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Comedians Join The Waterkeeper Alliance To Help Keep Earth's Many Waterways Clean

Tue, 2015-06-30 11:55
Safe water is no joke.

Comedians have a way of making light of very serious issues for the sake of laughter, but that doesn't mean they can't "reverse flow," so to speak, and use comedy to bring awareness to very serious issues.

The Waterkeeper Alliance was founded in 1999 to patrol the world's waterways, ensuring that corporations obey the law and that this precious resource stays clean. This citizen advocacy group unites more than 244 waterkeeping organizations in countries on all continents (minus Antarctica).

And now they've joined forces with the world's top actors and comedians to spread the word on the importance of this cause. Neil Patrick Harris, Taran Killam and Bobby Moynihan of "SNL," and Alicia Silverstone are just some of the stars helping The Waterkeeper Alliance promote a clean and safe environment.

Check out the video above to see actors and comedians explain (in their own funny way) what the Waterkeeper Alliance does, and then watch the clip below to hear them recall their favorite memories of the bodies of water they grew up around.

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53 Plays Written By Women That Deserve Your Attention

Tue, 2015-06-30 11:20
"Really, producers? Really" Suzy Evans pled in a 2014 piece for American Theatre, mimicking the comedic angst of Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers.

"The Pulitzer Prize [for drama] and all finalist nods go to women in 2014 and 68 percent of the Broadway audience is female, but you don’t have a single new play by a woman on Broadway in the 2013–14 season? Really?"

Evans is not alone in her frustration. A group of Los Angeles-based producers and playwrights named the Kilroys are equally vexed by the persistent and systemic underrepresentation of female and trans playwrights in American theater.

Photography by Elisabeth Caren at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

Comprised of Zakiyyah Alexander, Bekah Brunstetter, Sheila Callaghan, Carla Ching, Annah Feinberg, Sarah Gubbins, Laura Jacqmin, Joy Meads, Kelly Miller, Meg Miroshnik, Daria Polatin, Tanya Saracho and Marisa Wegrzyn, the self-professed "gang" of women are "done talking about gender parity and are taking action." They've opted to funnel their distaste with their industry into an annual project -- subtly titled "The List" -- that brings together the names of female and trans playwrights who've written plays in the past year.

To do so, the Kilroys survey artistic directors, literary managers, professors, producers, directors and dramaturgs who nominate individual plays they've seen -- specifically works written by female or trans authors that have yet to be produced. This year, the group narrowed down a field of 755 suggested plays to 53. The 2015 list is meant primarily as a tool for those contemporary producers who claim they want to showcase underrepresented writers, but believe female playwrights are hard to find.

"We created The List, because time and time again we heard that artistic directors would love to produce female playwrights, but were having trouble locating good plays," Zakiyyah Alexander explained to The Huffington Post. "Ultimately, we know it's possible to program an exciting season of theater that reflects the landscape we live in, which is more than just a landscape of men."



Gender parity statistics in the United States theater scene are less than ideal. "Really, theatres? Really?" Evans goes on to address in her essay, noting that while 51 percent of the American population is female, only around 24 percent of all plays produced across the country in the 2014-2015 season were written by a woman, living or dead. "Really?"

It's not much better in the U.K. "A decade ago, 30 percent of new plays produced in UK theatres were written by women. In 2013 it was 31 percent," Lyn Gardner wrote in the Guardian.



The Kilroys' Alexander believes the biggest obstacle women playwrights face today is getting into the canon: "Many great female writers have been left out over the years, not due to talent, but simply that they were never produced as much as their male peers. This is a disservice, not only to them, but for all of American theater."

"With the creation of, The List, we also call for American theater to up its game, and do the work necessary for gender equality on the stage," she added.

The Kilroys, founded in 2013, named themselves after the subversive graffiti tag “Kilroy Was Here,” famously plastered by WWII soldiers in Europe as a way of quietly leaving their mark. The group published its first list last year and have since seen results in both visibility of the women writers they highlighted and increases in script requests. "We've already heard of playwrights on this year's list having a significant amount of queries," Alexander noted. "Exposure is crucial in this career, and we hope The List allows for a push for the listed writers."

She added that seasons often take more than one year to plan, so gathering accurate numbers of the number of Kilroy-certified plays that end up being produced is difficult. "We will continue to mark the number of performances, so that we begin to have a better since of how The List is being used," Alexander said.



For those interested in taking part in the Kilroys' survey, the group makes contact with nominators in two ways. First, they compile a list of all the theater practitioners they know or know of, dividing up the country in search of possible nominators that might be interested in participating. The catch is, each nominator needs to have seen 40 plays that year. The second wave of nominators comes from theater practitioners themselves, as the group hosts an open invitation on their website, allowing interested parties to nominate themselves or someone else.

"Our goal this year was to diversify the nominators in all ways," Alexander said, "and we will continue to work on this in the future."

Kilroy's website contains a detailed list of the 53 most recommended new plays by female and trans authors, including "The Tiger Among Us," by Lauren Yee; "Feathers and Teeth," by Charise Castro Smith; and "Soldier X," by Rehana Lew Mirza. HuffPost's previous coverage can be used to compare the results with this year's Tony Award winners.

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The Court Didn't Give Us the Right to Marry

Tue, 2015-06-30 10:46
Neither Did the Politicians, Nor Their Hangers-on -- Random Thoughts on Last Friday's Supreme Court Victory

It's been a long road to get where we are today. I can remember back when most even in the LGBT community could give a damn about equal marriage rights, despite so many dying from AIDS and surviving partners being left without SSI benefits, being evicted from their apartments, straight relatives stealing the survivor's possessions, etc.

Many self-styled "radicals" (the quotes are intentional) tried to cast marriage as solely a white, upper middle class gay obsession. But not only did the material facts belie this argument, so has polling the data of Black and Latino LGBTs.

It is a commonplace that one of the primary motivations for young het couples to marry is to provide a more secure two-parent situation for their new or impending offspring.

Well guess what? Of all groups in the LGBT community, Black [1] same-sex couples are roughly twice as likely to be raising kids white same-sex couples, and same-sex Latino couples are more than three times as likely to raising kids as white male same-sex couples, according studies carried out the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Black Justice Coalition and the National Latino/a Coalition for Justice. So who in the LGBT community really benefits most from legalized same-sex marriage?

And this material reality was also reflected in attitudes towards marriage from early on. As Robin Tyler and I wrote [2], a year

2000 survey of black LGBT people [by eight Black Pride organizations and the NGLTF], which was published well before the marriage issue dominated mainstream press coverage of the LGBT community, directly contradicts the stereotype that only wealthy white gay males want marriage rights. When asked what are the most important issues facing black LGBT people, respondents to the survey listed "marriage/domestic partnership" as their number three priority.

Given the enduring racism and sexism, not to mention homophobia, that disproportionately shunt such African American LGBT couples into working-class occupations, it is fair to say that the above figures on child rearing reflect not only racial realities also class distinctions. In other words, marriage and the family are much more important to the material security of working-class people than they are to wealthier people, who are usually better able to afford attorneys to construct the intricate web of legal documents needed to imperfectly mimic the contractual features of heterosexual marriage.

As the report itself noted,

The support for marriage in the sample is especially interesting not only because it was most forcefully embraced by [Black] women, but also because it contradicts the position of those, most often on the left, whose marriage as an issue most salient to White GLBT communities.

And far from the Democratic Party and their white-dominated LGBT NGO allies leading the charge for equal marriage rights, the former saw it as an electoral loser, and the latter took their cues from their party allies. NGLTF, for example, had as one of its few major plenaries at its 2005 "Creating Change" two speakers, both who savaged the marriage rights movement, and gave no opportunity for the fuming grassroots activists in the audience to respond.

You see the Dems were deeply implicated in the status quo bigotry. After Bill Clinton appeased the right by passing the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (and NAFTA, and Anti-Terrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act, etc, etc), he took out ads on Christian Right radio stations bragging about it, as part of his re-election bid.

One of the many hidden stories of how we got to today involves how some Dems got "turned" on the issue. It wasn't through polite lobbying. Or reasoned argument. It was power politics.

In 2003 the Dems nearly got served in one of their primary local strongholds -- San Francisco. An insurgent Green Party candidate, Matt Gonzalez, took 47 percent of the vote for mayor against Gavin Newsom. To shore up support for the local DP that had just received the scare of its life, a few months after his election Newsom began issuing marriage licences to same-sex couples in a city that was estimated to be 1/3 gay.

This totally pissed off the Dem bigwigs in the rest of the country. It made them look bad. They had long proclaimed support for LGBTs, but following Bill Clinton's lead, and polling on the issue, had steadfastly opposed equal marriage rights for same-sex couples.

Gay Democratic Congressman Barney Frank (who introduced the notorious "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" bill into Congress) was the principal hatchet man against Gavin Newsom, blistering him with criticism for doing what the DP as a whole should have been doing if it truly supported LGBT equality.

But Newsom's actions totally gave a shot in the arm to grass-roots LGBT activism for equal marriage rights around the country, including here in Chicago.

And then many of the early court decisions for equal marriage rights came from Republican justices, no shit. The Dems were petrified of taking any stance on the issue, seeing it as a "loser."

Country club Republicans, on the other hand, had more freedom. It was an "only Nixon can go to China" moment. So it was a predominantly Republican court, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, that issued the first state-wide legalization of same-sex marriages. Another early pro-LGBT decider was an elected state supreme court in Iowa, which was Republican. And it was a Republican justice, and yes he was also gay, who struck down California's notorious Proposition 8.

I don't say this as a fan of the Republicans, whom I loathe, it's just that you'll never get these truths from the LGBT NGOs which almost to a one operate as wholly owned subsidiaries of the Democratic Party.

So if not from the politicians of either party, where did equal marriage rights truly emanate from?

Where rights have always emanated from -- from regular working people.

It has long been said that the anti-gay right has lost the younger generation on LGBT rights. As these younger generations aged, and were followed up by further pro-LGBT generations coming after them, the anti-gay right entered a literal demographic death spiral.

What hasn't been examined is WHY this was so. Young people are not necessarily concerned about social issues, but they were about this one, and there's an historical reason for that.

In the fall of 1998 a young gay college student, Matthew Shepard, was lynched in Wyoming. Thanks to what was the first successful example of internet organizing, a flurry of protests, vigils and marches occurred in every major, and many minor cities around the country. It was an unprecedented phenomenon.

It didn't change things legislatively. Democrats talked about hate crimes laws, blah blah blah - a really dodgy way to promote civil rights in a country that had just sent its mass incarceration rate into high gear with Clinton's 1996 "Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act."

And they couldn't talk about equal rights for LGBTs with a straight face so soon after passing their Defense of Marriage Act against us (and before that, Don't Ask Don't Tell). Instead, they cynically used talk of hate crimes laws as a way to beat up on Republican legislators, while avoid discussion of their own complicity in producing the hate climate that killed Shepard through their passage of DOMA and DADT.

Even though the flurry of Shepard protests died down after about a month, things on the ground, among the youth, had qualitatively changed. Whereas there were only 200 gay-straight alliances in the nation's secondary schools at the time of Shepard's lynching, within three months that number had tripled.

In essence, our LGBT youth and their allies began organizing at the base, challenging homophobic students, teachers, parents and administrators, and changing attitudes especially among their peers. They weren't campaigning about same-sex marriage per se, but they were campaigning for our civil rights nonetheless.

The countless protests of countless, many anonymous local marriage rights activists helped move the issue to the top of the LGBT agenda (at least according to polls), but it was the youth, and their in-school organizing for dignity and respect that led the demographic wave that led us to today's victory.

That's who deserves the credit for today, not politicians of either party, and certainly not justices.

This was truly a collective effort. From plaintiffs to protesters, all of the early and most important initiatives were from mostly anonymous people who were just pissed off and didn't want to wait, with zero institutional support, and frequently with their direct opposition. It was only after those "ordinary" people worked up momentum on the issue that the big organizations came in to get credit for what was initiated by others.

So next time an HRC staffer asks "Can you spare a few minutes for human rights?" Say "No, I can't spare any $ for NGOs with their six-figure corporate salaries."

++++++++++++

Finally, a personal indulgence. A full recounting of my favorite equal marriage rights action can now be told, now that the statute of limitations has lapsed, and our crimes can be safely confessed, lol.

In 2004 we did a banner drop from the restricted roof of Chicago City / County Building -- and didn't get caught! A pair of us dressed up in maintenance workers' uniforms with our banner rolled up in paper like a carpet, we had an official-looking clipboard that looked like we had a work order.

The key to our act, though, was our Teamster caps -- "No one messes with the Teamsters" (I think that's a line from a movie). Rather than climbing a scary, see-thru-to-the-ground outside fire escape about 15 stories up as we originally planned (yes, we had previously cased the joint), we got an escorted ride on a freight elevator all the way to the top "restricted" area.

We did our banner drop, then ran in opposite directions, shedding our uniforms into garbage cans as we ran down the stairwells. It was fun, it pushed the envelope, it shamed the alleged pro-LGBT city and county administrations who a few years earlier had clapped us with bogus felony charges in the same building.

Sweet revenge!

+++++++++++++

[1] "Black same-sex households are nearly twice as likely as White same-sex households to include children. Black male same-sex households are twice as likely as White male same-sex households to include at least one child under 18, 36 percent versus 18 percent respectively. Fifty-two percent of Black female same-sex households are comprised of parents living with at least one child under 18, compared with 32 percent of White female same-sex households." p 22, Alain Dang and Somjen Frazer, "Black Same-Sex Households in the United States," National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Black Justice Coalition, 2005.

[2] Robin Tyler and Andy Thayer, "The Gay Marriage Struggle: What's at Stake and How Can We Win?" in Martin Dupuis and William A. Thompson, editors, Defending Same-Sex Marriage:The Freedom-to-Marry Movement, Vol. 3, Praeger Press, 2007. Yes, the reference to "gay marriage" in the article's title was unfortunate, but was a product of the times.

+++++++++++++

Andy Thayer has written previously about the then-impending Supreme Court decisions here and here.

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Here Are The 5 Things You Need To Know Entering NBA Free Agency

Tue, 2015-06-30 10:18
If the NBA Draft is a full-on crapshoot (read my winners and losers here and my interview with Karl-Anthony Towns here) then we might as well call free agency a poker game. Why? Because teams have a better idea of who's who at this point, although second and third contracts have a way of changing players. Fit is often just as important as talent, and the right system can make or break a player. As we will examine, that hardly excuses teams of making costly mistakes.

The 2015 free agency may be one year removed from the LeBron James saga, but with two of the league's premier power forwards, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge, opting out, there remains star power. Free agency begins July 1, and unlike the draft, it lasts more than just a few hours on primetime television. Here are the five most important questions as we get set for the league's second season.

Are The Lakers On Their Way Back?



Kobe Bryant returning to the lineup isn't the only good news in Tinseltown. Armed with a future superstar in point guard D'Angelo Russell -- the second pick in the draft -- the Lakers also have an abundance of cash. The two obvious targets are the former UCLA product Love, 26, and Aldridge, 29, both of whom can come in right away and help propel them back to sustained postseason runs. The beauty of both these guys is the ability to stretch the floor and play the two-man game. Both thrive in pick-and-roll because of their passing and shooting, but also because of their sound footwork and capacity to make tough catches. That has to be a huge selling point with Russell, whose prodigious passing talent draws comparisons to Jason Kidd and even Magic Johnson.

As I've reported, Aldridge -- who is from Dallas and went to Texas -- is highly unlikely to become a Laker. The two best bets are Dallas and San Antonio, with the Spurs having an edge. Don't forget either that Texas doesn't have a state income tax, surely an added bonus for a contract this large. Aldridge, an All-Star for four consecutive years, averaged a career-high 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds while leading Portland to the playoffs last year. San Antonio's patented side pick-and-roll action with Tony Parker -- which vanquished Aldridge and the Blazers during the 2014 postseason -- would be an easy marriage.

LaMarcus Aldridge remains undecided, but multiple NBA insiders have also told me that Spurs are the favorite as of now.

— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) June 28, 2015


Reports swirling that Aldridge is going 2 Lakers. Heard from multiple league insiders today more likely he signs w/Dallas or San Antonio.

— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) June 28, 2015


All may be well in Lakerland even if Love or Aldridge doesn't sign: the Lakers will get $25 million when Bryant's "loyalty" contract expires next season, not to mention the added funding of a raised salary cap (see below).

Does Marc Gasol's Market Value Even Matter?



The NBA's best center will earn his final big contract at 30 years old, right smack in his prime. Gasol, who averaged a career best 17.4 points last year for a playoff Memphis squad, will draw interest from several teams, likely including the Lakers and Spurs. The general consensus, though, is that in all likelihood, it will be the Grizz resigning Gasol, despite him being unrestricted. Gasol has lived in Memphis since his teenage years, he's comfortable there and the team has weapons around him. The physical Zach Randolph can bang with other 4s and even 5s, and a terrific pick-and-roll triggerman in Mike Conley aids in Gasol's offensive prowess.

What Happens To The "Other" Big?



Dare we sleep on Los Angeles Clippers' Third-Team All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan, the NBA's leader in field goal percentage at 71 percent? The 26-year-old had a career year -- free-throw woes and all -- and has become one of the game's elite shot blockers and finishers. While the market for Jordan isn't as robust as Love's or Aldridge's, we can expect him to field a series of offers. Having already dealt 7-footer Spencer Hawes, vice president and head coach Doc Rivers -- prone to questionable decision-making -- appears to be banking on Jordan's return. Presumably, part of that stems from the fact that the Clippers can offer more years -- and more cash -- than anyone else. Then again, Dallas appears to be a front-runner for the unrestricted Jordan, given that the Mavs have two sizable deals coming off the books in center Tyson Chandler and disgruntled point guard Rajon Rondo. If the Clips cannot retain Jordan, it would be a massive blow for Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, whose patented "Lob City" would be cut in half.

Is D-Wade Leaving South Beach?



In a pretty bare market for guards, a rickety Dwyane Wade is one of the best available. The 33-year-old may only give you 50 games, but realistically, how many guys on the open market are more dynamic on both ends? Sans LeBron, Wade averaged a healthy 21.5 points, albeit on 47 percent shooting, the third lowest clip of his marvelous 12-year career. After opting out of his player option, Wade -- who was scheduled to earn more than $16 million next season -- is now believed to be seeking three more years, averaging $16 million, according to ESPN.com.

If he chooses to stay, however, help is on the way. Team president Pat Riley stole Justise Winslow with the 10th pick, giving Wade an immensely gifted perimeter running mate that Mike Krzyzewski -- who has coached them both -- even went so far as to compare to Wade. Ideally, Winslow can both alleviate some of the defensive and offensive onus, but also absorb some of Wade's minutes. The other matter for the future Hall of Famer to consider is free agent point guard Goran Dragic, a Third-Team All-NBA performer whom Riley shrewdly acquired at the trade deadline (see my deadline winners and losers) and who will surely command a five-year deal.

"I feel confident that this is where he wants to be," Riley said recently. "He stated that when we traded for him. He knew how much we gave up for him. And he wants to be here. He let me know that in the exit meeting."

A splendid playmaker who has shown the capacity to go off the ball as well, the efficient Dragic (17 points, 5 assists on 50 percent shooting in 26 games with Miami) can presumably make life easier for Wade moving forward because of his versatility. All in all, Riley has a pretty decent roster if he retains the Slovenian, given his found gold in former D-League center Hassan Whiteside. The continually solid, if not spectacular Chris Bosh -- locked up on a max deal last summer -- gives the Heat a formidable, rangy front line that can create a litany of problems. Presumably, Wade would want to remain in Miami in the measly Eastern Conference, and he may ultimately think that staying put gives him the best chance to go for a fourth ring. Regardless, this is the last marquee contract of his career, so the decision holds that much more weight.

Who's Getting Overpaid?



It's not a matter of if, but when. The annual barrage of inflated contracts is as much a part of free agency as anything. Sorry, Knick fans, but remember salary albatrosses Jerome James and Eddy Curry? Washington was burned when it gave Gilbert Arenas a six-figure deal, and don't forget Philly ponying up $80 million to Elton Brand for his middling numbers on sorry teams.

Circumstances are different for every team: a GM might think he's one piece away from contending. Or, he might have such an abundance of cap space that it's worth taking a chance on a sizable deal, even if he's overpaying. Or better yet, his evaluation of a player might be completely wrong. With the cap set to expand considerably for the 2016-17 season, we can expect to see more of the same colossal-failure free agent signings. And, in this specific class, there are several prime candidates, two of whom are especially worth highlighting.

Orlando's Tobias Harris (above), 22, has been floated as a potential max guy with Detroit or Boston. Harris is a fine young player and he should command a hefty deal -- maybe with the Lakers or Knicks -- but giving the max to a guy who put up decent numbers for a terrible Orlando team seems like an awful lot.

Another young forward expected to get max money is Cleveland's Tristan Thompson, who emerged in the playoffs as a terrific offensive rebounder, capable defender and an adequate finisher around the rim. In other words, the 24-year-old is a nice asset to have as part of a winning core. But has Thompson ever displayed any sort of a skill set to suggest he can become a reliable go-to option or shot blocker? This may be more of LeBron flexing his muscles given the extensive reports that he wants Thompson -- a former top-five pick -- back for the long haul. Any bargaining chip the Cavs front office may have had is long gone.

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.

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Cops Coach Chicago Youth Baseball League To Foster Peace In Crime-Ridden Neighborhood

Tue, 2015-06-30 09:32
Police officers in Chicago are stepping up to the plate to coach a youth baseball team for boys and girls.

The Englewood Police Youth Baseball League aims to combat violence through the sport, by uniting young athletes in a crime-ridden neighborhood with mentors from the local police force, NBC Nightly News reported.

"Showing them that police are human, that we're their friend, that they are safe around us. That's an extension of being a police officer," Angela Wormley, police officer and volunteer coach, told the news outlet.

The league launched in May as part of a partnership with Get In Chicago, a program that works to eliminate juvenile violence, and the community welfare organization Teamwork Englewood. Comprised of six co-ed teams of athletes ages 9-12, the league meets free of charge, weekly for baseball practices and clinics, as well as mentoring sessions, according to a press release.

“With the core goal of creating a better understanding between youth and police officers in our communities, we also hope to create leadership and learning opportunities for youth and their parents in community policing, planning and engagement,” Toni Irving, executive director of Get In Chicago, said in a statement.

The league celebrated their opening day on Wednesday in Hamilton Park, in the south side of Chicago. Led by both current and retired Chicago officers, about 100 girls and boys have signed up for the program.

“I think this is such a good thing for young black boys, and they’ve even got the girls playing,” Kenyatta Jones, whose 9-year-old son plays the league, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “With as much violence going on in the city, it’s a real good thing to have police actually involved with the community.”

The program will run through August, but its mission to unify the Englewood community aims to make a long-lasting impact.

“The goal ... is really building trust between the community and police,” Irving told the Sun-Times. “There’s a problematic representation of African-American youth, and these perceptions manifest themselves in action. This is an opportunity, not legislated or mandated, for young people and police to get to know each other better.”

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21 Things That Are Complete Smartasses

Tue, 2015-06-30 08:47
Smartasses. They're everywhere. Usually where you'd rather they weren't. Because they know you don't want them there. Which is why they're smartasses.

Still, you can't deny the fun that general smartassery brings into our daily lives. If you can allow yourself to laugh a bit, you'll usually see that the smartasses of the world are providing a very worthwhile service to all of us: Entertainment at the expense of (hopefully) someone else.

As if we didn't have enough human smartasses, here are a bunch of everyday things being smartasses too. And do you know why? Because they can be.

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A Hard Day's Work Deserves a Fair Day's Pay

Mon, 2015-06-29 20:16
It's been a good few days for America.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Affordable Care Act. It is here to stay.

And, Democrats and Republicans in Congress paved the way for the United States to rewrite the rules of global trade to benefit American workers and American businesses.

On Friday, the Court recognized the Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality. With that ruling, our union became a little more perfect -- a place where more people are treated equally, no matter who they are or who they love.

These steps build upon America's steady progress in recent years. Out of the depths of recession, we've emerged ready to write our own future. Our businesses have created 12.6 million new jobs over the past 63 months -- the longest streak on record. More than 16 million Americans have gained health insurance. More kids are graduating from high school and college than ever before.

But more work lies ahead, if we are to succeed in making sure this recovery reaches all hardworking Americans and their families.

We've got to keep expanding access to affordable health care. Right now, 22 states haven't expanded Medicaid -- even though, under the ACA, they can. We'll keep encouraging those governors to do the right thing for their constituents. And we're making sure people know all the ways that they can benefit from the ACA. Wednesday, I'll go to Tennessee to meet Americans whose lives have been changed by this law, and to talk about how, instead of refighting settled battles of the past, we can move forward together.

We've got to keep making sure hard work is rewarded. Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve. That's partly because we've failed to update overtime regulations for years -- and an exemption meant for highly paid, white collar employees now leaves out workers making as little as $23,660 a year -- no matter how many hours they work.

This week, I'll head to Wisconsin to discuss my plan to extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers in 2016, covering all salaried workers making up to about $50,400 next year. That's good for workers who want fair pay, and it's good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve -- since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren't.

That's how America should do business. In this country, a hard day's work deserves a fair day's pay. That's at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America.

As president, my top priority is to strengthen the middle class, expand opportunity and grow the economy. That's why I believe in middle-class economics -- the idea that our country does best when everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. It's driven me from day one. It's fueled our American comeback. And it's at the heart of the fundamental choice our country faces today.

Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do exceptionally well? Or will we push for an economy where every American who works hard can contribute to and benefit from our success?

Will we invest in programs that would help educate our children, maintain our roads and bridges, and train our workers for the high-paying jobs of the future? Or will we cut these programs, and decide to give more to the wealthiest Americans instead?

To me, the answer is clear. Let's invest in America's future. Let's commit to an economy that rewards hard work, generates rising incomes, and allows everyone to share in the prosperity of a growing America. Let's reverse harmful cuts to vital programs, and instead make the critical investments we need to grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.

That's what I'll be talking about this week -- this choice, and these priorities.

America is at its best when we look out for one another. We soar when we strive to do better for one another. That's what I'm focused on and that's what I'll fight for every day for the next 18 months.

Let's get to work.

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Nina Simone's Daughter Says New Documentary About Her Mother Gets It Right

Mon, 2015-06-29 16:15
After a decade in development, Nina Simone’s authorized documentary “What Happened, Miss Simone?” was released in select theaters and on Netflix Friday.

The Netflix original documentary, directed by Academy Award-nominee Liz Garbus, follows the famed singer as she narrates her life story through archival audio and video footage. In addition to personal anecdotes told by friends and collaborators, Simone’s daughter and executive producer Lisa Simone Kelly also talks about her experience growing up with her mother.

According to Simone Kelly, a tribute project was initially discussed in the 1990s, but it wasn’t until after Simone's 2003 passing that the project got off the ground. Now, after a 10-year search for a director and distributor, Simone Kelly feels “What Happened Miss Simone?” accurately captures her mother's tale and sets the bar for future Nina Simone projects.

“It reboots everything to what it’s supposed to be in terms of mom’s journey and mom’s life the way she deserves and the way she wants to be remembered in her own voice on her own terms,” Simone Kelly said during an interview with The Huffington Post. “The rest for me is gravy at this point, because we were able to get our project out first. That’s what’s most important, because this is what people will refer to.”

“I look at all the other projects as keeping my mother’s memory alive. I no longer have to worry or lose sleep over the facts that more misinformation is being shared with the masses that could further distort what my mother’s truth was. That was my biggest thing,” she added.

Later this year, the biopic, “Nina,”, which stars actress Zoe Saldana in the lead role, will be released. The project has dominated headlines, been slapped with lawsuits and has received heavy backlash against Saldana's casting -- critics feel the actress is too light-skinned to portray the singer.



Although Saldana initially stated the criticism -- which sparked an online petition for a boycott of the film -- wouldn’t “deter” her from telling Simone’s story, the 36-year-old actress admitted July issue of InStyle magazine that she wasn’t the right choice for the role.

“I missed that particular article. I don’t want to come down on Zoe any more than I already have,” Simone Kelly told HuffPost. “I love her as an actress. Truly, I do, but not all people are meant to play certain parts. The energy and the name behind this project is Cynthia Mort. She’s the writer, she’s the director, she’s the one who came up with the concept. And she’s the one who set this whole thing in motion. And it has been full of non-truth since its inception. And the addition of Zoe Saldana to the casting -- for me -- was only a further example of how much this project really just veered away from what the truth was.”

Instead, Simone Kelly would have preferred either Kimberly Elise, Viola Davis or Adepero Oduye portray her mother on screen. Simone Kelly that "Nina" is "totally unauthorized," claiming the Simone estate was “ignored” after an attempt to “engage the energies that were behind the scenes.”

In speaking with the Los Angeles Times earlier this month, Mort said that she understood the negative reaction to her decision to cast Saldana for the role, but stated, “Nina was much more than that and lived beyond those definitions," and added that she is very excited for the release of “What Happened, Miss Simone?”



Simone also held incredible influence as a Civil Rights activist. She leveraged her voice and platform to record songs that aligned with the Black Power Movement, including “Mississippi Goddam,” “Baltimore,” “To Be Young Gifted & Black" and “Backlash Blues”, among others.

Though the recording of her 1960s civil rights-themed music helped rally and uplift those seeking racial equality in America, it also cost her commercial success, accolades and bookings, which is addressed in the documentary.

In one particular scene -- filmed during a 1986 interview segment with the “Ebony/JET Showcase” TV program -- Simone discussed her role in the Civil Rights Movement and how her political songs were a liability for her career.

“I wouldn’t change being a part of the civil rights movement. I wouldn’t change that, but some of the songs that I sang it hurt my career. All of the controversial songs, the industry decided to punish me for and they put a boycott on my records and it’s hard for me to incorporate those songs anymore because they are not relevant to the times…there is no reason to sing those songs. Nothing is happening. There is no civil rights movement. Everybody’s calm.”

Simone Kelly said that had her mother lived to witness America's current issues with police misconduct and such violence as the Charleston church massacre , she would’ve written an entire album.

“She would probably be right back on fire all over again,” Simone Kelly said. “It’s interesting how when you’re so far ahead of your time and when you’re courageous and outspoken and fearless, you know that’s a double edge sword. And for her to use the stage and her prowess as an artist to inspire and to enlighten and to shine a light on so much on the horrible things taking place.”

“And when I see that scene [of the documentary] my heart actually hurts, because she’s speaking very clearly but what I feel in my heart is… she had to find a way to resurrect herself and do it without that fire.”

The 52-year-old singer-actress went on discuss some of today’s big name artists who she feels lack the same passion for social issues her mother frequently expressed.

“I think about the artists today, the big names that we all know and recognize. Where are they? What are they doing,” she asked. “My mom, she decided to forgo awards and a lot of the accolades in order to use the stage to achieve something for the greater good.”

“‘What Happened Miss Simone?” is now available on Netflix and in theaters.

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10 Best Illinois Cities For Starting A New Business

Mon, 2015-06-29 15:10
Illinoisans are used to less-than-great economic news about the state, especially when it comes to jobs and business. But new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) seemingly contradicts the notion that new businesses avoid Illinois because of the state's financial mess and high taxes.

Along with this unexpected news is a recent analysis by NerdWallet that ranks the best cities in Illinois to start a business, but we'll get to that in a minute.

In the fourth quarter of 2014, the number of businesses in Illinois increased 4.7 percent to 421,908 when compared to the previous year. The only other state that added more businesses during this period was Massachusetts.

Yes, you read that correctly. Illinois ranked second among states where new businesses are being created the fastest, followed by Oregon, Delaware and Georgia, according to Bloomberg's analysis of BLS data.

While the data doesn't specify the type of businesses, top-notch universities seem to be a common denominator in states that had the biggest growth in new employers, said Robert Atkinson, president of Washington's Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. The density of young firms and population diversity in large metropolitan areas also could play a role.

Here's what Jeff Winick, an attorney at the Chicago-based law firm, Harris Winick Harris LLP, told Crain's Chicago Business:

"We haven't gotten behind these numbers, but the numbers are more important than the anecdotes. If the numbers suggest in fact there is business creation and in fact they are making more money, that is the reality," Winick said. "That's a very good thing for the state."

Although the data did not break down business creation numbers for every county in Illinois, Winick said the state's boost is likely coming from Chicago. Young professionals flock to the city and Illinois natives stay in the state because it has such an attractive metropolitan area, which bodes well for business creation. The construction boom in the city has also likely helped, creating an environment ripe with opportunity for small contracting businesses to get off the ground, he said.

Illinois is the state with the second-best environment for starting a new business. Here are 10 of the best cities for starting a new business in Illinois:



Check out Reboot Illinois to see more of the state's best business-starting metro areas.

NEXT ARTICLE: 10 Illinois laws every resident should know

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Illinois rewind: This little girl sees the way forward for the state's children

Mon, 2015-06-29 14:10
A series of reports by the Daily Herald and Chicago public radio station WBEZ finds indisputable evidence of something we've suspected for decades: "Kids who come from poverty plainly do not perform as well as those who are born to better circumstance." Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek calls on Illinoisans to care for all children in their communities and remembers her own community-aided upbringing:

Certain childhood memories stand out for me as the youngest of eight children. My dad died shortly after my third birthday, so I think I can accurately say my care came by committee.

I vividly recall my older sisters reading - and helping me read--Dr. Seuss books and other fine stories. My sister Margie and I frequently tagged along with them on shopping mall trips. My brothers tossed baseballs with me out front and helped me heave a basketball up into the hoop on our garage.

During most of my grade school years at Kate Starr Kellogg, a public school in Chicago's Beverly neighborhood, I didn't go home for lunch. I'd cross the street to eat with the six Reynolds kids, who were like my second family. I was even lucky enough to join them on lake vacations in Michigan, riding in the way-back of their brown woody station wagon.

Those images popped up this week as I read the Daily Herald's significant school series "Our Promise to Our Kids." I wasn't raised in poverty, but I'm sure my mom struggled to give us all we needed as she went back to school herself while working a job to become re-certified to teach in Chicago Public Schools.

She would be the first to say she got a lot of help from the tremendous community around us.

As much as life for kids has changed in the ensuing decades, it struck me as I read the series how much, at its core, it really hasn't. Kids need all the love and support and modeling and discipline and structure as they can get, now as then.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

But if Illinoisans leave the state, they won't be able to help build a community around the residents who remain. A new report by the Northern Illinois University's Center for Governmental Studies found that a net of 10,000 people left Illinois between 2013 and 2014--the largest decline in the country for that time period. Check out the whole report and what it means for the state at Reboot Illinois.

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

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Turns Down State Cash Advance For Schools

Mon, 2015-06-29 13:52

CHICAGO, June 29 (Reuters) - Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday turned down an offer by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to advance a fiscal 2016 state payment to the city's cash-strapped school system to help make a pension payment.

"We appreciate the governor's gesture, but the use of this year's dollars to pay last year's pension payment follows the same path that got the schools into the current financial mess," said a statement from Emanuel's office.

It added that a "real solution" was needed so that pension payments for all Illinois school districts are treated the same way.

The Associated Press reported that the Illinois State Board of Education had identified $450 million in state grants due the Chicago Public Schools during fiscal 2016 that could be released this week.

The nation's third-largest public school system is facing a state-mandated $634 million payment to its teachers' pension fund on Tuesday. The Chicago Board of Education, which is appointed by the mayor, has approved a plan to privately place $200 million of tax anticipation notes with J.P. Morgan Securities and possibly use the proceeds for the pension payment.

Also, a bill to delay the pension payment for 40 days could come up for another vote in the Illinois House this week after failing to pass last week.

(Reporting By Karen Pierog)

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Top 10 Outlandish Ice Cream Sandwiches to Eat This Summer (PHOTOS)

Mon, 2015-06-29 11:00
Welcome to the land of fancy ice cream sandwiches, where donuts, brownies, puff pastries are just some of the anything-but-boring bookends for sweet (and sometimes spicy) cold fillings. From east to west, fine dining restaurants to humble service counter windows, the after-dinner treat is being remade with innovative flavors and haute techniques. Your inner kid would go gangbusters for one of these ten. Summer diet be dammed.

-- By Hilary Sheinbaum

See All of the Top 10 Outlandish Ice Cream Sandwiches to Eat this Summer

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Meet The Man Who Helps Hollywood Stay Sober

Mon, 2015-06-29 10:52




Until two years ago, Jon Paul Crimi kept his career, and his client base, mostly a secret.

He has a 20-year background as a fitness trainer and used to be an actor -- but now when he gets a phone call and finds himself on an airplane two hours later heading to a movie set, he isn't going there to act.

Instead, Crimi is a professional sober coach who works with some of Hollywood’s most elite and others struggling with substance use disorders. He has been sober himself for 15 years.

“The best sober coaches are the ones who had a lot of experience struggling with sobriety," he told The Huffington Post in an interview in Los Angeles. "The further down the ladder you’ve gone and the more things you’ve been through, the more you can help people.”

Crimi is 5 feet 11 inches tall, fit and has eyes so blue that you think he must be wearing colored lenses. He is not. Crimi stands up straight, is comfortable in his body and has that kind of a smile so deeply grounded that he radiates confidence without a shred of cockiness.

But the very first thing you notice about him is that he has no eyebrows, eyelashes or hair, due to adult-onset alopecia. His Boston accent pokes out at times -- especially when he’s cracking a joke at his own expense -- which is a lot of the time. “I got kicked out of Catholic school. I had a learning disability, it was called ‘Fuck You,’” he joked, adding that he couldn't sit still in school and always felt uncomfortable.


Crimi during his childhood.

“There is a big question mark about what causes drinking. Is it hereditary? Is it nature versus nurture? I think it’s both,” he said. “My joke is I’m Irish, Italian and Scottish. Which means I like to drink a lot, I don’t want to pay for it and then I want to start a fight. I’m also from Boston, and that kind of means the same thing.”

Crimi grew up in a rough neighborhood. He was jumped regularly and, in one case, stabbed. Looking back now, he marvels at how casual he was about it. The stabbing was serious -- he got 41 stitches in his head and nearly died from blood loss. Crimi, then 19, was out at a party drinking the very next night with his head wrapped in a bandage.

“Somebody said, ‘Didn’t you get stabbed last night?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah. But what’s going on with you?’”


Crimi with friends in his early 20s.

He lost a lot of friends to drugs and alcohol while growing up. Six of them. “Overdoses, suicide, car crashes. It was really hard,” he said. The people around him didn’t talk about their feelings much. He had two DUIs before the age of 21. But his best friend had four. “We call it lower companions. We seek people around us who are worse off than we are. That way we don’t have to look at ourselves,” he said.

Crimi says he didn’t know how to process everything that had happened to him. “I didn’t have any tools to deal with it. My only tool was to drink around it. If there was a bad feeling, I drank or used drugs,” he said.

Before he was a sobriety coach -- before he was even sober -- Crimi moved to LA with big Hollywood dreams. He was accepted to a three-year Method acting program on a scholarship. But as he began to do the work, which can be deeply emotional and draining, the trauma from his youth began to come to out -- and so did his hair.

“There was one scene where someone was stabbing me and I had to stop. Processing all that in an acting class was a terrible idea.”

He began to notice bald patches all over his head, arms and legs and his doctor told him the hair loss was brought on by stress and trauma. He was put on high doses of steroids and was given excruciating shots in his eyebrows and head -- sometimes 75 or 100 at a time. He began to take Vicodin to help with the pain.

“I was 23 years old and at the peak of my life. I was trying to be an actor and my looks were everything to me. That was all being stripped away,” he said.


Crimi's headshot as an actor.

To make a living during acting school, Crimi trained clients and managed sales at Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach -- a famous destination for bodybuilders around the world. He was good at his job and started to snatch up some prestigious Hollywood clients. They helped him get more auditions.

But the high doses of steroids made him gain weight and bloat. “I was this fat trainer, trying to be an actor, bald patches everywhere, penciling in my eyebrows and going to auditions. I was eating Vicodin all day and drinking all night.”

His business was growing, but he was a mess.

Crimi flirted with sobriety, but didn't commit. “I would go 20 days without using or drinking and I was so uncomfortable I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. It was painful,” he said of his life at 25.

“Alcohol and drugs aren’t the problem. I’m the problem. The alcohol and drugs are my solution to the problem -- which is how I feel about myself when I don’t have anything in there. Until you fix that, you’re going to keep going back to it,” he said.

He sought out a therapist for the first time and she suggested he go to a 12-step recovery program. Crimi scoffed at the idea and tried even harder to get sober on his own. After a few months, it all came crashing down.

“Finally I bottomed out. I lost another really close friend and I went on this big bender, jumping the bridges of the Venice Canals drunk in my car. The next day, my stripper roommate told me to get help.”

He listened. When he walked into his first 12-step meeting, he realized he had been wrong. He saw young, successful people around him, saying things that he had always felt in his heart but had never said out loud.

“It rocked me to my core. I thought, ‘Wow. This is what’s wrong with me. I have alcoholism.’ It was a tough moment. But I also knew that I was in the right place for the first time in my life,” he said.

Talking about this makes Crimi choke up, even 15 years later. His eyes moisten and the rims of his eyes without eyelashes get especially red. But he also exudes a deep sense of gratitude for where he is today.

“If you’re willing to ask for help, then people will take care of you,” he said.

He worked all the steps and found a strong community of people around him. Unwisely, he continued working while he detoxed. “That’s never a good idea” he said. “I head-butted a co-worker and they let me go. The guy was kind enough to let me stay and train my personal clients.”

He built his business around his recovery. Sobriety became more important than clients and more important than making money. It’s the biggest mistake he sees people make today.

“You get sober, you start working, you get a girlfriend and go, ‘Oh, I’m good now.’ They say anything you put in front of your recovery you will lose.”

Sober coaches, who can also be called sober companions, started off in the rock and roll industry. The late Bob Timmins is thought of as the original sober companion and was described in his Los Angeles Times obituary as a “titan in the world of recovery,” particularly for rock musicians rising to fame in the 1990s.

Crimi knew Timmins personally and attributes the birth of the industry to a combination of factors. “People wanted to have their careers and play their music, but being out on the road is the one hardest places for an alcoholic or addict.” Crimi said. “There's too much temptation and they needed someone with them for support.”

The music industry is where Crimi started too. But after a couple of years of touring around the world, which Crimi says cured his rock star fantasy, he began to work with actors. It’s a business with a ticking clock: When he gets a phone call for a job, he is expected to pick up and go almost immediately.

Many of his sober coaching jobs are 24/7. He lives with the client on set and they eat together, work out together and even sometimes sleep in the same room.

But most of the time, no one else on location knows who Crimi is. “I’m the trainer, I’m the assistant, I’m the meditation teacher or I’m the bodyguard. I’ve been everything.”

It gets more complicated when the client doesn’t want him there. Many times, he is hired as a contingency of a film's insurance policy. He has had people try to lose him through airport security, use in front of him, become verbally abusive and physically confrontational.

He is the first to say that he cannot force clients to stop using. What he can do is help redirect their focus by getting them out of the room to go on a walk or take them to a meeting. He is there for support. He might help them through a meditation exercise or a gratitude list. His background in fitness helps, too. Exercise can be a big part of recovery.

“You can interrupt the disease. Even if someone is using, you can help. Some say you have to let people bottom out," he said. "But I’ve seen people who don’t want to get sober eventually get sober because they had somebody there supporting them, in their ear talking to them.”

Crimi’s mentor of 15 years, Irwin Feinberg, put it best. “Jon Paul has worked with a lot of guys who other people had given up on. He is the guy who got them into recovery,” he told HuffPost. “But it all began with him jumping into his own recovery with both feet.”

Part of Crimi’s job is borne out of the limitations of rehabilitation facilities. “It’s a cushy bubble,” he said. “Then they go home and all of their triggers come up that made them want to drink or do drugs before. It’s about helping them in their environment but it’s also about helping them re-create their lives.”

A good number of his clients have been drinking or using for most of their lives. They don’t know what to do sober. They don’t know how to handle Christmas or New Year’s sober. They don’t know how to handle a death in the family. Crimi helps them implement new habits.

But the most powerful tool in his own recovery and what he stresses the most with clients is to focus on helping someone else. That’s why when he was first sober, he joined the Big Brother program and became a mentor.

“I had really low self-esteem when I got sober. It was my first estimable act. It builds you up. When I am helping someone who is going through something, I cannot be in my problem. The faster you can do that, the better off you are,” he said.

John Hanney has worked with Crimi for the last nine years and says that his life has been re-created as a result of their relationship. “I was quite possibly one of the worst cases that anybody had ever seen,” Hanney told HuffPost over the phone. He tried to get sober for 17 years.

“Jon Paul has helped me recover from this disease one day at a time. I could trust him and could disclose my deepest, darkest secrets to him. It took time but he instilled confidence in me,” he said.

Many sober coaches don’t have families. The unpredictable lifestyle and expectation that you can be gone for weeks or months at a time aren’t exactly conducive to building relationships at home.


Crimi with his daughter, Mika.

But Crimi is the exception. He has been married for six years and has a 2-year-old daughter. He is on the road less and less, and is building his company to train sober coaches to take the out-of-town work so that he can be home with his family. Being a father has presented a new list of challenges for him.

“I worry about genetics. Am I going to pass this on to her? I see her doing things like spinning around and around in circles and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, she’s trying to get high!’”

His wife, Nomi, tells him it’s just a toddler thing. “My wife is not an addict. She’s a totally normal person. She calms me down.”


Crimi and his wife, Nomi.

Aside from being grounded by his family, Crimi's deepest source of strength ultimately comes from paying it forward. It's what connects him most fully to a sense of spirituality. “For the longest time my spirituality was simply helping other people. I don’t know anything more spiritual than helping someone and expecting nothing back,” he said. Being vulnerable and letting clients see who he really is can be just as powerful a tool.

“That’s what puts people at ease with me. When you open your heart to someone, they see that. They connect to you,” he said. “That’s spirituality to me. That’s God. That’s love. And for an East Coast former tough guy to say something like that is a miraculous thing.”

Jon Paul Crimi’s company also works with dual diagnosis clients, such as those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and traumatic brain injuries. More information can be found on his website.

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America's Most Amazing Meals for $10 or Less

Mon, 2015-06-29 10:27
By Elisa Drake for the CheapTickets Blog

You'll find tepid tacos, edible hot dogs and passable pizza pretty much anywhere, but you want to feel like you're getting something special for your meal ticket. We scoured North America for bargain-priced, refreshingly creative plates, and found 11, all 10 bucks or under.

Related: Eating cheap (and good!) in Miami Beach

1. Killer Combo at Komodo, Venice, California: $10

For your 10-note you get four tacos that are so above run-of-the-mill, you'll be licking your fingers and wondering what just happened. L.A.'s rising star chef Erwin Tjahyadi has all the right notches on his belt: Le Cordon Bleu training, apprenticeship with Wolfgang Puck, lead cook at Hotel Bel-Air, Zagat's "30 Under 30." He took his love of Asian fusion cuisine and created a sought-after food truck, which got so popular, it morphed into two standalone cafes. One of your four tacos should definitely be the Asian marinated chicken, jalapeño stir-fried rice, green onions, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds and sweet soy sauce glaze.




2. Ramen at Urban Belly, Chicago: $8

The late chef Charlie Trotter nurtured many an award-winning chef, including Bill Kim whose Urban Belly sits just beyond the hubbub of Chicago's West Loop cluster of trendy dining. It's the place locals bring friends from out of town to show how in-the-know they are. With the $8 ramen bowl, a perfect lunchtime size, they also get bargain bragging rights.




3. Arnabeet Mekle Sandwich at Souk & Sandwich, New York City: $7.50

Chicken, beef, veal tongue, Lebanese sausage. It's hard to choose just one of the 16 (nearly all under $10) lovingly filled and grilled Lebanese wraps at this take-out sammie spot in New York's Hudson Square neighborhood. But we direct you to the Arnabeet Mekle because you might otherwise overlook it and because it makes marinated fried cauliflower crave-worthy.




4. American Buffalo Chicken Crepe at Simply Crepes, Canandaigua, New York: $9.29

In the Finger Lakes of New York, this crepe place turns the froo froo French staple into an accessible dish for any taste level. The Buffalo chicken, in particular, takes what's usually reserved for football-game wings--the sauce, the lettuce, the blue cheese, the celery with dressing on the side--and rolls it up into a lightly sweetened crepe, a recipe that has been in the restaurateur's family for generations.




5. Poke Bowl at Pa'ina Café, Honolulu: $9

Apologies to the fans of this friendly, off-the-tourist-path gem who asked us not to divulge their secret. We couldn't resist, especially when a massive poke bowl here is under $10. Poke (pronounced po-keh) can be found all over Hawaii and usually refers to a raw fish salad. It was popularized by iconic Hawaiian chef Sam Choy who even created a festival celebrating the dish. Pa'ina's signature version hits all the right flavor notes: white or brown rice, spicy tuna, shredded nori and their special glaze.




6. Secret Poutine at Marker 92 Waterfront Bar & Bistro, Westin Cape Coral Resort, Florida: $9

One peek at the steak- and seafood-heavy menu at this intimate waterfront hotel restaurant and you'll beeline-it back to the hot dog stand, but never mind the printed menu. Take a seat and tell the server you'd like the secret poutine menu. Hailing from poutine-reigning Canada, the general manager has taught the chef to keep a poutine recipe in his back pocket. The "loaded" version gets you a plate piled with crispy French fries topped with bacon, shredded mozzarella cheese, hot brown gravy and drizzled with sour cream. Dining amid the ocean breeze, pub fare never tasted so good.




7. Pozole at Barrio Queen, Scottsdale: $8

Mexican in Arizona is as original as barbecue in Kansas City, but, seriously, this place was given a place on Esquire magazine's best new restaurant list in 2012, and for good reason. Specifically for its spicy Pozole Verde, a slow-cooked green pork chili and hominy soup, flavored up with onions, radishes and cilantro, served with three warm tortillas. It's a centuries-old, hearty meal, made even better by its low, low price.




8. Frito Pie Bowl at The Beestro, Santa Fe: $8.95

We realize this may seem pedestrian to some foodies out there, but this match-up is a legendary throwback to the Woolworth's original and now served with flair and a fun-loving attitude at this super-cute farm-to-table bistro (the owners are sweet on honey bee products and preservation) in downtown Santa Fe. The Fritos add the crunchy-salty finishing touch to chef-made buffalo red chili that's garnished with sour cream, lettuce, locally made Tucumcari cheddar cheese, diced red onion, fresh cilantro and spicy pickled jalapeños.




9. Fried Shrimp Po-Boy at Shrimp 'N Stuff, Galveston, Texas: $6.99

They're doing something right at this no-frills Galveston Island mainstay; it's been serving up delicately fried fish to the neighborhood since 1976. In this chosen po-boy, are deep-fried jumbo Gulf shrimp, with lettuce, tomato and house-made tartar layered into toasted French bread. It's so darn cheap, you could splurge for the $2.99 side-and-drink deal or just a side--we suggest the sweet potato fries--for $2.29. Take it all to the outside patio.




10. Full Bellied Pig Sandwich at Café Patachou, Indianapolis: $8.95

What might look like a same-ol' PB and J from the outside is actually a pumped-up twist that we think only Martha Hoover's famous Café Patachou could pull off so smoothly: peanut butter, strawberry jelly, Smoking Goose bacon and fresh jalapeños on toasted wheat bread, served with a side. It'll hit your heart with a whollup, but what really makes this concoction heartwarming is that all the proceeds benefit underserved children in Indianapolis.




11. Gai Yang at Sticky Rice, Los Angeles: $10

L.A.'s historic, always jammed Grand Central Market is fittingly very NYC, with hip vendor booths selling culinary treats from cheese to ice cream to fresh-baked breads and fresh-pressed juices. So you could feasibly nibble your way through, but you should save your money for a meal at Sticky Rice, lauded as tinseltown's first "Thai comfort food" restaurant that cooks with organic, free-range and locally sourced ingredients. The Gai Yang is our winner on price: tender Thai barbecue chicken with papaya salad, sticky rice and sweet-tangy dipping sauce.

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John Oliver Shows Just How Far The Transgender Community Still Has Left To Go

Mon, 2015-06-29 10:12
The media and country as a whole still can't seem to grasp the very graspable concept of transgender.

While we've made great strides in the transgender rights movement, there is still a lot of work left to do, as John Oliver showed on Sunday's "Last Week Tonight."

At the moment, the community is dealing with ignorance on a few fronts; from talk show hosts asking incredibly personal questions to their transgender guests -- questions they'd never ask a non-transgender person -- to two transgender individuals who identified as women being asked at the DMV to remove their jewelry, makeup and wigs before they could be photographed.

"For the record," Oliver points out, "you get to pick virtually everything else on your driver's license. They ASK you your weight, they don't weigh you like a prize hog."

"Plus," he adds, "the whole idea of a driver's license photo is to present how you look from day to day."

Most people may not realize just how many transgender individuals live in the United States. One study estimated that there are about 700,000 people in the country who identify as transgender, roughly the population of Boston.

And while the community is gaining wider acceptance, some of that seems to be more lip service than actual legislated rights.

Take, for instance, Kentucky transgender teen Henry Brousseau. Henry identifies as male but was forced to use the women's restroom at his high school, which resulted in his being bullied. Brousseau spoke to the Kentucky Senate Education Committee asking that they not pass a bill which would discriminate against transgender students.

Some of the state senators praised the Brousseau for his "courage," then voted to uphold the bill that would discriminate against him.

Which is worse, actively opposing the recognition of the transgender community, or telling a transgender person to their face how great they are for being themselves and THEN actively opposing the recognition of the transgender community?

Both seem rather shitty.

"Last Week Tonight" airs every Sunday at 11 p.m. EST on HBO.

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John Oliver Celebrates 5 Years Of People Prematurely Declaring The End Of Obamacare

Mon, 2015-06-29 08:26
The Supreme Court upholding Obamacare is clearly the beginning of the end of Obamacare.

On Sunday's "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver took a brief moment to celebrate the many pundits, TV hosts and media personalities who, over the last five years, promised the approaching inevitable end of the Affordable Care Act.

Aaaaaaaaaannd no.

It just goes to show that, as we all suspected, the 24-hour news cycle is enriching our lives with truthful, on-point information, delivered by intelligent, forward-thinking experts.

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Serving our Nation: The Immigrant Tradition

Sun, 2015-06-28 16:15
As we approach the end of Immigrant Heritage Month, the celebration of our nation's diverse, rich history and the global influences that make it so, I reflect on my family's own journey from Poland. As I did so, I recalled the stories passed on to me at an early age, and the incredible sense of gratefulness to this nation for accepting us with open arms. Lady Liberty's embrace upon the immigrant, I began to notice, had frequently instilled very strong patriotic emotions in these new Americans for their new home. In my family's case, like many other immigrants, a short history easily explains why.

The year was 1968. Poland was fully engulfed in the Soviet Union's sphere of influence, and communism was being force-fed fed upon the Polish people through a puppet government. Like elsewhere in the world, the late 1960's was a turbulent time in Poland, with a series of social protests signaling that the Polish intelligentsia's frustration with the current state of affairs was reaching its maximum shelf-life. The Poles did not embrace communism, did not want it, and ultimately did not tolerate it. Although the seeds for the now famous Solidarity Movement that was formed about 10 years later were sown at this time and change was on the horizon, for some, the wait would be too long. My father, Krzystof, at that time an 18-year-old living in Krakow, decided that there was no future for him in Poland.

Under the auspices of a vacation to Yugoslavia, my father and his friends escaped through the forested mountains near the border into Italy. After receiving refugee status, several years later he ultimately found himself on the northwest side of Chicago, in the heart of Polonia (the term for Polish diaspora communities). Two years later, he met a beautiful young classically trained pianist that had just arrived from Warsaw named Blanka.

After my parents met, courted and were married, I came into this world, the firstborn as a United States citizen. Throughout my childhood, numerous family members had come and visited us as we lived in various small apartments in the city's northwest side. All shared stories of how great this nation was, and that emblazoned an unwavering sense of patriotism on my soul.

Thus, when all my high school friends were considering colleges, I felt a strong desire to give back to the country that had given my family everything we had. Rather than moving on to university, I chose instead to enlist in the United States Army. As I arrived to basic training, I quickly noticed a very interesting commonality. While there were a great many recruits that were clearly multi-generational Americans, a considerable amount were just like me. Their parents had come from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Korea, India, Croatia, and Africa. Several others were recently naturalized citizens, still speaking in the accents of their former countries. We stood there, together, joining in a sacred pledge to defend this nation at all costs.

As my military career went on, this theme followed. Every unit I served with had a significant number of first generation Americans. Without even saying it, we all knew why we were there and what service to our nation meant.

In the case of Polish Americans, we have had a long-standing tradition of serving this nation from its earliest years. During the Revolutionary War, heroes such as Casimir Pulaski and General Tadeusz Kosciuszko stand out. Kosciusko, of course, best known for designing the entire defensive structure at the United States Military Academy, West Point, and Pulaski was dubbed the "father of the American Cavalry." When I visited West Point as a young non-commissioned officer to pin Lieutenant bars upon my friend who was graduating from the Academy -- he too, coincidentally, a first generation Polish American -- we admired Kosciuszko's monument with great pride.

Many nations have similarly offered their own to our country's growth and defense. The children of immigrants and immigrants themselves know better than most the hardships that their families had left behind. Indeed, over twenty percent of all Congressional Medal of Honor recipients -- over 700 - were immigrants. And this only represents those that were not born here -- not to mention those that were the children of immigrants. Hungary, Poland, England, Mexico, Italy, Ukraine, Philippines, Sweden, China, Ireland, Germany, Croatia and countless other nations are listed as the birthplace for recipients of our nation's highest recognition for valor. This is no mere coincidence.

Immigrant Heritage Month gives us an opportunity to recognize the stories and contributions from those who came to make this country great in their own way. Let us not forget that one of those ways represents among the highest possible patriotic callings, to serve in our nation's Armed Forces.

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Here Are Your 2015 NBA Draft Winners And Losers

Fri, 2015-06-26 12:09
While we won't really know who won Thursday's draft for at least a few seasons, it remains an annual tradition to break down each team's decision-making on the clock. In recent years, with the influx of free agency every summer, it's become clear that the draft has lost some of its relevance. If you hit it big, that's great, but if not, you can still build a successful roster in July. Still, the significance of a quality draft -- or, in the case of the world champions, quality drafts -- remains too great to ignore. Golden State nabbed league MVP Stephen Curry in 2009, then selected All-Star Klay Thompson in 2011. In 2012, we saw the Warriors draft Festus Ezili and Harrison Barnes, along with First-Team All-NBA Defender Draymond Green, in the second round.

The 2015 class, as we've highlighted, features perhaps the best assortment of incoming talent since the LeBron-Carmelo-Bosh-Wade draft of 2003. It also saw a record 13 freshmen drafted in the first round. Knowing all too well the value of a draft-night steal or the damage of a bust, let's make a very, very early assessment of the winners and losers of 2015. For what it's worth, I do have a pretty good record about this stuff.

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WINNERS

Minnesota

We'll look back at Thursday night as the moment the T-Wolves altered the tenor of their entire organization. Just by himself, top pick Karl-Anthony Towns -- whom HuffPost caught up with before the draft -- would have turned Thursday into a major victory for the team, but when they went out and got Tyus Jones from Cleveland, it was the icing on the cake. We know plenty about Towns, but Jones, who won a state title as a prep in his home state of Minnesota, is a winning lead guard whose lack of size at 6-foot-1 shouldn't be a concern. The heartbeat of Duke's national champion team, Jones averaged nearly 6 assists per game and fewer than 2 turnovers. Ricky Rubio makes well over $12 million, but he's also the worst-shooting starting point guard in basketball. Jones provides insurance, and as we saw with Jahlil Okafor, he thrives in the two-man game. He will help with Towns' offensive development from day one.

Philadelphia



I've described Sam Hinkie's "master plan" as genius, but with all due respect, having Jahlil Okafor fall into his lap at 3 is just good luck. Forget about Okafor's defensive deficiencies. How many 19-year-olds could come into the NBA as a rookie and average 20 points and 4 assists? That's Okafor, who, aside from having several go-to post moves, is a sensational -- and willing -- passer who will likely be an All-Star for the next decade-plus.

Lakers



Okafor would have been an excellent pick, but so is Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell, who led all freshmen in scoring during his lone season in Columbus. Russell won't back down from the Steph Currys and Russell Westbrooks of the West, and while he's not necessarily a great athlete, his prodigious court vision and passing ability, not to mention his great size, give the Lakers their All-Star triggerman of the future. Keep in mind that the franchise is linked to both Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge, either of whom would presumably love to play with a guy like Russell.

The Bigs

Towns and Okafor -- two freshmen big men, each one poised to become a franchise cornerstone -- went first and third. But that was just the beginning. Latvia's Kristaps Porzingis, also 19 years old, went fourth to New York. Here's how I put it on Thursday:

Hearing that the New York Knicks are taking Kristaps Porzingis 4th overall, not the rumored Mudiay.

— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) June 25, 2015

Let me simplify: I firmly believe Porzingis-if Russell is gone-won't go past Phil Jackson and the Knicks at 4 if they still have the pick.

— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) June 25, 2015

Sacramento is taking a gamble on Willie Cauley-Stein, in the hopes that the former Wildcat can become Tyson Chandler 2.0. All in all, a combined six power forwards and centers were taken in the lottery. We saw in the NBA Finals that the league has shifted away from playing through the low post. The 2015 draft class, however, shows us that the big boys still matter.

Denver

The 6-foot-5 Emmanuel Mudiay comes to a team in desperate need of a lead guard, assuming Ty Lawson is dealt. Mudiay can learn on the job, which is typically a plus for a lead guard, and in time, he should become the face of the franchise. Denver wants to run, and it gets a natural attacker in Mudiay, who excels in the open floor. Moreover, the Western Conference is littered with elite young guards -- think Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry. Mudiay, at 19 years old, has the tools to join that list in time.

Charlotte



Last year, the Hornets ranked last in the league in 3-point shooting and 28th in overall offense. They've missed the playoffs nine out of 11 seasons since returning to Charlotte. But Wooden Award winner Frank Kaminsky, taken ninth overall, is the rare 7-footer who can really spread you out as well as score in the block. His superb footwork and passing ability are huge pluses for a team that would love to play through both him and Al Jefferson. This is an ideal pick in many ways because it will also aid Kemba Walker's pick-and-roll development.

Miami

Coach K has talked about Justise Winslow having similar characteristics and style to Dwyane Wade. Winslow's toughness, winning pedigree and two-way ability could give Miami exactly what it needs following the departure of LeBron James. Ultimately, we're guessing he will guard four positions and then go out and immediately score in the low teens. Winslow, 19, is going to be an All-Star, and the fact that he slipped to the 10th pick works perfectly for a Miami team that wants to get more athletic and dynamic on both sides of the floor. This feels like the steal of the draft.

Dallas



Justin Anderson, the rugged two-way wing from Virginia, was one of my favorite values in the draft. Dallas nabbed him at 21, and they're getting a guy who shot in the mid-40s from 3 while morphing into one of college basketball's premier defenders.

Toronto

Delon Wright is a poor man's Mudiay. At 6-foot-5 with superb quickness and athleticism, he still wants to pass first. UCLA's Norman Powell, at 46, is just awesome value. He was one of the best athletes throughout the entire predraft process and has shown an increased willingness to get physical guarding the perimeter. Major sleeper potential there. This is good news all around for a Raptors team that ranked 23rd in team defense last year en route to another first-round postseason exit.

Orlando

Not only is Croatian wing Mario Hezonja the best shooter in the 2015 draft, he's also one of the best all-around athletes. The 6-foot-8 Hezonja will blend nicely alongside Elfrid Payton and even Victor Oladipo, giving rising 7-footer Nikola Vucevic and the Magic a young and dynamic trio of playmakers on the perimeter. Bottom line: This was a team desperate for shooting, and the 20-year-old Hezonja meets that need and then some. Don't sleep on second-rounder Tyler Harvey, either: The lefty led the nation in scoring (23 points per game) last year while taking Eastern Washington to the NCAA Tournament.

LOSERS

Detroit



Cardinal sin No. 1? Taking Stanley Johnson over Justise Winslow. How the Pistons can justify that is baffling. Johnson is a stiff wing who doesn't finish especially well at the rim. Despite miles-high expectations during his freshman period in Tucson, he disappeared in the final three games of the tournament, shooting 7-26 from the floor. But hey, at least he's confident. Then, at 38, Detroit took another perimeter player in four-year Villanova shooting guard Darrun Hilliard. At best, Hilliard is a third guard, and with the abundance of talent that was still on the board at that point, he feels like a wasted pick.

Washington

The Wizards needed a stretch forward to complement Bradley Beal and John Wall and to allow Otto Porter to bang a little bit more. Instead, they went out and got Kelly Oubre, a wing from Kansas about as thin as a credit card. Oubre is not going to play heavy minutes for at least a couple years, and while I like Aaron White, Washington's second-rounder, I don't see him playing much either.

Phoenix



Like Detroit, the Suns were another team that really missed out on a late lottery opportunity. Utah's Delon Wright or UNLV's Rashad Vaughn are both better players with more upside than Devin Booker, whom Phoenix took at 13. Booker can play off of Eric Bledsoe given that he can stick it from anywhere (41 percent 3s as a freshman), but the Kentucky product remains in his infancy stages as a playmaker. To be fair, John Calipari didn't ask him to be one, but with fewer than 2 free throw attempts per game, Booker is more of a spot-up and pull-up guy than anything else.

Sacramento

As if California's state capital didn't have enough problems. Seriously, who knows what's going on behind closed doors. George Karl is impossible to deal with, and you have to think the Kings' drafting Willie Cauley-Stein with the sixth pick was his doing after the DeMarcus Cousins mess. Cauley-Stein is a fine defensive player, but this was one of the deepest drafts we've ever seen. To take him at 6 -- with Mudiay and Winslow still on the board, mind you -- seems like a massive reach for a 29-win team.

New York



We're not necessarily saying that Kristaps Porzingis won't become a fine player -- an All-Star, even -- but the Knicks need help now. And from everything we hear, Porzingis isn't ready to provide that. This is a franchise that needs to develop a winning culture and overcome the current stench of losing. Wouldn't Winslow help with that? He could have fit in very nicely with Carmelo Anthony, giving Derek Fisher a two-way wing who could actually play in the triangle. Instead, Phil Jackson's Porzinigis pick essentially guarantees that the Knicks won't be competitive for another year or two.

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.

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Senator Kirk: If You Are Not Addressing Climate Change, You Are Not Addressing the Health of the Great Lakes

Fri, 2015-06-26 11:39


Climate is the biggest threat to the Great Lakes. As we have noted before, if you're not addressing climate change, you're not addressing the health of the Great Lakes.

That is what makes a vote last week from Senator Mark Kirk so disappointing. Throughout his time in Congress, he has cast himself as a defender of the Great Lakes. But a decisive vote to prevent the EPA from enforcing efforts to cut carbon pollution puts Senator Kirk in the camp of folks trying to kill the most essential tool to safeguard the Lakes over the long-term.

And his reflexive response to criticism of that vote vividly reinforced how his votes don't match his public persona. Just read this galling statement from inside the Beltway coverage:

Aides said the spending bill that was the subject of the EPA amendment highlights his record. It includes a provision Kirk sponsored aimed at preventing pollution in the Great Lakes.

"Sen. Kirk's legislation creates a strict new ban on sewage dumping in the Great Lakes, including a $100,000 per day violation and the creation of a fund to build new treatment plants," said Kevin Artl, Kirk's spokesman. "The simple truth is that Sen. Kirk is responsible for the most aggressive measure ever taken to protect the Great Lakes."

Artl declined to answer questions about Kirk's vote on the EPA amendment or about his record on climate change, as did the senator.

Oh, the hyperbole here. Trumpeting a sewage bill as THE most aggressive measure EVER taken to protect the Great Lakes? Really?

What about the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (generally referred to as the "Great Lakes Compact") adopted by Congress at the request of the Great Lakes States and Provinces to protect the Great Lakes Basin?

Or the Clean Water Act? (Actually, we know the Senator is aware of that one since he voted against bolstering the Clean Water Act in 2013...)

Oh...and about that sewage measure the Senator's staff mentions. We supported that measure. Unfortunately, it was tucked into a broader appropriations bill that includes other items that threaten Great Lakes water. The broader appropriations bill slashes funding for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds (SRFs), which are an essential tool used by state and local governments to fund water infrastructure projects that protect our water. The committee's website includes a summary that estimates the bill would result in 230 fewer water infrastructure projects, 14,000 fewer jobs and $1 billion less in matching fund investments from states.

Senator Kirk sits on that committee, and he voted for the appropriations bill that cuts the very funding source states and municipalities rely on to fix their aging infrastructure and prevent things like....um.... sewage overflows. That is the very problem his bill is supposed to address. The appropriations bill also blocks the Clean Water Rule - essential clean water protections that the Senator has been told were essential if he wanted his bill to have any real meaning. All of that amounts to the opposite of Great Lakes protection the Senator is claiming he supports.

But the bigger issue is climate.

Climate change is the biggest threat the Great Lakes have faced: turbocharging existing water pollution problems like algae blooms, cutting back the ice pack essential for shoreline stabilization, sending water levels plummeting and rising in ways that threaten the communities along their shores. Climate change is intensifying problems that already threaten the Great Lakes' collapse.

The most potent way for Americans to address this problem is the Clean Power Plan. It is an historic effort to slash the dangerous carbon pollution that is fueling climate change.

Senator Kirk cannot oppose the best opportunity in America to fight climate change and claim to be protecting the Great Lakes at the same time. The Senator had a choice: vote for climate action--or vote with the polluters, against the wishes of Illinoisans who overwhelmingly support fighting carbon pollution.

He voted wrong.

His actions threaten the very Lakes that he purports to protect. So if he is not defending the Great Lakes, who is Senator Kirk standing up for?


Lake Michigan Sunset image by Anne Swoboda via Flickr

This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.

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Ecstasy and Despair on This Historic Day

Fri, 2015-06-26 10:59
My husband Brad and I were married in our small Episcopalian church two and a half years ago in a ceremony that included just the priest and two witnesses who were volunteers from the church. Yet, despite its small size, the wedding was a monumental experience, made much more so that it was held within those church walls where we worshiped, and where our love was considered sacred and our vows were understood to be binding before one another and God.

Yet, we were painfully aware that outside the walls, our vows could be legally evaporated merely by crossing a state boundary. In a very real sense, it was within our church where we felt most fully human and beloved by our community and by God. To many in the outside world, our love was a fiction that they could erase with a wave of an official hand.

So, on this day, I am thankful to God for the Supreme Court's decision and to the American people, who are so rapidly recognizing that our love is no longer debatable. It hard for people who have not had the right to marry whom they love to understand what it means to have your government change its mind, after so long, to finally think of you as 'human enough' to enjoy the full benefits of citizenship.

For Brad and me, and now for our son, the decision by the Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage across the country is like a gate being opened and entrance granted into the hereto guarded sanctum of being considered fully human.



And so I am rejoicing today, and ecstatic that in the years to come, the love that I share with Brad and the love that millions of other LGBT Americans experience will be honored and that LGBT people will have gained dignity and justice at last.

And yet, today, my heart is also despairing. On this great day of celebration, there is also a funeral and great mourning of the loss of the life of Rev. Clementa Pinckney and eight other African-Americans who were shot in Charleston.

For those nine African-Americans, the church was also their sanctuary. And Mother Emanuel AME was a church where, throughout its history, African-Americans were afforded full human dignity when the outside world wanted to enslave them. That sacred sanctuary was brutally violated just days ago by a twisted, sick shooter and today, we mourn the loss of "The Beautiful Nine."

In a legal sense, African-Americans gained the long fought and centuries overdue recognition of their humanity in the Supreme Court and in the Congress a few decades ago. Despite this, the last year of police brutality in Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, Baltimore and now Charleston shows us the limits of these rulings. And the Supreme Court itself gutted some of those same civil rights in a recent ruling. African-Americans still live within a deeply racist America that now has invaded the sanctuary of the church.

Despite this, anyone who watched the church service at Emanuel AME last Sunday knows that the Church may have been broken into, but it is anything but broken. That sanctuary has a strength and will not be diminished by sin and hate, but will ultimately grow stronger.


Senior Pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, hugs a church member after the Watch Night service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina January 1, 2013.

The church that performed my wedding to Brad and Emanuel AME church are two very different places, but both are important reminders of the role church must still play in the world.

No matter what the Supreme Court ruled today, it will still be dangerous for Brad and I to even hold hands in most of America, must less embrace or kiss. For African-Americans, just walking down the street or driving can be a cause for racially-motivated harassment or violence.

In a world that continues to diminish and discriminate, the church, if it is to mean anything at all, must be a sanctuary for all people to be fully themselves and feel the dignity and pride in who God made them -- whatever race, gender, sexuality, culture, religion or size.

On this day, of celebration and mourning, let the church lead the calls for continued justice, compassion and love for all of humanity. Remembering American martyrs like Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the Beautiful Nine as well as those Americans who have died as the result of anti-queer violence, let us all work together towards that great day when we can wipe away all the tears of oppression and discrimination and join hands as one people, free at last.

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