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Gov. Bruce Rauner Spent a Lot of Money on TV Advertising During the 2014 Campaign

Fri, 2015-01-30 09:33
More than a quarter of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's $65 million campaign fund went straight to TV advertising during the general election, according to Illinois State Board of Elections information.

Check out the chart below to see how much money Rauner spent in some of the state's biggest markets. That spending made the 2014 gubernatorial election the most expensive in state history.

Rauner spent $17.7 million on TV ads from April 2014 through Election Day. Incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn spent $8.8 million on television advertising in the third quarter, election records show. Quinn's fourth quarter expense report shows $9.8 million in media spending but does not include itemized spending with individual TV stations or other media outlets. Quinn's $9.8 million in media purchases in the fourth quarter, which included the critical final five weeks before Election Day, were done mainly through two firms, 270 Strategies of Chicago and Democratic media consultant Joe Slade White and Co. of Orchard Park, N.Y.

Total media spending -- including TV, radio, digital and other expenses listed by the campaigns as "media buys" -- from April through year's end (the period after the March 18 primaries) totaled $22.7 million for Rauner and $20.7 million for Quinn. During the first quarter of 2014, when Rauner was engaged in a bitterly contested four-way primary election, the campaign listed $5.8 million in advertising expenses. Almost all of that total went to Target Enterprises, a media buying firm based in Los Angeles.

For comparison, Quinn spent a total of $6.1 million -- on all campaign costs, not just media -- during his victorious 2010 primary and general elections.

Rauner's self-funding of his 2014 campaign -- he had put $27.5 million into his own campaign by Election Day -- meant that campaign contribution limits did not apply to any candidate in the the race. Thus, big donors on both sides poured money into the campaigns. That allowed Quinn to nearly match Rauner on media spending after the primary. (Though in total campaign spending from April forward, Rauner outspent Quinn $50.2 million to $29.5 million.)

Here is the breakdown of how much money Rauner spent at 15 different stations throughout Illinois.

Check out the rest of the chart at Reboot Illinois to see where Rauner spent nearly $4 million.

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Choice Is a Privilege

Fri, 2015-01-30 08:55
The first day of school only happens once a year, except in schools like mine, when the first day happens far too frequently for many of our students and teachers.

Our 4th graders are taking the NAEP this year. The survey asked about our mobility rate. The question was multiple choice, with 0 percent being the lowest rate, and "20 percent or more" being the highest rate.

Our school has a 30 percent mobility rate, so we were off the scale.

Mobility is the rate at which students enroll or transfer from a school during the year. Our 30 percent rate means that if a class of 33 students begins the year, only 23 of those original 33 students will be enrolled by the end of the year, with ten transferring out and ten new students will have enrolled to replace them.

Mobility might not sound like a problem, but it is, especially when coupled with crippling poverty. I always taught in schools serving high-poverty populations of 90 percent or more, but I never considered the effects of mobility until I became an administrator. You rarely hear about mobility as a pressing issue, but I contend that it needs to be.

Through my own observations and speaking with our students and teachers I've come to believe mobility is as damaging, if not more-so, than poverty itself. The first twenty days of a school year are so crucial there are multiple books written about the subject. Within the first twenty days teachers must establish classroom routines and expectations that will either make or break the entire school year. From my vantage point as a principal I've witnessed teachers that fail to establish productive classroom norms in the first 20 days, and the students and teacher (and their neighboring colleagues) suffer the entire year for it.

The other day one of our kindergarten teachers exasperatingly told me how frustrating it is when she loses a student or gains a new one after the first twenty days. Strong classroom management can prevent a new student from disrupting the flow of things, but when it happens a couple times a month, it affects all of the relationships in the learning environment.

We want teachers to be caring and develop strong emotional bonds with our students, especially in elementary schools. In schools with high mobility, teachers develop a tough skin and learn not to attach too quickly to any student. Our teachers work damn hard, but it's rough when you invest personal time tutoring and mentoring a child just to see them disappear to another school before the end of the year. This potential for detachment doubles-down on the emotional damage the student is already suffering from having to move schools, meet a new teacher, make new friends, and learn new routines.

In Chicago mobility is directly related to poverty, but the families that are the most mobile seem to be a subset of the poor. Many families rarely move, but a small percentage of them move every year. I know students in 8th grade that have been to seven different schools. On the Southwest side of Chicago you can draw a line down Kedzie Avenue. Schools to the West of it have a mobility rate closer to 5 percent. Schools to the East have a mobility rate hovering around 30 percent.

Despite the fact all the schools serve students that are predominantly from low-income families, there is a very noticeable difference between our communities. I've been told that teachers, students, and parents from other schools don't like to visit ours because the neighborhood looks and feels much different, with many more boarded-up homes and less of a cohesive neighborhood feel to it. Our population is more African-American than the other neighborhoods, too, which undoubtedly plays a part in their perceptions. When families from more affluent neighborhoods visit our school for basketball games the wary looks on their faces makes me wince. Families from schools like ours enter with a less-guarded attitude. The difference is plain to see.

Our families don't move because one of their parents got a new job and the company paid them to relocate. Our families' reasons are numerous and varied, including homelessness, foreclosure, eviction, family breakup, death of a parent, or the avoidance of gangs, and often a combination. This last reason is always the most perplexing to me. I've had families tell me they want to move so their children don't get caught up in the local gangs, but they often move from one high-crime neighborhood to another. I used to be quick to criticize such a decision, until I realized that in a town like Chicago, "choice" isn't a right, but a privilege based on income, class, and skin color. It's illegal to discriminate based on race or income, but how else can you explain such a segregated city in which a school within walking distance from ours doesn't have a single black kid?

We rarely hear about the effects of mobility on the quality of learning in schools like ours, but public neighborhood schools like mine haven't been as much of a priority as schools of "choice" like charters, magnets, and selective-enrollment schools. In Chicago choice isn't a right, it's a privilege.

The Club Nobody Wants to Join: Mothers With Sons in Prison

Fri, 2015-01-30 07:24
Mothers around the world want the best for their children. These hopes and dreams include wanting their kids to be healthy, educated, loved, respected and to also have productive and prosperous lives. However, for an alarming number of black mothers, these wishes won't be realized. Even worse, some of these mothers will join a club that none of them want to become a member, which is: "Mothers with a son in prison."

For example, Dr. Ivy Hylton of the Hearts Strings Project in the D.C. Metropolitan area taught her son about values, the importance of a quality education, and the necessity to have good character. Dr. Ivy's love, shelter and guidance still weren't enough to prevent her son from being convicted of murder. Some individuals blame mothers -- like Dr. Ivy -- for the increasing number of black men who follow the school-to-prison pipeline. Unfortunately, this rush to blame mothers for failing to properly raise their sons distorts the reasons that so many black men go to prison, which is primarily due to an individual's choice(s).

Mothers can only do so much to instill values, character and decision-making skills in their children. After a certain point, each individual must make appropriate choices to avoid negative actions, behaviors, situations, environments and consequences.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): "Zero-tolerance" policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in school lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline." Moreover, the ACLU advises that: "Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out."

Based on the data from the ACLU's infographic about the school-to-prison pipeline, it's estimated that black students are about 16 percent of public school enrollments, but account for approximately 42 percent of multiple suspensions and 31 percent of school arrests. Furthermore, black students are suspended and expelled three times more than white students.

This type of punishment imbalance occurs too often for black people in the U.S., specifically black males, who are sometimes considered aggressive, difficult, or worse perceptions before there's an opportunity to learn anything about them. Many times, these judgments are based on physical appearances related to their skin color, clothing, walking style, speech pattern or other superficial considerations. Furthermore, black men can be described as "thugs" due to stylistic expressions instead of thoughtful considerations or deliberations about a black man's character, accomplishments, social status, income or future potential.

Imagine being negatively profiled just for walking the street, entering a store, being in a certain location or wearing certain clothes. Might these collective experiences during an individual's or related individuals' lifetime effect the manner in which someone views themselves or their actions and behaviors? The answer unfortunately is a resounding "yes." Therefore, how can years of social conditioning based on these factors be reduced or eliminated?

Changes won't occur in societies until black men are no longer considered to be a threat due to outward appearances. Furthermore, wherever there's a history of civil, criminal or economic disparate treatment, there must be remedies and controls to provide independent oversight in an expeditious manner to prevent further injustices. Otherwise, baseless judgments related to a black man's actions, behaviors, value and potential will continue to be diminished without any justifiable reasons, actionable changes, along with shortsighted perceptions.

Black mothers can raise their sons with all the best care, attention and love; however, black men must make appropriate choices to minimize the potential to be involved in the judicial system for things that are within their control.

Notwithstanding, black mothers must have ongoing conversations with their sons to: educate about the dangers of the streets, the power of choice and the necessity to be responsible and accountable for their actions and behaviors -- while oftentimes being evaluated using a standard that many other racial groups never have to endure. Consequently, black mothers can do everything within their power to raise strong, independent, thoughtful and productive black men; however, these mothers cannot live their son's lives or make choices for them while confronted with societal injustices and difficult decisions.

There aren't any justifiable reasons that the alarming school-to-prison pipeline trends should continue. These systemic issues don't just take a village to address; it takes a nation and a world to resolve any ongoing and preventable injustices. Part of the solution to resolve these challenges begins with reversing the upward trend of disproportionate criminal remedies assigned to black men and toward solutions that are targeted to support issue resolution, statistically equitable punishment assignment, character building, skill development and investments to transform the overwhelming burdens of living in economically depressed communities.

It's time to invest in more community-based programs and organizations that move beyond traditional models of education and social services to innovative approaches, which can be better aligned to meet the challenges that face these communities. These solutions are a starting point, but there also must be a downward trend away from severely and inequitably punishing black men for actions and behaviors that in other racial groups would be addressed with solutions outside of the legal system.

American jails are filled disproportionately with black males. The significant incarceration rates for black males in the U.S. according the ACLU's 2011 data should make many people ask tough questions about the reasons for these troubling numbers, such as: Is it the communities that these men live in that can be attributed to the increasing number of black men in prison?; is it the disproportionate harsh punishments given to black men compared to other racial groups?; are there too many societal prejudices that prevent black men from having equal opportunities to achieve success?

There aren't easy answers to these questions, but as a society let's collectively delve into these long unresolved issues to create better solutions and outcomes for black men, their mothers, and society.

Additional information on Dr. Ivy Hylton's work can be obtained at:

This post originally appeared on S. L. Young's blog on his website at:

The 50 Best Super Bowl Commercials Of All Time

Fri, 2015-01-30 07:23
Hey, listen, it's cool. When it comes to the Super Bowl, you don't have to pretend to be interested in the game itself anymore. Admit it, you settle in for the commercials, and when the game comes back on, that's when you take your bathroom break.

That's become a standard response for viewing the Super Bowl: "I just watch for the commercials." And networks and advertisers know this, of course, which is why the cost to advertisers is around $4.5 million per 30 second spot.

Still, we don't have to foot any of those bills, and if your team's not in it, why not just sit back and enjoy some of the year's best advertising efforts? And over the years, there have been some incredibly memorable ads, from the epic Orwellian Apple short to the Budweiser frogs to Betty White getting clobbered in a pickup football game.

To prepare for another year of (hopefully) memorable commercials, here's a primer of the 50 best Super Bowl commercials of all time:

8 Things You Didn't Know About The Super Bowl, Even If You Watch Every Year

Fri, 2015-01-30 07:20
Although you watch it every year, what do you really know about the Super Bowl?

This Sunday, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks are facing off in Super Bowl XLIX. The Super Bowl has a long history of memorable moments, and, with Marshawn Lynch's Skittles and the Patriots (maybe) deflated balls alone, even more memorable moments are certainly bound to happen this weekend.

But before everything goes down this time around, here are eight things you can learn about the game and share at your viewing party ... even if your favorite part is actually the commercials.

1. Someone has snuck into over 30 Super Bowls including the very first championship.

Dion Rich has gate-crashed many, many big events including the Oscars and Olympics, but he has snuck into the Super Bowl the most. In a 1993 Los Angeles Times profile, Rich explained his motives, "It was my hobby. The guys at home expected me to be on the tube or in the papers every year. I couldn't let them down. I made it on TV or in some publication in 21 of the first 22 Super Bowls." In the photo above, you can see rich even hoisting Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry after they won Super Bowl XII.

Unfortunately, security knows his face these days, checkpoints have increased since 2001, and Rich is no longer able to crash the Super Bowl. According to NY Daily News, his last successful attempt was the New Orleans Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002. Even in the '90s, Rich told the Los Angeles Times:

After so many years it gets to be a real job. People see me on the sidelines all the time and think it's easy. It's not easy, it takes a lot of conniving and ingenuity and contacts. Every year they made it tougher ... It just wasn't that much fun anymore.

Image: Confessions of the World's Greatest Gate-Crasher

2. The first person to say, "I'm going to Disney World!" really didn't want to do it at first.

USA Today's For The Win caught up with former Giants quarterback Phil Simms in 2014 to talk about how this first Disney plug came together. Perhaps surprisingly, Simms didn't have much interest in being a part of the campaign: “I didn’t want to do it," he said. "I just thought that was wrong trying to do something like that.”

Simms was named MVP of Super Bowl XXI in 1987 and he remembered just being happy about winning the game when the cameras caught him to do the commercial. “Of course I’m smiling because we won, and the other reason is because I can’t believe I’m doing this," Simms told For The Win.

For his role in the commercial, Simms was paid $50,000 and Disney did in fact send his family to Disney World.

In 2008, SF Gate profiled Mark Allan, the camera person who typically rushes on to the field to get the line from the Super Bowl winner, including the first one with Simms. Apparently the person in the commercial has to repeat the line a few times and says both Disney Land and World so the commercial can be targeted to each coast. While trying to capture the players, Simms basically just keeps saying, "Look in the lens."

3. Joe Montana once calmed his team down before a Super Bowl-winning drive by pointing to the stands and joking, "Isn't that John Candy?"

It was the 1989 Super Bowl and Joe Montana's San Francisco 49ers were trailing the Cincinnati Bengals with time running out. According to legend, the 49ers offense were understandably nervous as they had to trek down almost the entire field to score. As Rolling Stone recounted, Montana apparently knew the right words to say to his team to calm their nerves. In a huddle, Montana began pointing to the crowd, saying, "There, in the stands, standing near the exit ramp ... Isn't that John Candy?"

It hasn't been confirmed whether John Candy was truly in the stands during that game, but, in any case, Montana led the offense 92 yards down the field to score a winning touchdown with just 34 seconds left on the clock.

4. Both "Little Giants" and "Space Jam" were created out of successful Super Bowl commercials.

Ad people Jim Ferguson and Bob Shallcross created a McDonald's advertisement for the 1992 Super Bowl about pee wee football that ended up catching legendary director Steven Spielberg's attention. In a 1994 Baltimore Sun article, it was said that Ferguson came into the office one day and was simply told to give Spielberg a call. Ferguson thought it was a practical joke at first, but ended up getting Spielberg on the line. Spielberg apparently said, "I want that commercial made into a movie. I want my 'Home Alone.'"

In 1994, Ferguson also told the Chicago Tribune, "Ninety seconds and Steven Spielberg changed our lives," referring to himself and his partner Shallcross. Both of them ended up working with Spielberg to develop "Little Giants."

The Nike and MCI commercial "Hare Jordan" was another Super Bowl commercial that led to a movie. At the end of "Hare Jordan," Bugs Bunny tells Michael Jordan, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!" This obviously ended up being the case as the two were together again for the movie "Space Jam."

Image Right: WikiCommons

5. During the first Super Bowl, NBC accidentally missed the taping of a kickoff and so the whole play was reset for the cameras.

During Super Bowl I, in 1967, both NBC and CBS had television rights to the game since NBC had a deal with the AFL and CBS the NFL. The game was between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs and would have to be partially reset at one point due to a screw up by NBC.

As Rolling Stone recounted, the problem happened when the game was coming back from half time and NBC was still televising an interview with comedian Bob Hope. NBC failed to switch to the game fast enough so it was decided that the kickoff Green Bay had just completed would be entirely redone.

Green Bay would end up winning the game and as mentioned before, Dion Rich's gate crashing ways enabled him to see it all go down.

6. A star player missed the Super Bowl due to a cocaine binge the night before.

The previously mentioned 1989 Super Bowl, in which Joe Montana apparently spotted John Candy in the crowd, had another notable aspect to it. Montana might not have even gotten the chance to make a comeback though if the Cincinnati Bengals offense had had all their players to begin with.

Stanley Wilson was a running back for the Bengals who had already had two strikes from the league for drug use. He had made it through this preceding season without a problem, getting tested multiple times a week. This self control unfortunately only lasted until the night before the Super Bowl as Wilson succumbed to what Rolling Stone described as a "crack-cocaine binge."

A Cincinnati Enquirer article from 1999 looked into the night surrounding Wilson's decision and detailed how it almost didn't even happen. Wilson,on his way to a team meeting with other players, stopped and said, "I forgot my playbook. I'll meet you guys downstairs." Wilson headed back to the room and didn't return.

As this was Wilson's third strike, he was given a lifetime ban from playing in the NFL.

7. The Baltimore Ravens ended up winning the Super Bowl after referring to the game as "Festivus" the whole season instead.

Festivus might be for the rest of us, but, in 2001, the "Seinfeld"-created holiday was especially for the Baltimore Ravens.

As the book Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us details, the superstitious head coach of the Ravens, Brian Billick, forbade his team from referencing the Super Bowl and playoffs throughout that season. Since logistically this became a problem, offensive lineman Edwin Multialo proposed calling the big game "Festivus Maximus" instead. The term stuck and then the Ravens went on to win "Festivus Maximus" in what was probably one of the biggest celebrations of the holiday yet.

Later in 2001, The Baltimore Sun even referred to the event as "Festivus Ravenous!"

8. The referees that officiate the Super Bowl also get rings.

These referee rings aren't quite the same as the rings that players get, but they're certainly still a point of pride. Mike Pereira of Fox Sports explained in a 2014 article:

The Super Bowl ring. The officials get Super Bowl rings just like the players do. They aren't as big as the players' rings, but they are still valuable pieces of jewelry. These rings mean the world to the officials and they wear them with such pride.

The American Profile also wrote about Super Bowl referees in 2012 and had retired NFL referee Jim Tunney show them his three Super Bowl rings. Referee Gerald Austin was quoted in that article as saying these refs aren't given much advance notice they'll be officiating the Super Bowl. "They called me about 11 days before the Super Bowl XXIV," said Austin.

BONUS: According to legend, the Super Bowl got its name from the "Super Ball" toy.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has had a super ball (shown in the photo above) on display to commemorate Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt's apparent coining of the game name after his children's toy. According to Henry D. Fetter of The Atlantic, when Fetter was asked how he originally came up with the name, he said, "My own feeling is that it probably registered in my head because my daughter Sharron and my son Lamar Jr. had a children's toy called a Super Ball and I probably interchanged the phonetics of "bowl" and "ball."

But Fetter doesn't believe that Hunt actually came up with the name. Going by Hunt's account, by the time he said "Super Bowl," the term was already starting to take off in newspapers to refer to the previously unnamed championship game. Fetter believes that there is no clear person to point to as the origin and instead the name was sort of collectively decided.

For what it's worth, according to the Chiefs media page, Hunt is also credited with coming up using Roman numerals in the name and putting Coach Vince Lombardi's name on the trophy.

Image: Flickr user Matt McGee

All images Getty unless otherwise noted.

Two Years Later, Chicago Recalls Hadiya Pendleton's Promise

Fri, 2015-01-30 06:57
"We are now part of a fraternity that no one wants to be a part of," Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of murdered 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, told a group of University of Chicago students at an Amnesty International event last December. She reminded them that no matter who they are, gun violence affects them. "Regardless of your background, origin -- whatever -- you should care," she said.

The national sense of urgency over the reckless violence that two years ago yesterday took the life of an honor roll student like Hadiya Pendleton -- who just a week earlier had performed at President Obama's inauguration -- has vanished. Two years ago First Lady Michelle Obama returned to her hometown to say "Hadiya was me" and Pendleton's parents were in attendance at the President's State of the Union address; there was no mention of Pendleton in this year's address.

Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton at home on Monday. (Spencer Bibbs)

Yet there are signs of change here in Chicago, however gradual.

Since Hadiya Pendleton was mistakenly shot by a gang member in a park two years ago today, Chicago murders are down: In 2012, the city lost 516 lives to murder, whereas in 2014, the number was 390 -- its fewest since 1965. And as of Thursday, the city logged 27 murders this month -- 17 less than the city ended the with in January 2013.

Also since then, Cowley-Pendleton has founded the non-profit Hadiya Pendleton Foundation to help combat gun violence in Chicago and nationwide. The suspects behind her daughter's murder are awaiting trial. And Alderman Pat Dowell, whose ward is where Hadiya Pendleton lived when she was murdered, has taken the first steps toward renaming a local park after her in her honor.

* * *

"We have lots of ideas and things that we want to do, but we also know we have to crawl before we walk," Angela Rudolph, executive director of Hadiya's Foundation, told me at the organization's headquarters earlier this month. She is the organization's only full-time staff member, joined by two part-time volunteers.

In Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood, at the Martin Luther King Community Center -- a brutalist, brown brick building where President Barack Obama cast his ballot in the 2012 election to cheers from faraway supporters behind barricades -- Hadiya's Foundation operates out of a fluorescent-lit corner basement office no larger than an apartment living room. The lease to the space has been gifted by city for $1 through December 2016.

A painting and a poster at the Hadiya Pendleton Foundation office. (Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul)

On the day I visited, propped against a corner wall on a table was a painting of Hadiya Pendleton's face in a rose sprouting from Chicago's flag and a placard bearing the Hadiya's Promise logo, superimposed on the now-famous selfie of her giving the peace sign. Below sat a stack of xeroxed fliers promoting the organization. "Put the guns down," it read, "Because every child matters" -- with the hashtags "#BlackLivesMatter" and "#AllLivesMatter" to its right.

Rudolph sat at the office's main table -- four tables combined to make a bigger one -- where she was examining stacks of letters.

This year Amnesty International picked Hadiya Pendleton as one of 10 cases for its Write for Rights program, which encourages people from across the world to write letters on behalf of human rights causes throughout the world. Its profile of Pendleton is part of the group's larger effort to end gun violence in the U.S.

"We have one here from Korea," Rudolph told me. "We have other letters here from all over the country. We've gotten letters from Europe, South America, all over the place."

"India," Cleopatra chimed in over speakerphone.

Rudolph, an education and juvenile justice reform policy advocate of more than 17 years who watched Pendleton's story unfold on the news, described the emotions surrounding her tragedy as a "lightning in a bottle" moment.

She said that when she's out with Cowley-Pendleton and her husband, strangers "want to talk about how there was something about Hadiya that really speaks to them in a very personal way." She recalls in particular one volunteer, a Jewish woman from the other end of the city, telling her over the phone she was reminded of herself by Hadiya Pendleton and her family.

"We had to do something, because we didn't want this to be a lost opportunity," Rudolph said. "We wanted people to always be able to tap into that feeling, and to be motivated to do something."

"It's because of my daughter's death that I've become as involved as I am," Cowley-Pendleton said. She added, "I don't know that the work has actually been therapeutic for me, I just know that it is a necessary work."

Part of that work is a new initiative by the foundation launched last summer, Hadiya's Promise. Its goal is to advocate for policies, programs and law enforcement practices to help the victims of -- and youth at risk of committing -- of gun violence. Last November it hosted its first ever Hadiya Pendleton Intergenerational Summit, a discussion attended by Mayor Emanuel which drew more than 70 youth.

Its aim, according to Cowley-Pendleton, is to engage youth who are affected by gun violence but are shunned when it comes to finding ways to address it. "It's about the acknowledgment of what's happened out here and what's lacking, and how to repair it," she said.

Fliers at the Hadiya Pendleton Foundation office. (Jeffrey Bishku-Aykul)

Summit attendees identified seven top priorities for Hadiya's Promise, including fostering trust through dialogue between police and youth and increasing access to vocational training for students who aren't college-bound.

Already, Cowley-Pendleton and Rudolph both say the biggest change since January 2013 has been an increased focus in Chicago on the root causes of gun violence.

"It's not sexy to talk about intervention," said Rudolph, who has been in talks with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy. "It's a different kind of investment. And right now our systems are focused on a punishing perspective."

"To me, the biggest change has been a recognition that we are not going to arrest our way out of this problem," Rudolph added. "Previously, there was only talk from Superintendent McCarthy and from the Mayor around the notion that we need to swarm in, we need to have more police presence on the street, and there was scant conversation around this question of what are we doing with our highest-risk young people."

Rudolph cites Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Commission for a Safer Chicago -- which she sits on -- as an example of the city's broadening approach to gun violence.

The Commission's report, released last December, contained 28 recommendations including strengthening relationships between police and youth, and establishing alternatives to arrest for young first-time offenders.

"In my opinion, the importance that has been placed on trying to resolve the cause of the issue of gun violence, I think it became a bigger priority," Cowley-Pendleton said. "I think the lives of our young people are being valued even greater."

Challenges remain. At the same time that progress has been made, the city's famously harsh gun control laws have been relaxed: In January 2014, Illinois became the last state to legalize concealed carry; since then plastic stickers with a symbol of a gun crossed out have become as common as no smoking signs. The Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013, legislation sponsored by Congressman Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and endorsed by Pendleton's parents that would increase penalties for straw purchases of guns, died in the House. And the city's South and West Sides still suffer disproportionately from gun violence.

Alderman Will Burns -- whose ward is where Pendleton was shot -- first put Rudolph in touch with Cowley-Pendleton. "The tragedy is the same today as it was two years ago," Burns told me in a recent interview. "Any man's death diminishes me. But, there's something about losing a young woman filled with promise and potential who was doing nothing wrong."

He added that he's "so beyond tired" of the city's social media feud-fueled murders. "And I hope the adults who enable that kind of behavior and those young men -- and young women increasingly -- do the right thing and turn them in. Because it's not just about maybe saving Hadiya's life or another Hadiya, it's about saving their life, too."

* * *

Although many in Chicago remember Pendleton, mentions of her name in the headlines have become less frequent. As Barack Obama approaches the end of his presidency, Chicago news outlets have instead turned their focus to controversial plans to site his presidential library in city parkland and whether the president will move to New York and take his library there with him.

As 2017 approaches, it is possible -- even likely, some say -- the Obamas will leave Chicago for New York. And along with them, gone may be the prospect of a presidential library, the tour buses that pass his house and the national spotlight on South Side murders.

But whether or not President Obama -- and most of the country - move on, it is also possible that Cleopatra will be here in Chicago for years to come, working with Rudolph in her daughter's memory.

How Being A Sports Fan Makes You Happier And Healthier

Fri, 2015-01-30 05:10
It's easy to be cynical about professional sports -- especially the NFL. But despite the disturbing headlines the league earned this year, ranging from lax penalties for domestic violence to a growing awareness of the impact of traumatic brain injuries, there will always be at least one silver lining for professional football.

That would be the undisputed, research-supported evidence that there are very real mental health advantages to claiming a sports team as your own. Yes, there are studies that show blood pressure rises during games or testosterone plummets after a loss. But epic fandom is also linked to higher levels of well-being and general happiness with one's social life, as well as lower levels of loneliness and alienation, according to research by sports psychology professor Daniel Wann of Murray State University.

Wann, author of the book Sport Fans: The Psychology And Social Impact Of Spectators, explains that there are two routes to feeling good through sports fandom.

"One would be following a successful team, and the second would simply be identifying with them," Wann told The Huffington Post. "You can get these well-being benefits even if your team doesn't do well; we've found this with historically unsuccessful teams as well," he added.

In the end, said Wann, it all comes down to how community lifts our spirits. Sports fandom is simply another kind of community, much like the community fostered among costumed Star Wars fans or opera season tickets holders.

"The simple fact is that people are looking for ways to identify with something, to feel a sense of belonging-ness with a group of like-minded individuals," said Wann. "People might not understand the sports side of things, but my response to that is: Think of, in your own life, what you care about and what you identify with. Sport is what these fans have chosen." Wann himself closely follows no less than four teams: two college men's basketball teams (the Murray State Racers and Kansas Jayhawks), as well as the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs. And he never misses a Racers home game.

Still, there is one edge that sports has over all those other cultural communities, said Wann.

"You have no idea who's going to win the Super Bowl, and you won't know who's going to win next year's Super Bowl," said Wann. "But if you go see the new Star Wars movie, and then you go to see it twice, I'm pretty sure it's going to be the same ending."

So the next time anyone gives you flack about your epic fandom, just let them know that all the face paint, fantasy leagues, tailgating and game-day viewing parties are crucial to your mental health. Read on to learn more about the benefits of being a die-hard (or even fair-weather) fan.

1. Fandom gives you built-in community

Longtime fan Gary Sargent, 66, of Winchendon, Massachusetts, eats a hotdog at Fenway Park in Boston, September 10, 2014. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

"We've known for years in psychology that feeling connections and affiliations with others is important for well-being," said Wann. "What fandom allows you to do is to gain those connections, which then in turn provides you with social and psychological health."

For instance, doing something as simple as putting on a team baseball cap can have a powerful effect on one's sense of community, said Wann. Say, for instance, that you're wearing a Red Sox cap while walking through Boston. Several passersby will give you a thumbs up, high-five, fist bump or even stop to chat with you about your local team and its prospects.

"All these people are going to be your friends and your comrades, even though you don't know their names, you've never seen them before, and you're probably never going to see them again," said Wann. "But you feel this important sense of connection to the world around you."

2. The community, in turn, boosts your sense of well-being.

Of course, if you watch a game with others, your feelings of loneliness are going to be at least temporarily lower during the event. But Wann's research finds that simply knowing or feeling that you're part of a larger community has long-term positive effects. In fact, sports fans report lower levels of loneliness whether or not the game is on.

"We've gone to people in classrooms. We've gone to dorm rooms. We still still find this general effect," said Wann. "They have this enduring level of connections to others, and lower levels of loneliness and alienation, whether or not they're watching the game."

3. Fandom gives us a common language.

Being a fan of a sports team can also be a deeply rooted heritage that connects you to others across time, transcending the barriers that divide people generationally, adds Professor Alan Pringle, Ph.D. Pringle specializes in mental health nursing at the University of Nottingham and noted that soccer, the U.K.'s most popular sport, gives families a "common currency" that connects family members unlike few other subjects.

"Most granddads were not that interested in the latest computer games, and most grandsons did not really want to hear what it used to be like to work in a coal mine," Pringle wrote in an email to HuffPost. "But the game offered often three generations of a family a shared experience, shared language and shared emotion that is not found in too many other areas of life."

4. Fandom is a safe space.

Pringle also noted that in a culture where men often feel that they have to stifle emotional expressions, sports fandom offers some a safe space to feel, cry, laugh or show signs of affection.

"The classic difficulties British men have with expressing emotion often means that they are limited in their opportunity to externalize emotion and often internalize it," wrote Pringle. "For many of them, football offers a safe space where expressed emotion is acceptable (even crying or hugging other men!)."

In Pringle's research, he examines how following local soccer leagues gave some men a safe way to express identity, reduce their stress and feel a sense of continuity. He quotes one fan of a Mansfield Town soccer club, who said, "When I was a kid I used to go there, when I was married I went, when I was divorced I went, when I was married again I went, when I was divorced again I went, it's the only constant thing in my life."

5. Sports fandom allows others to experience success

Ikaika Woolsey, #11 of the Hawaii Warriors, dumps Gatorade on head coach Norm Chow to celebrate their win after the end of a college football game between the UNLV Rebels and the Hawaii Warriors at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium on November 22, 2014, in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Finally, being a fan of a sport provides some with a rare experience: success. Feeling victorious, even vicariously, is a precious emotion in troubled times, psychology professor Ronald F. Levant of the University of Akron told

"Identifying with your sports teams is one of the ways you can vicariously experience success, and in real life, success is hard," Levant said in the 2010 article. "We have ups and downs, a lot of things don't always go our way ... especially in this economy."

And for fans who love the sport enough to play it, that feeling of success is even more crucial. Pringle noted that in his town of Nottingham, hospital services are funding soccer leagues for young men with depression, schizophrenia or drug-related problems to play regularly scheduled matches.

"The interesting thing is that it is one area of their lives where they can experience real success," Pringle wrote to HuffPost. "If you are going to be good at football you have usually developed real skill by around [age] 13 to 14, so lots of these guys struggle badly in many areas of their lives but can play really well, and for the time they are on that field they can engage in an activity [on] which their symptoms can, in many cases, have only a minimal impact."

Healing the Criminal Justice System

Thu, 2015-01-29 17:52
"It'd be really hard to have a higher recidivism rate than we have in Cook County."

Maybe this is the place to start a brief meditation on changing the world, or at least Chicago . . . known to some of its residents as "Chiraq."

The speaker is Elena Qunitana, executive director of the Adler Institute on Public Safety and Social Justice, which, in partnership with Roosevelt University's Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation, recently completed a study on Cook County's dysfunctional juvenile justice system.

What we're doing isn't working, justice-wise, order-wise, sanity-wise. The state of Illinois is bankrupt and yet its jails are full to bursting, at a cost, per occupant, equal to or greater than the cost of luxury suites at its ritziest hotels. And 90 percent of the teenagers who enter the system come back within three years of their release. This is no surprise: The system is a spiral of entrapment, especially for young men of color.

Why? What's the point of such a costly and ineffective system (if "effectiveness" is measured by bringing positive change rather than by simple self-perpetuation)? Bureaucratic punishment is not the answer to social disorder; instead, it's a major contributor to the disorder, shattering families and communities and branding people for life as permanent wrongdoers -- "ex-felons" -- yet answerable only to its own rules and procedures. It has nothing to do with . . . what's that word again? Oh yeah, healing. Deep in the hidden core of the American system of justice is a determination to dehumanize people, not rescue them.

The problem is that punishment, dehumanization and domination -- us vs. them -- are America's default setting. We're always righteously subduing bad guys, in our movies and in our politics. We're always at war, both internally and externally, and waging it is barely subject to economic restraint. Those who question it do so as individuals; collectively, the system rolls on, no matter the cost to its victims -- who, ultimately, are all of us.

So I was profoundly encouraged to hear about the completion of what is called the Juvenile Justice Needs Assessment Study, the "overarching recommendation" of which, according to the executive summary, is that the juvenile justice system "create a common goal of keeping youth in community."

When I talked with Elena Quintana, she put it a little more bluntly: "We have a moral mandate to keep kids in the community. The gestalt of (the current) system is not about reclaiming you. It's about corralling you because you're seen as unfit. And when you're bounced back, you'll be watched and rearrested.

"Your police officer has more incentive to catch you doing something wrong than to help you do something right."

Here's where the meditation comes in. Calm yourself, inhale, think about the world we're collectively creating every day. What if that world is self-destructing from its own momentum and inertia -- from its commitment to militarized "security" at home and abroad?

Consider this fragment of insanity, one of the challenges the study identifies about the juvenile justice system, as noted in the executive summary: "Many at risk youth who need services were unable to receive them without entering the juvenile justice system."

In other words, kids that are in trouble won't get help of any sort until they're arrested. The cost to young people for extracting assistance from the state is to be branded for life as a felon and caught up permanently in the system.

"We have to deal with gangs, guns and drugs in a real way," Quintana said. "Not by bringing in Robocop, but with preschool, with alternatives to incarceration. Instead of investing in humanizing people, we're investing in dehumanizing people."

Noting that many, many young people have experienced "complex trauma" in their lives, and that so many of the institutions that serve them fail to address this, she said, "We systematically invest all our money in further depriving them. We're colluding in child neglect, if not outright abuse, because we're not investing in types of programs for troubled young people that allows them to flourish."

The amazing thing, she said, is that "there's tremendous agreement about this" among juvenile justice personnel at all levels. "It's not even controversial."

In other words, the current system isn't working and most people who are part of it realize this, but they are not yet, to a significant degree, in community with one another about how to begin changing it.

The system won't be reformed, as far as I can tell. It will only be rebuilt from its core: around the values of healing and prevention and regarding young people, as Quintana put it, as precious -- not as predators. The Juvenile Justice Needs Assessment Study is, I believe, a significant contribution to this rebuilding effort and I will return to its findings in future columns. What it does is begin to solidify and create common cause around a healing-based criminal justice system.

"We heal in community," Quintana said, "We don't heal on an ice floe. We don't heal in solitary confinement."

- - -
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


Professor Sues University Of Illinois After Losing Tenured Post Over Anti-Israel Tweets

Thu, 2015-01-29 16:34

By Mark Guarino

CHICAGO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - A professor who lost out on a tenured position at the University of Illinois after he made Twitter postings critical of Israel claimed in a lawsuit on Thursday that the university violated his rights to free speech under the U.S. Constitution.

Steven Salaita said in his lawsuit that university donors pressured trustees to withdraw their offer of a tenured position due to public criticisms he made about Israeli military strikes in Gaza.

Salaita, 39, left a tenured position at Virginia Tech to take the job in Illinois and the withdrawal of the offer has harmed his reputation and caused him economic hardship, the federal lawsuit filed in Chicago said.

He is seeking reinstatement of the position as an indigenous studies professor in the American Indian Studies program at the University of Illinois campus in Urbana-Champaign and money.

"Like any American citizen, I have the right to express my opinion on pressing human rights concerns, including Israeli government actions, without fear of censorship or punishment," Salaita said in a statement.

The university denied that its actions were based on donor influence and said Thursday that Salaita was aware the offer of a tenured position he received in October 2013 was dependent upon a board vote the following year.

The volatile nature of the messages Salaita posted in July 2014 showed he "lacks the judgment, temperament and thoughtfulness to serve as a member of our faculty in any capacity, but particularly to teach courses related to the Middle East," the university said in a statement.

The university said examples of messages posted by Salaita included, "Zionist uplift in America: every little Jewish boy and girl can grow up to be the leader of a monstrous colonial regime."

Salaita, who is married with a young son, said in the complaint that he is not anti-Semitic but "felt an obligation to speak out" after news reports of military action in Gaza. "Strong language aside, none of his tweets targeted criticism at Judaism or Jewish people," it said.

The university said it tried to negotiate a resolution with Salaita for his losses and would "vigorously defend" itself against the lawsuit. (Editing by Eric Walsh)

Here's How Fast The Marijuana Industry Is Growing, In 5 Charts

Thu, 2015-01-29 16:00
The marijuana industry is booming, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down in the near future.

Legal marijuana is the fastest-growing industry in the United States, according to a new report from researchers at The ArcView Group, a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland, California. In the next two years, a flurry of states are expected to consider the legalization of recreational marijuana. A majority of Americans continue to support full legalization, nationally, and by 2016, it's entirely possible that marijuana could be a wedge issue in the presidential election.

"These are exciting times, and new millionaires and possibly billionaires are about to be made, while simultaneously society will become safer and freer," Troy Dayton, CEO of The ArcView Group and publisher of the third edition of the State of Legal Marijuana Markets, said in the executive summary of the report. "We believe that the development of a responsible, politically engaged, and profitable, legal cannabis industry will hasten the day when not a single adult in the world is punished for this plant."

ArcView surveyed hundreds of medical and recreational marijuana retailers in states where sales are legal, as well as ancillary business operators and independent cultivators of the plant. They also compiled data from state agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies in the marijuana industry for a more complete look at the marketplace.

Here's five charts that show just how fast the marijuana industry is growing, courtesy of ArcView Market Research:

1. This map shows how many states have legalized recreational marijuana and are likely to legalize by 2020.

Graph courtesy of ArcView Market Research.

2. This map shows how many states have legalized medical marijuana and which ones are expected to do so by 2016.

Graph courtesy of ArcView Market Research.

3. This chart shows that California has the largest marijuana market. Right now only medical marijuana is legal, but the state is expected to have a recreational legalization measure in 2016. If voters approve it, the industry could quickly double in size.

Graph courtesy of ArcView Market Research.

4. This chart shows the growth states with medium-sized markets have experienced since 2013. In addition, with Oregon, it shows the vast growth that recreational legalization presents a state.
Graph courtesy of ArcView Market Research.

5. This chart shows the growth in marijuana sales since 2011, as well as the projected increased sales trend into 2016.

Graph courtesy of ArcView Market Research.

Scholars in the Trenches: WWII Battle of the Bulge 70th Anniversary December 16, 1944-January 25, 1945

Thu, 2015-01-29 15:54
How many of our fathers, uncles, grandfathers, great-grandfathers fought in the Battle of the Bulge in WWII seventy years ago?

Let's not forget the war efforts of the distaff side, our mothers, aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers.

Vassar classmate Caroline Cleinman's mother, Clara Ofenloch McCormack and Aunt Caroline Ofenloch, for whom she is named, were both First Lieutenants in WWII's Army Nurse Corps on opposite sides of the globe, her mother in the Battle of the Bulge, her aunt in the Philippines.

As 70th anniversary remembrances wind down, the Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Campaign, remains the U.S. Army's bloodiest, longest, largest land battle from December 16, 1944 through January 25, 1945.

Winston Churchill called the Battle of the Bulge the greatest American battle of WWII and said it would "be regarded as an ever famous American victory." The Oxford Guide to WWII, published by Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 40.

Longtime Rochester, New York newspaperman and WWII historian for the 87th Infantry Division Association, Mitchell Kaidy, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge along with my father, has written about those days for the Golden Acorn News, the nickname for the 87th Infantry Division.

Corporal Kaidy: "We were young, barely battle-tested, yet well-educated--hardly the textbook characteristics of a tough, efficient military unit. Exhausted from a bone-numbing 300-mile road march in open trucks from Germany's Saar Valley by way of Rheims, France, on Dec. 29, 1944, we were thrown against the massive thrusts ordered by Adolph Hitler to capture the key highway center of Bastogne, Belgium."

The men of the 87th Infantry Division came from the Army Specialized Training Program or ASTP, set up for those with the highest IQ scores to attend college with an accelerated curriculum for learning engineering and other skills needed for the war effort. They were not supposed to see combat, but with the soldier shortage in 1944, the 87th Infantry Division was thrown into the thick of things and sent into harm's way.

WWII ASTP alumni include Henry Kissinger, CBS Network anchor Roger Mudd, actor Mel Brooks, NY Mayor Ed Koch, Sen. Frank Church. Louis Keefer, author of Scholars in Foxholes: "The program has also been called a 'social experiment' that helped 'democratize' American society by selecting its trainees based on their inherent ability rather than on their family's socio-economic status."

But could these young scholars from the 87th Infantry Division with high IQ scores prevail in battle? That was the question waiting to be answered.

I had the honor of meeting and later becoming friends with Mitchell Kaidy, first at the 87th Infantry Division's reunion in 2006 in Arlington Heights, Illinois and later at its legacy association's reunions for veterans and their sons/daughters in Pittsburgh in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, I attended the reunion with my niece Jacqueline and two of my four brothers, Jan and Jeff, in memory of our father.

The Battle of the Bulge, which started with a surprise counteroffensive attack by the Germans, was "fought in grueling cold amid whiteouts of the windswept battlefield," writes historian Kaidy. Trench foot, frostbite were common among American soldiers, including my dad. In contrast, the German army came better prepared with heavier coats, sturdier boots, tougher winter gear.

Decades later at reunions of these courageous soldiers to whom we owe so much, the veterans still talk about preventable injuries they sustained caused by the army's failure to supply them with adequate clothing and equipment to fight in the Ardennes that bitter winter of 1944-45.

From bitter cold to heavy rains flooding foxholes forcing their abandonment, the low visibility and cloudy conditions prevented the Allies at first from launching air strikes. Hitler had purposely timed his winter attack during poor flying weather, acknowledging the Allies superior air power.

"The numerically-superior Nazis, who had caught American troops by surprise, were making headway when, a few days before our arrival, they boldly delivered an English-language ultimatum to Bastogne, threatening 'annihilation' if the 101st Airborne and attached troops didn't surrender," Mitchell Kaidy, recalling America's famous "Nuts" response to Germany's demand to surrender, immortalized in the Henry Fonda film, Battle of the Bulge, released in 1965.

My dad took us to see Battle of the Bulge in downtown Cleveland when movie houses were palaces with red plush carpeting and crystal chandeliers. Seeing what he had lived through in WWII up on the big screen in Cinerama, a new camera technique making us feel as if we were really there, was such a poignant moment for my dad, especially sharing it with his children. In the closing credits, the film is dedicated to the million who fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

Victories by the 87th Infantry Division in towns outside of Bastogne at Libramont, St. Hubert, Moircy, Pironpre, and Tillet "broke the back" of the German counteroffensive and liberated Bastogne, critically important in winning the Battle of the Bulge, assesses historian Kaidy. Overcoming youth and inexperience, hellish weather, and not enough time to conduct adequate reconnaissance, coupled with the 11th Infantry Division's not being able to coordinate with the 87th as planned, due to the 11th's massive casualties, all this made the 87th's harrowing victories, including hand-to-hand combat in Tillet, even more impressive.

Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton: "While the 11th's armor had stalled, the infantrymen of the 87th were more successful on the Corps' left. On Dec. 31, Jan. 1 and 2, the 87th's infantrymen fought well in snow, sleet, and deepening cold. They accomplished their mission of cutting the highway linking the Germans at St. Hubert with supply sources back in Germany." From Middleton's biography on p. 262, published by Louisiana State University, as related by historian Kaidy.

Gen. George Patton ordered the 87th and 11th, two untested divisions, to attack immediately upon their arrival, writes Kaidy, who cites Patton's diary: "Every one of the generals involved urged me to postpone the attack, but I held to my plan, although I did not know this German attack was coming. Some call it luck, some genius. I call it determination."

The young, inexperienced scholars with high IQ scores, had prevailed despite being far outnumbered by the Germans on the battlefield.

Midway Village Museum's World War II Days. Photo Credit: Lonna Converso

Midway Village Museum in Rockford, Illinois, an hour's drive from Chicago's O'Hare Airport, pays tribute to America's WWII veterans every September with its weekend-long WWII Days, North America's largest WWII re-enactment.

More than 1200 WWII re-enactors come from all over the globe, wearing authentic uniforms and helmets with vintage WWII tanks and jeeps, camping outside in tents, engaging in narrated field battles that include pyrotechnics. Quite the production!

"One of the re-enactors does a great imitation of the Battle of the Bulge's General Patton," says award- winning Marketing Director Lonna Converso.

Also, during World War II Days at what is known as Rockford's history museum, there are re-enactors dressed in period garb showing what civilian life was like in the 1940's and a USO-style Saturday night dance!

My dad, like many of his generation, never talked much about the war. Except when our red-and-white station wagon would careen on Cleveland's icy winter streets or driving through blizzards. Then dad would calm our fears of ending up in a ditch or worse, telling us this was "duck soup" compared with what he went through in WWII. That we'd make it home okay. Unlike our men and women in uniform in harm's way, who don't make it home okay.

So, whenever I see someone in uniform, I make a point of thanking him or her for their service. Whatever the war. Wherever they're stationed. Hope you do, too.

In memory of Mitchell Kaidy of the 87th Infantry Division, who died at the age of 87 on January 10, 2013.

Lonna Saunders may be reached at

Some Pediatricians Are 'Firing' Patients Who Refuse Vaccinations

Thu, 2015-01-29 15:47

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With California gripped by a measles outbreak, Dr. Charles Goodman posted a clear notice in his waiting room and on Facebook: His practice will no longer see children whose parents won't get them vaccinated.

"Parents who choose not to give measles shots, they're not just putting their kids at risk, but they're also putting other kids at risk — especially kids in my waiting room," the Los Angeles pediatrician said.

It's a sentiment echoed by a small number of doctors who in recent years have "fired" patients who continue to believe debunked research linking vaccines to autism. They hope the strategy will lead parents to change their minds; if that fails, they hope it will at least reduce the risk to other children in the office.

The tough-love approach — which comes amid the nation's second-biggest measles outbreak in at least 15 years, with at least 98 cases reported since last month — raises questions about doctors' ethical responsibilities. Most of the measles cases have been traced directly or indirectly to Disneyland in Southern California.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says doctors should bring up the importance of vaccinations during visits but should respect a parent's wishes unless there's a significant risk to the child.

"In general, pediatricians should avoid discharging patients from their practices solely because a parent refuses to immunize his or her child," according to guidelines issued by the group.

However, if the relationship between patient and doctor becomes unworkable, the pediatrics academy says, the doctor may want to encourage the vaccine refuser to go to another physician.

Some mothers who have been dropped by their doctors feel "betrayed and upset," said Dotty Hagmier, founder of the support group Moms in Charge. She said these parents made up their minds about vaccines after "careful research and diligence to understand the risks versus the benefits for their own children's circumstances."

Dropping patients who refuse vaccines has become a hot topic of discussion on SERMO, an online doctor hangout. Some doctors are adamant about not accepting patients who don't believe in vaccinations, with some saying they don't want to be responsible for someone's death from an illness that was preventable.

Others warn that refusing treatment to such people will just send them into the arms of quacks.

The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, or MMR, is 97 percent effective at preventing measles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Measles spreads easily through the air and in enclosed spaces. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. In rare cases, particularly among babies, measles can be deadly. Infection can also cause pregnant women to miscarry or give birth prematurely.

All states require children to get certain vaccinations to enroll in school. California is among 20 states that let parents opt out by obtaining personal belief waivers. Some people worry that vaccines cause developmental problems, despite scientific evidence disproving any link. Others object for religious or philosophical reasons.

Nationally, childhood measles vaccination rates have held steady for years at above 90 percent. But there seem to be growing pockets of unvaccinated people in scattered communities, said Dr. Gregory Wallace of the CDC.

In recent years, nearly all U.S. measles cases have been linked to travelers who caught the virus abroad and spread it in this country among unvaccinated people.

Northern California's Marin County has a high rate of people claiming personal belief exemptions. In 2012, Dr. Nelson Branco and his partners at a Marin County practice started turning away toddlers whose parents refused to make sure they received the measles vaccine.

Branco said 10 to 20 of his practice's 8,000 or so patients left after the change.

Vaccines "can be spooky for parents," Branco said. But "in the end, we have the science. We have the experience that it's the right thing to do."


AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe contributed to this report. Follow Alicia Chang on Twitter at @SciWriAlicia

Medical Marijuana Advocates In Illinois Losing Hope Amid Program's Delays

Thu, 2015-01-29 15:09

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Advocates for medical marijuana in Illinois are concerned that delays in issuing distribution licenses, exacerbated by a change in governors, is keeping the drug from patients who need it.

Former Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, who supported medical marijuana, left office in January without issuing licenses for growth and distribution, leaving it to his successor, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

Rauner, who has expressed skepticism about the licensing process, wants a thorough legal review, his office said, which means more time before the 2013 law can be implemented.

For patients that means no hope of getting the drug until at least June even if the Rauner administration issues licenses in the next month, said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit.

The law requires plants to be grown in Illinois, which takes 4-1/2 months in the best of circumstances.

"We're pretty concerned - we've been waiting for a long time," Lindsey said. Supporters had hoped licenses would be issued last fall.

Illinois is one of 23 states plus the District of Columbia that permits medical marijuana. Illinois' trial program expires in 2017.

Lindsey said he believes Rauner is "trying to be careful, but in the process he's really failing our seriously ill patients in Illinois."

The Quinn administration prepared lists of businesses qualified to receive the licenses before he left office, according to recently released documents.

A Quinn administration spokesperson said that while state agencies made substantial progress evaluating applicants, Quinn decided to turn the job over to Rauner for proper review.

Rauner's office said it will refer its findings to the state Attorney General's office.

Democratic State Representative Lou Lang, a medical marijuana supporter, said Quinn's staff used blind scoring procedures to eliminate favoritism in picking who should get licenses, and it was a shame Quinn didn't issue them.

"Now we have a governor who's not a big fan of the program and has to be convinced to move forward," Lang said.

Lang said a patient or potential distributor who got a high qualifying score may sue to move things along.

Marla Levi, 51, who has multiple sclerosis, said she felt betrayed by Quinn.

But she doesn't mind the Rauner administration going through the lists again to ensure the right people will be growing and dispensing the drug.

"We know how government has worked in Illinois ... we want to know everything," Levi said. (Editing by Eric Walsh)

Three fun facts from the 2014 Illinois governor's race

Thu, 2015-01-29 14:02
Illinois' 2014 governor's race was a big one for the state--record spending and the first Republican governor elected in 12 years.

We've extracted some more fun facts about the race from a new study from the Paul Simon Institute of Public Policy at Southern Illinois University.

6. Bruce Rauner is far from the biggest spender in a governor's race

Bruce Rauner put more than $27.5 million of his own money into his successful campaign for governor. That's a lot for Illinois, but falls far short of other wealthy candidates in recent elections. eBay CEO Meg Whitman put $114 million of her fortune into a campaign she lost to Democrat Jerry Brown in California's 2010 governor's race. Michael Bloomberg spent $70 million of his own money to win his first term as New York City mayor.

5. The 2011 income tax increase defined the race

When Quinn persuaded his Democratic party colleagues in the House and Senate to pass a 67 percent income tax increase shortly before a new General Assembly was to be sworn in in January 2011, the intent was to address the state's bill backlog. But by making the tax increase temporary and setting it to expire Jan. 1, 2015, Democrats ensured that it would be Issue No. 1 in the 2014 gubernatorial race.

4. Quinn's nominal Democratic primary opponent made his mark

Though Chicago community activist Tio Hardiman was "an unknown candidate from Chicago who had no money, no media, and no campaign staff," he won 30 downstate counties and 28 percent of the vote statewide in the Democratic primary.

Check out three more fun facts from the study at Reboot Illinois, and find out what factor really sealed the deal on Quinn's loss.

Speaking of lists, here's another one: The most interesting things learned in Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis' interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

1. She is back to work

Lewis took some time off from her CTU presidential duties in October when she first learned she had a brain tumor, she said. She still hasn't taken the reins back fully from CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, but is starting to join such work as negotiating CTU contracts with Chicago Public Schools.

From the Sun-Times:

She also has a new governor to meet, one who likes charter schools more than labor unions, and a new standardized test to fight alongside CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

2. She is campaigning for Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for mayor

If she can't run for mayor herself, Garcia is the second-best bet in Lewis' book. She hopes the Cook County Board commissioner can get the votes to overtake Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and is even appearing with him at campaign stops.

From the Sun-Times:

"He's very laid-back because he's getting things done, solving problems, not screaming and hollering at people," she said, with a jab at Emanuel. "And I think people mistake that kindness for weakness."

See the rest of the list at Reboot Illinois to find out how often Lewis has spoken with Mayor Rahm Emanuel since October.

NEXT ARTICLE: How much did Bruce Rauner spend on TV advertising in the 2014 election?

You Can't Unsee How Justin Bieber's Calvin Klein Ad Looked 'Before' Photoshop

Thu, 2015-01-29 13:43
Photoshop: taking celebrity beauty from No. 2 to No. 1.

You sensed something was up with Justin Bieber's Calvin Klein underwear ad. You couldn't put your finger on it, but something smelled off. Well, after some in-depth investigative journalism, we now know the truth.

CollegeHumor doesn't pull any punches in this reverse time-lapse video, revealing Justin Bieber's true identity, obscured by now-infamous photos for Calvin Klein.

Photoshop level: Magic.

'The Nightly Show' Takes On The Koch Brothers' Dark Money ... Or, Rather, 'Old, White Money'

Thu, 2015-01-29 13:11
More like Koch 10 zeroes, amrite?!

With over $40 billion dollars in total assets EACH, the Koch brothers are a force to be reckoned with when it comes to political contributions, especially now that corporations are all living, breathing people and not simply unmarked mailboxes in the Caribbean.

On Wednesday's "Nightly Show," Larry and his guests discuss "dark money," and he doesn't mean his short-lived '80s rap group.

"The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore" airs weeknights at 11:30 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.

3 Things The New England Patriots Need To Do To Win The Super Bowl

Thu, 2015-01-29 10:29
After a disappointing 2-2 start to the season, New England's streak of nine of 10 AFC East crowns and three consecutive trips to the AFC Championship appeared to be in serious jeopardy. Tom Brady, at 37 years old, was playing the worst football of his career, culminating in an embarrassing Monday Night Football road loss to Kansas City. And yet, as Bill Belichick's teams seem to do on an annual basis, they adapted. Now the AFC's top overall seed, the Patriots enter the Super Bowl in fifth gear, amid equal parts success and controversy (see above and below videos). Brady holds an impressive slate of playoff records, including most wins (20), touchdown passes (49) and yards passing (7,017).

Let's take a look at the three most vital elements for success.


When Brady has ample time, he's been called a statue in the pocket. That is what needs to happen against Seattle, a defense that has led the NFL for three straight years (the first time a team has had that run since Minnesota did it in 1971). Part of protecting Brady is quick drops and progressions that result in less time for the defense to generate a pass rush. Brady, for his part, is deftly accurate with such throws, and his 24 "short" touchdowns ranked third in the league, per ESPN The Magazine. Furthermore, the Seahawks were a woeful 27th against the short passing game. Brady, to his benefit, has developed a strong rapport with receivers Julian Edelman (92 catches in the regular season) and free agent acquisition Brandon LaFell, who totaled 74 catches for nearly 1,000 yards). All of this will open the seam for All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has become equally lethal in slant routes inside the 20s. The Seahawks, meanwhile, were the third-worst in the league in terms of touchdowns surrendered to opposing tight ends.


LeGarrette Blount has a similarly bruising running style that can be very effective against aggressive defenses like Seattle's. Blount -- who returned to New England late in the season following a failed experiment with Pittsburgh -- has become as close to a bell-cow runner as one can expect in a Bill Belichick-coached team. Most recently, he gashed Indianapolis in the AFC Championship for 148 yards and three scores. The Seahawks have had great success against the run, thanks in large part to a trio of linebackers that fly to the ball and tackle just about everything. The return of a healthy Bobby Wagner, a first-team All-Pro, has been the impetus to this defense getting back to an elite level. With Wagner on the field, Seattle allows a rushing touchdown every 82 carries, per ESPN The Magazine. But when he's not on the field, that number triples.

Like to Lynch, Blount is not a burner, but a highly patient runner with tremendous feet and vision that wears down defenses in the second half. Six feet tall and 250 lbs., he tends to get stronger as the game progresses. We can talk about Brady and the Pats' quick-strike offense all we want, but balance has been crucial to this offense, and Blount is a key reason why.


One of the most crucial matchups in Super Bowl 49 will be how the Patriots handle the dynamic scrambling ability of Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Because he lacks a traditional go-to receiving option, Wilson relies heavily on his feet to both extend plays as a passer and as a runner. In fact, his 849 rushing yards this season not only led the NFL, but ranked sixth all-time in league history for a quarterback. But New England features a slew of athletic linebackers who can really run. Despite the season-ending loss of Jerod Mayo in Week 6, the duo of Dont'a Hightower (drafted in 2012) and Jamie Collins (drafted in 2013 -- and a former draft sleeper of this writer) -- have become arguably as important as the team's stellar duo at cornerback, Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty. Collins (above) led the team with 109 tackles while producing four sacks and four forced fumbles. Hightower finished the regular season second in team tackles with 92, while adding 12 quarterback hits as well. How the two young linebackers read their keys, play assignment football and ultimately disrupt Wilson's timing and comfort level could determine the game.

You can read more of the Schultz Report's Super Bowl coverage right here.

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

Illinois Educational Funding -- Expect Deep Cuts

Thu, 2015-01-29 10:20
Within 24 hours of Governor Bruce Rauner taking office, numerous media outlets reported on his immediate steps to rectify Illinois' dire financial situation. While his first acts as governor weren't earth-shattering, they are more than we've seen in recent years as previous administrations have allowed the state to fall further into debt.

Nonessential spending is now frozen and every executive branch agency must report on every contract and hiring decision made after mid-November. Calling it the "road to fiscal responsibility," Gov. Rauner also is putting a stop to grants and plans to sell excess state property. Click here to read more from the Daily Herald.

These moves already are making waves among politicians who argue the new governor (often criticized for his business approach) is in for a tough time as he learns to play the political game. Unilateral decisions don't work in politics, and overnight change most assuredly won't happen, especially with an Illinois deficit at an estimated $150 billion that has taken decades to grow.

In his speech earlier this month, Gov. Rauner also stressed the importance of education, citing a need to invest in adequate training for future generations. Given that legislators are considering redirecting MAP grant funds and reducing higher education funding by 20 to 30 percent, the state of education funding in Illinois remains unknown. As I have predicted for many years, it is my belief that funding for higher education will continue to evaporate over the next several years and state leaders will focus education solely on K-12. In fact, the last time most institutions have received their full 33 percent of operating funds from the state dates back to the 1980s.

Gov. Rauner has said he's open to extending the five percent personal income tax rate, as expected, but he also has plans to expand Illinois' sales tax base. These are lofty goals for a four-year term. Fixing the situation will require tough, tangible decisions and somewhere along the line cuts -- deep cuts -- should be expected.

With these cuts comes no other option for many institutions but to put the cost of higher education on the backs of students. During President Obama's State of the Union address on January 20, the President mentioned the Federal administration's proposal to offer free community college tuition. The details of the America's College Promise are, at this point, vague. Click here to read an article from Community College Daily.

What we do know is that the program will cost an estimated $60 billion and to participate, states will have to partner with the federal government and pledge to fund 25 percent of this expense. To be eligible for free tuition at a community college, students will have to maintain a 2.5 grade point average and not all college programs will qualify. Not surprisingly, the state funding portion of this proposal is likely to cause problems for a number of states, including Illinois.

Aside from funding, however, there are other concerns. If this program is implemented and community colleges throughout the country see an influx of students, are these campuses equipped to accommodate the growth? College of DuPage already is near capacity at peak hours during the week. We're currently taking steps to construct a new instructional building. We are fortunate enough to be in a financial position to allow for this type of expansion, but many schools are not. How then are they to prepare without additional funding?

I have no doubt that free community college would benefit a large number of students. Community colleges can and do change lives. (Click here for a recent Op/Ed piece written by Tom Hanks on his experience at Chabot College in California.)

Bringing "free college" to the larger national stage, however, is a huge undertaking. It will be interesting to see what the federal budget and state buy-ins reveal in terms of this proposed initiative.

Note: A portion of the following article written by College of DuPage President Dr. Robert L. Breuder was printed in an internal newsletter for COD employees on Jan. 20, 2015.

Rahm Emanuel's Biggest Threat: 'I Like The Idea Of A Fight'

Thu, 2015-01-29 10:13
On Feb. 24, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is up for re-election.

Emanuel has out-fundraised his closest challenger almost 30-to-1 and has benefited from an improved approval rating thanks to a barrage of TV campaign ads, but some still believe the mayor remains vulnerable due to voter anger over the mass closing of some 50 public schools and half the city’s mental health clinics, Chicago's increased shooting rate, and other issues.

Cook County Commissioner and mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is one of the believers.

Garcia entered the race late, declaring his candidacy in late October after fiery Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis suspended her own campaign due to health issues. In fact, it was at Lewis's insistence that Garcia launched his campaign.

In the weeks since that decision, Garcia has built an impressive operation and gained some traction, if not fundraising. Among four candidates to attract more than 5 percent support in the latest major poll on the race, Garcia drew 18 percent of respondents, second only to Emanuel's 42 percent. Twenty percent of Chicago voters remain undecided.

If voter turnout in Chicago mirrors that seen in last November's election, Emanuel's challengers — who also include Alderman Bob Fioretti and entrepreneur Willie Wilson — face an uphill climb to the fifth floor of City Hall. But a two-person run-off, required when no mayoral candidate earns 50 percent of the vote, is possible. In 2011, Emanuel avoided a runoff with 55 percent of the vote.

Garcia, 59, sat down with The Huffington Post to explain why he thinks this time will be different.

The Huffington Post: A Reuters article recently labeled you an “underdog” in this race. What do you make of that title?
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia: I relish the label of an underdog because I believe that’s been sort of a frame from the first time I ran for elected office as ward committeeman when I was 27 years old, and I won that contest by 59 votes. When I ran for state Senate folks thought it was a long shot, but I won it. When I ran for [the county board], after being out of politics after the state Senate, I decided to run five days before the last day to file and I came in and surprised everyone and I beat a 15-year incumbent [Joseph Mario Moreno] in three months, so I’ve done it before.

I’m used to adversarial conditions and coming out a winner. I like the idea of a fight. We’re matched against big money but remember, he’s already spent $5 million trying to inch up to the threshold he needs to get re-elected without a runoff. He’s not going to achieve it.

HP: Karen Lewis said she had to “twist your arm” to convince you to run.
JG: She says that in a jesting manner, a playful manner, just like when I went to visit her after she came home from hospital, I said I wanted to take a picture of her stitches so I could show people that she had had the surgery and that she’s tough and earned some additional stripes of merit. When she popped the question and the challenge that I seriously needed to consider running, I shared with her that I was at a really good place at this time of my life.

HP: Why was the decision so hard and what changed your mind and convinced you to go for it?
JG: First of all, I was cruising unopposed to a re-election effort at the county board and that this was the first time ever in all my 13 outings as a candidate that I ran unopposed. I was looking forward to getting a chance to read books that are stacking up, check out a few movies, walk my dog and enjoy the grandkids, so I‘m like, 'Why are you ruining the party, Karen?' That's what she was getting at, that accepting the challenge was going to entail a huge sacrifice. It was going to be a life changer and it needed careful thought by myself and my family.

Garcia with Karen Lewis, left, at the Chicago Teachers Union's Martin Luther King Jr. clergy breakfast on Jan. 15, 2015. (Facebook)

HP: Still, some people have questioned, given the level of fundraising and the perception of your initial hesitation to run, how serious you are about this campaign. How do you respond to people who question your candidacy like that?
JG: I don’t think they’re looking deeper at my history. I’m not your conventional politician. I’ve been in the trenches, seeking to come up with strategies to improve communities and solve issues in a serious way both as an organizer as a community builder. I’m someone who’s been involved with philanthropy supporting the most effective and impactful organizing groups in the Chicagoland area. As a public official, I haven’t gone the conventional route of Chicago politics. I’ve been a progressive, consistent reformer and coalition builder. I don’t think any elected official has been in more picket lines in labor causes than I have. I think that opinion tends to be superficial.

HP: What do you think is the biggest issue for Chicago voters in this race?
JG: I think people want a mayor who is going to be a real listener and who cares. People feel alienated from Mayor Emanuel. They feel that he thinks he knows all the answers to all things and that there is a sense about him that they don’t share, a quality, and that is the aloofness and the arrogance about knowing more than what Chicagoans know. I think that strikes them very negatively because they’re the Chicagoans. They’ve lived in this city, they know what it’s like to work, to struggle to raise a family, to endure the day in and day out of living in Chicago’s neighborhoods, the good times and the bad times.

People are hurting from the recession. People feel that they’re not progressing, that their incomes have lost ground or stagnated and they also see that a small sector of the city has done fantastically well and they haven’t. They want the prosperity that they see around them to arrive to their household and to their neighborhood and they want a sense of helping to shape the direction the city moves in.

HP: You’ve said you want to hire 1,000 new cops in Chicago. How would you pay for that and how would you deploy them? And how do you respond to those who say the city doesn’t need more police given all the issues with community mistrust in the department?
JG: My proposal to hire additional policemen and women is not simply to have them driving in cars with the sirens and lights flashing, because that doesn’t provide sustainable security for communities. We haven’t had community policing in Chicago. We took one first step with the CAPS [community policing] program and beat meetings that occurred, but we didn’t follow through to create a more robust approach and we need to do that. If we learned anything from Ferguson and New York City, it’s that there’s a great gulf of separation and a lack of trust and mutual respect between residents and police officers and that’s why community policing will help ensure we begin to narrow that. We’ve really gotten away from community policing and it needs to be brought back.

HP: There have been serious questions raised in multiple media outlets about the Chicago Police Department’s crime statistics and accusations that certain numbers are doctored. (Ed. note: CPD has called such reports "absurd," "false, misleading and unsubstantiated," while the outlets have stood by their reporting.)
JG: i think it’s to a good degree representative of the [Emanuel] administration. The police superintendent works at the pleasure of the mayor and there are certain imperatives that come with that. You’ve got to do what the mayor wants says and toe the line. It’s no secret if you talk to police officers, they’ll tell you that there’s a sense that the numbers are not accurate, that they’re fudged and that everything is to get to a re-election of the mayor.

HP: How would you address that level of scrutiny and mistrust in the department?
JG: The Chicago magazine article reported on how crimes are reported or not reported and how one shooting incident where five people shot is reported as one -- it’s killing crime through the lens of how the numbers are arrived at. Officers, because of the use of overtime, are suffering from burnout and a lack of motivation to engage in a different type of policing. They feel understaffed and it creates more fatigue and I think it takes a toll on the quality of patrolling that occurs. It’s not a good time at the police department, I would say.

In this Nov. 24, 2014 file photo, Garcia, second from left, and his wife, Evelyn, give thumbs-up after he turned in his nominating petitions at the Chicago Board of Elections in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

HP: Emanuel is a supporter of a controversial mandatory minimum sentencing state bill [for crimes involving illegal possession of firearms] and has pushed aggressively for it, as has Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Do you back the proposal?
JG: I support strong sentences for individuals who are convicted of using a gun committed in a crime. The sentencing bill he has supported I think continues the thrust of disproportionately incarcerating young people of color and I don’t think that’s good. I think he’s using it to show he’s “tough on crime” but the repercussions for the future are counterproductive. That’s why most of civil rights groups oppose it and that’s why people who have been looking for solutions to improve the quality of life for young people oppose it. It will send more people to jail unnecessarily. This bill is wrong-headed.

HP: When was the last time you spoke with Rahm Emanuel? What did you speak about? [Ed. note: Interview was conducted prior to a Jan. 27 debate hosted by the Chicago Tribune editorial board.]
JG: I bumped into him at a 5k run on a Saturday morning in early November of 2014 in West Englewood and shook his hand. That was the last time that we exchanged any words. We were both cordial.

HP: So, no swearing or anything like that?
JG: Too many people around. [Laughs] And the media.

Interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

2015 U.S. Best Ranked Cities for Hotels

Thu, 2015-01-29 10:11

You don't have to sacrifice quality in order to pay less for a hotel, and to make sure that you're staying in the best rooms available while still paying the ideal price, hotel search has compiled America's Top 50 Cities for quality accommodation. Combining and averaging hotel ratings for every city in America with at least 50 hotel properties, and aggregating hotel ratings from 31 websites, trivago's list of Top 50 Best Ranked Cities for Hotels will help travelers of all types sleep stress-free during their 2015 adventures.

Breaking Down 2015's US Best Ranked Cities for Hotels

Arizona leads the 2015 Best Ranked Cities list with cities in first and third place, but it's Florida that dominates with three cities in the Top 10 and a total of nine in the Top 50.

© Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau

2015's Best Ranked city for quality hotels, with an average hotel rating of 84.3%, is a scenic respite from the hectic pace of city life. Sedona's cooler temperature makes it a haven from the rest of Arizona's blistering heat, and lets adventurers hike red rock canyons, slide or wade along Oak Creek in Slide Rock State Park, and explore the surrounding Verde Valley all year long.

© Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

Phoenix (#48) may be in the spotlight as it hosts the Seahawks v. Patriots NFL championship, but it's Scottsdale, Arizona -- an artistic haven just 20 minutes away -- that takes bronze with an average hotel rating of 82.9%.

© Naples Marco Island Everglades CVB

Everything is coming up roses in sunny Florida, as the state nabs a record number of cities on both the Best Ranked Hotels and Best Value Indexes for 2015. Just steps away from the untamed Everglades, Naples takes the number two spot with an overall hotel rating of 83% and boasts chic shopping and a world-class beach.

The palm-lined streets of Key West (#6) follow close behind, with an average hotel rating of 82.7% and an easygoing island culture shaped by Bahamian wreckers and a Cuban heritage -- not to mention a Jimmy Buffet Martaritaville state-of-mind.

© Charleston Area CVB

Voted the 2014 "Friendliest City" by Condé Nast Traveler, Charleston (#5) proves that Southern hospitality is alive and thriving with an average hotel rating of 82.8%. Travelers searching for more Antebellum charm or craving Cajun cuisine should venture just outside of our Top 10 to Savannah, Georgia (#15) and New Orleans, Louisiana (#16), whose respective average hotel ratings of 81.3% and 81.2% will not disappoint.

Perennial favorite Lake Buena Vista takes the number eight slot with an average hotel rating of 82.5%, narrowly beating out the other family-friendly favorite Santa Fe (#9) at 82.3%. Santa Fe's renowned New Mexican cuisine, legendary art scene, and 1.5 million miles of unspoiled Rio Grande will give your family plenty of options, while a visit to Lake Buena Vista's Walt Disney World and Epcot theme parks are sure to keep everyone entertained.


Finally, rounding out the Top 10 are some of America's most storied, historically significant, and largest metropolises with Chicago (#4), Washington D.C. (#7), and Boston (#10). A visit to Washington's Lincoln Memorial or Boston's infamous harbor is an amazing opportunity to stand amongst American history, and it's basically the law (or should be) that visitors to the Midwest can't possibly go home without trying a three-inch high slice of Chicago deep-dish pizza.

*About Reputation Ranking
The Reputation Ranking examines destinations globally to determine those with the most reputable hotels, based on their collective hotel ratings. Over 140 million hotel ratings aggregated from 31 booking sites were used to calculate the Reputation Ranking. Hotels with more than 60 reviews and cities in the U.S. with over 50 hotels were analyzed, with 100% as a perfect score.

For more travel inspiration, check out our blog trivago checkin!