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5 Fun Festivals You'd Only Find in Illinois

Fri, 2015-04-03 13:45
Illinoisans have no shortage of fun festivals from which to choose when planning a good weekend. Traditional festivals such as world-class concerts, food tasting, holiday marts and county fairs proliferate through every season. But what to do when a hot dog and a cover band just won't cut it anymore? Check out these 16 highly unusual Illinois festivals throughout the state.

Popeye Picnic



Chester

Sept. 11-13, 2015

Illinois' Green Party comes together for a "can of spinach in every cabinet." The festival includes a 5K run, characters, food, games, a pet show and the Olive Oyl Cafe and is put on every year the weekend after Labor Day. 2015's festival will be the 34th annual picnic.

International Horseradish Festival



Collinsville

June 5-7, 2015

Held in the horseradish capital of the world, the International Horseradish Festival. The festival's website explains that the gathering offers an opportunity for Illinoisans and visitors alike to taste the root plan, which is related to the mustard seed. Festival-goers can experience the creation of horseradish themselves by watching a root grinding demonstration. The festival also offers hot air balloon rides, a 5k race, live music, Bloody Mary contests and the Little Miss Horseradish Festival Pageant.

Superman Celebration



Metropolis

June 11-14, 2015

Superman festival goers can attend a film festival, meet celebrity guests and enjoy musical and comedic performances. In 2014, the festival featured a tent dedicated to kids' activities, a filmmaking museum, a pie-eating contest, karaoke and a baseball game. The town is home to a Superman statue and Lois Lane statue, both of which are available for pictures.

Cobden Peach Festival



Cobden

August 7-8, 2015

To celebrate the local peach harvest, Cobden residents invite visitors to come enjoy the juicy fruits. The festival also includes games, rides, a 5K race, parade and the Miss Peach Queen Pageant. Plus, festivalgoers enjoy peach dishes such as peach pie and peach cobbler. 2015's festival will be the 78th annual celebration.

Turkey Testicle Festival



Byron

Fall 2015

This festival's slogan is "Have a Ball." It's held at several area bars, with admission $5 ahead of time and $10 at the door. The festival features live music, DJs and t-shirts. Each bar serves a special menu of food, including "turkey nuts" for $5. 2015's festival will be its 37th annual celebration.

Check out the 2015 dates and descriptions of more unique Illinois festivals, including the Garlic Fest in Highwood and the Shrimp Festival in Golconda.

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Congressmen Say DOJ's Interpretation Of Their Medical Marijuana Amendment Is 'Emphatically Wrong'

Fri, 2015-04-03 12:58
The lawmakers behind a recent congressional amendment protecting medical marijuana operations in states where the drug is legal strongly rebuked the Department of Justice for trying to continue to crack down on some medical marijuana businesses.

DOJ spokesman Patrick Rodenbush told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that the department believes the law only stops it from "impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws," but that it is still allowed to prosecute individuals and organizations for selling, cultivating, distributing or using the drug.

But Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.), the co-sponsors of the historic amendment that prohibits the DOJ from using funds to go after state-legal medical marijuana programs, told The Huffington Post that the department is incorrect in its understanding of the law.

"The congressman believes the amendment's language is perfectly clear and that the DOJ's self-referential interpretation is emphatically wrong," said Rohrabacher spokesman Ken Grubs.

Farr also had strong words for the DOJ.

“The Justice Department’s interpretation of the amendment defies logic," he said. "No reasonable person thinks prosecuting patients doesn’t interfere with a state’s medical marijuana laws. Lawyers can try to mince words but Congress was clear: Stop going after patients and dispensaries.”

Farr also took to Twitter to criticize the DOJ's view of the law:

@billjpiper, @TheJusticeDept lawyers can try to parse words but Congress was clear: Stop wasting funds/resources prosecuting patients!

— Congressman Sam Farr (@RepSamFarr) April 2, 2015


The DOJ did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Although the DOJ has slowed its crackdown of medical marijuana, it continues to target some dispensaries, including multiple shops in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In February, the congressmen, along with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), wrote a letter publicly condemning the DOJ for "overstepping its bounds" by trying to shut down the Oakland, California-based Harborside Health Center -- widely considered to be the largest and one of the most well-respected medical marijuana dispensaries in the nation.

"The Justice Department is ignoring the will of the voters, defying Congress, and breaking the law," Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement Thursday. "President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder need to rein in this out-of-control agency."

To date, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and an additional 12 have legalized limited medical use of nonpsychoactive cannabis extracts, which are often used to treat children with severe epilepsy. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana.

The $1.1 trillion federal spending bill signed by President Barack Obama in December contained the measure that protects medical marijuana operations.

Under the Obama administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration and several U.S. attorneys have raided marijuana dispensaries and sent people to prison, even though they complied with state laws. According to a 2013 report released by advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, the Obama administration has spent nearly $80 million each year -- more than $200,000 per day -- cracking down on medical marijuana.

The American public overwhelmingly support the use of medical marijuana: A 2014 CBS News poll found 86 percent of Americans believe doctors should be able to prescribe marijuana to their patients.

Despite the public's support and congressional amendment's protections for medical marijuana, the federal government continues to classify the plant among the most "dangerous" substances, alongside heroin and LSD, with "no currently accepted medical use."

Michael Irvin Is All Of Us On A Friday

Fri, 2015-04-03 12:42


We could explain what's going on here, but it doesn't really matter.

Illinois's pensions system saw one important change in 1989

Fri, 2015-04-03 11:24


Excerpt from pension history section of General Assembly's 2015 report on condition of Illinois pension systems.

Eventually, this debt's going to come due, folks. So, you know, realize that in this bill there are all kinds of windows that have been opened for all kinds of people... special situations that everybody around here has asked for. But the fact of the matter is, that doesn't cost much. What really costs the money is the 3 percent compounding. I have no objection to it, if you want to set aside a billion dollars to pay pension benefits, But if you don't, then maybe you'd better back off a little bit.

State Sen. Calvin Schuneman, R-Prophetstown, June 30, 1989


It's been nearly 26 years since Sen. Calvin Schuneman, R-Prophetstown, tried to warn his colleagues in Springfield that what was being treated as an innocuous adjustment in public pension rules was a disaster waiting to happen.

On June 30, 1989, the Illinois Senate debated Senate Bill 95, a mammoth, "omnibus" pension bill that made more than 100 changes to the state pension code. For taxpayers, public employees and the five public pension systems controlled by state government, however, the bill made one change that, arguably, set the course for the pension crisis that plagues the state today.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

Illinois State Rep. Tom Morrison, a Republican from Palatine, has his own thoughts on the state's current pension system.

Illinois' budget troubles cannot be understated. The state's daunting $110 billion unfunded pension obligation severely limits the state's ability to meet its annual education, public safety, transportation, and Medicaid costs, and it heavily factors into its worst‐in‐the‐nation credit rating.

Illinois' pension payment next year is expected to rise to $8 billion. That means 25 percent of every state budget dollar will go to pensions. For comparison, the national average for state and local governments is less than 10 percent.

The state's financial future could be even more troubling if the Illinois Supreme Court strikes down the General Assembly's 2013 pension reform legislation. Many experts expect that to happen based on past rulings. A lower court in Sangamon County has already ruled the law unconstitutional.

Read the rest of Morrison's thoughts at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Best of the best: The top 10 hospitals in Illinois

Pit Bull And His Blind BFF Get Adopted Together, Prove There's A Home For Everyone

Fri, 2015-04-03 10:45
A pit bull named Hercules and his best friend Muellas, a blind rat terrier, have beaten some remarkable odds. They've been adopted. Together.

Jodi Hamilton, spokeswoman for Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control in Indiana, says these two had more than a little downside after being brought to the shelter in February by an owner who'd lost his job.

Their breeds, for one, aren't everyone's favorite. They're also both 8 years old, so hardly the adorable puppies many folks are clambering for.

"The fact that they have to go together, and one of them's blind," hampered their chances, says Hamilton. "With this pair, they had all of these strikes against them."

Hercules and Muellas became well-loved around the shelter, where staff and volunteers were charmed at the way they stuck close. They'd sleep together, for example. And Muellas would follow Hercules around, right at his hind leg; Hercules, in turn, would stop periodically to push his nose into Muellas' little body, to make sure he knew that his bodyguard was still on duty.

It was as if he was saying, "'Hey, I'm still here!'" says Hamilton.

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Watch them LIVE on Pet of the Week on News Channel 15 WANE-TV in the Noon news! Waiting for home: Hercules & Muellas -...

Posted by Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control on Tuesday, March 31, 2015


But as of late March, there were no leads on a family to take them in. And after more than a month in the shelter, the dogs were showing signs of stress. They were getting grumpier and more territorial.

"Something's got to happen because this isn't good for the dogs anymore," Hamilton says she thought.

That something did happen: on March 31, a local TV station did a story on this odd, adorable couple.



"We saw them on the news," says Chris Wilson, who, with his wife and eight kids, decided more or less on the spot that they'd adopt the pair. "We'd been wanting a dog for a while."

Wilson, his wife, and the four youngest children went to the shelter the next day. And any reservations that anyone might have had about a blind rat terrier and his favorite pit bull becoming part of a noisy, busy family were immediately gone.

The kids and the dogs got on famously, from the first second.

"It was like those dogs had lived with children their whole life," says Hamilton. "We know that there's the perfect family for every dog or cat."

And it wasn't just the humans who were thrilled when the Wilsons arrived. The dogs were, as well.

"I swear to god they were smiling. I know that I saw it," Hamilton says. "That moment. That big, big happy moment. This is why we do it."

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Wilson tells The Huffington Post that Muellas is still keeping close to Hercules, Hercules is still looking out for his tiny buddy, and everyone is still smiling.

"We didn't do wrong by getting these dogs," he says. "It's like they've always been here."

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Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control has lots more pets available for adoption! Check them out on Facebook.

And get in touch at arin.greenwood@huffingtonpost.com if you have an animal story to share!

What Your Astrological Sign Says About You, According To Tumblr

Fri, 2015-04-03 09:18
For some reason, Tumblr has become increasingly obsessed with astrology, filling our dash with creative interpretations of celestial bodies' relative positions in the universe. Your astrological sign, for example, may predict what your mermaid tail would look like, how you'd fare if you were a "Hunger Games" character, what type of fruit you are and much more. Who knew?

We put together a guide to astrology, according to different Tumblr blogs (click on the X to visit each one). Take a look below to see what your sign says about you.




Aries

  1. If you were a mermaid, your tail would be spiky and shark-like. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be Maya Angelou. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you keep stepping on twigs and stuff that reveals your location. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is not putting trash where it belongs. [X]

  5. You're the mom who helps her kid get a fake ID. [X]

  6. You're the dad who bails his kid out of jail without telling Mom. [X]

  7. You are sunrise. [X]

  8. You can hold a grudge for one day, tops. [X]

  9. You get no sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd definitely get the confession. [X]

  11. You are watermelon. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are lemongrass, fairy lights, red lipstick, old books, knitted scarves, balloons and minimalism. [X]




Taurus

  1. If you were a mermaid, your tail would be forest green with soft, black edges. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be Shakespeare. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you have a really short temper. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is eating out of boredom. [X]

  5. You're the mom who always packs extra snacks. [X]

  6. You're the dad who makes dinner and expects everyone to eat at the table. [X]

  7. You are mid-morning. [X]

  8. You can hold a grudge even after your own death. [X]

  9. You get a lot of sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd nail down the timeline. [X]

  11. You are banana. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are collared shirts, wanderlust, mist rising in the sky, architecture and cherry blossoms. [X]




Gemini

  1. If you were a mermaid, you'd have a long, thin tail with glimmering orangey scales. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you'd literally stab people in the back. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is interrupting people. [X]

  5. You're the mom who has tons of good stories about growing up. [X]

  6. You're the dad who tells tall tales about how he "fought a bear wearing skis in the Swiss Alps." [X]

  7. You are twilight. [X]

  8. You will hold a grudge for about 30 seconds. [X]

  9. You get very little sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd document every part of the case. [X]

  11. You are orange, the fruit. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are the color black, existential quotes and random words in foreign languages. [X]





Cancer

  1. If you were a mermaid, your tail would be short, becoming a more intense shade of violet toward the end. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be Dan Brown. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you can't kill anything. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is saying "umm." [X]

  5. You're the mom who takes lots of pictures at small life milestones. [X]

  6. You're the dad who embarrasses his kids in front of their friends on accident. [X]

  7. You are the night. [X]

  8. You hold grudges for years. [X]

  9. You get no sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd easily figure out the criminal's motive. [X]

  11. You are cherry. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are Microsoft paint, paper lanterns, fluffy socks, abandoned places, clothes with pockets and floral patterns. [X]




Leo

  1. If you were a mermaid, you'd have a long, golden tail that fans out into a crown shape. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be J.K. Rowling. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you can't forgive others for wronging you. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is driving recklessly. [X]

  5. You're the mom who gives lectures until she's talked herself hoarse. [X]

  6. You're the dad who makes Dad Jokes. [X]

  7. You are midday. [X]

  8. You hold grudges until the end of time as we know it. [X]

  9. You get a lot of sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd be the best at reading facial expressions. [X]

  11. You are strawberry. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are vintage, stars, symmetry, polaroids, vanilla, willow trees and high ceilings. [X]




Virgo

  1. If you were a mermaid, you'd have a long, royal blue tail with precise edges that only stands out in the water because of its shimmer. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be Agatha Christie. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you'd make others do your dirty work. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is biting your nails. [X]

  5. You're the mom who cleans her kids' room when they're not home. [X]

  6. You're the dad who makes sure his kids aren't wearing their PJs when they leave for school. [X]

  7. You are morning. [X]

  8. You hold a grudge for a couple of months. [X]

  9. You get very little sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd tear apart the criminal's alibi. [X]

  11. You are pear. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are clouds, lace, photography, tattoos, monochrome, calligraphy and tea. [X]





Libra

  1. If you were a mermaid, your tail would be long and neon green, with fanned out flukes that sparkle in the sun. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be Oscar Wilde. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you'd manipulate others into doing something dangerous and get them killed. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is binge-watching TV. [X]

  5. You're the mom who nags her kids about their school crushes. [X]

  6. You're the dad who makes plans to do stuff but always cancels. [X]

  7. You are sunset. [X]

  8. You'll hold a grudge for a microsecond, unless someone really messed up. [X]

  9. You get a moderate amount of sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd get the witnesses to open up. [X]

  11. You are peach. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are pastels, sunsets, fresh-cut grass, pixel art and perfect eyeliner. [X]




Scorpio

  1. If you were a mermaid, you'd have a matte-black tail that is long, graceful and reflects moonlight. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be Sylvia Plath. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you'd betray others when they least expect it. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is swearing. [X]

  5. You're the mom who sets up playdates but never tells her kids when they are. [X]

  6. You're the dad who doesn't ask where his kids were when they get home late. [X]

  7. You are dawn. [X]

  8. You'll hold a grudge for all of eternity. [X]

  9. You get a moderate amount of sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd notice the small details. [X]

  11. You are lemon. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are rain, burning wood, melted chocolate, scented candles and dyed hair. [X]




Sagittarius

  1. If you were a mermaid, your tail would be bright purple with jagged edges. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be Jane Austen. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because your plan would end up getting everyone killed. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is not hanging up your wet towel after you take a shower. [X]

  5. You're the mom who lets kids do whatever they want. [X]

  6. You're the dad who doesn't care, because parents can be such a bummer. [X]

  7. You are afternoon. [X]

  8. You hold a grudge for exactly two days. [X]

  9. You get no sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd know how to ask exactly the right questions. [X]

  11. You are dragon fruit. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are graph paper, oversized hoodies, Chapstick, peppermint and flower crowns. [X]





Capricorn

  1. If you were a mermaid, you'd have a broad and muscular indigo-colored tail that shows you mean business. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you'd be Edgar Allan Poe. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you'd murder someone as soon as they started to bore you. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is procrastination. [X]

  5. You're the mom with really strict rules who breaks them in front of the kids. [X]

  6. You're the dad who lets his kids watch scary movies about kidnappers so they stop going places by themselves. [X]

  7. You are evening. [X]

  8. You'll hold a grudge no matter what. [X]

  9. You get a moderate amount of sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd put all the pieces together. [X]

  11. You are apple. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are gauzy curtains, the smell of cinnamon, teal, poinsettias and backyard greenhouses. [X]




Aquarius

  1. If you were a mermaid, your tail would be a hologram. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you are Virginia Woolf. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd make a bad ally because you'd expect others to keep watch while you sleep all night. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is biting your lip. [X]

  5. You're the mom who rags on her kids in front of their friends. [X]

  6. You're the dad who embarrasses his kids in front of their friends on purpose. [X]

  7. You are dusk. [X]

  8. You'll hold a grudge for exactly one year. [X]

  9. You get very little sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd use your computer hacking skills to solve the crime. [X]

  11. You are kiwi. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are mismatched socks, piano music, brown eyes, potted plants and chlorinated pool water. [X]




Pisces

  1. If you were a mermaid, your tail would be multicolored and unique to you. [X]

  2. As a famous writer, you're Anais Nin. [X]

  3. In "The Hunger Games," you'd be a bad ally because you'd steal things while others aren't looking. [X]

  4. Your bad habit is sleeping in. [X]

  5. You're the mom who cries when other people are crying. [X]

  6. You're the dad who hugs his kids when they don't want a hug. [X]

  7. You are midnight. [X]

  8. You'll hold a grudge for two months, maybe. [X]

  9. You get a lot of sleep. [X]

  10. As a detective, you'd just know who did it. [X]

  11. You are raspberry. [X]

  12. Aesthetically, you are dandelions, plaid, gradients, space, coffee and brand-new pens. [X]

U.S. Spending Historic Amount Fighting Homelessness, And It's Working: Report

Fri, 2015-04-03 07:30
Uncle Sam is prioritizing the fight against homelessness like he never has before.

Federal funding for programs addressing homelessness is at its highest level ever, according to a report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness provided to The Huffington Post.

Through several initiatives by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education, targeted U.S. spending for the current fiscal year is $4.5 billion.

The unprecedented funding is "probably in part" to credit for a decline in net homelessness: 578,424 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2014 -- down 2.3 percent from the year before.

What's more, improvements were tracked within every major sub-population, such as the chronically homeless, families and unsheltered persons. Veteran homelessness, for example, has dropped 33 percent in the past five years.

The Obama administration has prioritized helping veterans and the chronically homeless get off the streets and into permanent housing. Although the president pushed back a deadline to end chronic homelessness to the end of 2017 due to budget constraints, HUD officials said last month the number of chronically homeless individuals has dipped 10 percent since 2010.

First lady Michelle Obama has also contributed to curbing homelessness. Since she launched the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness last June, 313 mayors and 101 county and city officials across the country have committed to getting every veteran into stable housing, the White House reported in January. New Orleans, Houston, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, Arizona, have all documented significant progress on the issue.

The new report by the alliance -- which collected local point-in-time counts of homeless populations submitted to HUD -- marks a decline overall and among every homeless subpopulation from when the alliance began publishing its findings in 2007.

Although data points to several areas of progress, the alliance notes a lack of housing options for impoverished Americans remains a dire issue.

"Many poor people are at risk of homelessness," the report found. "Ultimately, this is because it is hard for them to afford housing. Unemployment, housing cost burden and living doubled up are indications of this struggle to afford housing."

To take action on pressing poverty issues, check out the Global Citizen's widget below.


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Rudy Perz, Creator The Pillsbury Doughboy, Dead At 89

Fri, 2015-04-03 07:04
Fifty years ago, Rudolph R. Perz, the creative director of the Leo Burnett ad agency in Chicago, was under pressure to come up with a lovable new mascot for the Pillsbury account.

Sitting at his kitchen table and staring at a Pillsbury Crescent Rolls can, Perz wracked his brain for an idea. Suddenly, he imagined a doughy white character jumping out of the can.

Perz described him to Martin Nodell, an artist at the agency, who sketched the little spokesman. The joyful dough boy had big blue eyes, a chef's hat, a sassy bandana, and blushed when he was kissed.

His name was Poppin' Fresh.

Once the character was fully baked… err, formed… Poppin' Fresh became one of the food company's best known mascots, an ever-helpful and very ticklish character known as the Pillsbury Doughboy.

“The one image I have of my dad was of him tapping the can of refrigerated dough against the kitchen table,” Perz's daughter Martha Nora said in a biography posted on the Donnellan Family Funeral Home website. “That’s how his mind worked for everything. The wheels were always turning and your never were sure what idea he would come up with. There was always a twinkle in his eye and he loved the element of surprise.”

Although Perz originally intended the Pillsbury Doughboy to be animated, he changed his mind after seeing a stop motion clay technique on television. Designer Milt Schaffer then brought the baking icon to life at a cost of $16,000, The Washington Post reported. The Pillsbury Doughboy has been created using CGI technology since 1992. Veteran cartoon voice actor Paul Frees served as the Pillsbury Doughboy's voice until his death in 1986. Since then, the character's voice has been provided by Jeff Bergman and JoBe Cerny.




The Pillsbury Doughboy appeared in more than 600 commercials from 1965 to 2004, and returned to the small screen in 2009, 2011 and 2014. He hawked dozens of freshly baked biscuits and cinnamon rolls, breads and cookies, and charmed viewers with his signature giggle (a sweet "Hoo Hoo" or "Hee Hee" that emitted whenever someone playfully poked his middle).

Yet the Pillsbury Doughboy was more than just an advertising spokesman. He was beloved by millions who grew up in the 20th century. According to General Mills, parent company of Pillsbury, the Doughboy received 200 fan letters a week and hundreds of requests for autographed photos. During the 1970s, "Pillsbury Playthings" -- doll-versions of the Doughboy and his "family" -- were some of the fastest selling toys in the U.S.

The 8.75-inch tall Pillsbury Doughboy was also mentioned or featured on numerous TV programs, appeared in several comic strip panels, flew over New York City as a balloon float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, parodied on Mad TV, helped sell car insurance and credit cards and even "died" in an early Internet joke from "a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly."


The Pillsbury Doughboy balloon floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 27, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)


As for the mastermind behind him, Perz was born in 1925. The Glenview, Ill., resident and advertising copywriter was married to the late Lois Wagberg Perz, and had three children and six grandchildren.

Next month, Perz was to have been honored for his doughy creation at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. The exhibit, "A Salute To Advertising's Greatest Icons," will also feature Tony the Tiger, the Jolly Green Giant, Morris the cat, Mr. Clean and Ronald McDonald.

Perz died on April 1. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.

Today we remember Rudy Perz, creator of our beloved Pillsbury Doughboy. http://t.co/i2pyb1oQsb pic.twitter.com/iD36s7jhUf

— Pillsbury (@Pillsbury) April 2, 2015

Lodestar of Peace

Thu, 2015-04-02 18:02
"Deeply sensible of their solemn duty to promote the welfare of mankind . . ."

What? Were they serious?

I kneel in a sort of gasping awe as I read the words of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a treaty signed in 1928 - by the United States, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan and ultimately by every country that then existed. The treaty . . . outlaws war.

"Persuaded that the time has come when a frank renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy should be made . . ."

ARTICLE I: "The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another."

ARTICLE II: "The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."

Furthermore, as David Swanson has reminded us in his book When the World Outlawed War, the treaty is still in effect. It has never been rescinded. It's still, for what this is worth, international law. This is nuts, of course. War rules and everyone knows it. War is our default setting, the ongoing first option for pretty much every disagreement among global neighbors, especially when different religious beliefs and ethnicities are part of the divide.

You know: "The inescapable conclusion is that Iran will not negotiate away its nuclear program." This is neocon nutcase John Bolton, George Bush's former ambassador to the U.N., writing from a pulpit in the New York Times last week. ". . . The inconvenient truth is that only military action like Israel's 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein's Osirak reactor in Iraq or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, designed and built by North Korea, can accomplish what is required. Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed."

Or: "President Obama informed (Egyptian) President al-Sisi that he will lift executive holds that have been in place since October 2013 on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tank kits. The President also advised President al-Sisi that he will continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt."

This is from a White House press release, issued the day before April Fool's Day. "The President explained that these and other steps will help refine our military assistance relationship so that it is better positioned to address the shared challenges to U.S. and Egyptian interests in an unstable region."

This is the amoral chatter of geopolitics. This is what it has been my entire lifetime: hopelessly, cluelessly entwined in militarism. War, if not today then tomorrow - somewhere - is taken for granted in all verbiage emanating from the inner sanctums of the powerful. It's only challenged as "protest," which is marginalized speech, cordoned off from the corridors of power, usually treated in the corporate media as reckless tirade or naively irrelevant sentimentality.

The language of peace has no power. At best, the "war weariness" of the public can cause a certain amount of trouble for the military-industrial engine of geopolitics. In the wake of the Southeast Asian holocaust known, in the United States, as the Vietnam War, for instance, two decades of "Vietnam Syndrome" limited American military activity to proxy wars in Central America and in-and-out invasions of Grenada, Panama and, oh yeah, Iraq.

Vietnam Syndrome was no more than public burnout and despair. It never materialized politically into lasting change, or actual political power for peace proponents. Eventually it was supplanted by 9-11 and the (guaranteed perpetual) war on terror. Peace has officially been reduced to the status of wishful thinking.

The value of Swanson's book, which tells the story of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, ratified by President Calvin Coolidge in 1929, is that it brings a forgotten era back to life, a time - prior to the entrenchment of the military-industrial complex and the corporate convergence of the mass media - when peace, that is, a world free of war, was a solid and universal ideal and even mainstream politicians could see war for what it was: hell mixed with futility. The disastrous failure of World War I was still uppermost in human consciousness; it had not been romanticized. Humanity wanted peace. Even big money wanted peace. The concept of war was on the verge of permanent illegitimacy and, indeed, criminality.

Knowing this is crucial. Knowing that the peace movement of the 1920s could reach so deeply into international politics should embolden every peace activist on the planet. The Kellogg-Briand Pact, written by United States Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg and French foreign minister Aristide Briand, remains a political lodestar.

"Deeply sensible of their solemn duty to promote the welfare of mankind . . ."

Can you imagine, just for a moment, that such integrity could outshine all the lesser "interests" that crowd the corridors of power?

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

© 2015 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, INC.

Green Schoolyards Are a Win for Kids, Communities and the Environment

Thu, 2015-04-02 17:14
Imagine if every neighborhood in every city in America had a safe, vibrant and accessible outdoor place that served as a neighborhood hub. A place where kids could play and participate in sports; where neighbors could get together for a shared meal or a musical performance; where teachers could conduct lessons in science, poetry or art under a canopy of trees; where kids could plant a garden, tend crops and harvest a little healthy food for themselves.

Most city neighborhoods already have a local schoolyard, and it's the perfect space to be transformed into an outdoor hub -- serving students during the school day and the entire community when school isn't in session.

Multi-purpose, environmentally beneficial schoolyards like these are called "green schoolyards," and they're becoming a reality in cities across the country.

The green schoolyard movement owes much to chef Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard project, which began 20 years ago in Berkeley, California, in response to a neglected schoolyard of crumbling asphalt. In Boston, the Boston Schoolyard Initiative revitalized 88 schoolyards between 1995 and 2013. And in San Francisco, Education Outside is creating an extensive network of green schoolyards. Green schoolyards are part of a broad movement to connect kids and families to nature in their everyday lives, lead by a coalition called the Children & Nature Network.

Schools and communities have been overwhelmingly receptive to green schoolyards. The challenge has been securing funding for design and construction, as well as resources for ongoing maintenance. Education Outside continues with a mix of public and private funding, along with help from a spirited corps of young people who serve as dedicated stewards of the schoolyards.

One of the most exciting, recent green schoolyard initiatives is Chicago-based Space to Grow, which held opening ceremonies for its first four green schoolyards last fall. Space to Grow is overseeing the creation of an additional 30 green schoolyards across Chicago in the next five years, a $51 million investment in underserved urban neighborhoods.

What makes Space to Grow special is an innovative public-private partnership that leverages the strengths of two local, nonprofit organizations -- Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) and Openlands -- and three public agencies -- Chicago Public Schools, City of Chicago Department of Water Management and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

Space to Grow receives funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and other private sources, as well as public education dollars, but the key to its success is public water district funding, which has been directed toward the green schoolyards because they address stormwater control.

To be selected for a Space to Grow schoolyard, a school has to be located in one of Chicago's many flood-prone areas. Each Space to Grow schoolyard replaces asphalt paving with water-permeable groundcovers and play surfaces, as well as landscape features that absorb rainwater, reducing runoff that causes local flooding and flushes street pollutants into the Chicago and Calumet rivers and Lake Michigan.

Though it benefits from federal, state and city funding, Space to Grow isn't a government project but a local initiative that engages the entire school community -- including neighborhood residents -- to help plan and create a schoolyard that serves many needs.

The first of the Space to Grow opening ceremonies, at Morrill Math & Science Elementary School, offered ample evidence of a shared community effort: hundreds of volunteers showed up early to complete the landscape planting; neighbors mingled with teachers and city alders; kids struck up soccer and basketball games even before the ribbon was cut.

"It's a big win for the kids and for the city," said Rochelle Davis, HSC president and CEO, who was on hand for the festivities along with other Space to Grow partners.

Space to Grow has not gone unnoticed. Last month, Davis was in Washington, D.C., to accept one of three Champions Awards from the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance. Next month, Space to Grow will receive the Illinois Association of Floodplain and Stormwater Management's Sustainability Award. They have also been nominated for an Emerald Award from the U.S. Green Building Council's Illinois Chapter.

With initiatives like Space to Grow to serve as models, we should envision greening every schoolyard in the country. And the real winners, of course, will be the kids.

Rapper Killer Mike Says The Criminalization Of Rap Music Is The New Jim Crow

Thu, 2015-04-02 15:49
When rapper’s rap, they do so because it’s a form of artistic expression -- but police and prosecutors have proven to have a skewed interpretation of their songs and their motives. Instead, rap songs are being introduced in courtrooms where their lyrics are scrutinized, dissected and used to further incriminate the artists behind them.

It is a tool that has been used almost exclusively against black men who, as we all know, are frequent producers of rap music.

Among those directly affected by this controversial practice are rappers Brandon Duncan and McKinley Phipps -- who popularly go by the stage names Tiny Doo and Mac, respectively. Songs from both of these rappers have been used in their individual cases and presented by prosecutors as evidence in effort to convict them of crimes. In Mac’s case, prosecutors not only used his songs against him, they also botched his lyrics and, as a result, misrepresented his message.

It’s a tactic that rappers and scholars say unfairly criminalizes black men and could lead to severe consequences.

“It signals to me that Jim Crow is very much alive,” rapper Killer Mike told HuffPost Live host Ricky Camilleri on Wednesday. “I think that in this country we love the nostalgic stories of how far we’ve come in transforming...and we have not. If we don’t remain vigilant about these things, we never will.”

Killer Mike has been vocal on prosecutors’ use of rap lyrics in court and condemns the act. To him, it signals the overall criminalization of black boys, which he says starts at a very young age.

“It used as a tool to literally hang our boys,” he said. “It is wrong, it is evil, it is vicious, it is maniacal and it is systemic.”

The controversial tactic is not limited to just Duncan’s and Phipps’s experiences -- instead, hip-hop scholar and University of Richmond professor Eric Nielson told HuffPost that similar instances have happened in hundreds of other cases while almost none target artists or musicians of other genres.

“I listen to a lot of Johnny cash, I’m a huge admirer of country music and southern rock. Southern rock and country music are some of the most violent and dark music you’ll ever hear set to a ridiculously good melody and because the people that often times are in the prosecutors office and sitting on the bench and the arresting officers align themselves more with the culture that creates that type of music,” Killer Mike said.

“They don’t see the problem in it.”

When His Human Got Stuck In Mud, This Pooch Heroically Helped Fish Him Out

Thu, 2015-04-02 15:35
Here's a good reminder: when leaving home, always bring your cell phone, and always bring your dog.

A man got stuck in the mud and water last weekend at Buck Creek State Park in Springfield, Ohio while taking down duck blinds, the covers that hunters use to stay out of sight of their prey.

The man, whose name hasn't been released, used his cell phone to call 911. But when emergency responders arrived, the water was too shallow to get a rescue boat out to where he was stuck, up to his chest, in water that one official said was about 33 degrees.

Meanwhile, "the dog was running back and forth, a nervous wreck with his owner out there," said Kathy Bartlett, assistant fire chief for the Moorefield Township Fire Department.

A wildlife officer thought to try attaching the a rope to the dog's collar, Bartlett said.

As you can see in video from local TV station WDTN, it worked -- and the dog swam the rope to his owner, who was soon freed.

Travis Martin, a supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' watercraft division, which took part in the rescue, said that if the ordeal had gone on much longer than two hours, the man might not have walked away from the scene.

"He could have been in danger of suffering hypothermia," Martin says. "Luckily he had his cell phone. And his dog."


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My Q and A With Rakesh Bhattacharjee, an Expert in Children's Sleep Medicine

Thu, 2015-04-02 14:40
Rakesh Bhattacharjee is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago's Divisions of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine. In answer to my questions, he shared his insights on the link between breathing and sleep health, social factors that can affect children's sleep, and the importance of teaching your children healthy sleep habits.

How would you describe your research on sleep and children?

My research on sleep in children focuses on complications related to sleep disturbances, namely sleep disordered breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is very prevalent in children, affecting 2-10 percent of all children, and accordingly we have begun to uncover the role of disrupted sleep using OSA as a model. My research examines how sleep disordered breathing is detrimental to children's health including manifesting in neurocognitive, behavioral, inflammatory and cardiometabolic morbidity. Concurrently my research is examining the efficacy of certain treatments in sleep and OSA as I feel that given the detriments of disordered sleep, it is imperative to understand how treatment succeeds and how treatment falls short.

What challenges do children today face in achieving optimal amounts of sleep, and what consequences does a lack of sleep have on children's health?

The challenges of today's children are largely age dependent. Certainly the developmental status is related to a child's age. For instance, the issues that pertain to a toddler learning to sleep are very different from those of an adolescent. That being said, many of the forces of today's current societal trends impact all children. For example, television, video games, smart phones, tablets have all been recently identified as agents that frequently disrupt a child's sleep, including leading to total sleep deprivation.

Lack of sleep and/or poor sleep quality are linked to a plethora of disruptions to a child's health. For example, poor sleep quality and/or sleep deprivation are linked to neurocognitive and behavioral disturbances so significant that they can impact how a child performs at school. Lack of sleep is also linked to poor quality of life in children. Sleep deprivation is also associated with obesity and ingestion of fatty foods through regulation of certain metabolic hormones. Finally, sleep deprivation and/or poor sleep quality are linked to stress and inflammation, which may trigger cardiovascular disease in children.

How can parents help their children learn the importance of sleep and practice good sleep hygiene?

The first step for parents is recognition of the importance of sleep and to inquire about how to improve their child's sleep habits. Equally, as the child's development advances and the child becomes more autonomous, children, in particular adolescents, also need to appreciate the importance of their sleep and sleep hygiene. Increased awareness of the need for sleep lends to the need for health care providers to educate patients and their families about how to better their sleep. Given the novelty of sleep as a medical profession, there is a significant need to have health care providers learn how to facilitate education of good sleep hygiene to their patients, and this includes children.

What is the connection between cardiovascular health and sleep?

Many recent studies in adults with sleep problems, including OSA have shown that OSA is related to hypertension, cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The mechanisms explaining this link include the physiological consequences of sleep disruption, but also includes the physiological consequences specific to OSA.

In children, there is a dearth of parallel research. However many preliminary studies have supported cardiovascular dysfunction in the context of pediatric OSA. Sleep deprivation is also associated with childhood obesity, which in itself is linked to cardiovascular disease. The studies in children are especially concerning as children are developing and any insult to a developing organism may lead to long-term morbidity. Seeing that cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of death in Americans and that many Americans are dying at an earlier age related to cardiovascular disease, any strategies to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease in children, including measures to improve sleep, may play a substantial role in improving health through adulthood.

10 Questions Not to Ask a Food Blogger

Thu, 2015-04-02 13:49
I like to think I'm a nice person.



A nice person with a helluva busy schedule and one too many commitments perhaps, all of which I love dearly and am not willing to forgo. Over my three and a half years of blogging, I've been asked every question in the book -- from where I buy my shredded coconut and hot pink sandals to why I eat food X or drink bevvie Z if it "clearly causes cancer." I do what I love and I love what I do.

There's nothing quite like responding to some of my lovely readers' outrageous emails and comments. Some make me cry tears of joy and thank the heavens for blessing me with such a rewarding job, and some make me want to hit myself over the head with an oily skillet.

I always die a little on the inside. And then I laugh and laugh and laugh till my belly hurts and wonder if it's from your hilarious comment or the pound of popcorn I smashed while fervently responding to your questions.

As a food blogger and as a friend, I love answering your comments and emails -- except when you ask me to solve your wicked complicated health problems and why you can't substitute mayonnaise for almond meal.

1. How many calories per serving?

I totally respect you for wanting to know how many calories are in that loaded veggie avocado tuna salad, but I simply don't have the time nor the desire to calculate that number for you. To be frank, after spending hours conceptualizing a recipe, creating content, photographing and scheduling social media, the thought of calculating calories sounds about as appealing as a fried hot dog with trans fat on top.

2. If I substitute steak for black beans and American cheese for nutritional yeast and cardboard for curry powder, will this recipe still taste the same?

Was I born yesterday or are steak and black beans a wee bit different? I don't make recipes with ingredients other than the ones listed, so substitutions are at your own risk, my friends. I love learning that other options work, but I'm not a wizard. I truly cannot predict the future so I promise that your guess is as good as mine. What I can't promise is that it will taste good. It probably will not.

3. Do you want me to order for you?

I beg your pardon? Did you just ask if I want YOU to order for ME? I have a FOOD BLOG. The real question is when will this date be over and should I tag you in this Instagram salad or no?

4. Can you do a post on everything you eat for a week and why?

I swear this would not look as cool as it sounds. You'd probably question my sanity for never once sitting down when I eat and then judge my ridiculously low water consumption, rightfully so. If I had the time, I'd send you all personal food diaries with exact calorie counts and details on how emotional I felt after each bite. KIDDING. But seriously, I know looking at other people's food is super fun. It's kind of addicting. It's kind of scary.

5. Can I post your entire recipe on my blog but add more vanilla extract and a dash of salt and then not give you credit?

Is it just me or is blog etiquette a thing of the past?! This really gets me going. Imagine spending all day on a recipe post and seeing some one post THE EXACT SAME THING on their site without even giving you credit. OH NO SHE DIDN'T. #itson

6. How many calories should I eat in a day?

Three million. Yes, I'm a dietitian. No, I don't work for free. I'd love to help you, but please ask to schedule an appointment with me before expecting me to solve all your health problems via email. Nutrition is super personalized and I need to know A LOT about you and your past before I can begin to tackle that question.

7. I'm allergic to every ingredient in this recipe. Do you have any recommendations?

Allergies are no fun and I really do feel for those that suffer from them. But, BUT, once again, I'm not a wizard and I can't wave a magic wand to predict how things will taste when you add your own spins. Hopefully I'll be a food blogger AND a wizard in my next life.

8. I'm paleo. Do you have any advice for tweaking these whole wheat pancakes?

Hi, Paleo. I'm Alexis. These pancakes weren't meant to be paleo-ified. They're made with like, ALL the grains.

9. Can you teach me how to create a successful blog and take good pictures and open a restaurant?

Can I? Maybe. Will I? Probs not. That would be a lengthy response to say the least. I think it would take me three months to write. So I may just write an autobiography addressing those three questions instead and mail a copy to everyone who asks.

10. Why do you use the microwave? You know you're slowly killing yourself, right?

Because I'm lazy and it cooks food really fast and the last thing I want to do after a long day at work is get out a pan. Why do you drive a car?

* * *

For more laughs, check out this Confessions of a Food Blogger post!

If The Criminal Justice System Treated Other Music The Way It Treats Rap

Thu, 2015-04-02 12:19
Around the nation, police and prosecutors are using lyrics from rap songs to incriminate suspects and obtain convictions, often in the absence of traditional forms of evidence. In this way, rap music, and by extension the artists behind it, face unique scrutiny in the criminal justice system.

The vague protocols and laws that enable this practice are used almost exclusively against young black men, the individuals most likely to be creating rap music. Whether this is by design or coincidence, the mentality that enables the practice is racially tinged and troubling.

In courtrooms, jurors are told by prosecutors, who sometimes misinterpret or manipulate rap lyrics, to view an artist's words as literal autobiography, rather than metaphorical or exaggerated storytelling. This works with disturbing effectiveness, critics say, because rap songs often contain lyrics that reinforce racial stereotypes about black males and hyper-sexuality or violence -- helpful when the prosecutor is trying to make the defendant out to be an actual criminal.

But when did we decide that the content of a song is a direct reflection of the songwriter's character -- and that it's evidence of real-life actions undertaken by that person? When did we decide there's no clear distinction between the world an artist creates and the world he or she actually lives in?

Would we ever have suspected Johnny Cash of actually being a cold-blooded killer?



Johnny Cash, "Folsom Prison Blues"

But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die
When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry...



Erik Nielson, a professor at the University of Richmond who has studied the prosecution of rap lyrics extensively, told The Huffington Post that he's identified "hundreds of cases" in which rap lyrics have played a significant role. There have been reports of police and prosecutors being encouraged to examine rap songs for possible use in legal proceedings. And the strategy appeals to yield results in court.

If the criminal justice system treated other kinds of music the way it treats rap, all of the artists below would be seen as suspects. Their lyrics could be considered confessions, and might be cited as evidence of the artists' criminal psyches or proof of their personal connection to actual crimes.

That would be completely ridiculous, of course. So why should rap music be any different?



Third Eye Blind, "Slow Motion"

Miss Jones taught me English
But I think I just shot her son
'Cause he owed me money
With a bullet in the chest you cannot run
Now he's bleeding in a vacant lot
The one in the summer where we used to smoke pot
I guess I didn't mean it
But man, you shoulda seen it
His flesh explode




Guns N' Roses, "Used to Love Her"

I used to love her, but I had to kill her
I knew I'd miss her, so I had to keep her
She's buried right in my backyard




Neil Young, "Down by the River"

Down by the river I shot my baby
Down by the river, dead, dead
Shot her dead, shot her dead




Bob Marley, "I Shot the Sheriff"

I shot the sheriff
But I say, but I didn't shoot no deputy
I didn't shoot no deputy




Dixie Chicks, "Goodbye Earl"

Earl had to die, goodbye Earl
We need a break, let's go out to the lake, Earl
We'll pack a lunch, and stuff you in the trunk, Earl
Is that alright? Good! Let's go for a ride, Earl




Maroon 5, "Wake Up Call"

Caught you in the morning with another one in my bed
Don’t you care about me anymore?
Don’t you care about me? I don’t think so
Six foot tall
Came without a warning so I had to shoot him dead
He won’t come around here anymore
No, he won’t come around here, I don’t feel so bad




Rihanna, "Man Down"

Oh, mama, mama, mama
I just shot a man down
In central station
In front of a big ol' crowd




Tom Jones, "Delilah"

She stood there laughing
I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more
My, my, my, Delilah
Why, why, why, Delilah
So before they come to break down the door
Forgive me Delilah I just couldn't take any more




Macy Gray, "I've Committed Murder"

I've committed murder and I think I got away
I'm hiding at my mother's house, come get me right away, right away
I have no intention of paying for my crimes, don't fear
We're gonna get the next plane outta here and fly away, fly away




Cher, "Dark Lady"

So I sneaked back and caught her with my man,
Laughing and kissing till they saw the gun in my hand
The next thing I knew they were dead on the floor,
Dark lady would never turn a card up anymore




Gwar, "Gonna Kill U"

I'm gonna kill you
Gonna cut your pretty face all up
Gonna smack
Gonna break
Gonna maim
Gonna kill you
I said
Gotta do what I have to, gotta forget all about you
And I ain't gonna give you anything
And I am gonna track you down, I guess...
I'm gonna kill you




The Killers, "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine"

We took a walk that night but it wasn't the same
We had a fight on the promenade out in the rain
She said she loved me but she had somewhere to go
She couldn't scream while I held her close
I swore I'd never let her go

Tell me what you wanna know
Oh come on, oh come on, oh come on
There ain't no motive for this crime
Jenny was a friend of mine
So come on, oh come on, oh come on

4 Best Parts Of The Final Four

Thu, 2015-04-02 11:27
The Final Four is upon us, which likely means you've torn up all but one of the 116 brackets you filled out. The 2015 version of March Madness has been rather epic, with a record five one-point games on Day One, including one that gave us an early Father's Day moment. Three of college basketball's elite programs -- Kentucky, Duke and Michigan State -- have made it, along with Wisconsin, which is making a second consecutive trip. Here's what you need to watch out for when they head to Indianapolis.



HISTORY



Kentucky, should it finish the season 40-0 by adding a ninth national championship banner added to Rupp Arena, could make an argument about being the greatest team in the history of the sport. Other teams have gone undefeated, but the most recent was Bobby Knight's infamous Indiana Hoosiers ... in 1976. But none of those teams had Kentucky's record nine McDonald's All-Americans, and none were as defensively dominant as these Wildcats. Despite a platoon system where no single player averages huge numbers or earns heavy minutes, John Calipari's team ranks first in field goal percentage allowed and adjusted defensive efficiency. As unselfish as they are talented, Kentucky features a splendid mix of size and skill, most notably in the rangy 6-foot-11 freshman center Karl-Anthony Towns, a physical specimen with quick feet and impeccable shot-block timing. Towns, along with Duke's Jahlil Okafor, will likely go first and second in June's upcoming NBA Draft.

THE FRESHMEN



Coaches will tell you that freshmen are no longer freshmen this time of year. Regardless, the Final Four has a slew of really good ones. Okafor is 6-foot-10 and already has better moves and footwork than most NBA bigs. Justise Winslow (above) has emerged as one of the nation's premier two-way players. He is coming off a 21 and 10 game against Utah and a 16-point effort against Gonzaga -- plus he guards four positions. Tyus Jones has made Mike Krzyzewski look good -- an early season move to put senior Quinn Cook off the ball caused a little stir in Durham, but Jones has answered the bell, averaging 12 points and six assists while becoming a dynamite lead guard. We mentioned Towns, but don't sleep on UK's Trey Lyles either. He's a threat from 18 feet and in for Calipari because of his shooting ability. Sharpshooter Devin Booker, 6-foot-6, converts 41 percent from three and is a likely lottery pick should he enter the draft.

Speaking of shooters and point guards, the diminutive Tyler Ulis is Kentucky's smallest player at 5-foot-9, but one of its most important. Ulis -- who hit a monster three down the stretch against Notre Dame -- doesn't turn the ball over and consistently puts pressure on defenses with his attacking nature. He allows Cal to play either of the Harrison twins off the ball as well, another luxury that shouldn't be overlooked.

THE COACHES



Together, the four coaches have combined for a stellar 26 Final Fours. Izzo (above) has been to seven since 1999, Cal has taken three different schools, Bo Ryan -- who won four Division III titles -- has now gone to back-to-back Final Fours, and Coach K, with his 12 Final Fours, has tied the immortal John Wooden for the most all-time. We are witnessing a quartet of men at the pinnacle of their sport, all of whom have much to gain. For example, if Michigan State wins its next two games, Izzo will make the massive leap from one title to two, putting him in the same category as legends like Dean Smith, Denny Crum and Roy Williams.

Ryan, meanwhile, at 67 years young, may be the most unique of the crew. Unlike most major college coaches, he doesn't comb through high school databases trying to find blue-chip recruits full of accolades. In fact, his best player, senior center Frank Kaminsky -- who is likely to win the Wooden Award as the nation's best player -- was so lightly regarded as a prep that three of his biggest suitors were Bradley, Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois.

It has been a wonderful year for Coach K, who eclipsed the seemingly insurmountable 1,000-win club while hoping to win his fifth national title. If he does so, Krzyzewski would cement his place as the most dominant head coach of the modern era, while also surpassing Adolph Rupp's four titles at Kentucky. And speaking of Lexington, Calipari is hoping to accomplish what no coach since Bobby Knight has done in nearly four decades: a perfect season. He's now just two wins away.

THE NBA CAN WAIT



It's a phrase we don't seem to hear often enough these days, but take a look down these rosters, and you'll notice that a boatload of these guys came back to school. For Kentucky, it's the injured Alex Poythress, the Harrison twins, Willie Caulie-Stein, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson. For Duke, it's Cook. Wisconsin's two best players, Kaminsky and Sam Dekker -- who posted career scoring highs in consecutive games to help Bucky get here -- returned to school, as did intriguing prospect Nigel Hayes (all of whom are pictured above). And for Sparty, Denzel Valentine returned for his senior year. And they all did it for one more chance to become national champs. Last April, Kaminsky even went so far as to say the NBA is "boring." I guess with a nickname like "Frank the Tank," he's allowed to say that.



Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpost.com or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure to catch my NBC Sports Radio show "Kup and Schultz," which airs Sunday mornings from 9 to 12 EST, right here.

Adventures of a Creationist at the Field Museum

Thu, 2015-04-02 10:36
"I don't know how to say this word, so I'm just going to pretend that I know how to say it."


That's how creationist Megan Fox opens her self-styled "audit" of the exhibits of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. This homeschooling mom's video recently went viral, and offers insight into the minds of people outraged at the idea of science museums. An audit implies a power relationship, and Fox has come to the Field on a mission to put those scientists in their place.

But right at the start she needs help to pronounce the word "eukaryotes," a term which most every high school biology student knows. Though she fumbles with the pronunciation, Fox proceeds to tell her audience how those scientists have eukaryotes all wrong.

She reads from a display:

Eukaryotes are different from other cells because they have a nucleus which contains the cell's DNA, blah, blah, blah.

Blah, blah, blah? This is the important part of the definition of eukaryotes, not some useless dross. It's hard to understand how this vital information deserves the yada, yada treatment.

Fox continues to read the display:

"At first, all eukaryotes were single-celled and many still are today." What?! If many still are today, then that would support the theory that they had never changed, that they have always been as they are today. Not that they started someplace else and then are here, but they were always this and still are today. This makes no sense.

I agree. What she's saying makes no sense. It's almost as bad as arguing that since all people start off as children, adults cannot have developed from children, because then there wouldn't be children any longer. Fox's misunderstanding of evolution is so profound it hurts -- and all this comes from the first minute of her "audit." There's a painful half-hour more for your viewing pleasure, depending on how masochistic you feel. (There's not enough space here to do more than scratch the surface of the rest of this video, but one word I guarantee you will hear: dragons.)

Fox's toxic tirade is the perfect intersection of the unwatchable and the unlistenable, like an Iggy Azalea music video. Her scientific mistakes are so egregious it's almost physically painful to watch.

Museums and zoos and parks are a rage flashpoint for many creationists. Fox's 30-minute diatribe at the Field Museum, and another one at Brookfield Zoo, are echoes of other videos, such as this one where a creationist at Grand Canyon bemoans that taxpayers -- presumably tricked by evil atheists -- have paid for a "Trail of Time" path based on the assumption that rocks are millions of year old. The nerve of the National Park Service to make exhibits using science!

There's nothing quite like seeing your ignorance contradicted in public to raise your ire and indignation. How dare those liberal scientists suggest your opinions about science are wrong. How dare they promote "Darwinism" to defenseless children. How dare scientists use fancy words, such as "eukaryotes," in their exhibits. And if you struggle to pronounce such words as you pontificate about how scientists misuse those terms, then shame on the scientists for making you display your ignorance of phonics.

Asimov once wrote that some think the egalitarianism of democracy implies "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." In our anti-intellectual culture -- where we worship professional athletes while denigrating teachers, where cities subsidize lavish new football stadiums even as they slash school funding -- it should come as no surprise that individuals such as Fox imagine their unscripted, off-the-cuff remarks at a science museum carry more scientific heft than countless peer-reviewed papers. The intuition of a real American, according to a line of reasoning dating back to the Scopes trial, is superior to the knowledge of those egg-headed scientists with all their book learning.

The problem is that intuition stinks. It's no better than blind guessing, and often worse than blind guessing.

In many ways, science is the systematic demonstration that most of what you intuitively think about the natural world is completely wrong. The intuitions of most beginning physics students inform them that when two objects fall, one massive and one less massive, the more massive object should hit the ground first. Wrong; intuition fails. Beginning chemistry students assume that as you alter energy in atoms, the energy levels should change in a continuous, smooth curve rather than in clunky, stair-like jumps. Wrong; intuition fails again. Beginning biology students might look at a bird's wing and imagine they see design -- perhaps even an intelligent design, an avian engineering plan, a created limb expressly designed for the purpose of allowing birds to fly. Wrong again; gut feelings are not information. One thing I've learned studying science is that if I feel something is true, it's probably wrong.

Feelings and intuitions just do not get you very far. In one of the greatest reveals in movie history, Darth Vader says to Luke, "I am your father." This is followed by one of the worst moments in movie history, when Vader suggests as proof of his claim: "Search your feelings, you know it to be true." Huh? How would an inventory of Luke's feelings help? Everyone else has to go on the Maury Povich show to determine paternity using DNA, but since the Force is strong in Luke, he gets to use his magic intuition.

Magical thinking similarly permeates Fox's commentary on a display of the famous fossil Tiktaalik, shown below in a more fleshed out form.

She "audits" the Field display by saying:

"Today tetrapods include reptiles, birds, and mammals like you." [Fox here makes a stink eye for the camera that would make any teenager blush.] Maybe they always had feet like that. Maybe that's the way they were made -- with feet... It's not like their fins fell off and then they grew feet. That's what they want you to believe... Do you know how complex feet are?!

Of course, no scientist argues that the fins of an adult fish fell off and articulated limbs sprung into place, as in some bad sci-fi movie. This straw man caricature is camouflage for what Fox is really saying -- that tetrapods were created. Created by God as they presently are, with all their limbs already in place. People have a right to think this, of course, but there's no need to first attack science museums.

The Field Museum is one of the world's best places to rid oneself of the mistaken notion that animals were supernaturally created in their present forms. So the real lesson of Fox's "audit" is not any science-shattering observation she makes, but the spectacle of her own inability to see what is right before her. There is no insurmountable barrier to knowledge except stubbornness. The real tragedy here is a person going to a museum that shows so much of the beauty and majesty of nature, and being able to react only in self-righteous rage.

LGBT Protections Included In Fix For Indiana's 'Religious Freedom' Law

Thu, 2015-04-02 09:17
WASHINGTON -- Indiana lawmakers are set to introduce new language for the state's "religious freedom" law Thursday, to clarify that the law does not allow businesses to deny goods or services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed last week by Gov. Mike Pence (R), would allow any individual or corporation to cite religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party. But for many people, what was most concerning was that the measure could open the door to widespread discrimination against the LGBT community.

Since Pence signed the legislation, there has been a national backlash against Indiana. Businesses have condemned the law, groups have pulled their conferences out of the state and local tourism bureaus have been scrambling to reassure visitors that they're open to everyone.

Pence has maintained that the legislation does not permit discrimination against anyone, but nonetheless asked the legislature earlier this week to send him new language, to clear up what the governor called "mischaracterizations."

The new language unveiled by GOP leaders Thursday goes further than many observers thought it would, specifically including protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. From the updated RFRA proposal:



In a Thursday morning press conference, state Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R) and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) said they came up with the new language after speaking with business and civic leaders.

"Hoosier hospitality had to be restored," Bosma said.

Long and Bosma presented the new measure to lawmakers on Thursday morning. The Indianapolis Star reported that the language met with opposition from Democrats, who didn't think it went far enough. But Republicans secured the votes needed to move forward to the full General Assembly for a final vote by simply booting the Democratic members off the committee that was considering the measure, according to the Star. Pence must sign off on any updated bill before it can become law.

The inclusion of specific protections for LGBT individuals in the RFRA is somewhat surprising, in part because Pence had repeatedly insisted that he opposed such protections, saying they were not on his agenda.

But LGBT discrimination is still legal in Indiana, since it is not one of the states with comprehensive protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The new language does nothing to expand LGBT rights from where they were prior to Pence's signing of the RFRA. And the "fix" is still weak to many opponents who want to see the law repealed altogether.

LGBT groups cheered the victory Thursday morning, but said Indiana still needs to codify comprehensive nondiscrimination protections into law.

It's official: #Indiana's #RFRA cannot be used to discriminate against #LGBT Hoosiers! #INLegis pic.twitter.com/qyB4hEXgfU

— Freedom Indiana (@freedom_indiana) April 2, 2015


"The changes proposed by the Legislature represent a step in the right direction that takes us closer to achieving our goal of passing the Fairness for All Hoosiers Act," said Freedom Indiana Campaign Manager Katie Blair, referring to a proposed measure would protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. "Today, the harm has been lessened, but we have not reached the day when LGBT Hoosiers can be assured that they can live their lives with freedom from discrimination."

"It’s long past time to enact a comprehensive nondiscrimination law," Blair continued, "and we must continue to work to ensure, once and for all, that the RFRA cannot be used to discriminate against or hurt anyone."

"Now that there's broad public understanding that gay and transgender people in much of Indiana are terribly vulnerable to arbitrary discrimination by businesses, refusal of housing and being fired just for being who they are -- and even Gov. Pence has agreed that that is wrong -- that unacceptable situation requires a full solution," added Jennifer Pizer, national director of Lambda Legal’s Law and Policy Project.

Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle also said the changes didn't go far enough. Oesterle, whose company is based in Indianapolis, has been an outspoken critic of RFRA and canceled a $40 million headquarters expansion in response to the new law. In a statement Thursday, he said he wanted to see state lawmakers go further.

“Our position is that this 'fix' is insufficient," said Oesterle, who previously served as a staffer to former Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). "There was no repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana. Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning. That’s just not right and that’s the real issue here. Our employees deserve to live, work and travel with open accommodations in any part of the state.“

The new proposal also isn't sitting well with some of RFRA's original backers, including Eric Miller, founder and executive director of Advance America. Miller was one of the few people invited to Pence's private signing ceremony for the measure last week.

"The Indiana General Assembly should not destroy in less than 36 hours the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that took over 65 days to go through the legislative process earlier this year," Miller said in a statement Thursday.

In a press release, Miller's group expressed worry that if the new RFRA language is adopted, "Christian bakers, florists and photographers would no longer have the benefit of Indiana law to help protect them from being forced by the government to participate in a homosexual wedding."

On Wednesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison (R) also asked his state legislature to change its proposed RFRA, after Arkansas faced blowback similar to Indiana's. Hutchison had originally said he planned to sign the bill.

UPDATE: 4:33 p.m. -- The state House approved the new RFRA language by a vote of 66-30, and the Senate followed in a 34-16 vote.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

HUFFPOST READERS: If you live in Indiana, we want to hear about how this law is affecting you. Email your story or any tips to openreporting@huffingtonpost.com. Include your name, the city you live in, and a phone number if you're willing to be contacted by a reporter.

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Ex-Con Creates Tech Company To Help Inmates Stay In Touch With Families

Thu, 2015-04-02 08:54
Frederick Hutson was just 24 and living in St. Petersburg, Florida, when he was convicted on a drug trafficking charge. The Air Force veteran spent four years behind bars, serving out his sentence in eight different correctional facilities.

Hutson found prison life was isolating, no surprise at a time when one 15-minute interstate phone call could cost an inmate as much as $17. Isolation is an ongoing hurdle for prisoners and their families, as research has repeatedly shown that keeping inmates connected with loved ones and support structures on the outside helps reduce recidivism rates.

"[Incarcerated] people who maintain supportive relationships with family members have better outcomes -- such as stable housing and employment -- when they return to the community," reads one study by the nonprofit Vera Institute. "Many corrections practitioners and policy makers intuitively understand the positive role families can play in the reentry process, but they often do not know how to help people in prison draw on these social supports.”

Such research, coupled with his own experience, gave Hutson a new idea. Today, that idea has transformed into Pigeonly, a $3 million tech company specifically tailoring products for underserved communities, particularly the incarcerated and their families.

Hutson launched Pigeonly in 2013 after receiving coaching and input from the NewME Accelerator in San Francisco, which helps support underrepresented entrepreneurs. Pigeonly's products to date include Fotopigeon, a prison-friendly photo-mailing platform, and Telepigeon, a service that drastically reduces the often cost-prohibitive price of phone calls to and from correctional facilities.

“Most people don’t have life sentences, so the real question we have to ask ourselves is, what type of person do we want to release?” Hudson, now 31, told The Huffington Post. “Someone who’s isolated from everyone they know and lost touch with everyone who could support them who, when they’re back on the street, are way more likely to go back to the previous activity they were doing before prison? No."


Inside Pigeonly's office in Las Vegas. The company recently expanded into a larger space to accommodate its growth. (Pigeon.ly)

The Las Vegas-based company says it has already had a great deal of success with its flagship products in a relatively short period of time.

Fotopigeon prints photos uploaded by a user and mails them to a prison on the user's behalf, carefully abiding by the strident and sometimes confusing regulations that govern mail sent to prisons. The service already has a base of 80,000 customers who have uploaded over a million photos, at 50 cents apiece with free shipping, since the service began.

Hutson told HuffPost the company is currently shipping a quarter of a million photos a month.

“It’s something that has very high value when you’re isolated from everything you know,” Hutson said. “Think about how important images are in daily life on the outside. It’s crazy to think it’d be any different for the 2.3 million people in prison or the 20 million people who want to communicate with them.”

Through Telepigeon, inmates can call a local number that routes to their loved ones wherever they're located, allowing those inside to avoid the high long-distance rates more typical of the prison phone industry. One package allows for unlimited call minutes using a local number for $9.99 a month -- a far cry from that brief $17 long-distance call. The new service is protected by a landmark 2013 decision issued by the Federal Communications Commission, which lowered fees that made it hard for prison residents to maintain contact with the outside.

Some 60,000 customers have used Telepigeon since it launched just last year, the company says.

The backbone of both services is Haystac, Pigeonly’s own inmate locator. Haystac makes it easier for families to identify the facility in which their loved ones are located by gathering county, state and federal prison data all in one place.

Fotopigeon and Telepigeon have saved families an estimated $3 million in phone charges and alternative mailing services through January 2015, the company says.


Pay phones for inmates are seen on a wall at the Fremont Police Detention Facility in Fremont, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The personal connections maintained by such services can indeed have a big impact. Inmates at state facilities in the U.S. are typically incarcerated about 100 miles away from their families, meaning phone calls and contact through the mail tend to be far more frequent than in-person visits.

Distance was a big factor in Alychia Davis turning to Pigeonly’s services to help her keep in touch with her loved ones, including a sister behind bars in West Virginia, a boyfriend behind bars in Texas and, until recently, her 71-year-old father who was incarcerated in Minnesota. Living in Douglasville, Georgia, and taking care of her 7-year-old son as well as her sister’s 9-year-old son, regular in-person visits from Davis are out of the question.

But Davis says the company’s phone and photo-mailing services have been fast, easy to use, and saved her hundreds of dollars -- not to mention making a big impact on her loved ones’ lives thanks to more frequent contact. Because her father suffers from dementia, she said, the photo sharing had a particularly strong impact on her efforts to keep his memories intact.

“It keeps them sane,” Davis told HuffPost. “It takes a lot of stress off of them so they don’t have to worry, and it helps keep them out of trouble. It helps us too, so it’s a plus on both ends. The smallest things go a long way.”

A loss of contact can have the reverse effect. Daniel Lein, 28, of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, told HuffPost he’s spent about six years of the last decade behind bars in both his home state and across the border in Illinois. He said that family members visited, wrote and called relatively frequently when he was first behind bars, but that changed during his most recent sentence of 19 months, when he had little to no contact with anyone on the outside.

Lein described the psychological toll of his most recent sentence as “huge,” thanks in part to the isolation he felt from his family, including his two children. With little money to spend toward his commissary, he said, he stole peanut butter while working in the kitchen to trade for envelopes he used to correspond with his family.

“You panic. If you don’t hear from someone, you think something’s wrong,” Lein explained. “But any day I got mail made that the best day. I would read that letter at least 100 times that day, and if I got a hold of someone on the phone, that made my day, too. Even if it was a bad phone call or letter, something was better than nothing. When you’re in there, you have no idea what’s going on on the outside.”


Hutson launched Pigeonly at the age of 29 in 2013. (Pigeon.ly)

Having raised $3.2 million in seed money to date, Pigeonly is now looking to expand its services into other areas crucial to the company’s customers, most of whom are low-income and half of whom do not have bank accounts. Its next project, Hutson said, will be a service that allows for less-expensive money transfers between inmates and their loved ones.

Hutson said he also hopes to launch other product lines addressing employment and affordable housing issues and offering legal services.

When it comes to the bottom line, Hutson credited his company’s success to “an incredible amount of pent-up demand" for a demographic traditionally ignored by the tech industry, which typically has little knowledge of the challenges and obstacles faced by communities disproportionately affected by incarceration.

Because Hutson has lived it himself, personally dealing with the isolation and trauma, he has been able to fill that void.

“Most companies are building products for problems they understand or demographics and markets they understand. They experience something and build a product to solve that problem,” Hutson said. “You don’t understand unless you go through it."

This post is part of a Huffington Post What's Working series, in partnership with #cut50, co-sponsors of the recent Bipartisan Summit on Criminal Justice Reform (Washington, D.C., March 26). The Summit was part of a movement to popularize support for criminal-justice reforms while also having comprehensive discussions about the policies, replicable models and data-driven solutions needed to achieve systemic changes. The series will focus on such solutions. For more information on #cut50, read here. And to read all the posts in the series, see our What's Working coverage here.

Judge Enters Not Guilty Plea For Detroit Man Brutally Beaten By Police

Thu, 2015-04-02 08:45
(Reuters) - A judge on Wednesday entered a not guilty plea for a man charged with drug possession who was dragged from his car, struck several times in the head and Tasered by suburban Detroit police during an arrest recorded on squad car video.

Floyd Dent, 57, says police physically abused him and planted cocaine in his car after the traffic stop on Jan. 28 in Inkster, Michigan, the latest in a series of altercations that have raised concerns about police use of force in the nation.

Gregory Rohl, Dent's attorney, has said his client, who is black, was targeted because of his race. Dent elected to stay mute in Wednesday's proceeding, so the judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

"It's overwhelming, being in the spotlight," Dent, who has worked for Ford Motor Company for decades, told reporters after his court appearance.

Later on Wednesday, about 80 people demonstrated with Dent at Inkster police headquarters wearing T-shirts printed with "Stop Police Brutality." Protesters said they would not stop until the officers involved are removed from the department.

"You will not get away with it because our fight will never stop, our light will never burn out," said the Reverend Charles Williams II, president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network.

Officers seen in the video of Dent's arrest are white. About three-quarters of Inkster's residents are African-American, according to U.S. Census figures.

One of the officers, William Melendez, was among several then-Detroit police officers accused in federal indictments in 2003 of misconduct. A jury acquitted the officers.

Melendez has been named as a defendant in several federal civil lawsuits dating to 1996, including one stemming from a 2011 arrest in Inkster where he was accused of excessive force.

Melendez testified in March that Dent ran a stop sign after leaving a motel known for drug activity and threatened him and his partner when he was pulled over.

In the video Melendez can be seen approaching Dent's car with his gun drawn, the door opens and his partner pulls Dent from the vehicle. Melendez wraps an arm around Dent's neck and punches him on the head while his partner handcuffs him.

Another officer then Tasered Dent, who was hospitalized for injuries to his face and head.

Charges against Dent of assault and resisting arrest were dismissed in March. Dent is scheduled to appear in court on April 15.

(Reporting by Serena Maria Daniels; Editing by David Bailey, Eric Walsh, Eric Beech and Cynthia Osterman)

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