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Dick Durbin To Seek Probe Of Control-Center Sabotage That Caused Massive Flight Delays

Sun, 2014-09-28 16:04
CHICAGO (AP) — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday that he will seek an investigation into how a contract employee was able to sabotage a regional control center and bring Chicago's two international airports to a halt.

The Illinois Democrat told The Associated Press that he will ask inspectors general at the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate whether there was a security breach when the employee entered the building early Friday with a suitcase without causing suspicion. He then started a fire in the basement telecommunications room before attempting to commit suicide by slashing his throat. Brian Howard, 36, of Naperville, who had access to the control center in suburban Aurora via a swipe card, entered around 5 a.m. Friday, and about 30 minutes later posted a suicide note on Facebook, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Minutes later, someone at the facility called 911 to report the fire. A relative who saw the Facebook post also alerted authorities. Paramedics followed a trail of blood past a gas can, two knives and a lighter and found the suspect slashing his throat, the complaint said. He also had cuts to his arms.

Durbin said he is grateful that the FAA was able to get all planes on the ground safely. He said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told him that 23 of 29 computer racks were damaged, and the FAA said Sunday that it decided to replace the entire central communications network at the center.

"Thank God nobody lost their lives, but it could have happened in this circumstance," Durbin said.

Sen. Mark Kirk said Saturday that he wanted an immediate review of the FAA screening process at the site, and a report within 30 days outlining future changes.

On Sunday, 550 flights were canceled at O'Hare and 50 at Midway. At the height of the travel misery Friday, more than 2,000 flights in and out of the airports were canceled, disrupting travel nationwide.

FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said improvements were expected on Monday, although the system would not be fully functional.

The facility in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago, handles planes cruising at high altitudes through the air space as well as those just beginning to approach or completing a departure from airports in the Chicago area. Its responsibilities have been transferred to centers in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Minneapolis.

Cory said the FAA has been able to increase air traffic and reduce delays by improving direct communication between the centers now handling Chicago's air traffic, and by developing new ways to automatically file and transfer airline flight plan information.

The FAA said it conducts employee background checks on contract workers like Howard who have access to FAA facilities, information or equipment. Contract employees, like other staff at the Aurora facility, also must have their identification inspected by a perimeter guard and must swipe their cards to gain access to the building.

Howard worked at the facility for eight years and was involved with the facility's communications systems. He was recently told he was being transferred to Hawaii.

Durbin said it's possible that Howard's suitcase did not cause concern because security believed he was retrieving personal belongings in preparation for his move.

Howard was charged with destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, a felony. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

___

Follow Tammy Webber on Twitter at https://twitter.com/twebber02

Rauner Still Silent on Ohio Racketeering Lawsuit

Sat, 2014-09-27 16:42
Fallout from Illinois GOP gubernatorial nominee Bruce Rauner's private equity firm's ownership and operation of Trans Healthcare, Inc., a nationwide nursing home chain, continues to dog the challenger's campaign. The trial which started this week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tampa, Florida, is raising even more disturbing questions about Rauner's involvement in the now insolvent nursing home business.

Guys like Rauner, accustomed to operating their whole lives largely under the radar in the world of private equity, are just not accustomed to the kind of scrutiny a big political campaign brings. You can see it all the time in Rauner's stunned reaction to even the mostly softball questions from reporters about his business dealings.

The fear of heightened public disclosure may be the reason why Rauner's firm GTCR decided to settle a civil racketeering lawsuit back in 2006, shortly after the federal judge set a trial date for the case.

As Rauner was chairman of GTCR at the time, we can probably safely assume he had to personally sign-off on a decision to settle a big racketeering case.

I wrote about the details of that racketeering lawsuit back in May. The terms of the settlement remain confidential, but a reference to the case in court filings in other Trans Healthcare litigation suggests the amount was easily in the millions.

The lead plaintiff in the 2006 case was Aegis Services, Inc. ("Aegis"), a landlord which leased land and facilities to defendants for use in their nursing home business throughout Ohio.

Aegis claimed defendants had been ignoring their rent obligations because they were engaged in a "massive and wholesale pattern of wrongful and fraudulent conversion" of nursing home monies which defendants were unlawfully diverting to themselves. Those nursing home monies of course included tax dollars in the form of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.

All of this exposes yet another lie by Rauner. As the current trial proceeds in Florida, Rauner attempts to bamboozle gullible reporters into thinking this is all new and that his company has never been accused of wrongdoing before. Of course it's all hogwash. The Ohio racketeering case is just one example evidencing that this "bust-out" model was Rauner's common practice and not some isolated event.

Aegis's suit included not only civil racketeering claims -- as in the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations statute, or "RICO" -- but also other federal and state civil claims including allegations of mail fraud, wire fraud, fraudulent transfer, unlawful conversion of assets, and intentional submission of false financial information. Those allegations sound like they could also have been brought criminally, but we find no evidence that the matter went beyond Aegis's civil claims.

The main defendants were the GTCR-created-and-controlled Trans Healthcare, Inc. and Trans Health Management, Inc. While Rauner was not personally named, GTCR Fund VI, L.P. (one of GTCR's investment funds) was a named defendant due to its ownership and control of Trans Healthcare.

Two of Rauner's then-fellow GTCR principals, Edgar Jannotta, Jr. and Thomas Goldberg were also personally named. Also named as defendants were Trans Healthcare's Chairman Thomas Erickson, and its President and CEO W. Bradley Bennett - both were officers installed by GTCR.

Anyone following the trial going on now in Florida will note many of the same players.

More importantly, if Pat Quinn had once settled a RICO case, does anyone honestly think it wouldn't be front page news? And Rauner's campaign would get another million or two from his billionaire pal Ken Griffin to guarantee every voter in Illinois knew about it.

But when it comes to Rauner, almost everyone is silent.

Finally, I'll note Bruce Rauner earns a distinction even disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich can't claim. Recall the Feds actually dropped racketeering charges against Blagojevich.

Granted, in Blagojevich's case we are talking about the criminal side of the federal RICO statute. The suit Aegis brought was a federal civil RICO case and the standard of proof is lower, and obviously the penalties are quite different. Nevertheless, it's a very serious matter and the fact remains Rauner's firm decided to settle a civil RICO case instead of going to trial.

--

Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.

Charges Filed After Intentionally-Set Fire At FAA Traffic Center Shuts Down Chicago Airports

Sat, 2014-09-27 08:58
CHICAGO (AP) -- Airlines were scrambling to accommodate travelers whose flights were canceled after a contract employee allegedly set a fire at a suburban Chicago air traffic control center where he worked, halting flights at two of the nation's busiest airports.

Brian Howard, 36, of Naperville, Illinois, was charged Friday with destruction of aircraft or aircraft facilities, a felony. When paramedics found him, he was trying to cut his own throat, according to the criminal complaint. The FBI said Howard remains hospitalized and no court date has been scheduled.

The fire halted all traffic in and out of O'Hare and Midway airports. Delays and cancellations rippled through the air travel network from coast to coast after the fire. The ground stoppage at O'Hare and Midway raised questions about whether the Federal Aviation Administration has adequate backup plans to keep planes moving when a single facility has to shut down.

By Friday night, more than 2,000 flights in and out of Chicago had been canceled. Flights resumed after a five-hour gap, but planes were moving at a much-reduced pace, and no one could be sure when full service would be restored.

The FAA said in a statement Friday evening that it was managing the Aurora facility's traffic through centers in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Minneapolis. The agency said it would continue working with those centers over the weekend to reduce disruptions.

The fire forced the evacuation of the control center in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago. It was the second unexpected shutdown of a Chicago-area air traffic facility since May.

Howard worked for the FAA contractor that supplies and maintains communications systems at air traffic facilities, said Jessica Cigich, a spokeswoman for Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, the union that represents FAA technicians. Howard was recently told he was being transferred to Hawaii, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

The complaint says a relative who saw a suicidal Facebook note posted on Howard's account early Friday alerted authorities. Meanwhile, a 911 call from the control center brought a suburban fire department to the scene, where paramedics followed a trail of blood past a gas can, two knives and a lighter, the complaint said.

Howard told the paramedics who found him, "Leave me alone," the complaint said.

Howard used a key card to access the center, according to the complaint, and video surveillance shows him dragging a rolling suitcase as he entered. Authorities don't believe there's any surveillance video of the crime itself, Thomas Ahern, a spokesman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said.

When the center was evacuated, management of the region's airspace was transferred to other facilities, FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said.

The shutdown quickly spread travel misery around the country, with airports as close as Milwaukee and as far as Dallas canceling flights.

Online radar images at one point showed a gaping hole in the nation's air traffic map over the Upper Midwest. Some passengers already in the air headed for Chicago wound up elsewhere. Southwest Airlines said it scrapped all of its flights at Midway and Milwaukee for the entire day.

"This is a nightmare scenario when we thought systems were in place to prevent it," said aviation analyst Joseph Schwieterman of DePaul University in Chicago. "Technology is advancing so fast that ... there's less of a need for air traffic control to be so geographically oriented. I think the FAA's going to find itself under a microscope."

The disruption was also likely to deliver a financial hit to airlines, Schwieterman said.

The FAA's statement did not address the delays, and a spokeswoman in Chicago did not respond to a request for comment about the agency's backup planning.

Brothers Glenn and Gary Campbell, of suburban Chicago, had planned to travel to the Orlando, Florida, area to attend their father's 80th birthday party. Instead, they settled for refunds.

"That it is so easy to disrupt the system is disturbing," said Gary Campbell, a carpenter from Crystal Lake, Illinois. "They need to see how to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again."

In May, an electrical problem forced the evacuation of a regional radar facility in suburban Elgin. A bathroom exhaust fan overheated and melted insulation on some wires, sending smoke through the facility's ventilation system and into the control room. That site was evacuated for three hours, and more than 1,100 flights were canceled.

The Aurora facility, known as an enroute center, handles aircraft flying at high altitudes, including those approaching or leaving Chicago airports. Air traffic closer to the airports is handled by a different facility and by the control towers at the airfields.

---

Associated Press writers Michael Tarm in Chicago, David Koenig in Dallas and Joan Lowy in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

You Can Visit The National Parks For Free This Weekend In Honor Of National Public Lands Day

Fri, 2014-09-26 18:15
In honor of National Public Lands Day, on Saturday, Sept. 27, nearly every National Parks site in the U.S. will offer free admission to the public.

One-third of the country's land is publicly owned. President Barack Obama in a Friday proclamation for NPLD called for Americans to "rededicate ourselves to the important work of preserving and protecting our land and environment in our own time."

Nationwide, roughly 2,200 sites will host NPLD projects or events that include nature, recreation and clean-up efforts.

Though the National Parks Service offers free admission on several days throughout the year, the annual NPLD is the nation’s "largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands," according to The National Parks Conservation Association. Last year, volunteers supported the National Parks Service's various restoration, conservation and enhancement efforts by doing everything from scrubbing graffiti from rock faces to weeding invasive plants.

Volunteers who pitch in on NPLD can also get a voucher to visit any National Parks site for free during the next year. Below are just 14 stunning sites you can visit, chosen from among the nation's roughly 401 areas covered by the National Parks system.

Raging GOP Candidate Mike Bost's Past Includes Dog Killing And Mysterious Stolen Gun

Fri, 2014-09-26 17:57
WASHINGTON -- Illinois state Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) has made a name for himself throwing extraordinary tantrums during legislative sessions. But he doesn't appear to have contained his notorious temper to the statehouse, according to a review of court and police records obtained by The Huffington Post.

Bost, who is running for Congress this fall under the slogan "Passionate Leadership for Southern Illinois," has a lengthy history with local authorities, including some incidents that suggest "passionate" is a bit of an understatement.

The earliest episode dates back to 1986, when a neighborhood beagle named Rusty bit Bost's 4-year-old daughter. The report filed by animal control officials indicates that the girl provoked the attack by chasing the dog. She ultimately had to get 19 stitches on her face.

According to court records, Bost was displeased that authorities would not be able to deal with the 10-year-old dog immediately. So he got his handgun, drove to Rusty's owner's home, and shot the dog to death while it was penned in an enclosure.

Neighbors were "very alarmed and disturbed," according to the police report, but a jury eventually found Bost not guilty of breaking any laws. The local paper reported the case under the headline "Area man acquitted in dog killing trial."

The documents also detail another alarming, more mysterious incident. Bost, a gun-rights defender who in 2008 voted against a bill to require the prompt reporting of stolen guns, did not report a gun that was stolen from his own home.

In 2006, Bost's nickel-plated special edition .357 Rossi revolver was stolen from his gun safe. According to police records, Bost did not know about the theft until police showed up at his door to inform him that the gun had been used to threaten another man's life. Bost led investigators to the safe, and the firearm was indeed missing.

It is unclear who stole the weapon and how it was removed from the safe, but Bost and family members suspected that the thief may have been connected to a 17-year-old girl who had stayed briefly in Bost's house. Bost told police that he usually did not lock the side door to the room that contained the safe.

Other incidents found in the files are less distressing, but similarly portray Bost as an aggressive man whose actions often put him in conflict with others.

While Bost once felt justified in shooting a dog to death, in later years, he wasn't too worried about his own dog roaming the neighborhood. Local police records show that neighbors were so concerned about Bost's pet scampering around their homes and the local school that they called police at least four separate times.

Several people who encountered the lawmaker seem to have responded especially poorly to him, though the records do not indicate why. According to one report, in 1999 someone kicked in Bost's front door looking for him, but left when they encountered only his wife. Bost reported the incident to police. He also called the cops in 2009 after someone left a note on his car that was described as suspicious, along with a copy of the "Narcotics Anonymous" pamphlet.

Along with a fairly typical assortment of traffic tickets and moving violations, Bost was also involved in at least two car accidents. In a 1996 crash involving his red Beetle, Bost was found at fault for failing to yield to another motorist.

Bost's campaign did not respond to requests for comment, including questions about the stolen gun and what the string of incidents might say about the candidate.

Bost's outbursts are a regular hit on YouTube. Perhaps most notoriously, while railing in 2012 against what he saw as unfair floor procedures, he punched at a stack of papers that he had flung into the air. At the end of that rant, he compared Illinois Republicans and his constituents to biblical Jews in Egypt, hollering, "I feel like somebody trying to be released from Egypt! Let my people go!” And last spring, during debate on concealed carry rules, Bost smashed his microphone, prompting a Democrat to quip, "We don't want someone like that carrying a concealed weapon."

Democrats have sought to portray Bost, who is challenging Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Ill.), as a fundamentally unsound person whose volatile temper would only make Washington worse. So far, they've used his infamous outbursts in at least two ads, in which they dub Bost "Meltdown Mike."

Green Tie Ball XXIII (PHOTOS)

Fri, 2014-09-26 16:30
One of Chicago's most celebrated charity events, Green Tie Ball, returned last week with a glamorous theme, 'The Great Green Gatsby,' honoring the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald story.

Hosted by nonprofit organization Chicago Gateway Green (dedicated to greening and beautifying the region's expressways, gateways, and communities), Green Tie Ball continued its tradition as one of the best fundraisers of the summer raising over $430,000 and offering 2600 guests a new and unique outdoor location in the parking lot at UIC at 1135 S. Union Street, with some of the most entertaining musical talent to date. Slated to DJ, Jane Addiction front-man Perry Farrell decided to surprise guests with a live performance joined by his wife Etty Farrell, and international deejay Sander Kleinenberg.

Hosted by ABC7's 'Windy City Live!' hosts, Val Warner and Ryan Chiaverini, other local talent joined Perry as part of the night's lineup, including DJ Rock City, DJ JRose & DJ Kane, DJ Justin Jacobson and DJ Matt Roan. Famous faces included NBC's Alicia Roman, CBS2's Kris Gutierrez, WLS's Roe Conn, WGN's Dina Bair and many more, who mingled in the events VIP speakeasy lounges.

"Over the past 22 years, the growth of our event has been truly remarkable and has evolved into one of the most entertaining events of the summer," says co-chair Lee Golub. He continues, "Chicago Gateway Green is now an organization with a very rich and deep rooted history in our city, yet its main purpose is to keep improving the greening and beautification of Chicago. It is because of that, I believe, why Green Tie Ball relates to nearly everyone and brings together Chicagoans from all different age groups and demographics."

Sponsors of the Green Tie Ball included exclusive gaming sponsor Rivers Casino; KIA, Chicago Sun-Times, Goose Island, ArcelorMittal, Broken Earth Winery, Golub & Company, Tito's Handmade Vodka, Harry Carey's, Brugal Rum, PeopleFoundry, Home Run Inn, Bakery Tilly Baltics, Alper Services, Zignum, Wirtz Beverage Illinois, Turano, DLA Piper, BMO Harris Bank, Wight & Co., Dining Chicago, Rockit Bar & Grill, Todd T Designs and Absolute Productions.


Check out all of the fun and the best dressed attendees in the gallery below!

7 of Illinois' Healthiest and Least Healthy Counties

Fri, 2014-09-26 14:52
County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program has released 2014 national health rankings. Some counties in Illinois are on the right track health-wise, but some have room for improvement.

To determine rankings, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps measured factors including length of life, quality of life, personal health behaviors, access to clinical care, socioeconomic indicators and physical environment. Here's a breakdown of how each category is weighed:



Since there are 102 counties in Illinois, we've only provided rankings for the 25 healthiest counties and the 25 least healthy. Along with the rankings are some bullet point statistics, if applicable:

  • Percent of adults reporting poor or fair health (age-adjusted).

  • Percent of adult population reporting a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 30.

  • Excessive drinking (binge plus heavy drinking).

  • Physical inactivity (number of adults aged 20 or over that report having no leisure-time to partake in physical activity).

  • Uninsured (percent of population under the age of 65 without health insurance).

  • Percent of 9th grader who graduate high school in four years.

  • Percent of children living in a single-parent household.

  • Violent crime rate per a population of 100,000.

  • Air pollution (average daily measure of fine particulate matter in micrograms per cubic meter - PM2.5).


You can read more on the ranking method here. To view all of Illinois' counties as well as additional metrics, check out County Health Rankings & Roadmaps' website.

Here are seven of the healthiest counties:

25. Will
Adult population with poor or fair health: 13 percent
Adult obesity rate: 33 percent
Excessive drinking: 24 percent
Physical inactivity: 24 percent
Uninsured: 11 percent
High school graduation: 86 percent
Children in single-parent households: 21 percent
Violent crime rate: 169
Air pollution: 13.1

24. Ogle
Adult population with poor or fair health: 17 percent
Adult obesity rate: 28 percent
Excessive drinking: 21 percent
Physical inactivity: 27 percent
Uninsured: 12 percent
High school graduation: 89 percent
Children in single-parent households: 24 percent
Violent crime rate: 66
Air pollution: 12.3

23. Champaign
Adult population with poor or fair health: 10 percent
Adult obesity rate: 27 percent
Excessive drinking: 18 percent
Physical inactivity: 22 percent
Uninsured: 13 percent
High school graduation: 86 percent
Children in single-parent households: 37 percent
Violent crime rate: 616
Air pollution: 13.3

22. Effingham
Adult population with poor or fair health: 11 percent
Adult obesity rate: 27 percent
Excessive drinking: 31 percent
Physical inactivity: 27 percent
Uninsured: 11 percent
High school graduation: 88 percent
Children in single-parent households: 24 percent
Violent crime rate: 134
Air pollution: 13.4

21. Piatt
Adult population with poor or fair health: 12 percent
Adult obesity rate: 30 percent
Excessive drinking: N/A
Physical inactivity: 28 percent
Uninsured: 10 percent
High school graduation: 93 percent
Children in single-parent households: 17 percent
Violent crime rate: 219
Air pollution: 13.0

20. Calhoun
Adult population with poor or fair health: N/A
Adult obesity rate: 30 percent
Excessive drinking: N/A
Physical inactivity: 34 percent
Uninsured: 13 percent
High school graduation: 88 percent
Children in single-parent households: 13 percent
Violent crime rate: 358
Air pollution: 11.5

19. Shelby
Adult population with poor or fair health: 9 percent
Adult obesity rate: 30 percent
Excessive drinking: N/A
Physical inactivity: 31 percent
Uninsured: 14 percent
High school graduation: 92 percent
Children in single-parent households: 20 percent
Violent crime rate: 119
Air pollution: 13.1

Here are seven of the least healthy counties:

102. Alexander
Adult population with poor or fair health: N/A
Adult obesity rate: 33 percent
Excessive drinking: N/A
Physical inactivity: 30 percent
Uninsured: 14 percent
High school graduation: N/A
Children in single-parent households: 64 percent
Violent crime rate: 1,351
Air pollution: 13.0

101. Gallatin
Adult population with poor or fair health: N/A
Adult obesity rate: 30 percent
Excessive drinking: N/A
Physical inactivity: 30 percent
Uninsured: 15 percent
High school graduation: N/A
Children in single-parent households: 33 percent
Violent crime rate: 107
Air pollution: 13.9

100. Franklin
Adult population with poor or fair health: 22 percent
Adult obesity rate: 30 percent
Excessive drinking: 12 percent
Physical inactivity: 30 percent
Uninsured: 14 percent
High school graduation: 83 percent
Children in single-parent households: 40 percent
Violent crime rate: 333
Air pollution: 13.2

99. Saline
Adult population with poor or fair health: 16 percent
Adult obesity rate: 30 percent
Excessive drinking: N/A
Physical inactivity: 32 percent
Uninsured: 13 percent
High school graduation: 80 percent
Children in single-parent households: 36 percent
Violent crime rate: 338
Air pollution: 13.6

98. Pulaski
Adult population with poor or fair health: N/A
Adult obesity rate: 33 percent
Excessive drinking: N/A
Physical inactivity: 30 percent
Uninsured: 15 percent
High school graduation: N/A
Children in single-parent households: 41 percent
Violent crime rate: 1,124
Air pollution: 13.2

97. Massac
Adult population with poor or fair health: 33 percent
Adult obesity rate: 34 percent
Excessive drinking: N/A
Physical inactivity: 30 percent
Uninsured: 13 percent
High school graduation: 92 percent
Children in single-parent households: 28 percent
Violent crime rate: 343
Air pollution: 13.6

96. Edwards
Adult population with poor or fair health: N/A
Adult obesity rate: 27 percent
Excessive drinking: N/A
Physical inactivity: 26 percent
Uninsured: 12 percent
High school graduation: 93 percent
Children in single-parent households: 24 percent
Violent crime rate: 137
Air pollution: 14.0

See the top 18 healthiest and least healthy Illinois counties at Reboot Illinois.

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Chicago Joins Growing List Of U.S. Cities Vowing To End Veteran Homelessness

Fri, 2014-09-26 14:36
A city known for its deep dish pizza and windy weather wants another claim to fame: a community without a single homeless vet.

On Sept. 16, Chicago became the latest major U.S. city to announce plans to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel committed $800,000 of city money to a predominantly federally backed $5 million-a-year plan, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The City of Chicago identified 721 homeless veterans (465 of whom were living in shelters, while 256 were on the streets) through a point-in-time survey taken in January. The numbers are unacceptable to Mayor Emanuel, who wants to make sure "any veteran, having fought for the homeland, is not homeless when they come home."

Funds allocated toward the goal will boost social services programs and utilize four acres of city property for new housing facilities, NBC 5 News in Chicago reported. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the mayor's announcement included plans to open a unique center servicing both veterans and their families.

The Windy City is the latest of several communities across the country pledging to take on the issue. In June, first lady Michelle Obama launched the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, which partners mayors with federal and nonprofit efforts to end the crisis by the end of next year. In the eight weeks after the initiative began, 182 communities signed on to the challenge, the White House announced in August.

"And now, we can see the finish line," the first lady said in a speech in July, applauding the challenge's successful launch. "And if we achieve our goal, if we end homelessness for our veterans, then we’ll show everyone in this country that we can also do it for all those families shuttling from motel to motel, for all those LGBT teens and for every single person experiencing homelessness throughout our country."

A survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Interagency Council on Homelessness and Department of Housing and Urban Development released at the end of August showed a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of veterans sleeping on the street in the last four years.

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Tea and Conversation with Smashing Pumpkins Frontman, Billy Corgan

Fri, 2014-09-26 14:23
I had been wanting to sit down with Billy Corgan on The Dinner Party To Go Podcast for a while. There has been so much written about him and, as a fellow Chicagoan, his reputation locally - for better or worse - is larger than life. I prepared myself for a potentially abrasive encounter as I have read that he can be a tricky personality. In addition, our day and time for our meeting had been pushed around so much that I just wasn't sure what kind of time we would have together for the interview or what kind of mood he would be in.

Contrary to most things that I have read or seen, the Billy Corgan I encountered on September 17th was warm, personable, and very thoughtful. It was clear he had spent a lot of time thinking about counter-culture and its mass expectation biases on established art and celebrities (i.e. Smashing Pumpkins). We talked about what it means to be part of "the uncomfortable middle": fitting in with neither mainstream culture (which he often refers to as the "main frame") or counter-culture, which he deems, in the end, as one in the same.

Over a fantastic tea for me (Emperor's Private Reserve, 200-300 years old, $20) that was silky and fragrant and iced tea for him, we discussed the loss of impact of Rock 'n' Roll ("It is literally just like wallpaper - and not even real wall paper, but digital wallpaper. The general fatigue behind the scenes is that Rock 'n' Roll has seen its best days...and no one is even mad about it... I see more genuine experiences at this point in my professional wrestling life than I see in my Rock 'n' Roll world.") and being a pescetarian.

While having functioned in the "uncomfortable middle" for the majority of his life, in the interview Corgan seemed at once at peace with it and yet still on the defensive, protecting wounds that maybe have yet to heal in full from the constant criticism that an artist of any medium can endure by the simple fact of putting themselves out there. Artists do this by choice, of course, and sometimes to great success and fame. But, it is a dicey road none-the-less, and Corgan seemed to be both still finding his equilibrium and more dedicated than ever to producing.

Case in point: Corgan has two new albums coming out with the Smashing Pumpkins, he curates the tea collection at his Madame Zuzu's Tea House (where our interview took place and which is also an alternative, tiny music venue), he is working on his memoir, which is expected to be 500,000 words, AND he writes for his wrestling organization, Resistance Pro, which is in production on a TV series with AMC. So, critics be damned, clearly there is no stopping him.

In the interview, we touch on the defining factor for what it takes to get one's work out in the public, the disappointment and potential positive impact of being an artist, the joy of constant learning, the commercialism of Rock 'n' Roll, his potential perceived insanity for not seeking fame, and, of course, wrestling.

Enjoy this one-on-one, warm, receptive, pensive and open interview with Smashing Pumpkins frontman, Billy Corgan, a self-described "big people person."

Couple Who Allegedly Had Sex On Murdered Bodies 'Couldn't Get Off'

Fri, 2014-09-26 14:06
Two people accused of murdering two Illinois men, then having sex on top of the bodies were unable to orgasm during the corpse-side intercourse, according to a newly released police interview.

Alisa Massaro and Joshua Miner were accused in the strangulation deaths of Eric Glover and Terrence Rankins, both 22, in Joliet, Illinois, back in January. Two others, Adam Landerman and Bethany McKee, were also accused in the murder.

Police said Glover and Rankins were lured to Massaro’s apartment, where they were robbed and strangled to death. Police also said Miner, 24, asked the 18-year-old Massaro to have sex with him atop the freshly deceased bodies.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/joliet-murder-suspects-we_n_2487962.htmlfrien

In a videotaped police interview played in court Thursday, Miner — whose trial began Tuesday — claimed that Massaro was the one to suggest the sex, the Chicago Sun Times reports.

“She’s like, ‘Let’s have sex,’” Miner said. “And I was like, ‘Let’s have sex on the bodies.’”

Miner continued that they ultimately ended up having sex next to the bodies, not on them, but “We both couldn’t get off, plus it was weird.”

The two victims were “friends” with their killers, officials said. Miner said in the taped police interview that the four always planned on robbing the victims, but not killing them. Before the planned robbery ever took place, he said they were all “hanging out” and playing video games with Glover and Rankins, but that things turned violent after one of the men tried to sexually assault McKee.

Massaro and McKee, however, testified that the attack was planned, and that Miner and Landerman signaled to them to leave the room before they strangled Glover and Rankins to death. McKee admitted in court to trying to help cover up the crime, and said both women took part in beating the bodies with a liquor bottle and shouting racial slurs.

Cops said Massaro confessed to having sex on the bodies, but she later denied it in court.

Massaro, Miner, Landerman and McKee were all charged with first-degree murder in the incident. In August, Massaro pleaded guilty to robbery and concealing a homicidal death in a plea deal that landed her a 10-year prison sentence, according to ABC 7. The same month, McKee was convicted of murder.

Landerman’s pre-trial hearing took place on Thursday, WJOL reports, while Miner’s trial is ongoing.

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That's Just Not Fair

Fri, 2014-09-26 13:06
"Well, that's just not fair!" cries the indignant 8-year-old. "Fairness has nothing to with it!" says one of his dads. It's a dialogue that occurs at least once a day in our house, especially around bedtime. As soon as our youngest son can talk, I'm sure we'll hear it in stereo. Ah, the concept of fairness! To most Americans, it's sacrosanct. Corruption, bribery and gross institutional inequality, commonplace in the developing world, are mostly newsworthy aberrations to us, albeit with some significant pockets of resistance. (Remember, I live near Chicago.) To most of us, fairness is something we seek in every aspect of our dealings with others, sometimes even with our children.

A few words of advice: If you choose to build your same-gender-parented family through adoption or foster-to-adoption, fairness is a concept with which you will have a tortured relationship. It's not just the arbitrary and personal occurrences of unfairness that creep up. All the "isms" of the world, which are usually kept to corners of our ordered world, come out swinging. Gross examples of sexism, heterosexism, racism, classism, elitism and their numerous cousins abound.

Between both our sons' adoptions, I can't count the number of times we uttered, "Well, that's just not fair." Such as when a birth mom chooses the heterosexual couple that just finished their application after your two-year wait. Or when an estranged maternal grandmother suddenly asserts her point of view as you pace anxiously in the hospital waiting to meet a newborn. Or when the birth mom with whom you've corresponded for weeks abruptly stops communicating. (All of this happened to us during our placements.)

We became familiar with the all the unfairness on the other side as well. How social agencies seem to favor some birth mothers over others, how our healthcare industry miserably fails to serve the poor, how so-called faith families abandon their own when an unplanned pregnancy happens, and how men (who are biologically 50% responsible for each pregnancy) often seem unconcerned with the actual responsibility of that pregnancy. (All of which happened to our birth mothers during our placements.) The silent and persistent answer to all these questions was "fairness has nothing to do with it."

During our last placement, we became aware of the unfairness of "urban food deserts" when we searched for a few comfort foods requested by our birth mom. After striking out at tiny bodega after tiny bodega, we found an overpriced and understocked grocery store in a blighted part of town, which featured aisle after aisle of processed, low quality foods and a produce section that could easily fit in our bedroom. Remembering that she had no car, we wondered how she managed to buy groceries. Prior to that, our grocery store grievances had centered around the lack of parking and finding local organic produce in winter. No, it seemed that fairness has nothing to do with it.

Then, in the blink of an eye, it all changed when our sons were placed in our arms for the first time. All of the unfairness we encountered seemed to disappear. As the English poet Robert Browning wrote, "God's in His heaven / All's right with the world." Like the pain of childbirth, you begin to forget and settle into the new "unfairness" of sleepless nights, the outrageous cost of diapers and the inequalities of preschool entrance procedures. It's a joyous forgetfulness.

But we strive to remind ourselves that pain and loss are only pointless if we don't learn from them. We remind ourselves of those unfair moments, those we felt ourselves and those we felt for others, so that the memories become parts our family's adoption stories. Like contrasting notes that balance a complex dish, our sons' adoption stories will be richer if we keep those unfair moments in them. No story worth telling is completely devoid of sad moments.
As our sons grow up and learn to tell the stories on their own, we hope they will sense the injustices we experienced to become their dads. By truthfully talking about those challenges we will help our sons understand the beautifully complex and imperfect world in which we live. Maybe they will carry those experiences and seek to make the world they inherit more fair for everyone. Maybe they will look back and appreciate their adoption stories more genuinely and take nothing for granted. Maybe...

But for now, bedtime is bedtime and fairness has nothing to do with it.

This post originally appeared GaysWithKids.

Illinois election attack ads: Which parts are true?

Fri, 2014-09-26 10:54
The Illinois gubernatorial election is well under way, and both candidates are putting their best arguments forward.

But sometimes their best arguments for their own elections are really arguments against their opponents' election. Attack ads from Republican Bruce Rauner and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn have flooded the television airways.

Yes, Quinn had a controversial early prison release program that in 2009 mistakenly allowed some violent criminals to be discharged. It nearly cost him the election in 2010. But were murderers released, as Rauner's ad states?

And yes, a company owned by Rauner's private equity firm in 2011 paid a $13 million fine after a federal investigation for Medicaid services it never delivered. But was Rauner the FBI's target, as Quinn's ad strongly implies?

As with most attack ads, there's truth in both of these. And plenty of stretching too. We try to separate the two on this week's "Only in Illinois." Watch at Reboot Illinois.



If politicians don't always make perfect sense when campaigning, they probably don't always make perfect sense when governing either.

Christopher Z. Mooney, director of the of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs writes:

Why is Illinois state government so inept? While public problems are inherently difficult to solve, Illinois seems to be particularly adrift these days.

One explanation for this phenomenon is the dearth of valid and reliable evidence used in public policymaking. We live at a time of unprecedented knowledge about the physical world and the human condition, and scientists by the thousands on university campuses and in private industry are working daily to increase this body of knowledge. Do we know everything? Of course not. But we do know more policy-relevant information now than ever before.

How can Illinois move to making policy decisions based on evidence rather than emotion?

The 33 Best Pizza Shops in America

Fri, 2014-09-26 10:35
Pizza may have its roots in Italy, but by now it is intensely and utterly American. Aside from maybe hamburgers and BBQ, no other food in this country is so intensely regionalized, as evidenced by everything from the deep-dishes and pans of Chicago and Detroit, to the coal fire and clams in New Haven, to the inventive fresh ingredients topping Cali's wood-fired Neapolitan pies.

As this is our second year naming our 33 best, Liz and I scoured the country, talked to all of our editors, and happily ate so, so, so much pizza in an effort to give you a list that includes the greatest examples of our myriad regional styles, as well as the best overall pies in the country. So pull up a chair, put a napkin in your shirt, and enjoy this mozzarella, brick, Provel, and goat-covered slice of America's 33 best pizzas:


Credit: Al Forno

AL FORNO
Providence, RI
Pizza here is not the main course. It is an appetizer for your entrees, something to be eaten in moderate fashion. But that doesn't necessarily happen anymore. The inventors of grilled pizza (Chefs George Germon and Johanne Killeen) have been doing it for over 30 years, and, even though they make hundreds of pies a night, it's all done by the one grill guy, and they are delicious, which you'll realize as soon as you've gotten a taste of that maple charcoal-charred crust and the peppery oil-inflected mix of tomatoes and cheese. So, okay, maybe pizza is the main course.

More: The 33 Best Beer Bars in the Country


Credit: Antico Pizza Napoletana

ANTICO PIZZA NAPOLETANA
Atlanta, GA
The Neapolitan spot, the first to bring the style to Atlanta, turns 5 this month and returns for another year on our best of list. The dough is still tangy and crisp, cooked in a hot two-minute stint in the oven, where cheese melts into San Marzano-based sauce and fresh basil crisps happily. Grab the Pomodorini (cherry tomatoes, basil, bufala mozz, and garlic) for a twist on the simple style, or order the San Genero for a little bit more: the flavor combinations hit by the fatty, spicy sausage, sweet & spicy red peppers, mozzarella, and cipollini onions are a quick reminder of why you need to line up early for Antico before the pies run out.


Credit: Buddy's Pizza

BUDDY'S PIZZA
Detroit, MI
A holdover from last year's list, Buddy's has, since 1946, made that strange hybrid that is Detroit-style pizza -- using double-stretched dough cooked square in a pan to give it a caramelized crust, Wisconsin brick cheese, meats tucked under said cheese "to enhance flavor and prevent charring", and that "Red Top" flavor of a sweet tomato sauce poured over the top. Before I'd ever had one of these, I disdained this type of pizza. Spoke ill of it in public forums. But once I actually had it, things changed, and now -- if I'm staring at myself in the mirror when things are quiet -- I'd likely admit that it just might be my favorite style of pizza in the country. SHHHH. Don't tell California.



BEST PIZZA
Brooklyn, NY
The folks behind Brooklyn Star and Bushwick it-girl Roberta's took the maybe-not-intentional star of the latter's show and put it in a storefront that may be impossible to Google, but absolutely declares what Brooklyn pie-lovers will find: the Best Pizza. Pizza maestro Frank Pinello bought out the other BK folks two years ago, and continues to draw crowds who know to look for his sesame seed-studded thin-crust that announces the white pie, which buries tangy caramelized onions under gooey cheese. It'll change your idea of paper plate NY-style pizza, even if that was previously the highest honor you gave a slice joint.


Credit: Sarah Miknis

BOCCE CLUB PIZZA
Buffalo, NY
Bocce Club looks like a basic, local pizza joint. And it is that, but it's also so much more, dipping its sauce-stained toes into the labels of mom & pop and local legends. Dino Paccioti, the current owner's dad, returned from his service as a court reporter for the Nuremberg Trials to work at what was clearly a Buffalo hotspot, Bocce Club -- a sandwich shop with bocce courts. He bought the club in '46, tinkered with a pizza oven he found in the basement, and created his Buffalo-style pizza with flavor-packed, fluffy dough that edges between thin and thick, a sweet, secret tomato sauce, and housemade mozz. Topped with thick rounds of pepperoni that happily pool bites of grease, Bocce's current pizza more than makes up for the lack of bocce courts we wish we could play on.


Credit: Cane Russo

CANE ROSSO
Dallas, TX
At this three-location Dallas-area mainstay, pizzas cook in about one minute in a 900-degree oven. That might seem fast, but the pies are the result of an insane amount of prep. The chef -- Italian-trained by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana - puts two days worth of love into dough batches, while the mozz is hand-pulled daily and layered over sauce that consists of fresh, manually crushed tomatoes. Thus, a simple Neapolitan Margherita is a thing of beauty, a lightly charred, chewy work of art days in the making. But if you want to really up your game, order up the Motorino, topped with locally made sausage, Calabrian chiles, and housemade burrata cheese. Regardless of what you get, make sure your dining partners get their own. Art like this is meant to be hoarded. Also, don't ask for ranch. Ever.

This is just the tip of the pizza-shaped iceberg -- check out the other 27 best pizza shops in the country on Thrillist!

More from Thrillist:

The 33 best BBQ joints in America

These are the 21 best food trucks in America

Follow Thrillist on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Thrillist

Only Half Of Gay And Bisexual Men With HIV Are Getting The Care They Need

Fri, 2014-09-26 10:24
We’ve got some of the most powerful antiretroviral HIV drugs at our disposal, capable of preventing AIDS and prolonging life to near-normal expectancy, but they’re only reaching a fraction of the people who need it.

A disturbing report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that only about half of HIV-positive gay and bisexual men in the United States are receiving treatment. And only 42 percent had achieved viral suppression, or the point at which there are such low levels of the virus in the blood that the chance of passing it on to others is greatly reduced. Only 77.5 percent of HIV-positive gay and bisexual men were linked to some kind of HIV health care within three months of diagnosis.

“The most powerful tool for protecting the health of people living with HIV and preventing new HIV infections is really only reaching a fraction of the men who need it,” said Richard Wolitski, Ph.D., an expert on HIV among gay and bisexual men, as well as a senior advisor in the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. “The goal of HIV treatment is for everyone to achieve viral suppression."

The report was compiled from 2010 data and will serve as a baseline for future surveys, explained Wolitski. So while it can’t tell us whether these rates are an improvement or a regression from years past, the number of people getting treatment is still too low -- especially considering that almost everyone with HIV who takes antiretroviral drugs can achieve suppression.

“The treatments that we have available today are so much more effective and so much easier to take than the medications that were available early in the HIV epidemic,” Wolitski told The Hufington Post. “HIV has really become a health condition that can be treated and monitored effectively if the right care is given and started early."

The rates are especially troubling for young people and for men of color. When the data is split up by race, only 37 percent of black gay and bisexual men have achieved viral suppression, as opposed to 44 percent of white and 42 percent of Latino gay and bisexual men.

Analyzed by age, 25.9 percent of gay and bisexual men ages 18 to 24 achieved viral suppression, as opposed to 42 percent of the overall population.

There are a lot of obstacles that can block men from their medicine, including lack of experience with the health care system, no family support and stigma that could make men afraid to reveal their HIV status to their support networks. All these factors make it more difficult to keep up with the demands of biannual check-ups and daily medication (usually pills). Mental health issues and substance abuse problems could also prevent men from accessing the drugs they need.

But the primary barriers are poverty and lack of insurance, despite the fact that HIV drugs are covered by Medicaid and federal funds are available through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, which fills in funding gaps that aren’t covered by Medicaid or private health insurance.

The Affordable Care Act could also end up making a significant dent in these numbers. In a report released last January, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that of the 407,000 people with HIV who are already linked to health care, 70,000 are estimated to be uninsured. But because of the health care act, 23,000 would gain coverage through the insurance marketplace, while 46,910 more would become eligible for expanded Medicaid -- provided that all states sign up for expanded Medicaid. As of September, only 27 states and the District of Columbia plan to participate.

As for the estimated 700,000 people with HIV who aren’t linked to care yet, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that ACA changes could mean health coverage for an additional 124,000 more people.

In Chicago, rates of HIV infection have jumped among gay and bisexual men under 30, mostly among black men. To close the HIV treatment gap and prevent more infections, advocacy groups and governmental organizations have to work together, said Simone Koehlinger, senior vice president of programming at AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

“For states like Illinois where Medicaid has expanded, you want to make sure that the Medicaid managed care plans continue to cover services that are needed, that formularies are covering the effective HIV drugs and that people who were perhaps not covered for many years ... understand [how to navigate] the health care system,” said Koehlinger in a phone interview with HuffPost.

As important as funding, though, are programs that continue to provide cross-cultural education about HIV/AIDS to decrease stigma around the disease, something that the AIDS Foundation of Chicago has done since its founding in 1985. Among its other priorities are advocating on behalf of patients to keep medications affordable, educating HIV/AIDS clients about their medication options, and training health care providers on how to bridge cultural divides about the disease.

Community Policing: The Importance of Trust

Fri, 2014-09-26 09:35


What is community policing?

In the wake of increased shootings in Ferguson and around the country, there has been a renewed public interest in the role of police, the extent of police brutality, and the prevalence of racial bias.

These are not new issues, and in fact a number of organizations have been working for decades to increase trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Among these is the National Coalition Building Institute (NCBI), a nonprofit leadership program headquartered in Washington D.C., whose leaders I spoke with recently.

Founded in 1984, NCBI focuses on eliminating prejudice and resolving inter-group conflict. They work in cities across the U.S. and overseas to build the capacity of local leaders in schools, college campuses, police departments, and environmental organizations to lead prevention-oriented workshops and to intervene in the face of tough inter-group conflict. One of NCBI's key programs, the Law Enforcement Community Citizen Project, focuses on building productive relationships between police and the communities they serve.

The NCBI Law Enforcement Community Citizen Project was initially funded in 2002 by a grant from the COPS office (the office of Community Policing at the US Department of Justice) to work in Bethlehem, PA and King County, WA. Since then the program has been implemented in Atlantic City, NJ as well as numerous communities throughout Pennsylvania, Missoula, MO, and Seattle, WA.

NCBI is called on to bridge the divide between community members and police officers. NCBI leads Train the Trainer programs, Welcoming Diversity and Inclusion Workshops, and Leadership Institutes for officers and community activists to educate them in skills to foster cooperative relationships. Some communities have contacted NCBI when there have been specific difficulties between white police officers and people or neighborhoods of color that have been singled out by police. From their experience, NCBI has learned that it is best to offer communities a prevention-oriented, trust building approach. This way, NCBI builds the ongoing capacity of law enforcement and community activists to work in partnership to increase safety for all citizens in the community.

I spoke with Fabienne Brooks, who along with Guillermo Lopez is co-director of NCBI's Law Enforcement Program. Brooks is a retired Chief of Detectives for the King County Police Department in Seattle, WA. She was the first Black female officer in county history to be hired as a deputy, and throughout her career she made a point to immerse herself in the community that she served. The neighborhood she patrolled was the same neighborhood where she attended church and raised her family. After 26 years on the job, she retired and joined NCBI so she could continue her passion for community policing.

Ms. Brooks told me that "an important part of community policing occurs when an officer recognizes that they are part of a community, and the community understands the same about the officer. It includes forming empathetic relationships between law enforcement and community members, which results in increased officer safety and safety for all members of the community."

The NCBI Law Enforcement Community Partnership project builds trust between law enforcement and community leaders by helping each side to understand the daily realities of the other. Each has a key story to tell. Each deserves respectful listening. By teaching listening skills and conflict resolution practices and by helping each side see the humanity and legitimate concerns of the other, trust and partnership increases. In addition, NCBI teaches specific skill sets that help each side to confront the biases they have learned about each other that get in the way of equitable treatment of the entire community -- particularly the equitable treatment of people from different racial groups. NCBI believes in practices that will bring about institutional change not one-time trainings or quick fixes.

As just one example of the outcomes of the NCBI's COPS and Community project, consider what happened in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. In 2005, a pool frequented by Latino young people had been closed for repairs and the young people went to another pool. Within minutes, the mainly white life guards felt threatened by the presence of the Latino young people, called the police and the police, ignoring the pleas of the Latino parents for calm, called for increased back up.

A huge altercation between the parents and the police continued for months. The NCBI-trained police/community activist team used this incident for training with the Bethlehem police as well as the community, to learn how to avoid this kind of incident in the future.

In Ferguson, Former Chief Brooks sees an opportunity for an effective community-policing program to emerge from the chaos and violence of the past few weeks. "Now, there is a chance for police and the community to hear each other," she said. "The focus needs to be on how people are treated. If you can train officers how to treat ALL people with dignity and respect -- that is a victory."

Brook's co-director Guillermo Lopez explained that community policing cannot be accomplished with the wave of a wand, "You don't go in trying to change a whole department; you go in trying to change a few people, who eventually come to change the whole department. We can start by focusing attention and financial resources on organizations like NCBI, so they can continue spreading the word that emphasize the 'serve' aspect of "Protect and Serve".

"The establishment of a sustained value and practice for coalition building skills between Community and Law Enforcement is a pathway to conflict resolution and will create a climate which fosters violence prevention." Joyce Shabazz, Consulting Associate Senior Trainer / Director Of Affinity Caucus Programs

As Brooks told me, "Police officers meet with the community, hear tough things, say tough things and confront their prejudices together - this is how we will move forward."

To reach NCBI, visit www.ncbi.org or call (202) 785-9400.

Ground Stop At Chicago Airports After Fire At FAA Control Site

Fri, 2014-09-26 08:19
CHICAGO (AP) -- A fire at a suburban Chicago air traffic control facility Friday morning halted all flights in and out of the city's two airports, threatening to send delays and cancelations rippling around the nation's air travel network.

It was the second time since May that a problem at one of the Chicago area's major control facilities prompted a ground stop at O'Hare and Midway international airports.

The fire led to the evacuation of the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora, about 40 miles west of downtown Chicago, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory said.

One injury was reported, Cory said, without providing details. Management of the region's air space was transferred to other facilities, but it was unclear how long the stoppage would last.

By about 7:30 a.m., more than 200 flights to and from O'Hare, a major hub for the nation's air traffic, were canceled, according to the aviation tracker FlightAware.com. Midway had about 20 cancelations.

Southwest Airlines suspended all flights at Midway until noon, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

There was no word on what caused the fire in Aurora. A spokesman for the city's fire department did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

In May, an electrical problem forced the evacuation of a regional radar facility in suburban Elgin. A bathroom exhaust fan overheated and melted insulation on some wires, sending smoke through the facility's ventilation system and into the control room.

That site was evacuated for three hours, and more than 1,100 flights were canceled.

The Aurora facility is known as an en-route center, and handles aircraft flying at high altitudes, including those on approach or leaving Chicago's airports. Air traffic closer to the airports is handled by a different facility and by the control towers located at the airfields.

A computer glitch at a similar facility on the West Coast in April forced a 45-minute shutdown at Los Angeles International Airport.

How Much Beer The World Drinks, In 1 Interactive Globe

Fri, 2014-09-26 06:44
Spend a weekend in nearly any college town in the U.S. and you'll be convinced that no one drinks more than Americans.

But it turns out the U.S. doesn't even come close to being the king of beer consumption compared to the rest of the world. Not even the master-brewer Belgians nor the Oktoberfest-loving Germans claim the top spot. That honor goes to the Czechs, who guzzle some 149 liters of beer, or about 315 pints, per person every year.

This interactive globe, made by Retale, an e-commerce company, ranks the top 50 countries by per capita beer consumption. To create the data, it relied on 2012 survey data collected by Kirin Holdings, a Japanese beer company.

Explore the rankings below. You can drag to any country on the globe or scroll through the rankings list. One liter is equal to 2.1 pints.

Awful '50s Marriage Advice Shows What Our Mothers And Grandmothers Were Up Against

Fri, 2014-09-26 01:30
A long-running Ladies' Home Journal column that started in 1953, called "Can This Marriage Be Saved?," features real-life couples and the juicy details of their marital issues.

The columns were split into three parts: a wife's perspective, her husband's take and then final judgment by a counselor from the American Institute of Family Relations. AIFR was a successful, but now defunct, center founded in the 1930s by "Dr." Popenoe. He wasn't actually a doctor or a psychologist but a eugenicist with an honorary degree. Very often, Popenoe's counselors found a way to pin problems on the wives, calling them "childish," "juvenile," "emotionally immature" and "frigid," for example.

Early "Can This Marriage Be Saved?" columns, which continue today at Divine Caroline without the sexist overtones, show us how far women's equality has come -- but also how far we have to go. Here are five horrifying pieces of advice from the magazine.



Sylvia and Everett, April 1953
Lesson: Wives "attitudes" and "personalities" are to blame for marital problems.



Sylvia, a "smartly dressed woman" who tried to kill herself, suspected her husband Everett of cheating. The AIFR counselor talked to Sylvia many times and her husband only twice, and in their brief interviews, stated he didn't "intend to discuss [his] personal behavior" at all -- his only purpose was to "help straighten out" his wife, who he'd married because he "felt sorry for her." Yet the counselor felt "[Sylvia] was indeed the major problem in this marriage."

Interviews with Sylvia revealed a person whose floundering sense of purpose and clear cry for help ("I was mainly trying to frighten Everett," she said of her suicide attempt) were ignored. "My husband is a fine, generous man," Sylvia claimed, but said she worried about his drinking habits.

Yet Sylvia was advised to "change her personality and deeply rooted attitudes" against her husband, the counselor wrote, because she'd "deeply wounded his masculine pride." Being too "fast" with boys in her past had left the 31-year-old "almost as emotionally immature as a child of four or five … driving her husband out of his home to the corner bar and into the arms of other women." The counselor found ways to blame Sylvia in every aspect of the couple's marital woes, from Everett's drinking to Everett's probable infidelity, while Everett himself merely "modified" his drinking and philandering.



Lucy and Dan, April 1954
Lesson: The longer you've been married, the more you should let domestic violence slide.



Lucy was ready to leave her abusive husband. But according to the counselor, she was "ignoring the practical aspects of her situation."

"After 19 years … I've reached my breaking point," Lucy said, explaining how she would happily give up a life full of extravagant gifts to escape the violence she was made to endure. She'd even involved the police, securing protection against her husband. In a previous attempt to leave, Dan had tracked down Lucy and her son and "dragged" them back to the family's home.

Well, "19 years is a good big chunk," the counselor wrote. "Lucy and Dan were as intertwined as the roots of a tree." Apparently, Lucy was now chained to her abusive husband because she'd somehow missed her window of escape at the ripe old age of 36. "[Lucy], her child and her elderly aunt were financially dependent… Without Dan, Lucy was marooned" -- safety and mental health be damned. Lucy's husband, a man who didn't like seeing women in pants, was even excused for considering his son a "rival" because his wife wasn't paying him enough "badly needed praise, appreciation, admiration [and] love."



Alice and Ralph, February 1953
Lesson: Wives should be able to read minds.



Alice couldn't get a word out of her spouse.

"For five days, Ralph hasn't spoken a word to me," Alice said. "I ask if he loves me, and he just turns his head. He eats his meals without speaking, without noticing that I've specially cooked … his favorite foods." Ralph complained that Alice was, in fact, driving him "crazy," so he punished her with the silent treatment.

Considering himself the family's provider, Ralph said he didn't "know who to love" when he felt so burdened with responsibility. Sure, he could find a full-time job, but then he'd be "tied to a desk" all day. "I've got to have some kind of freedom to feel like a man at all," he whined.

Far from recommending that Ralph check his male privilege, the counselor chided Alice for her lack of ESP. "In cooking him expensive steaks and smothering him with excessive protestations of love," it was explained, "she was offering him not the kind of attention he wanted and needed but the kind she wanted herself." A good wife would have realized she was making nice dinners the family couldn't quite afford, even though her husband wasn't using his big boy words to express himself.



Amy and Joe, May 1953
Lesson: If you don't give your spouse enough attention, he has a fair excuse to cheat on you.



Amy and Joe operated "the biggest and best" tailor and cleaner in town, in Amy's view. She had a right to brag -- Amy was mostly responsible for the success of the small business, according to her husband. After he cheated on her, though, she asked him to leave. "I wasn't brought up to take infidelity as a light thing," Amy said.

Amy didn't "intend to deprive [her] husband of his livelihood" at the shop, so they continued to work together despite her husband's obvious regret. "Please persuade Amy to take me back," Joe asked the counselor. "[The other woman] isn't worth one of Amy's smiles or even one of Amy's frowns." The counselor saw not an independent woman and a man who needed to better communicate how he felt, but a cold-hearted wife and a sad, mistreated husband.

"Of course, she herself was largely responsible for Joe's infidelity. She practically drove her husband to find in the company of another woman a little of the praise and credit he was not receiving at home," the counselor wrote. Amy was advised to "adopt a divergent set of values" because she was "just too busy." Poor Joe "felt like a nobody who didn't count" while his wife made sure they had enough income to eat.



Patrice and Gid, October 1955
Lesson: Never out-earn your husband.



Patrice, a "slender, attractive" 36-year-old, had a good copywriting job at an advertising agency and was promoted. "My first impulse was to get my husband on the phone so we could share the big excitement," she explained. But her promotion meant she now earned more than her husband, Gid, made as a salesman.

When the couple married, Gid said he "didn't mind that [Patrice] had a darn good job." But he'd thought she also wanted to be a "real" wife. The counselor found Patrice at fault not just because of her career, but "the way she handled her career, her husband [and] her child." Patrice, the counselor noted, "grew to womanhood hating the unalterable fact that she was doomed to be a female in a man-made world." Luckily, she got her "true reward" in the end, "when she reduced her career to second place ... she became a successful wife and a successful mother."

Luckily, the AIFR isn't around anymore to dole out this awful marriage advice. And while misogyny may still be alive and well, at least it's not being perpetuated so obviously in mainstream women's magazines.

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

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Climate Reckoning: My Own Private Coal Story

Thu, 2014-09-25 17:06


Four years after the publication of my memoir/history, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, I found myself sitting in the front row of an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hearing in southern Illinois. It was a historic evening in Harrisburg, only a few miles from where Peabody Energy sank its first coal mine in 1895, and a few blocks from where I had sat on the front porch as a kid and listened to the stories of my grandfather and other coal miners about union battles for justice. For the first time in decades, residents in coal country were shining the spotlight on issues of civil rights, environmental ruin and a spiraling health crisis from a poorly regulated coal mining rush.

The total destruction of my family's nearby Eagle Creek community from strip-mining was held up as their cautionary tale. The takeaway: Strip-mining more than stripped the land; it stripped the traces of any human contact.

"We have lost population, we have lost homes and we have lost roads," testified Judy Kellen, a resident facing an expanded strip mine in Rocky Branch. "We have lost history. We have to endure dust, noise levels to the pitch you wanted to scream because you couldn't get any rest or sleep, earth tremors, home damages, complete isolation of any type of view to the north, health issues, a sadness in your heart that puts a dread on your face every day, and an unrest in the spirit that we knew nothing of."

A lot has changed in these four years--much of it troubling, and much of it inspiring.

After traveling to coal mining communities around the U.S. and the world, I have learned that my own private reckoning with coal in the great Shawnee forests surrounding Eagle Creek was only a prologue to our greater climate reckoning for my children. But first, the inspiring part: Faced with losing their homes, farms, health--and sheer sanity--from the blasting and non-stop war-zone traffic of coal operators within 300 feet of their living rooms--southern Illinois residents with deep coal mining roots in Harrisburg were taking a courageous stand for climate and coalfield justice. Meanwhile, former coal mining areas from central Appalachia to Germany to Scotland have begun the process of transitioning to clean energy economies.

Here's the troubling part: Four years after the publication of Reckoning at Eagle Creek, Illinois is in the throes of a coal-mining rush not seen in nearly a century, recognized as the fastest-growing coal region in the nation. Since 2009, the state's mining production has increased by more than 60 percent.


In that same time period, my kids--the 9th generation of our family to be born in Illinois--and I have watched coal barges ease down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in a fivefold increase in coal exports, en route to CO2-spewing coal-fired plants abroad. The wake-up call: Illinois has experienced record drought and flooding, as climate scientists determined our planet had reached the alarming 400 parts-per-million milestone of CO2 emissions for the first time in millions of years.

Coal miners remain the canaries in the coal mine: Black lung disease among coal miners, an issue dear to my heart and to anyone who has watched their loved ones and friends suffer needlessly, is at record levels in 2014.

And communities not far from my beloved Eagle Creek, including members of my own displaced family, have once again found themselves on the front lines of mining destruction. As part of an "all-of-the'above" energy policy touted by President Barack Obama and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn--a Sierra Club-supported Democrat who once led anti-strip-mining campaigns and swept into office on promises of regulatory reform--the heartland has undergone a series of mind-boggling machinations in favor of coal mining and hydraulic fracking.

Even as states start the long process of responding to the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations to cut CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants by 30 percent, coal industry lobbyists and their political sycophants continue to roll out the wildly inaccurate "war on the coal" slogans with fervor, and double down on their denial of climate change.

It begins with our kids: Despite a campaign by former coal miner Sam Stearns to halt the state's cringe-worthy "coal education" program, Illinois continues to push coal industry propaganda and climate denial into our schools.

It extends into our farm communities, like Hillsboro in central Illinois, where elderly farmers are fighting to protect their fertile land and watersheds from longwall mining and coal slurry pollution.

In these last four years, we have witnessed the cycles of hype and indifference over our coal mining disasters, coal slurry, coal ash and coal-related chemical spills, most notably in West Virginia last spring, which contaminated the drinking water for 300,000 residents near Charleston.And we have seen a stunning disregard for law enforcement by government agencies. An Associated Press investigation made a startling discovery this year of a coal industry run amok:

"...[A] review of federal environmental enforcement records shows that nearly three-quarters of the 1,727 coal mines listed haven't been inspected in the past five years to see if they are obeying water pollution laws. Also, 13 percent of the fossil-fuel fired power plants are not complying with the Clean Water Act."

Nowhere has such recklessness been so evident than in my own southern Illinois.



Eagle Creek, Illinois, photo by Jeff Biggers

I have learned two things from the loss of Eagle Creek and the treatment of coal miners like my grandfather and residents in today's coal mining communities; in a nation that prioritizes coal industry profits over workplace and residential safety, people are as disposable as our natural resources in openly accepted national sacrifice zones. And secondly, all coal mining safety laws have been written in miners' blood; the same is true for innocent citizens afflicted by clean water violations by coal and chemical companies.

This disregard for basic health and civil rights doesn't end here, though. The fallout over increasing climate disturbances brings a harrowing message: We all live in the coalfields now. Extreme energy extraction and fossil fuel burning, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned, is leading us to "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems."With the exigency of action on climate change, and the mounting death toll and costs from coal mining, the heartland--like our nation--has reached a crossroads in our energy policy: It's time to fashion a just transition toward a more sustainable and diversified economy, including clean energy development, especially for those in historical coal mining communities-not just urban centers like Chicago that are connected to political power and pay-offs.

We need a plan for regeneration, not simply more unenforced EPA regulations.

How can we keep the carbon in the ground? By ensuring that our people and our ingenuity are considered our greatest natural resources.After shouldering the massive health and environmental costs of powering our nation's industrial rise to fortune over the past century, impoverished communities on the front lines of extraction should be in the forefront of clean energy investment and jobs. We need a regeneration fund for retraining and initiatives to jump-start reforestation and abandoned mine projects, along with start-up funds for solar and wind energy manufacturing and energy-efficiency campaigns.

Reckoning at Eagle Creek is my attempt to not only restore and "re-story" Eagle Creek and its place in history, but also plant the seeds to regenerate its unique contributions to our future American story.

To ask Abraham Lincoln's question in our own times: "It is not 'can any of us imagine better?' but, 'can we all do better?' The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise--with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

This essay was adapted from the new Foreword to the paperback edition of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, released this week by Southern Illinois University Press.

The Best Hot Dogs In America Are Going Extinct, And Everyone Wants A Bite Before It's Too Late

Thu, 2014-09-25 16:03
On Wednesday, the long line outside Chicago's famed Hot Doug's was full of people who woke up at the crack of dawn, played hooky from work or drove hundreds of miles to be at the restaurant when it opened. They came in such large numbers that Hot Doug's closed earlier than it ever had in its 14-year history -- roughly 10 minutes after it started serving.

"We didn't even turn on the 'Open' sign today," Hot Doug's server Steve Labedz told The Huffington Post as he planted a "Closed" sign at the point in the line where patrons would have to be turned away.

Lines outside Hot Doug's have grown epically long since owner Doug Sohn announced he will shutter his wildly popular eatery on Oct. 4. With roughly a week left, everyone in Wednesday's line wanted one last taste of Hot Doug's so badly, they didn't seem to mind waiting all day for it.


A smorgasbord of encased meats showing various Hot Doug's creations. Yum!

From celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain -- who labeled Hot Doug's one of the "13 places to eat before you die" -- to food glossies like Bon Appetite and Travel + Leisure to the average Chicagoan at lunchtime, everyone agrees these are no ordinary hot dogs.

Sohn's creations range from the familiar (the classic Chicago Dog) to the exotic (the Chardonnay and Jalapeño rattlesnake sausage topped with roasted pepper aioli and Père Joseph cheese). Each is expertly crafted and tastes even better when served with a side of luxuriously sloppy duck fat fries (Fridays and Saturdays only).

Charlie Xu, a 21-year-old University of Chicago student, hauled 15 miles on a bus with two of his friends Wednesday morning to try Hot Doug's for the first time. When they arrived around 10 a.m., just 30 minutes before the place opened, they were already number 107 in line.

"My friends thought I was crazy for doing it," Xu, who planned on ordering one of the popular foie gras dogs, told HuffPost.

Hog Doug's long-timer Bonny Davidson walked out of the restaurant with just the Hot Doug's coffee table book (no line for that purchase) but told HuffPost she'll be back next week. The 65-year-old wants one final goodbye, even if it means waiting hours for something she's had so many times before.

Davidson regularly drives into the city from suburban Mt. Prospect for a hot dog after taking her ill young niece to one of her frequent medical appointments.

"It's very depressing. I would come [to Hot Doug's] to feel good," Davidson said. "It's such a nice place and Doug is a great guy."


The famous foie gras dog, which pitted Sohn against the City Council during Chicago's foie gras ban.

Lines are part of the Hot Doug's experience, though they've stretched as long as a third of a mile during this past summer.

In recent days, Labedz said some people have been mad when the line was cut off, but most just nodded or looked a little forlorn as they walked away.

"We get a lot of sob stories," Labedz said, having heard tales of people who supposedly flew from across the country or wanted to cross Hot Doug's off their bucket list. (One lucky couple who got to the line in time got married inside the sausage shop on Wednesday.)

Sept. 13 was a tipping point. As a yearly music festival descended on the city, an explosion of customers -- too many to serve -- streamed into the restaurant. That was the day Hot Doug's started cutting off lines.

"The line was so long we were still here at 10:30 p.m.," Labedz said. "Doug gets here at 5:30 a.m. We have to do this six days a week."


Hungry patrons wait in line outside Hot Doug's in Chicago, days before the beloved sausage shop closes after 14 years.

But the long lines have meant good business for a few enterprising locals. An ice cream man with a push cart "made a killing" serving treats to the line this summer, Labedz recalled. He also estimated that a kid who set up a lemonade stand to service the line made a "few hundred bucks."

One customer took things a little too far by making huge carry-out orders and then re-selling the meals at a significant markup, billing himself as a Hot Doug's delivery option. Sohn eventually learned of this and told the man he wouldn't be served takeout anymore.

More commonly, though, lines outside the hot dog joint inspire goodwill and friendship. David Allerding was the last person waiting in Wednesday's line, but the 30-year-old Chicagoan had already been given a dog by someone who'd made it into the restaurant much earlier.

"A guy who drove in from Iowa was the first in line this morning and offered to buy the last guy in line a Chicago Dog."

Allerding, whose wait would be between five and six hours, shared the hot dog with some strangers at the back of the line.


A sign marking off the end of the line at Hot Doug's.

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