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IHOP Dishes Out Free Pancakes Today, March 3, 2015

Tue, 2015-03-03 09:25
Hotcakes, flapjacks, fluffies or pancakes. Whatever you call 'em, they are free at the International House Of Pancakes today, March 3.



From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., you're welcomed to stick a fork deep into a short stack of buttermilk of pancakes -- yes, fo' free. IHOP is celebrating its 10th anniversary of "National Pancake Day At IHOP," even though the rest of the country already celebrated National Pancake Day (yes, there's another day to celebrate) on February 17 this year. It's kind of confusing, but there's no reason to complain. Pancakes are great.



While the short stack is comped, IHOP encourages its customers to make a donation to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and other local charities. Find an IHOP in your hood, pour on the syrup and dig in.



Nibble on, kittens!

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Drew Peterson Returns To Court For Allegedly Plotting To Kill Prosecutor

Tue, 2015-03-03 09:11
CHESTER, Ill. (AP) — The former suburban Chicago police officer convicted of killing his third wife and suspected in his fourth spouse's disappearance is returning to court on charges of trying to hire someone to kill the prosecutor who helped put him in state prison.

Drew Peterson was charged in February with soliciting an unidentified person to find someone he could pay to kill Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow. The 61-year-old former Bolingbrook police sergeant has been in prison since being convicted in 2012 in Kathleen Savio's bathtub drowning death eight years earlier. His fourth wife disappeared in 2007.

The murder-for-hire charges were filed in Randolph County, where Peterson is an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center. Peterson will appear in court Tuesday.

Courting Disaster: Going Without Health Insurance Could 'Bankrupt Me,' Chicago Man With Skin Cancer Says

Tue, 2015-03-03 05:00

Press play to hear Dave Price tell his story.

Over the last eight years, Dave Price has beaten skin cancer, struggled with the transition into a new career in his 50s and eaten away at the savings he worked decades to build. What happens next is in the hands of the nine justices on the Supreme Court.

Price, 59, is covered by a health insurance plan he bought from an Obamacare exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act, he couldn’t be turned down because of his pre-existing condition. His family income of less than $30,000 a year means he and his wife, who live in Chicago, qualify for tax credits that make the coverage affordable. If the Supreme Court invalidates those subsidies in Illinois and more than 30 other states, Price faces a decision: tap even deeper into his retirement fund to pay for health insurance, or leave the cancer unchecked. It’s not much of a choice, he said.

“If they pull the subsidy, we’re going to have to stay in ACA and pay the full cost,” Price said. That would mean more than $13,000 a year in health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Price said his twice-yearly cancer checkups cost $2,000 each, and having new melanomas removed costs up to $5,000. “I joke around with my kids that with the cancer, they’re burying me a piece at a time,” he said.

Price was diagnosed with melanoma in 2007. At the time, he had health insurance from his job, where he worked as an operations director for a manufacturing company. That coverage paid for $85,000 worth of cancer treatments. Price left his job in 2010 to go to graduate school to become an adult educator. He currently works part-time as a job trainer at a community college.

Before Obamacare, health insurance and out-of-pocket costs came to about $10,000 a year, and Price spent down his savings and tapped his retirement fund to get by. When he signed up for insurance on the exchange, his costs went way down.

“The difference was, my premiums went from $5,600 a year to $1,800 -- basically saving $3,800 a year,” Price said. “Most of that savings is from the ACA subsidy.” Price and his wife receive a tax credit worth a little under $300 a month. Their insurance plan is comparable, and in some ways better, than what he had prior to Obamacare, he said.

“I have to keep insurance,” Price said. “The melanomas, if I catch them early, are three to five grand apiece. If I were to have anything like the one I had before, it would bankrupt me.”

For more personal stories about the real-life effects of the Supreme Court case, go to Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These Six Lives Hang In The Balance.

The audio interviews in this feature were produced and edited by Ibrahim Balkhy and Brad Shannon.

Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These 6 Lives Hang In The Balance

Tue, 2015-03-03 05:00

Obamacare is back before the Supreme Court in a case that could gut the health care law and leave millions of Americans facing severe consequences.

King v. Burwell, a lawsuit that originated in conservative and libertarian think tanks, alleges that a stray phrase in the Affordable Care Act -- “an exchange established by the state” -- means the federal government isn’t allowed to provide subsidies to the residents of states that refused to establish health insurance exchanges under the law.

Only 13 states and the District of Columbia have their own exchanges. If this bid to derail the Affordable Care Act succeeds, the subsidies would disappear -- maybe immediately, maybe a little later -- for Obamacare enrollees everywhere else.

Behind the numbers, however, is a very human story. Without the subsidies, health insurance costs would spike beyond the means of low- and moderate-income recipients. As a result, close to 10 million people would lose their health coverage. Many others would face major increases in the premiums they pay for insurance.

The Huffington Post interviewed six Americans at risk of the worst effects of a high court ruling against Obamacare. We wanted to know how the law has affected their lives already, and how the absence of subsidies might affect them in the future. They told stories of life and death, financial ruin, lifelong plans in jeopardy and families disrupted. Here are those stories, as told by the people who would be living them.



Karen Hines
Virginia

Joe Lucas
Pennsylvania

Jay Joshi
Texas

Dave Price
Illinois

Sheila Tyson
Alabama

Jared Blitz
Arizona



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Rep. Aaron Schock To Repay Taxpayer Funds Used For Flight To Football Game

Mon, 2015-03-02 20:09
PEORIA – Scrambling to contain the damage for billing taxpayers for a private plane ride to Chicago to attend a Bears game, revealed in the Chicago Sun-Times, Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., on Monday wrote a check for $1,237 to repay the U.S. government.

Benham Brother Says Gay Man Abandoned His 'Lifestyle' After He Bought Him Cubs Tickets

Mon, 2015-03-02 16:10
Those must have been some seats.

David Benham, one of the twin brothers who lost their HGTV reality show after their anti-gay views came to light, says a gay man decided to "walk away from [his] lifestyle" after he gave him Chicago Cubs tickets.

According to the Blaze and other outlets, Benham recently told to the story at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tennessee: "We had so many people from the gay community reaching out to us and one man in particular from the city of Chicago reached out — and he said things to me that made me lose my appetite. But I simply responded in love," he said.

“After a little conversation back and forth," Benham continued, "I found out he loved baseball … and I got him tickets to a Cubs game. He shot me a Facebook post and said, ‘I was not expecting that — and I’ve been thinking a lot about this. I’ve chosen to walk away from my lifestyle.’”

Asked to elaborate, Benham told The Huffington Post:
Obviously, homosexual attraction does not simply disappear by going to a baseball game. But it appears that my reaching out to this man was part of a larger divine plan that actually brought about a transformation in his life, and for that I'm profoundly grateful for the small role I was able to play.

In May, HGTV dropped a house-flipping reality show set to star Benham and his twin brother, Jason, after the family's anti-gay views were revealed by Right Wing Watch.

According to the report, Benham spoke of "homosexuality and its agenda that is attacking the nation" during a prayer rally outside the 2012 Democratic National Convention. He also had compared opposition to same-sex marriage laws with the battle against the Nazis in a blog post, according to the outlet.

H/T Towleroad

Illinois Colleges With Students Who Have the Highest Average ACT Scores

Mon, 2015-03-02 15:25
College admissions officers often tell high school students to work on a quality, well-rounded college application. Such an application might include records of good grades, a carefully constructed essay, letters of recommendation, lists of impressive extra-curricular activities and the highest standardized test score possible.

While a student's ACT or SAT scores might be only one part of a college application, they can be a useful numerical marking of the kinds of students applying to and being admitted to particular schools.

The ACT test is designed to measure students' aptitudes in the academic areas of reading, English, math, science and writing. The highest possible composite score is 36.

Here are the average ACT scores of 10 Illinois colleges:

25. Trinity Christian College
Average ACT: 22

24. Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
Average ACT: 22

23. Southern Illinois University-Carbondale
Average ACT: 22

22. Millikin University
Average ACT: 23

21. Lewis University
Average ACT: 23

20. University of Illinois at Chicago
Average ACT: 23

19. Elmhurst College
Average ACT: 23

18. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Average ACT: 23

17. University of Illinois at Springfield
Average ACT: 23

16. University of St. Francis
Average ACT: 23

Check out Reboot Illinois to see which 15 Illinois schools have student bodies with the highest average ACT scores, including one school whose students have a nearly perfect score on average.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: How much did Illinois colleges make in 2014?
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Rauner Budget Would Cut Medicaid, Restore Funding for Other Social Services

Mon, 2015-03-02 14:23
Illinois is at a breaking point.

The state's dismal economy and shrinking population are compounded by a staggering debt crisis, including $111 billion in pension debt and more than $6 billion in unpaid bills.

Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed 2016 budget, which he unveiled on Feb. 18, stands as the first plan in over 10 years that puts the state on track to pass a truly balanced budget. As such, the proposal includes more than $6 billion in cuts, which haven't gone over well with some constituents.

Proposed funding reductions would affect programs such as Medicaid (which would come in part from reinstating a review of the state's Medicaid rolls that uncovered 300,000 ineligible enrollees before being derailed by a lawsuit in 2013).

But Rauner's proposal preserved 101 line-item appropriations, created some new appropriations and even restored program funding his predecessor allowed to run dry.

For example, the budget proposal restored assistance for the homeless to 2014 levels. These funds, worth $300,000, had been eliminated in fiscal year 2015 under former Gov. Pat Quinn.

Funding for homeless prevention stayed the same as the previous budget year, at $3 million, as did homeless youth services funding, at $1 million. The Department of Human Services' budget stayed the same at about $6 billion.

The governor also had to address existing, fiscal year 2015 shortfalls in social-service programs, such as the Child Care Assistance Program, or CCAP, which is jointly funded by the state and federal government, and gives low-income families a stipend to help cover the cost of day care.

When they passed their fiscal year 2015 budget last June, state politicians knowingly underfunded this program.

According to the Illinois Comptroller, in fiscal year 2014, the state provided $312.5 million to CCAP; in fiscal year 2015, the state appropriated $228.4 million, despite telling child care providers to continue operating at the same clip as the previous year. It's likely that state lawmakers hadn't anticipated Rauner would win the election, and that under another term of the Quinn administration, when the state realized CCAP had run out of money, lawmakers could use this shortage to justify another tax hike.

The obvious troubles with such drastic shortfalls have come to a head in recent weeks. Because lawmakers used low-income families as pawns, parents are left wondering if they'll be able to pay for day care for their children. To address these concerns, the governor's proposed 2015 Revised Budget includes an additional $278 million in funding to keep CCAP afloat.

Rauner's 2016 budget proposal is far from law -- any spending plan must first pass the Illinois General Assembly, which will happen sometime over the course of the coming months.

Until then, Illinois will prove a testing ground for how to dig out of debt without undue harm to the state's most vulnerable residents.

The Route To See The Apostle Islands Ice Caves Is Treacherous, But The Views Are Totally Worth It

Mon, 2015-03-02 14:14
More than 11,000 people traveled to the far reaches of chilly Wisconsin this weekend, trekking for miles down a road and across the treacherous ice of Lake Superior. It was all for a glimpse of the jaw-dropping ice caves at the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Courtesy Ernie Vater/VisualLyricsPhoto

After monitoring ice thickness and weather conditions all season, the National Park Service decided that the route to the sea caves was sufficiently low-risk enough to re-open to the public on Saturday.

The announcement caused excitement among nature enthusiasts and photographers waiting for a winter chance to explore along the shore in Bayfield, Wisconsin. Over hundreds of years, wave action has sculpted sandstone caves with “delicate arches, vaulted chambers, and honeycombed passageways” in the cliffs along the mainland and two islands; though the caves are viewable by boat or kayak in the summer, in winter they're especially a sight to see, transformed by looming and delicate ice formations.

Courtesy Ernie Vater/VisualLyricsPhoto


“The sheer size of this place is hard to describe,” photographer Ernie Vater told The Huffington Post in an email. “As you walk along [the caves], on one side you have these huge red, orange, brownish cliffs that tower 30 to 40 feet high -- and on the other side just this vast, empty, expanse of ice. The ice formations were different this year, but just as spectacular.”

Last winter was the first time the ice caves had been open in five years, and almost 140,000 people made the trek, compared to under 9,000 in 2009. Staff at the remote park were not prepared for the unprecedented crowds that showed up last year, in part fueled by the spread of images on social media. However, according to the Duluth News Tribune, staff was more prepared this year, answering questions, dealing with crowds and handling emergencies related to people slipping on the ice.

It takes about a mile from the beach to reach the ice caves, and they continue for almost two miles.

Courtesy Hannah Worthington

This year drew new and repeat visitors like Hannah Worthington, who came from Minneapolis Sunday wanting to photograph and explore further after a crowded and cold visit last year.

Vater, who is also from Minneapolis, arrived a day before the caves officially opened to get a private viewing.

“If you can beat the crowds you may also notice that part of the beauty of this place is the silence of it,” Vater said. “You hear nothing except the occasional creaking of the ice.”

Courtesy Hannah Worthington

Some of the caves are massive, while others are just big enough to crawl into on your stomach, Vater explained. Once he crawled inside one tiny cave, it opened up to reveal thousands of intricate ice formations on the ceiling.

Courtesy Ernie Vater/VisualLyricsPhoto


“It really is a take-your-breath-away moment when you get inside,” Vater said. “These formations are extremely delicate -- the slightest touch and they disappear into a fine snow. With all the people visiting, I don't suspect they will last long, but that's OK. The next time it gets really cold they will be back, and so will I.”

Courtesy Ernie Vater/VisualLyricsPhoto

The ice is never considered completely safe, and this year, the lake surface is particularly slippery. Spiked shoes are recommended along with other safety precautions. See the National Park Service site for detailed visiting information and updates on conditions. And below, see more photos from Vater and Worthington from the first open weekend at the ice caves.

Courtesy Hannah Worthington

Courtesy Ernie Vater/VisualLyricsPhoto

Courtesy Ernie Vater/VisualLyricsPhoto

Courtesy Hannah Worthington

Courtesy Hannah Worthington

Courtesy Hannah Worthington

Courtesy Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Facebook
Courtesy Ernie Vater/VisualLyricsPhoto

Courtesy Hannah Worthington

Central Michigan Player Narrowly Misses Being Squished By A Collapsing Basket

Mon, 2015-03-02 12:19
There are many things that can befall a basketball player. The entire basket collapsing on you probably doesn't come first to mind.

Watch John Simons of Central Michigan narrowly miss being slammed by a hoop standard Saturday. He was trying to inbound the ball after a forceful dunk by Pete Rakocevic of host Northern Illinois when the structure folded.

Central Michigan lost the game, 73-55, while Simons appeared to have escaped what could have beena serious injury.

Man, that was close.



H/T Deadspin

Novara: As Chicago votes, the city's racial segregation problem must receive more attention

Mon, 2015-03-02 11:46
A renewed focus has been cast on the future of the city of Chicago with a mayoral runoff election set for April 7. One of the most important issues facing the city, says Marisa Novara of the Metropolitan Planning Council, is how to address the city's increasingly severe racial segregation.

From Novara:

It will be no surprise to you when I say that Chicago is a segregated city. In fact, a 2012 study by the Manhattan Institute went so far as to say that Chicago is the United States' most racially segregated city. Last week, the Reader called Chicago's segregation "The most important issue no one's talking about in the mayoral race."

The emphasis is important. Just as it seems that editorial boards and candidates would rather talk about pensions and potholes, it seems that everyone else would too. Recently, WBEZ ran a weeklong series on gentrification. Two Harvard researchers created an app to study Chicago's gentrification all the way from Cambridge. Curbed Chicago has a page dedicated to "Gentrification Watch."

And yet, the biggest problem facing the biggest number of Chicagoans is definitely not gentrification. As my colleague Breann Gala recently noted in her post about the University of Illinois' Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement December 2014 report, "The Socioeconomic Change of Chicago's Community Areas (1970-2010)," the number of Chicago neighborhoods of low and very low socioeconomic status has grown from 29 community areas in 1970 to 45 community areas in 2010. During that same 40-year period, just nine neighborhoods have gentrified or are gentrifying. A 2014 study of the country's largest metros found that for every one neighborhood that's gentrified since 1970, 10 have remained poor and another 12 have slipped into poverty.

Read the rest of Novara's thoughts on gentrification, poverty and segregation at Reboot Illinois.

That issue and hundreds of others will demand attention whether Mayor Rahm Emanuel or challenger Cook County Board Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia takes mayoral victory in April. And despite his newly generated political momentum, a new poll shows that Garcia has an uphill battle ahead of him if he wants to win. The poll, taken by We Ask America for the Chicago Retail Merchants Association found that more Chicago voters supported Emanuel than Garcia. Find out the margin of difference between the two candidates at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Devils Advocate: When will legal marijuana come to Illinois?

Taste Test: The Best (And Worst) Brandy To Use In A Sidecar

Mon, 2015-03-02 11:46
Few cocktails are as versatile as the Sidecar. It's refreshing in summer and comforting in winter; it's sophisticated to order at a bar and fun to serve at a party; it's sweet enough to be accessible to cocktail novices and strong enough to be appealing to cocktail diehards. If it's not already a part of your mixology repertoire, it should be.

Despite their classy reputation, Sidecars are very easy to make: just combine five parts brandy with two parts each of orange liqueur and fresh lemon juice over ice, then shake until frosty. The most daunting thing about them, really, is choosing the right ingredients. That's true of most cocktails, but it's especially acute with Sidecars because many Americans aren't as familiar with brandy as they are with the other major categories of spirits, like whiskey and gin. And brandy -- which is basically distilled wine -- is an especially difficult category to master.

That's because the best-known type of brandy is cognac, from the southwest part of France, which is subject to a set of regulations and traditions comparable in their complexity to those that govern great French wine. You could spend a lifetime studying cognac and still not understand everything about it.

But really, if you just want to make a good cocktail, you don't need to know the difference between VSOP, XO and Napoleon grades of cognac. You just need to know what to buy. To help out with that, we conducted a Sidecar taste test, pitting nine different brands of brandy and three different kinds of orange liqueur against each other to find the best recipe. Eight of the nine brandies we tried were cognacs; the last, E&J, was a cheap brandy made from American grapes. Scroll down to see the results.

As always, the brands included did not in any way influence the outcome of this taste test.



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Lady Gaga Takes Polar Plunge Into Chicago's Lake Michigan For Charity

Mon, 2015-03-02 11:36
Lady Gaga has pulled some pretty crazy stunts over the years, but jumping into Chicago's Lake Michigan in sub-freezing temperatures might be her craziest one yet. Still, it was all for a good cause and she wasn't alone.

On Sunday, the 28-year-old pop star and her fiance Taylor Kinney took the Chicago Polar Plunge and braved Lake Michigan's icy waters to raise money for a local chapter of the the Special Olympics, reports People magazine.

According to the Associated Press, 4,500 people took part in the freezing-cold fundraiser, including actor Vince Vaughn, who jumped in wearing a Chicago Blackhawks jersey and jeans.







The Best Burger in Every State in America

Mon, 2015-03-02 11:23
By: Kevin Alexander and Liz Childers


After we tried to figure out the best pizza in every state, it was inevitable that burgers would be next. After all, we spend much of our year consuming them for our 33 best/personal satisfaction. So, over the course of the last three months, we've set about researching, eating, and fighting about everything from pork belly pastrami-covered burgers in Pennsylvania, to griddled patties in Indiana, to quite possibly the best damn bar burger in Minnesota.

Note: this was not just a list compiled from other lists which were compiled from other lists until you've reached the end of the Internet. If we didn't eat it personally, one of our other National Food/Drink editors or City editors or contributing writers did. We tried to show our work whenever possible, and give credit to others in the running. But at the end of the day, we think we've got a case for a burger you're going to love in every single state in the Union. And if you disagree, let us know in the comments. We'll happily come eat more burgers.

Alabama

Chez Fonfon (address and info)
Birmingham
The burger: Hamburger Fonfon
Alabama all-star chef Frank Stitt ditches any fancy pretenses in favor of a simple, half-pound burger that's consistently our favorite to come out of Dixie. A buttery bun nestles the holy trinity of burger toppings -- red onion, lettuce, and tomato -- into oozing Comte, a cheese whose nutty sweetness is the perfect choice to stand up to and balance out a patty that hefty.

Alaska

Tommy's Burger Stop (address and info)
Anchorage
The burger: Burger Stop cheeseburger
It's small. There are maybe two tables. During the busy eating hours you will wait in line. But that line is there for a reason. The weekly specials are famous and eclectically named -- ranging from the recent Big Poppa burger (essentially, as they put it, "a deconstructed jalapeño popper"), to the likely most famous of all Battered Husband (Swiss, Cajun-battered fried jalapeños, garlic jalapeño aioli). But stunts aside, Tommy's regular cheeseburger could likely compete for best in a lot of other, bigger states as well.

More: Who Makes the Best Fast-Food Cheeseburger?


Credit: Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

Arizona

St. Francis (address and info)
Phoenix
The burger: Chile burger
Though we're also big fans of Monkey Burger in Tucson and The Stand, our pick had to go to the uptown Phoenix eatery's chile burger. Yes, yes, New Mexico (and even Colorado) like to lay more claim to the ubiquity of green chile-topped burgers, but this one, with pickled fresno chile, sweet-and-sour onions, chipotle aioli, and Jack cheese creates a beautiful symphony of hot meat and cheese with cold crunchy veggies. Worth visiting, even from New Mexico.

Arkansas

Pig Trail Bypass Country Cafe (address and info)
Crosses
The burger: The Hooshburger
Let's start with a little geography lesson: the Ozark National Forest sits in the Northwestern corner of Arkansas, basically blocking University of Arkansas students in Fayetteville from the most direct route Southeast to Little Rock. There's a winding backroad that cuts straight through that wilderness running North to South, known as the Pig Trail Bypass. Confused? It's okay. You probably only have a relative idea of what we're talking about if you're a motorcycle enthusiast or are well versed in the downfall of former UA coach/motorcycle enthusiast Bobby Petrino's wreck.

California

4505 Burgers & BBQ (address and info)
San Francisco
The burger: The Best Damn Grass Fed Cheeseburger
How do you select the best burger in a land mass the same size as Japan or Sweden? With five major cities and countless towns waving their best in your face? This choice alone kept me up for nights. There are some serious contenders here, everyone from the beyond famous burger at LA's Father's Office, to the classic at Rocky's in SD, to the underrated Sunset Burger in Leggett, and the Squeeze Burger in Sacramento. Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the Larchmont Burger, or Trick Dog. BUT ANYWAY, after much soul searching, I went with 4505. It's been on my best burgers in the country list twice, and everything seems handmade to complement everything else, from the sesame-scallion bun, to that dry-aged beef, Gruyere, red onion, and special sauce.

Colorado

Crave (address and info)
Castle Rock
The burger: Love Stinks
Crave now boasts three locations (Castle Rock's the original), but here's what you really need to know: they recently swept the Denver Burger Battle (people's choice and judge's choice) with their Love Stinks, a garlic-bomb topped with with roasted garlic cream cheese, fried onion strings, roasted red pepper, candied bacon, and red pepper aioli. Oh, and more roasted garlic. It's one thing to conceive some crazy burgers (and they do). It's another to make them truly work (and they do).

Connecticut

K. LaMay's (address and info)
Meriden
The burger: Steamed cheeseburger
As someone from New England who went to college in Connecticut, I had to ask myself a lot of questions: how do you not choose Louis' Lunch in the state that essentially invented the cheeseburger? Or the legendary Ted's, if you're going to pick in Meriden? Or hell, the cheeseburger at Shady Glen in Manchester? Or go with your favorite burger from college, at the Wood-n-Tap in Hartford? Well, first doesn't always equal best, and in this case, Kevin LaMay (who essentially apprenticed at Ted's as a teenager) has figured out the perfect ratios with his slightly bigger steamed cheeseburgers on fresh Kaiser rolls with molten hot cheddar. It also gets the vote of Meriden native/noted cheeseburger connoisseur Devin McGoldrick, so you know it's high praise.

Delaware

Redfire Grill (address and info)
Hockessin
The burger: REDfire Burger
For two years in a row, the Delaware Burger Battle recognized the REDfire Burger as one of the top in the state, probably because the Hockessin steakhouse is serious about their ingredients -- a local butcher grinds their proprietary blend of brisket, ribeye, and ground chuck daily. That patty is grilled and topped with aged cheddar, maple-pepper bacon, and a house-made, "souped up" 1000 Island dressing with a mild kick from Thai chilies.

Florida

M.E.A.T. Eatery and Tap Room (address and info)
Islamorada
The burger: Inside-Out Juicy Lucy Burger
You might expect this burger to be, uh, inside out, but it's a regular Juicy Lucy, with spicy, gooey pimento cheese inside the patty. However, geniusly, bacon gets all cozy with the pimento and -- the real kicker here -- American cheese is added on top, along with the tomato and lettuce. It's classic burger meets classic Juicy Lucy and it's a marriage we're so happy to be a part of.


Credit: Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

Georgia

Holeman & Finch (address and info)
Atlanta
The burger: The Burger
2014 was the year of the restaurant burger: they littered secret menus, drew diners for lunch-only specials, and forced diners to dinner before 6pm to grab one in nightly limited-runs. But H&F was the trendsetter, with its gold standard of a simple burger: double cheeseburger with American, red onions, pickles, ketchup, mustard, and a house-made bun only available after 10pm (limited to 24!) and at brunch. And, thankfully, the burger finally graduated to the real menu at the end of last year, so we can have it any damn time we please. That is, if you get a reservation (also now available!) or can handle the wait-time.

Hawaii

Kua 'Aina (address and info)
Oahu
The burger: The avocado burger
One of our picks for the 33 best burgers in the country, this one wasn't really close. Though then again, neither is Hawaii. If you see Obama there (and you definitely will, he reportedly loves it), tell him to get the avocado burger with grilled onions. Then hilariously quote the movie Blue Crush.

Idaho

Boise Fry Co. (address and info)
Boise
The burger: Original bison burger
It sounds slightly cliché to pick a place best known for its fries to represent the Land of Potatoes, but just because Boise Fry Co. is named for beef's favorite side doesn't mean the burgers are an afterthought. In fact, the fry joint makes an immaculate burger, made of fresh-ground meat that's hand-patted and grilled up right before your eyes. And while the beef is a thing of beauty, we'd recommend springing for the Original bison burger, which occupies the perfect zone between thick and thin, and comes hit with garlic aioli and red onion gastrique. Big Jud's might be the most famous Boise burger spot (and a damn fine one), but for a perfect patty without all the fuss, BFC is your BFF.

Illinois

Au Cheval (address and info)
Chicago
The burger: Single cheeseburger with an egg
This was not difficult. Au Cheval has the kind of burger than makes you question every other burger you've had previously in your life. Also, Aziz Ansari really likes it.

Indiana

Workingman's Friend (address and info)
Indianapolis
The burger: Cheeseburger
If you know how much I like smashed, griddled burgers from legendary, classic places (see the White Hut; anything I ever write about burgers), then Workingman's Friend was an easy pick for me. Apologies to the mini-chain of Scotty's Brewhouse, and Bub's in Carmel, but the Stamatkin's legendary spot (opened in 1918) does the perfectly cooked diner burger with American and a mound of griddled onions. Most people opt for the double cheeseburger, but I prefer to order two and take them down one at a time.

Iowa

Short's Burger & Shine (address and info)
Iowa City
The burger: 1006 Melrose
The Rusty Duck and Coon Bowl have won awards for their burgers. Django in Des Moines goes French with theirs, and it's damn good. Christy Creme and Hamburg Inn have nostalgia and tradition on their side. But the best burger we've had in Iowa was the 1006 Melrose at Short's Burger & Shine. The black Angus beef from local Iowa farmer Ed Smith speaks for itself, and though they've got all sorts of fancified options, we always order the simple cheeseburger and sub out the cheddar for American on our yearly pilgrimage to Iowa. Then we go to the Vine.


Credit: Jennifer Bui/Thrillist

Kansas

The Cozy Inn (address and info)
Salina
The burger: Sliders
We like Harry's in Manhattan, and we love The Burger Stand at the Casbah in Lawrence, but we had to go with the legend. Once you just accept the fact that you're going to smell like griddled onions for the rest of the day, and start to own it, you can truly embrace these delicious sliders. Just don't ask for fries.

Kentucky

Dovie's Cafe (address and info)
Tompkinsville
The burger: Cheeseburger, unsquozed
The slightly faded, RC Cola-emblazoned plastic sign hanging on the facade is Dovie's first calling card that it's all old-school; the second is that its burgers are deep-fried. The biggest decision you'll face here is whether you want your burger squozed or unsquozed -- that is, whether you want the soybean frying oil pressed out before your burger hits wax paper that'll serve as your plate. Did we mention it's old-school?

Louisiana

The Company Burger (address and info)
New Orleans
The burger: The Single
I love this burger so much that, when I still lived in New Orleans, I looked at apartments based on their proximity to Company Burger, and, every time I've gone back to visit, it's the first place I ask friends to meet me. It's that good: a perfectly balanced and flavored, tender patty with American, red onions, and bread & butter pickles. How many mayos you want from the mayonnaise bar is TOTALLY up to you. But you should probably definitely get both onion rings and fries to try them all.

Maine

Harmon's Lunch (address and info)
Falmouth
The burger: Cheeseburger, loaded
In the Pine Tree State, it came down to a question of old versus new. I like the cheeseburger seared on the flat top at Nosh in Portland a whole lot. But my heart and nostalgia of summers spent traveling up through Maine with my grandparents just to eat those delicious loaded burgers at Harmon's made it the pick for the state. Though they now serve fries and shakes, they still abstain from nonsense like lettuce and tomato, and you should always get two cheeseburgers, loaded with mustard, red relish, and fried onions. Plus, how can you not love a place with a sign that reads "This is not Burger King. You don't get it your way. You take it my way, or you don't get the damn thing"?

Maryland

Hamilton Tavern (address and info)
Baltimore
The burger: The Crosstown
The Baltimore spot lives up to the tavern name: dark, cozy, neighborhood vibe, solid beers, and the exact perfect burger that we like to eat in a place that basically demands you settle in for a long night of drinking. The Crosstown's patty has local beef covered with hot horseradish-cheddar, onion, and shredded iceberg to cool things off. There's also sticky-spicy bacon as an optional add-on, and you should always, always add that on.

Massachusetts

White Hut (address and info)
West Springfield
The burger: Cheeseburger with grilled onions
First of all, I love me the burgers at JM Curley, The Gallows, Eastern Standard, Craigie on Main, and several others in my hometown. I have written about almost all of them before, and said very nice things. But the White Hut is not just my favorite burger place of all time, it might just be my FAVORITE SINGLE PLACE IN THE WORLD. Two cheeseburgers with fried onions at the counter, at the original in West Springfield. I've been eating that meal since before I had teeth. And so, I'm sorry to all the others, but it was always going to be the Hut here.

Michigan

Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger (address and info)
Ann Arbor
The burger: Triple with lots of things
Michigan does not lack for quality burgers, but "Blimpy's," as it's commonly abbreviated, is an icon, serving stacks of hand-ground patties since 1953. Tragedy nearly struck when University of Michigan acquired its building for graduate housing, but a fundraising campaign kept it alive and well in a new location, along with its 2,147,483,648 ordering combinations. Get a triple (at least), know that onion rings are a must, and mind the ordering etiquette.

Head to Thrillist.com for the full list of best burger in every state in America!

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100 Years After the Eastland: Three Deadly Illinois Disasters

Mon, 2015-03-02 11:13
Nearly 100 years after the single biggest loss of life event in the continental United States in the 20th century, video of the disaster keeps popping up. The steamship the Eastland capsized in the Chicago River in 1915, killing 844 people. Two discoveries of video from that day, the first ever made in the century since it happened, show victims fighting for their lives and rescuers scrambling to save as many people as possible. We looked into other Illinois disasters. Check out three of them here:

1. Eastland steamship disaster-1915

Chicago River between Clark and LaSalle Streets




On a Saturday in July, 2,500 employees of the Western Electric company and their family members boarded the ship the Eastland. They were planning to travel from the Chicago River to Lake Michigan for a company picnic on the lake's opposite shore in Indiana, according to the ship's memorial website.

As more and more people began to board, the Chicago Tribune reported, the boat began to rock back and forth. Just after 7 a.m., the ship toppled over on its side only a few feet from the dock, floating in only 20 feet of water. People on the lower decks became trapped inside and despite the boat's relative proximity to land and help, at least 844 people died.

From the Tribune:

"The screaming was terrible," one man told the Tribune, which devoted 11 pages of coverage to the disaster. "I watched one woman who seemed to be thrown from the top deck. . . . I saw her white hat float down the river, and that was all."

The wreck is the deadliest Great Lakes shipping accident, according to the Tribune, and was the single largest loss-of-life event in the continental United States during the 20th century, according to EastlandMemorial.org.

The Tribune says the weight of the ship's lifeboats might have contributed to the vessel's initial list. New lifeboats were added to its deck after legislation mandated that there be enough boats for every passenger following the sinking of the Titanic three years earlier.

In 2015, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago uncovered previously undiscovered video footage of the sinking and subsequent rescue efforts, according to Chicago Tonight, with even more footage uncovered by the Eastland Disaster Historical Society, says the Tribune.

2. Train wreck-1887

US Hwy 24, Chatsworth, Ill.




Still considered one of the worst train accidents in the country's history, according to RoadSideAmerica.com, the Chatsworth train wreck killed 85 people around midnight between Aug. 10 and 11.

From RoadSideAmerica.com:

... the train had "two engines and approximately twenty wooden coaches -- [traveling] from Peoria to Niagara Falls, struck a burning culvert. Of the 500 passengers, about 85 perished and scores were injured."

According to a Peoria Weekly Journal article published later that month, a bridge the train was crossing caught fire, eventually spreading to the train cars themselves.

The coroner's office eventually named Timothy Coughlin as responsible for the fire and therefore for the deaths after hearing the testimony of dozens who saw the wreckage after the crash. However, he was later released due to lack of evidence for a trial.

3. Cherry Mine explosion-1909

Cherry, Ill.




On Nov. 13, 1909, an explosion at an Illinois coal mine killed 259 men and boys as young as 10. The explosion trapped 20 others under the ground for eight days before they were rescued. The accident prompted new support for stricter mining regulations, and the U.S. Bureau of Mines was established in response to calls for better safety procedures, reported the Pantagraph newspaper. The Cherry Mine explosion is known as the country's second-worst mining disaster.

During the commemoration of the disaster's 100th anniversary, the Pantagraph reported that most of the 480 men who went to work at the mine that day were Europeans who had immigrated recently to Illinois.

The fire that caused the explosion began when a lamp got too close to some hay inside the tunnels.

From the Pantagraph:

Many of them burned in a fire caused when hay was left beneath a dripping kerosene torch. Flames consuming their bodies and the bodies of mules lit the terror-filled scene as their friends and relatives smothered when a shroud of dense smoke called "black damp" filled the tunnels.


And about the survivors, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, says The World Magazine in October 1911 reported:

Driven away from the shaft by flame and smoke, the little band found the deadly "black-damp" closing in about them and retreated to the farther recesses of the workings.

Here, by the advice of their heroic leader, they literally buried themselves alive, hoping against hope that rescue would come before the fresh air gave out. Finally, even their solitary lamp refused to burn in the foul atmosphere, the men's brains began to give way from the awful strain, and death drew very near.

See five more disaster sites at Reboot Illinois, including a blimp crash nearly pushed under the rug and the deadliest commercial airline accident in U.S. history.

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'Divergent' Author Veronica Roth To Write New Two-Book Series

Mon, 2015-03-02 10:45
Just a couple tantalizing weeks before the release of the film adaptation of Insurgent, the second novel of Veronica Roth’s hit Divergent trilogy, Roth fans have even more cause for anticipatory excitement: The author has inked a deal with HarperCollins for an as-yet-unnamed duology, the first installment of which is due to arrive in 2017.

Little detail has been offered about the two books, both of which remain untitled. According to HarperCollins, the saga will feature “a boy who forms an unlikely alliance with an enemy [...] they help each other attain what they most desire: for one, redemption, and the other, revenge.” The release also somewhat cryptically describes the narrative as “in the vein of 'Star Wars.'”

Roth’s choice of a male protagonist is a departure from the recent wave of girl-centric fantasy adventure narratives, of which Divergent was a notable example. Since the success of Divergent, the books have been relentlessly compared to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which also features a gritty heroine fighting back against a cruel dystopian regime. Though Roth has insisted she appreciates the Hunger Games comparisons, a "Star Wars"-esque tale with a male hero may allow her to break out of this mold.

She explained to the Associated Press that the character was actually the starting point for the books: “All the other elements -- setting, world, even a substantial portion of the plot -- came after."

Still a college student when she sold the Divergent series, Roth is now 26 years old. She has maintained a feverish pace of activity in the past few years, finishing her popular series, promoting the movie adaptations, and writing a bonus Divergent book. Four, a book of stories told from the perspective of the love interest of heroine Tris, was published last summer.

John Oliver Explains How America's Neglected Infrastructure Is Like A Lego Set

Mon, 2015-03-02 10:04
If you weren't aware that U.S. roads, bridges and dams are in serious state of disrepair, allow John Oliver to put it plainly: "We aren't just flirting with disaster, we're rounding third base and asking if disaster has any condoms."

On Sunday's "Last Week Tonight," Oliver broke down the sorry state of America's neglected infrastructure, including "hold your breath" bridges, killer potholes, a severe lack of inspectors and potential floods from our half-century old dams.

"Much like most Botox recipients and competitive cloggers, the average dam is 52 years old and has something deeply broken inside of it," said Oliver.

As Oliver explains, The White House is counting on the closure of corporate tax loopholes, no one wants to raise the gas tax and House Speaker John Boehner has his own ideas about fixing the problem which involves two years of not doing anything followed by ignoring Oliver's phone calls, emails and Vines.

During a montage of politicians cutting ribbons with oversized scissors, Oliver also points out that repairing infrastructure isn't as "sexy" as building anew, and backs it up with the perfect Legos analogy.

"Infrastructure is like Legos," he said. "Building is fun, destroying is fun, but a Lego maintenance set would be the most boring fucking toy in the world."

To top it off, Oliver presents a trailer for a new kind of summer blockbuster movie, one that's more about fixing cracks and less about explosions.

10 Ways Road Tripping Was Different in the '90s

Mon, 2015-03-02 09:38
By: Sophie-Claire Hoeller


Credit: Shutterstock

Let's face it: you don't hang onto a D.A.R.E t-shirt from 1996 because it's still in style. It's all about the nostalgia. And the same goes for your memories of road trips in the '90s -- sure, new technology in cars, stereos, and maps have made just about every aspect of a long haul in a car better. But that doesn't mean you'd trade in your dashboard Discman for anything in the world. Except maybe a 6-disc changer and subs in the trunk, of course.

Let's relive the glory days of road trips in the time of Trapper Keepers, TGIF, and Tamagotchis.

More: How to Quit Your Job to Travel the World


Credit: Flickr/Felix Prado

You blasted tunes on your Discman

You were only super cool if you had a Discman parked on your dashboard with one of those fake tapes that plugged into your tape deck. And it was powered by your cigarette lighter, because cars still had those. You bumped such hitmakers as Ace of Base, Jamiroquai, and Green Day.

Your car was littered with CDs

A few were probably straggling around in the backseat on their own, but you likely kept your 96-disc CD wallet back there, too. And you DEFINITELY had one of those behind-the-visor sleeves where you kept your 10 go-to discs. And it DEFINITELY had a Cranberries album in there. Which you're DEFINITELY still pissed about not getting back from Chad. Chad DEFINITELY sucks.


Credit: Flickr/Jurriaan Persyn

You kept an atlas under the passenger seat

Rand McNally wasn't just a name that sounded like a weirdly pretentious Irish singer. In fact, it was an essential part of your car. You knew how to look at that grid and figure out where you were better than you could find books at the library using the Dewey Decimal system. You probably even had a paper map in the glove compartment. Although you could never figure out how it was originally folded.

You got lost... often

Even with Siri hurling directions you, you get lost. Back in the '90s? Well, in the pre-Mapquest days, if you didn't have somebody tell you the route, you'd have to plot it out yourself. And if you're anything like every dad who's ever driven a car, you were bound to miss an exit or make a wrong turn, but never own up to the mistake before you were 20 miles down the road.


Credit: Flickr/Kevin Trotman

You took questionable rest breaks

When you gotta pee, the next rest stop is 40 miles away, and Yelp is just a glint in some nerd's eye, you could make a number of bad choices. Like, eating anything from the salad bar at a roadside diner. Or actually talking to a trucker at a truck stop and thinking he's just really friendly and has no interest in you, drugs, or you taking drugs.

Everything was DIY

Don't like the look of Seedy Motel? You'll have to drive down the street to Roach Motel to find out it's just as bad -- but at least it has a pool. There were no TripAdvisor photos or reviews to guide you in your quest to find the best $29/night hotel room in Chickasha.


Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Amborg

Hidden gems actually existed

Rather than eating at an Internet-approved restaurant, you asked locals and ate where they ate. And that gas-station/BBQ joint you never would have tried turned out to be better than your eventual destination. Maybe you even made a friend or two without swiping right on anything in the process. It's nearly unfathomable these days.

Staying in touch took work

If you were ahead of your time, you'd give out your Hotmail address, ICQ or AIM screen names. But barring you actually having dial-up access, you had to give people your phone number and/or address. You know, that thing that was plugged into a jack in the wall that had a keypad like an iPhone, but didn't have Angry Birds.


Credit: Flickr/zhelen

Address books were imperative

Here's a thing that basically doesn't exist anymore: a handwritten log of people's names, addresses, and phone numbers, all in one place. You probably memorized your phone numbers, your best friend's, and your girlfriend's, even. But if you were visiting someone from out of town, you needed that stuff written down.

You had to be on time

Punctuality is still appreciated, of course -- but back in the '90s, you had to designate a meet-up time and spot, or otherwise risk not catching up with the rest of your crew. And imagine if you met the Funky Bunch with no Marky Mark, just because nobody made sure Mark knew to meet at TCBY at 4:30 p.m.

From cheap gas to payphones, head to Thrillist.com for 11 more ways road tripping was different in the '90s!

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GOP's Blind Hate of Labor Union Members

Mon, 2015-03-02 06:54

To Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, America's labor union members are the same as murderous, beheading, caged-prisoner-immolating ISIS terrorists. Exactly the same. 


That's what he told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week.  The governor said that because he destroyed public sector labor rights in Wisconsin after 100,000 union supporters protested in Madison he could defeat ISIS as President of the United States.


That sums up all the GOP hate and vitriol against labor union members in recent years. It would appear that Republicans can't discern the difference between suicide bombers and working men and women who band together to collectively bargain for better wages and safer conditions. Republicans, it seems, can't see that a foreign extremist group that kidnaps 276 schoolgirls is not the same as an American labor organization seeking to improve the lives of families and communities. This GOP blindness explains the relentless campaign by GOP leaders to renege on contractual obligations to workers, squash labor rights and slash the pay and benefits of union members. 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by DonkeyHotey on Flickr


That Gov. Chris Christie believes New Jersey’s unionized teachers, snow plow drivers and child welfare caseworkers are evil explains how he could negotiate a plan to resolve a massive shortfall in funding for their pensions, brag about it as an accomplishment, then refuse the state funds he’d pledged to make it work. A Republican, Christie felt no obligation to keep his word to public servants who he perceives as the enemy.


When Christie took office in 2010, he inherited a $54 billion pension deficit. His fix required workers to contribute more into the fund and for the state to make increasingly large payments into it over time. State law institutionalized Christie’s plan. The workers fulfilled their commitment to pay more. And the governor hailed himself for creating a national model solution.


But then, just a few years later, Christie turned his back on both the plan and his promises.


In 2014, the state legislature proposed getting the funds necessary to make the pension payments by increasing taxes on incomes exceeding $1 million and instituting a corporate tax surcharge. Christie vetoed that and shortchanged the fund by $884 million. This year, he planned to cheat the fund by $1.6 billion.  As a result, the pension shortfall now is estimated at $83 billion. That’s 50 percent more than the problem Christie boasted about solving five years ago. It’s a crater so massive that it has provoked Wall Street rating agencies to downgrade New Jersey’s credit rating a record eight times.


Now Christie is talking about forcing public servants to pay even more to fill the hole Christie dug.


And that makes sense, of course, if the New Jersey workers who record birth and death certificates and protect the elderly from fraud are terrorists.


Apparently, at least one New Jersey jurist doesn’t see it that way. Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled that Christie broke the law and ordered him to make the pension payments.  Despite the fact that Judge Jacobson was appointed by a Republican, Christie labeled her a liberal judicial activist, which to the GOP is equivalent to being a ruthless ISIS terrorist.


Like Christie, the new Republican governor of Illinois last month showed that he’s willing to violate state law to clobber unionized state workers who he sees as enemies.


Within a month of being sworn in, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order prohibiting the state from turning over to labor organizations the fair share payments made by state workers who decline to join a union. This violates a state law regarding these payments, but that’s irrelevant to Rauner because, for him, this is warfare.


State workers in Illinois aren’t compelled to join a union or pay dues. But because federal law mandates that the union provide them with services, including representation in grievances, Illinois requires them to pay a fee that covers their share of the cost of negotiating labor contracts and enforcing them.  That’s the fair share payment.


Typically, Republican governors handle this by getting legislation passed that says workers who decline to join the union don’t have to pay anything for the collective bargaining services that benefit them. That’s called right-to-work-for-less legislation because it’s intended to bankrupt unions and destroy workers’ capacity to collectively bargain for better wages. 




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That’s what Scott Walker did to public sector workers in Wisconsin, where both houses of the legislature are controlled by Republicans. But both houses of the Illinois legislature are controlled by Democrats who fail to regard union members as terrorists. So Rauner circumvented them and acted by executive fiat.


He ordered State Comptroller Leslie Munger, who he appointed, to put the fair share fees in an escrow account rather than turn them over to the unions. Munger asked state Attorney General Lisa Madigan if that would be legal.


Madigan said no.


Unfazed, Rauner ordered the fair share fees withheld from the unions anyway. He told the directors of agencies under the governor’s control to take the money from the workers and keep it in department accounts.


No deed, no matter how underhanded or illegal, is too low for Republicans bent on battling imaginary demons!


Republican governors across the country, just like Rauner and Walker, feel entitled to thrash the American labor union, the institution responsible for dramatically reducing income inequality in this country by organizing working people into concerted actions essential to securing better wages, benefits and working conditions.


It has never been clear until now why Republicans so hated the idea of hard-working Americans banding together to negotiate to receive a more fair share of profits derived from the sweat of their brows. Walker’s conflating ISIS terrorists with labor protestors while CPAC conference attendees cheered explains it all.


Republicans are so blinded by hatred of empowered workers that they’re irrational. 

Chicago's Black Voters Key As Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia Battles To Defeat Rahm Emanuel In Mayoral Race

Mon, 2015-03-02 06:00

By Mary Wisniewski and Tracy Rucinski

CHICAGO, March 2 (Reuters) - Winning more support from Chicago's black community, which makes up about one third of the electorate, will be essential if Jesus "Chuy" Garcia is to cause one of the biggest political upsets of recent years by defeating incumbent Rahm Emanuel in a run-off and become Chicago's first Hispanic mayor.

He will need to overcome tensions between the black and Hispanic communities in the city, aggravated under the 22-year term of Mayor Richard M. Daley, which ended in 2011. There was a widespread perception in the black community that Hispanic supporters of Daley were favored in getting city jobs.

But while in 2011 majority African-American wards gave overwhelming backing to Emanuel, who was previously President Barack Obama's chief of staff, some disillusionment has set in since. A persistently high crime rate, the decision to close 50 schools in mostly poor areas, and a sense that Emanuel is out of touch with the community and its problems has hurt him among black voters, some political activists say.

After spending more than $7 million on television ads alone, Emanuel won 45.5 percent of the vote in the first round last Tuesday - the largest tally of the five contenders but short of the 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid an April 7 run-off.

Garcia, a soft-spoken 58-year-old Mexican immigrant and county commissioner, who raised less than $1.5 million and only bought TV ads in February, came in with 33.6 percent of the vote.

Emanuel's backing in predominantly black wards slipped to just 42 percent, from about 59 percent in 2011, according to the Illinois Election Data web site, while Garcia had 26 percent of the votes. The other 32 percent in those wards went to the three other candidates - two blacks and one white - who have now been eliminated from the race, leaving those votes up for grabs.

Emanuel has stronger support in majority-white wards, with 52 percent, which is the same level that Garcia received in majority-Hispanic wards.

In his bid for re-election, Emanuel has stressed that he is the only candidate who can make tough decisions to rein in the city's budget deficit, expected to grow to $1.2 billion by next year, and deal with massive unfunded pension obligations for city workers. Garcia has criticized Emanuel's authoritarian style, and said that while he knows sacrifices are needed he would listen to residents before making controversial cuts.


WASHINGTON'S COALITION

Chicago is a city where racial politics tend to spell out the calculus of victory, especially given the three major ethnic groups each have roughly the same number of votes.

There are, though, plenty of complexities - for example, the Hispanic vote includes people with various countries of origin, particularly Mexico and Puerto Rico. About 5.5 percent of the population is of Asian descent.

In Chicago, building an African-American and Hispanic coalition is no easy task. A "black-brown" coalition formed under the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington, in the early 1980s, but was never solid and fell apart after Washington's death in 1987, said Delmarie Cobb, an African-American political consultant.

The resentment among blacks that was built up under Daley's rule persists today, Cobb noted.

"Now, there's even more of a feeling of us versus them," Cobb said. "That's what Jesus has to overcome."

Emanuel does have powerful allies among African-American and Hispanic leaders, including Obama and Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who said after Tuesday's election Emanuel was "well-positioned" to win the run-off.

"Rahm's campaign is about making Chicago better for all Chicagoans - from every neighborhood, background and family, and he's making his vision for one strong Chicago clear everywhere he goes," said Emanuel campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry, when asked about support in black and Hispanic wards. He cited in particular the mayor's push for a higher minimum wage, and initiatives to expand a kindergarten program and to make community college places more accessible.

Garcia must convince residents of all ethnicities that he is a viable politician to run the city and not just a protest candidate used to send a warning to Emanuel, political strategists said.

He must also get more of the vote out - overall turnout for all voters was 33.6 percent last Tuesday.

"If Chuy can win this race, it's because he can put together all these different groups who aren't talking with each other as much as they should be," said Kevin Lampe, a political consultant. "He has to build a new coalition."


BRIDGING THE GAP

Garcia does have some major supporters within the black community.

He has, for example, the backing from Karen Lewis, the charismatic black president of the powerful Chicago Teachers Union. Lewis had planned a run against Emanuel herself but backed out after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, and then threw her weight behind Garcia.

Jonathan Todd, a black community activist, said Garcia's ethnicity may have hurt him among some blacks. "We have to find a way to bridge that racial gap," said Todd, who supports Garcia.

Despite his small campaign fund, Garcia has much positive momentum, said political strategist Vince Casillas, Obama's Spanish-language press secretary in 2008, who has friends on both sides. One thing that will help is if Lewis campaigns for him, said Casillas. Another strategy would be to organize in areas where schools were closed.

Cobb said that in the black community, Garcia needs to point to both his alliance with Mayor Washington, and his current job as floor leader for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, another powerful black politician.

Tamika Ford, 33, an African-American shop assistant who graduated from one of the shuttered public schools, said Garcia's ethnicity doesn't matter to her.

"Chuy could probably change things up a little," said Ford. "Obama did it so why not Chuy? He's from a different culture and he's looking out for all cultures, not just one side." (Additional reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by David Greising and Martin Howell)

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