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What Really Happens When You're Infected With Measles

Thu, 2015-02-05 07:14
While some may dismiss the measles as a common childhood virus, it also happens to be the deadliest childhood rash and fever illness. To make matters worse, about 30 percent of reported measles cases have at least one complication, especially among children younger than 5 years old or adults over 20.

But measles, while highly contagious, is also a completely preventable disease thanks to vaccines. Doctors recommend that children receive a vaccination (in the form of a bundled measles, mumps and rubella shot) twice: the first between ages 12 to 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years old.

Below, you can see the painful and distressing symptoms measles causes, as well as the complications that arise from the illness. For those who have the stomach for it, head over to Buzzfeed for historical photos that reveal just how devastating diseases like polio and smallpox were before vaccines eradicated those viruses.



Graphics by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.

GOP 'Self-Deportation' Fantasy Is Alive and Well

Thu, 2015-02-05 06:54
Here we are again, just one month into the 114th Congress and Republicans in the House are recycling the same old immigration bills with no solution for the 11 million people living and working in the shadows as undocumented immigrants, no solution for other American workers and no solution for American employers.

Yesterday's hearing in the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security was the sixth hearing in four years on E-Verify -- the electronic employer verification system designed to determine who is eligible to work legally. But without a plan to legalize workers, the Legal Workforce Act proposed (again) by Republicans, is just another ineffective, half-baked bill that won't fix our immigration system.

E-Verify is widely understood to be an important part of any top-to-bottom fix of our broken immigration system. Every serious comprehensive immigration reform proposal in the last decade has mandated the use of E-Verify or something like it by all employers. I know, because I worked with offices on both sides of the Hill and both sides of the aisle to write most of those bills.

But E-Verify in the absence of broader reforms would destroy entire industries and weaken our economy. It would drive our current workforce -- especially our undocumented workforce -- farther underground and keep them off the books. And hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents would be falsely identified as ineligible to work because of flaws in the system and its data.

When approximately one in 20 workers in the U.S. economy are in the country illegally, what will happen when you mandate E-Verify tomorrow and do not fix other aspects of immigration?

The Republican fantasy is that 11 million people will leave the country.

The Republican fantasy is that millions of people who work in the United States will suddenly decide that their prospects for economic advancement and the survival of their children would be better served if they went back to rural Cambodia, or walked back to the mountains of Central America. But how many will take their chances in the countries they fled because of war, murder, famine, and desperation?

The fantasy that millions of people will simply disappear if we just have stricter laws, the old "self-deportation" theory and the lynchpin of the Romney campaign in 2012, did not work as a political strategy and is laughable as a policy.

Democrats -- and frankly, most Republicans and most Americans -- do not believe that E-Verify in and of itself is a magic wand that will miraculously make 11 million people and their families disappear.

We believe that we need three basic ingredients to get more control over immigration, to make sure that immigration is operating within the law, not outside of it.

Number one is legal immigration. We do not hear the Republicans talk much about legal immigration because it deeply divides their party and a good third of the Republican Caucus in both Houses of Congress is opposed, by and large, to legal immigration.

They want fewer immigrants in the U.S., which is precisely why we are stuck in a rut and unable to move forward on any immigration reform.

The solution to illegal immigration is legal immigration and Republicans have just not figured that out. With legal immigration comes control. With legal immigration comes orderliness, vetting, and visas.

We do not need an unlimited amount of legal immigration, but right now we are constrained by the levels that were agreed upon by Congress sometime in the 1990s. The black market flourishes when we restrict the supply of legal immigration too much.

The second component of immigration reform is enforcement, including E-Verify.

If people can go through our immigration system rather than around it and we have checks on employers, such as jail time and huge fines, and muscle and money behind our enforcement and adjudication systems -- we can have an immigration system based on the rule of law.

There is no reason we should have a 20th Century paper-based worker verification system in a 21st Century economy. Just as there is no reason to have 20th Century immigration quotas for a 21st Century economy.

But the largest barrier seems to come from the third element of immigration reform, which is to recognize that millions of people have lived here for decades, raised children, and held jobs in this country but have no way to get legal or be fully protected by American labor laws.

The Republicans want you to believe this fantasy: that the magic wand to get rid of all undocumented immigrants will work this time if we just pass the standalone E-Verify bill introduced by the Republicans several years ago.

But that strategy has not worked for the past 25 or 30 years and those 11 million people are not magically disappearing. They are cornerstones of American communities like mine in Chicago. They have jobs, mortgages, car notes, careers and children, most of whom are U.S. citizens.

With no way to get legal -- and no way to leave and come back legally because Congress outlawed that too -- we must offer a viable solution other than just hoping long-term immigrants in the U.S. will simply go away.

Mass deportation has not worked. Even in places like South Carolina, where I traveled last week, people are not "self-deporting." The slowdown in the economy did not drive massive numbers out of the country, and now that the economy is steaming again, we shouldn't expel large numbers of experienced, capable working men and women. It would be hugely counterproductive.

Even in the unlikely event that Republicans get their way in trying to make the Obama administration deport 600,000 DREAMers who have already come forward and passed criminal background checks -- as the DHS funding bill passed by the House and under consideration by the Senate this week does -- it will not actually give us more law and more order.

Like recycled E-Verify proposals, the Republican majority is offering less law and less order and it all amounts to being a political stunt to reassure their most conservative supporters that they are standing up to the president; supporters who absurdly blame immigrants for crime and the measles outbreak and, in some cases, who still think the president is an undocumented immigrant himself.

The show-hearings the Republicans are staging in the House Judiciary Committee this week and next do not make me optimistic that serious proposals to address border security and immigration reform are forthcoming. It is a shame because the American people want progress towards an immigration system that is safe, legal, orderly, and one that is worthy of their pride.

Rep. Gutiérrez of Illinois is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security and is the Co-Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Goodbye Tomorrow's 'Jay Z' Is 'A Dissertation On The Diaspora Of The Black Soul'

Wed, 2015-02-04 16:55
Other than hailing from Chicago, there is very little known about new artist Goodbye Tomorrow. Premiering his/their debut track on Monday, "Jay Z" plays more like a Kanye West track, perfectly balancing hard-hitting bass drums with melody. “Girls on the floor goin’ crazy / In a Mercedes, feelin’ like I’m Jay Z,” Goodbye Tomorrow sings on the hook, solidifying it as the perfect turn up track.

If that weren't enough, the song is paired with a video that will have you stuck on replay as you try to decipher this "Dissertation on the Diaspora of the Black Soul." It opens with a black man pounding away at a drum hooked up to a pair of floor-standing speakers, as two men who appear to be colonial slavers and two white cops approach and envelope the man in a thick fog of tear gas. About halfway through a computer reboot screen pops up, prompting you to "Repair Your Consciousness," with the simple, but thorough description: "Start living with only the core values and services. Use when you can see through the illusionary comfort of materialism." Immediately after, Goodbye Tomorrow lays out the unavoidable strobes of "We were kings before they made us ni--az," word by word.

We can't wait to see what Goodbye Tomorrow brings out next, but until then, we're going to be watching the video above on repeat. You can purchase "Jay Z" on iTunes.

The Biggest Legacy Ernie Banks Opened My Eyes To

Wed, 2015-02-04 16:06

Though Jackie Robinson deservedly gets all of the credit for breaking baseball's insidious color barrier, Ernie Banks did the same thing for his fans and the city of Chicago.

Baseball and Chicago lost one of its greatest ambassadors recently when Hall of Famer Ernie Banks died at the age of 83.

I lost my first sports hero as a child growing up 90 minutes from Chicago and someone who first shaped how I looked at race relations. Even though he retired from baseball in 1971, I wasn't surprised with the outpouring of kind words about Banks on top of the praise for his career accomplishments -- he hit more than 500 home runs and redefined how a shortstop could be a power hitter.

Ernie was the first black man to play for my Chicago Cubs in 1953 after they signed him out of the Negro Leagues. That's six years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but Banks also had a profound affect in Chicago.

Before there was Walter Payton and Michael Jordan in Chicago as icons, there was Ernie Banks, and you couldn't get enough of him. His smile and enthusiasm and love of life and of people was something I had never experienced. Period.

Home baseball games at Wrigley Field had been televised in Chicago, a race occurrence when owners didn't want to hurt the gate. The Cubs used TV to market Wrigley Field and the team and when Banks came to the Cubs, a legion of fans got to watch him on a regular basis and see his skill that led him to win National League MVP awards and All-Star berths.

I didn't get a chance to watch Ernie play until late in his career because I was born in 1962 and didn't start watching baseball on a regular basis until 1969.

I was at my aunt's in 1970 watching the Cubs game with my family when Ernie hit his 500th home run and WGN announcer Jack Brickhouse gave his patented "Hey! Hey!" to celebrate the feat.

As a kid, like many of my friends, I'd go in the backyard and emulate the way Ernie held his bat back and up high. Ernie could do no wrong with me.

As a young boy growing up in a small Midwestern manufacturing community with about 20,000 people, I didn't think much about race relations. There were very few black people in town. My only experience was when my dad, who owned a plumbing company, would be called to go fix a leaky pipe or some other problem on a weekend and I'd tag along.

When I was growing up, I never heard my dad say a critical word about blacks. He even told me when he was growing up in the 1940s, a black kid played his traveling softball team and talked how teams in other towns didn't appreciate it when he came to play.

My first experience in meeting another black child was when I went to Chicago in 1967 when I was 5 years old and I had to get my tonsils removed. The other kid was a patient in my room, and I just thought of it as a neat experience to meet someone different from me.

I've always been fascinated by people of different races, cultures and religions. Before I could read, I'd flip through The World Book Encyclopedias in my room just to look at the pictures of all those countries and fascinating people.

A globe to me was a sense of wonder. I feel that I have an inkling what Marco Polo must have felt like.

It was in 1971 (I was 9) when my life was shaped for what I wanted to do when I grew up. I was fascinated by politics from my dad when he ran for county office and lost by three votes in 1970, only to run again in 1972 and get elected to the La Salle County Board. I got to meet governor and other elected officials you saw on TV.

In 1971, I was moved by my fourth grade class on geography that had the authors take you on a tour of people of the world and how they lived. It made me excited to see the differences in people and yet how similar we are with the same hopes and dreams and sense of family.

I'd sit in my room and shut my eyes and spin the globe and touch it to see what country my finger landed on. I'd then go to my encyclopedia, which I could now read, and absorb all I could about the people who lived there.

It was at that age I ventured out of my immediate neighborhood and got to know other kids my age and play baseball with them in their back yards. For a boy that age and that era, there was nothing like spending your summers playing baseball six hours a day.

My traveling to other neighborhoods brought me in contact with not only the boys my age, but also their fathers. One experience came as a shock to my system when the dad of one my friends for some reason -- I can't recall why today -- started criticizing blacks in language I had never heard before.

I thought he must have been joking, but I quickly learned he wasn't. How could this man hate a whole group of people and those he hasn't even met? It wasn't a pleasant experience, but it was eye-opening.

It wasn't my last interaction with him, because I would sometimes go to my buddy's house to watch the Cubs play and he would be there. He was an intimidating man and you never felt comfortable striking up a conversation with him.

I thought I'd just need to stick to talking about baseball to stay on safe ground. There's nothing safer than the Cubs, since he was a big fan. I was shocked when he said Ernie Banks was his favorite Cub and how he talked about him in such glowing terms, like he was a member of the family.

He wasn't a person who had anything nice to say about anybody, especially minorities. But how could he be so critical of a group, yet adore Ernie Banks?

It's an experience that has always stuck with me -- how people who expressed racist thoughts could act toward an individual, especially in person.

I grew up in the Midwest and not the Deep South,in the 1960s. But my experiences in the Midwest always gave me hope that people could summon their better angels when it mattered most -- when they came in contact with people and got to know them.

There's plenty of members of my generation who became more tolerant as they aged, but my hope is that their sons aren't always like their fathers. That was the case with my buddy, despite the racist rants of his dad.

We still have problems with race relations today, as evidenced by what's happened in Missouri and New York City and how people have reacted to it. But I still hold out hope in the younger generation when I go on a college campus or go to friend's homes and see how young people of different races are the closest of friends. You didn't see that when I was in college in the early 1980s.

A friend kidded me when I brought up how I believe in the Star Trek vision of people of different races and cultures coming together. It very well could take another 100 years, but we've come so far over the last 50 years, when there was segregation and lack of voting rights, that I have hope.

May Ernie "Mr. Cub" Banks have a most restful sleep. This fan will surely miss him.

Now It Counts is the new destination for Americans 50+ covering financial, health, beauty, style, travel, news, entertainment and sports. Read more at nowitcounts.com

The Most Important Issue No One's Talking About In The Chicago Mayoral Race

Wed, 2015-02-04 15:59
Racial segregation continues to inflict wounds on the south and west sides. And once again it's ignored on the campaign trail.

Comedians Raise Funds For A Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding 'Museum' In Their Hallway

Wed, 2015-02-04 15:44
It’s not a campaign for potato salad, but this might be one of the more creative uses of Kickstarter we’ve seen yet.

After streaming ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary spotlighting the 1994 Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding Olympic figure skating scandal on Netflix, Brooklyn-based comedians Matt Harkins and Viviana Olen were apparently so inspired by the drama and intrigue of it all that they launched a Kickstarter campaign to convert a long hallway in their shared two-bedroom apartment into a “museum” dedicated to Kerrigan and Harding.

Just how serious are the two comedians about their endeavor? According to their Kickstarter bio, “very very serious." They echoed that sentiment to The Huffington Post, saying, "We are fully prepared to take this to the limit."

As of Wednesday, the two had surpassed their modest fundraising goal of $75, with almost double that donated to their endeavor. The campaign, which started Tuesday, will close on March 5.




According to the campaign, the funds will go toward “the enlargement of historical documents (Tonya and Nancy pix).” And if there is enough interest:
Matt and Viviana can begin acquiring artifacts, facilitate more public access, and curate grander exhibits. This includes people's crafting projects, wax figures, historical reenactments and other Tonya and Nancy related creations which can be deemed part of the cultural response to this event and therefore added to the museum's collection.

“They want to blow up pictures really big and hang them up in the hall,” the Kickstarter description reads. “Their favorite pictures are ones that have Nancy and Tonya together. Tonya is always looking at Nancy out of the corner of her eye."

In exchange, project-backers can enjoy a variety of perks, the page notes. Those who donate $1 will have their names written in a notebook under the title “Friend of the Museum,” while those who donate $100 will receive a 30-minute pass to the museum for two, two 8-ounce Diet Cokes and a guided tour.

Big-spender backers pledging $10,000 or more receive the “Olympic gold medal package,” including a weekend at the museum, guided tour, 24-pack of Diet Coke, high tea service for four, “permission to go through all of our things” and “a big party at a venue with cupcakes and a DJ following a TED talk about Tonya and Nancy given by the chief curators of the museum (Matt and Viviana).”

If the campaign is an even bigger hit, they say they’ll “quit their jobs for a year and dedicate themselves to the museum including more research and the possibility of a touring exhibition where they'll go to wherever Tonya lives and buy her a really nice dinner.”

In the past 24 hours, the comedians say they've gotten "more serious about letting more people inside."

"The first draft had a tour starting at $500, then all these people started talking about it and wanting to actually come. And we realized these aren't gonna be weird psychos; they're gonna be weirdos just like us! And who are we to make something cool and say people can't come?" the duo told HuffPost in a series of messages on Twitter. "But now that there's so much interest, the goal would be to get as much raised as possible to we could spend a year letting anyone who wanted come up! And have a big party!"

All that said, the pair said they haven't alerted their building super to their "museum" plans yet, so we'll have to see it to believe it.

How to Imagine a Symphony Orchestra: Mina Zikri and the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago

Wed, 2015-02-04 13:56
Mina Zikri is a lot like other artists, or at least he's a lot like other promising, new artists who you might not know about.  When you see him perform, for example, not only is the intensity of his dedication immediately clear, but as is often true with very creative performers, there's likely to be a sense of surprise in the blend of impressions that he brings to an audience.  Mina Zikri is doing something else that promising new artists sometimes manage to do.  He's quietly gathering around him a group of other artists, like-minded people inspired by what he imagines, and dedicated to making what he imagines real.

As far as being a lot like other artists, though, that's about it, because Mina Zikri is unique in so many ways.  His approach to his art is unique, his background is unique, and his journey from the music schools of Cairo to the classical concert halls of Chicago and the world is, and continues to be, a uniquely promising adventure.  Like many gifted artists, you get the impression that everything he does is part of a coherent, reaching vision, yet even in that there's something unusual.  Zikri's vision actually has a name; it's called The Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago, a group of richly talented classical performers that Zikri describes as 'youthful' rather than 'young'.

"The orchestra is very special in the sense that it's all youthful people," he explains.  "I say 'youthful' because some of them are not necessarily very young, and the young ones are not going to stay young forever."  Age is not especially important to Zikri.  Many of the artists he admires most, artists like Daniel Barenboim and Cliff Colnot, are older than he is, but they're artists who are always ready to change, if something different is better.  That's what Zikri means by 'youthful', and it offers an important insight into what he's trying to do.


The Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago (Photo by Johnny Nevin)

Mina Zikri is a conductor, the kind of promising young conductor who could be traveling the world full-time performing with international orchestras;  in August he traveled with Daniel Barenboim as the backstage and assistant conductor for Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" on a tour that took them to Europe and South America (performing at The Salzburg Festival in Austria, at The Lucerne Festival in Switzerland, and at Buenos Aires' legendary Teatró Colón), and he returns each season to his native Egypt to guest-conduct the Cairo Symphony.  He could be doing a lot more of that, but because his vision of what music can be, and what it should be, is so clear, he chooses not to.  Instead, he founded the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago (originally as 'The Oistrach Symphony Orchestra', the orchestra changed its name at the end of 2014).  At a time when even some of the greatest orchestras in the United States are failing under the immense pressures of financial and cultural uncertainty, Zikri believes that the future of symphony orchestras can be, should be, and must be different from what everyone seems to expect.

Zikri began studying the violin at the age of eight in his native Cairo, and by the time he was eleven, he knew that he wanted to be a classical musician; he says now of that youthful decision, "I never looked back."  When Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian-American writer Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as a place for young musicians from all the countries of the Middle East to work together, Zikri's was one of the hundreds of audition tapes that they received from conservatory students across the region.

How to Imagine a Symphony Orchestra: Mina Zikri and The Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago from aotpr.com on Vimeo.



He joined the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999, and he continues to tour and perform with them around the world.  Joining the legendary orchestra in its first year wasn't just an extraordinary opportunity, it was an exceptional set of experiences. Among the people that he met were conductor Daniel Barenboim, at that time Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Chicago Civic Orchestra conductor Cliff Colnot.  He was able to enroll in the School of Music at Chicago's DePaul University, first as an undergraduate, and then as a graduate student.  Like young classical musicians at universities and conservatories across America, he worked with other gifted young musicians, building the beginning of a very promising career in the hopeful world of academic optimism.

Except there were problems, very real problems.  "When I was graduating, there were all of these highly trained musicians," he explains, "but then they get out of school, and there is no work, no market, and nobody wants their music or their training."  It's damaging, to a society that Zikri believes urgently needs music to be a part of every individual, to audiences increasingly deprived of great music, but especially, to each of those young artists.  "People become bitter, it's as if someone has just crushed all of your dreams, all of what you thought your life was going to be," he continues, "and I just refused to see my dreams being crushed."

It's a reality that many people can see, but one of the things that makes Zikri and the Oistrakh Symphony so unique is the unusually thoughtful way in which they defy it.  It begins with Zikri's understanding of what music is, and what it can be, and builds coherently on that understanding with insight into how musicians make music together, and what makes the best music for an audience.  


The Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago (Photo by Johnny Nevin)

"The message that the orchestra brings is that music is a necessity," he says unequivocally.  "It's an essential part of life, it's part of the structure of being a person."  Zikri's understanding of music, in the sense of music theory, is careful and thorough, as you would expect from an artist so rigorously trained.  When you talk with him, his insight and reflections on important composers, or how different schools and styles of music have succeeded one another, often find effortless context in the conversation, but his real understanding goes deeper.  He understands how people make music together.

It begins with being a professional, and notwithstanding his own high standards of professionalism, his view on that is characteristically unique.  "With music, you can only be professional to a certain level," he says, "if you want to be an artist, you have to stop being a professional."  At first, it's an astonishing assertion, but like so many of Zikri's precise perceptions, it's well thought out.  "When you're a professional, you know your minimum, and that's not good," he goes on to explain, "because you're supposed to always be going for the maximum."

It's an insight that might be immediately relevant to an individual artist, but could anyone communicate that to a group of highly trained professionals?  In a symphony orchestra, even the professional 'minimum' requires a precision of timing and tuning and technical craft that are, in themselves, substantial challenges.  "When people see something they can believe in, they will give more," he says, and that may be the heart of what he brings together in the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago.


The Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago (Photo by Johnny Nevin)

In any case, it begins to explain the remarkable rapport that is so apparent between orchestra and conductor.  "I enjoy the fact that I am just one of them," Zikri says, and some of that has to do with the fact that besides conducting, Zikri continues to perform as a violinist.  "I went to school with some of them, I play other gigs with some of them."  When Zikri is on the podium, he strives to conduct only with what he calls a 'positive authority', because only in that way does he think a conductor can find more than traditional direction can achieve.  "You're going to get what you want to some degree," he says of a more authority-based approach, "but you're not going to get the amazing, you're not going to get what's beyond special."

It's as if defying the widely shared expectation that symphony orchestras can no longer succeed is not enough to aspire to, but understanding better how to make music with others has everything to do with what Zikri is trying to bring to his audiences.  By including more of the creativity and inspiration of each of the individual musicians involved in making the music, Zikri believes that you can make music that can be shared more widely, more successfully. In doing that, he hopes to accomplish something truly unique.  Mina Zikri is hoping that everyone will be able to see as far beyond common expectations as he does.

This story originally appeared at aotpr.com

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Says Marijuana 'Can Be Helpful' For Some Medical Conditions

Wed, 2015-02-04 13:20
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the nation's newest surgeon general, says that marijuana "can be helpful" for some medical conditions, and wants science to dictate policy on the federally banned substance.

"We have some preliminary data that for certain medical conditions and symptoms, that marijuana can be helpful," Murthy said during a Wednesday interview on "CBS This Morning" in response to a question about his stance on marijuana legalization.

While Murthy didn't take the opportunity to endorse legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, he did add that he believes U.S. marijuana policy should be driven by science and what it reveals about the efficacy of using the plant for medical purposes.

"I think we're going to get a lot more data about that," Murthy said. "I'm very interested to see where that takes us."

Murthy isn't the first surgeon general to question U.S. drug policy. In 1993, Joycelyn Elders, the surgeon general under President Bill Clinton, said she believed that legalizing drugs in the U.S. would "markedly reduce our crime rate." Then in 2010, Elders called for the legalization of marijuana.

Other high-profile doctors have also come out in support of medical marijuana. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent and Obama's first choice to be surgeon general when he first took office 2009, produced two documentaries for the cable channel exploring the benefits of medical marijuana. Just last year, Gupta told HuffPost that he thinks the federal government should legalize medical marijuana.

In January, the American Academy of Pediatrics called on the Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify marijuana as a less-harmful substance in order to facilitate research for its potential medical use.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. has five "schedules" for drugs and chemicals that can be used to make drugs. Schedule I is reserved for drugs that the DEA considers to have the highest potential for abuse and no "currently accepted medical use." Marijuana has been classified as Schedule I for decades, along with other substances like heroin and LSD. While a lower schedule for marijuana would not make it legal, it could ease restrictions on researching the drug.

Despite the federal ban, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes with at least two more states expected to consider medical marijuana laws by 2016.

"Dr. Murthy's comments add to a growing consensus in the medical community that marijuana can help people suffering from painful conditions," Tom Angell, chairman of drug policy reform group Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post. "It's crazy that federal law still considers marijuana a Schedule I drug, a category that's supposed to be reserved for substances with no medical value. In light of these comments from his top medical adviser, the president should direct the attorney general to immediately begin the process of rescheduling marijuana."

Watch the video above.

Gov. Bruce Rauner gears up to to deliver first Illinois State of the State Address

Wed, 2015-02-04 11:54
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is set to give his first State of the State Address Feb. 4, outlining his specific goals and plans for the state as he settles into office.

A year ago, Gov. Pat Quinn used his State of the State Address to dream big about his plans for education.

"Scripture tells us, 'Where there is no vision, the people perish.' That's why today I'm calling for a bold Birth to Five Initiative that will be focused on three keys to a healthy child: prenatal care, access to early learning opportunities and strong parent support," Quinn said in what would be his final State of the State speech.

Heading into an election year, Quinn used the speech as a platform to display some lofty, though admirable, goals: preschool for every child, infrastructure projects, helping small businesses, helping homeowners avoid foreclosure. Left unsaid was the fact that the state was in no position to launch an effort as expensive as Quinn's Birth to Five Initiative. Or that the state had continued sinking in debt despite its then three-year-old income tax increase. Or that state spending in the previous 10 years had risen more than 60 percent while job growth -- needed to generate income tax to pay for increased spending -- was non-existent.

If what we've seen over the last two weeks is any indication, Gov. Bruce Rauner will not be taking the "dream big" approach as he delivers his first State of the State Address today.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois to see what exactly can be expected at Rauner's first State of the State.

One of those specific plans might have to do with state employee pay.

Two days before he gives his first State of the State Address, Gov. Bruce Rauner issued a warning of sorts on Illinois state employee pay and his frame of mind as he enters what promises to be a vicious budget season.

Rauner on Monday issued a memo and a pair of presentation slides to lawmakers that showed what he says is an imbalance in state employee salaries and those of the "average Illinois working family" with the same job. The state employee salary exceeded its private-sector counterpart by 51 to 69 percent.

Another chart showed that the salaries for an Illinois highway maintenance worker and corrections officer are higher than the average paid to similar employees in five other states by 59 and 71 percent, respectively.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois to find out which state employee union this news could affect the most.

NEXT ARTICLE: A medical marijuana dispensary owner awaits instructions from the state on using newly granted license

Dopeless Hope Fiend

Wed, 2015-02-04 11:48
Most people celebrate their twenty-first birthday by drinking alcohol legally for the first time. For my twenty-first in 1993, I tried heroin for the first time. All it took was a small-scale, but measured, injection with the assistance of a friend. Only seconds later, both the rate and depth of my respiration sharply decreased. My breathing rate tumbled down to about to two-to-four breaths per minute. As my respiratory rate declined, my blood pressure began to drop; my body temp plummeted, and my skin became cold and clammy. Subsequently, I turned a cadaverous hue of bluish-grey.

I had overdosed on heroin.

If it hadn't been for the 911 call and Naloxone-equipped first responder, I would not be alive today. Eventually, I came to and was released from the hospital. While Naloxone saved my life, no treatment was offered for my addiction. Drug overdose is a major health care problem, while drug addiction is a mental, physical, spiritual, familial disease which is chronic, progressive and often fatal.

At the age of 23, my family and friends insisted that I seek chemical dependency treatment. I began in a county-funded, inpatient treatment center and stayed for three months, after which I followed my counselor's recommendations and moved into a sober living facility. After ten months of continuous sobriety, however, I drank a glass of wine. Within a mere two weeks of that first drink, I was in full-blown chemical relapse. This time, to my own detriment, I added cocaine to the mix, effectively creating a concoction of heroin and cocaine called "speed balls."

I returned back to Chicago from California with 13 days of clean and sober living. When Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation opened in Chicago, I began to attend 12-step meetings at their facility, where I was inspired and awed by the skilled social workers and counselors I observed, and by the unconditional love of my family -- so much so, that I decided to matriculate in a collegiate program to pursue and obtain my Master's degree in Social Work. Today, I'm the Clinical Director at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Chicago.

Many of the patients I treat today have traversed the same path I did. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) indicate that nearly one-third of people ages 12 and over who used drugs for the first time began by using a prescription drug for non-medical purposes. The same survey found that over 70 percent of people who abused prescription pain relievers obtained them from friends or relatives, while approximately five percent got them from a drug dealer or from the Internet.

Additionally, the latest Monitoring the Future study, the nation's largest survey of drug use among young people, revealed that prescription drugs are the second most abused category of drugs after marijuana. Alleged "Pharm Parties," gatherings of mostly teenagers who arrive with sedatives and opioid pills from their parents' medicine cabinets, or from street dealers, are still happening.

I am both lucky and grateful that I did not become a heroin-related death statistic, though I certainly wasn't far from it. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) heroin-related deaths have recently increased in 28 states, including Illinois. At the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Chicago site, one-third of those admitted for treatment, thus far, are addicted to opiate-based drugs (heroin or the various prescription drugs).

We, as parents, community members, civil servants, healthcare workers, prevention educators and families, need to align ourselves to prevent, treat and battle the fierce and rising numbers of heroin and prescription drug addiction.

It is crucial that those of us in the addiction treatment professions revisit, reconstruct and rethink how we treat people with addiction. A more comprehensive approach to treatment is mandated. It is about treating the human being who has a substance-use disorder, not labeling an individual "an addict." My supposition is that treatment paradigms be engineered with less rigidity and more elasticity in order to blend with the special circumstances of each person and their family.

Addiction is a disease of profound isolation and loneliness. It thrives on secrecy, manipulation and shame. Reaching out for help is key to both the addict and the family. If your drug use has become uncontrollable, reach out for help. Use your supports; call your local treatment centers, clinicians, educators and preventionists for guidance. No one must suffer alone within the confines of the prison of addiction.

In the media coverage that followed Phillip Seymour Hoffman's death, the press and public often forgot, disregarded or didn't realize that he may have been a sick man, again a human being, with a chronic, progressive, but treatable illness. Let us envelope this tragedy as a highlighted opportunity to have empathy, and to realize that we can intervene to support versus shame, blame or avoid.

Local governments are building platforms for continued hearings and discussions to be held in an attempt to formulate policy that will surely assist communities to gain a much needed, deeper level of understanding of the heroin epidemic, and the possible treatments available. Law enforcement will continue to incarcerate the drug smugglers and dealers. Unfortunately, it's not enough.

It is due time that the recovery community mobilizes to haul addiction out from the depths of dark basements, and into the light of the open and evolving nature of our society. I am proud to be in recovery. I am grateful everyday that I am free from the crippling grips of active addiction. Now is a time for all of us to spread the message of hope and healing to others who are still suffering. No longer should we glamorize addiction, nor should we oust the addicted individual from society, but rather we should join with the force of the current recovery movement to rejoice and celebrate the very human journeys of recovery that continue to emerge among us.

4 Ways To Be The Best Mentor

Wed, 2015-02-04 11:12

Why do I mentor?



It's quite simple. I'm in debt to those who mentored me.



Growing up in St. Louis, I was lucky to have several mentors that took me under their wing and helped me navigate humble beginnings. Others have worked diligently to help me accomplish what I have. It's my responsibility to offer the same to those that follow me.



I've always mentored, but now that I have a family and 1-year-old life is very busy. Luckily, mentor 2.0 with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Aspire Mentoring Academy provided the opportunity for e-mentoring, a technology-based program. It's my third year mentoring Antwan. We trade emails every week and meet in-person about every six weeks.



When I first met Antwan, he seemed to be the average student and pretty shy. I knew he had it in him to break out of his shell, but it can be frightening being a kid in a new town and at a new school. We worked on him being proud of his ability to make people smile.



And we talk about everything. From academics to family life, college plans to what's going on in school -- No topic is off limits between Antwan and me. I also try not to get on his case when he falls short of the expectations we've set for him through the mentoring program. Instead, I share my own struggles and challenges. I went back to school last summer and have shared the challenges of going to school three nights a week while maintaining the responsibilities of a family.


A little advice I'd give for those looking to get involved in mentoring:




  1. Be an example. Examples are better teachers than lectures. Following through on the promises I make to Antwan allows me to hold him accountable to the promises he makes to me.

  2. Be excited about your student, without expectation. As a mentor, you'll never know what you're going to get in your mentee. What you can be certain of is that the opportunity to positively impact their life is going to be there no matter who you are paired with. I had an idea of what I wanted as a mentee before meeting Antwan. I'm much happier with the student I was paired with than the student I'd imagined.

  3. Be yourself. If there's one thing that I would do differently, I wouldn't show up in a suit and tie the first day. I could tell that put Antwan off a little bit and I now understand it's better to show your mentee you're more normal than it sometimes seem. The next time it was jeans, a polo and tennis shoes.

  4. Be a better you. Mentoring should be a learning opportunity. If the learning is only in one direction, something's not going right. The relationship with Antwan and sharing those things that have allowed me to be successful is also a constant reminder of what's necessary for me to keep achieving in life. He's made me better!



I get back ten times what I've put in through mentoring. As for Antwan, his self-confidence has grown and he's flourishing as a student. He's in 11th grade now and visiting colleges while figuring out what his future holds. And he makes people smile. He's ready to take on the world.

City vs. Suburbs: 5 Tradeoffs to Think About When Starting a Family

Wed, 2015-02-04 09:42
When deciding between city or suburban living, there are many factors to consider, including cost of living, proximity to work and lifestyle. There is no one, right answer as to which decision is better for raising children, since everyone's situation is different. Here are few things to consider:

1. Life priorities
Define yours. Are they mostly financial? Are you looking to become homeowners instead of renters? Do the quality of school districts matter or are you okay to shell out money for private schools? What's non-negotiable and what has flexibility? Also, where do you think you can best grow and thrive as individuals and collectively as a family? Like anything else in life, there are almost always tradeoffs.

2. Living space
There's lots to do in the city in terms of art, culture and events. In New York City, for instance, there are many great parks with playgrounds and museums with children's programs to keep kids entertained. If you're lucky enough, they're just a walk or subway away from your place. You also don't have to worry about home repairs so much, just call the landlord or maintenance personnel on site.

The downside is your quarters are cramped and you'll constantly be decluttering, which can be time consuming. And you're expected to tip the staff that helps you out throughout the year during the holiday season.

The benefits of the suburbs is you get more bang for your buck in terms of living space. Your kids will have room for toys and play dates. Plus you can have your own back yard with a garden and plenty of space to entertain. The cost of living is lower as well.

The only problem is, if you have a lot of space, you may end up becoming a hoarder and bringing in more stuff than needed just to fill a space. Depending on how much square footage you have, you may end up wasting electricity for rooms you rarely use.

Do you take pride in DIY and home improvement projects? Because you may very well spend many weekends working on your house and making frequent trips to the home improvement store. Can you see yourself doing lawn care, shoveling snow or taking care of leaks? You either will need to outsource or do most of the home maintenance and repairs yourself.

3. Schools
What's the quality of the school districts in the city versus the suburb you're considering? Will you need to enroll your child or children in private school if the public schools aren't so great? How's the competition for admission to private schools? What are the costs and are they worth it for your family?

4. Getting around
Cities are great because your kids are encouraged to walk, get exercise and you don't have to worry about driving everywhere. You could stop and take in the window displays or get a bite at a street fair or farmer's market. And if you want to leave the city, you could take a train or bus or rent a car for the weekend.

In the suburbs, however you drive everywhere. Can you imagine yourself carpooling your kids in a minivan? On the other hand it is more convenient to be able to buy groceries and easily transport them to your car versus walking the city streets with a bag on wheels (or suitcase) and possibly have to hail a cab during a busy time when everyone else is hailing a cab.

In the suburbs, you may not have an opportunity to walk as much so may need to come up with your own fitness routine. Would you work out in your home or get a gym membership?

5. Cultural fit
Cities generally have more cultural diversity, museums, festive events and more restaurants to choose from. You're able to people watch and experience being around people from all over the world. You will hear different languages. In the suburbs dining options are limited to chain restaurants and shopping malls.

Whatever situation you imagine yourself in, you can make it work for you. It just depends on what tradeoffs you're willing to live with. For our family, it made sense to leave the city for the suburbs so we could have an actual house and a yard that was affordable. But your reality may be different. There's no perfect answer except the one that you consider after weighing all your options and talking to people in the situation you want to eventually be in.

And just because you choose one living option over the other does not mean you are entirely bound to that particular decision. You could always relocate again, or decide to work in the city, move to the suburbs and vice-versa.

Illinois' Wall of Fame: The State's Best Designations

Wed, 2015-02-04 08:58
It's easy to get bogged down thinking about all of the things wrong with Illinois: $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, a $9 billion deficit and a history of government corruption and inefficiency.

Luckily, as any Illinoisan can tell you, there are a lot of good things about Illinois too. The state is home to some of the country's most important transportation hubs, prestigious universities and the site of an international-grade city full of culture and food. Plus, the people are great too.

Lest we forget just how wonderful our state is, take a look at this Illinois Wall of Fame:






Check out Reboot Illinois to see the lower half of the Wall of Fame and learn a few more cool things about Illinois--just how well did the state rank for LGBT inclusiveness and millennial living?

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: Republican Rauner, Democrats Franks and Drury, and a start to the end of business as usual?


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Urban Roller Skating Survives As A Subculture While Rinks Close Nationwide

Wed, 2015-02-04 06:00

By Fiona Ortiz

CHICAGO, Feb 4 (Reuters) - On a frigid winter night, snow blankets hundreds of cars in the dark parking lot outside the Rink on Chicago's south side.

But things are cooking inside the aging roller rink. Under colored lights, a huge crowd of skaters wearing black leather and four-wheel skates shoots around the wooden floor doing dance routines in groups, or solo twirls, Axels and acrobatics to R&B remixes.

The Rink and a handful of other decades-old skating venues put Chicago at the center of a vibrant African-American subculture of urban roller skate dancing that stretches from Atlanta to Detroit and from Los Angeles to New York.

While mainstream roller skating has been on a long decline, a new generation of skaters including 28-year-old Josh Smith - whose skating handle is "Batman" - travel a circuit of rinks around the country to compete and show off their moves.

"Skating is on my mind 24/7, in my dreams. I always try to raise the bar," says the goateed Smith, who has competed all over the United States and as far away as England and draws influences from arts such as ballroom dancing and the Brazilian martial art capoeira.

Out on the floor Smith spins, jumps, break dances and does splits. Purple lights glow under his skates. At the end of a long night of skating in Chicago, at 1 a.m. he jumps in a car with skating buddies and heads to Alabama to compete at a national gathering known as a skate jam.

The evolving skate dance form does not even have a name, and each city has its particular style. Veteran Chicago skaters call themselves JB skaters - after remixed James Brown songs that are a local staple. Other skaters in the United States will recognize JB skaters for their old-fashioned, loosely tied black boots and specific moves such as big wheel and crazy legs.


THREATENED SCENE

The scene is intense and vibrant, but it is also threatened as roller skating rinks close down in many big cities. And those that survive are financially strapped.

"We're defending a dying sport," said Buddy Alexander, 36, one of the owners of Rich City Skate in a Chicago suburb. He and his brother Mark, 31, bought the rink in 2006 and have worked hard to keep it alive. Other venerable rinks such as the Loop and the Rainbow Roller Rink have shut down.

"There are a lot of rinks closing around the country because they aren't open to this community. In many big cities, there's no rinks left," says Dyana Winkler, who is working on a documentary about the skating culture called "United Skates."

The roller skating tradition is four generations deep in cities like Chicago. Despite rink closures, the culture is getting stronger as styles evolve, said Winker's co-director, Tina Brown.

Case in point: 46-year-old Chicago educator Lavonne Jones, who has skated most of her life. Her parents, her children and her grandchildren all skate. "We're keeping the tradition alive."

"Skating was our refuge. If we didn't have skating we'd be dead or on drugs or in a gang," says Jones, echoing the sentiments of many fellow skaters in Chicago, a city plagued by shootings and homicides.

In January, Jones continued her traditional weekly outings to the Rink even though she had lost her beloved skates in a house fire, seeking comfort from the close-knit skating community.

Some 10 to 15 years ago a skating renaissance began - aided by the rise in social media - as the different skate scenes around the country connected and started traveling to each other's cities.

Jeremy Stephens, 38, has skated in 28 different states at national skate parties, and he promotes a major national gathering of hundreds of skaters at the Rink each year on Halloween.

Stephens said he got hooked on skating eight years ago when a friend suggested it would be healthier than nightclub-hopping.

"It's an outlet. It's a lifestyle," Stephens said. "When I started skating I wasn't getting into trouble anymore. It becomes a family." (Editing by Scott Malone and Lisa Shumaker)

How Not to Ask for a Recommendation Letter

Wed, 2015-02-04 05:50
To land a job or get into a university, we usually need someone to vouch for us. It can be tough to ask -- recommenders are typically more senior than us, they're busy, and we don't always know where we stand in their eyes. When we work up the courage to ask, sometimes the request comes out polite and charming. But more often than we realize, we end up saying or writing the wrong thing.

Here are some of the most ineffective requests that I've seen as a manager and a professor, along with a running commentary on what a cynical recommender might read between the lines. My hope is that we'll all get a little bit more thoughtful about who, how, and when we ask.

1. Although we haven't talked in seven years, I really value your opinion of me.

I've burned a lot of bridges, and I'm desperately hoping enough time has passed that you won't remember what a jerk I was.

2. I'm not sure if you remember me, but it would be amazing if you could serve as a reference for my application.

Our interactions were so brief that I forgot you existed until just now. But I'm desperate.

3. I'm wondering if you might write me a recommendation letter. It's due tomorrow.

You really shouldn't vouch for me (I'm not conscientious, and I procrastinate a lot), and I think little enough of you to ask you to do this last minute. But I'm really desperate.

4. I know we've never met in person, but you have a unique perspective on my qualifications.

If you knew me better, you wouldn't even consider advocating for me. Also, the first dozen people I asked said no.

5. It would be really great to have your name supporting my candidacy.

There are other people who know me much better, but no one respects them (including me).

6. Please write a recommendation letter for me.

I want to think I'm hot stuff, but really I'm a doofus. If I ask, you'll probably turn me down. If I frame it as a command, maybe you'll be intimidated into agreeing.

7. Thank you for your advice on my resume and cover letter last week. You can send your recommendation letter to this address.

I neglected to do my homework when we spoke, and didn't realize I would need a recommendation. Maybe you won't recall that I never asked.

8. Are you in a position to write me a glowing letter?

I trust you enough to say nice things about me, but only if they're really nice. Before I give you the privilege of writing on my behalf, I really need to know what you think of me.

9. You can send the letter to me, and I'll mail it in.

I'm going to read it first to see if I like it.

10. The application requires three recommendation letters, but I've decided to submit four.

I'm hedging my bets in case one of my references trashes me or drops the ball.

11. The application requires three letters, and I'm excited to submit five.

There's no way three people can possibly capture the full extent of my greatness.

12. To save you some time, I've taken the liberty of drafting the letter for you.

I seriously doubt your ability to sing my praises--and I am seriously more awesome than you think I am.

13. It's a highly competitive pool, and I want the hiring committee to know about my unique strengths, so here's a list of my proudest achievements over the past decade.

I'm feeling highly insecure, and I don't know if my dad can pull any strings this time. Please include every impressive thing I've ever done, including the time I dominated the Springfield-Harbortown Elementary Spelling Bee. "Intravert" is a totally acceptable spelling.

By contrast, here's one of the best recommendation requests I've ever seen:

"I was hoping you would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation because I have interacted with you over the past couple of years more than with any other professor here. I have made countless mistakes as a team leader, including micromanaging in our first weeks as a club, not giving proper feedback to my teammates about their performance, and not being able to defuse tension at board meetings. But I have also grown tremendously, especially with the help of your advice on..."


__________________
Adam is a Wharton professor and the New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter on work and psychology at www.giveandtake.com/Home/Newsletter

Here Are The Colleges That Discipline Students The Most For Drug-Related Offenses

Tue, 2015-02-03 17:53
The University of California, Santa Cruz took the top slot for the most campus disciplinary actions relating to drugs, according to a new analysis from Project Know, a website that provides information about drug addictions.

But having a high rate of disciplinary actions doesn't necessarily mean UC Santa Cruz is doling out more punishments than other schools for students caught with drugs.

Project Know found that UC Santa Cruz had a rate of 70.6 per 1,000 students facing disciplinary referrals for drugs on campus in 2013, the most recent year for which data was available. Yet the campus didn't crack the top 50 for the most drug-related arrests.

The report said a discrepancy between disciplinary actions and arrests shouldn't come as a surprise.

"Instead of being arrested, [an offending student] might be referred by the police officer to the student conduct office," the report explained. "A panel then decides what, if any, disciplinary action the student should face, which could include community service, probation, or a remediation program."

This is the second year in a row that UC Santa Cruz has led the country in disciplinary actions for drugs.

University spokesman Scott Hernandez-Jason told The Huffington Post that the outcomes for exclusively drug-related disciplinary actions in 2013 were unavailable. However, he said that the two most common disciplinary outcomes in the 2013-14 academic year were "admonishments," which indicated a student may have violated school rules, and "warnings," which confirm a student violated the rules. Warnings often come with a counseling program "so there is both a disciplinary action and an opportunity for learning," he noted.

"This approach gives [UC Santa Cruz] an opportunity to provide counseling, education and other interventions to make sure students adhere to our campus principles and continue their education with UC Santa Cruz," said Hernandez-Jason. He added, however, that "some students have complained that the campus is too strict when it comes to addressing drug use."

Nine of the 22 student suspensions during the 2013-14 year involved drugs, usually marijuana, Hernandez-Jason said.




The University of Vermont had the second-highest rate of disciplinary actions for drugs in 2013 -- 52.9 per 1,000 students. However, university spokesman Jeff Wakefield said the 2013 data was "anomalous," because it "reflects the addition of several hundred students to on-campus housing, more strategic enforcement, and the effect of Vermont's decriminalization of marijuana." The decriminalization reduced possession of small amounts of pot from a criminal violation to a civil offense, Wakefield said, adding that the drug disciplinary referral numbers for 2014 show a decrease of 40 percent.

UVM did not have data to determine whether there was more marijuana on campus as a result of the change. But Vice Provost for Student Affairs Annie Stevens said the administration generally believes that "decriminalization may have signaled to some that they could use the drug more openly, thus leading to a higher visibility level and increased disciplinary cases."

Watchdog Group Claims Aaron Schock's 'Downton Abbey'-Inspired Office May Have Violated House Ethics

Tue, 2015-02-03 17:49
WASHINGTON -- A watchdog group said on Tuesday that it thinks there's nothing dapper about the "Downton Abbey"-inspired office decorations of Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.).

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics on Tuesday after The Washington Post reported that Annie Brahler, an interior decorator, designed Schock's office for free.

In its complaint, CREW says that by accepting the gift, Schock violated House rules, which prohibit members from accepting gifts, including "gifts of services."

While Schock's office told the Post that the congressman paid for the furniture himself, CREW says that he may have used campaign funds to pay for it, which would also violate House rules.

A representative from Schock's office did not immediately return a request for comment.

Even if Schock did pay for the furniture properly, he has shown that he has expensive taste in furniture in the past. In 2010, for example, he spent $79,061 on furniture, which included over $5,000 paid to a company that specializes in hardwood podiums, USA Today reported.

According to CREW, Schock's 2012 campaign paid Hoar's company $5,522 for "office equipment." In Tuesday's statement, CREW said that the Post's revelation that Hoar also designed Schock's old congressional office "strongly suggests" that Schock used campaign funds to pay for office furniture. That link, the group says, also "raises questions about whether he used campaign funds to pay for the furniture in his new office."

It's not the first time that Schock has been suspected of running afoul of congressional ethics rules. In 2013, the House Ethics Committee investigated allegations that Schock had improperly solicited money for a Super PAC. In that case, the Office of Congressional Ethics found "substantial reason to believe that Representative Schock violated federal law, House rules, and standards of conduct."

In Surprise Move, Illinois Governor Issues Medical Marijuana Licenses

Tue, 2015-02-03 17:38
Eighteen months after medical marijuana was legalized in Illinois, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday granted dozens of permits to select businesses to cultivate and sell the drug.

Though medical marijuana patients will still be unable to access the drug for months, the permits come as unexpected good news after a series of frustrating delays getting the state's strict pilot program off the ground.

Outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn (D) failed to issue licenses as expected before leaving office in early January, and just last week, Rauner said he would hold back on issuing licenses until the completion of a legal review process that began under Quinn's watch.

Rauner's administration didn't say how or why the legal review process was resolved so quickly, the Chicago Tribune reports. Part of the task left to Rauner's administration was to evaluate existing business applications to ensure the state wasn't opening itself up to legal liability over unclear procedures, according to Reuters.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Rauner awarded 18 medical marijuana cultivation licenses and 52 selling licenses on Monday.

In all, the state received 214 applications for up to 60 dispensary licenses and 159 applications for 21 cultivation centers, the Better Government Association reported in September. For the businesses who weren't approved, Monday's announcement added insult to injury: Each hopeful dispensary and cultivation center had to pay a nonrefundable application fee of $5,000 and $25,000, respectively.

Ali Nagib, the assistant director for the Illinois arm of the nonprofit advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told The Huffington Post last month that most advocates and lawmakers are anticipating medical marijuana patients will have access to the drug "sometime between late spring and early fall of this year."

Vaccines Should Be As Nonnegotiable As Seat Belts, Experts Say

Tue, 2015-02-03 14:59
In recent weeks, a host of public figures -- from comedians to columnists to President Barack Obama -- have called on parents to vaccinate their children against measles and other diseases.

But some experts say that the time for earnest public health appeals is long past. Instead, they argue, vaccines should be given the same nonnegotiable status as car seats for young children and the minimum drinking age. In other words, it’s time for a law on the books.

"We have seat belt laws,” Patsy Stinchfield, director of Pediatric Infectious Disease Services at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, told The Huffington Post. "We would never think to just lay that newborn baby down in the front seat and say, ‘I don’t really believe in car seats,’ or ’I don’t really want to buckle my child up.' ... We should have the same kind of vigor when it comes to protecting children from vaccine-preventable diseases.’”

The vaccination issue has emerged as an early litmus test in the 2016 presidential race. Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) made waves on Monday when he told a reporter that "parents need to have some measure of choice" in the matter of vaccines. (His office later issued a statement saying that Christie "believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated.") Similarly, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is a physician as well as a senator, said this week that vaccines are "a good thing" but should not be made mandatory.

It's not clear whether a push to standardize national vaccination practices would actually have any chance of succeeding. While recent polling suggests that a majority of Americans are in favor of mandatory childhood vaccines, a significant share of people -- 30 percent of Americans according to Pew Research, 32 percent according to YouGov -- say it should be left to parents to decide.

And in general, it can be difficult to implement policies that directly affect an individual's freedom of choice, according to Arthur Caplan, a medical ethicist at NYU Medical Center. Historically, Caplan told HuffPost, it's taken either a serious outbreak of disease or a national tragedy to inspire legislation around personal-choice issues like car seats and seat belts.

"You usually have to have an epidemic or a disaster or some demonstration of harm before you take away individual choice,” said Caplan, who called himself a longtime proponent of vaccination. "That cultural stance is not unique to vaccines. Freedom has come before public health, every single time.”

In 2014, the U.S. recorded 644 cases of measles, the highest number of any year since 1994. Now, with 102 cases of measles across 14 states in January alone, the country is on track to exceed last year's figures. Because of this, Caplan says that encouraging parents to “choose” vaccines is no longer enough to protect the health of the nation. As seen in the Disneyland outbreak this past December, which led to at least 59 cases of measles, even small pockets of under-immunization can set the stage for contagion.

"I think we’re starting to realize that vaccines are not an individual choice,” said Caplan. "Vaccination has public consequences, and if you decide against it, it can make others sick or kill them."

Research supports the idea that vaccination is as much an issue of public health as it is personal health. States with stricter school and day care entry laws that mandate vaccinations (barring a medical exemption) have higher immunization rates and lower measles infection rates than states where it's easy to opt out. During a recent press call, Assistant Surgeon General Dr. Anne Schuchat noted that 79 percent of measles patients in 2014 had skipped vaccinations because of "personal belief exemptions."

The first map below shows the breakdown of vaccination rates by state during the 2013-2014 school year. The second map shows the proliferation of measles cases by state between 2009 and 2014.





Heidi Larson, an anthropologist who studies public sentiment about vaccines, told HuffPost that stronger vaccination laws would help, as would laws that make it harder to qualify for exemptions. She said the need for such policies goes hand-in-hand with the need for health practitioners to engage with parents who are anxious about vaccines. The best thing clinicians can do to get a child vaccinated, said Larson, is to take parents' concerns seriously, instead of shaming parents or shutting them down.

"I’ve had numerous interviews with parents who said they were very open to vaccination and that it was a normal thing, but when they started asking questions, they felt resistance [from health workers],” Larson told HuffPost. "And the more they felt resistance, the more they got suspicious and anxious."

The answer, said Larson, is for pediatricians' offices to build in time to engage with parents and respond to their concerns, talking to them about what they’re reading or whom they’re listening to. Whether it’s a health worker who can answer questions generally in a waiting room, or even the nurse or doctor, time and resources have to be set aside to allow for this kind of dialogue.

"The face-to-face interaction with health providers is still one of the most highly influential decision points for a parent, and if they feel as if they’re being brushed off, or looked at as if they’re silly for asking questions -- it just starts to shut the doors down,” said Larson.

Still, Larson acknowledged that even the most patient, nonjudgmental health worker in the world wouldn't necessarily be able to convince every parent to vaccinate their children.

"There are some people for whom it will take some major epidemics to wake up the need for shifting gears," she said. "Although some of the interviews I’ve heard with some people, even in the face of the outbreaks, are standing firm."

Moving Low-Income Families To Rich, White Neighborhoods Is Proven Way To End Poverty

Tue, 2015-02-03 14:40
Like many mothers raising children in Chicago's housing projects in the 1990s and 2000s, Seitia Harris was afraid of the drugs and violence that were pervasive in the neighborhood where she lived, Altgeld Gardens on the city's South Side. She made sure to provide her three children with every opportunity she could, taking them to ballet lessons, after-school academic programs, plays and activities around the city, encouraging them to work hard at school and stay away from drugs. But the specter of violence and poverty was hard to escape.

Hard to escape, that is, until Harris got an opportunity to move out of the projects to a small village called Alsip, 40 minutes outside of Chicago's city center and 80 percent white. Harris moved to Alsip 14 years ago and since then has led a quiet, suburban life alongside neighbors who go to work each day and raise their children to go to college.

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