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Will the Lincoln Park Pirates Sail?

Thu, 2016-02-25 13:09
My entire adult life, they've been "stealing" cars across Chicago and then ransoming them back to the owners. Legally.

Or you could see it as "providing a towing service."

A few years back, they slipped into the lot behind the Unemployment Office as I was standing in line inside. While I waited in that endless line, they jacked up my 10 year old Accord and slithered on back to their razor wire compound where they waited for me to take the $25 cab ride and then pay them the $200 to get my car back.

And I was not at the Unemployment Office on a social call.

But there was that one time, so long ago, when my pal Eddie and I got them. It was after this sleet gray snowy night prowling the Lincoln Avenue bars looking for any kind of warmth.

Come closing time, stumbling out into the night to Eddie's dirty yellow Datsun, parked legally because we knew where those legal spots were, we found his car was gone.

We knew Lincoln Towing had nabbed us. No one else would take that car. So off we walked to their compound which was then about a mile west on Fullerton Avenue.

Standing at the bulletproof glass window of Lincoln Towing, an assortment of firearms mounted on the wall, the really scary woman sitting at the desk inside snarled "$200 boys."

And that's when Eddie started playing dumb. Slow motion, looks of confusion, looks of total bewilderment on our faces--I picked up on the game quick--we started turning every pocket we each had inside out. Except the ones that had our wallets. Shrugging our shoulders, we each took off our boots, felt around inside them looking for spare change, pounded them on the steel counter. All this while the line behind us got longer and longer, eventually spilling out on to the railroad tracks that still crossed Fullerton. After what seemed like 10 minutes, we finally located our wallets, paid her, and were buzzed in to get the battered yellow Datsun.

Eddie starts the car, the razor wire fence starts to rise in front of us, and just as we get the car under the raised fence, Eddie grins, says, "Watch this," and when we have the car in perfect position to block any access in or out, Eddie kills the engine. Scary lady up in the booth above us starts screaming and raising her arms, motioning us to get the damn car moving. But of course we can't hear her through the bulletproof glass. So we put our hands behind our ears. "What? Huh???" Shrugging our shoulders, we raise the hood. Now cars on both sides are honking. Two guys with chains in one hand and holstered very visible handguns under leather vests, approach and say "Problem here?"

"We can't get the car started! Don't know what's wrong!"

By this time, cars and tow trucks were slowing down traffic on Fullerton.

One of the leather vest guys starts swinging his chain and says, "Why don't you boys try again. Or we can pick your car up and move it? Course it would be a shame if we slipped and dropped it on your heads."

So we tried again and this time the car started.

Lincoln Towing. Steve Goodman even wrote a song about them. "Lincoln Park Pirates." They've been around forever. And now a coalition that includes Alderman Ameya Pawar is working to control and maybe even close them down. There are Chicagoans who believe that could never happen. No one has ever done it before. Many have tried.

Will this time be different?

I'd say yes. Time for these pirates to sail.

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Top 25 Illinois Counties With The Highest Property Taxes

Thu, 2016-02-25 11:01
Illinoisans pay a lot in property taxes compared to the rest of the nation -- the state has the second-highest property taxes in the country, almost double the national average. But what you pay depends on where you live, and some residents are spending a lot more than others.

SmartAsset has put together a list of the average effective property tax rate, the median property tax payment and the median home value by county across the state of Illinois. The counties with the Top 25 highest average rates, along with their median home values and median annual property tax payments, are listed below the map.

25) DuPage County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $286,500

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $6,115

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.13%

24) Champaign County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $149,500

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $3,181

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.13%

23) Kankakee County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $145,900

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $3,108

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.13%

22) Macon County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $93,300

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $2,005

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.15%

21) Ogle County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $149,500

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $3,236

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.16%

20) Rock Island County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $113,800

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $2,455

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.16%

19) Ford County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $89,600

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $1,934

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.16%

18) Grundy County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $182,200

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $3,966

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.18%

17) Peoria County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $123,200

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $2,711

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.20%

16) Whiteside County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $99,400

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $2,183

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.20%

15) Lee County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $112,100

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $2,493

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.22%

14) McLean County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $157,200

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $3,503

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.23%

13) Iroquois County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $96,500

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $2,160

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.24%

12) LaSalle County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $125,200

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $2,840

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.27%

11) Marshall County, IL

  • Median Home Value: $100,600

  • Median Annual Property Tax Payment: $2,327

  • Average Effective Property Tax Rate: 2.31%

Here are the Top 10 counties with the highest property tax rates in Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Map shows which states have the highest property tax rates

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Don't Believe The Derrick Rose Hype

Thu, 2016-02-25 10:37

No sooner had Derrick Rose declared he was back, than he was sidelined with hamstring tendinitis.

The 27-year-old Chicago Bulls point guard was playing his best basketball all season, averaging over 19 points in the 2016 calendar year. 

Rose's steadiness and renewed sense of confidence stems from no longer having to wear a protective face mask. Amid tremendous dysfunction with a first-year head coach in Fred Hoiberg, along with a front office that was expecting a winner this year and instead got a clunky mix of disappointments, Rose's play has been a pleasant surprise. 

Unfortunately though, the former league MVP has cemented his legacy as an extremely talented, oft injured player of unfulfilled promise. Bulls fans know all too well that when things with Rose seem too good to be true, it's because they usually are. This recent stretch of production should be viewed as no different.

After playing 81 games during the 2010-11 campaign, he combined to play in a mere 100 matches over three seasons. And, in that span, Rose was supplanted by fellow backcourt mate Jimmy Butler -- who caught up with The Huffington Post in 2013 on the verge of his breakout success -- as the clear-cut face of the franchise. Interestingly enough, the former No. 1 overall pick is far more productive with Butler (a two-time All-Star) on the bench and vise-versa. 

According to ESPN, Butler's scoring increases from 19.4 points per 36 minutes to 24.5 when Rose is out. Moreover, when Butler is out, Rose improves his scoring from 16.8 points to 23.4, per 36. Despite the immense combined talent of both guards, they cannot co-exist at an elite clip together.Rose has proven to be too ball dominant. Furthermore, with Butler recently sidelined with a knee injury, Rose has played some of his best ball yet.

Rose's recent surge is not sustainable because he still struggles to shoot the ball proficiently, nor does he get to the rim frequently enough to augment such long-range deficiencies. He has never shot fewer free-throws in his career (3), and his sub-27 percent shooting from 3 is the worst of any starting point guard in the NBA. 

But even if we can overlook those issues, Rose's key problem -- even with his improved play -- is a lack of overall efficiency. Of the 25 players with a usage rate (the number of possessions a player uses per 40 minutes) of 26 or more, Rose's 13.54 player efficiency rating is the lowest clip.

Kobe Bryant offered insight last week into how Chicago's prodigal son can maximize his ability without the top notch athleticism and speed he once possessed.

"Derrick is at a position in his career where he'll have to adjust his game," Bryant told ESPN. "And what I mean by that is start using his size a lot more instead of his speed and quickness and start going to the post a little bit more."

While Rose is certainly not at fault for his slew of injuries and diminished athletic ability, adjusting his style to highlight what plus attributes he still has is a necessity. Whether or not he has done so depends on who you ask.

And Rose hasn't been shy to voice his opinion either: "I think I'm a little bit more efficient," he said. "I feel like I'm getting to spots, my spots that I want to get to on the floor, instead of settling."

Perhaps we can attribute his improved production to such a philosophy or maybe new-found confidence. And perhaps it will continue. Then again, when it comes to Derrick Rose, the injury questions always persist, and so too does the reality that he is completely removed from the NBA elite.

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

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Madigan vs. Rauner Proxy Wars Shattering Campaign Spending Records

Thu, 2016-02-25 10:20

State Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, and primary challenger Juliana Stratton

When we last checked in on the Democratic primary race in the 5th Illinois House District, incumbent Ken Dunkin had received $240,000 in campaign help from a Super PAC connected to Gov. Bruce Rauner. His opponent, Juliana Stratton, had received $70,600 in direct donations, mostly from unions.

In a race that's become a test case in the Michael Madigan vs. Bruce Rauner proxy war over unions and the political balance of the Illinois House, the $240,000 spent on Dunkin's behalf by the IllinoisGO committee -- which, as a Super PAC, can't coordinate with or donate directly to a candidate -- meant that campaign contribution limits no longer applied in the Dunkin-Stratton race.

That was on Jan. 31. We should have waited a day to run those numbers.

On Feb. 1, Dunkin, a seven-term incumbent who angered his fellow Democrats last summer and fall by not supporting two bills important to them, received a $500,000 donation from the Illinois Opportunity Project, which describes itself as "an independent research and public policy enterprise that promotes legislative solutions in advance of free markets and free minds."

What's a conservative, Libertarian group doing donating to a traditionally liberal Democrat like Dunkin?

"IOP decided that a substantial financial commitment is warranted to support State Rep. Ken Dunkin against the onslaught he is facing from House Speaker Mike Madigan and his public sector union allies in the March primary election," the IOP wrote on its website.

The Illinois Opportunity Project is not a Super PAC. It's a 501(c)(4) non-profit, and is not prohibited from direct donations to candidates. And because the IllinoisGO Super Pac had spent more than $100,000 in support of Dunkin, the state's $10,800 limit on corporate donations to candidates no longer applied. (To complicate things, IllinoisGO has a companion 501(c)(4) that can donate directly to candidates.)

Stratton, meanwhile, also benefited handsomely from the lifting of contribution limits. On Jan. 31, she had received $70,600 in union support. Since then, campaign records show nine donations totaling more than $586,000 for a total campaign fund of $715,000.

The largest donation was $138,900 from AFSCME Council 31's political action committee. Dunkin's non-vote on a bill to limit Rauner's power in contract negotiations with AFSCME Council 31 was among the actions that earned Dunkin the enmity of Madigan and many of his fellow Democrats.

The campaign funds of Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, and his primary challenger, Juliana Stratton, recorded some of the highest donations of the 30 days before Feb. 24, 2016. (

Under Illinois' campaign contribution limits law, union donations to candidates normally are limited to $10,800.

Another front on the Rauner-Madigan proxy battle is in the downstate 50th Illinois Senate District, which includes part of Springfield and stretches south and west to the Mississippi River.

Incumbent Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, angered Rauner in August when he was the lone Republican to vote in support of a bill to weaken Rauner's position in negotiating with AFSCME Council 31. (It was the same bill that Dunkin refused to support in the House.) McCann defended his vote, saying he has more public union members in his district than any other state senator.

Rauner has endorsed McCann's challenger, Bryce Benton. Rauner's Super PAC, Turnaround Illinois, in January gave $1,818,000 to Liberty Principles PAC, which reports having spent more than $1.35 million in support of Benton.

Liberty Principles PAC has spent more than $1.35 million on behalf of Bryce Benton in the 50th Senate District Republican primary. (

There's a connection between the support for Dunkin and Benton: Dan Proft, a conservative talk radio host and 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate, is chairman of Liberty Principles PAC (which is providing heavy support to Republican Benton) and co-founder of the Illinois Opportunity Project (which gave $500,000 to Democrat Dunkin).

Unions have gotten behind McCann, though their donations don't compare to the support Liberty Principles PAC has given Benton. McCann reports $337,000 on hand, $227,000 of which has come since Jan. 1 and mostly from unions.

Last week, the campaign finance website Illinois Sunshine summed up the money situation through mid-February:

Just one month before the March 15th Illinois Primary, both political parties in Illinois have amassed major war chests to aid their goals of upsetting (or defending) the balance of power in state government. The Democratic side, consisting of Senate, House, Leadership, and Party Committees, currently holds over $34 Million. Illinois Republican funds, consisting of those plus the Governor's committee, currently have over $28 Million ready to spend. The top three Super PACs in the state, each with an individual balance of over $1 Million, have a total of $16 Million in the bank.

This all amounts to nearly $80 Million in cash on hand between both parties. This is in addition to the $17 Million already spent in the first month and a half of 2016.

And we're not even in the stretch run to the March 15 primary yet.

The Dunkin-Stratton race already has broken the record for spending in a primary. As the Rauner-Madigan proxy war moves to the general election season after March 15, expect to see numbers like you've never seen in Statehouse campaigns.

Be sure to bookmark Illinois Sunshine and keep an eye on the money in your local races. You can't control the media storm headed your way, but you should at least know who's paying for it.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois among Top 5 states that had the most tornadoes in 2015

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Americans Overwhelmingly Want Our Aging Water Systems To Get Fixed

Wed, 2016-02-24 17:26

A vast majority of Americans want public officials to invest in the nation’s water systems in an effort to avoid tragedies like the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan, and many appear to be willing to pay higher water bills to help do just that, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The national poll of adults, conducted by American Viewpoints and Hart Research and commissioned by the Value of Water Coalition, reported that 95 percent of respondents wanted to see more investment in water infrastructure.

In addition, 47 percent of respondents were willing to personally pay more for water to help support investments in their local water systems, a number that increased to 60 percent after respondents were given additional information about water issues.

In a Wednesday press call introducing the poll results, Hart Research president Geoffrey Garin said the willingness to pay more was “a remarkably high starting point” when compared to how customers have typically reacted to possible rate increases for electric or natural gas service.

And Garin pointed to similar levels of support to personally fund infrastructure improvements among respondents who identified as Republican or Democrat as evidence that the issue is resonating with Americans regardless of politics. 

“Water really stands out among the broad array of issues in the country today that transcends partisanship, where interest in having safe and environmentally-friendly water systems cuts deeply across party lines and unites people across party lines,” Garin said.

The Value of Water Coalition has emphasized that water bills are generally “affordable relative to other utilities” and that the average American water bill “does not reflect the cost of service,” however, there is reason to be somewhat skeptical of the poll’s results. The coalition's members include both public and private water agencies, plus business and community leaders who have a natural interest in higher water rates.

The coalition has argued that further investment is necessary to meet the nation’s costly water infrastructure needs, currently estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency to cost more than $600 billion. Those needs include replacing aging, leaky pipes and old water mains. 

The American Water Works says the price tag could exceed $1 trillion in the coming decades and replacing lead pipes in Flint alone will cost an estimated $55 million.

Mary Grant, director of the Washington, D.C.-headquartered Food and Water Watch advocacy group’s Public Water for All campaign, acknowledged that the United States has massive water infrastructure needs, but also emphasized that affordability remains key.

“We need investment in the water systems but we can't put that burden disproportionately on middle- and working-class families,” Grant told The Huffington Post by phone. 

Flint, she argues, is a clear example of that. In a recent analysis, Food and Water Watch found that the residents of the poverty-stricken Michigan city have been forced to pay some of the highest water rates in the nation.

Grant believes more federal assistance is necessary to fund water system improvements.

“There’s some sort of disconnect there when many Flint residents simply can’t afford their bills,” she added.

For its part, the coalition’s poll did find lower-income respondents, who represented 31 percent of their overall sample size, were only slightly less likely to agree to pay a higher water bill to protect their local water system’s health.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents who reported earning less than $40,000 in pre-tax household income last year said they strongly agreed that they would be willing to pay more, compared to 39 percent of respondents earning $75,000 or more. 

Radhika Fox, director of the Value of Water Coalition and CEO of the U.S. Water Alliance, also noted that affordability was a major priority for the coalition and applauded the efforts of Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) to push for a low-income sewer and water assistance program.

The coalition’s poll reached 1,000 adults by phone in late January 2016. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent at 95 percent confidence.


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


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TIF for One, Then TIF for All...High Schools

Wed, 2016-02-24 12:04
The city of Chicago wants to build another selective enrollment high school using TIF money to pay for it. I can see how spending millions of taxpayer dollars to create yet another SEHS would be tempting. Thousands of Chicago kids spend their entire seventh grade year thinking and worrying about their grades and test scores. There are far more kids who want to get into a selective enrollment high school than there are seats available for them. In theory, the cream of the seventh grade crop of students will earn, by their academic and testing prowess, a seat at one of those selective enrollment high schools. Many Chicagoans believe that the kids who get a letter of acceptance to an SEHS are indeed the brightest kids in the city. The SEHS's are by definition "selective". They don't take just any adolescent with hopes and dreams and ambitions. Nope. Only the "smartest" will be selected. Many fourteen year olds will open a letter this spring, only to read, "We don't allow your kind in here". Whether explicitly said or not, the SEHS process passes judgment on a kid's intelligence. A conversation between CPS adolescents regarding SEHS cannot be had without the word "smart" coming in to play. "I don't think I'm smart enough to get in to an SEHS." "He got into to Payton. He's smart." "See that kid? He's not that smart. He didn't get in anywhere". (If you have to ask "in where?" you aren't from around here are you?) Smart kids go to a SEHS. This is the cultural belief of the majority of kids in CPS, no matter how much the adults who love them argue otherwise. I would go even further than that, and say that many adults in Chicago feel that the kids who do not get accepted into an SEHS just don't belong in one. They do not belong at a high school that has wonderful programs housed in state of the art facilities. They just wouldn't fit in, because that type of environment is only for a selective few. No one ever said public education was fair, at least no one in Chicago.

If only small percentage of students will actually benefit from one additional SEHS, and if CPS is in a budget crisis, why build another very expensive selective enrollment high school, especially using TIF monies to do so? Actually, by creating another couple of hundred of seats via one additional SEHS, won't CPS be admitting kids into a selective school who the year prior to this new build, would not have made the cut? A score that labeled a kid as "not fit for SEHS" one year, will be deemed "you're our kind of student" the following year, because a new SEHS means more seats will be available. So are those seats really just for the cream of the crop? Or will they now be accepting some plain old milk into an SEHS too? I think, if the city of Chicago sees the need to spend 60million in TIF monies on a new SEHS, then CPS is saying that they need to provide more of it's city's youth with an well funded and well appointed high school experience. By the same token, if CPS is acknowledging MORE students should get a "world class" education, why not just admit that EVERY kid in Chicago should be able to attend a kick ass, state of the art high school? Chicago certainly can't afford to build enough brand new high schools for ALL of its youth. It can't even afford the $60million one currently being discussed. Right now, the proposal to use TIF money to build even one more selective enrollment high school, with or without Obama's name on it, should be out of the question. If nothing else, it is fiscally, completely irresponsible.

I live in a small house. It has one bathroom on the main floor and another one in the basement. The one in the basement looks like many Chicago basement bathrooms. The floor is a little uneven. The ceiling is low. The foundation wall is exposed. It is far from fancy. However, the toilet flushes. The sink drains. The lights work. The door closes for privacy. It is a perfectly fine, functional bathroom. The problem is, I can't get anyone in my family to use it. Everyone wants to use the upstairs bathroom, even though the one in the basement would absolutely meet everyone's needs. No matter how much I try to convince my family to use the basement bathroom, they absolutely believe it provides a sub-par bathroom experience. They are wrong, but it's a tough perception to crack. I have even conducted tours of the basement bathroom...for real...drawing attention to its good points. "Look, the toilet works just as well as the one upstairs. You can have even MORE privacy in this bathroom because no one will bother you down here! Walk in! It's actually bigger than the bathroom on the main floor. The lighting is brighter, and the soap smells better! It's got a lot going for it!" I get no takers. I can't convince a soul to use that bathroom. It's not the "good" one.

Borrowing from the CPS model, I could pay someone 500k to walk around my property and see if they could find a location to build a brand NEW bathroom, so that the bathroom experience on the main floor could be duplicated. Once a suitable location was found, I could build a brand-new "world class" bathroom. Like CPS, my husband and I have our share of debt, and absolutely do not have the funds to build a brand new bathroom. It would be a fiscally irresponsible, but we do want to provide "better bathroom options" for our family. Here's a thought: we could spruce up the bathroom we already have. We could put some drywall up, apply a coat of paint, tile the floor, and maybe get glass block windows so the neighbor's cat doesn't get a free show. If we fixed up the bathroom we already have, make it desirable, on par with the main floor bathroom, my family would actually want to use it. It would be consider a "good" bathroom too. Plus, we could save that 500k finders fee.

This is why although a building a brand new SEHS sounds like a good idea, it's not. A good idea would be allocating at least some of the TIF funds to the neighborhood high schools that already exist. Of course it would require far more than a coat of paint to get Chicagoans to view the neighborhood high schools they way they do the selective enrollment ones, but investing in the neighborhood high schools is what is truly needed in this city, not another selective school. Claiming the need for another SEHS is CPS admitting that there is a need to offer a greater number of Chicago kids a better high school experience. Why not go all in and admit that EVERY Chicago kid deserves the best high school experience this city has to offer? Chicago already has a bunch of neighborhood high schools. It only makes sense to put the money into the high schools you already have, to benefit the teens of the entire city, rather than sink TIF money into a solitary new school, which will ultimately just benefit a select few.

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4 Things You Can Do To Make Your Pet Happier And Healthier

Wed, 2016-02-24 11:39

Any loving pet owner would want to improve the life of his or her pet, but exactly how to do that can seem mystifying to most. For clear-cut strategies, we turn to the professionals.

Barbara Royal, a Chicago-based veterinarian, has worked with people's four-legged companions for decades, and she's full of advice for creating happier, healthier animals. Here are four things she says you can do that not only benefit your pets, but also benefit those who treat and care for them.

Randomly take your dog into the vet clinic.

The panting, the pacing, the cowering -- many times, pets panic as soon as they arrive at the vet. So, Royal suggests making quick stops into the clinic and rewarding your pups with a treat each time to get them more comfortable ahead of their next appointment.

"Part of the problem as a veterinarian is that we're always examining animals in a state of stress," she points out. "It really makes a difference for heart rate, for getting appropriate blood values, things like that, if you can get an animal to relax."

Treat minor stomach issues with pumpkin and white rice.

If your pet is experiencing stomach issues -- like diarrhea -- and your vet doesn't believe it's something serious, you can treat your pets at home by making them a simple meal.

"Dogs and cats both can do pretty well if you can give them pumpkin and then rice," Royal says. "White rice -- you overcook it, you add extra water to it, make it really goopy. It's very absorptive; it really can help with diarrhea." 

Play "rough" with your animal.

Every so often, set the cuddling aside and get down on the floor for some intense playtime with your dogs and cats, Royal suggests.

"It's really important to get out that sort of instinctual urge of 'wolf games' or 'wild cat,'" she says. "You can really play sort of rough -- not really rough; you don't want to encourage biting or things like that -- but let them get wild a little bit."

Prevent pets from biting.

Cats and dogs each give warning signs before they bite, and it's a good idea to know what those signals are, particularly with felines.

"Cats sort of get a little bit quieter. Their eyes get really wide, the tail starts to wag, their ears get a little flatter," Royal says. "Keep a big, thick towel around to cover the cat to keep them from biting."

Related: What your veterinarian wishes you'd stop feeding your pets

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These Are The 10 Most 'Miserable' Places in Illinois, says RoadSnacks

Wed, 2016-02-24 10:23
Illinois has its share of state government problems, but the website Roadsnacks says some cities in the Land of Lincoln have it a lot worse than others. Using U.S. Census data, Roadsnacks put together a list of what it considers the most miserable Illinois cities.

Roadsnacks ranked 403 Illinois cities with populations higher than 2,000. "It isn't a stretch to assume that happy people earn great salaries, are relatively stress free, and have a stable home life," Roadsnacks writes.

The criteria for unhappy cities included factors like percentage of residents with a college degree, unemployment rates, cost of living, poverty rates, percent of married adults, percent of people who own their home and average commute times.

Below is a map of where the most miserable Illinois cities are located, including data on the percent of adult married couples and percent of homeowners. Scroll down for a text version of the list.

See the complete list here.

NEXT ARTICLE: Top 25 retired Illinois lawmakers receiving the biggest pensions

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Illinois Politicians Hellbent On Destroying Higher Education

Wed, 2016-02-24 09:43

Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

Our politicians appear to be hellbent on destroying our Illinois public colleges.

If you have a child or grandchild in Illinois, you need to read this. If you don't have a child or grandchild you love, you still need to read this.

Our lives are intertwined. Our communities are intertwined. Our futures are intertwined. Wrecking our public college systems is about the dumbest move possible, but that's what just the Democrats and Republicans are doing.

They've proven they don't care about anything but raw political power and the next election. It's a riveting lesson in political science. But while they're teaching us, they're destroying Chicago State University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, University of Illinois, all the community colleges and all the rest.

Here's the simple math: Public colleges have not gotten any taxpayer dollars since last July. They will get $0 for 2016 and take a cut if there's a 2017 budget approved at less than the 2015 level. Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget plan shows $1.95 billion for higher education in 2015 and $1.75 billion in the year that starts in July.

Rauner said all the 2016 money has been spent. Court orders and other legal mechanisms mean 90 percent of state government has been funded at 2015 levels when income tax rates were higher, putting us on course to spend $6.2 billion more than we take in. The 10 percent getting nothing are colleges and not-for-profit social service agencies.

That means the most vulnerable in our state and those associated with higher education get zilch, zero, nada, nothing. Rauner vetoed a Democratic bill that would have provided $721 million in aid to community colleges and to the Monetary Assistance Program that gives small grants to needy kids who were promised the money. Republicans have their own bills to send $1.6 billion to students and universities. They would find the funding by changing the way the state purchases things and by giving Rauner wide power to cut spending and move funds around.

Of course, neither party will help the other as both sides point and blame each other for the spilled milk like preschoolers.

"I'm disappointed in the governor," Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said. "He had a chance to back up his promises with funding. Instead, he let those students down again."

Monday, Rauner said, "I, personally, am a big advocate for our university systems. I want the best in America. I want a fully funded MAP grant program. I'm a huge supporter of scholarships for low-income kids." Universities are under House Speaker Michael Madigan's control, he said. "He won't do any reforms. We should be doing that today," Rauner added. "So far, the Speaker says no. He's blocking virtually everything we're trying to do."

Madigan has been in control of the House for most of the past 30 years. He and Cullerton have been passing unbalanced budgets for the past several years while refusing to put up votes themselves to raise taxes. Rauner expects to win a few changes after taking the governorship.

It's all about political power. The people be damned.

Are there too many administrators and some who are too well-paid at our state schools? No doubt. That's the complaint Rauner has with Chicago State. I'm a proud graduate of Eastern Illinois University and I know from experience, it's still a community where students can get personal attention, caring and a strong education.

I spent some time Saturday with about 300 college journalism students from all over Illinois. Every one of them was accompanied by one or more advisers who sacrificed most of a weekend.

Yet now we have high school counselors telling kids to pick out-of-state colleges. When you kill a college community like Eastern, you're hurting generations of future entrepreneurs, farmers, teachers and politicians. You're hurting dedicated support staff and instructors who give up nights and weekends to help their students. You're creating higher unemployment. You're hurting restaurants, bars, landlords and other businesses. You're hurting business owners and their families who depend on the colleges and students in places like Charleston and DeKalb and Carbondale.

I learned long ago that that's like cutting off your nose and poking out your eyes to spite your face.

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois workers' compensation system could be starting point to breaking budget deadlock, GOP leader says

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Mark Kirk Splits From GOP Over SCOTUS Pick

Tue, 2016-02-23 18:22
By Reboot Illinois' Kevin Hoffman

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., on Monday broke ranks with Republican leaders by saying he recognizes President Barack Obama's right to nominate a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and that the GOP-controlled Senate should consider the nominee.

The naming of Scalia's successor became one of the most politically charged issues of the 2016 election almost immediately upon the justice's death on Feb. 13.

Kirk, who is up for reelection, announced his position in an op-ed for the Chicago Sun-Times more than a week after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the vacant seat should be filled by the next president.

From the Sun-Times:

"...I recognize the right of the president, be it Republican or Democrat, to place before the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court and I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee for the Senate to consider.

I also recognize my duty as a senator to either vote in support or opposition to that nominee following a fair and thorough hearing along with a complete and transparent release of all requested information. The Senate's role in providing advice and consent is as important and significant as the president's role in proposing a nominee.

A partisan or extreme nominee would not be prudent nor would it provide a steady, scholarly hand to guide the constitutional ship of state."

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., one of the candidates vying for the incumbent's Senate seat, had urged Kirk to let his stance be known, saying last week in a statement: "Senator Mark Kirk must immediately level with the people of Illinois, and let us know whether he supports the Constitution, or if he'll be a rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell's obstructionist and unconstitutional gambit."

Former Chicago Urban League president Andrea Zopp, another Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful, went on the attack, calling on Kirk to back up his words and commit to vote in favor of any qualified nominee put forth by Obama.

"Unfortunately, Senator Kirk's statement is typical of the problem in Washington right now -- he, like Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, is skilled at giving us cheap political talk, but not specifics," Zopp said in a statement.

Kirk is considered one of the most endangered senators in the country as he not only faces a tough reelection bid, but holds one of five seats Democrats need to retake the Senate. And he already has split from Republicans and sided with Democrats by voting last year against a bill to repeal Obamacare because of a provision to defund Planned Parenthood. Kirk also voted in favor of gun control legislation and to preserve sanctuary cities, drawing the ire of conservative colleagues and constituents.

More from the Sun-Times' Washington, D.C., bureau chief Lynn Sweet:

Kirk is seen as one of the most vulnerable senators facing voters this November... That Kirk, who represents Obama's adopted home state, staked out this turf is not surprising. Kirk's prospects for a second term depend on votes from independents and cross-over Democrats.

Following Scalia's death, Kirk implicitly took a shot at McConnell when he declined to close ranks with him, saying in a statement: "The political debate erupting about prospective nominees to fill the vacancy is unseemly. Let us take the time to honor his life before the inevitable debate erupts."

Kirk's op-ed urging Obama to send the Senate a nominee was timed for after Scalia's funeral on Saturday, and before the Senate meets for the first time this week since the death of the conservative Supreme Court justice.

The junior senator wrote in the op-ed he hopes Obama "nominates someone who captures the sentiment he spoke about before the Illinois General Assembly this month -- a nominee who can bridge differences, a nominee who finds common ground and a nominee who does not speak or act in the extreme."

Kirk will face his conservative challenger, James Marter, in the primary election on March 15.

NEXT ARTICLE: New Simon Poll shows Kirk, Duckworth leading big in Illinois U.S. Senate primary races

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Durbin On Whether Rauner Is Getting The Obama Treatment From Illinois Democrats

Tue, 2016-02-23 10:53
In an interview in October 2010, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made what would become one of the most repeated (and embellished) quotes of the Barack Obama presidency.

"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," McConnell, now the Senate majority leader, told the National Journal.

As the Washington Post explained in fall 2012, McConnell's words and the date they were spoken often have been inaccurately represented in the years since, generally by Democrats eager to present evidence of unyielding partisan opposition to Obama's every move.

But as the Illinois state budget battle kicked into high gear last summer and fall, I've heard references to McConnell's famous quote in a different context. This time it was invoked in defense of a Republican -- Gov. Bruce Rauner -- who has had limited success with a Democrat-led Legislature.

The logic was along these lines: How can Democrats excoriate a Republican Congress for not bending to the wishes of President Obama while at the same time applauding a Democratic Illinois General Assembly for not cooperating on Rauner's reform agenda?

The question ignores one fundamental nuance in the Illinois debate, where the gridlock comes from Democrats opposing Rauner's use of reforms as leverage for negotiating a budget. House Speaker Michael Madigan has stated, ad nauseum, his pledge to work "professionally and cooperatively" with Rauner on the budget, but only if Rauner leaves his reform agenda for another day. To a lot of Illinois Republicans, that position misses the entire point of Rauner's argument. It's the Illinois equivalent of McConnell's "single most important thing" quote.

Following a press conference in Springfield last week in which students and college administrators called on Rauner and the General Assembly to fund higher education, I asked U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin if he saw parallels between Obama's treatment in his first term in Washington and Rauner's in Springfield thus far.

Here's his answer:

Durbin faults Rauner for not recognizing his own inexperience in politics and failing to differentiate between success in governing and success in the business world. Rauner's approach on unions and in his dealings with Madigan, Durbin said, have not created a "conducive atmosphere for negotiating."

Given Madigan's statements about Rauner's reforms being "non-budget issues," though, one has to wonder whether such an atmosphere ever could exist.

Have any thoughts on all this? Our comments section is waiting to hear your view.

NEXT ARTICLE: Mark Kirk splits from GOP over U.S. Supreme Court pick

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CEO Jack Griffin Is Out At Tribune

Tue, 2016-02-23 00:33

Tribune Publishing has parted ways with its CEO Jack Griffin, I’ve learned. In a fast-moving turn of events, unusually quick by corporate standards, newly minted Tribune Publishing board chairman Michael Ferro has orchestrated Griffin’s ouster — and directed the choice of his successor.


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Mon, 2016-02-22 14:51
With nothing else to see, I went, somewhat reluctantly, (as many of my fellow Huff-Po-ers might as well) to see the new Biblically inspired movie, .

Ostensibly about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, it's more a logical investigation of a mystery, that doesn't preach, imaginatively laid atop a history lesson, dealing with key miracles in the New Testament, and a rather modern examination of rational thought challenged by inexplicable events. Told from the perspective of a Roman Tribune sent to investigate how Jesus' physical body disappeared from its tomb, it's a story well told, seems historically authentic, and I (a lapsed Catholic/agnostic/skeptic) recommend it highly.

It was also an interesting exercise in memory, as I strained to remember what I remember from hours of Catechism, yearly celebrations of Good Friday, Easter, and the Feast of the
Assumption, and discussions around the dinner table with my very religious, Baptist, Southern relatives.

Which turned out to be...not much.

Which made me wonder if, to more recent generations, this will all be new?

There are jarring scenes which verge on 'Life of Brian' satire, it's a little bit long, some of the disciples resemble more the inhabitants of the hippie commune in Rider> than AD-ers under Roman rule. Bartholomew (I didn't even remember a Disciple named 'Bartholomew') is beyond beatific, completely over the top, and suggests someone on a different ecstasy than that provided by mere faith.

The actor who plays Christ is a bit iffy as well. But, then again, he is tasked with the impossible role of being both Man and God...just what facial expression would you choose to express happiness, satisfaction, or pain if you played Christ? It would be so easy to descend into pure camp, more farce than serious, but aside from the fact that the actor usually is cast as a terrorist, which may have been a deliberate choice, he does OK.

Joseph Fiennes plays the Tribune with authenticity, honesty, and an approachability that allowed, at least this viewer, to imagine being him, then, there. How does a rational man deal with fundamental challenges to his heretofore solid as a rock, world? When do you surrender to faith when all the 'reason' in the world suggests that reason has little to do with it all?

It's a good movie, well worth seeing.

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Should The Legal Smoking Age in Illinois Be 21?

Mon, 2016-02-22 14:20
Should the Illinois legal smoking age increase from 18 to 21?

A proposal by Sen. John G. Mulroe, D-Chicago, would do just that.

Mulroe, surrounded by public health advocates, pitched the idea Thursday in a news conference. He said the change would serve the public well for several reasons, among them:

  • Smoking is deadly, and the proof's available on every pack of cigarettes in the form of a warning from the U.S. surgeon general.

  • Smoking is expensive to the individual. A two-pack a-day habit in some areas (notably Chicago) can run a person24 a day or more than8,700 a year, Mulroe said.

  • Smoking is expensive to the state. The senator and public health advocates said5 billion annually is spent in Illinois treating smoking-related illnesses, and2 billion of that comes from taxpayer-supported Medicaid funds.

  • Raising the legal age for the purchase and possession of tobacco is a research-proven way to cut use among young people. Mulroe said research also shows that if people make it to 21 without smoking, they likely never start.

Mulroe said he's not targeting smokers, many of whom have told him they support raising the legal age.

"The smokers tell me, 'It's a good bill, John,'" and when he asks why, they respond, "I wish I'd never started smoking."

"They can't quit," Mulroe said. "The addiction makes them powerless."

People who don't smoke or don't object to smoking shouldn't shrug off the issue as none of their concern, said Kathy Drea of the American Lung Association in Illinois.

"Two billion dollars of the Illinois state budget is spent treating Medicaid recipients with tobacco-related diseases," Drea said.

"That cost alone is one of the main, right reasons this bill should be passed," she said. "Illinois should be doing everything it possibly can to reduce tobacco use and the associated disease, death and cost."

Anthony Fisher of, a branch of the libertarian Reason Foundation, said not everyone agrees.

While Mulroe and supporters make some valid points, the change in law the senator proposes "restricts the personal liberties of adults, which people who are above the age of 18 are, period," Fisher said.

"They can be charged as adults under the law, they can fight and die for their country, and they are required to pay taxes. They're adults, and they are entitled to make their own decisions, even if they are ill-advised decisions like taking up cigarette smoking," he said.

Fisher acknowledged the public-health cost of smoking is "a fair and valid point."

"But if we're going to go there, let's go further -- let's make it so that nobody under 21 can purchase sugar," he said.

"That will make it hard for people to develop the sugar habit, (and) it will make it harder for people to develop diabetes," he argued.

"Let's just never stop," he said. "Let's just never stop using the public good as an excuse to curb people's choices. We can go on forever with this."

Fisher said he doesn't smoke and doesn't think people should, but "we'd actually be a freer and more tolerant society if we allow people to make those choices and not turn everything into a potential crime under civil and criminal codes."

Mulroe's legislation, Senate Bill 3011, would apply to the sale, purchase and possession of all tobacco products, as well as electronic cigarettes.

If passed, it would provide business penalties for retailers who sell tobacco products to anyone younger than 21 and make it a petty offense for anyone under 21 to be in possession.

NEXT ARTICLE: Democrats likely to send Bruce Rauner an unwelcome option No. 3 for the 2017 Illinois budget

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My Theory on Violence

Mon, 2016-02-22 12:51

This post is not intended to discredit the police or law enforcement agencies working 24 hours a day to help make communities safer across the United States.

Everyone has a role to play in reducing homicides. In cities like Baltimore, New Orleans, St. Louis, Detroit, and Chicago, the majority of homicides occur in the African American community. The police cannot effectively stop homicides in the African American community because the motives are all over the place.

Select officials in law enforcement and in academia always point to gangs, drugs, and guns being the main contributing factors behind the violence. This could be true in some cases, however, I believe that the main culprit behind the violence stems from an innate "self-hatred" that exist in a particular segment of the population. You cannot police self-hatred. It stems from poverty and a lack of opportunity. It's easy to blame the violence on gangs, but you will find that the majority of violence is interpersonal if you dig a little deeper.

The gang theory could be justified during the '70s, '80s and the '90s, but we have a different problem now. Another culprit behind the violence is the "penitentiary mentality" spilling over on the streets. Many young men that go to jail for years must abide by a strict code which dictates, eliminate, or destroy another person for the slightest infraction.

It is difficult to police this particular issue. When you add drugs, gangs, and illegal guns to the equation, then you have recipe for disaster. Some people may disagree with this theory, but you have to look a little closer. Law enforcement officials have tried almost every strategy in the book with little to no success in regards to containing homicide rates in our major cities. Additionally, this post was written to help enlighten law enforcement officials and those in academia to think out of the box when addressing homicides in the African American community.

African American leaders are equally responsible for not presenting a feasible plan that could bring an end to the increasing homicide rate in their community. Desegregation helped African American people in many ways, but it hurt the community in the area of criminal justice. They experienced fewer homicides before desegregation because the men in the community would not tolerate this kind of behavior. During segregation, seven out of ten African American families had fathers in the home which led to more stable communities. The criminal justice system was never designed to prevent killings in the African American community. It's a respond after a crime was committed. If law enforcement officials and those in academia would design a new strategy to address self-hatred and the penitentiary mentality, then we could make some progress in the area of reducing homicides nationwide.

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11 Signs You're Trying Too Hard At An Art Gallery

Mon, 2016-02-22 12:13

Art galleries are ... intimidating.

Most are designed like very fancy boxes, with extra white walls and unforgiving concrete floors. Those brave enough to cross the secret-society-like thresholds must pass by a gatekeeper who is nestled safely behind a large, formidable desk, poised to stare at you no matter which corner of the gallery you occupy. Once past, you must navigate a simple yet often profoundly puzzling array of sculptures or paintings or whatnot. "NEVER touch the art," your superego bellows, as you attempt to flex as few muscles as possible. 

The entire gallery setup is built to make you sweat. Inside, you'll doubt your ability to to appear cool, sound smart and, well, belong. But it's all a farce. Art galleries are usually free, staffed by friendly art history majors, and dying for you to come inside to solidify their relevance outside the art market. They want you to ogle their artists. They want you to post that selfie. They. Want. You.

Behold, 11 signs you are trying too hard at an art gallery, and what you can do to maximize your chill. 

1. You worry about admission fees or scheduled appointments.

Most art galleries are free. So, no, unlike the Museum of Modern Art, which requires a $25 admission fee for most visitors, galleries are usually the most cost-effective way to see art. Think of it them like you would any other brick-and-mortar commercial establishment. You don't have to pay an admission fee to go shopping at Barney's, no matter how luxurious the brand -- or how unlikely you are to buy something.

Now, some galleries do require that you make an appointment -- but certainly not all. You can solve this mystery by Googling your friendly neighborhood gallery and checking the hours. For example, the very famous Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, New York, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. No appointment necessary. Bonus: on opening nights, the gallery is probably open later and may be serving free wine. 

2. You fear the person working at the front desk.

OK, your anxiety may be warranted. Some front desk attendants are not exactly versed in the etiquette of customer service, and their job descriptions may not prioritize chitchat with the no-appointment crowd. But don't let them scare you. These kinds of staffers will inevitably ignore you or forget about you the moment you're out of sight. 

But, if you're feeling brave, there's no harm in asking the person at the front desk a question or two. Many gallery assistants, or gallerinas, as they are sometimes called, are art history grads who know a thing or two about the exhibition on view. He or she might be busy -- their jobs often entail a litany of administrative duties -- but really, they won't bite your head off if you need help.

3. You agonize over appropriate attire.

Stop. You could show up to a gallery in sweatpants and sneakers and no one would care. There's no dress code. In fact, on opening nights, there is no typical attire whatsoever. If you're looking for an occasion to wear that one ensemble you never feel up for pulling off, wear it to the gallery. But otherwise, your daily clothing is fine.

4. You're so self-conscious you don't ask for an exhibition description.

See No. 2. There are usually one-sheets available at the front desk, which provide information about the artist and works on view. Grab it. 

5. You don't want to seem overly interested in the placards, so you avoid those too.

Galleries don't often include historical information next to their works the way museums like the Met do. But the titles of the artworks are frequently positioned next to the canvases or installations, and no one will tsk-tsk you for staring at it while you get your bearings. You can even snag a peek at the price.

6. You're literally counting the seconds you stand in front of an artwork so you don't move too quickly.

Galleries are usually small and sparsely decorated. It might only take you five minutes to get a lay of the land, and that's okay. According to the Getty museum in Los Angeles, researchers in museums have found that 30 seconds is the average amount of time visitors spend in front of works of art. Feel assuaged by this statistic.

7. You slink quietly around the space to avoid making any remote type of noise.

It's impossible not to make noise in the echo chambers that are art galleries. Buck up and strut it out. You'll look more ridiculous as you sleepwalk, muscles tensed, in a poor attempt to remain invisible. Note: if you wear heels, you will be click-clacking around the cavernous gallery. But also, who cares?

8. You feel obligated to appear as though you are at least mildly interested in purchasing art.

Lol. Sometimes you forget that the art at a gallery is for sale. And other times, you can't help but fixate on the pressure to appear like a worthy collector.

Listen, the art you're looking at could be affordable. Or it could not. If you're not yet a collector and you're just interested in viewing art for what it is -- art -- then no one is expecting you to feign interest in purchasing an artwork. So put your faux-Mid-Atlantic accent on the back burner. 

9. You want to flip through the art books at the front, but, again, fear.

Flip through the art books! The bookshelves at the front of galleries are often like mini gift shops, and yes, you peruse them to see more work from the artist on view, or check out the gallery's full roster of represented artists.

10. You're completely unsure of how to exit without drawing too much attention.

Step 1: Look for the door. Step 2: Exit through the door. You're not required to tip your hat at a gallery assistant or declare your departure. You can surely be polite and say goodbye, but it's hardly required.

11. Really, no matter what, you feel like someone is going to kick you out.

But they're not. I mean, don't touch the art. And don't, you know, disturb the peace. But otherwise, exercise common decency and no bouncing will occur.

Also on HuffPost:

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You Do Not Have to Be Good

Mon, 2016-02-22 11:41
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.

-- Mary Oliver, Wild Geese

I'm starting with poetry to give you the impression that I am deep and intellectual. You caught me!

One night, my toddler son took a header off the couch. I was standing in the kitchen licking the wooden spoon after stirring his Annie's Mac & Trees (culinary brag). He was standing on the couch, which is not okay, because couches are for our butts.

"Dude!" I yelled, "Sit down! That's dangerous!" And in achingly slow motion, he teetered over the arm of the couch, landing square on the top of his head as his body flipped over onto the hardwood floor.

In the moments and hours that followed, he shed a few tears and then asked for some grapes. He refused an ice pack until I told him he could watch cartoons as long as he let his cousin hold the cold pack to his noggin. He ate dinner. He told me jokes. He brushed his teeth and kissed me and said, "OH I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!"

Okay, now I'm just bragging.

In those same moments, while I was calling the nurse line and checking his pupils for the fiftieth time, I felt two things I'd been hiding from myself bubbling to the surface.

It was two parts fear to one part anger, shaken and poured over the icy remains of my heart.

Since my husband died a few months earlier, I'd only heard about how well I'm doing. And sure, I was doing reasonably well in that most days I was somewhat showered and I contributed somewhat to society and I had not stuffed pillows into my dead husband's clothes and forced them to snuggle with me at night but only because he was very slim and my pillows won't fit in his cardigans.

But even though we saw his death -- from cancer, ICYMI -- coming for years (three, to be exact), it didn't hurt any less when it made impact.

"It was two parts fear to one part anger, shaken and poured over the icy remains of my heart."

I can't be mad at my husband for dying (I've tried, but it's ineffective). I can't even really be mad at cancer. Cancer doesn't give a fuck how I feel. But I am angry. I'm angry that when my son lands head first on the hardwood, I don't have his father to verify that our son is in fact okay. It makes me mad (and sad) that my list of friends from our married life together has only the smallest venn diagram with my current list of friends. It makes me mad when people I'm meeting with my son for the first time look for a ring on my finger, ever so subtly.

After my son bounced onto the living room floor like a crash test dummy, I hesitated to pick him up. I knew from my lifeguarding days like 100 years ago that you should never move a person with a potential spinal injury. But he jumped into my arms and I said the first thing that came to my head:

"If anything happened to you, I would die."

I meant it. I would fucking die.

It had been nine months since my husband died. And those feelings surprised me. Shouldn't I just be sad? I don't know, I'm a dummy. Most days, I am a happy and grateful person. There is nothing good that comes of comparing your life or hardships to anyone else's, but it's hard not to do, and when I size up my pain to the rest of the world, I barely see it register on the tragedy scale.

I've been afraid from the beginning that I have made this look easy, the way Aaron made having cancer look easy. So easy that lots of people I felt should have known better were able to think that he wasn't even really sick, and seemed shocked when a Grade IV recurrent brain tumor ended up killing him after years of chemo and radiation and wasting away.

But people don't want to look at the hard things. And that goes for me, too. Angry and afraid are unattractive things to be. I don't particularly enjoy them in other people, and I've spent a lifetime trying to be brave and likable. Fear and anger are itchy and uncomfortable, and I have treated them like something I could avoid. Like they were just a shitty acrylic sweater I could choose not to wear.

Look how good I'm doing a month after my husband died! Just kidding, I'm totally dead inside.

My default mode is capable. I can work and put on lipstick and go to brunch and smile and laugh and raise my son on my own. But that doesn't make it easy. And doing all of those things were as much for other people as they were for me. I was not something for other people to worry over, and because of that, I was being an unwitting example of how to be a good widow.

Making it look easy is a mistake. It creates a dangerous mythology about tragedy, that it can be gotten through if you just grin and bear it, that sharing a Facebook status with some grainy meme that says MOST PEOPLE WON'T SHARE THIS TO SUPPORT CANCER SURVIVORS BUT I WILL BECAUSE GRRRR CANCER IS BAD I HATE IT actually does something.


Hard things are hard, and while they can someday teach you a lesson or make you a stronger person, they are entirely capable of just beating the everloving shit out of you and leaving you emotionally dead and physically exhausted.

But there's a not a meme for that.

A surprising benefit of losing your husband in a public way (aka on the Internet) is that you become a lighthouse for other young widows, who pop up in your inbox and your DMs to let you know that they are lost in the darkness. They don't know what to do with their wedding ring or their last name, they don't know why they are so angry, and they want to be better.

They want to be positive and happy. You know, like me.


Fun fact: On this trip, I was considering keeping a list of everyone who had wronged me since Aaron's death. FUN AND HEALTHY!

It's not something that typically fits in an Instagram post, but I am shoulder deep in the anger phase of grief. Acceptance has stopped by a time or two but peaced out when I pulled out my list of People Who Have Looked At Me Crosseyed During Aaron's Sickness or Death, like, "hey Nora, you seem pretty busy, I'll just try you another time, k?"

I don't talk about this phase a lot because iccccckkkkk it feels so gross! Have you ever been angry? It doesn't do anything for you! It's like having a little rotten core hiding in an otherwise perfectly beautiful apple. It's like when you order a Coke at McDonald's and you take a sip and you're like, WHAT IS THIS and it's Sprite instead.

"It is not your job to make your life more palatable for other people."

The cure for grief is not "be not sad" and the cure for anger isn't "be unangry!" It's feeling all of the things, even the uncomfortable ones, without judging yourself for them.

Your job, when bad shit happens, is to get through it however you can. It is not your job to make your life more palatable for other people.

The world will go on, despite your despair. And you know what that is? LIFE. And like our gym teachers told us when we got pegged in the face with a kickball, life is unfair.

What our gym teachers did not tell us is that it's totally okay if you fucking hate that and want to just scream cry in your car sometimes! It's okay if sometimes you hate your friends for having things you don't have anymore, and then you hate yourself for hating perfectly nice people who love you, just because their husbands are alive! That's okay!

You will be happy again (and sad again, and angry again, it's a process?). You will find glittering moments of joy, and you will learn things, and you will be completely lost and found again, over and over and over.

But you do not have to be good.

Nora McInerny Purmort is the widow of Spider-Man (Aaron Purmort), mother of #Ralphiegrams and founder of Still Kickin. Nora is the writer behind My Husband's Tumor, a blog that chronicled her husband's diagnosis with Stage IV Brain Cancer. Her first book, It's Okay To Laugh (Crying's Cool Too), will be published by Dey Sreet (HarperCollins) in May 2016.


This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at

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New York Times Reporter Live-Tweets Megabus Explosion

Mon, 2016-02-22 01:47

A run-of-the-mill bus journey turned into a harrowing ordeal for a travel reporter and his fellow passengers on Sunday when the Megabus they’d been riding on suddenly exploded on the side of a Chicago-area road.

Lucas Peterson, a writer for The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler blog, was traveling from Chicago to Minneapolis when the drama unfolded. Live-tweeting the whole experience, he wrote that the trouble began about an hour into the trip when the driver announced to passengers that they would be “turning around to ‘switch buses.’”

An hour into trip, turning around to "switch buses." Currently learning that on @megabus, you get what you pay for.

— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016

A short time later, the bus got a flat tire. The situation worsened from there:

Update: the bus is on fire.

— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016

Update: the bus exploded.

— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016

According to Peterson, the passengers filed out of the bus after smoke began filling the vehicle.

A small fire had apparently erupted over one wheel, then grew until the entire bus went “up in flames,” accompanied by a “series of loud booms,” he stated.

What's left of the bus.

— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that there were about 40 passengers on the bus, and no one was hurt in the incident.

Many passengers, however, lost their luggage, most of which was reportedly destroyed in the fire. Peterson said that several passengers were very distressed by the loss of their possessions, particularly after learning about Megabus’ liability policy. According to the company’s website, it only covers damages up to $250. 

passengers are looking up Megabus TOC which limits liability to $250; some very unhappy people.

— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016

Passenger Alice Taylor estimates she lost $1700 worth of possessions, including her laptop.

— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016

Darnell McKinney says he was moving STL to MIL and lost most of his possessions, SS & credit cards, birth certif.

— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016

Alexei O'Brien, student at U of St Thomas, says he lost his clothes, schoolwork, hundreds of $ in textbooks

— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016

In a statement, Megabus said that it was “fully cooperating with the authorities with their investigation” into the fire, the cause of which was still unknown.

The passengers were eventually ushered onto another Megabus which transported them -- without incident -- to Milwaukee, Peterson said. 

about 5 hours later, arrived in Milwaukee. Wishing everyone who stayed on bus safe journey to Twin Cities.

— The Frugal Traveler (@frugaltraveler) February 21, 2016

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These Are The Victims Of The Kalamazoo Shooting

Sun, 2016-02-21 19:30

Kalamazoo Public Safety and Michigan State Police have confirmed the identities of the six people killed in an hourslong shooting rampage Saturday night in southwest Michigan.

The victims include four women killed in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel restaurant and a man and his teenage son, who were killed at a Seelye Automotive Kia dealership. Two other victims, including a 14-year-old girl, were also injured and remain in critical condition.

The suspected shooter, 45-year-old Jason B. Dalton of Kalamazoo, was taken into custody Sunday morning.

Here’s what we know so far about the victims.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates. 

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Poll: Clinton Lead in Illinois over Sanders Slips

Sat, 2016-02-20 10:15
After being thumped in New Hampshire last week by Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton returned to Illinois on Wednesday only to see that her edge over the Vermont senator has eroded.

A February 11 survey commissioned by The Illinois Observer's e-newsletter, The Insider, of 560 likely Democratic primary voters finds that Clinton leads Sanders 57.9% - 24.5%. 18.6% were undecided. Among women, Clinton leads 57.9%-21.4% with 20.7%. The gap between the two candidates closes slightly among men, 57.0%-27.9%. 15.1% were undecided.

The automated poll, conducted on February 11 by Chicago-based Ogden & Fry, had a +/- 4.23% margin of error.

While Clinton can bag bragging rights for a 33-point advantage, her lead over Sanders has shrunk 8-points since fall, dropping from a 65.7%-19.5% edge in an October 24, 2015 Ogden & Fry poll commissioned by The Insider of 595 Democratic primary voters. In that survey, ex-Governor Martin O'Malley was still in the race and he took 1%. 13.8% were undecided.

Nevertheless, her current score is nearly identical to the 59.8% lead she held one-year ago in a February 14, 2015 Ogden & Fry poll. In that survey, Clinton was paired against U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (13.7%), Vice President Joe Biden (11.9), and O'Malley (1.3%). "Someone else" took 13.8%.

Her current slippage in Illinois also corresponds to a lackluster general election match-up in Illinois against Donald Trump, which according to a January 9, 2016 Ogden & Fry poll, she leads the reality TV star 36.5%-27.5%. 36.0% were undecided.

Clinton came to Chicago for a "get-out-the-vote" event in the City's Bronzeville neighborhood, aiming to rally African-American voters. This was Clinton's second visit to Bronzeville since announcing her candidacy. Last year, she held a roundtable with child care workers to discuss child care costs and paid family leave.

In her recent Milwaukee debate against Sanders, Clinton demonstrated that she wasn't shy about taking a swipe at that state's GOP Governor, Scott Walker, saying, "Sen. Sanders' [higher education] plan rests on governors like Scott Walker contributing $23 billion on the first day. I'm a little skeptical about your governor actually caring enough about higher education to make any kind of commitment like that."

Amid Illinois' current budget stalemate, Clinton, who grew up in suburban Park Ridge, sought to score local points by also going after Governor Bruce Rauner, who is deeply unpopular in Chicago.

"The governor has refused to start budget negotiations unless his so-called 'turnaround agenda' gets passed first," said Clinton. "Now, his plan will turn Illinois around, all right. All the way back to the time of the robber barons of the 19th century."

But Rauner spokesman Lance Trover punched back noting that Clinton's remarks were "quite ironic, coming from someone who cashed a $280,000 check for a paid speech to GTCR less than two years ago."


It's that type of unwelcome irony that's undermining Clinton's campaign against Sanders in Illinois and elsewhere.

David also edits The Illinois Observer: The Insider, in which this article first appeared.

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