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White House Admits Prison Won't Solve The Drug Problem, But Drug War Grinds On

Wed, 2014-07-09 19:35
The Obama administration's drug czar admitted Wednesday that locking people up won't keep them from using drugs, but he stopped short of renouncing punitive policies that have made America's long war on drugs widely unpopular.

Michael Botticelli, head of the Obama administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a post on the White House website that the government's new drug control strategy “rejects the notion that we can arrest and incarcerate our way out of the nation’s drug problem. Instead, it builds on decades of research demonstrating that while law enforcement should always remain a vital piece to protecting public safety, addiction is a brain disorder -- one that can be prevented and treated, and from which people recover.”

It’s a striking piece of rhetoric for someone in Botticelli’s position, though not a risky one, given that about three-fourths of Americans say the war on drugs has been a failure.

The strategy, released Wednesday, calls for reforms that would move the government’s drug-control efforts from the police precinct and courtroom to the treatment center. According to a report outlining the strategy, the administration supports “alternatives to incarceration,” like drug courts, where judges can send defendants to rehabilitation clinics instead of prison. It endorses needle-exchange programs, which supply clean syringes to people who inject heroin -- an attempt to slow the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. And it provides funding to states trying to help former prisoners find work and get on with their lives.

But some advocates for drug policy reforms said the efforts don’t go far enough. Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, pointed to the administration’s continuing commitment to the strong-armed tactics of the drug war, like cracking down on drug smugglers in the Caribbean, working with the Colombian government to wipe out coca crops, and shutting down domestic meth labs.

Last year, Congress and the White House allocated $25 billion to drug control, with more than one-third going to domestic law enforcement.

“Until the drug czar says it is time to stop arresting people for drug use, he is not treating drug use as a health issue, no matter what he says,” Piper said. “I know of no other health issue in which people are thrown in jail if they don’t get better.”

The marijuana reform group Marijuana Policy Project chastised the report's references to marijuana, describing the new policy as “staying the course” on pot prohibition with a focus on punishing adult users, often with racial bias.

In 2012, about 750,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related offenses -- more than one arrest per minute, according to FBI data. Blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, according to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Mason Tvert, Marijuana Policy Project communications director, criticized a section of the report that portrays marijuana cultivation on public land as a threat to wildlife. “The drug czar’s office is clutching at straws to maintain a negative image of marijuana,” he said.

Government officials “completely fail to acknowledge” that replacing marijuana prohibition with regulated system would essentially eliminate illegal pot cultivation, Tvert argued. “There’s a reason why we don’t see illegal commercial whiskey stills and brewing operations being conducted in remote areas of national forests.”

The report barely mentions the legalization of marijuana by voters in Colorado and Washington state in 2012. A day after Washington opened its first legal pot shops, the administration suggested legalization is a "serious challenge" and may encourage young people to smoke pot.

The report notes a “troubling increase” in the number of people using heroin, a trend often attributed to widespread availability of opioid painkillers like OxyContin. The administration has responded, in part, by supporting laws that offer legal protection to people who call 911 to seek help for overdose victims, and by backing greater access to naloxone, an inexpensive antidote that can save people who have overdosed.

Jacqueline Corbally, who oversees Vermont’s efforts to provide treatment services for people with addictions, is among those who applaud the administration’s approach. In recent years, Vermont has seen opiate and heroin overdoses soar. But the state has embraced progressive policies focused on treating and preventing addiction. “To see the president emphasize prevention over incarceration, we were really excited about that,” Corbally said. “The energy we spend on prevention can very much have a positive effect.”

The report acknowledges that the U.S. incarcerates a greater share of its population than any other country, in large part because of tough drug laws.
In recent years, as prison and jail populations have swelled, public support for the “tough on crime” approach has dwindled, and elected officials from both sides of the aisle have searched for new solutions.

States have eased spending on punishing people for drug crimes in favor of treating them for addictions. Some, including Texas, have shuttered whole prisons. At the federal level, Attorney General Eric Holder has repeatedly criticized the government's sentencing policies, and the Senate is weighing the Smarter Sentencing Act, a bipartisan bill that would lighten tough mandatory punishments for certain drug crimes. The administration commends these efforts in the new report, contending that many have “already have many met with great success.”

In his blog post, Botticelli noted that a new rule made possible by the Affordable Care Act will require health insurers to treat substance disorders like any other chronic disease, potentially expanding coverage to millions of Americans.

“The plan we released today calls on healthcare providers to prevent and treat addictive disorders just like they would treat any other chronic disorder, like diabetes or heart disease,” Botticelli wrote. “It calls on law enforcement, courts, and doctors to collaborate with each other to treat addiction as a public health issue, not a crime."

What's a Living Wage Where You Live?

Wed, 2014-07-09 17:20

Could you live on a minimum wage in your county? While the minimum wage for Illinois is constant throughout the state, the living wage varies from county to county.

How many hours would you have to work per week on a minimum wage in your county to attain a living wage? What if you had kids to feed too?

We've got an interactive infographic in which you can find out exactly what a living wage is in your county, then you can compare that figure with other counties in Illinois or with other states in the country.

Find out the living wage where you live here.

While you're in the mindset of looking at a map, we suggest you look up where these 10 Illinois parks are that you need to visit. It's summer, the weather is warm, so get out and enjoy it with a visit to one (or all 10) of those parks.

Latinísima: Embracing The Language of My Identity

Wed, 2014-07-09 16:45
I am a Latina.

My American and Mexican worlds do not co-exist. They do not rub shoulders. They bleed together, creating one world without boundaries, without a Río Grande to split them into two, hold one back from the other, keep the other out.

My parents' cocktail parties in Chicago in the 60s embraced cigar smoke, loud, swooning Mexican ballads playing on the hi-fi, and enough food to feed a small town: tostadas, carnitas and tamales, guacamole and stacks of warm tortillas, Planters peanuts and Fritos corn chips, red Jello molds and celery ribboned with cream cheese.

My world included watching grandpa kill the live chickens he carried back from the marketplace by twirling them around and wringing their necks in the back patio in Guadalajara, where -- before my mom bought the washing machine at Sears -- we washed clothes on a stone washboard.

One of my favorite memories is of my grandmother in her blue travel suit, praying in Spanish, her fingers feeling their way from one black rosary bead to another, while my parents, aunts and uncles knelt around her, echoing her. When the string of prayers ended, abuela would close her eyes and move her right hand in the sign of the cross, giving us her blessing.

I worked the names Teotihuacán, Chapultepec, Xoxomilco off my tongue on summer visits to Mexico City. These words felt monumental. But the truth was, I liked how the words felt in my mouth. They were magic: if you peeled away the letters, in their places rose Where the Gods Were Born, Hill of the Grasshopper and Land of Flowers.

There were names that caused me pain, too, like gordita , little chubby one. A roll of sound I knew very well, starting with the guttural "g," a rolling r, the vowels sandwiched between things soft and sharp, ending with a slap. That word haunted me. When I was called it, I felt as though it wanted to eat me. The husband of one of my mother's friends, a short, balding man, always said it with a steak knife gleam in his eyes.

I am Latina, but I am not that kind of Spanish speaker who can let go and allow those beautiful, open vowel and thrilling rrr sounds to roll off her tongue with ease and brio.

English is my native tongue. It rises from my lips, flows from my pen and floats through my dreams. I am a writer, fluent in this other world of sounds.

That's how it is. Así es.

It was my mother who insisted on speaking English. Growing up in Chicago in the late 30s and 40s, she was harassed for being a "Spic" and for being "the other." And she did not want that for her kids.

And so I grew up in a household where, even though my father was born and raised in Mexico, English was the dominant language. But when my father spoke Spanish, I understood him. So did my three brothers and sister. My father's temper was a persuasive motivator. The last thing any of us wanted was to get caught staring at him, completely baffled by what he was yelling. Our home's landscape could change from the soft sounds of mijo and mijita, my little son and daughter, to the roar of hínquese! -- kneel! -- in a flash, and you had to be ready to respond appropriately.

But my father's crusade to make his children bilingual was fierce, and he spent thousands of dollars in his effort. His investment was a big joke on my mother's side of the family. My father bankrolled Saturday morning Spanish classes with the nuns at the Cordi-Marian Sisters, summer school in Guadalajara, where my mother's parents had retired, and multiple language lessons in between.

My plan was to master el español so I studied it in high school and all through college. I attended La Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City the summer I turned twenty. My brothers picked it up here and there. My sister studied French.

It is my fear of mispronouncing words and using the wrong tense that trips me up. I had to be perfect for my father, a desire I aimed for until the day he died. He did not award stars or a pat on the back for trying to get it right. He attacked my mistakes by teasing me and calling me a blockhead, cabrona . Needless to say, the pressure turned my mind to mush and incapacitated my tongue. My face and ears would burn with frustration and fury. The palms of my hands left wet stains on my jumpers and slacks.

To bolster my confidence, within the last 15 years I've taken classes in conversation and literature at the Instituto Cervantes where instructors are from Spain and countries throughout the Americas. I loved every minute, especially Delia's classes. I checked my fear at the door and joined the party, a fiesta that seduced my tongue into frolicking among conjugations and tenses and through lush vocabulary fields.

More recently I have immersed myself in the story of Malintzin, Hernán Cortés's interpreter. She has been reviled for centuries and shoulders much of the blame for the Spaniards' conquest of Mexico. When my father heard she was the subject of my historical novel, he asked, "What are you writing about her for?"

Because I have to know her! Who was this woman who spoke Nahuatl -- the language of the Aztecs -- Maya, and Spanish? How was she able to bridge two fiery worlds? Language was her salvation and yet it was also her doom. I knew a little something about that.

My quest has not been an easy one, for Malintzin left us no words or writings of her own. And yet she lives. I hear her during the day and in the dark of night whispering her story to me.

I am a child of the red, white, and blue with dreams of what is possible still shining like starlight in my adult's eyes. And deep in my soul stands a gold-tipped eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus devouring a serpent. Así es. That's how it is.

Evan Bayh May Run For Governor Again

Wed, 2014-07-09 15:43
Former Indiana Governor and Senator Evan Bayh (D) said he hasn't ruled out running for governor again in 2016.

"I think it's less likely than more likely," Bayh told Howey Politics. "I haven’t ruled it out."

Bayh, a Fox News contributor, wrote of his decision to retire from Congress in a 2010 New York Times op-ed in which he panned the "institutional and cultural impediments" of the Senate.

Instead of going back to Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, where he lectured before winning his Senate seat, Bayh made a lucrative life for himself after Congress as a partner at the lobbying firm McGuireWoods, a senior advisor at Apollo Global Management and a member of the CIA's advisory board.

Bayh currently has $9.8 million in his inactive campaign account.

Bayh's potential opponent, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), is seen as a prospective 2016 presidential candidate.

Here's What Every Brazilian Soccer Fan Was Thinking During That Epic Beatdown

Wed, 2014-07-09 15:22
#RumoAoHexa... That's the hashtag Brazilians have been over-sharing on all (and I do mean ALL) social media platforms since the very beginning of the World Cup. The phrase loosely translates to "towards the sixth," meaning this year could have been the sixth time Brazil raised the coveted trophy. With five championships already, it would have put them two ahead of any other nation.

But things took a very dark, very sad turn on Tuesday during the semifinal game against Germany in Belo Horizonte. In just over 90 minutes, the dream that once was became a worldwide joke that will loom over the host country for the next few weeks, if not years or even decades.

It all started like this...

Once upon a time Brazilians were excited, nay thrilled, at the possibility of beating Germany and moving onto the final.

Some even contemplated spending an unfathomable amount of money on last-minute tickets to the game.

But most of us couldn't buy them, so we moved on. We dressed in green and yellow and shared stories about how nervous we were.

"We have to win!"

Some of us were of the opinion that Germany would win. Those people were bullied, yelled at and asked to sit in the corner.

Finally, game on. But sadly, Germany's Thomas Müller scored the first goal against Brazil in the 11th minute of the game.

WATCH: Scoring machine Thomas Muller's goal to put #GER up 1-0. #BRA might want to mark him »

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 8, 2014

Every Brazilian soccer fan thought: "It's all good. We needed that pressure, now let's tie this thing so we can win the game. We're still in this."

Then came Germany's second goal in the 23rd minute...

Remember when Miroslav Klose broke Ronaldo's all-time World Cup scoring record? Here it is if you need a reminder »

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 8, 2014

And Brazil stared in shock wondering, "What. Is. Happening? If they score a third, it's over."

And exactly one minute later, Germany's third goal came to ruin the hopes and dreams of every Brazilian in the world.

And just like that Brazil knew, "It's over. Let me get up off this chair and open up another beer, or five."

But the pain wasn't over. Germany scored five goals in the first 30 minutes of the game.

#GER passed #BRA for the most goals in World Cup history (221) during the first half. Here are all 5 goals »

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 8, 2014

And goals 2, 3, 4 and 5 were all made in a seven minute window, which is like, not embarrassing at all.

Then we cried. We cried quite a bit.

And we threw looks of disbelief as Germany scored two, yes two, more goals.

Yeah, this happened during the first half, we know. But this was the look on our faces pretty much throughout the entire game.

Let it be known that hearts and embarrassing world records were broken that day. The final score was 7-1.

If you want the honest truth, the memes started long before the game was even over.

BREAKING: Brazil's Christ the Redeemer statue right now.

— Football Funnys (@FootballFunnys) July 8, 2014

Screw this.. am outta Brazil. #BrazilvsGermany

— Gautam Trivedi (@Gotham3) July 8, 2014

And they just kept on coming!

Germany eat Brazil like Shark Attack
#GERvsBRA #WorldCup2014

— Mohammed Al Heidous (@MAlHeidous) July 8, 2014

Brazil vs Germany #SMACK

— Smack College™ NE (@SMACKCOLLEGE) July 8, 2014

Brazil as the game went on.. |

— 2014 World Cup (@2014WorIdCup) July 8, 2014

Colombians thought: "This is why you eliminated us?"


— Mundial 2014 Brasil (@Mundial2014TM) July 8, 2014

Yes, Colombia, there are no words.

Only tears and sad pouts on the face of an entire nation.

Please put at least some of these away Brazil... Do it for this guy

— Tommy Thompson (@tomthom11) July 8, 2014

And some very unhappy people who resorted to eating their flags.

So now Brazil says, "It's up to you Germany, please take this thing all the way to the championship."

Iconic “sad #BRA fan holding #WorldCup trophy” later handed that trophy off to a #GER fan:

— Neetzan Zimmerman (@neetzan) July 9, 2014

No seriously, we're all with you now.

Because our hearts can't take the thought of Argentina winning a World Cup in Brazil. We will not make it through if this happens.

That would make us crawl into a hole and cry for all eternity. Maybe.

Because we're coping, but we are NOT okay.

So if you see a Brazilian, give them a hug. Because we will surely #NeverForget the nightmare that was the semifinal against Germany.

How Hot Will Summer Be In Your City In 2100? (INTERACTIVE)

Wed, 2014-07-09 13:34

To embed this interactive, click the preferred size for the code: 720 x 700 | 600 x 583 | 550 x 535

Research Report by Climate Central

If it feels hot to you now in the dog days of this summer, imagine a time when summertime Boston starts feeling like Miami and even Montana sizzles. 

Thanks to climate change, that day is coming by the end of the century, making it harder to avoid simmering temperatures.

Summers in most of the U.S. are already warmer than they were in the 1970s. And climate models tell us that summers are going to keep getting hotter as greenhouse gas emissions continue. What will this warming feel like? Our new analysis of future summers illustrates just how dramatic warming is going to be by the end of this century if current emissions trends continue unabated.


Full Analysis & Methodology


Press Release



For our Blistering Future Summers interactive we have projected summer high temperatures for the end of this century for 1,001 cities, and then showed which city in the U.S. — or elsewhere in the world, if we couldn’t find one here — is experiencing those temperatures today. We’ve highlighted several striking examples on the interactive, but make sure to explore and find how much hotter summers will likely be in your city.

By the end of the century, assuming the current emissions trends, Boston’s average summer high temperatures will be more than 10°F hotter than they are now, making it feel as balmy as North Miami Beach is today. Summers in Helena, Mont., will warm by nearly 12°F, making it feel like Riverside, Calif.

In fact, by the end of this century, summers in most of the 1,001 cities we analyzed will feel like summers now in Texas and Florida (in temperatures only, not humidity). And in Texas, most cities are going to feel like the hottest cities now in the Lone Star State, or will feel more like Phoenix and Gilbert in Arizona, among the hottest summer cities in the U.S. today.

In some cases, summers will warm so dramatically that their best comparison is to cities in the Middle East. Take Las Vegas, for example. Summer highs there are projected to average a scorching 111°F, which is what summer temperatures are like today in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And at 114°F°, living in Phoenix will feel like summering in sweltering Kuwait City. 

On average, summer heat is projected to warm 7-10°F, though some cities will have summers 12°F warmer than they are now. As you explore the interactive, you’ll find that for cities in the Northwest, the Great Plains, the Midwest, and the Northeast, warming is best illustrated by a southward shift. In some cases, however, the shift is slightly northward and inland — for example, warming in coastal San Diego will make it feel like Lexington, Ky., — and represents more than a 6°F temperature increase.  

This analysis only accounts for daytime summer heat — the hottest temperatures of the day, on average between June-August — and doesn’t incorporate humidity or dewpoint, both of which contribute to how uncomfortable summer heat can feel. This projected warming also assumes greenhouse gas emissions keep increasing through 2080, just as they have been for the past several decades.

18 Artists You Need To Know Now That We're Halfway Through 2014

Wed, 2014-07-09 12:36
While we listed 20 artists that would make a name for themselves at the onset of 2014, there are always some who crop up in the first months that just couldn't have been predicted -- and, yes, some we just weren't paying attention to yet. Having just passed the halfway mark of the year, here are 18 artists that you need to know before 2014 gives way to 2015.

Alex Wiley

There’s something about Chicago lately that is producing some of the most unique additions to today’s hip-hop composite. Alex Wiley naturally draws a lot of comparisons to Chance The Rapper, but he has his own flow, and if he keeps putting out projects like his most recent, “Village Party,” he’s going to make his name known because he did it his way.

To Dream by Author

One listen through Author’s debut EP, “People Are Alike All Over,” and we knew there was something special about this group. A breed of genuine indie rock all too rare, the band is clearly a fan of acts like Copeland and Circa Survive. After a slight lineup change, the band recently finished recording their debut album at Glow in the Dark Studios, and if the one-off release of “To Dream” is any indication of the album’s sound, we are all in for a gorgeous treat.

Bad Suns

Bad Suns got their name out there after the swift rise of their song “Cardiac Arrest.” While it seemed likely that the band’s debut full-length would surround the single with mostly mundane three-minute cavities, “Language & Perspective” is intelligent, inspired and, most importantly, fun. Compare them to whomever you want because it doesn’t matter. It’s good from start to finish, and that can’t be said about many others.


There’s little more we can say to prove how enraptured we are with Bleachers. Jack Antonoff’s resume speaks for itself, and finally getting to see him create in solo just might top the list of anything he’s involved himself in. It’s safe to say that “Strange Desire” will be a part of our daily rotation through the rest of 2014, and then through 2015 and beyond.

Clean Bandit

While there’s no denying that Clean Bandit fits in nicely with the rest of EDM culture, the group manages to escape any labeling of “button pushers” with their classical inputs -- the instruments are played, not programmed. Tag on a melange of spectacular vocalists and a handful of well-crafted videos that take us to places foreign and exotic, and you’re going to be hard-pressed to find a reason not to love them.

Closure in Moscow

We’re just going to put this out there: You aren’t going to hear a rock record better or more distinctive this year than Closure in Moscow’s “Pink Lemonade.” Five years since their debut LP, the band has shed their post-hardcore rind for a far more technicolor cortex. Songs swerve between but are not limited to progressive, psychedelic, classic, funk and blues rock -- often intra-song. Two of the clearest influences are The Mars Volta and Led Zeppelin. “Pink Lemonade” is a shredding mammoth whose glory can only fully be realized by those who are ready to get hella weird on some dirty, dirty groove-action.


Cozz is the latest signing to J. Cole’s Dreamville imprint, and it only took one song with a video to spark a label shouting match. Gifted with the intelligence to understand that having the song is only one piece of the puzzle to success, Cozz’s highly anticipated “Cozz & Effect” mixtape and mentor in one of hip-hop’s finest are guarantees of a long and prosperous foothold in the game.

The Districts

The world first caught wind of The Districts after their performance of “Funeral Beds” went viral. After their self-titled debut EP premiered on Rolling Stone, listeners got a further examination into the young quartet’s promising mixture of indie rock, blues and folk. It won’t be long before The Districts become a festival priority for all attending.


There was the rise of Chvrches. There was the rise of Haim. Now, it’s time for the rise of NONONO. Don’t misinterpret: NONONO is definitely distinct from the aforementioned. 2013 marked the beginning of women emerging as the leaders of the most obsessed music acts, deserting the narrow highway of pop superstardom. NONONO is simply the next up to the bat, and they are here to kick some ass.


If the long-awaited release of My Bloody Valentine’s third album had you all jazzed up, your new favorite band is Nothing. Shoegaze infused with a punk ethos, Nothing’s debut, “Guilty of Everything” is a triumph in playing loud as hell and managing to sound beautiful at the same time.


It’s easy to compare a female-fronted pop-rock band to Paramore, but setting up such parameters significantly slights the immense potential of Pvris. Lynn Gunn is a force that cannot be denied, redolently poignant in both her most excitable and serene vocalizations. The first female-led signing of Rise Records, a label that has almost implausibly made metalcore music equally accessible and desirable, the label may have just made its smartest acquisition yet.


Every once in a while, an artist emerges from the ether, destined to challenge the comfort of prevailing musical standards. Raury’s banner jam, “God’s Whisper,” liberates itself from compartmentalization while forgoing all alienation that usually follows in such efforts. You might think you know what Raury is going to do next, but really, you have no idea.

Raz Simone

We’re just going to quote ourselves on this one: "Raz Simone is a man who is using vowels and consonants to find consonance in latitude. Eschewing the black and white for a more vibrant spectrum, the Seattle native’s debut LP expresses a mind forged from a convoluted past, unwinding toward a more lucid future.” There is a level of honesty and altruism that incandesces from Simone’s character. You can hear it in his music and you can feel it in conversation, and when you combine this with his talent and work ethic, you will want to do everything you can to ease his rise to the top.

This Wild Life

Since the rise of acts of like Dashboard Confessional and JamisonParker, there’s been a chasm in the indie/rock scene of emotionally driven acoustics. This Wild Life isn’t here for nostalgia’s sake. Stripping down even further than most of their predecessors, the duo’s debut LP radiates every emotion you’ve ever felt at the beginning and end of a relationship. Whether you think Warped Tour is still cool or not, This Wild Life is worth every second.

Tove Lo

It was the song “Habits,” and its Hippie Sabotage remix, that brought Tove Lo ("Too-va Loo”) into the media’s iris, paired with an appropriately dark video that winds through a self-operated bar tour. The Stockholm singer is a pop star ready to blow, having spent some time in the studio with Adam Lambert and prepping to open for Katy Perry in Australia later this fall, which is right around the time we should be receiving her debut, and most definitely breakthrough, LP.

Vic Mensa

Seriously, what can’t Vic Mensa do? He first came on the scene as the frontman of Kids These Days, a funky hip-hop collective that comfortably blended guitars with brass. Then he took on more typical hip-hop beats on his “Innanetape.” Now, his two most recent releases, “Down On My Luck” and “Major Payne,” Mensa is experimenting with disco and house as he prepares to release his “Streetlight” EP. Flow. For. Days.


Drawing comparisons to Sam Smith couldn’t be more valuable than it is at this very moment. A top priority of Island Records, Wrabel’s croons are marked by an intelligent balance of full voice and falsetto. Whether he’s singing atop pulsing electronics or wielding nothing but a set of keys, its impossible to knock the notion that Wrabel is made of the matter that strikes the heart of listeners across the board.

Your Old Droog

When you release an EP and the majority of people entertain the possibility that you might be a project conducted by Nas under an alias, there isn’t much else to be said. So we won’t.

How Much Do You REALLY Know About The World Cup? (QUIZ)

Wed, 2014-07-09 11:47
The World Cup has captivated the hearts of fans and patriots all around the world, whether or not they are truly devoted to soccer. But how knowledgeable are all those viewers (and you) about the tournament that has had everyone obsessed for the last few weeks?

While the United States may not be known for its futbol fanaticism, that's no reason not to brush up on your soccer trivia. So challenge yourself and see if you have the soccer knowledge of a champion. Click on the key icon after taking the quiz to reveal the answers.

Quiz widget by

<i>Life Itself</i>, the Film, the Book, and the Ebert <em>I</em> Knew

Wed, 2014-07-09 11:11

A very young Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun Times Features department

I saw Roger's movie last night.

I really didn't want to. In fact, I did not read Ebert's autobiography, Life Itself in its entirety when I received it from my old Sun Times friend and colleague.

I can't explain why.

It was a celebration of his life, but I felt it was also his way of saying goodbye, saying everything before he left us. And I didn't want to think about that -- still don't.

I had found my way back to him years after breaking ties with the life I'd known as a reporter. He had thrown me a little going away party back then, perturbed though he was about my choice to quit the Sun Times and move West with the man I loved.

He said he understood the need for a "lifestyle change." And at the time, I had no idea why he said it. Life Itself, in both book and movie form, explains that.

But I would not hear the story 'til we met again, via email, many years later. I cannot remember exactly how we got back in touch -- something I'd felt important enough to write to him about.

He was easy to reach. He answered almost anyone who wrote to him at his newspaper email address. He was always accessible that way -- a "man of the people."

And he responded quickly. Warmly. And with a remarkable story I wasn't expecting. A story that moved me to tears.

In short, he told me that hearing me laugh so happily every day at the Sun Times -- we sat "desk to desk" there -- had made him want to stop drinking. He wanted, he said, to feel as happy as I sounded.

I was a very young thing when I got that Sun Times gig. Very young chronologically and even younger in other ways -- a doted upon only child, as was he. But I had been sheltered from life. Roger had seized it, becoming a reporter at an astonishingly early age.

So by the time we met, he was older than me on many levels. King of the Features department, rushing in to type reviews at break neck speed. Reviews that would be poetic and letter-perfect -- no need for a second draft as a rule.

Arrogant as hell, yes. But also gregarious and generous. Liked black women -- we know that now. All women, really, but he seemed to like us a little more.

So I became a lunch/dinner companion -- not a lover. I think he was afraid to spoil the innocence he heard in my laughter. He did, however, take a deep and, as I discovered, lasting interest in me.

So when we began to exchange emails years later, we didn't talk about film or anything particularly lofty. We did talk about my writing, which he loved and promoted to the point that some other bloggers on one site complained that he was giving me an awful lot of free PR.

His response, when I told him about that, was, "That's true. Why wouldn't I? You're good."

Case closed.

I will remember him most, though, for the emails he sent me when I almost died before he did. I had developed Stevens Johnson Syndrome from the allopurinol I took for gout -- which I do not actually have, we know now.

He was alarmed by my blog posts about the pain and awful itching caused by the bright red rash that covers and eventually burns your body as if you'd been in an actual fire. So he checked in almost daily, once writing that my body was attacking itself. And that he knew what that was like.

We both seemed to be talking each other through that final leave-taking. But I recovered, with only a few small patches of scarring and discoloration.

Roger "lost" half of his face. When I saw him on the cover of Esquire, I was horrified. And then... prouder of him than I've been of almost anyone, ever. So while I was still covered with patches of itchy, oozy ugliness, I told myself that if Roger could handle that, surely I could handle my wounds.

I did.

And then, he died.

The day he died, I had a lunch meeting with another "old" friend. It took me a very long time to get out of the house and on my way. I was in an odd, unfocused fog.

And I'd had a dream about jumping off of this... huge flag pole sort of thing and flying. And then climbing back up, jumping off and flying like that, over and over again. It felt so wonderful that I resisted waking for a few minutes, wanting to soar some more.

Roger had flown away that very morning, too, apparently.

He had never met my daughter, as I'd wanted him to. I had never met Chaz, as he'd wanted me to. But somehow, that was all right. They both belonged to our "second lives."

Watching the film of his life, I was proud of the man on the screen and that second life he found. He was not quite the man I knew, but... I really did know, somehow, back then, that the man he would become was in there, getting ready for his "close up."

I am so grateful that I got to write about all that, and have him respond to it, publicly, before he died. I needed to tell him that as much as he had needed to tell me about my happy laughter.

Because the thing about Roger was... is... that if he cared about you, you knew you had somethin'. I took that with me wherever I went. I still take it wherever I go.

It made me do brave and sometimes foolish things. Both usually paid off. I owe him 'way too much to put into words.

The film is wonderful. The man was magnificent. And he is much missed by millions -- in his case, that is not an exaggeration. I think he still gets more fan mail than a lot of living celebs do.

Deserves every message.

See Life Itself.

You'll understand why.

Image credit: Photo given to author for use in publications by Roger Ebert

Two More Gored At The Running Of The Bulls

Wed, 2014-07-09 07:26
PAMPLONA, Spain (AP) — Fighting bulls gored an American and a Spaniard in a hair-raising third running of the bulls Wednesday at Spain's San Fermin festival.

A Navarra regional government statement said the American, a 32-year-old from Chicago identified only by his initials B.H., was gored in the right thigh. It said the injury was serious but not life-threatening. British journalist Alexander Fiske-Harrison said the American was his friend and co-author Bill Hillmann, a longtime Pamplona bull-runner who has written about the festival. Hillmann underwent surgery "but he is doing well," Fiske-Harrison wrote on his blog.

In addition, a 35-year-old Spaniard with the initials J.R.P was in serious condition after being gored in the chest, the government statement said.

Three other Spaniards who fell during the run were being treated in Pamplona hospitals for their injuries.

Several thousand people, many dressed in the traditional white with red neckerchiefs, took part in the nationally televised 8 a.m. run in which they race six fighting bulls and accompanying steer along a 930-yard (850-meter) course from a holding pen to Pamplona's bull ring.

Tension soared when one bull got separated from the pack in the final 100 meters and tried to charge runners on all sides.

Fifteen people have died from gorings since record-keeping began in 1924. Dozens of people are injured each year in the runs, most of them in falls.

The bulls are invariably killed in afternoon bullfights.

The nine-day street party was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" and attracts thousands of foreign tourists every year.


Giles contributed from Madrid

18 Structures That Prove Chicago Is America's Best Architectural City

Wed, 2014-07-09 07:00
Chicago is home to some of the best architecture known to man, and now it wants the world to know.

Using Italy's Venice Biennale of Architecture as a model, the city recently announced a major architectural exhibition of its own, set to kick off in October of 2015. If the three-month-long Chicago Architecture Biennial is a success, it will return every two years, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The inspiration is full-circle. Michelle Boone, commissioner of Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, told the Tribune that the Venice Biennial was born from the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, which was housed in stunning Beaux Arts buildings designed by prominent American architects.

"The mayor of Venice came to Chicago, saw (the exposition), and said, 'Italy is too consumed with its past. We must be about the future,'" she explained.

The Windy City no longer boasts the tallest skyscraper in America, ever since One World Trade Center in New York controversially claimed that honor last fall. But with so much stunning architecture it doesn't really matter: No matter how many vanity inches other structures stack on, size has nothing on the Windy City's style. These 18 buildings are proof positive that when it comes to American architecture, Chicago is on top of the world.

Pavillion at Lincoln Park Zoo South Pond (Studio Gang Architects)

Marina City (Bertrand Goldberg)

The Rookery (Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham, John Wellborn Root)

The Carbide and Carbon Building (Daniel Burnham Jr., Hubert Burnham)

Inland Steel Building (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Robie House (Frank Lloyd Wright)

Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co. building (Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham)

Lake Point Tower (John Heinrich, George Schipporeit)

Chicago Cultural Center (Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge)

Aqua Tower (Studio Gang Architects)

Museum of Science and Industry (Charles Atwood and Daniel Burnham)

Tribune Tower (Raymond Hood, John Mead Howells, John Vinci)

Crain Communications (formerly Smurfit Stone) Building (Sheldon Schlegman)

Pritzker Pavillion (Frank Gehry)

Sears Tower (What, did you really think we'd call it "Willis"?) (Fazlur Khan and Bruce Graham/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Crown Hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago (Mies van der Rohe)

John Hancock Center (Fazlur Khan and Bruce Graham/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

35 East Wacker "Jeweler's Building" (Joachim G. Giaver and Frederick P. Dinkelberg)

Why Collective Bargaining Is a Fundamental Human Right

Wed, 2014-07-09 06:45
The ability for ordinary working people to organize and collectively bargain over their wages and working conditions is a fundamental human right. It is a right just as critical to a democratic society as the right to free speech and the right to vote.

Over the last 30 years many in corporate America and the big Wall Street banks have conducted a sustained attack on that human right. Unionization dropped from 20.1 percent of the workforce in 1983 to 11. 3 percent in 2013 -- and the results are there for everyone to see.

During that period productivity and Gross Domestic Product per capita both increased by roughly 80 percent in America. But the wages of ordinary Americans have remained stagnant. Virtually all of the fruits of that increased productivity have gone to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans.

No wonder the gang on Wall Street opposes unions.

That fact that all of the productivity gains went to the top 1 percent is not the result of an immutable law of nature. When unions represented a quarter of the private sector workforce, a larger and larger percentage of the total economic pie flowed into the pockets of ordinary Americans -- and the result was the world's most vibrant middle class.

The simple fact is that absent government regulation and collective bargaining agreements, the market by itself does not assure that everyone shares in the fruits of society's increased economic productivity. In fact, we know that just the opposite is true.

This is not surprising. The power relationship between the owners of capital and millions of individual employees is completely imbalanced in favor of big corporations and banks.

Everyone with a modicum of employment experience knows that most ordinary employees cannot individually "bargain" over their wages. In order to have a negotiation between two equal partners, employees must organize unions and bargain collectively. Otherwise the wages of everyday Americans will continue to stagnate, and the wealth of the 1 percent will continue to explode.

The share of income of the top one-thousandth of the population increased from 2 percent to nearly 10 percent in the last several decades. The portion of income received by the top 10 percent went from 33 percent in 1970 to 47 percent in 2010. These are the highest levels of income inequality since the '20s.

And the concentration of wealth in the hands of the very rich is higher today than at any time since before the Great Depression. The top 10 percent now owns over 70 percent of all wealth. The top 1 percent owns almost 35 percent of all wealth -- while the bottom 50 percent owns 2 percent.

Left to itself, the laissez faire market place would naturally lead to even more concentration of income and wealth in the hands of the very rich. And that would mean that the economy as a whole would almost certainly stagnate and crash once again.

That's because it is economic common sense that if ordinary workers produce more and more products and services per hour, but their wages don't go up in proportion to their increased productivity -- there will be more and more products and services, but no customers with the money in their pockets to buy all of those new products and services.

That's a simple truism that Henry Ford understood when he vowed to pay his workers enough so they could afford to buy the cars they produced.

Democratic societies cannot long endure this increasing inequality. And there are only two effective treatments for the cancer of increasing inequality:

  • Government action -- increases in the minimum wage and a return to fair tax rates on the wealthy -- and especially on the accumulation of capital;

  • A massive increase in the percentage of the labor force that exercises its right to collectively bargain its wages.

Last week, the United States Supreme Court made a decision actually aimed at weakening the human right to collectively bargain wages and working conditions. Their decision held that home care workers -- who were miserably exploited before they joined a union just 10 years ago -- could not be "forced" to pay a "fair share" contribution to support the collective bargaining that had resulted in doubling of their pay.

In fact, of course, this decision had nothing whatsoever to do with the freedom of the home care workers to opt out of paying union dues. It had everything to do with trying to weaken public sector unions that are the only portion of the labor movement that has materially grown (to represent 35 percent of the public sector work force) over the last 30 years.

It is completely fair that workers who choose a union to represent them with a democratic vote should also be obligated to pay for the cost of negotiating and administering a labor contract. The same, after all, is true of ordinary citizens who democratically elect a city government. Even if you voted against the Mayor and city council, you still have to pay taxes to the city. Otherwise lots of people would simply enjoy the benefits of receiving the public goods produced by city government -- or a union contract -- without paying their share of the costs.

This Supreme Court case was brought by the National "Right to Work" Committee -- whose goal is a "union-free environment." Their contributors include some of the wealthiest people in America who want to continue to be able to siphon off all of the increases in productivity in our economy without being required to share anything with ordinary Americans or pay a living wage. They understand that their best bet to achieve that goal is to limit the right to collective bargaining. Luckily ordinary Americans are waking up to their game.

Last year the number of private sector workers in unions rose by 281,000 over the year previous. Unfortunately, this increase was partially offset by a reduction of 118,000 public sector workers in unions. The public sector decline resulted from political actions by Republican State Legislators and Governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin -- which helps explain why the National Right to Work Committee is so keen on weakening public sector unions.

But public sector unions are organizing to push back with aggressive new organizing drives to enlist more rank and file workers. And in the private sector we've seen massive new organizing campaigns -- especially in the service sector that is the fastest growing component of the economy. For example, fast food workers have organized the "fight for $15" per hour and a union.

And there is now a robust national campaign to raise the minimum wage that is supported by almost 70 percent of Americans.

Increasingly, ordinary Americans understand who is on their side -- and who is not.

Luckily for American working people, the Supreme Court's decision will likely only strengthen the resolve of an increasingly creative labor movement to assert the right to collective bargaining -- and to demand that ordinary people once again begin receiving a fair share of the fruits of America's growing productivity.

According to Bloomberg News, the nation's 100 top paid CEO's make from 299 to 1,795 times as much as their average employees. One of them actually makes $65,000 per hour. These numbers have skyrocketed over the last 30 years.

Bruce Rauner, who is running for Governor in Illinois, proudly describes himself as being part of the .01 percent. He made $25,000 per hour in 2012 -- and then had the audacity to propose that the Illinois minimum wage of $8.25 be reduced to the current national minimum wage of $7.25. So much for a sense of perspective from the CEO class.

Some pundits and columnists have bought the notion that is propagated by these CEO's that labor unions are "so 20th century." Oh, they say, we might have needed unions at one time to address problems like child labor and 80-hour work weeks -- but not in the modern "information" age.

It is of course true that organized labor not only massively increased salaries for ordinary employees through collective bargaining. Unions also organized for -- and won -- the minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, the weekend, paid sick days, vacation pay, and an end to child labor. In other words, labor unions brought America the middle class.

Now the middle class is in jeopardy, precisely because of the Wall Street's war on collective bargaining.

In fact, given the skyrocketing inequality in the distribution of the fruits of an increasingly productive economy, it should to be clear to anyone who is mildly conscious that we need labor unions and collective bargaining now more than ever.

America is richer now than at any time in its history. It is the wealthiest society in the history of humanity. But the wages of most ordinary people have not increased for 30 years. Time to wake up and smell the coffee -- and do something about it.

America needs a massive new social movement to demand that every worker in every job have the right to organize collectively. Every worker should have the right to be in a union in exactly the same way that every American has the right to vote. That is the only way to empower ordinary people to effectively demand their fair share of the fruits of our economy.

The right to freedom of association - and to collectively bargain wages and working conditions -- is a foundational principle of every democratic society on earth. That right is rooted in the United States' Bill of Rights, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations, Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labour Organization, and Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It's time for us to make the right to join a union and bargain collectively the keystone of the progressive agenda.

After all, collective bargaining is the fundamental cure to the growing inequality that threatens to destroy the middle class and eats away at the very foundation of our democratic society.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on He is a partner in Democracy Partners and a Senior Strategist for Americans United for Change. Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer.

Cook County Jail Visitor Trapped For 31 Hours In Maximum Security Area

Wed, 2014-07-09 03:37
A man visiting his son at a Chicago jail was trapped in a maximum security area for about 31 hours when a door closed behind him and locked, according to reports.

The man, who has not been identified, was told to walk down a hall and turn right when he visited the Cook County Jail on Saturday evening. He followed the directions, which led to a door that had been propped open, but it was the wrong room. This room was for visiting maximum security prisoners, and it was under renovation.

"He went into that room through two steel doors, both of which shut behind him and he was locked in," Cara Smith, executive director of the jail, told WLS in Chicago.

Since the room contained stools and partitions for visiting prisoners, the man began to wait for his son, who is facing drug charges.

"After about two hours he realized he was in the wrong room," Smith said.

That's when his ordeal really began.

The man banged on the doors, but no one could hear him.

“There’s about two feet of cement and two steel doors between him and the outside,” Smith told the Chicago Sun-Times.

And because the room was being renovated and not in use on the weekend, no one checked -- and no one seemed to notice that a visitor who had signed in had never signed out.

Eventually, the man spotted the room's sprinkler system.

“Brilliantly, he broke the sprinkler head off which alerted the fire department so they were able to identify where it was coming from and they went in and found him," Smith told the Chicago Tribune.

The man suffered cuts to his thumb and needed stitches, but otherwise was healthy after the ordeal that lasted from about 6 p.m. on Saturday until 1 a.m. on Monday, Smith said.

“We’re been looking at how and why and what went wrong," Smith told the Tribune. “Multiple things obviously failed including a contractor leaving a door open while they did work in our jail. It was a perfect storm of circumstances that led to this horrible incident."

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Terminal Cancer Patient Can't Use Illness As A Defense In Iowa Marijuana Trial

Tue, 2014-07-08 18:52
An Iowa terminal cancer patient showed up to court Tuesday wrapped in a blanket, still wearing hospital identification wristbands, to testify at his trial on felony marijuana charges. He's been barred from a defense that explains the marijuana was to relieve his aggressive and rare cancer of the blood vessels.

Benton Mackenzie, 48, faces up to five years in prison if he's convicted of marijuana manufacturing and conspiracy for growing plants he says he used to make canabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis, to treat his tumors.

Quad City Times reporter Brian Wellner first reported on Mackenzie's return to court Tuesday and tweeted courtroom photos of Mackenzie wrapped in a blanket:

BREAKING: Benton Mackenzie testifying at his #marijuana trial.

— Brian Wellner (@brianwellner) July 8, 2014

Mackenzie sat in a wheelchair, during some court proceedings:

"I'm not getting a fair trial," Benton Mackenzie says during break at his #marijuana trial.

— Brian Wellner (@brianwellner) July 8, 2014

Mackenzie was rushed out of Scott County District Court on Monday to a hospital after complaining of extreme pain and hallucinations. He suffers from severe angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer of the blood vessels that produces large skin lesions. His family said he was treated for anemia and other symptoms overnight, Quad City Times reported.

District Judge Henry Latham in May barred Mackenzie from using his condition as a defense for growing marijuana, The Associated Press reported.

Mackenzie has said he's been threatened with jail if he discloses his medical condition in court.

Mackenzie on Tuesday filed a motion arguing that a law that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed in May that legalizes the use of CBD oil to treat epilepsy should protect his use of the oil. The new law, however, focuses narrowly on treatment for "intractable epilepsy" and does not apply to Mackenzie, Latham ruled Tuesday.

"The change in law benefits only a small group of Iowans with the most organized lobbying efforts," Des Moines Register editorial board wrote over the weekend. "Other sick Iowans should have legal access to marijuana extracts, too. These include people with painful and debilitating conditions like cancer, spinal cord injuries and severe arthritis, who may benefit from the drug. But if these people obtain cannabis oil, they will still be considered criminals in this state."

Mackenzie's trial is likely to end Friday, Linda Bowman, the judicial trial court supervisor at the Scott County Clerk's Office, told The Huffington Post on Monday.

"If I'm found guilty at all, I'm a dead man," Mackenzie told Quad-City in May.

Photos documenting Mackenzie's legal case and his cancerous lesions have been posted to the "Free Benton Mackenzie" Facebook page.

Mackenzie's wife wrote on Facebook that his condition has worsened in the last several months. View a photo from July 4, here, just days before he was taken from the courthouse to the hospital. WARNING, PHOTOS ARE GRAPHIC.

Mackenzie was arrested in 2013, after local authorities seized 71 marijuana plants during a raid of his parents' home in Long Grove, Iowa.

Mackenzie; his wife Loretta; his son Cody, 22; and his parents, Charles, 76, and Dorothy, 75, were charged with an array of drug crimes, including hosting a drug house and conspiracy to grow and sell marijuana, the Washington Times reported. The trial for Mackenzie, his wife and their son began in early July.

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy in 2010 unanimously recommended that the state legislature legalize medical marijuana. This year, after several failed attempts to legalize the drug, the board's chairman said during a hearing that the organization lacks the authority to establish a medical marijuana program in the state, but sympathizes with the Iowa voters seeking legalization. State lawmakers need to make a decision on the matter, the chairman said.

Iowa continues to lack a medical marijuana framework. To date, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. Marijuana in any form remains illegal under federal law.

Meanwhile, Iowa voters overwhelmingly support medical marijuana. A recent poll found 81 percent favor legalization.

Nancy Rish Seeks Clemency For Burying Man Alive

Tue, 2014-07-08 17:59
CHICAGO (AP) — Tearful relatives appealed for clemency Tuesday for an Illinois woman they say was wrongly convicted nearly three decades ago of taking part in in a macabre kidnap-for-ransom plot in which a businessman was lured from his home and buried alive.

Testifying before the Illinois Prisoner Review Board in Chicago, Nancy Rish's supporters described her as a woman ensnared in an abusive relationship with the drug dealer who concocted the 1987 kidnapping of Kankakee businessman Stephen Small. They said she knew nothing of her boyfriend's plans even as he had her pick him up from the remote, wooded burial site and drive him between phone booths where he made ransom calls. "She doesn't have it in her to do something so horrendous," Rish's sister Lori Guimond told the panel, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Small was a member of a prominent media family from Kankakee, in eastern Illinois, and a great-grandson of Len Small, Illinois' governor in the 1920s. He was buried alive in a plywood box under several feet of sand and suffocated when a crudely fashioned breathing tube running to the surface failed before a ransom could be paid.

Rish's boyfriend, Daniel Edwards, told police after his arrest that he acted alone, but he did not say that at trial as he fought to avoid the death penalty. Now, having abandoned his own appeals, Edwards has provided two affidavits stating that he alone committed the crime and concealed his plans from Rish.

Assistant Illinois Attorney General Erin O'Connell told the review board the state still firmly believes Rish was a willing participant.

"There's been some suggestion that what happened to her was horrible, but let's be more direct: Stephen Small was buried alive," O'Connell said. "He was buried alive because Nancy Rish and Danny Edwards wanted to coerce $1 million from his family."

The panel could vote within weeks. If clemency is recommended, Gov. Pat Quinn would have no deadline for a decision.

Edwards put Small in the box with water, candy bars and a light. He recorded a message from Small in which the terrified man asks his wife to deliver $1 million to his kidnapper with the plea, "It's no joke. I'm inside ... a box. Grave." Edwards played the recording into the phone during ransom calls.

Besides the affidavits from Edwards, the clemency petition details missteps by Rish's trial attorneys. It says her lawyers, to the detriment of her defense, instructed her not to testify about conversations with Edwards, including her repeated demands to know what was going on and his violent refusals.

The petition also accuses prosecutors of withholding information and misstating facts. It mentions the prosecution's assertion at trial that Rish had made the first call to lure Small from his house, even though Small's son, who first picked up the phone, told police still searching for a suspect that it was a man's voice.

In one of several victim impact letters filed with the review board, Small's son, Ramsey, now refers to Rish having made that call.

Rish's attorney, Margaret Byrne, challenged that.

"I would just like to state respectfully that the evidence does not support what Mr. Small says," she told the panel.

Members of the Small family did not attend.

Rish's son from an earlier marriage was 8 when she was arrested. Now 36 and with two sons of his own, he is hopeful.

"It's time for her to come home," he said in an interview before the hearing. "I see her being a grandmother to my children, I see her taking care of her elderly mother and just being back with her family. That's all we want."

How A Family's Lack Of Access To Medical Marijuana Morphed Into A Messy Legal Feud

Tue, 2014-07-08 17:56
A family's desperation for access to medical marijuana is at the heart of a "nightmare" feud that has wound its way through Illinois courts.

Like so many parents of chronically or terminally ill children, Jennifer Scherr was willing to go to great lengths for access to medical marijuana that could ease the suffering of her dying 7-year-old daughter, Liza.

The Chicago mother found cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabis-derived compound used to treat epilepsy and cancer, to be prohibitively expensive. She began growing her own marijuana to extract the oil herself, according to a complaint that last week reached the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Court records say Scherr was aided by her father-in-law Curtis Scherr, a Chicago cop who helped her grow the marijuana in her basement. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Curtis Scherr went so far as to supply everything from special growing lights to intel on how to avoid police detection.

The family members allegedly started the basement crop in 2011, before the passage of Illinois' medical marijuana pilot program and a recently-passed bill granting sick children access to medical marijuana-based treatment.

When Liza succumbed to a brain tumor in 2012, court documents indicate disagreements over funeral arrangements sparked a feud between the family members. Days later, DEA agents searched Jennifer Scherr's home at the behest of her father-in-law.

In his application for a search warrant for his daughter-in-law's home, Scherr did not disclose his relationship with Jennifer or his role in the growing operation, according to court records.

Though the DEA's search came up empty -- Jennifer Scherr said she discarded the marijuana plants immediately after Liza's death -- she filed a federal lawsuit against her father-in-law, a second police officer, and the City of Chicago, accusing them of violating her Fourth Amendments rights against unreasonable searches by setting the raid in motion.

Jennifer Scherr's lawsuit was tossed by a U.S. District Judge last year, who found that motivation was irrelevant to the fact Scherr had indeed maintained an illegal growing operation. The U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the decision last week, but was sympathetic enough to suggest Scherr might try her luck pursuing a state claim against her father-in-law for intentional infliction of emotional distress, Reason reports.

"There is little doubt (always assuming the truth of the allegations in the complaint) that Curtis Scherr intended to inflict severe emotional distress on his daughter-in-law and succeeded in doing so,” wrote Judge Richard Posner, who described Scherr's behavior as "atrocious."

Smell the Bacon Frying? Here Are 5 State Pork Projects That Could Burn You Up

Tue, 2014-07-08 16:12

The state budget passed by Springfield and signed into law by Pat Quinn is a tight budget, to say the least. Lawmakers have even admitted there isn't enough revenue in the budget to cover all the day-to-day costs.

Those are necessary day-to-day costs, mind you. There's not enough money coming in to fund those. So of course it figures lawmakers were able to slip in five pet projects into the budget. In politics, those projects are known as pork.

Two of the lawmakers who are bringing home the pork to their home districts are House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton. We've got the five pork projects included in the state budget, including the ones specific to Madigan and Cullerton, plus the one piece of pork Quinn cut out of the budget.

Speaking of Madigan, the Tribune received a copy of an ethics investigation made into Madigan and his patronage practices, specifically with Metra. We've summarized the piece for you.

No, Millennials Aren't Obsessed With Hooking Up

Tue, 2014-07-08 14:44
Whaddaya know, another group of non-millennials talking about how college students are engaging in a non-existent hook up culture.

The most recent exhibition occurred at an Aspen Ideas Festival panel on how college students date held last week, in which three AIF panelists and their moderator debated why traditional dating has become so unpopular among “kids these days," without any millennial representation.

According to a write up of the panel from The Atlantic, author Rachel Greenwald insisted "Romance has gone the way of cursive handwriting." Yale University lecturer Erika Christakis suggested Ivy League students don't care for dating anymore. Lori Gottlieb, author of "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough," said this was all because millennials were coddled by their parents.

Christakis, a 1986 Harvard graduate, lamented how students' dating lives today are "such a different experience than my college experience."

Hm, let's go to the research.

According to a 20-year study of 5,000 college students by University of Maine professor Sandra L. Caron, when it comes to sex in college, Gen Y and Gen X are nearly one in the same.

Over two decades, "the incidence of a student having five or more partners has remained relatively unchanged … Today's college students may think they're unique, but the data shows that the incidence of 'hooking up' -– or what used to be referred to as 'casual sex' -– has remained steady.”

University of Portland research corroborates that study.

"In light of the recent explosion of research concerning the hookup culture on college campuses, it is important to note that sexual behavior among contemporary college students has not changed greatly over the past two and a half decades. The alarmist concerns that 'easy sex is rampant on college campuses today' are not justified," wrote Martin A. Monto and Anna G. Carey, of the University of Portland.

In fact, Generation Y'ers would rather be in a relationship than have several one-night stands, according to research conducted by University of Michigan sociologist Elizabeth Armstrong, who studied students in a freshman dorm at Indiana University for one year.

Armstrong told Rolling Stone earlier this year that the theory "every single generation is more promiscuous than the last... just isn't true."

At IvyGate, a real-live millennial explained the "real reasons" why Harvard students are choosing not to date, stating bluntly: "You assholes keep telling us millennials aren't serious enough so we're focusing on serious things like class and shit instead of dates."

If anything has changed, according to Caron's research, it's that millennials are better at practicing safe sex than the previous generation. Students today are more likely to use birth control medication and condoms.

Despite all the evidence, it seems the message isn't getting through. How many faulty panel discussions and New York Times articles must we endure before learning that millennials are not a hook up generation?

Maybe if Gen X'ers stopped debating and started listening, they'd finally get it.

Rev. Jesse Jackson: Chicago Needs A 'Reconstruction Plan'

Tue, 2014-07-08 13:59
Amid reports of yet another young life lost to gun violence in Chicago, the Rev. Jesse Jackson called the surge of shootings in the city over the Fourth of July weekend "a national disgrace" that spotlights the need for "a reconstruction plan" for its most poverty-stricken areas.

In an interview with WGN on Monday evening, Jackson said the city is in "a state of emergency" after the closing of 50 of its public schools, the shuttering of dozens upon dozens of grocery and drug stores and a growth in the number of vacant lots, particularly on the city's south and west sides where much of the weekend's violence occurred.

"We need not just more policemen, but more teachers and more coaches and some plan for an economic reconstruction," he said. "There's nothing wrong with the people, the structure must change."

The civil rights leaders' comments echo those he made in a statement distributed Monday evening by the Rainbow Push Coalition wherein Jackson stated: "We have a plan for reconstruction in Iraq, Afghanistan and other dangerous zones, but there is no plan for reconstruction in our hometown of Chicago! In the meantime, we live in horror until next Monday's body count. We deserve better."

In response to the violent holiday weekend -- during which more than 60 people were wounded and 11 killed in shootings -- Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said lax gun sentencing laws were playing a major role in the continued bloodshed. Mayor Rahm Emanuel called on all the city's residents to "take a stand" against violence.

The shooting death of 19-year-old Jaynisha Scheffer on Monday marked Chicago's 200th homicide this year, according to the RedEye's Homicide Tracker. Eight other people were wounded in non-fatal shootings in Chicago on Monday night, the Tribune reported.

Homicides in Chicago through the first six months of the year were down compared to 2013, but the number of shootings had increased over last year.

Chicago Moves One Step Closer To A $13 Minimum Wage

Tue, 2014-07-08 13:01
Chicago's minimum wage workers should be earning $13 dollars an hour by 2018, according to the recommendation of the city's minimum wage task force.

The Minimum Wage Working Group, a panel created earlier this year by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, voted 13-3 on Monday in favor of a plan to gradually increase the city's minimum wage of $8.25 an hour by roughly a dollar per year until it hits $13 by 2018.

The panel's report said the wage raise would increase earnings for 31 percent of Chicago workers, according to the Sun-Times. The report also concluded the hike could increase other costs like food, health care, retail and hospitality by up to 2 percent.

The votes fell along clear dividing lines between representatives of labor and business groups: City councilmen, community leaders and labor groups voted in favor of the wage raise while representatives from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Chicago Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Restaurant Association voted against it, the Chicago Tribune reports.

"Increasing the largest expense on a retailer's balance sheet by 57.5 percent over four years is not sustainable or affordable," Rob Karr, president of the Chicago Retail Merchants Association, said in a released statement. "Given the many borders Chicago shares with other communities, Chicago employers will not be able to simply increase prices or they will wind up closing down as their customers seek lower prices a few short blocks away."

At least one labor group criticized the recommendation for not being high enough.

"Any recommendation that is less than $15 is an insult to the hundreds of fast food workers that have risked their jobs and made sacrifices for the well-being of this city," the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago said in a statement.

The labor group is behind the "Fight For 15" campaign that has demonstrated dozens of times at fast food and retail outlets around the nation, including a recent protest at McDonald's suburban Chicago headquarters. According to a living wage model developed at MIT, an adult with one child in the Chicago metro area needs to make $20.86 an hour working full time just to achieve a living wage that covers basic expenses.

Illinois' minimum wage is already a dollar higher than the federal rate of $7.25 an hour, though Gov. Pat Quinn (D) supports a further state-wide increase. Residents will vote in November on a non-binding advisory measure asking if the state's minimum wage should be increased to $10 an hour.

In Chicago, the task force has recommended tabling action on the city's wage increase until after the November election.