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'The Ideal Woman Project' Wants To Know What You See When You Look In The Mirror

Fri, 2014-08-22 12:31
"What do you see when you look in the mirror?"

That's the question Orlando-based artist SKIP and his fiancée, photographer Tasha Copley, ask in their new art installation, "FRANCHISE: The Ideal Woman." The installation consists of two photographs, one showing Copley marked up by plastic surgery "guidelines" in preparation for transforming her body into the "ideal," and another showcasing Copley's natural beauty and comfort in her own skin. The images are accompanied by a box in which viewers can share what they see when they look in the mirror, and what they find beautiful about themselves. Some of these contributions are included below.

(Some images below may be considered NSFW.)

SKIP's interest in body image stems from his own struggles with self-esteem.

"For me up until my early twenties I believed I was just a collection of 'too' many things," he told The Huffington Post in an email. "I was too thin, I was too pale, I was too short, my ears were too big and my legs were too hairy. For a good chunk of my life I think I really just hated most of the things I saw when I looked in the mirror."

Recognizing the extreme pressures women in particular face to be beautiful, SKIP decided to feature a female body in the installation. Believing that low self-esteem "absolutely stands in the way of true self-love and acceptance," SKIP paired up with Copley to create artwork that questioned the ideal, celebrated the untouched female body, and asked viewers to question their own ideas of beauty.

A comment left by a viewer of the installation.

"I have always felt very strongly about promoting positive body image and self-esteem, so this definitely was the perfect project for us to work with each other," Copley told HuffPost. "As a woman who has had a child, I experienced a huge transformation in my body from pre-pregnancy to post-pregnancy... After having a baby –- a very large baby –- you are forced to relearn your body all over again, inside and out."

For Copley, the dichotomy of the two images is ultimately empowering: "In a way the right side of the installation represents how I see myself set against a world of supermodels and a perceived idea of what beauty is, and the left side is how I actually feel about myself when stripped away -– a strong, confident, sexy woman."

Being photographed and displayed has helped Copley accept and love her body, she told HuffPost.

"Ultimately, letting go of my insecurities and presenting all of my 'flaws' to the public -– and now the world –- became a cathartic and empowering experience. There is nothing left to be embarrassed by because I have nothing left to hide."

Another comment left by a viewer of the installation.

The pair report that reactions to the installation have mostly been "overwhelmingly positive and emotional." Unfortunately, the installation was vandalized while on display at the Orlando City Arts Factory last month.

"That discovery was definitely a harsh pill to swallow, but the response from the local and online community was overwhelming and their donations and financial support allowed us to reprint the life-sized photos of the installation for potential future viewings in other cities and wider audiences," SKIP told HuffPost.

The duo hope that their installation will make viewers question their attitudes towards their own bodies. They told HuffPost:

A lot of this “ideal” that is being pushed out in the world of photoshopped supermodels and suntans and celebrities all stem from people just not being honest with themselves and with each other. And that is something we’d really like to see change in time.

See more images from the project on the Facebook page and Instagram.

[h/t Refinery29]

WATCH: What Is A 'Sexy Body'? This Remarkable Model's Photos Are Redefining That Answer

Fri, 2014-08-22 11:37
What if you could choose body parts like you choose a pair of shoes? And what if these prosthetics could help you do new things and express new parts of yourself? Aimee Mullins shares what she calls the poetry of prosthetics.

We want to know what you think. Join the discussion by posting a comment below or tweeting #TEDWeekends. Interested in blogging for a future edition of TED Weekends? Email us at
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Lions, Seahawks Lead The List Of NFL Teams With The Most Overpriced Beer - SI Extra Mustard

Fri, 2014-08-22 11:10
Forbes has come out with a list of the 10 NFL teams who overcharge the most for beer in their stadium, and it looks like fans of the Detroit Lions have yet another reason to be angry.

Can This Guy Save McDonald's?

Fri, 2014-08-22 11:07
McDonald’s U.S. president is stepping down, a sign the chain may be getting more aggressive in its battle to stay relevant in its home country.

The fast food giant announced Friday that Mike Andres, 56, would replace McDonald’s USA President Jeff Stratton, who is retiring after serving in the role for just two years and working at the company for 41.

Mike Andres, who will take over as McDonald's USA President on October 15.

Stratton, 58, oversaw McDonald’s American division during a tough time for the chain. The company has suffered from months of flat or negative same-store sales, an important metric of a retailer's health.

Meanwhile, chains like Chipotle, with pricier and more upscale menu items, are flourishing.

In recent years, McDonald's has tried to emphasize its commitment to quality, freshness and variety.

So far the efforts, which have included everything from adding an overwhelming number of menu items to asking gourmet chefs to cook a meal with McDonald’s ingredients for reporters, haven’t paid off.

“We’ve lost some of our relevance,” McDonald's CEO Don Thompson admitted to analysts in January.

The company also came under fire this year as more workers protested the fast food industry's low-pay.

In addition to the challenges facing McDonald’s specifically, the chain is dealing with the obstacles plaguing many other companies as the country grapples with rising income inequality. Squeezed by the recession and slow recovery, lower-income Americans have been hesitant to spend -- even at low-cost outlets like McDonald’s and Walmart. Walmart replaced its U.S. CEO last month.

Andres comes to McDonald’s after working as CEO of Logan’s Roadhouse, a steakhouse chain. Before that he worked at McDonald’s for 30 years, starting out as a manager in his family’s restaurant.

"Mike Andres is an accomplished executive with a track record of driving strong results," Lisa McComb, a McDonald's spokeswoman wrote in an email statement to The Huffington Post. "He’s a progressive, strategic thinker with a deep understanding of consumers and the marketplace – and a proven track record of translating those insights into successful results. He brings a wealth of knowledge of the McDonald’s System as well as broader experience in the Informal Eating Out industry."

Artificial Intelligence May Doom The Human Race Within This Century, Oxford Professor Says

Fri, 2014-08-22 11:04
An Oxford philosophy professor who has studied existential threats ranging from nuclear war to superbugs says the biggest danger of all may be superintelligence.

Superintelligence is any intellect that outperforms human intellect in every field, and Nick Bostrom thinks its most likely form will be a machine -- artificial intelligence.

There are two ways artificial intelligence could go, Bostrom argues. It could greatly improve our lives and solve the world's problems, such as disease, hunger and even pain. Or, it could take over and possibly kill all or many humans. As it stands, the catastrophic scenario is more likely, according to Bostrom, who has a background in physics, computational neuroscience and mathematical logic.

"Superintelligence could become extremely powerful and be able to shape the future according to its preferences," Bostrom told me. "If humanity was sane and had our act together globally, the sensible course of action would be to postpone development of superintelligence until we figure out how to do so safely."

Bostrom, the founding director of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, lays out his concerns in his new book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. His book makes a harrowing comparison between the fate of horses and humans:

Horses were initially complemented by carriages and ploughs, which greatly increased the horse's productivity. Later, horses were substituted for by automobiles and tractors. When horses became obsolete as a source of labor, many were sold off to meatpackers to be processed into dog food, bone meal, leather, and glue. In the United States, there were about 26 million horses in 1915. By the early 1950s, 2 million remained.

The same dark outcome, Bostrom said, could happen to humans once our labor and intelligence become obsolete.

It sounds like a science fiction flick, but recent moves in the tech world may suggest otherwise. Earlier this year, Google acquired artificial intelligence company DeepMind and created an AI safety and ethics review board to ensure the technology is developed safely. Facebook created an artificial intelligence lab this year and is working on creating an artificial brain. Technology called "deep learning," a form of artificial intelligence meant to closely mimic the human brain, has quickly spread from Google to Microsoft, Baidu and Twitter.

And while Google's Ray Kurzweil has long discussed a technological "singularity" in which AI replaces humans, a giant in the tech world recently joined Kurzweil in vocalizing concern. Elon Musk, co-founder of SpaceX (space transport) and Tesla (electric cars), tweeted earlier this month:

Hope we're not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable

-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 3, 2014

I spoke with Bostrom about why he's worried and how we should prepare.

You write that superintelligent AI could become dangerous to humans because it will seek to improve itself and acquire resources. Explain.

Suppose we have an AI whose only goal is to make as many paper clips as possible. The AI will realize quickly that it would be much better if there were no humans because humans might decide to switch it off. Because if humans do so, there would be fewer paper clips. Also, human bodies create a lot of atoms that could be made into paper clips. The future that the AI would be trying to gear towards would be one in which there were a lot of paper clips but no humans.

Could we program the AI to create no more than 100 paper clips a day for, say, a total of 10 days?

Sure, but now the AI is trying to maximize the probability that it will make exactly 100 paper clips in 10 days. Again, you would want to eliminate humans because they could shut you off. What happens when it's done making the total 1,000 paper clips? It could count them again or develop a more accurate counting apparatus -- perhaps one that is the size of the planet or larger.

You can imagine an unlimited sequence of actions perhaps with diminishing returns but nonetheless some positive values to the AI that would even increase by a tiny fraction the probability of reaching the goal. The analogy extends to any AI --- not just one programed to make paper clips. The point is its actions would pay no heed to human welfare.

Could we make its primary goal be improving the human condition, advancing human values -- making humans happy?

Well, we'd have to define then what we mean by being happy. If we mean feeling pleasure then perhaps the superintelligent AI would stick electrodes onto every human brain and stimulate our pleasure centers. Or you could take out the body altogether and have our brains bathing in a drug the AI could design. It turns out to be quite difficult to specify a goal of what we want in English -- let alone in computer code.

Similarly, we can't be confident in our current set of human values. One can imagine what would have happened if some earlier human age had had the opportunity to lay down the law for all time -- to encode their understanding of human values once and for all. We can now look back and see they had huge moral blind spots.

In the book, you say there could be one superintelligent AI -- or multiple. Explain.

In one scenario, you have one superintelligent AI and, without any competition, it has the ability to shape the future according to its preferences. Another scenario is multipolar, where the transition to superintelligence is slower, and there are many different systems at roughly comparable level of development. In that scenario, you have economic and evolutionary dynamics coming into play.

In a multipolar scenario, there's the danger of a very rapid population explosion. You could copy a digital mind in a minute, rather than with humans, where it takes a couple of decades to make another adult. So the digital minds could increase so quickly that their incomes drop to subsistence level -- which would probably be lower than for a biological mind. Then humans would no longer be able to support themselves by working, and, most likely, would die out. Alternatively, if social structures somehow continue to hold, some humans could gain immense capital returns from superintelligence that they could use to buy more computer hardware to run more digital minds.

Are you saying it's impossible to control superintelligence because we ourselves are merely intelligent?

It's not impossible -- it's extremely difficult. I worry that it will not be solved by the time someone builds an AI. We're not very good at uninventing things. Once unsafe superintellignce is developed, we can't put it back in the bottle. So we need to accelerate research of this control problem.

Developing an avenue towards human cognitive enhancement would be helpful. Presuming superintelligence doesn't happen until the second half of the century, there could still be time to develop a cohort of cognitively enhanced humans who might have the capacity to try to solve this really difficult technical control problem. Cognitively enhanced humans will also presumably be able to better consider long-term effects. For example, today people are creating cellphone batteries with longer lives -- without thinking about what the long-term effects could be. With more intelligence, we would be able to.

Cognitive enhancement could take place through collective cognitive ability -- the Internet, for example, and institutional innovations that enable humans to function better together. In terms of individual cognitive enhancement, the first thing likely to be successful is genetic selection in the context of in-vitro fertilization. I don't hold out much for cyborgs or implants.

What should we do to prepare for the risk of superintelligence?

If humanity had been sane and had our act together globally, the sensible course of action would be to postpone development of superintelligence until we figured out how to do so safely. And then maybe wait another generation or two just to make sure that we hadn't overlooked some flaw in our reasoning. And then do it -- and reap immense benefit. Unfortunately, we do not have the ability to pause.

Attempts to affect the overall rate of development in computer science, neuroscience and chip manufacturing are likely to be futile. There are enormous incentives to make incremental progress in the software and hardware industries. Progress towards superintelligence thus far has very little do with long-term concern about global problems -- and more to do with making big bucks.

Also, we have problems with collective human wisdom and rationality. At the moment, we are very poor at addressing big global challenges. Even with something as straightforward as global warming -- where you have a physical principle and rising temperature you can measure -- we are not doing a great job. In general, working towards making the world more peaceful and collaborative would be helpful for a wide range of existential catastrophes.

There are maybe six people working full time on this AI control problem. We need to add more brilliant brains to this technical work. I'm hoping my book will do something to encourage that. How to control superintelligent AI is really the most important task of our time -- yet, it is almost completely ignored.

Jackie Robinson West Heads To U.S. Little League Final With Win Over Philadelphia

Fri, 2014-08-22 10:49
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) -- Chicago manager Darold Butler has a message for the Windy City.

"Keep cheering," Butler said Thursday night after the biggest victory of his baseball career. "We hear you. It's working. Make it louder."

Joshua Houston hit a clutch two-run single, reliever Cameron Bufford pitched a tense scoreless sixth inning, and Jackie Robinson West Little League held off gritty Philadelphia 6-5 in a matchup of inner-city teams at the Little League World Series.

The loss eliminated Philadelphia and prevented star pitcher Mo'ne Davis from getting one last shot to put another stamp on what had become her personal playground.

Don't worry about her, though. Philadelphia manager Alex Rice certainly isn't.

"The world's her oyster, right?" an emotional Rice said after the loss. "Mo'ne will figure out her future, and it's going to be terrific. She's going to dictate what it is. Good for her."

Davis, just the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series and the only one to win a game on the mound, played first base the first two innings against Chicago, was taken out and re-entered the game at third base in the bottom of the fifth.

The Jackie Robinson West team, comprised of all black players, is making its first appearance in 31 years in the Little League World Series. The victory sends the Great Lakes champs into the U.S. title game on Saturday against Las Vegas.

Las Vegas, the West champions, beat Philly 8-1 on Wednesday and humbled Chicago 13-2 in four innings in a mercy-rule game last Sunday behind five homers, including a grand slam by Brad Stone and two home runs from Austin Kryszczuk.

"It (the lopsided loss) woke us up," Butler said. "The kids have been more focused and today's game showed how focused we were. We had a lot of adversity. They find a way to get it done, and it's always a new guy."

Bufford walked Scott Bandura to lead off the top of the sixth, putting the tying run at first. He then struck out Jahli Hendricks, induced Jared Sprague-Lott to hit into a fielder's choice and walked dangerous Zion Spearman before getting Jack Rice on a fly to right to end it.

Philly trailed 6-2 after two innings but clawed back within a run on Tai Cummings' long home run to center leading off the fifth.

The grassy hill beyond the outfield fences at Howard J. Lamade Stadium was jammed Wednesday night with 34,128 fans who craned their necks to see every pitch from Davis. With the star right-hander playing the field and not eligible to pitch until Saturday, attendance dipped to 21,119 against Chicago.

The 5-foot-4 Davis and her teammates gave the Taney Youth Baseball Association Little League in Philadelphia an amazing dose of publicity.

In her first outing, Davis pitched a two-hit shutout to become the first girl to win a game in the Little League World Series. In splitting her two starts, Davis pitched 8 1-3 innings, allowed eight hits and three earned runs, and struck out 14 with only one walk. She also threw a three-hit shutout to lead Taney to an 8-0 victory over Delaware in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship game.

Small wonder that during batting practice Wednesday night on the West Coast the Los Angeles Dodgers streamed the Little League telecast on two giant video boards.

The glare of the spotlight on Davis and her teammates had grown exponentially as the Little League World Series unfolded. Television ratings were up 143 percent Wednesday night from the corresponding game last year and this week she became the first Little Leaguer to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Baseball is trying to lure young African-Americans back to the game, and the opponents Thursday night offered some evidence the strategy might be making inroads.

That one inner-city team had to beat another for a spot in the U.S. title game was not lost on Major League Baseball Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.

"With respect to baseball games, we try to take a position of neutrality," Manfred said at Lamade Stadium. "I have to tell you a Philadelphia-Chicago matchup is pretty darn good. It's so wonderful when people turn on their televisions and they see people from very different socio-economic backgrounds in a setting like this. When you have a diverse group like the Philadelphia group, it sends a message that baseball's a wide-open sport."

When the two teams finally do return home, they likely will be overwhelmed a little bit more.

"We've always had the goal of baseball in the inner cities, how to get more African-Americans to play baseball," said Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, who hung out with the Philly kids and other teams earlier in the day during an appearance for sponsor Subway. "I think it shows it's working. I don't think they understand the magnitude of what they've accomplished.

"I think they have a grasp of it, but I don't think they'll really understand it until they get back."

21 Numbers That Will Help You Understand Why Ferguson Is About More Than Michael Brown

Fri, 2014-08-22 10:33
The shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown has sparked nationwide protest and outrage as the country continues to grapple with its history of racial discrimination and police brutality, especially against African-Americans. Brown's name is one of the latest additions to a long list of black males killed by officers and vigilantes in a narrative that is becoming all too familiar to many people of color.

The incident in Ferguson has not only highlighted longstanding racial tensions in the suburb itself, but has also laid bare the disparities facing black citizens in the entire country. While the Brown shooting again raises questions about the prevalence of racial profiling and police misconduct, it also reaches far beyond that, stressing ongoing issues of economic inequality, housing discrimination and unequal access to adequate education.

Some wonder why this incident seems to be the tipping point, but a quick look at the numbers can drive the point home:


The age of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager killed by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson on Aug. 9. Brown reportedly was confronted by Wilson because he was walking in the street, "blocking traffic." Brown was a recent high school graduate and was scheduled to start classes at Vatterott College, a Missouri trade school, just two days after he was killed.


The number of shots fired into Brown's body by Wilson during the incident, according to a preliminary autopsy. Two of the bullets struck Brown in the head, while four struck his right arm. Wilson claims that Brown assaulted him and was reaching for his gun, forcing Wilson to use lethal force. Eyewitnesses have said that Brown had his hands up at the time of the fatal shot. The episode has served as a broader reminder that police officers generally are trained to kill targets when they shoot.


The unknown number of people killed in police-involved shootings each year, as FiveThirtyEight reports:

Efforts to keep track of “justifiable police homicides” are beset by systemic problems. “Nobody that knows anything about the SHR puts credence in the numbers that they call ‘justifiable homicides,’” when used as a proxy for police killings, said David Klinger, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri who specializes in policing and the use of deadly force. And there’s no governmental effort at all to record the number of unjustifiable homicides by police. If Brown’s homicide is found to be unjustifiable, it won’t show up in these statistics.


The percentage of American law enforcement agencies that report any police-involved shootings to the FBI’s database -- 700 out of a total of 17,000, according to USA Today. These agencies only record so-called "justifiable homicides," or incidents in which an armed suspect was shot by police. All in all, we're left with a reporting system that tells us very little about how many people are killed by police, and nothing about those killed in an unjust fashion.

At least 5

The number of unarmed black men killed by police in the past month alone. Mother Jones has more on the victims and the circumstances of their death. Apart from Brown, they include Eric Garner, the NYPD chokehold victim who died while police attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes; John Crawford, a 22-year-old gunned down by police in a Walmart while holding a BB gun he'd picked up off the shelf; Ezell Ford, a 25-year-old allegedly shot in the back by police during an "investigative stop"; and Dante Parker, a 36-year-old who died in police custody after being tased while resisting arrest.


The approximate number of tweets sent with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown since Brown's death, according to Topsy. As a commentary on the negative way black victims are often depicted in the media, black Americans participating in the Twitter movement posted two completely different pictures of themselves, asking which one would be shown if they were killed.

#IfTheyGunnedMeDown would they use my pic on the left or the right?

— Not A Walking Target (@_bennythejet) August 10, 2014


The percentage of Americans who believe that police officers generally aren't held accountable for misconduct, according to an April 2014 Reason-Rupe poll. That number was 66 percent among African-American respondents.


The percentage of young black men who said they had been treated unfairly in dealings with police in the past 30 days, according to a recent Gallup poll.


The number of black officers on the Ferguson police force. While 67 percent of Ferguson's residents are black, 50 members of the town's 53-officer police force are white.


The percentage of traffic stops in Ferguson that targeted African-Americans in 2013, according to a racial profiling report by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. African-Americans were targeted for 92 percent of vehicle searches, though searches of white suspects were more likely to turn up contraband (34 percent of searches of white suspects found contraband, versus only 22 for black suspects).

Coincidentally, 86 percent is also the percentage of African-Americans who think city police are usually tougher on African-Americans, according to a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll.


The percentage of total 2013 arrests in Ferguson that involved African-Americans, also according to the attorney general's report. Of 521 arrests made by the Ferguson Police Department in 2013, 483 involved black suspects. Only 6.9 percent involved white suspects.


The percentage of Ferguson's general budget that was paid for by revenue from fines and court fees in the 2012 fiscal year. It was forecast to account for an even larger share of revenues (21 percent) in the 2013 fiscal year, which ended June 30 -- making it that year's second-largest source of revenue.

Slate's Jordan Weissman writes that the importance of these dollars has led to a system that has encouraged “for-profit policing,” which itself has fed racial tensions in the region:

When you split a metro area into dozens of tiny local governments (St. Louis County, to be clear, doesn’t include the actual city of St. Louis, which spun off from it in the 19th century), they tend to duplicate each others’ services, which is of course extremely expensive. But raising taxes so that each tiny borough can afford its own police and fire department is a nonstarter, since wealthy residents can always just move one town over. End result: You have police departments that self-fund by handing out tickets. And thanks to the delightful racial dynamics of U.S. law enforcement, black residents are disproportionately stopped and accosted, even though police in Ferguson are less likely to find contraband when they search black drivers than when they search whites.

$99 million

The budget of the St. Louis County Police Department for 2014.

This number doesn't include the value of the Pentagon's 1033 grants, which since 1997 have flooded local police departments with $4.3 billion in gear, including surplus military-grade equipment at wholesale prices. In 2013, the program sent $449 million of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies. St. Louis County received 12 assault rifles, 6 pistols, 3 helicopters and 2 night vision pieces, according to data obtained by the New York Times. (You can find out what exactly your local authorities got from the Pentagon here).

A police officer keeps watch over demonstrators in Ferguson -- by pointing an assault rifle at them. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

1 in 3

The number of black men nationwide who can expect to go to prison at some point in their lifetime, according to data cited by the Sentencing Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for prison reform. That number is one in six for Latino males, and one in 17 for white males.

“Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested,” the report states. “Once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences.”

The report asserts that the reasons for this massive disparity manifest themselves at every phase of the criminal justice system, beginning with a higher likelihood for police to stop and arrest black suspects, and ending with an increased likelihood that black defendants will be forced to rely on overworked and underfunded public defenders.


Where St. Louis County ranks in a list of the most black-white segregated places in the country, according to one metric. More segregated communities often suffer from higher levels of inequality on a number of levels.

In St. Louis between 2005 and 2009, for example, the average black household lived in a neighborhood where 22.5 percent of the residents were below the poverty line, according to a Brown University analysis of census data. The average white household lived in a neighborhood where 9.2 percent were below the poverty line. The average affluent black family in St. Louis lived in a neighborhood nearly twice as poor (16.9 percent poverty share) as the neighborhood an average white family in the city lived in.

This fits in with a nationwide pattern. "Even affluent blacks have greater exposure to poverty than the average white in all but two metros (the exceptions are Las Vegas and Riverside)," the researchers found.

They noted that living in neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty can affect multiple spheres of life, since neighborhood poverty correlates with "inequalities in public schools, safety, environmental quality, and public health."


The percentage of black Americans who owned homes in 2013, compared to 73.3 percent of white Americans, according to an annual Harvard study.

This gap didn't come about by accident, as Ta Nehisi-Coates has detailed at length; among other factors, Federal Housing Agency and private bank redlining made it difficult for black Americans to obtain conventional mortgages for much of the 20th century, and predatory contract sellers took advantage of that situation to charge extortionate prices for properties in black neighborhoods and evict tenants when they couldn't make payments on time.

As a result, black Americans missed out on a key source of wealth generation, and are still feeling the consequences.

Al Jazeera America sums up the ripple effects that this disparity has had in the St. Louis area specifically:

Many black residents wound up renting, moving often and never acquiring home equity or savings to bequeath to their children. The areas where they lived had no tax base, inadequate schools and no appeal to local businesses that could have provided jobs.

1 & 0

The number of black officials on the Ferguson City Council, and the number of black members on the Ferguson school board, respectively.

Low turnout by black voters in Ferguson (12 percent in the last municipal election, in April 2013) has been at least partly attributed to the timing of municipal elections, the composition of the ballot, and the fact that African-Americans are more likely to rent and be transient in Ferguson than to own homes, in part due to decades of housing discrimination.

The voting system may also have something to do with it, according to MSNBC:

For council elections, the city has three districts, or wards, and each ward elects two members each. That means it’s edging toward an “at-large” voting system, in which there are no districts at all, and all candidates face the whole electorate. Numerous jurisdictions around the country have used such systems to reduce minority representation, since it makes it harder for numerical minorities to elect their preferred candidates.

Then there’s the school board. Ferguson shares a board with neighboring Florissant, which is mostly white. And the district uses an at-large system to elect its seven members. The result: Until earlier this year, the board had no black members.


The decrease in a school's per-pupil spending associated with every 10 percent increase in its non-white student population, according to a 2012 analysis of Department of Education data by the Center For American Progress.


Missouri's place out of 48 states that were ranked for fairness of school funding distribution systems, according to a recent study by the Education Law Center that examined how states distribute funds to low- and high-poverty schools. The study used indicators of funding levels, funding distribution, effort and coverage to examine the effects of a decentralized and increasingly segregated education system that has led to more and more poor students being concentrated in high-poverty school districts.

From the report:

Two states, North Carolina and Missouri, received low ratings in each of the four indicators. These are low-effort, regressive states with low funding levels and low coverage. Without significant improvements to their funding systems, there is little chance that they are providing their students, especially those who are low-income, a meaningful education.


The number of days that have passed since Brown's killing, while key questions remain unanswered. This has given Americans of all races -- in Ferguson and around the nation -- time to realize that while this situation was catalyzed by the death of a young black man, it has raised important issues that stretch far beyond Missouri. Twitter users reminded the world last week that black lives matter, and that the nation will no longer idly stand by while these lives are taken with impunity by those sworn to protect and serve. Despite the obvious tensions, let's not forget how often the people of Ferguson have risen to the occasion, showing generosity and kindness to the people gathered there working to confront racial injustice and calling for a fair legal proceeding in Brown's killing.

Michael Brown and Our Great Opportunity

Fri, 2014-08-22 10:02
The days succeeding the tragic police shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, have further affirmed or exposed several unfortunate realities present within our society today.

We live in a news media culture often shallow in depth and largely out of touch with reality -- so much so that they fail to grasp it even as it unfolds around them. From suggestions that "water cannons" be turned on peaceful protestors in Ferguson to Captain Ron Johnson being depicted as a gang member due to his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity salutation, these unfortunate flubs have come quickly and with rapidity.

We live in a society that readily offers convenient narratives to justify violence against black people. In the wake of his death, Michael Brown, like so many other black victims, was depicted as a lawless drug addict who posed a clear and present danger to society. In support of this narrative, not only was a video of an alleged convenience store theft of cigars, unrelated to Michael Brown's death, released by the police, but also, an officer took to social media to post a picture of another black man holding a gun in his hand and money in his mouth. He then falsely claimed that person to be Michael Brown.

This further exposed yet another unfortunate reality: to some people, blacks are indistinguishable from each other. Thus, any picture of any black person engaged in any questionable activity will suffice for them to degrade the whole.

We also live in a nation that too readily dismisses the issue of police killing unarmed black citizens, or of any plight uniquely experienced by black people, by pointing out that black people kill each other daily. The issues of police brutality against Blacks and of blacks killing other blacks are not mutually exclusive. That is to say, one issue does not negate the other as both pose a significant threat to the wellbeing of society.

Furthermore, reports of police entering into a church to stymie protest efforts further suggests that very little, whether life or space, is considered sacred anymore.

Yet, despite these unfortunate realities, many positive outcomes have followed in the wake of this senseless tragedy. For the last several days, social media has become a more thoughtful and justice-centered space. Reality show disputes and celebrity gossip has been replaced by posts, images, videos, and trending topics uplifting the importance of this hour. Instead of being a corridor of narcissism, incessantly decorated with selfies, social media has served as a powerful platform to form and to reinforce community and movement.

Another generation appears to have been awakened to the power of their voice lifted in protest, and they are making their voice known. This collective voice has been so powerful that it has gained international attention and support. Thankfully, even some artists and celebrities have begun to recognize the importance of this hour and are using their celebrity to raise awareness.

Emboldened by the Ferguson movement, local movements are sprouting up across the country to push their police force toward needed reforms. Important conversations are being held concerning police wearing cameras and the community having greater review of local forces. Out of such great pain and darkness, a light has begun to appear, and with its appearance comes a great opportunity towards reaching the elusive beloved community. Here are some ways that we can continue to journey forward:

No one who has posted, shared, or tweeted an image of Michael Brown's lifeless body should ever again post, share, or tweet a WorldstarHipHop fight video, or any video depicting or glorifying violence. It is hypocritical to seek justice for victims of violent crimes, even at the hands of the police, and to promote and celebrate violent crimes committed within our neighborhoods and between our neighbors.

No one who cares about the death of Michael Brown, or about the violence enacted against peaceful protestors in Ferguson, can not care about the acts of domestic violence happening between your next door neighbors, or about the child abuse occurring on the next street over, or about the sexual-trafficking happening down the block. Violence is violence, and it is meaningless to oppose violence abroad yet disregard it, in its many forms, at home.

No one who cares about the death of Michael Brown, or the scourge of police brutality, can ever choose not to vote, again. Period. Not only did people die so that you could vote, people die because you do not vote. This is especially true when it comes to selecting your local leadership. If you choose not to vote, you are a co-conspirator in the problem.

In light of this great opportunity birthed out of great tragedy, we must be wary of those on any side advocating for increased arms and promoting violence, or the threat thereof, as a viable solution to our nation's problems. While the sides may appear to stand in opposition to each other, they are in fact unified in a commitment, not to self-preservation, but to mutual annihilation. The wisdom of our forebears guides us in this sacred hour with a clear and certain voice: "The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind... It seeks to annihilate rather than convert." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I pray that our relevant, sustained, and commendable outrage and peaceful protest over the death of Michael Brown does not end with Michael Brown. May it enlarge itself to include a relevant, sustained, and commendable outrage against all acts of violence and injustice.

And may we not rest until justice "flows like a mighty river, and righteousness like a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24)

Chris Burke, 'Life Goes On' Actor, Reflects On The Message Behind His Success (VIDEO)

Fri, 2014-08-22 08:42
Long before Lauren Potter stole the show on "Glee" as Becky, the sharp-tongued cheerleader with Down syndrome, a different actor had changed the way television audiences viewed people with disabilities.

From 1989 to 1993, Chris Burke, who has Down syndrome, played the role of teen Corky Thacher on the series "Life Goes On," the first primetime television show to feature a main character with the genetic disorder. Storylines centered on the Thachers as Corky tried to find his place within his mainstream high school, sister Becca carried on a relationship with her HIV-positive boyfriend, and the whole family managed the ups and downs of middle-class life.

More than two decades later, "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" caught up with the 48-year-old Burke at his home in New York City.

"It's real great to be known on TV," he says in the above video from his interview. "I had the opportunity to do something that I always wanted to do, and now I have done it."

At a young age, Burke had expressed his strong desire to act on television. With his family's support, he landed his first role in the 1987 TV movie "Desperate," which soon led to his big break in "Life Goes On." Whether he's acting or working with the National Down Syndrome Society, Burke says there is an important message at the heart of his success.

"It really shows we all have different talents, and stick at what you're good at," Burke says. "It's not about performing disabilities. It's about performing abilities. That's the message."

"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

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5 Ways To Explore The Amazing Planet Earth Without Leaving Your Computer

Fri, 2014-08-22 08:42
If you're sitting at your desk, wishing you were elsewhere, we have the perfect solution for you.

Below are five live-streams that allow you to appreciate the various animals, oceans and sunsets this planet has to offer, all while you're stuck inside. It's Mother Nature in real time.

1. From The International Space Station:

A few months ago, NASA gave us the opportunity to gain a little perspective in a big way. The High Definition Earth Viewing experiment, which went live in late April, tests how high-def video cameras, enclosed in special temperature-specific housing and affixed to the station, will fare in space's extreme environment.

The space station orbits Earth roughly every 90 minutes, which means every so often the screen will be black, because the cameras are facing the parts of Earth that are in "night." But this also means that viewers can watch multiple celestial sunrises and sunsets in a single day. And.they.are.awesome.

2. With The Creatures Of The Open Ocean:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Take a dip with dolphins without getting wet, via the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Open Sea Cam. The feed streams the California aquarium's largest tank, which holds more than 1 million gallons of water.

Watch for long enough and you might see a giant bluefin tuna, a glimmering school of sardines, scalloped hammerheads or lovesick sea turtles. The exhibition, along with the aquarium's many other live displays, aims to "inspire conservation of the oceans."

3. From The Mashatu Game Reserve:

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Once hosted by National Geographic, the "Pete's Pond" webcam is now managed by WildEarth and brings you to eastern Botswana, where the Limpopop and Shashe rivers meet. The camera, which is operated by remote volunteers called "zoomies," might give you a glimpse at a hyena stopping by at night, or an elephant playing in the water during the day.

The WildEarth archives highlight the best footage, like this giraffe stopping by for some lunch:

4. From Beaches Around The World:

Surfers usually use's webcams to check out wave conditions, but the feeds are equally useful for those in need of a beach getaway. The cameras stream all day long from almost every continent, giving you the chance to zone out on a virtual vacation. We know you need it.

If you want to see Mother Nature's perfectly-timed power, try to catch surfers shredding during a good wave swell, or terrify yourself by watching while Hawaii's winter surf season consumes the islands' northern coastlines.

5. From A California Sunset:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

California dreamin'? Now you can bring that dream a little closer to real life while watching the Santa Monica Sunset Cam. The camera streams all day and night, providing a gorgeous view 24/7, but set a reminder if you want to catch the colorful hues of the sunset:

The Media: Cherry Picking News Stories and Failing the Public

Thu, 2014-08-21 21:37
Announcements played overhead at Chicago Metra stations urged customers to participate in the transit company's drive to collect school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, rulers, glue, crayons, markers, erasers and more. According to a press release dated the 5th of August, Metra is working in cooperation with the Chicago Public Schools.

Meanwhile, at a nearby hotel conference room where the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) had gathered for their Region IV conference, local media started assembled in preparation for Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn's remarks.

The governor spoke briefly, praising the UWUA for their Utility Workers Military Assistance Program, and their success in training more than two hundred Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, remarking that these jobs were important not only to the veterans who filled them and their co-workers in the union, but to the entire community because, "these jobs are important jobs that protect public safety."

Gov. Quinn also spent a few minutes stressing the value of utility jobs as occupations that could not be outsourced, "These are American jobs. This is what America is all about." Gov. Quinn wasn't just preaching to the choir by reminding the assembled workers that theirs were jobs that had to be done in the United States. He was also making a public statement to the press that, in this critical election year, his opponent couldn't take credit for putting Illinois workers back to work. The jab at opponent, Bruce Rauner, might have hit home, if the press had cared to pay attention.

Bruce Rauner's campaign website biography indirectly mentions Chicago based union jobs but only to state that his company invested their retirement funds. Rauner's investment company that was originally called Golder, Thoma, Cressey (now GTCR) - according to the site - "has been trusted for decades to oversee the retirement investments of first responders, teachers and other Illinois workers and has created tremendous returns for them..." and - one could argue - for Rauner.

Critics might find it ironic and even hypocritical that Rauner is campaigning for the pensions of state workers to be decimated now that he's made his money on them. His website again offers only this comment on Rauner's financial successes over the years - with or without the help of government employee pensions - "Bruce makes no apologies for his success."

When Gov. Quinn stood at the podium he praised the middle class workers assembled before him and noted that, "This country is built on the middle class. The heart and soul of America is a good middle class job." The governor noted that middle class thrives in a country where everyone pays their "fair share."

Gov. Quinn then accused his opponent of not only skipping out on paying his fair share, but also of running a business that helps other companies shirk their responsibilities as well. Gov. Quinn reproached Rauner of offshoring jobs as well as the companies who used to provide those jobs.

The governor closed with a reminder to those assembled that he faced a critical election and had only 75 days left to campaign, "150 if you don't sleep and I'm not sleeping." After shaking nearly every hand in the room the governor walked into the hallway where a dozen or so reporters and photographers were waiting for him.

Not one single reporter asked about the veterans to work programs. Not one single reporter asked about jobs. Not one single reporter asked him to comment on employment figures and the programs instituted by the governor as they related to middle class wages, utility workers, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans employment rates, or the governor's own controversial government employee pension compromise.

What was on the mind of the media after this event which brought utility workers from across the Midwest together in one room was - wait for it - term limits.

One lone reporter mentioned that Rauner remarked earlier this month that he shouldn't have to show anymore of his income tax returns to the people of Illinois. A savvy observer could glean from that comment a veiled reference to the Governor's claim that Rauner offshored businesses for a living.

The governor responded, "His (Rauner's) right to hide what's on his tax returns is not more important than the people of Illinois right to know what's on those returns."

When the press ignores the discussion at hand: issues as vital to the health and security of the working class as middle class wages, the utility workers, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans employment rates, and government employee pensions, one shouldn't be surprised that the public transit system is begging for school supplies.

In Champaign, Similarity and a Possible Way Forward for Ferguson

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:29
Virtually unknown a little more than a week ago, Ferguson, Missouri has, in part through social media's ability to bring light to many of the world's dark corners, come to dominate national, and even global, attention in  the days since police officer Darren Wilson ended Michael Brown's life by shooting him six times.

As difficult as it may be to envision now, amidst the tear gas, rubber bullets, and arresting of protesters young and old, eventually order will return to the suburban St. Louis community.

And, when that time comes, Ferguson residents could look at the actions of members of Champaign's black community in thinking about how to enhance their power going forward.

At first glance, the connection between the city in open revolt where the National Guard has been summoned and the site of Illinois' flagship state university seems tenuous at best.

But a deeper look reveals that the two cities share some important and distressing similarities.

Both erupted in protest after the death of an unarmed African-American teenager at the hands of a white policeman.

In Champaign, it was 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington who died after being shot in broad daylight on a Friday afternoon in October 2009.

Carrington's death sparked a protest movement that led in early 2012 to the retirement under duress of then-Police Chief R.T. Finney.

And both cities have black communities that simmered for years about its treatment by the majority-white police force sworn to protect it before taking direct action after one of their youth was killed.

The disparate treatment is visible in numbers.

In a New York Times article, Jeff Smith, a former state senator from St. Louis and a professor at the New School, cited a recent Missouri report that found that African-Americans were about 67 percent of Ferguson residents, but 93 percent of traffic stops by police.

This pattern occurred despite the fact that white people were more likely than black people to have contraband found on them, Smith wrote.

Champaign had even greater disparities.

Black people in Champaign were 16 percent of the population in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but accounted for at least 40 percent of all arrestees, according to an analysis we did of arrest data in 2012 when I worked at Hoy Chicago.

For some crimes, it was even higher.

Black people accounted for close to 90 percent of jaywalking arrests in Champaign as well as in neighboring Urbana, we found.  (One of the most surreal developments that has taken place since Brown's death was Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson's revelation that Wilson initially stopped the teenager for jaywalking.)

These numbers tell a potent story; the words of the residents speak even louder.

In John Oliver's biting, Last Week Tonight, Robert X, a young Ferguson resident talked about the daily, lower-level harassment he and other black people have endured from the police before Brown's shooting. Check about 2:17 for his comments.

For his part, longtime Champaign resident Charles McClendon described the negative consequences of police aggression, discriminatory practices and profiling on community-police relations. See his statement at the 2:25 mark.

Yet members of the black community fought back not only through the gritty protests being waged by many resilient people in Ferguson, but through a way that has the potential to bring about more enduring change: they voted.

Whereas turnout in black neighborhoods in Champaign historically had been low, leaders organized a stealth voter turnout campaign that some attributed as playing a critical role in underdog independent candidate Don Gerard defeating three-time incumbent and "birther" Jerry Schweighart by a margin of several hundred votes.

One of Gerard's first major appointments was to name Anthony Cobb, a black Champaign native, to head the police department.

Many members of the black community expressed their confidence in Cobb's ability to improve community-police relationships.

Champaign-area activists maintained that they needed to stay active after Cobb's appointment, and an analysis of arrests data appeared to confirm their point. Although the total number of arrests dropped during the first six months of Cobb's tenure, the percentage of black people arrested remained essentially unchanged.

Activist Martell Miller said Monday that the community has grown disillusioned with Gerard in the years since his victory, but gave Cobb high marks for communication.

As Oliver and others have noted, the repeated communication gaffes from various levels of law enforcement and politicians have been the proverbial gasoline on the fire caused by Brown's killing, with the latest being the dramatic understatement of the number of arrests Monday night.

It would be both naive and facile to say that better information sharing could have avoided the outrage that has been sparked and that continues to rage on Ferguson's troubled streets.

It's also important to be clear both about the limitations of the comparison and the extensive amount of multi-layered change needed in both communities.

Still, when the turbulence ultimately subsides, Ferguson residents can continue to strategize about the longer-term steps they and others can take to bring about the deep changes that are sorely needed to end the mistreatment and injustice they have endured for so long.

The Little League World Series Shows Everything Right In Sports (And What The Pros Are Missing)

Thu, 2014-08-21 16:55
Hey, is this heaven? No, it's South Williamsport.

Every August 16 youth baseball teams from around the globe descend on Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa. for the Little League World Series. First held in 1947, the event annually reminds everyone why they first fell in love with sports. In place of the highly-paid prima donna athletes and the recycled media hot takes they inspire, those tuning into ESPN for the Little League World Series are often treated to something increasingly hard to find: They will discover an unadulterated game imbued with joy and passion that produces both must-see highlights and heartwarming moments.

Here are 19 ways that all of those boys and girls of summer established the Little League World Series as a one-of-a-kind reminder of everything that can be right about sports.

Girls Don't Just Participate, They Dominate

This "World Series" Actually Invites The World

Pint-Sized Players Can Make A Major Impact

But So Can The Massive Ones

These Kids Aren't Pros, But They Can Really Hit ...

And Pitch ...

And Catch ...

And Celebrate Just Like All-Stars

All The Youngsters Get Big League Treatment

And The Attention Of Big Leaguers

Mo'ne Davis is straight to watch !!! #LLWS #MidAtlantic

— Mike Trout (@Trouty20) August 15, 2014

Yet Can Act Mature When An Ump Blows A Call

These Kids Care About The Games And Each Other

And Really Do Say The Darndest Things

Especially If You Question Their Power

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They Also Bring Communities Together

Only A Few Players Will Become MLB All-Stars

But All Are Heroes While In Williamsport

12-year-olds signing autographs for people is always a funny sight. #LLWS

— Kevin Horne (@KevinHornePSU) August 20, 2013

Where Even The Sad Moments Are Inspirational

And Sportsmanship Isn't An Aspiration, It's Tradition

7 Things That Are Not Like Rape

Thu, 2014-08-21 16:10
This week in stupid, men are lamenting that they are expected to make sure they aren't raping people.

Chris Herries, a senior at Stanford University, complained to Bloomberg News that the burden is on men to not rape.

There's an assumption female students shouldn't avoid drunkenness or risky behaviors, Herries said, before offering this gem of a comparison: "Do I deserve to have my bike stolen if I leave it unlocked on the quad? We have to encourage people not to take on undue risk."


Rape is not like stealing a bike. Women -- or men, for that matter -- do not have a responsibility to "lock themselves up" to avoid rape.

This is coming from a student at an elite university. One that is criticized for punishing a student it finds guilty of sexual assault with a forced "gap year." But that's besides the point. It's a comment from a student in California, which is currently considering a new law requiring colleges to adopt affirmative consent standards when dealing with sexual assault. It's part of a growing trend shifting from "no means no," to "only yes means yes."

Now that we've cleared up that sexual assault is not like stealing a bike, let's look at other things that are not like rape.

Drunk Driving

James Taranto, a man who knows so much about how women should live their lives, compared rape that happens while people are intoxicated to drunk driving.

"If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn't determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver's sex. But when two drunken college students 'collide,' the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault," Taranto wrote.


Both drunk driving and rape are against the law. We'd suggest a woman has a right not to be raped, and no one has a right to drive a car. Also, a person's body is not a car.


University of North Carolina graduate Annie Clark filed a federal complaint against her alma mater reporting a school official had commented to her, "Rape is like football, if you look back on the game, and you're the quarterback, Annie... is there anything you would have done differently?"

Come again?

Rape is not like a football game. Football games are potentially fun activities played by people who enjoy the sport. Rape is a violent crime.

Car Accidents

Michigan Right to Life President Barbara Listing said forcing women to purchase extra insurance to cover abortion in the cases of rape or incest was just like car insurance. "It's simply, like, nobody plans to have an accident in a car accident, nobody plans to have their homes flooded. You have to buy extra insurance for those," Listing told reporters.

Ugh, again with the car accidents?!

Women's bodies are far different than cars. Cars don't produce babies.

Root Sin

Katie Landry looked for help at her college, Bob Jones University, after being raped. A dean told her, "We have to find the sin in your life that caused your rape." Another student at BJU was told by a school official that her PTSD from her rape was her "own fault, because you're choosing to replay pornographic thoughts in your mind." That second student was told to call her rapist and ask for forgiveness.


Just no.

Bad Weather

In 1990, Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams compared cold, foggy weather spoiling an event to rape, stating, "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."

Oh, God, no!

Ann Richards, a state treasurer at the time and eventual Texas governor responded thusly: "Rape is a crime of violence."


When Lawrence Lockman, a Republican lawmaker in Maine, was part of the Pro Life Education Association he compared abortion to rape, stating, "If a woman has [the right to an abortion], why shouldn't a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist's pursuit of sexual freedom doesn't [in most cases] result in anyone's death."


Rape is not like an abortion. It just isn't. Which is only part of the reason why the U.S. Supreme Court has stated a woman has a right to an abortion, but has not said the same about men and rape.

Bottom line: Rape is rape. There is no "legitimate rape." There is no reason to compare rape to car accidents, stealing bikes or bad weather. If you find yourself questioning whether the comparison you're about to make with rape is acceptable, it probably isn't. Because ultimately, no one understands what it's like to experience sexual assault other than a survivor of one.

Ferguson: The Untold Story

Thu, 2014-08-21 14:55
Think you have a pretty good idea of what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri? You may not, even if you've been watching a lot of cable news. Especially if you've been watching a lot of cable news. If the media's job is to give viewers and readers an accurate and full idea of what's really going on, we have to acknowledge that there is a long way to go. Of course, Ferguson is not an isolated case. But it is a chance for those of us in the media to expand our understanding of our role in covering the news.

We know there is racial division in Ferguson. The police officer who shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9 is part of a force that's 94-percent white in a town that's 67-percent black. The anger, resentment and concerns of the protesters are real. So is the disturbing trend of the militarization of our police force, and the way that minority communities bear the brunt of this. But endlessly rerunning protests getting out of hand, looting, tear-gassing and arrests is not giving viewers a full picture of what is happening in the community at large. Yes, all these things have happened, but what else is happening in the community? For much of cable news, nothing else. And that's simply not true.

In fact, one does not have to harbor the kind of delusions evidently held by Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, who claimed, "There's not a racial divide in the city," to see there is another side to Ferguson. The conflict, the arrests, the looting, the tear gas, the division -- that's a part of the story. But only a part. At HuffPost we have certainly been covering that part, but we are also committed to telling the "untold story" (as our splash put it on Tuesday). This untold story is one of compassion, ingenuity, kindness, trust, collaboration and community -- of the many who have reached out to help those caught in middle of the conflict, whether children who couldn't go to school or strangers without a place to stay.

Here are some of the stories we have run this week: There were looters, but there were also many people protecting stores from being looted, and cleaning up and giving support to those affected by the looting; there were people donating to local food pantries and offering rides and shelter to reporters; there were religious leaders from all faiths bolstering a sense of community; and there was Sonny Dayean, who owns a cellphone store and, as the riots began Saturday night, was afraid for his store and fought to make his way back to it.

HuffPost's Ryan Reilly spoke to Dayean and discovered that when he finally got there early the next morning, he saw that his store had indeed been broken into. But what he didn't expect was what happened next:

The good part is the people who were out here were waiting outside, they wanted to help me. So as soon as I got here, they said 'Can I help you? Can I do this, can I do that?' ... So that was very overwhelming, I didn't think I'd come in there to be so overwhelmed by the community.

Congregations of all denominations were busy cleaning up and helping people. The Passage Community Church in Florissant helped organize a cleanup. "I was very encouraged coming out here today, seeing all the groups helping," said Elise Park, a stay-at-home mom who brought along her two young children. "It's an opportunity for me to invest and really become part of the community."

In fact, HuffPost was a direct recipient of that community spirit. After Ryan Reilly was arrested, along with the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery, HuffPost Live producer Christine Conetta found herself in a bit of a jam. She was blocked by a police wall from getting to Ryan, who had all the equipment, including the rental-car keys. She couldn't even get to the police station to meet him there. Then the tear gas began, sending her fleeing into a neighborhood she was unfamiliar with. One stranger gave her a T-shirt to block the tear gas. Another helped her find her way back to the memorial site, where yet another offered her a ride to the police station. "The community was just very welcoming," said Christine. "Nobody was asking why I was there. Everybody said they appreciated the media being there and covering the ordeal and never had any qualms about answering questions."

That rallying spirit of coming together went beyond Ferguson. The Wisconsin Hope Lab helped secure college scholarships for the three siblings of Michael Brown. And since the first day of school for Ferguson kids has been moved back several days -- along with the lunches many of them depend on -- Raleigh, North Carolina, teacher Julianna Mendelsohn, in collaboration with a food bank in St. Louis, took to Fundly to raise money to fill in the food gap.

And there were hundreds more expressions of the better angels of our nature, a sample of them captured by our reporters on Twitter: Ferguson residents helping clean up; giving out diapers and children's books; handing out water, cookies and juice; setting up a food station for the protesters; giving the protesters free pizza; helping protesters hit with tear gas; letting strangers stay in their homes; lending a cellphone so someone could call his mother; handing out free lunches to anyone in the community -- including the police; giving free coffee and wifi to members of the press covering the story; and protecting a store from being looted.

It's all part of a larger picture of Ferguson that hasn't been very much in evidence in the media. But for Ferguson committeewoman Patricia Bynes it's not unexpected. "I'm not surprised because I live here, and I know that we have great people here," she told HuffPost. "So during times like this, this is when those people just step up and just fill the need."

To illustrate her point, Bynes recounted having seen a woman walking around during the protests with a gallon of milk -- to help those suffering from the tear gas. "Everybody has their weapon of choice," Bynes said. "Last night, she was my hero." And Bynes herself got in on the act too, giving a ride to a stranger, who then thanked her on Twitter.

Though she says it's been "heart-wrenching" to watch her community struggle, Bynes said it's also "brought out the best" in Ferguson. "There's something remarkable going on," she said.

In fact, this remarkable spirit of compassion and reaching out is the norm during crises. That's the focus of a fascinating book by Rebecca Solnit called A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. Here Solnit shows how the real story of what happens when things break down is actually the opposite of the cherry-picked narrative the media create. She describes how, even in times of danger and pain, powerful feelings of community are evoked -- born from our hardwired need to connect. It's a "sense of immersion in the moment and solidarity with the others caused by the rupture in everyday life," she writes, "an emotion graver than happiness but deeply positive. ... We don't even have a language for this emotion, in which the wonderful comes wrapped in the terrible, joy in sorrow, courage in fear. We cannot welcome disaster, but we can value the responses, both practical and psychological."

And this is incredibly important, because it shows us what's possible, not only for ourselves but for our society. Solnit goes on to write about how we're often wistful for a supposed "paradise" of community spirit that always seems to have resided only in some long-forgotten era. But it's in moments of crisis that we see our power to create it for ourselves:

[W]hat if paradise flashed up among us from time to time -- at the worst of times? What if we glimpsed it in the jaws of hell? These flashes give us, as the long ago and far away do not, a glimpse of who else we ourselves may be and what else our society could become.

Solnit's lovely description of that potential has actually been borne out by science. A 2006 study published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science found that in the case of Hurricane Katrina, contrary to "the imagery employed by the media," what filled the government and institutional vacuum was "a great variety of new, nontraditional or emergent behavior." Yes, there was looting, misery and indefensible neglect, but it wasn't the whole story. "Not being able to act in traditional ways," write the authors, "most of the citizens and groups in New Orleans as well as the rest of Louisiana rose to the challenge by engaging in primarily new but relevant coping behavior."

But that's not what most people saw. This is why the media need to expand their understanding of their role in times of crisis. The media's job is to report not just all that's dreadful, corrupt, dysfunctional and violent in our world but what's working, and the powerful and humane ways people in communities respond to that violence and corruption and dysfunction.

We often hear the bromide about how it's not the media's job to report on the houses that didn't burn down or the planes that didn't crash. And I'm not saying they should. A house not burning down or a plane not crashing is normal and unremarkable. But the response we've seen in Ferguson, and during other crises, is remarkable. We've seen some extremes of bad behavior in Ferguson, but we've also seen some extremes of good behavior -- though in the media we mostly see only the former.

The spirit on display in Ferguson -- as it was during Katrina -- is a glimpse not just of who we may become but of who we are right now. It's there, it's on display, and it's manifesting itself. And perhaps we would glimpse this side of ourselves more often if the media acknowledged it more often. It's not entirely absent, but too often it's relegated to the "hero" segment closing the local news, or to the Thanksgiving piece down at the local food bank.

We also know that what the media choose to shine a light on matters. The phenomenon of copycat crimes and the contagion effect of suicides are well established. So perhaps we'd see more than glimpses of our better angels if the media decided to include them as the vital part of the story that they in fact are. I'm not asking for depictions of utopia or a Pollyanna filter on the news. At The Huffington Post we're relentless in our coverage of corruption, injustice, poverty, joblessness, inequality and racial discrimination, but we are equally relentless in giving our readers and viewers a full and accurate idea of the entire human story. And that includes a lot of good news, which is why we even have an entire section dedicated to it.

Giving only one side breeds cynicism and a sense of hopelessness. The divisions and inequities exposed in Ferguson are real and formidable. But so is the spirit of those in Ferguson who have risen to this challenge with compassion, empathy and trust. And for those who want to join them, here are 10 ways you too can help. And we are definitely going to keep the focus on Ferguson long after the national spotlight dims -- both on the conflicts and divisions and on the acts of compassion and giving that bring the community together.

9-Year-Old Boy Fatally Shot In Chicago Yard

Thu, 2014-08-21 14:43
A distraught family is looking for answers after a 9-year-old boy was fatally shot in the back yard of a Chicago apartment building Wednesday afternoon.

Antonio Smith was shot multiple times about 4 p.m. Wednesday behind a building a few blocks from his home in the city's Grand Crossing neighborhood, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He was taken to an area hospital and pronounced dead about an hour after the shooting.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Antonio enjoyed dancing and playing football. He would have been starting his fourth-grade year this fall.

"He was just a child, just a baby, still had a whole life ahead of him. And why? Just a child," Antonio's cousin Kenya Eggleston told the Tribune. “When is it going to stop?"

Eggleston and other family members are now urging the boy's shooter to come forward and turn himself in.

"My baby, he was a good kid. He was a mama's boy," Antonio's mother Brandi Murray told ABC Chicago. "My boy, he was just an angel."

No arrests have been made as of Thursday afternoon, and police have released few additional details as their investigation continues.

Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina's Church in Chicago is offering a $5,000 award will be offered for information benefiting the case, the anti-violence activist announced Thursday.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));
Post by Father Michael Pfleger.

In a Thursday interview with DNAinfo Chicago, Pfleger said he believed people should have the "same anger" as a result of the third grader's shooting death as they did in response to Michael Brown's killing in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, located on Chicago's South Side, ranked sixth among the city's 77 community areas when it comes to the number of violent crimes reported per resident in the past month, according to the Tribune.

11 Biggest Charitable Illinois Donors in 2014

Thu, 2014-08-21 14:40
Illinoisans are a generous bunch when it comes to charitable causes, but not all have millions of dollars to donate. Those who do often give to organizations or institutions that made a significant impact during the course of their lives.

We've compiled a list of the largest Illinois philanthropists in 2014 thus far. In order to be on this list, the donors must live in Illinois and have given a minimum $1 million donation to an organization or institution -- either non-profit or for-profit -- within the state. Some of these gifts are bequests from individuals who have passed away.

16. David and Libby Savner
Source of wealth: Law

Cause: Colleges and Universities

Recipient: Northwestern University School of Law - Chicago

Gift value: $1 million

*David and Libby Savner's $1 million donation will aid in the construction of a classroom for technology-based instruction as well as an endowment to maintain the classroom. David Savner, who graduated from Northwestern's law school in 1968, is a partner at the Chicago-based law firm, Jenner & Block, and was formerly senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at General Dynamics Corp. -- a global defense contractor.

15. Janet Kjellstrom
Source of wealth: Investments

Cause: Social services

Recipient: United Way of Rock River Valley (Rockford, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*For United Way of Rock River Valley's endowment.

14. Morris and Jane Weeden
Source of wealth: Manufacturing

Cause: Arts

Recipient: Art Institute of Chicago

Gift value (bequest): $1 million

*Morris and Jane Weeden's $1 million bequest will help establish a research fund for the Art Institute of Chicago's department of American decorative arts. Morris Weeden retired from the Chicago-based company, Morton Thiokol, which manufactures specialty chemicals and propulsion systems. Morris and Jane Weeden passed away just one month apart, in May and April 2013, respectively.

13. John and Rita Canning
Source of wealth: Finance

Cause: Colleges and Universities

Recipient: Harper College (Palatine, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*Funds will be allocated toward the school's women's program, which offers support to single parents, domestic violence survivors and homemakers. John Canning is the chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners.

12. Janet Kjellstrom
Source of wealth: Investments

Cause: Social services

Recipient: United Way of Rock River Valley (Rockford, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*For United Way of Rock River Valley's endowment.

11. Greenberg Family
Source of wealth: Health care

Cause: Health

Recipient: Carle Foundation (Urbana, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*The Greenberg family's donation will establish the Dr. Eugene Greenberg Digestive Health Institute, which will aid in the institute's clinical care, research and education. Eugene Greenberg is a gastroenterologist at the Carle Physician Group in Urbana

10. Susan Brennan and Bob Morrison
Source of wealth: Advertising

Cause: Education

Recipient: Woodlands Academy of the Sacred (Lake Forest, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*The $1 million donation will be used for the academy's endowment, where Susan Brennan Morrison graduated in 1969. She was a former executive at the Chicago-based advertising firm, DDB Needham.

9. Pat and Lou Bachrodt
Source of wealth: Retail

Cause: Education

Recipient: Boylan Catholic High School (Rockford, Ill.)

Gift value (challenge): $1 million

*Pat and Lou Bachrodt run a chain of family-owned car dealerships in Rockford. The $1 million gift was part of Boylan Catholic High School's "Imagine Campaign," which hopes to raise $10 million for school funds. Pat and Lou's father spearheaded the effort to raise $3.5 million for the initial construction of Boylan in 1960, according to Rockford Register Star.

8. Thomas and Barbara Galvin
Source of wealth: Family wealth, telecommunications

Cause: Health

Recipient: Presence Saint Joseph Hospital (Elgin, Ill.)

Gift value (bequest): $1.2 million

*Thomas Galvin's father and brother co-founded Motorola. He died in 2003, and his late wife, Barbara, passed away this year.

7. Samuel and Ann Mencoff
Source of wealth: Finance

Cause: Arts

Recipient: Art Institute of Chicago

Gift value: $2 million

*Samuel and Ann Mencoff's $2 million gift will endow a curatorial position within the department of American decorative arts at the Art Institute of Chicago. Samuel Mencoff is the co-CEO of Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm. Mencoff is also a member of the Art Institute's Board of Trustees.

6. Paul L. Ward
Source of wealth: Education

Cause: Colleges and universities

Recipient: Eastern Illinois University

Gift value (bequest): $3.7 million

*Paul Ward was a former professor of educational psychology at Eastern Illinois University; he died in June 2011. The money will provide scholarships to students majoring in counseling and student development.

Check out the top five Illinois donors to Illinois causes at Reboot Illinois.

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The Bakery Where The Twinkie Was Invented Is Closing For Good

Thu, 2014-08-21 13:54
CHICAGO (AP) -- Hostess Brands plans to close the suburban Chicago bakery where the Twinkie was invented in 1930, cutting 400 jobs and shuttering a piece of American baking history.

The company said Wednesday it plans to close the Schiller Park bakery in October.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times ( ), Hostess Brands CEO Bill Toler said the company is closing the plant as it tries to improve efficiency.

"While the old Hostess company was in bankruptcy, many competitors took over the shelves and are tenaciously defending their business and thus we must be highly efficient and technologically advanced to compete," he said.

Hostess filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

The plant's employees were stunned by the news, Donald Woods said. He is president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 1.

"They were working like 12 hours, six days a week, and they were looking for this plant to be a part of their future," he said, adding that the workers voted in May to rejoin the union. They had been told the company planned to keep the plant open long term, he said.

The bakery had just reopened a little over a year ago as Twinkies returned to store shelves after Hostess' bankruptcy.

The spongy, cream-filled snack cake was invented in Schiller Park in 1930 by a bakery manager looking for uses for idle shortcake pans.


Information from: Chicago Sun-Times,

Illinois term limits effort comes to an end in court

Thu, 2014-08-21 11:35
An Illinois appellate court has written the obituary for virtually any citizen-led effort, ever, to impose term limits on state lawmakers.

Wednesday's ruling from the First District Court of Appeals about legislative term limits in Illinois upholds a June decision by Cook County Circuit Judge Mary Mikva that found the proposed amendment unconstitutional and ineligible for inclusion on the ballot.

The appeals court affirmed Mikva's ruling. It says that term limits are outside the bounds of citizen initiatives. The Illinois constitution specifies that citizen-initiated constitutional amendments (as opposed to those initiated by lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly) can seek to change only the structure and procedure of the legislature.

One section worth noting can be found on page 10, paragraph 22 of the opinion:

Based on the cases discussed above, some components of the Committee's proposed amendment may very well comply with article XIV, section 3. However, the proposed amendment is ultimately invalid because of its term limits provision.

Essentially, this means term limits are off limits from citizen-initiated constitutional amendment proposals. Only the General Assembly, which is not limited in the scope of constitutional amendments it can pursue, can place a term limits question on the ballot. Check out the court's full decision at Reboot Illinois.

Republican candidate for governorer Bruce Rauner has been at the forefront of the term limits fight. But how is his fight for the governership going? Paul Green has some thoughts for Rauner and Gov. Pat Quinn on how to make the most of the next few months on the campaign trail throughout the different regions of Illinois. Green said knows money, issues, personalities, endorsements and other factors can all impact the race. But the only thing that really matters in November is what the voters do. How can Quinn and Rauner win over Illinois voters?

Deep Justice in Ferguson

Thu, 2014-08-21 11:32
Black 'hood, white cops. "Get the fuck on the sidewalk."

And so it begins, and begins, and begins. An African-American boy dies for walking in the street -- for yet one more insanely small transgression. Protesters cry for justice. The legal bureaucracy hunkers down, defends itself, does what it can to paint the deceased 18-year-old, Michael Brown, as a bad guy. Sides harden in the media. Once more it's us vs. them. Nobody talks about making things right; nobody talks about healing.

But we can't talk about healing -- yet. We can't talk about Ferguson, Mo., and the standoff between angry residents and the heavily militarized police, now two weeks old, without talking about institutional racism. In a healthy, free society, the idea of a "standoff" like this would be absurd, because the police aren't a separate entity, controlling that society on outside orders, like an occupying army. In a healthy society, police serve the community; they're part of it.

What has happened, and is happening, in Ferguson is sufficiently preposterous and cruel that the mainstream media coverage hasn't completely surrendered its sympathy to the police and portrayed all the protesters as rioters. A young man, walking in the street with a friend, was shot six times -- twice in the head -- by a police officer. Even if the police version of events (he was defiant, there was a struggle) is true, the shooting was an act of breathtaking aggression and should never have happened. And so many witnesses dispute this story, the reality looks a lot more like cold-blooded murder; thus the residents of Ferguson have a right to demand answers, and justice.

What they also have a right to demand, though most of the coverage hardly acknowledges as much, is control over their own community and complete assurance that they are not regarded by their "protectors" as the enemy. They have a right to demand deep justice -- and deep change. Michael Brown's shooting was not an isolated incident; it's part of the legacy of manifest destiny, a.k.a., racism that has shaped the United States of America.

"Michael Brown's tragic death," writes Nadia Prupis at Common Dreams, "is part of a much more pervasive trend of police brutality on large and small scales that is strengthened and perpetuated by militarization -- one that encourages the police to see the people as an enemy, and vice versa."

The enemy, in particular, are people of color. Prupis quotes Eastern Kentucky University professor Victor E. Kappeler: "The institution of slavery and the control of minorities . . . were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing."

Slavery, of course, is "history." The conventional understanding is that we're long past that regrettable era. Human enslavement occurred so long ago it might as well be part of some other national history -- some other universe. Bringing it up, at least in the media, is in poor taste, apparently, guaranteed to summon groans and eyeball rolls. This is the case even though it's been barely a generation since the civil rights movement curtailed slavery's direct descendant, the Jim Crow laws and vicious racial discrimination on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Confederate flags still decorate public space and private consciousness. No matter. Slavery is history. Let's move on.

But, as Kappeler, who is in the School of Justice Studies, goes on to say: "The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.

"The legacy of slavery and racism did not end after the Civil War," he adds. "In fact it can be argued that extreme violence against people of color became even worse with the rise of vigilante groups who resisted Reconstruction."

One phrase lingers: "control of minorities." Could it be that such an imperative is part of our social DNA? This is institutional racism. It would put the Ferguson killing into an all-too-graspable context, beginning with Officer Darren Wilson's command -- "Get the fuck on the sidewalk" -- to Michael Brown and his friend. The officer wasn't keeping order in Ferguson; he was controlling the movement of two young African-American males, who are "minorities" despite the fact that Ferguson is mostly black.

I have no doubt that the standoff in Ferguson -- the demand for change -- goes this deep. I also have no doubt that tear gas won't pacify the protesters and replace their anger with fear of authority. Neither will all the military hardware the Defense Department can supply.

Fascinatingly, the standoff between police and protesters all but ended for one evening a week ago, when the governor pulled the local police force off the front lines and gave control of the situation to Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Instead of confronting the protesters as the enemy, Johnson, who is black and grew up in Ferguson, joined them. There were no gas masks, no armored vehicles -- and, suddenly, no standoff.

At Michael Brown's memorial service, Johnson said: "I will protect your right to protest." Turning to the boy's family, he added: "My heart goes out to you. I'm sorry."

This was a mirage, of course. The tear gas and confrontation -- the occupying army -- returned soon enough, and the community split apart again.

But deep change is coming. The events in Ferguson have forced our history out of hiding.

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