It pains me to think about the kids -- just like me -- from that same neighborhood, who are without a neighborhood school. What are they supposed to do? Cram a million kids into other buildings, short changing them on their educations and opportunity? If you give kids a strong educational foundation, and a solid family life, they will create opportunities for themselves. Think about it -- do those kids want to be out there shooting and killing each other? Do you think they were born that way? For most of them, this is a last resort.

I was very fortunate to have a very strong family that believed in music, love and God. And that was instilled in me as a child. When I was playing drums nothing could keep me from it.

How was life in Chicago different that it is now?

When I was coming up, there was violence, for sure. It seems like the spirit of depression and violence has increased. Statistics may not show that, but it just seems that there's a lot more hopelessness out there now than there was when I was growing up. Not as many places for kids to turn for help or guidance if they're not receiving it at home. And it all starts at home.

Was music the key to keeping you out of trouble as a child?

In part. But mostly my mother's and father's discipline were responsible. And that's the key here: my father. I had a father in my house growing up. So many kids don't these days. You need the influence of both parents to make a well-rounded kid. My father instilled in me to stand on my own and to go after what I desire.

How old were you when you were first introduced to music?

Since birth. The first person who introduced me to music was my dad. He was a saxophone player and had a record collection that I later inherited. My father and my grandfather took me to a music store downtown to pick out a Ludwig drum set when I was 5 years old. I still have a picture of that drum set. And that's still the brand I play today.

If you could sit down with a child right now who was struggling with peer pressure to join a gang, or hanging with the wrong crowd, what would you tell him or her?

First of all, I believe kids join a gang out of fear. They may be shooting and killing each other, but the root of all that killing is their own fear. What I would tell that person is the definition of fear. To me that is: False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear is not real. I would tell them there is another way out of the situation you don't want to be in. Gang life gets you nowhere. You're lucky if you get to live to be 20. The same energy that you use to become a gang member, take that and look inside of yourself to search for what you truly should be and what you truly desire, because there is a better opportunity and a better life than what is in front of your eyes. And it's up to you to create that world for yourself, because it's possible. You don't have to become a victim of your surroundings. You have the power of choice. And nobody can take that away from you.

How can a child, with little or no family influence, take part in the arts today?

Make programs accessible to kids in the most hard-hit areas -- programs like business, economic, music, social skills -- the kids without that influence at home would have a place to escape. I'm sure these places exist, but for these kids, they seem like they're a million miles away. For me they were accessible; I was able to escape and grabbed on to what I desired. Bottom line: If there's something deep inside of that child that he or she cannot keep away from, nothing will stop him or her from achieving it.

What do you most love about your hometown?

My family, the pizza and that Chicago pride that will never leave me.

What message do you have for the people of Chicago?

The message to my city is this, let's be the cause in our lives, not the effect of negativity and violence. We are the city of big shoulders. And we're great people that achieve great things. We have the power of choice and we should be the masters of our emotions. Let's make the choice to live, not die.

Police tape photo licensed through © Franklin Vanderbilt photo credit: Karen Bystedt.

What Are the Best Colleges in Illinois?

Mon, 2014-08-11 11:11
Forbes came out with their 2014 ranking of colleges in the United States and four Illinois colleges appear in the top 100. Unlike U.S. News and World Report's rankings, Forbes combines all schools, from small liberal arts colleges to large STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) schools.

From Forbes:

This year it comes down to small, student-centric, liberal arts colleges vs. large, brainy, research-oriented universities closely associated with science, technology, engineering and math. The FORBES 7th annual Top Colleges ranking reveals higher education in flux, ongoing debate between the value of liberal arts vs. STEM degrees and a winning formula of high student satisfaction and graduation rates, alumni career success and low student debt.

While the elite liberal arts and STEM schools are neck-and-neck in the ranking race, their similarities are unmistakable: age, location, endowment and low debt for students. Colleges are like a fine wine. The average age of the top 100 colleges is a venerable 170 years, with an average founding date of 1843.

We pulled out the 15 highest-ranked Illinois schools. The top two both placed in the top 25 overall. The rankings of seven of the Illinois schools are below, with their national rank in parentheses.

15. Illinois State University (#478)

14. Elmhurst College (#459)

13. University of Illinois, Chicago (#361)

12. DePaul University (#320)

11. Loyola University Chicago (#312)

10. Bradley University (#278)

9. Illinois Wesleyan University (#253)

Head over to Reboot Illinois to see the top eight colleges in Illinois, including two that ranked in the top 25 nationally.

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A Reply to Nathaniel Zelinsky: 'Anti-Israel' Professor Shouldn't Have Been Fired

Mon, 2014-08-11 10:47
Nathaniel Zelinsky claims Professor Steven Salaita should not have been hired to teach at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. He feels that Salaita's vocal and acerbic tweets against the Israeli state are more than sufficient grounds to not hire him. Furthermore he perceives a contradiction between those who advocate for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions while at the same time complaining of UIUC's dismissal of Salaita. Zelinsky writes: "Let's relish in the irony for a moment: the same folks who advocate for the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) of Israeli academics now claim that anyone should be able to express academic viewpoints without repercussions. Try telling that to Hebrew University professors in Jerusalem that the BDS-crowd wants to ban from American schools."

Here and throughout, Zelinsky displays a willful ignorance or distortion of the actual facts -- appalling for anyone but most especially for a graduate student, who is supposed to do his homework. Let's take this "irony" to start with. The academic boycott of Israeli institutions is just that. It is aimed at institutions, not individuals. As I have explained previously in The Huffington Post, not only are individual Israeli scholars still welcomed to US institutions and even conferences sponsored by boycotting organizations, US and Israeli academics are free to collaborate, write articles together, et cetera. Here is the actual language of the American Studies Associations' resolution:

Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.

Thus, once one goes to the trouble of actually researching the easily available documents on the boycott, any "irony" disappears.

Second, Zelinsky omits the precise chronology of the events as they unfolded. Omitting and distorting data that is inconvenient to his thesis, he presents an incomplete, misleading, and false narrative. I would certainly fail him in his oral exams. Here is the sequence, and here is why scholars and many others are appalled by the University's actions.

Professor Steven Salaita, after going through the normal process of the job search and hire, was offered a tenured position by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign on the basis of a thorough and dispassionate evaluation of his excellence in scholarship and teaching. Salaita signed the contract offered to him by UIUC and resigned his position at Virginia Tech based on the reasonable assumption that UIUC would honor its commitment to bring the hiring process to its formal completion. Nevertheless, UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise has decided not to honor that commitment, for reasons unknown and undisclosed, and instead informed Salaita that his appointment will not be formally presented to the UIUC Trustees for final approval.

It was reported by various news organizations, including Inside Higher Education, that those familiar with Wise's decision have said that UIUC reacted to external complaints about Salaita's comments on social media regarding Israeli state actions and policies. UIUC appears therefore to have repudiated faculty judgment and governance without any reason whatsoever being offered; such arbitrary and unilateral action is abhorrent to the enterprise of liberal education. This action by UIUC punishes, by way of unemployment and loss of livelihood, the simple expression of private opinion by a member of the professoriate, done outside the university, with no markers of university affiliation or endorsement.

This action has been condemned by the American Association of University Professors; by the Center for Constitutional Rights; by over 12,000 individuals in the United States and elsewhere; by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine and by the Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine. Hence, pace Zelinsky, this case involves a clear violation of a number of principles, laws, and protocols key to the academy. If he truly wishes to become a member, I suggest he educate himself in these regards.

The key organization in this matter is the American Association of University Professors. Even the AAUP, which in fact came out against the academic boycott of Israel, nonetheless released an unambiguous defense of Salaita and a condemnation of UIUC's actions. These two statements rebut the entire foundation of Zelinsky's poorly-researched, poorly-argued diatribe.

Here are excerpts from the two AAUP findings, first from the national office:

While opinions differ among AAUP members on a wide range of issues, the AAUP is united in its commitment to defend academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas more broadly. On the basis of this commitment we have opposed efforts by some pro-Palestinian groups to endorse an "academic boycott" of Israel. This commitment has also led us to defend the rights of critics of Israel, including the right of faculty members such as Professor Salaita, to express their views without fear of retaliation, even where such views are expressed in a manner that others might find offensive or repugnant.

Recently we argued in a policy statement on "Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications," that faculty comments made on social media, including Twitter, are largely extramural statements of personal views that should be protected by academic freedom. While Professor Salaita's scholarship does appear to deal with the topic of Palestine, his posts were arguably not intended as scholarly statements but as expressions of personal viewpoint. Whether one finds these views attractive or repulsive is irrelevant to the right of a faculty member to express them. Moreover, the AAUP has long objected to using criteria of civility and collegiality in faculty evaluation because we view this as a threat to academic freedom. It stands to reason that this objection should extend as well to decisions about hiring, especially about hiring to a tenured position.

The Illinois chapter of the AAUP gives more detail:

Professor Salaita's words while strident and vulgar were an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East. Issues of life and death during bombardment educes significant emotions and expressions of concern that reflect the tragedy that armed conflict confers on its victims. Speech that is deemed controversial should be challenged with further speech that may abhor and challenge a statement. Yet the University of Illinois cannot cancel an appointment based upon Twitter statements that are protected speech in the United States of America.

Critics of UIUC's action do so not to defend someone critical of Israel -- it is to defend all scholars against the capricious will of administrators to deny employment to faculty who hold unpopular beliefs. Universities can only thrive if they allow for honest and even heated debates about knowledge, opinion, information. To narrow debate is to shrink the capacity to learn and to confine ourselves to merely regurgitating our previous knowledge. I seriously doubt that Nathaniel Zelinsky would approve of his being fired for his tweets or blogs if they displeased some left-leaning administrator. I seriously doubt of anyone outside the academy would wish it to be the case that they could get fired for tweeting anything they wished -- but that happens sometime. Yet in the academy, we award special value to academic freedom for clear reasons central to our mission.

White Students No Longer To Be Majority In School

Mon, 2014-08-11 10:29
KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. (AP) -- The cheerful sign outside Jane Cornell's summer school classroom in Pennsylvania's wealthiest county says "Welcome" and "Bienvenidos" in polished handwriting.

Inside, giggling grade-schoolers who mostly come from homes where Spanish is the primary language worked on storytelling with a tale about a crocodile going to the dentist. The children and their classroom at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center, near both mushroom farms and the borough's bucolic red-brick downtown, are a subtle reminder of America's changing school demographics.

For the first time ever, U.S. public schools are projected this fall to have more minority students than non-Hispanic whites enrolled, a shift largely fueled by growth in the number of Hispanic children.

Non-Hispanic white students are still expected to be the largest racial group in the public schools this year at 49.8 percent. But the National Center for Education Statistics says minority students, when added together, will now make up the majority.

About one-quarter of the minority students are Hispanic, 15 percent are black and 5 percent are Asian and Pacific Islanders. Biracial students and Native Americans make up a smaller share of the minority student population.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the changing population a seminal moment in education. "We can't talk about other people's children. These are our children," he said.

The shift creates new academic realities, such as the need for more English language instruction, and cultural ones, meaning changes in school lunch menus to reflect students' tastes.

But it also brings some complex societal questions that often fall to school systems to address, including issues of immigration, poverty, diversity and inequity.

The result, at times, is racial and ethnic tension.

In Louisiana in July, Jefferson Parish public school administrators reached an agreement with the federal government to end an investigation into discrimination against English language learners.

In May, police had to be called to a school in the Streamwood, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, to help break up a fight between Hispanic and black students after a racially based lunchroom brawl got out of control.

Issues of race and ethnicity in school can also be more subtle.

In the Kennett Consolidated School District, Superintendent Barry Tomasetti described parents who opt to send their kids to private schools across the border in Delaware after touring diverse classrooms. Other families, he said, seek out the district's diverse schools "because they realize it's not a homogenous world out there."

The changes in the district, about an hour southwest outside of Philadelphia, from mostly middle-to-upper class white to about 40 percent Hispanic was driven partly by workers migrating from Mexico and elsewhere to work the mushroom farms.

"We like our diversity," Tomasetti said, even as he acknowledged the cost. He has had to hire English language instructors and translators for parent-teacher conferences. He has cobbled together money to provide summer school for many young English language learners who need extra reading and math support.

"Our expectation is all of our kids succeed," he said.

Private schools nationally are changing as well, seeing a smaller number of white students and a greater number of Hispanic students in their decreasing pool of children.

The new majority-minority status of America's schools mirrors a change that is coming for the nation as a whole. The Census Bureau estimates that the country's population will have more minorities than whites for the first time in 2043, a change due in part to higher birth rates among Hispanics and a stagnating or declining birth rate among blacks, whites and Asians.

Today, slightly more than 1 in 5 kids speaks a language other than English at home.

But even as the population becomes more diverse, schools are becoming more racially segregated, reflecting U.S. housing patterns.

The disparities are evident even in the youngest of black, Hispanic and Native American children, who on average enter kindergarten academically behind their white and Asian peers. They are more likely to attend failing schools and face harsher school discipline.

Later, they have lower standardized test scores, on average, fewer opportunities to take advanced classes and are less likely to graduate.

Duncan said the disparities are unacceptable, and the country needs to make sure all students "have an opportunity to have a world class education, to do extraordinarily well."

As the school-age population has become more nonwhite, it's also become poorer, said Patricia Gandara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA who serves on President Barack Obama's advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Roughly one-quarter of Hispanics and African-Americans live below the poverty line - meaning a family of four has nearly $24,000 in annual income - and some of the poorest of Hispanic children are dealing with the instability of being in the country illegally or with a parent who is, Gandara said.

Focusing on teacher preparation and stronger curriculum is "not going to get us anywhere unless we pay attention to the really basic needs of these children, things like nutrition and health and safety, and the instability of the homes," she said.

This transformation in school goes beyond just educating the children. Educators said parents must feel comfortable and accepted in schools, too.

Lisa Mack, president of the Ohio PTA, encourages local leaders to include grandparents and replace events such as a sock hop with one with a Motown theme that might be more inclusive or to provide opportunities for people of different ethnic groups to bring food to share at monthly meetings.

"I think one thing that's critical is that schools and PTAs and everyone just need to understand that with changing demographics, you can't do things the way you've done them before," she said. "That you have to be creative in reaching out and making them feel welcomed and valued and supported in the school system."

Some schools are seeking teachers to help reflect the demographics of their student population.

Today, fewer than 1 in 5 of the public schools teachers is a minority. "It is an ongoing challenge to try and make our teacher population reflect our student population," said Steve Saunders, spokesman for the Adams County, Colorado, school district outside Denver that has seen a large shift toward having Hispanic students.

The New America Foundation, in a recent report, suggested teacher prep programs have at least one class for teachers on working with non-native English speakers and that education programs embrace bilingualism.

Andrea Giunta, a senior policy analyst at the National Education Association who focuses on teacher recruiting, retention and diversity, said you can't assume that teachers are a good match just because of their background.

"Just because you speak Spanish doesn't mean you speak the same Spanish your students are speaking and communicating with," she said.

This comes as the NEA, the nation's largest union, just elected an all-minority leadership team in July. The new president, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, is Latina, and the vice president and secretary-treasurer, Rebecca S. Pringle and Princess Moss, are black.

In Kennett Square, superintendent Tomasetti said Hispanic students in his district are performing at levels, on average, higher than their peers statewide. One recent graduate, Christian Cordova-Pedroza, is attending Harvard University this fall. Cordova-Pedroza is one of five children of a mushroom farmer from Mexico.

Cordova-Pedroza credited the motivation instilled by his parents combined with access to a variety of educational opportunities for his success, including an after-school program that included tutoring and help with college applications. He also was active in a Latino leadership club that helps provides translation services in the community and participated in summer programs at Penn State and Princeton.

"Certainly, I had to work hard to get there, but I feel like at every opportunity that I had a chance of participating in or doing that, I was always like, `Yes, I want to do that,'" he said.

Nearby, at El Nayarit Mexico Grocery Store, owner Jaime Sandoval, a native of Mexico with six kids, said he's been pleased with the education his children have received. His 9-year-old daughter, he said, wants to be a teacher.

"She loves to read and all that stuff," Sandoval said. "She always has good grades on English and she loves it much."

The Smallest Thing In The Universe Is So Tiny It Seems To Have No Size At All (VIDEO)

Mon, 2014-08-11 07:42
What’s the smallest thing in the universe?

That's a complicated question. After all, fundamental particles are what physicists call the most basic building blocks of matter, and they are so minute that no current technology--nor any technology we can even envision--can pinpoint their size.

"The question is a little hard to answer as you have put it, since fundamental particles don’t have measurable sizes," Dr. Andy Parker, the particle physicist who heads the department of physics at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., told The Huffington Post in an email. "Physicists call them 'point-like' to indicate that no size has so far been detected."

But if the universe's smallest particles are that small, how do scientists know about them? To find the answer to that question, I sat down with Dr. Joe Lykken, deputy director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the huge particle collider facility located 35 miles west of Chicago.

Check out the video above and/or click below to read the transcript. Don't forget to leave your thoughts in the comments. Talk nerdy to me!


JACQUELINE HOWARD: The universe is a gigantic place, but just about everything in it is made of very tiny particles. What may be the smallest, most fundamental particle in the universe?

Hey everyone. Jacqueline Howard here. I’m 330 feet underground at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. It’s where scientists are seeking out the smallest building blocks of all matter, which can enhance our understanding of everything we see around us, and even ourselves. Yeah, you probably thought, well we’re made of tiny molecules, which are made of atoms, which are " target="_hplink">made of particles like protons, neutrons, and electrons. That must be the end of it, right? Wrong. In the 1950s and ‘60s, scientists discovered the existence of even smaller particles, naming them fundamental particles, which include quarks, neutrinos, bosons, and others. Then the Standard Model of Particle Physics was developed in the 1970s to explain how these fundamental particles and the four fundamental forces of nature -- gravity, electromagnetism, weak force, and strong force -- relate to each other. This journey into the subatomic realm continues with scientists working here at Fermilab, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, and other research labs around the world.

DR. JOE LYKKEN: The way that we try to find out what the smallest things are is by smashing particles in what we call particle accelerators, particle colliders. And we smash them at higher and higher energies trying to break them into smaller and smaller pieces, and for some of these particles we haven’t succeeded to do that.

JH: That’s theoretical physicist and the Fermilab’s deputy director Dr. Joe Lykken. And yes, physicists literally send particles on a collision course like two race cars, crashing into each other, to find out whether they’re made up of even smaller particles. After all, that’s how scientists realized protons and neutrons are actually made of quarks. That’s also how scientists discover new elementary particles that confirm the existence of things that were once only theory.

JL: Two years ago we discovered a completely new kind of particle, the Higgs boson, which is a completely different kind of thing than anything we’ve seen before. I think that that tells us we’re just scratching the surface of what these teeny tiny particles are really like.

JH: But what is the tiniest particle of all? It’s complicated. Whatever it is, it has to be something that can’t be smashed into anything smaller than itself, no matter how powerful the collision. And, physicists know it must be smaller than the size limit given to all fundamental particles, which is around 10 to the minus 19 meters. That’s a zero, followed by 18 more zeros, followed by 1. That’s so small that some physicists say the only way to make sense of it is through what’s called string theory -- the idea that fundamental particles actually may be one-dimensional strings about a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. If a single atom was blown up to be the size of our solar system, a string would be the size of one tree. That’s so small that physicists actually call fundamental particles “point-like” to indicate that no technology that exists, and that we can even imagine, is able to make that measurement. But what happens when we do develop such technology?

JL: I think it’ll put us in a very similar situation to the way we were at the beginning of the 1900s when they suddenly started to understand what was inside atoms, and they suddenly realized that there were all kinds of things, new kinds of experiments that you could do that would open up whole new worlds that people hadn’t even suspected.

JH: But until then, what is the smallest particle we know of? It could be a quark, or maybe a neutrino, or even a string? Or maybe we’re all wrong, and it just may be something we have yet to encounter. What other secrets do you think the smallest, most elemental particles of matter may reveal? Let me know in the comments. C’mon, talk nerdy to me!

See all Talk Nerdy to Me posts.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Opponent Bruce Rauner Clash Over Investments

Mon, 2014-08-11 07:27
CHICAGO (AP) — As one of the nation's most competitive governor's races picks up, voters in Illinois are hearing a whole lot about a British territory thousands of miles away in the Caribbean.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn hammered his wealthy Republican rival for days after reports that Bruce Rauner put some investments in the Cayman Islands, a place often criticized as a tax haven and that has caused political problems for U.S. candidates, including 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Rauner's campaign fired back, saying Quinn's own pension fund — and that of many Illinois teachers and other public employees — are tied to investments there.

The fallout has included accusations that candidates are unpatriotic and waging a "war on teachers," recruiting an economist to discuss the ills of offshore accounts and a news conference on a sweltering Chicago beach intended to conjure up images of the Caribbean paradise.

Here's a breakdown of the situation and what it could mean come November:


Rauner has at least five investments in the Caymans, either of his personal funds or set up by the partners of his former firm, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Quinn's campaign says Rauner set up the accounts to avoid paying taxes. Rauner, a private equity investor who's making his first bid for public office, says the investments didn't affect his personal tax rate and that he fully disclosed the necessary information to the U.S. government.

International companies and wealthy investors have long taken advantage of offshore financial centers in the Caymans because regulations and legal systems make it easy to move capital internationally. Rauner said his former firm was simply doing "what many, many financial firms do."


Quinn and running mate Paul Vallas, a former Chicago Public Schools CEO, called on Rauner to release his 2013 taxes and the full documentation for prior years' tax returns he has already made public.

Standing on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan last week, Vallas said voters shouldn't have to take Rauner's word that he's met his full tax obligations. He said the only way for voters to know for sure is to see the full tax schedules.

Quinn, who releases his full returns each year, said wealthy people and corporations that use offshore investments are "not patriotic."

"Bruce Rauner is not running for governor of the Cayman Islands," he said.


Rauner's campaign said Quinn "should be ashamed of himself" for questioning his opponent's patriotism. Spokesman Mike Schrimpf also said Rauner — who reported making $53 million in 2012 — and his wife paid more than $25 million in taxes over the past three years.

But Rauner's campaign again declined to release further tax documentation, calling it a political stunt meant to distract from Quinn's own record. The campaign says Rauner filed for a six-month extension of his 2013 tax returns, and the return will be made public before the Nov. 4 election.


The Rauner campaign also accused Quinn of a double standard because his pension fund, as well as retirement funds for teachers and other state workers, are heavily invested overseas.

"Pat Quinn either needs to apologize to Bruce Rauner for lying about the facts or apologize to Illinois teachers and state workers for calling them unpatriotic," the campaign said. If Quinn won't apologize, it said, he should immediately move to divest all state investments from overseas companies and funds.

Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said state pension boards decide how to invest money and are independent entities. Quinn's future pension is fixed, she added.

"Governor Quinn's bank accounts are all located in Illinois, United States of America," Anderson said.

Schrimpf noted that Quinn appoints several members of the pension system boards.


Associated Press writer Sophia Tareen contributed to this report.

The Hot Kids' Book? 'My Parents Open Carry.' (Yes, It's For Real.)

Mon, 2014-08-11 05:58
There's nothing funny about children suffering from gunshots -- and, in the last few years, more than 7,000 American kids under 20 do each year. What's even less funny is that hundreds of these kids are killed by other kids. Not deliberately. But because the adult owner of the gun left a loaded weapon where kids could find it.

I have some personal experience with guns, none of it pleasant. As a Cub Scout, I once found myself in a backyard with other Cubs. They were brandishing BB guns. "Run," they said, and raised their rifles, so I did, and they blasted away. Decades later, I collaborated on a novel with a Mafioso. It hit some resistance from publishers, so he put a pistol to my head and encouraged me to say my prayers. (Speak no ill of the dead? Nonsense: I was thrilled to hear he killed himself.)

So when Bill Maher mocked a 34-page illustrated book for children called My Parents Open Carry -- "If mom and dad are both safe because they're packing, why, on the cover, are they using their daughter as a human shield?" -- my brain automatically recoiled and I refused to think about it.

Then I watched Stephen Colbert.

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Again, it seemed too silly to take seriously. Consider: The book tells the story of 13-year-old Brenna Strong, who spends a Saturday morning running errands with her mom, Bea ("Be Strong") and her dad, Richard ("Dick Strong"). Just like thee and me -- only Mr. and Mrs. Strong carry handguns for self-defense. Openly.

The authors' motivation: We looked for pro-gun children's books and couldn't find any. Our goal was to provide a wholesome family book that reflects the views of the majority of the American people, i.e., that self-defense is a basic natural right and that firearms provide the most efficient means for that defense.

Again, like a defective Glock, my brain jammed.

Then my wife told me that the book was one of the biggest sellers on Amazon -- and that a third of the 300 Amazon reviewers gave it 5 stars.

I wondered: How could that be? And before I knew it, I'd read all the 5-star reviews.

Yes, there were sincere reviews from gun enthusiasts, like these:

Teaching our children about the 2nd Amendment is of paramount importance in these days of mindless liberals trying to take away the basic God given right to protect one's family.

Why bother educating your children on the facts and reality they will face in life? Keep your heads buried in the sand, Libbys! Chicago Jesus and his storm troopers will be there in your moment of need! No need for you to learn how to protect yourself!

I would recommend this book to anyone that carries a firearm with kids ages 5-10.

But most of the 5-star reviews would be right at home on Gawker. Slapping 5 stars on top? Pure irony. Or snark. And they were sufficiently ironic and snarky that they were funny-in-a-black-humor-kind-of-way, and I decided that although these were totally offensive and non-PC, they were worth sharing because, these days, it's hard to find any kind of humor. So.....

The book was a great way to bring up a few difficult topics with my remaining child, such as why she doesn't have brothers and sisters anymore or a left ear. I can't wait for the sequel: "My Parents Accidentally Shot and Killed My Best Friend." In fact, the whole series is bound to change the way we look at this misunderstood group:
- "My Baby Brother Shot Me in the Face with My Parent's Gun."
- "My Dad Got Really Mad at My Mom But Fortunately He Had a Gun Handy So He Could Teach Her a Lesson."
- "My Dad Protected Us By Mistakenly Shooting a Trick-or-Treater in the Face."
Or my personal favorite: "My Parents Are Ignorant Throwbacks Committed To The Glorification and Perpetuation of Deadly Violence and the Reckless Endangerment of Everyone Around Them."

Sequel: "Heather Has Two Glocks."

Sequel: "My Dark-Skinned Parents Open Carry. Or At Least They Did Until the Cops Shot them Fifty-Two Times."

I read it along with "Sandy Hook Massacre: When Seconds Count, Police Are Minutes Away," and it really set me up for a cozy night in.

I was having a hard time explaining to little Billy why daddy needs to carry his AR-15 into Chipotle when he goes for burritos but now, finally, I have a book that helps. Looking forward to the follow up: "It's Okay, He Was Wearing a Hoodie."

Based on the gay porn 'stache and Max Factor eye-lights, Dad may be open about carrying his gun, but I think there's something he's not being open about.

A must-have for all those who think that mandatory wheelchair ramps are part of a United Nations' plot to turn America into a Marxist slave nation!

"Open Carry" isn't a verb. And I'll stand my ground and shoot in the face anyone who pretends it is.

But we shouldn't end this on a note of ha-ha, however grim. This one's the keeper:

I hear a sequel is on its way, and I have the perfect topic for the authors. "My Classmate Open Carried, Killed a Fellow Student, then Killed Himself, " a true story based on the events at Arapahoe High School on December 13th, 2013.

The authors can interview the kids who were traumatized by the sight and sound of bullets flying nearby. They can interview the children who had to walk through the bloody halls with their hands in the air as they exited the building. They can interview the students in the library who were trapped in the same room as the gunman, not knowing whether they would live or die and, as a special bonus, got to watch the killer shoot himself in the head, collapse and die.

Kids' books usually include pictures and the police have plenty to share -- the innocent and dying female student, her riderless horse attending her funeral along with 6,000 Colorado residents, the dead body of the male shooter, the bloody hallway, the damaged library, the emergency room filled with doctors trying to save the victim, etc.

It's time to get real.

[Cross-posted from]