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Abner Mikva, Presidential Medal Of Freedom Recipient And Former Congressman, Dies

Tue, 2016-07-05 13:33

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CHICAGO (Reuters) - Abner Mikva, who served as a White House adviser, federal judge, congressman and mentor to President Barack Obama, has died at age 90, his Chicago non-profit organization said on Tuesday.


Mikva, who died on Monday, emerged in the 1950s as a liberal reform leader who defied an electoral culture in Illinois dominated by machine politicians before moving on to Washington.


Obama, who presented Mikva the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, credited Mikva with steering him into public service when the future president was a law school student.


"He saw something in me that I didn't yet see in myself, but I know why he did it," Obama said in a statement. "Ab represented the best of public service himself and he believed in empowering the next generation of young people to shape our country ...


"Like so many admirers, I’ve lost a mentor and a friend."



Mikva also served as former President Bill Clinton's White House counsel.


U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois called Mikva "my North Star for integrity."


"In an era of cynicism and disappointment, Abner's record of public service was proof that the good guys can win without selling their souls," he said in a statement.


Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan issued the following statement to HuffPost on Mikva's passing:



Ab Mikva gave me my first job -- and my first chance -- in the law. For that alone, I owe him a deep debt of gratitude. But far more important, I am thankful to him for modeling, for me and so many others, how to live a life dedicated to public service. For more than 60 years, Ab devoted his extraordinary gifts of intellect, wisdom, energy, and spirit to advancing the public good and strengthening the country he loved. He was a person of complete integrity and unwavering principle. I count myself honored to have had him as a mentor and to have been his friend. I send my deepest condolences to Zoe, to Mary, Laurie, and Rachel, and to all their families. May his memory be a blessing.



Mikva's first brush with politics came in 1948 as a University of Chicago law student, when he approached a city ward boss about volunteering for the Democratic campaigns of gubernatorial candidate Adlai Stevenson and senatorial candidate Paul Douglas.


"The quintessential Chicago ward committeeman takes the cigar out of his mouth, says, 'Who sent you kid?' And I said, 'Nobody sent me.' He puts the cigar back in his mouth and said, 'We don't want nobody sent,' and that was my introduction to Chicago politics," Mikva recounted in an oral history recorded by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.


Mikva was elected to the Illinois state legislature in 1956 and served in the U.S. House during the 1960s and 1970s.


In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where he became chief judge. One of his law clerks was Elena Kagan, now a U.S. Supreme Court justice.


Mikva remained on the bench until 1994, when he was appointed by Clinton as White House counsel.


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who worked on one of Mikva's congressional re-election campaigns, issued a statement calling him "one of the great public servants of our time."


Mikva's death was confirmed by Mikva Challenge, a leadership program for Chicago youth, but it did not provide a cause of death.


(Editing by Fiona Ortiz and Bill Trott)

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July 4th Celebrations Marred By Fears Of Terrorism, Gun Violence

Mon, 2016-07-04 09:18

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States celebrates July Fourth on Monday with parades, hotdog eating contests and fireworks shows amid heightened security because of concerns about terrorism in New York and timeworn holiday gun violence in Chicago.


Millions of Americans will mark independence from Britain with celebrations as boisterous as a music-packed party by country music legend Willie Nelson for 10,000 people at a race track in Austin, Texas and as staid as colonial-era costumed actors reading the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives in Washington.



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History may be in the making in the traditional hotdog-eating contest at New York's Coney Island. Joey "Jaws" Chestnut - a world record holder who ate 69 hotdogs in 10 minutes - attempts to regain his Mustard Yellow International Belt from Matt Stonie, who last year ended Chestnut's run of eight straight victories.


With the holiday taking place days after the attack at Istanbul's international airport, the New York Police Department will deploy eight new canines known as vapor wake dogs, trained to sniff out body-worn explosives, Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Friday.


The department's human presence this holiday will be increased by nearly 2,000 new officers who graduated Friday from the New York City Police Academy. 


"As we always have the capacity in New York to put out a lot of resources, that's the name of the game, in dealing with terrorist threats," Bratton said.


Police in Chicago, which has seen a spike in gun murders this year, announced a stepped up presence with more than 5,000 officers on patrol over the long weekend, traditionally one of the year's most violent, said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Local media reported on Friday that 24 people had been shot over the past 24 hours, three fatally.



Dry weather forecasts across the country thrilled fireworks lovers, although some spots in Michigan have been so rain-starved that pyrotechnic shows were canceled in a handful of communities near Detroit to prevent fires.


NFL star Jason Pierre-Paul, who lost fingers as one of the 12,000 people injured and 11 killed in fireworks accidents last year, appeared in a public service announcement ahead of the 2016 holiday to urge greater caution.


"I lit up a firework, thought I could throw it away real quick and in a split second it blew off my whole hand," the New York Giants defensive end said in the spot produced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Fiona Ortiz in Chicago, Adam DeRose in Washington, and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Alistair Bell)

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Celebration Time? State Legislature Passes Budget, Sorta

Fri, 2016-07-01 13:30
MATT DIETRICH: Madeleine, I hope you don't mind that I'm typing with one hand while holding a lit sparkler in the other. I'm getting an early start on my July 4 celebration in honor of the amazing action today in Springfield.



MADELEINE DOUBEK: Matt, a whole sparkler? What you call amazing in your hometown, the approval of some 12-month funding for all levels of schooling in Illinois and a six-month stopgap budget for most else, is good, but not quite amazing. It's half a sparkler that fizzles out in a matter of seconds. Do you have any more sparkler-spending plans for the rest of us in Illinois?

MATT: Oh wait. I'm not celebrating the non-budget that passed in Springfield. I'm joyous for the many Illinois lawmakers who managed to delay making hard decisions on taxes and spending until after they're safely re-elected. Splendid job on all sides! This calls for a bottle rocket.



MADELEINE: Non budget? What-chu talkin' bout, Willis? House Speaker Mike Madigan is telling me right now all about how he's made sure the middle class is protected because he made sure the Governor dropped his personal agenda. Oh, but wait, he just admitted our work is not done. Is that what you mean, Matt?



MATT: A six-month plan to help state government limp to the finish line of calendar year 2017 is not a budget. A budget will require raising taxes and making some people angry with cuts. Hard decisions. I hereby deploy a Sizzlin Skyburst Barrage® in honor of their avoidance!
MADELEINE: Oh, Matt. I hear you and I'll raise you a sparkler. I say people are already angry. Not enough of them, to be sure, but with one million people already having lost services and higher education still taking a cut, I think the anger will rise by Nov. 8.

MATT: As we've discussed before, most of them won't have much chance to vent on Election Day. But we saw a lot of anger coming to the surface when college students and social services protested at the Capitol this year. I think all sides know they're on thin ice now so maybe we'll see real results when they return to Springfield on Nov. 15.

MADELEINE: Well, Matt, I hope you're right. I know you're right that most of them won't have much chance to vent because more than two-thirds of lawmakers up for election don't have any real competition. Don't know if it's good or bad, but certainly a coincidence that redistricting reform was being argued in Cook County Court at the same time the stopgap budget was debated.

They've wasted a year and a half that could have been spent overhauling tax and spending policies in this state and doing something about all these special funds where they magically found money. Although state Rep. David McSweeney called to tell me he voted no because he thinks this is going to make our debt worse and sets us all up for a massive tax increase.


MATT:  I have no idea what Rep. McSweeney or Gov. Rauner define as "massive," but there's no way we right the state's ship and pay $8 billion in back bills without more tax revenue. We also need to get our workers' compensation insurance rates down, and that can be done without throwing the middle class into the streets. Oh November will be so much fun when this starts all over again.

By the way, I bet Illinois could make a nice tax haul if we'd legalize fireworks like Indiana and Missouri.

The tyranny of Illinois' fireworks laws ends at my backyard! #blowitup pic.twitter.com/z3JhSjSiyg


-- Matt Dietrich (@Aquavelvetman) July 5, 2015

MADELEINE: We absolutely can bring our workers' comp rates down without throwing the middle class into the streets. We also can find some way to provide some property tax relief, which we need more than ever. I've seen plenty of local governments "preparing" for the impasse and state cuts by levying as much as possible. And hey, Chicago, guess what? The state stopgap budget deal gives the Chicago school board an invitation to pass a property tax for teachers' pensions. Can you say, "Give me another tax increase, please!"

All in all, the politicians were more careful about patting themselves on the back and for good reason -- You've heard of a day late and a dollar short? Well, the stopgap is half a plan one and one-half years late. Wave your sparkler now, Matt. Next week, we redouble the fight to fix Illinois. Whadya say we launch #ILNotEnough?


MATT: An excellent point to end on, Madeleine. Happy Independence Day to you and all Reboot Illinois readers. I leave you with four words of wisdom: Light fuse, get away.

Recommended: Here's where to watch fireworks over Fourth of July weekend

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Is the Stopgap Budget a Step in the Right Direction or "Groundhog Day" Replay?

Fri, 2016-07-01 13:22
The Illinois budget agreement hammered out on June 30 will allow state government to avoid outright collapse through calendar year 2016, but it hardly fits the definition of what a real "budget" should be.

Just as your household budget addresses more than just what's for dinner tonight, so should a state budget look beyond simply avoiding imminent disaster. A state budget is more akin to a government game plan for the year ahead. It defines the state's needs and figures out how to pay for them.

The plan passed on June 30 will get Illinois through the year, but the same issues that caused the yearlong budget impasse still loom as large as ever.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Springfield on Nov. 15 for their fall veto session. That's when the momentary peace in the budget battle that began July 1 will end. Gov. Bruce Rauner said just before signing the June 30 stopgap plan that he still will not sign any tax increase until the General Assembly passes business and political reforms he says will revitalize the state economy in the long run.

And in a floor speech after the House passed the temporary plan, House Speaker Michael Madigan reiterated his oft-stated contention that Rauner's reform agenda has no place in state budget talks.

Perhaps, though, once the Nov. 8 elections are over, the rhetoric will be tamed. Maybe then Madigan will realize that Illinois business is struggling under the highest workers' compensation insurance rates in the country. And that changes can be made to the workers' compensation system that will bring down insurance rates for employees while not casting Illinois' middle class into poverty.

Perhaps by then Rauner will accept that his vision for workers' comp reform isn't necessarily the only plan that could meet the goal of reducing insurance costs.

Without voters or other constituent groups to fear, maybe both sides will be willing to make the difficult but necessary decisions Illinois needs to get a true budget in place.

We hope so, because if not, we're doomed to another year of damaging gridlock and further deterioration of state finances. Kind of like an endless loop of the movie "Groundhog Day," only with things getting worse every time the alarm clock goes off.

That's what we're talking about on this week's "Only in Illinois."



Recommended: Decision on Illinois redistricting reform lawsuit expected by July 21

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It's Time To Do Something About Prosecutors Who Break The Rules

Thu, 2016-06-30 19:02
My name is John Thompson. I am the victim of an attempted murder in New Orleans. The authorities know who the person is who tried to kill me, but they've never tried to bring him to justice. The man was a prosecutor, Jim Williams. He knew I was innocent, but he tried me for murder and argued for my execution. I spent 14 years on death row because of him, and four more in prison before I was exonerated in 2003.

Williams worked for Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick, Sr., who was the D.A. for decades. I was not the only one to suffer because of Williams' behavior -- he secured death sentences against six other men -- all of which were overturned, most because of prosecutorial misconduct. Connick's prosecutors sent scores of innocent Black men up the river to Angola prison -- either to die there or to live out our days on the plantation. Our lives didn't matter. They still don't. They wielded their prosecutorial power as they pleased, terrorizing the poor. They knew no one would care and no-one would pay attention. And they were right. No-one has ever tried to bring them to justice for it.

Jim Williams was so zealous in his pursuit of the death penalty that he even posed for a picture with the mini-electric chair on his desk on which he had taped the faces of the men that he had wrongfully sent to death row. The toy electric chair was his trophy for his kills. He posed with it like white men used to pose around the body of a Black man they had lynched. Proud. Defiant. The picture appeared in Esquire Magazine.

Williams could have been stopped. He could have been fired. He could have been brought to justice for what he did. But he wasn't.

Williams could have been stopped. He could have been fired. He could have been brought to justice for what he did. But he wasn't.

After some of the illegal behavior committed by prosecutors in the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office was exposed, Mr. Connick expressed concern to the public about what had happened on his watch, and named one of his loyal, young prosecutors, John Jerry Glas, as a special prosecutor to find out how these injustices had happened, and who was responsible. After looking into the misconduct, Glas told Connick that he was ready to indict Williams and possibly three others in the office, but Connick shut down the special grand jury.

Apparently, Connick wasn't willing to come clean about what had happened after all.

In shock, Glas resigned. But no one cared and nobody took any action to hold Williams or his colleagues accountable for their shameful actions, or to stop the bloodthirsty culture of cheating.

So it was left to me to try. I sued the prosecutor's office for what they did to me. A jury in Louisiana awarded me $14 million dollars for the 14 years of living hell they put me through. The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld my settlement, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the damages, ruling 5-4 that prosecutors can't be held liable for their misconduct, even when they deliberately cheat to convict an innocent person. Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the opinion, argued that prosecutorial ethics, education, and training, internal supervision, bar oversight, and even criminal sanctions are enough to make sure prosecutors behave properly. But he is wrong. Study after study, including one by the Yale Law Journal, has shown that prosecutors are almost never held accountable when they cheat or behave illegally. I helped to lead panel discussions across the country showing that the idea of accountability is a lie; a dangerous lie.


Prosecutors are almost never held accountable when they cheat or behave illegally.


I am one of many victims of this totally preventable crime. A new report released today by Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project shows that the prosecutors in the country who have sought the death penalty the most also committed misconduct at alarmingly high rates. Three of the top five deadliest prosecutors in America had misconduct found by courts in at least one-third of their death penalty cases. Four of the five deadliest district attorneys prosecuted, or oversaw the prosecution of, eight people who were later exonerated and released from death row. This total represents approximately one out of every 20 death row exonerations that have occurred nationwide.

My friend Glenn Ford was another one of the victims. He and I spent all 14 of my death row years together. He was exonerated in 2014 after 30 years on death row. He died a year later of cancer. A team of us cared for him around the clock in his final months. He was from Shreveport, one of the death penalty capitals of the South. He was prosecuted with the same kind of bloodthirsty lynch mob mentality that reigned in New Orleans in the 1980s and 1990s. Now they won't compensate his family.


I'm scared for others like me, who will be ripped to shreds by our system because they are poor and Black.


Jim Williams left me for dead. My family, my people, my community and I will never fully move on from that. No one could. I'm scared for others like me, who will be ripped to shreds by our system because they are poor and Black. Their rights don't matter. Their lives don't matter. But I am also scared for you and me -- neighbors in this city, this country where violent crime terrorizes us all too. For when prosecutors cheat with impunity, the wrong person goes to prison and the real perpetrators are out on the streets, free to commit more crimes. My family has been a victim of that kind of crime too. I don't want it any more than you do.

The only people who benefit from prosecutorial misconduct are the real perpetrators of crime who have escaped justice while innocent men and women are locked up for their crimes, those who abuse their prosecutorial power, and the politicians who want to keep it that way.

It's time for a change. Ideas have been proposed by New York Times editorial board and Mitchell Caldwell, a criminal law expert and professor at Pepperdine University School of Law.

The solution isn't simple, but I'm sick of being told there's no solution -- that the torture I endured is just an inevitable byproduct of our system. What happened to me was no ethical lapse or minor infraction, it was premeditated attempted murder, and it was a completely preventable crime.

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There's A Deadly Problem With Our Water Hardly Anyone's Talking About

Thu, 2016-06-30 16:12

In the more than two years that have passed since the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, began, the threat of lead contamination in drinking water nationwide has perhaps never before felt more urgent -- but experts say there is another contaminant that may be linked to the Flint crisis, with deadly results.


Twelve people in the Flint area died of Legionnaires’ disease, a severe pneumonia, following the switch to sourcing drinking water from the Flint River, according to state health officials. A total of 91 cases were reported in Genesee County from 2014 to 2015, more than seven times the number of Legionnaires’ cases the county typically reports. And the number of actual cases are likely even higher, as the number of pneumonia and flu deaths in the county also rose after the switch.



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Legionnaires Is A Problem Nationwide Too

The problem is not limited to Flint. The Centers for Disease Control announced this month that the number of Legionnaires’ cases in the U.S. has almost quadrupled over the past 15 years with about 5,000 people being diagnosed with the disease in 2015. Other estimates put that number closer to 18,000. Among these were the more than 120 people sickened in the Bronx, New York, last year, 12 of whom died, plus another 13 killed and dozens more sickened following an outbreak at a state veterans home in Quincy, Illinois.


The CDC says the rise in Legionnaires’ cases is largely linked to improper water management, most frequently inside buildings that have large water systems, namely hotels, hospitals and other health care facilities. Buildings where the bacteria is present often haven't used enough disinfectant in their water or have not made needed repairs to filters or other equipment.


What Experts Know About Legionnaires'

Legionnaires’ is caused by breathing in small water droplets or mist contaminated with the Legionella bacteria and is named after the site of its first confirmed outbreak, the 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia. The vast majority of cases are so severe that hospitalization — often in the intensive care unit — is necessary. The disease is fatal for about 10 percent of those who contract it.


Dr. Janet Stout, the director of the Special Pathogens Laboratory and a research associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, has been studying Legionella for more than 30 years. She believes many other factors explain the uptick in cases, including: climate change, aging water infrastructure and improved ability to diagnosis the disease.


The bacteria that cause the disease are pesky, too. Legionella are uniquely persistent due to the way the bacteria grows and survives — typically in the biofilm of microorganisms that builds up within a water distribution system over time.


As Erik Olson, health program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, described, once Legionella have colonized a distribution system, standard water treatment technologies can’t do much about it.


“Once it’s out there, it’s pretty hard to get rid of,” Olson told The Huffington Post.


Despite the disease's severity, Stout argues that Legionnaires' often flies under the radar because it largely impacts an older population, compared to the much younger population most severely affected by lead exposure. Also, lead contamination tends to be more widespread versus a Legionnaires' outbreak, which is generally isolated to a specific building. 


"It's kind of puzzling why this doesn't get more attention," Stout added. “These conditions occur across the nation every day, so the conditions are ripe for it to occur again. It's right under our noses."



How We Can Get Legionnaires' Disease Under Control

So what’s the solution? Experts say testing is key but, as yet, not required, even in settings like hospitals where the risk of an outbreak is high.


This month, testing at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny General Hospital confirmed the presence of Legionella in the hospital’s water system. Though no illnesses linked to the hospital were reported the facility is taking steps to address the issue. On Wednesday, it announced that they would follow the recommendations of county health officials and expand its testing for Legionella


“They’re doing everything right,” Stout said of the facility.


Still, testing remains voluntary for hospitals like Allegheny General, and though not all facilities address the issue proactively, that could be changing. Stout is a member of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers’ Legionella committee, which last year introduced the nation’s first advisory standard for assessing Legionnaires’ risk in buildings.


The CDC is also embracing and promoting a more proactive risk management model, which Stout says makes her feel optimistic.


She is also hopeful that more individuals who contract pneumonia are beginning to ask to be tested for Legionnaires’, which requires a different antibiotic for treatment than more common pneumonias.


While people older than 50, smokers and individuals with weaker immune systems are most at risk of contracting the disease, Stout pointed out that anyone can contract the disease.


People need to realize there are cases occurring in younger and healthier people. It’s going to affect people you know,” Stout said. 


“We don’t want to scare people in the sense of we’re all going to drop dead from Legionnaires’ Disease,” she added. “The danger is not there for everybody but you have to be your own advocate.”


Still, the risk is real and voluntary testing can only go so far, Olson emphasized.


“You’re not going to find what you don’t test for," Olson said.


Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new draft document highlighting Legionella control strategies but has stopped short of any new regulations buildings must adhere to. 


"I worry that folks may basically decide not to test because if they test and find it, then what do they do?" Olson said. "It’s a worrisome problem and I don’t see any major motion from regulators to actually do anything to fix it.”


HuffPost reached out to the EPA to ask why further regulations have not been introduced. We will update this piece if we hear back.


---


Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email joseph.erbentraut@huffingtonpost.com.

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Obama Foundation Announces Architects For Presidential Library

Thu, 2016-06-30 13:24

President Barack Obama's library will be designed by the New York firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects and the Chicago-based Interactive Design Architects, the Obama Foundation announced Thursday.


The two groups will oversee construction of the Chicago library, a project that could involve collaboration with up to 15-20 architects, the foundation said. Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, a husband-and-wife team, were chosen from seven finalists.


Projects by Williams and Tsien have included the American Folk Art Museum and the downtown branch of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, as well as the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts. Interactive Design's work includes the modern wing at the Art Institute of Chicago and the courtroom renovations at the Milwaukee federal building.


"Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners stood out in their commitment to exploring, together with the Foundation, the best ways of creating an innovative center for action that inspires communities and individuals to take on our biggest challenges," Obama Foundation Chairman Martin Nesbitt said in a statement. "Interactive Design Architects brings local knowledge and a track record for delivering excellence to large, complex civic projects."


Washington Park and Jackson Park, both near the Obamas' Hyde Park home, are the two finalists for the library's location. Obama announced more than a year ago that the library would be built in Chicago.

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The 'Sixteen Candles' House Is Up For Sale

Wed, 2016-06-29 15:16

The home of Molly Ringwald's teen angst is on the market for a cool $1.499 million.


The Evanston, Illinois home featured in John Hughes's coming-of-age classic "Sixteen Candles" was listed earlier this month and has already attracted several potential buyers, according to listing broker Jill Blabolil of @Properties.





"We've had serious interest and people that just want to come through because it was their favorite movie," Blabolil told ABC News.


The spacious 3,250 square foot home contains six bedrooms, four full baths and two half-baths -- plenty of room for when your entire extended family (and a foreign exchange student) come to stay.




If you were hoping the home had been preserved in all its '80s glory, say goodbye to your dreams of patterned wallpaper and plush carpeting. The interior has been substantially updated since "Sixteen Candles" was released in 1984. 


Now, you'll find gleaming stainless steel appliances in the kitchen and lovely hardwood floors.





Is the buyer of this beautiful home destined to have all their birthdays forgotten? Probably. But if Jake Ryan swings by occasionally, we'd say it's worth it.




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3 Bold Predictions For NBA Free Agency

Wed, 2016-06-29 13:38

The NBA free agency whirlwind has begun with the annual barrage of rumors, and even more rumors on the way. Free agency doesn't officially start until July 1, though, which means we still have time to speculate on even the unlikeliest of scenarios. Because, as history has taught us, we can't rule out anything.


Here is a look at three bold predictions for the NBA's "second season."


Barnes Stays Put

After the incessant chatter about Harrison Barnes and a multitude of potential suitors, the 24-year-old swingman will have his max deal matched by Golden State. Although Barnes endured a woeful postseason -- shooting under 39 percent -- that culminated in a shooting slump throughout the finals, he is still a key asset to the Warriors' long-term plans. An unselfish, versatile defensive ace, Barnes allows coach Steve Kerr to play small ball (aka Death Lineup) by employing him at the four, alongside Swiss army knife Draymond Green at the five.



In other #NBAFinals news, a class move by Dan Gilbert and the #Cavs: Officially announced that Harrison Barnes will be receiving a ring.

— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) June 20, 2016


The market for Barnes, a restricted free agent, as a max player has opened up because of the salary cap expansion in 2017, and much of the Warriors' desire to keep him hinges on what Kevin Durant chooses to do. If the Warriors can somehow lure him away from Oklahoma City, then this conversation is moot.


Durant Inks Long-Term Deal In Oklahoma

The Kevin Durant sweepstakes may be over before they ever really begin. We can talk about the Lakers or the Knicks, but why would Durant leave a championship-caliber roster for a bad team? We can talk about the Warriors or Spurs, but neither has ever seemed all that feasible. Or we can talk about how Durant is a loyal dude who once announced his contract extension with the Thunder via Twitter


Simply put, Durant is not going anywhere. He is a top-three player -- please disregard the absurd voting results that suggest otherwise -- entering his prime alongside another elite player, Russell Westbrook. Oklahoma City, meanwhile, was one game away from the finals and has since improved its roster. By dealing Serge Ibaka to acquire the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis and former Orlando guard Victor Oladipo -- one of the premier, young two-way wings in the league -- the Thunder has given KD even more reason to stay put. 





The 27-year-old can ink a one-and-one deal to re-enter free agency with Westbrook next summer. Or, he can submit to a max contract extension and remain on a roster built for now and the future. That seems to be the play.


Nobody Really Wants Howard 

"This will be my last chance for a really big contract," Dwight Howard recently told Jackie MacMullan. OK then.


Howard preposterously opted not to exercise his $23.2 million player option to remain in Houston next season. Perhaps it's a combination of his vitriol for James Harden and disillusionment about the player he no longer is. Sorry, but I told you so. Either way, Howard will surely be in for a rude awakening when the offers -- or lack thereof -- start strolling in. (This is not the Lakers courtship 2.0.)


To be sure, there remains a market for his services -- think $12 million per year -- as a rim protector and pick-and-roll option. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year is 30 years old and still a valuable commodity considering the dearth of quality bigs available. It's just that he won't command anywhere near the dollars he thinks he will. Moreover, the interest level is scant for a perceived locker-room cancer coming off his lowest-scoring average (13.7) since his rookie season and for a center who hasn't played the full 82-game slate since the 2009-10 campaign.


Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpost.com or ask me questions about anything sports-related on Twitter at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram at @Schultz_Report. Also, check out my SiriusXM Radio show Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. ET on Bleacher Report channel 83.

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Orlando, We Are With You

Wed, 2016-06-29 13:09
I was in Orlando, Florida yesterday. I was there giving a morning keynote to the American Library Association convention. Because I knew I was going to be in Orlando, I reached out to the HRC who have been wonderful advocates and leaders in the immediate aftermath to see if I could be of service to the city. I wanted to thank the first responders for all for their hard, hard work, their bravery, their sacrifice.

Jennifer Foster, a longtime HRC supporter and proud member of the LGBT community in Orlando, arranged it all, and I had the privilege of meeting with Mayor Buddy Dyer, Chief of Police, John Mina, Chief of Staff, Frank Billingsley, city CFO Chris McCullion, City Council members, including openly gay Commissioner Patty Sheehan who has served as a a fierce advocate for her community, and various divisions of law enforcement -- SWAT, police, the fire department, first responders and dispatch. I was also able to go to the Orlando United Assistance Center which was set up immediately after the shooting as a place of comfort, advocacy, and resources for victims and their families. There I met with family members who still have loved ones in hospital, many in ICU, people who lost their loves and the many volunteers who are donating their time to give gentle care and get victims answers and services.


The city of Orlando will be remembered and known as a city of love, inclusion, and community.

I told them that I was speaking for all of you who are reading this. That they are loved and supported around the world. That we know of their service, sacrifice and bravery, and that the city will slowly recover, and that it will recover. That the city of Orlando will be remembered and known as a city of love, inclusion, and community. That this hateful act will NOT define them or their city but the loving response to this hatred WILL.

In fact, Orlando has had an "Ambassador of Love" for over 10 years now. They have been a leading city in diversity and tolerance so it is more shocking that this attack occurred here.

No one involved ever imagined they would be in this situation -- from the victims, their families, the volunteers and all law enforcement. The whole city feels this. The way that Orlando has come together, uniting as one, supporting each other and taking care of the fallen and their families confirms everything I have always hoped about humanity, strength and the tenacity of the human spirit.


The way that Orlando has come together confirms everything I have always hoped about humanity, strength, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

They have set up the OneOrlando Fund, info@oneorlando.org Please send a donation made out to OneOrlando Fund and mailed to OneOrlando, PO Box 4990, Orlando, FL 32802-4990 or text ORLANDO to 501501 to donate $10 to help the victims and families.

Please show your support and join me and the world when we say, we are with you, we care and most importantly, love conquers hate! #OrlandoUnited

The HRC has made this video. Please watch it and share it.

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Once Allies, Rauner and Rahm Now Enemies on Chicago Public Schools

Wed, 2016-06-29 11:13


"Instead of doing the hard work of fixing Illinois' broken education funding formula, Bruce Rauner has wasted 18 months of his term holding the entire state hostage in the name of workers' compensation and right to work. After all that time, Bruce Rauner is doubling down on the failed formula that rewards wealthy children who grow up in elite communities and penalizes poor children in Chicago and across the state, and he is standing behind Illinois' ignominious distinction of being 48th in the nation for education funding. That is the real tragedy."

Statement from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, June 28, 2016

The video above and the quote below it make perfect bookends in the Bruce Rauner-Rahm Emanuel relationship trajectory.

For those following events in Springfield today but unaware of Chicago city politics four years ago, it might be disorienting to learn that Rauner in 2012 was a close adviser to Emanuel, who at the time was attempting to reshape Chicago Public Schools. In the video clip above from the Sept. 18, 2012, edition of "Chicago Tonight," Rauner voices the criticism of teachers' unions that would become a prominent theme in the gubernatorial campaign he announced the following spring.

Rauner's "Chicago Tonight" appearance and strong words came at a turbulent time for Emanuel. On the day the program aired, the Chicago Teachers Union was a week into its first strike in 25 years as members protested changes -- including a longer school day -- sought by Emanuel. Appearing alongside Chicago Teachers Union Vice-President Jesse Sharkey, Rauner (identified onscreen as an Emanuel adviser) was in effect the face of the administration on the strike.

In a story published Sept. 19, 2012, the Chicago Tribune described Rauner's influence in the Emanuel administration:

Rauner, a potential Republican candidate for governor, speaks frequently with Emanuel and was placed by the mayor on the board of World Business Chicago, the city's economic development arm. Rauner has met more than a dozen times with Chicago Public Schools officials during the initial nine-month period that new CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard's team was organizing policy.

Four years later, the story is vastly different. As the state's historic budget crisis moves toward its second year, approval of a state budget for K-12 education has become the single most critical and divisive issue between Rauner and the majority Democrats, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton.

Many school districts statewide, including Chicago Public Schools, have said they won't open on time for the fall semester if they don't receive their state funding in July as scheduled. Public anger from such a debacle would be swift and intense.

Senate Democrats are backing a plan to put $750 million more into K-12 eduction, $286 million of which would go to Chicago Public Schools.

To Rauner and many Republicans, this represents a "bailout" of CPS. Republicans have introduced their own school budget, which increases K-12 funding by $240 million and guarantees no district will see a funding decrease. (Rauner's original budget proposal called for a reduction in state funding to CPS of $73 million.)

In a statement Tuesday morning, Rauner accused Emanuel, a Democrat, of siding with Madigan and Cullerton to block reforms and enable CPS to continue operating as a "broken system:"

I have said it before, and I say it again today: we must not bail out a broken system that refuses to change the way it does business. Forcing Illinois to raise its income tax to bail out CPS is fundamentally unfair to our school children, parents, homeowners, and small business owners across the state.

The real tragedy is that we have proposed legislation which would let Chicago fix every one of CPS' problems, allowing city leaders to protect their students and taxpayers while eliminating the need for any bailout - but Speaker Madigan has refused to call the bills for a vote.

  • Granting local control of collective bargaining would allow CPS to remove teachers' pensions pickup from contract negotiations, saving taxpayers from the single biggest threat to CPS' financial health. The Mayor requested the state do this last year.


  • Applying President Cullerton's pension reform proposal to CPS teachers' pensions would save Chicago taxpayers billions in the long run and give them the resources to hire more teachers.


  • Allowing CPS to declare bankruptcy if the Mayor or city council deemed it necessary to reorganize school contracts and debts could protect teachers' jobs and prevent the need for massive tax hikes on homeowners in Chicago. And even if the Mayor chose never to exercise the option, it would fundamentally alter the balance in teacher union contract negotiations, making tax hikes no longer the only inevitable option.


If Mayor Emanuel would join with his friend, President Cullerton, and lead in the effort for reforms along with Republican legislators, then together we could protect students, teachers, and taxpayers in the city and the state, creating a better future for everyone.

The Emanuel quote at the top of this article was in response to Rauner's statement.

Hard to believe that less than four years ago, these two were brothers-in-arms in the highest profile labor dispute in American education.

Recommended: Illinois editorial boards unite in demanding enough of the budget standoff

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Mayfly Season Is Here, And It's The Stuff Of Nightmares

Mon, 2016-06-27 12:05



An Illinois bridge resembled a scene from a horror movie this weekend when swarms of inch-long mayflies greased the road and blanketed cars in a creepy reminder of the insects' mating season.


The unnerving scene along the Illinois River was showcased in two photos shared by the Havana Police Department Monday morning.


One photo shows a police cruiser caked with the winged hitchhikers’ bodies, leaving one to wonder just how the officers were able to get inside. The other photo shows a road glistening from the mayflies' smashed yellow bodies.


“At one point they had piled 6 inches high and when ran over, became very slick,” the department stated in its Facebook post, which issued a warning to drivers.


Northeast of Illinois, residents in Michigan have already been busy combing through their own mayfly invasions over Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie. Local weather radars have picked up mayfly swarms that resemble storm patterns.



Those are not showers! It's #mayflies lighting up the Detroit-Metro Terminal Doppler this evening. Tweet us pics! pic.twitter.com/fIwTSQ3dI3

— NWS Detroit (@NWSDetroit) June 25, 2016


The infestation is an annual event in the region. Last July in Sabula, Iowa, the state's Department of Transportation had to shut down a bridge over the Mississippi River until a snowplow could clear the piles of insects off the roads. Their invasion was described as knee-deep.


In southeast Pennsylvania last June, a bridge had to be closed for two straight nights after multiple motorcyclists skidded across the bodies of the insects and crashed, The Associated Press reported at the time.



But the mayflies’ presence isn't entirely a bad thing. In fact, the real horror would be if they ever stopped appearing, biologists say.


That's because the insects spend most of their lives at the bottom of rivers and lakes and need clean water to survive. When they appear in large numbers, therefore, it indicates not only a healthy population but a healthy environment, said Kent Johnson, a member of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council who supervises environmental quality for the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul area.


"They're indicators of excellent water quality," Johnson told CBS News during last year's invasion. "As scientists, we can only spot check it once in a while and make some assumptions based on that."


Fortunately, if you're in a mayfly-heavy area and you can't wait to be rid of them, you're in luck: The bugs typically live for only 24 to 72 hours after emerging from the water. But then there's the cleanup.

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Inside The Chicago Program That Is Slashing Youth Crime Rates

Mon, 2016-06-27 10:36

The Chicago-based program Becoming A Man is the type that allows rival gang members to sit together, just days after one group killed a member of the other, and calmly talk about their issues, according to John Wolf, senior manager of the University of Chicago's Crime Lab. 


"The kids weren’t saying whether or not they specifically knew who did it. But you had these two groups of people -- where they knew someone from their group of friends had just killed someone from the other group of friends -- and they were able to sit down in this group and have a conversation back and forth about what had just transpired," Wolf said. "They were talking through ways of finding peace and ways of making sure it didn’t escalate further."


For the past few years, Wolf and his colleagues have been studying the impact of the Becoming A Man program, which targets at-risk male students in Chicago public schools. The program, run by the non-profit organization Youth Guidance, allows students to participate in weekly group sessions that teach them how to be more conscious of their decision-making processes. A recent two-year evaluation of the program showed that between 2013 and 2015, there was a 50 percent decline in violent crime arrests for the 2,000 participants as compared to a control group. The results of this evaluation are being shared Monday at the National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence in Baltimore.


By teaching these adolescent males how to slow down their decision-making processes and avoid knee-jerk reactions, the program aims to improve students' abilities to make appropriate judgments in high-stakes situations.


Wolf spent many days observing the participants in the program. He watched as the boys became more willing to open up about their personal lives to other students in the group and speak about their emotional vulnerabilities. 


Students in the program often face difficult life circumstances. Many of them live in poverty or in dangerous neighborhoods, surrounded by violence. Just getting to and from school can be a harrowing experience. 


Counselors push participants to describe "what are you actually nervous about, what are you actually scared about, what are the things that you're dealing with in your everyday existence, walking home, walking to and from school," Wolf said. "You're not allowed to say that you're fearful or worried about things, but in the BAM circle they're able to uncover those feelings."


"I think a big part of it is, they learn that the kid sitting across from them in the circle has those same fears, has those same anxieties and that it's OK," he went on. "It’s a human condition to show those things and it’s a common experience."


The program does not tell students how to behave, or instruct them as to the "right" thing to do, instead leaving it to the students to decide that. The program emphasizes only that the students carefully consider their decisions instead of rushing to act.



You're not allowed to say that you're fearful or worried about things, but in the BAM circle they're able to uncover those feelings.



"BAM providers recognize that these youth live in distressed neighborhoods where being aggressive or even fighting may -- unfortunately -- sometimes be necessary to avoid developing a reputation as someone who is an easy victim," says a 2015 working paper from University of Chicago researchers in the National Bureau of Economic Research.


"It is not hard to see how someone navigating that sort of neighborhood environment could develop a tendency to reflexively push back against being challenged," the paper continues. "That response can lead to trouble if it is over-generalized and sometimes applied in settings where it is not helpful -- such as school."


BAM says its approach is cost-effective: Every dollar invested in the program is projected to return up to $30 in societal gains as a result of crime reduction. Also, because the program increases graduation rates of participants by 19 percent, it will likely produce additional long-term economic gains.


A previous evaluation of the program from researchers in 2009-2010 yielded similarly promising results. 


"At a time when Chicago and other cities across the country are seeing increases in violence, this evidence is particularly encouraging,” said Jonathan Guryan, co-director of the University of Chicago Education Lab, in a press release. “Programs like BAM are showing us that it is not too late to help teens in Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods avoid violence and find success in school.”


  ______


Rebecca Klein covers the challenges faced in school discipline, school segregation and the achievement gap in K-12 education. In particular, she is drilling down into the programs and innovations that are trying to solve these problems. Tips? Email Rebecca.Klein@huffingtonpost.com.


______ 


Related Stories:


The Education System Is Rigged Against Low-Income Students Even In Kindergarten


The South Isn't The Reason Schools Are Still Segregated, New York Is


Latino School Segregation: The Big Education Problem That No One Is Talking About


A Group Of Bronx Teens Are Trying To Transform New York City's Segregated Schools

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An Open Letter To A Gentrifying Property Developer

Mon, 2016-06-27 09:20
Dear property developer,

I am writing to let you know that I am much more than a race, and that I am outraged at the "investor" that you cater to.

You came and knocked on my family's home and asked if we would be interested in putting our home up for sale. Um? Did you see a "for sale" sign outside of our home? No. So then why would you think that we would be interested in your offer? But still, you insisted. You came a second time -- this time with a written offer and lengthy explanation of how excited you and your "investor" are at the opportunity to bring development to the "up-and-coming" Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago.

I am much more than a race.

Have you read the news lately? By now, you must know about the gentrification -- and the positive and negative side of the spectrum -- and thus, pushing my neighbors and extended family to leave a familiar neighborhood that they have called home for many years. And although my family is not ready to leave Pilsen or sell our house, we know that gentrification can lead to both positive and negative outcomes. We know that is happening from coast to coast, and we are already reading about its impact in the news. I would like to touch upon the negative effects, seeing as you had very little knowledge of the negative effects that developers bring to neighborhoods.

Yes, the people in the neighborhood might start to feel "safe" due to the rise of gentrification. Just take a look at this article that talks about the benefits of gentrification. According to a study from NYU's Furman Center and a study from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank both

confirmed earlier research that gentrification is seldom associated with displacement, and that it is frequently associated with higher incomes and better economic results for the longtime residents of gentrifying neighborhoods.

But at the same time, it's causing racism, raising a divide between the classes and causing new neighbors to point at their neighbors as a "person of interest." Just take a look at what is happening in the Mission District in San Francisco. A new neighbor who felt unsafe because of his neighbor of color, happens to call the police, and moments later that young man ends up shot to death in the park. Oh, you call it the place where the hipster beard came alive? Or the place where beautiful luxury buildings are being built? I call it the place where a community is being displaced, because they can no longer afford to live in this area or/and are not being treated as people of the community. Something a little too familiar that is happening in the Logan Square community in Chicago.

[Gentrification is] causing racism, raising a divide between the classes.

Initially, you never met me, but the second time that you visited my parents home, I decided to give you call, because I wanted to know why you kept bothering my parents so much. We had a lengthy conversation, about your "investor" being excited for a new project in the Pilsen neighborhood, and you told me that your "investor" had purchased the abandoned building next to my home, to make it into prime renting space for -- wait for it -- "white" people. Not only did you have the audacity to tell me that the new space would be intended for white people -- actually no, I thank you for cutting to the chase. You also continued letting me know that my home would be the perfect additional space that the project needed. I had to take a moment and laugh, because I just couldn't believe that you were flat out telling me that you wanted my family and me to think about the possibility of leaving our home. All because you think that my parents home, my home can be bought, and with it, our whole family having to move out. Thanks for letting me know that you can put a price to your "exciting project" by simply buying out the Latino family next door.

My family and I have no intention of letting go of the place that we call home.

The conversation went on for another 10 minutes, all while you were picking up your dry cleaning. You later gave me an analysis of the Mexican population that lived in Pilsen. I'm sure you did your homework, which is why you brought up that the family's in this particular community lived in smaller spaces and not all the family members had a room to themselves. I really didn't need you to lecture me on that, but I listened anyway. Our conversation ended with a nice tone, but deep inside I wanted to say that you were insensitive, but decided to stay quiet.

I'm happy that your project will not turn into a reality, because after all, my family and I have no intention of letting go of the place that we call home. For the first time in my life, if only for a minute, you made me feel like my family and I did not belong in our home. But I've grown from this experience to know that you and your kind will never make me feel this way again.

White people are not the only people that deserve housing.

I hope that the next time you visit, email, or call a Latino family, you have a better speech prepared. "White" people are not the only people that deserve housing, and Latinos are not at the very least deserving of your unsolicited dry speech.

Though your "investor" backed out of his "exciting" opportunity, I do have to say that another property developer bought out your space. I just hope that I never have to go to speak to someone like you again and not give the satisfaction of staying quiet.

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Free State of Jones

Sun, 2016-06-26 14:32
Unremarked upon in Ken Burns terrific documentary about the Civil War, a group of Confederate soldiers, after surrendering at Vicksburg, were paroled, over the objections of William Tecumseh Sherman, by U.S. Grant. Grant's opinion was that they were so sick and disheartened by their experiences that they'd just go home.

A group of them from Mississippi did, and led by one Newton Knight, eventually rebelled against the Confederacy. Allying themselves with other disaffected Southerners, and runaway slaves; they declared 'The Free State of Jones.' Victoria Bynum, after stumbling across their decendants, still living in Jones Country, Mississippi, wrote a fascinating book about it all, that I'd highly recommend: 'The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War.'

One would have imagined that it would be hard to make such compelling American history into an uninteresting and tedious movie, despite its robust endorsement of the Second Amendment. But, indeed, that's exactly what the director and scriptwriters have done. Other than Matthew McConaughey, and one other actor's actual Southern accents, they populate the movie with Northerners using 'fingers on a blackboard' quality drawls to pretend as if they're not from Burbank, Boise, or Brooklyn. They subvert the compelling story of Newton Knight to bludgeon the audience with today's racial narratives and Hollywood's favorite recent movie genre: slave porn. Layering onto a curious true story about race, honor, courage and individualism all the familiar racially charged images of Django, Twelve Years and Hateful 8.

And, pushing the story of Newton Knight, his followers, and family into the Reconstruction Era, the KKK, lynchings, castrations, voter suppression, literacy tests, and violence against voter registration volunteers.

Few movies could endure in the face of such heavy handedness. Free State, which should have been a highly interesting, eye opening, glimpse at an historically accurate racial history that proved that actual history isn't always black and white, is tedious, uncomfortable, distasteful, and trite. Oh, and long, very long: its two hours and nineteen minutes seem longer than a double root canal.

McConaughey is, as always, great. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as Rachel, the slave who marries and has children with Matthew's Confederate soldier character, could have been the most compelling and interesting woman of color in any recent movie. Alas, she isn't asked for much by the script, lots of long admiring looks at Matthew, but does as well as she can with so little to work with.

The rest of the cast play stock Southern/Civil War caricatures going through the motions: mostly, like Rachel, venerating Matthew's Newton Knight, nodding and smiling like those carefully selected supporters posed behind political candidates these days, nodding and smiling earnestly during all his (many) speeches. Or, bizarrely, as if it is 2016, not 1863, hugging it out when things get too tough.

It's quite fun thought to see, though admittedly a bit long in the tooth for their roles, very pleased Civil War reenactors in the background of many scenes getting a payday.

Even with America twice electing its first African American President, or because America's first African American President turned out to be one with an eager desire to pour gasoline on most things racial, it is jarring that movie after movie these days revels in violent, imagined images of master/slave brutality, rape, and inhumanity. Free State of Jones doubles down on all of this, but inserts Newton Knight as a somewhat saintly white savior channeling Kipling, to give meaning to black folks' lives. In a perverse way, these movies are eerily similar to the stock anti-Semitic Nazi movies of the thirties, designed, with purpose, to incite ethnic division, hatred, and violence.

It's really too bad. Newton Knight was a real person. He fought in the Civil War as a Confederate soldier. He led a rebellion against the Confederacy during the War. He married a slave from his grandfather's plantation while still married to his white wife. He lived with both of them after the war, in the same house. He had numerous children with both wives. They all lived together in the same farmhouse in Jones County, Mississippi from 1864 well into the 20th Century.

Those children intermarried within the family and had their own, racially mixed children. Some of them are still there, in Jones County to this day. Living with the echoes of the Free State of Jones as they go about their lives.

Exactly as William Faulkner, a Mississippian, wrote: "The past is never dead, it's not even past."

There's a great article available from The Smithsonian Magazine about Newt and the Free State. It's well worth reading whether you see the movie or not.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-free-state-jones-180958111/#YrsZRUwXBh4EPkLX.01

As I walked out of the theater, knowing the real history from reading the book, I thought: how can you make a boring movie about that man, Newton Knight? How can you make such an incredibly interesting story about race a racial polemic? How can Rachel become, in the movie, a rather minor character? How can Free State of Jones become slave porn? Somehow it is. Somehow they did, and it's a shame.

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Chicago City Hall Often Fights To Keep Files Secret In Police Abuse Suits

Fri, 2016-06-24 09:26

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration routinely fights turning over information in federal civil rights lawsuits against Chicago police officers, often leaving a judge to step in and order the city to disclose potential evidence, a Tribune investigation has found.


Although typically not the type of issue that draws attention outside legal circles, the city's handling of these lawsuits speaks to the police accountability issues that have intensified in recent months and have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars. Whether by bureaucratic negligence or stonewalling by city agencies, the law department places the interests of the Police Department and its officers above the public good, according to plaintiffs' lawyers and even some former city attorneys.

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Embattled GOP Senator Throws Trump Under The Bus In New Ad

Thu, 2016-06-23 13:04

Just over two weeks ago, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) made news when he became the first of his Republican legislative colleagues to rescind a previously extended endorsement of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump. Now, as Politico's Kevin Robillard reports, he's set to become another famous first in the Trump era: 



Mark Kirk is the first GOP incumbent to air an ad attacking Trump: https://t.co/tMqgZZUEdI The real Q: Will he be the last?

— Kevin Robillard (@PoliticoKevin) June 23, 2016


The Chicago Tribune confirms that this 30-second spot will be part of a large ad buy -- to the tune of "about $230,000 in broadcast time for the weeklong buy and another $35,520 in cable TV time in Chicago."


The ad, titled "Even More," aims to present Kirk as an independent-minded, bipartisan legislator. Among other things, it points to his pro-choice bona fides and his support for a Senate hearing on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.


But most notably, it takes great care to mention his opposition to Trump. Over a parade of floating headlines, the ad's narrator intones, "And Mark Kirk bucked his party to say that Donald Trump is not fit to be commander-in-chief."


There's another politician who is conspicuously not named in the ad -- Kirk's opponent in his re-election bid, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). In 2010, Kirk squeaked out a win over then-Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias to reach the Senate. Duckworth is a bona fide political superstar -- albeit one who is currently dogged by a civil lawsuit alleging various ethics violations.


There aren't likely to be many Republican incumbents -- especially vulnerable incumbents -- who openly disparage their party's nominee in this fashion. However, the particulars of Kirk's race -- deep blue state, popular Democratic opponent, incumbent who won by a thin margin in a wave election -- probably make slagging Trump in public an essential part of the calculus.



~~~~~


Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.






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Illinois Bond Deal a Good Deal Only in the Most Optimistic Interpretation

Thu, 2016-06-23 11:49
For many years, whenever I typed the words "Illinois credit downgrade" in an editorial or column, I could practically feel my readers' eyes glaze over. As important as a government's credit rating is, stories describing the state's descent from Aa3 to Baa2 and the nuances of the bond market hardly could compete with political headlines that saw, among many other fascinating things, a governor being hauled out of bed by the FBI and booked for trying to sell the president-elect's U.S. Senate seat.

Credit rating downgrades are abstract, their effects spread over many years and they're hard to comprehend. There was nothing abstract about Rod Blagojevich looking stunned in his running suit in a mug shot. Or in a more modern example, about Bruce Rauner calling Democrats corrupt and Democrats claiming Rauner is trying to destroy the middle class.

Lately though, with news of Illinois' crumbling credit arriving bundled with well publicized bad news about our budget-free state's overall financial collapse, I've sensed that more and more people are starting to understand why this not only is important news that they should know, but also the kind of aggravating bad news that they need to know.

A report last week from the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois put a $12 million price tag on the credit rating downgrades Illinois incurred two weeks ago from Moody's Investors Services and S&P Global Ratings.

That's the amount in extra interest Illinois taxpayers will pay on $550 million in construction-related borrowing last week because of the state's newly demoted credit score.

If Illinois had the same credit rating it had 10 years ago, taxpayers would have saved $70 million.



"The $70 and $12 million financial condition penalty estimates only relate to the June 2016 Bonds. Assuming that future debt sales will be at typical levels of about $1 billion each year, this financial condition penalty will be much larger," wrote the study's author, Martin J. Luby of DePaul University.

That's a much different message than what we heard last week from the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner, which lauded the 3.75 percent interest rate on last week's transaction as the lowest in state history.

"It's clear from today's bond sale that investors realize Illinois now has a governor that is trying to turn the state around and right its financial ship," said Rauner Press Secretary Catherine Kelly.

Not so fast, says Luby.

"Due to a decline in overall market interest rates and favorable conditions in the municipal market at the time of the bond sale, the state realized a historically low overall borrowing cost on the June 2016 bond sale from an absolute interest rate level perspective," Luby writes. "However, on a relative basis, the state could have realized significantly higher prices (i.e., paid lower borrowing costs) for its June 2016 Bonds if its credit had not deteriorated over the last 10 years or even over the last six months."

In other words, 3.75 percent is a comparatively lousy interest rate that would have been much lower for any of the 49 other states that are running their governments with functioning budgets to guide spending and taxes.

Here's how the bond industry publication Bond Buyer reported it:

But the deal captured a record low true interest cost of 3.7425% because the widening spreads were more than outweighed by lower overall yields in the market that has seen record lows across scales, disguising the true cost of the state's fiscal deterioration.

If that paragraph has your eyes glazing over, just remember the last part: "disguising the true cost of the state's fiscal deterioration."

I'll add one more quote from Bond Buyer:

"The bonds were sold based on rabid demand for yield with minimal regard for credit quality. Kudos to the state for perfect market timing. It's a great time to be an issuer," said one investor.

Translation: Demand for these bonds is far ahead of supply so investors don't care much about the seller's credit rating. You got lucky, Illinois.

We can't expect it to happen again, says Luby. Illinois right now is looking at $4 billion in infrastructure maintenance -- roads, bridges and the like -- that will be financed with bonds.

"At this $4 billion annual bond level," he writes, "the financial condition penalty estimate will be in the hundreds of millions based on 2006 relative pricing levels and tens of millions of dollars based on the state's relative bond prices only six months ago."

There's something wrong when we're looking at "tens of millions of dollars" in extra, unnecessary interest as a best-case scenario. #doyourjobs #ilbudgetnow

Recommended: Get a load of this phone call I got about Gov. Bruce Rauner the other night

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In Defense Of The Seemingly Terrible Derrick Rose Trade

Thu, 2016-06-23 09:18

The New York Knicks screwed themselves, again.


The season just ended days ago, the NBA Draft is tomorrow, and free agency isn't for another few weeks. And yet, the Knicks have already found a way to execute a trade for 2011 NBA MVP and Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.


The Knicks aren't trading for the 2011 MVP though. They're trading for a version of Rose whose once-elite athleticism has seemingly deserted him following two major knee surgeries. For the Rose whose jump shot looks shot. For the Rose who grades out as a mediocre point guard when considering more advanced metrics -- the same Rose whose crown as franchise star of the Bulls was usurped. Not the same old Rose, but the same old Rose.



The Knicks new big 3. pic.twitter.com/Slmyzw5y2U

— LegionNBA (@MySportsLegion) June 22, 2016


It's understandable that Knicks fans are bummed and angry about the trade. Over the past decade, the Knicks' front office has shown little restraint when it comes to trying to obtain name-brand players whose on-court capabilities leave something to be desired. 


But unlike previous Knicks trades and signings that have lead to either disappointment or disaster, the Rose trade is relatively low-risk. It's not like when the Toronto Raptors fleeced them by taking Andrea Bargnani in a first-round pick. Or when the Knicks almost traded actual players for Steve Nash in 2012. Or when they signed Amar'e Stoudemire. No, the Rose trade is not like any of those, despite the optics of it all.


Let's break this down into two parts:



Derrick Rose has the Garden crowd oohhing and ahhhing.

— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) March 25, 2016


 To MSG's delight, Rose lit up the Knicks for 30 points in March.


 


1. Trading For Derrick Rose Is Better Than Signing Rajon Rondo 

It's not a pretty comparison, but consider this: Critically, the Knicks gave up no draft picks to the Bulls -- which used to be typical in bad Knicks trades of the past. In all, the team sent center Robin Lopez, guard Jerian Grant and guard Jose Calderon to Chicago in exchange for Rose, guard Justin Holiday and a second-round pick. 


Grant's Knicks departure is unfortunate -- he showed promise early on as a rookie -- and Lopez was also a decent starting rim protector and rebounder. Lopez's contract in particular was team-friendly, a useful trade chip that perhaps could have drawn more value than it did here. 





 Hurry up and shoot it Calderon!


But swapping Rose for Calderon as the starting point guard gives the team its best point guard since Raymond Felton's brief career rebirth through 2013 and 2014. And, as more NBA offenses continue to develop ways to open the floor more, the best of contemporary NBA basketball teams should ideally revolve around a quick playmaking point guard. The Knicks haven't had one of those since (maybe) Jeremy Lin. Regardless of the faster triangle-ish offense that new head coach Jeff Hornacek and president Phil Jackson compromise on, having Rose run it over the terrible and expensive Calderon works out as a legitimate favor to fans. 


If Rose, still only 27, continues his streaky shooting and poor passing, failing to improve on his 66-game 2015-2016 season, that's fine -- he'll be gone next summer at a forgettable cost. Also, the departure of Lopez and Calderon clears about $21 million from the team's cap sheet this summer, leaving them room to work with this summer's free agent class.



The Knicks have a Big 3. pic.twitter.com/RZmbzJhKai

— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 22, 2016


2. The Trade May Look Very Pretty In Summer 2017

Saying the Knicks' move is clever may be nonsense right now, but it certainly sets them up for an aggressive and flexible rebuild. The real end result of the Rose trade is that it leaves the Knicks with only three players -- Anthony, Porzingis and Kyle O'Quinn -- signed to guaranteed contracts beyond the 2016-2017 season.


According to NBA writer Tommy Beer, the team will have $60 million in cap space next summer to go after a player pool full of stars. Hornacek, Jackson or both of them may have a rare opportunity to cherry-pick free agents to fit how they want to play -- something a Knicks coach hasn't had the chance to do since perhaps Mike D'Antoni.


Of course, turning over the roster year after year is damaging, and coveted stars have outright declined the Knicks' recent free agent overtures, but an institutionalized team culture, clear playing style, and core superstars will alleviate that. If Hornacek can install a functioning offense and instill defensive discipline -- coupled with the star power of Anthony and Porzingis -- the team could suddenly become an attractive free agent destination for the backcourt superstar the Knicks need. They may have one in Rose. 





Coincidentally, Rose dunked for the first time all season in a March road game against the Knicks.


Derrick Rose isn't the answer for the Knicks. His name represented a franchise savior in 2011, but his current abilities, unfortunately, don't. At worst, he's an exciting stop-gap at point guard. At best, he's a top 20 player. The New York Knicks aren't immune to such extremes.


This upcoming season, however, a year of moderate success and watchable basketball would be an achievement. On the court, Rose still has the chance to deliver that much to Knicks fans, even if it's a surprise to some. 


Unless, of course, Dwight Howard comes to to town.

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Here's Another Way Uber, Lyft Are Beating Taxis

Tue, 2016-06-21 14:33

The taxi industry is tired of competing with ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. According to a new report, the taxi industry's tires are more than a little tired, too.


The report, conducted by ConsumerAffairs partner WeGoLook, found 16 percent of taxis pick up passengers with at least one balding, unsafe tire. In comparison, 14.7 percent of Lyfts and 12 percent of Ubers have the same problem.



Nationally, about 10 percent of vehicles on the road have at least one bald tire.


The study is based on a survey of tread depth on 300 different cars used by Lyft, Uber, and taxis, and was conducted across Chicago, Dallas and Miami, for a total sample size of 1,200 tires.


A tire's tread depth affects its ability to grip the road, especially in less-than-perfect driving conditions where snow or water is on the road surface. A 2012 NHTSA study traced back nine percent of crashes to tire problems.


Tire treads that measure less than 3/32 of an inch deep are considered "bald" and unsafe.


Of the taxis measured for ConsumerAffairs, the average tire tread depth was 6.66/32 of an inch, compared to 7/32 of an inch for both Ubers and Lyfts. Personal cars came out on top with an average of 7.58/32 of an inch of tread.



Of those surveyed, drivers in Chicago were found to have the safest tires, followed by Dallas. Miami tires ranked last.



Note: The Huffington Post's Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington is a member of Uber's board of directors, and has recused herself from any involvement in the site's coverage of the company.

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