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Miller: Gov. Bruce Rauner has not shut the door on tax hikes

Mon, 2015-01-26 13:15
Gov. Bruce Rauner is buckling down to work on Illinois' financial troubles, with help from a "turnaround team"--a group of experts Rauner hopes can help steer the state back into the black.

Rich Miller of Capitol Fax took a look at how exactly Rauner and his team plan to deal with the state's issues, including the possibility of higher taxes along with spending cuts.

Miller writes:

Gov. Bruce Rauner didn't completely close the door to higher taxes last week during a speech at the University of Chicago, but he made it very clear with what he said and what he did that he wants huge state budget cuts.

"We have every reason to thrive," Rauner said during the speech. He then laid out his reasoning for why the state is on a "fundamentally unsustainable path," pointing his finger at the "policies and the politics mostly coming out of Springfield [which are] really at the core of the problem."

"The politicians want to talk about 'Well, let's raise the income tax to fix the debt or the problem," Rauner said. "Raising taxes will come nowhere near to fixing the problem and in fact will make part of the problem worse and just kick the can down the road... This is the critical lesson that we're seeing. We're on an unsustainable path, we need fundamental structural change and raising taxes alone in itself isn't going to fix the problem and in a lot of ways it's going to make it worse."

Rauner said the budget was "out of control," and that the state has suffered "complete mismanagement."

"Just raising taxes to try to fix that? No chance. No chance," Rauner said.

Notice how he said "just raising taxes," and "raising taxes alone." Those are usually phrases uttered by politicians who are keeping the door open for higher revenues, however slightly.

But what is crystal clear is that he won't ask for any more revenues without first making deep and even drastic cuts.

Read the rest of Miller's thoughts on possible upcoming cuts at Reboot Illinois.

Rauner spoke more about the state's budget and the other challenges that Illinois could face early in his term with reporters at the Executive Mansion Jan. 24. He and his dogs drove down to Springfield to check out the mansion and its level of disrepair, which the new governor said is an "emotional issue" for him. Check out the video of Rauner and his dogs at Reboot Illinois.

How much could the average Illinoisan buy with the state's $9 billion budget deficit?

$9 Billion Is a Lot of Money: How Much Could You Buy With Illinois' Budget Deficit?

Mon, 2015-01-26 12:57
New information from the Fiscal Futures Project of the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois shows that Illinois' finances are in worse shape than previously predicted. By Fiscal Year 2016, the state will owe $9 billion in unpaid bills.

That's a lot of money, but it's hard to think about a number with so many zeros in concrete terms. It might be difficult for Illinoisans to remember that that $9 billion budget deficit is real money that is owed to real people and organizations from the state government.

Check out this infographic to help you think about $9 billion in terms that might make more sense in the life of an average Illinoisan. Check out the specific breakdowns after the infographic.

Here is what an average person could buy with $9 billion:

  • 4 billion $2.25 CTA rides (approximately enough to pay for every Chicagoan's daily commutes for the next four years)

  • 3.6 billion $2.50 gallons of gas (enough to fuel 14-gallon car once a week for nearly 5,000 years)

  • 3 billon $3 cups of coffee (enough for a cup of coffee every day for 8 million years)

  • 450 million $20 pizzas (enough to eat pizza for every meal for 411,000 years)

Check out Reboot Illinois to find out how much $9 billion could buy in larger purchases: How many Illinoisans could take a vacation to Paris or buy a new car with that money?

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

NEXT ARTICLE: Proposed Illinois eavesdropping law corrects one problem, but invites many others


2015 Means New FDA Calorie Labeling on Menus

Mon, 2015-01-26 11:54
For many Americans, ringing in the New Year means new resolutions to lose weight and exercise more. However, many more people are now opting to eat in restaurants rather than cooking at home and that can be very challenging to cutting calories. But for the waistline watchers among us, eating out without overeating will soon become easier. Later this year, long-awaited regulations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will go into effect requiring chain restaurants and other establishments to clearly display calorie information beside all food items on their menus.

Recently, a lot of the discussion has revolved around the cost of "lost pleasure" when consumers opt for a lower-calorie item. However, that cost is but one paragraph in over 75 pages of cost-benefit analysis. Perhaps a closer look at the "gained pleasure" of lower heart disease and decreased diabetes is warranted.

What we find most interesting, though, is FDA's ability to engage with the full breadth of both costs and savings, a difficult but important task when it comes to a variety of health-promoting strategies, including menu labeling. And the ultimate finding of their in-depth analysis is that menu labeling will provide a net benefit of more than $500 million per year.

This benefit is based on the increase in information that consumers will have once calories are actually listed next to food items. And while not the panacea for obesity, FDA's analysis acknowledges that calorie counts on menus influence many people's choices and can even result in restaurants changing recipes to avoid the sticker shock of high-calorie entrees.

But it won't just be restaurants posting calories; popcorn, nachos, and other prepared snacks at movie theaters, prepared foods from grocery and convenience stores, and baked goods at coffee shops will all be labeled. This broad availability of calorie information was in FDA's original proposal in 2011, and in 2013 we urged FDA not to give in to pressure from cinema and grocery chains that wanted exemptions. We argued that Americans deserved easy access to calorie information no matter where they were making food choices, and we applaud FDA for sticking with the original scope. We also believe that requiring menus to be labeled across a wide variety of vendor types is a more equitable approach than picking and choosing which sectors get exemptions and which do not.

Readily available calorie information is crucial for consumers to be able to make informed food choices throughout the day as they get their food from a variety of venues. Our nation is facing rising rates of obesity and chronic disease that continue to push health care spending higher. We already know that healthy eating and physical activity can help prevent and even reverse these problems and increasing consumer knowledge about the calories they are consuming is a necessary step in the right direction. These are just some of the reasons that we supported menu labeling in our 2012 report, Lots to Lose: How America's Health and Obesity Crisis Threatens our Economic Future.

Though menu labeling hasn't come without some controversy, we applaud FDA for ensuring that calorie information is widely available to Americans regardless of whether they are shopping at the grocery store, eating at fast-food or sit-down restaurants, or grabbing a snack at the movies. This is not only equitable for all food-related businesses, but the best outcome for the "gained pleasure" of all consumers.

Dan Glickman served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1995 until 2001 and as Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association from 2004 until 2010. Ann M. Veneman served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 2001 until 2005 and as Executive Director of UNICEF from 2005 until 2010. Together they co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center's Prevention Initiative.

12 Numbers That Show America's Internet Has An Equality Problem

Mon, 2015-01-26 11:43
For many people, it's hard to imagine life without the Internet.

Sure, having web access lets us update our Instagram feeds or look up Oreo cheesecake recipes -- nothing too vital there. But it also lets us file taxes electronically, book flights, check our bank accounts, do homework and participate in popular culture. Futurists have been telling us for years how amazing it’s going to be when the Internet goes even further, too -- when our cars order lattes and our phones tell us when the dryer’s done.

And yet, many people still live without Internet access. Their reasons are varied -- for some, low income makes an Internet bill too much to handle, while others say they wouldn't know how to use the web even if they had access. There's a growing concern that these disconnected individuals are falling further behind economically and socially, creating an ever-wider "digital divide."

As the FCC weighs new rules to keep the Internet free and open, it’s worth considering how many people still aren’t connected. The numbers might surprise you.

via Tumblr

The percent of American adults who do not use the Internet -- for any reason -- according to a January 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center. Pew's results over the years show this number has fluctuated. Disconnected respondents increased from 15 to 20 percent between May and September 2013, before dipping to 13 percent in January 2014. This number, however, has steadily declined since 2000, when 52 percent of respondents did not go online.

9.5 million
The number of Americans who still use dial-up Internet as of May 2013, according to a 2013 Pew survey. Typical dial-up speeds make streaming media or video calls difficult, if not impossible.

The percent of black adults who don’t use the Internet, according to the January 2014 Pew survey of Americans.Hispanic adults represented the next most-disconnected group, with 17 percent of respondents saying they don’t use the Internet, followed by 13 percent of white adults.

The number of American adults who use the Internet -- but not in their homes, according to a 2013 Pew survey. This figure suggests a fair number of people use public computers or borrow from friends or family to go online.

The number of American adults who said public libraries' Internet, computers and printers are “very important” to them or their families in a 2013 Pew survey. Past reports have found public libraries are a vital resource for people in low-income areas, and anecdotal evidence suggests public computer labs are still a popular way to get online.

The number of American adults earning less than $30,000 per year who don’t go online. Cost of Internet service, along with reluctance to enter into a contract, are some common hurdles.

The number of low-income Americans who needed to be convinced of the Internet's importance in a 2010 report from the Social Science Research Council on broadband use by low-income individuals. The researchers said they expected some people without web access to say the Internet was "not relevant" to their lives. But none of the respondents felt that way -- including people "with profound histories of marginalization,” such as the homeless, “people recently released from lengthy prison sentences” and even “residents of a rural community without electricity or running water," the researchers noted.

133.3 million
The projected number of American adults who do not have a smartphone, according to a January 2014 Pew survey that found 42 percent of respondents didn't own one. The same survey found that a full 10 percent of American adults don’t have a cell phone of any kind.

The average amount Internet users can save on living costs per year, according to a 2013 report by the Internet Innovation Alliance. By ordering clothes and food online through mass retailers, price comparing home listings and taking care of other expenses digitally, the group said it's possible to save thousands, even when factoring in the cost of broadband.

The average monthly price of broadband service in 2014, according to the nonprofit New America Foundation. A 2013 report from the Office of Science and Technology Policy found that broadband costs have been stagnant or gone up over the last few years, while speeds have remained relatively unchanged.

The percent of teachers who said that “all or almost all” of their students have the digital resources available to complete assignments at home, according to a 2013 Pew survey. A full 84 percent agreed that technology was contributing to disparities between affluent and disadvantaged school systems. Many schools, for example, continue to adopt online systems that allow parents to check their child’s grades at any time -- so long as they have an Internet connection.

The percent of American adults without a high school diploma who have either a smartphone or broadband access, according to a 2013 Pew report. This represents a sharp divide from college-educated Americans -- 93 percent of whom have either a smartphone or broadband access. Some have noted that the digital divide could help fuel education and income disparity in America.

21 Things You've Definitely Eaten If You Grew up in the Midwest

Mon, 2015-01-26 11:02
By: Andy Kryza

Midwesterners do things their own way -- seriously, ask anyone from the Midwest to say "paper bag" and you'll experience vowels you didn't even know existed. And when it comes to food, the region is flooded with deliciousness that much of the rest of the country hasn't even heard of. Credit that to a hugely diverse history of immigration, and to the fact that sometimes, when it's that cold for that long, you need to invent new foods just to pass the time. Behold the 21 foodstuffs you've definitely eaten if you grew up in the Midwest.

More: The Iconic Soft Drink of Every State in America

Credit: Andy Kryza/Thrillist

Tenderloin sandwiches

Where to get them: Indiana and Iowa
What they are: Iowa and Indiana fuss about which state owns the tenderloin sandwich, but wherever it came from, it's a thing of beauty that puts schnitzel to shame. It's a gigantic hunk of pork pounded Frisbee-flat, breaded, and fried. Then this gigantic hunk of golden meat is served on a tiny hamburger bun that covers about 30% of the meat. It's usually topped with mustard, tomato, pickles, and other things that aren't pork.

Coney dogs

Where to get them: Michigan
What they are: Hot dogs are a big deal in the Midwest, with Chicago's hogging the glory. In Michigan, though, they're treated with the utmost respect. Hell, there are even regulations in place to make sure only top-quality meat's used. And the vessel of worship is the coney, which has nothing to do with Brooklyn and everything to do with a beanless chili-topped dog with raw onions and mustard. The glorious chili tends to be more liquid-y than Detroit-style and is the consistency of taco meat for Flint-style. You can get one everywhere in the state. And you should.

Credit: Carl Brenden/Thrillist

Juicy Lucys

Where to get them: Minneapolis & St. Paul
What they are: Cheeseburgers stuffed with cheese, which pours out like the most delicious lava imaginable. Iconic Matt's Bar claims to have invented them (and spells them "Jucy Lucys"), but they've become a signature of MSP bar-food culture, where adventurous cooks have begun stuffing them with fancier cheeses and other accoutrements like bacon and jalapeños. No matter how it's served, you'll never look at a burger the same way again.

Frozen custard

Where to find it: Throughout the Midwest
What it is: Basically ice cream, but richer because of egg yolk, which lands it somewhere between gelato and hard scoops. "Oh, come on," you say, elongating your vowels in that glorious Midwestern drawl. "You can get this stuff everywhere." And while it does make appearances occasionally throughout the country, you'd be surprised at how rare it is once you leave. There are stands on damn near every corner in Wisconsin, and even big chains like Culver's carry it.

Credit: Flickr/Chiot's Run

Cincinnati chili

Where to get it: Ohio
What it is: It's easy to mistake Cincinnati chili for spaghetti sauce, since it's meaty, saucy, and, well, served on spaghetti. Or on hot dogs. Or just in a bowl. No matter what, it packs a lot of spice -- cloves and allspice figure into a lot of recipes -- and is at its best when served up five-ways: piled on spaghetti and covered in shredded cheese, onions, and beans. Skyline is the most famous, but it's everywhere, and no two recipes are the same.


Where to get it: South Dakota
What it is: Some of our writers (unfairly!) dissed SoDak's food culture, but dammit, if anything they're keeping the toothpick industry afloat with chislic. Simply put, it's little meat cubes that take a swim in a deep fryer, get punched with salt/garlic/whatever, and then get skewered with toothpicks for easy eating. Be it beef, venison, or lamb, chislic is essentially kebabs without all the stupid veggies, and it's wonderful.

Credit: Flickr/Susie Blackmon

Superman ice cream

Where to get it: Throughout the Midwest
What it is: A red, yellow, and blue confection that leaves your face looking like you made out with Papa Smurf, each of Superman's colors represents a different flavor, though it can change depending on where you get it. Blue is usually Blue Moon, a nutmeg-punched vanilla flavor also native to the region. Red can be cherry or, if you're lucky, Faygo Red Pop, while yellow is typically custard. Sometimes you can find it in far-flung ice cream shops throughout the nation, where it's usually greeted with squeals of shock and delight (just ask the poor teenager who endured my 10-minute freakout at a tiny Colorado parlor).


Where to find it: Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin
What it is: Not to be confused with what the gents at the dance hall called your Grandma back when she was super bangin', hotdish is simply a form of casserole. It usually consists of a meat, something starchy (tater tots for the win!), and some condensed soup all poured into a single serving dish. It's served by spooning it out of the same dish. Your hot Grandma loves it.

Credit: Flickr/snekse

Loose-meat sandwiches

Where to get them: Iowa & Kansas
What they are: Like a less-sloppy cousin to Joe, the loose-meat sandwich is just a bunch of lightly seasoned ground beef with a bit of onion. So basically, a burger that hasn't been pattied, which means it's also delicious with any variety of condiments... or on its own. There are even chains devoted to them, including Maid-Rite in Iowa and Nu-Way in Kansas, where they call them "crumbly burgers," which sounds wonderfully cheeky.


Where to get them: Central Illinois
What they are: The glorious result of a wild orgy between an open-faced sandwich, cheese fries, and nachos, the Horseshoe has spread out a bit from its humble beginnings in Springfield, but really, it should be everywhere. You can score them with everything from fish to fried chicken or (ugh) veggies, but no matter the meat (or, UGH, veggies) the structure is the same: Texas toast topped with enough fries to feed 20 Belgians, all of which is smothered in cheese sauce. Oh, and you can get them for breakfast, with sausage and bacon. God bless America.

From pasties to beer cheese soup, head to for 11 more foods you've definitely eaten if you grew up in the Midwest!

More from Thrillist:

The Unofficial Comfort Foods of Every State in America

16 Amazing Regional Snacks That Should Be Everywhere Right Now

Follow Thrillist on Twitter:

The Night Ernie Banks Died

Mon, 2015-01-26 09:58

Ernie Banks died tonight. And in the summer green fields of heaven, they are playing baseball. Later on, I'll go listen to Steve Goodman sing "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request." But not right now.

Tonight I hear the crack of the bat and the rumbling roar of the crowd in the sunshine. Mr. Cub has just hit his 500th home run and when you watch him lope around the bases, head down grace in motion, you'll run those bases with him and it will be a trip that will last your whole life through.

There be a news conference. There will be tributes. Tributes galore. But not right now.

Right now there is a still, grey pallor that hangs over the city on this cold winter night. It's like the opposite of baseball. The night Ernie Banks died.

6 blocks east, Wrigley Field lies in tatters. A renovation that won't be done in time for the start of the season. A construction site that hurt my heart when I first saw it. Place looks like someone took a giant cleat and stomped it into bits of broken toy.

So Ernie's gone to greener fields to finish out his double header.

Here, we'll still be expecting him on TV for just one more interview. I remember not too long ago he had an idea about ending hunger. That was Ernie. He made no small plans.

Here in this big shoulder city, as the years go on, if you look real hard when you're walking down a street or a path through a park, and if you catch a glimpse of a smile like summer, or if you hear somebody talking happy, or if you see a gleam in someone's eye like a warm day in June with the sun sprinkled soul of a giant; if you see any of that, you'll be seeing Ernie Banks.

The best of us. That smile. Everybody now, "Let's Play Two!"

Here's to Ernie. God bless him. Playing baseball in the sunshine.

"Let's Play Two."

Why Some Women Are Giving Up Tampons For Good

Mon, 2015-01-26 07:06
Maryann Flasch, a 32-year-old office manager from Austin, Colorado, used to suffer from vaginal itching, dryness and infections when she got her period, which she attributed to using tampons and pads. She had resigned herself to buying tube after tube of topical painkillers -- until she discovered the menstrual cup.

“I suffered for years with the side effects of using tampons/pads because I didn't know there was another option,” Flasch wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. "Not only do [menstrual cups] reduce garbage and mess, but they are a lifesaver for women that find tampons and pads to be highly irritating."

Sara Austin, a 25-year-old occupational therapist from Gainesville, Florida, also says that cups are easier to use than tampons and pads. She cited relief from vaginal dryness -- as well as a more pleasant olfactory experience.

“Tampons/pads tend to cause an unpleasant odor after a while, and I have yet to experience that with my menstrual cup,” Austin wrote in an email to HuffPost.

While most women in the U.S. and Europe use sanitary pads or tampons when they’re on their period, a small but vocal minority of women are sounding a cri de coeur for their beloved menstrual cups.

For the uninitiated, menstrual cups are goblet-shaped receptacles made out of non-toxic, non-absorbent and flexible materials such as silicone. They are inserted in the vagina to collect period blood. Cups can be reused for up to 10 years, and at around $30 to $40 apiece, they're more affordable and eco-friendly than cotton or synthetic single-use products.

Beth Croft, a 38-year-old photographer and yoga teacher who splits her time between London and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, says she loves her menstrual cup because it can be left in place for up to 12 hours at a time, which is especially helpful when she visits places where access to public restrooms can be dicey. Croft began using a menstrual cup eight years ago, when she traveled around India for a month. After her trip, she continued to use it and says that the cup's environmental impact (or rather, lack thereof) is one of the biggest arguments for using one.

"Being very eco-conscious, I had always been bothered by the amount of sanitary products that must be used throughout the world, so it really felt like a revelation,” Croft wrote in an email to HuffPost. "It took a little getting used to, but it is without a doubt one of the best inventions, and I have since encouraged many family and friends to make the switch.”

The device also improves the lives of women in developing countries. In a recent HuffPost blog post, international women’s rights advocate Sabrina Rubli described how the silicone receptacle is helping poor girls in East Africa and elsewhere deal with their periods. Without menstrual cups, they often have to resort to using newspapers, rags, leaves and even mud to absorb the blood, which puts them at risk of infection and makes attending school difficult, if not impossible.

Menstrual cups come with other benefits as well. Some women say they help relieve cramping. Kelly Bailey from Newport, Rhode Island, experienced extremely painful cramps before she bought her Diva Cup.

"I used to have terrible, terrible cramps,” Bailey told HuffPost. “The first time I used a menstrual cup, the cramps were much less severe … I felt so much better.”

Others ditch tampons over concerns about toxic shock syndrome, a rare but serious disease that can occur when the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus become concentrated in the body and that has in the past been linked to tampons.

Because they are made of materials like silicone and create airtight seals inside the vagina, menstrual cups don't encourage bacterial growth, says Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., a microbiology professor at New York University and author of the book The Secret Life of Germs.

Tampons are no longer made with the synthetic fibers that were thought to increase the risk of TSS, and tampon safety is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, the risk of contracting TSS is so small these days that the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionno longer even tracks it. But for some women, peace of mind can be an important motivator: Janaye Murphy, a 29-year-old doula from San Francisco, says she loves her cup because she can leave it in longer than a tampon "without worrying about TSS."

While menstrual cups have clear benefits, not everyone's a fan. Some women who try them out never manage to adjust to them. Rev. Kimberly-Ann Talbert, 60, of Los Angeles, tried the Tassaway, a type of menstrual cup that is no longer manufactured. She says she found the cup "difficult to insert and a bit uncomfortable."

"Taking them out was difficult as they were apt to spill their contents, making for a mess,” Talbert said. She’s sticking with pads for now.

She's not the only woman who admitted to experiencing a few leaks before learning how to insert and remove a menstrual cup properly. When it's time to empty a cup, a woman pours the collected blood into the toilet, washes the cup in the sink with warm soapy water, and then reinserts it into her vagina. If she happens to be somewhere where she can't wash the cup, she can just empty it out, wipe it off with some toilet paper and then reinsert.

That airtight seal Tierno mentioned can also get users in trouble: In a single-patient case published in the International Journal of STD & AIDS, a researcher writes about a 20-year-old patient whose Mooncup was stuck so far up her vagina that even the doctor had trouble prying it away.

But most of the research comparing cups to other menstrual products find that women either like them as much as tampons and pads or prefer them over other options.

Legal Marijuana Is The Fastest-Growing Industry In The U.S.: Report

Sun, 2015-01-25 23:00
Legal marijuana is the fastest-growing industry in the United States and if the trend toward legalization spreads to all 50 states, marijuana could become larger than the organic food industry, according to a new report obtained by The Huffington Post.

Researchers from The ArcView Group, a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland, California, found that the U.S. market for legal cannabis grew 74 percent in 2014 to $2.7 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2013.

The group 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, over the course of seven months during 2013 and 2014. ArcView also compiled data from state agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies in the marijuana industry for a more complete look at the marketplace.

"In the last year, the rise of the cannabis industry went from an interesting cocktail conversation to being taken seriously as the fastest growing industry in America," 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. "At this point, it’s hard to imagine that any serious businessperson who is paying attention hasn’t spent some time thinking about the possibilities in this market."

Graph courtesy of ArcView Market Research.

The report also projects a strong year for legal marijuana in 2015 and projects 32 percent growth in the market. Dayton said that places "cannabis in the top spot" when compared with other fast-growing industries.

Over the next five years, the marijuana industry is expected to continue to grow, with ArcView predicting that 14 more states will legalize recreational marijuana and two more states will legalize medical marijuana. At least 10 states are already considering legalizing recreational marijuana in just the next two years through ballot measures or state legislatures.

To date, four states -- Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon -- have legalized retail marijuana. Washington, D.C., voters also legalized recreational marijuana use, but sales currently remain banned. Twenty-three states have legalized medical cannabis. Still, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

The report projects that, by 2019, all of the state-legal marijuana markets combined will make for a potential overall market worth almost $11 billion annually.

Graph courtesy of ArcView Market Research.

The report also breaks out some interesting marijuana trends from around the nation. California still has the largest legal cannabis market in the U.S., at $1.3 billion. Arizona was found to have the fastest-growing major marijuana market in 2014, expanding to $155 million, up more than $120 million from the previous year. Medical marijuana is already legal in Arizona and California and recreational legalization measures are likely to appear on the 2016 ballots in both states.

More than 1.5 million shoppers purchased legal marijuana from a dispensary, either medical or recreational, in 2014. Five states now boast marijuana markets that are larger than $100 million, and in Colorado and Washington -- the first states to open retail marijuana shops in the U.S. -- consumers bought $370 million in marijuana products last year.

Oregon and Alaska are expected to add a combined $275 million in retail marijuana sales in their first year of operation, the report projects. And while D.C. has also legalized recreational marijuana use, ArcView couldn't project a market size in the District because of an ongoing attempt by congressional Republicans to block the new law.

Graph courtesy of ArcView Market Research.

The huge growth potential of the industry appears to be limited only by the possibility of states rejecting the loosening of their drug laws. The report projects a marijuana industry that could be more valuable than the entire organic food industry -- that is, if the legalization trend continues to the point that all 50 states legalize recreational marijuana. The total market value of all states legalizing marijuana would top $36.8 billion -- more than $3 billion larger than the organic food industry.

"These are exciting times," Dayton said in the executive summary, "and new millionaires and possibly billionaires are about to be made, while simultaneously society will become safer and freer."

The Other Mr. Cub I Remember

Sun, 2015-01-25 18:01
As a kid growing up on Chicago's South Side in the 1950s, I loved baseball. But most blacks then didn't love the Chicago Cubs. There were two reasons for that. The Cubs played at Wrigley Field on Chicago's North Side, and blacks almost literally took their lives in their hands walking or driving though the lily-white, rabidly hostile neighborhoods around the ballpark. The other was that most blacks then lived on Chicago's South Side. They adored the Chicago White Sox, who played at Comiskey Park on the South Side.

Many remembered that five years before Jackie Robinson crashed through the color barrier in baseball in 1947 with the Dodgers, the Chicago White Sox gave him a look-see tryout in 1942. When the Sox were away, team owners rented the stadium out to Negro League teams and the biggest game for the Negro Leagues was the East-West Classic All-Star game held each summer at Comiskey. My father and other blacks regularly jammed the park to watch some of the era's top baseball talent. Nearly all of whom in the early to mid-1950s still had almost no chance to crack the color bar that had morphed from the rigid barrier before Robinson broke it in 1947 to a gentleman's arrangement among the owners to clamp a tight quota on the number of blacks that each team could have on their roster at any one time.

Despite my disdain for the Cubs, the name that I and every black baseball fan in Chicago knew was Ernie Banks. I closely followed Banks' exploits. I'd listen to Cubs games on the radio. When the announcer said "And now Banks is stepping to the plate," I got a thrill of pride and anticipation that with that easy almost nonchalant trademark batting style of his -- with the right elbow cocked high -- he would smack one out of the park. When he did I screamed with delight. The avalanche of accolades, tributes to, and remembrances of Banks on his passing made the obligatory gush that he was a great player and a model of decorum and civility. The undertone to this is that Banks, unlike Robinson, was a great guy because he never uttered a peep about racial bias within and without baseball. This supposedly enhanced his status as a paragon of greatness. This deliberately distorts and ignores what Banks said and had to face when he broke in with the Cubs in 1953.

Banks lived on Chicago's South Side not far from where I lived. He often commuted to Cubs home games on the L train. He had no choice. Though he was the biggest name and biggest draw the Cubs had, he could not buy a home or rent an apartment in the neighborhood surrounding Wrigley Field. I remember my father and other blacks talking about how Banks privately would complain that few blacks ever came to Wrigley field for Cubs games. Years after he hung up his glove in 1971, he opened up and expressed his disappointment at the invisible racial barrier for Cubs games: "I lived with a lot of schoolteachers and bankers, and they never came to Wrigley."

Banks tried to do something about that. He cajoled John Johnson, the publisher of Ebony and Jet, to buy Cubs season tickets one year. A decade after his debut with the Cubs, Johnson became reportedly the Cubs' first African-American season-ticket holder. It was all for naught. Johnson didn't use them and Banks told why: "He called me and said, 'Ernie, I gotta cancel my tickets. I can't get nobody to go with me!'"

Banks did not turn a blind eye to the Cubs unstated quota system for black players in the 1950s. He acknowledged that the Cubs would quickly trade away young black players. He flatly attributed the reluctance of blacks to come to Cubs games to the lack of black players on the team.

Even though we didn't go to Cubs games, Banks still deeply appreciated the support he got from the blacks on Chicago's South Side, especially in the neighborhood where he and I lived. He said so -- "Very few blacks came to Wrigley Field at that time and, in my own community, people were really proud of me. They assisted me, made sure I got to bed on time, congratulated me. ... It wasn't like I was a star or a hero. It was like I was taken in, like a family. They would come and watch my kids, wash my car, invite me to dinner."

I was not a fan of the Cubs. I was a fan of Banks. I cherished him for his phenomenal baseball skills, grace, warmth and dignity. He was a sports role model for me and other young blacks in Chicago at a time when we desperately needed them in the Big Leagues. He was a man who never forgot that his achievements on and off the field meant so much to us. That's the other Mr. Cub I'll always remember.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.

Robert Morris University Offers Sports Scholarships In Video Gaming

Sun, 2015-01-25 15:00
For students who love video games, life can be a constant battle between making it to the next level and doing something more productive. At least that's what it was like for one college freshman who later found the perfect solution for this dilemma.

Sondra Burrows explained to HuffPost Live on Wednesday that her mother's constant nagging inspired her to seek a sports scholarship for video gaming from Robert Morris University in Illinois.

She explained that after she was awarded the scholarship, her aunt called her and said, "'You know, it usually takes until someone's 30 to be able to tell your parents or relatives 'I told you so' or anything like that. But you get to do it now. We used to tell your mom how you needed to get active and away from the computer, [how] it's rotting your mind, but now it's how you're getting through school you've made a life for yourself.'"

Burrows is one of 35 students to receive a scholarship at Robert Morris University for being on the League of Legends team, a competitive varsity eSports squad.

Click here to learn more about video game scholarships and majors here.

If you have an idea or want to be part of an On Campus segment on HuffPost Live, email

Sports Illustrated Will Run Edgy Domestic Violence Ad Ahead Of Super Bowl

Sun, 2015-01-25 11:57
After initially rejecting an edgy advertisement about domestic violence in the National Football League, Sports Illustrated magazine has decided to run the ad on its website Thursday, just a few days before the Super Bowl.

The ad, created by the progressive advocacy group Ultraviolet, includes a dramatic video of a uniformed football player tackling a woman without a helmet. The video notes that 55 domestic abuse cases in the NFL have gone unanswered under the leadership of league commissioner Roger Goodell, and it ends with the hashtag "#GOODELLMUSTGO."

Ultraviolet's five-figure online ad campaign also includes banner ads with the same domestic violence statistic and hashtag.

Sports Illustrated initially rejected the ad, telling Ultraviolet this week that the editorial team made the decision to not run it based on its messaging.

After The Huffington Post reached out to Sports Illustrated on Friday to inquire about that decision, a spokesman said the magazine had mistakenly rejected the ads and will now be running them on Thursday, ahead of the Super Bowl.

"While this specific campaign had two components -- banner and flash -- only the banner ad was reviewed due to a minor technical glitch," said spokesman Scott Novak. "The banner ad we felt could be mistaken for our editorial stance. If there is going to be an opinion on the matter we prefer to let our writers and editors take ownership of those opinions."

Sports Illustrated's editorial staff has extensively covered the issue of domestic violence in the NFL. The issue gained national attention last year after Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked his then-fiancee unconscious in an elevator and was suspended for only two games.

Novak said Sports Illustrated's editorial team is now fine with the content of the ad campaign, after seeing the video. "Our thanks is to the person who raised the issue whereupon we discovered the misunderstanding," he said. "With the full context of both components, we approved it and worked with the client to get it scheduled."

Nita Chaudhary, the founder of Ultraviolet, applauded the magazine's decision.

"We are thrilled that public scrutiny has persuaded Sports Illustrated to reverse their decision on our ads addressing the NFL's domestic violence problem," Chaudhary said. "The issue is and always has been that an astonishing 55 cases of domestic violence have gone unanswered under Commissioner Roger Goodell’s tenure at the NFL. Going into Super Bowl Sunday, we cannot allow the issue of domestic violence to be swept under the rug."

States Where The Middle Class Is Dying: 24/7 Wall St.

Sat, 2015-01-24 13:08
Click here to see the states where the middle class is dying.

The American economy is by many measures well on the road to full recovery. The national unemployment rate was 6.2% in 2013, down from 9.3% in 2009; U.S. gross domestic product grew 5% in the third quarter of 2014; and the S&P 500 recently reached its all time high. And yet the middle class, which historically was the driver of economic growth, is falling behind. The average income among middle class families shrank by 4.3% between 2009 and 2013, while incomes among the wealthiest 20% of American households grew by 0.4%.

Based on average pre-tax income earned by the third quintile, or the middle 20% of earners in each state, middle class incomes in California declined the most in the country. Incomes among middle class Californian households fell by nearly 7% between 2009 and 2013, while income among the state’s fifth quintile, or the top 20% of state earners, grew by 1.3%. Based on an analysis of household incomes among America’s middle class, these are the states where the middle class is suffering the most.

Click here to see the states where the middle class is dying.

According to Joe Valenti, director of asset building at the Center for American Progress, the American middle class is essential for economic growth because middle income families are spending relatively large shares of their incomes on goods and services. “An additional dollar in the hands of a middle income earner is going to drive a lot more spending than an additional dollar in the hands of someone in that top quintile,” Valenti said. While households in the top quintile are able to spend enormous sums of money, “at some point there’s only so much that an individual can spend, even on all different kinds of luxury goods.”

While the middle class is the most important cohort in terms of spending and has in the past been essential for economic growth, middle income families have been the victims of wage stagnation. Valenti argued that as early as the 1970s, American companies started becoming much more productive. However, because of “a decoupling of productivity and wages,” wages among many workers have remained stagnant, and many in the middle class “have not been able to reap the benefits of higher productivity,” Valenti explained. Instead, returns from higher productivity have gone to owners and investors and not to the workers, he said. Many of the beneficiaries of these returns are likely part of the wealthiest 20% of households, whose incomes have grown in recent years.

Much of the income growth among the highest earning households is likely due to stock market gains. As Thomas Piketty argues in his book, “Capital in the 21st Century,” income inequality results from a higher return on capital — money used to make more money in the stock market or other revenue-generating assets — than wage and GDP growth. With the rich holding a disproportionate share of money in the stock market, their incomes have recovered much faster than those of middle class workers.

In all 10 of the states on this list, the share of total income earned by the bottom 80% of households fell between 2009 and 2013 and was redistributed to the highest quintile. The top 20% of U.S. households held more than 51% of total income in 2013, up 1.14 percentage points from 2009. Even among top earners, income was not evenly distributed. Over that five-year period, the top 5% of households accounted for nearly 75% of income gains in the top 20% of earners.

Income from capital gains may partly explain why the income distribution has skewed towards the rich in recent years. “We have seen the stock market recover quite well for many Americans who do have access to the market and who are investors,” Valenti said. Meanwhile, average workers do not.

According to data collected by Piketty, the average capital gain income of households in the bottom 90% was $558 in 2012. The average capital gains of the top 10% of households was nearly $30,000. And the comparable figure for the top 1% of U.S. households was a whopping $242,000 in 2012.

Several other factors, such as union membership rates and a particular state’s tax climate, such as no income tax or higher sales taxes, can also affect the redistribution of wealth across the nation. “Traditionally, union organizing has stepped in when policy makers have been unwilling to,” Valenti said. For example, depending on the union’s size and its sway, “policy makers may not feel the same pressure to pass or increase a minimum wage” if unions can negotiate a wage increase on their own.

While union organizing was a major component of the middle class’ formation in America after World War II, the level of labor force participation in unions fell from 12.4% in 2009 to 11.3% in 2013. In some states the decline was even more pronounced. Oregon’s union membership, for example, fell by 3.3%, the second largest decrease nationwide.

To determine the states where the middle class is suffering the most, 24/7 Wall St. used data on the average pre-tax income earned by each income quintile from the U.S. Census Bureau. We defined middle class as the third quintile, or the middle 20% of earners. We examined the growth in average incomes in the third and fifth quintiles between 2009 and 2013 to identify income trends in the middle and upper class. The final list was composed of states where middle class incomes fell by more than 4.3% and fifth quintile incomes rose by more than 0.4%, the national aver. Both benchmark figures reflect the national change of their respective quintiles. Because Census income data reflect pre-tax levels, they may overstate the degree of income inequality in the poorer quintiles. However, it is unlikely that the tax burden of the third quintile is significant enough to skew the data.

We also looked at data on the share of aggregate income by quintile from the Census Bureau, and how that share changed between 2009 and 2013. Also from the Census Bureau, we reviewed poverty rates, the share of households making less than $10,000 a year, as well as the share of households making more than $200,000 a year. All data are from 2009 to 2013. Additionally, we considered the Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient indicates the degree to which an area’s incomes deviate from a perfectly equal income distribution. Scaled between 0 and 1, a coefficient of 0 represents perfectly equal incomes among all people. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we looked at annual unemployment rates from 2009 and 2013. The percentage of non-agricultural employees who identify as members of a union came from Tax data come from the Tax Foundation’s 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index.

These are the states where the middle class is dying, according to 24/7 Wall St.

Ernie Banks, Chicago's 'Mr. Cub,' Dead At 83

Fri, 2015-01-23 22:19
Ernie Banks, the legendary Chicago Cubs baseball player and Hall of Famer, died at age 83 on Friday night in Chicago, a spokesperson for his family said.

Ernie Banks poses July 5, 1955 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (AP)

The news of his death was confirmed to the Chicago Sun Times and ABC Chicago.

Known as "Mr. Cub," the ebullient Banks played shortstop and first base for the Chicago Cubs from 1953 to 1971, netting 512 home runs and 1,636 RBIs. Known for his smile and always being eager to play, he was often heard saying, "Let's play two!" Former Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of Banks in 2013, “I just remember Ernie was never in a bad mood."

Chicago Cubs Ernie Banks in an undated file photo. (Getty)

Banks first played in the Negro leagues, becoming the first black player to play for the Cubs in 1953. He started out his pro-ball career with a bang, hitting .314 in his first season, and the following year came in second in Rookie of the Year voting. He would spend his whole career with the team, endearing himself to the city. In a Chicago Sun-Times poll conducted in 1969, he was voted the "Greatest Cub Ever."

Banks was honored as an All-Star fourteen times, and was named the National League MVP in 1958 and 1959. He later became the first player to have his number retired by the Cubs. Banks was inducted into the Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame in 1977.

— Eric Stangel (@EricStangel) January 24, 2015

In November 2013, Banks was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, the highest honor awarded to civilians, the Sun Times reported.

President Barack Obama awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Hall of Fame baseball player Ernie Banks in the East Room at the White House on November 20, 2013. (Getty)

Ernie Banks acknowledges the fans prior to Game Three of the National League Divisional Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field on October 6, 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. (Getty)

Banks was born in Dallas in 1931, and had 10 siblings. He would have turned 84 on Saturday.

Ernie Banks throws out the first pitch before the game between the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on May 15, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Getty)

Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts released the following statement Friday night:

Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time. He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And and more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known. Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.

Our Saturday back page |

— Chicago Sun-Times (@Suntimes) January 24, 2015

For ebullient Ernie Banks, day at the ballpark was a day in paradise

— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) January 24, 2015

More from the Associated Press:

Hall of Fame slugger Ernie Banks, the two-time MVP who never lost his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite years of playing on losing Chicago Cubs teams, died Friday night. He was 83.

The Cubs announced Banks' death, but did not provide a cause.

"Mr. Cub" hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career, including five seasons with 40 or more. He was fond of saying, "It's a great day for baseball. Let's play two!" That remains a catchphrase at Wrigley Field to this day.

"Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. "He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I've ever known."

"Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie's life in the days ahead."

Though he was an 11-time All-Star from 1953-71, Banks never reached the postseason, and the Cubs finished below .500 in all but six of his seasons. Still, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, the first year he was eligible, and selected to baseball's All-Century team in 1999.

Banks' infectious smile and non-stop good humor despite his team's dismal record endeared him to Chicago fans, who voted him the best player in franchise history. One famous admirer, "Saturday Night Live" star Bill Murray, named his son Homer Banks Murray.

Banks' No. 14 was the first number retired by the Cubs, and hangs from the left-field foul pole at Wrigley Field.

"I'd like to get to the last game of the World Series at Wrigley Field and hit three homers," he once said. "That was what I always wanted to do."

Banks was playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues when the Cubs discovered him in 1953, and purchased his contract for $10,000. He made his major league debut at shortstop on Sept. 17 that year, and three days later hit his first home run.

Tall and thin, Banks didn't look like a typical power hitter. He looked even less so as he stood at the plate, holding his bat high and wiggling it as he waited for pitches. But he had strong wrists and a smooth, quick stroke, and he made hitting balls out of the park look effortless.

When he switched to a lighter bat before the 1955 season, his power quickly became apparent. He hit 44 homers that season, including three against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 4. His five grand slams that year established a major league record that stood for more than 30 years before Don Mattingly hit six in 1987.

Banks' best season came in 1958, when he hit .313 with 47 homers and 129 RBIs. Though the Cubs went 72-82 and finished sixth in the National League, Banks edged Willie Mays and Hank Aaron for his first MVP award. He was the first player from a losing team to win the NL MVP.

Banks won the MVP again in 1959, becoming the first NL player to win it in consecutive years, even though the Cubs had another dismal year. Banks hit .304 with 45 homers and a league-leading 143 RBIs.

He led the NL in homers again in 1960 with 41, his fourth straight season with 40 or more. His 248 homers from 1955-60 were the most in the majors, topping even Aaron and Mays.

Though Banks didn't break the 40-homer barrier again after 1960, he topped the 100-RBI mark three more times, including 1969, his last full season. Then 38, he hit .253 with 23 home runs and 106 RBIs, and was chosen an All-Star for an 11th time.

On May 12, 1970, he hit his 500th home run, becoming only the eighth player at the time to reach the plateau.

Banks retired after the 1971 season. He owned most of the Cubs' career slugging records, some of which still stand today.

Known mostly for his power at the plate, Banks was a solid fielder, too. He is best known as a shortstop, where he won a Gold Glove in 1960, but he switched to first base in 1962. He played 1,259 games at first and 1,125 games at shortstop.

Born and raised in Dallas, Banks would be bribed to play catch by his father, who always wanted him to be a baseball player. Banks grew to love the game and was a standout in high school, along with participating in football, basketball and track and field.

He joined a barnstorming Negro Leagues team at 17 and was spotted by Cool Papa Bell, who signed him to the Monarchs in 1950. Banks played one season before going into the Army. He returned to Kansas City after he was discharged, playing one more season before joining the Cubs.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Sigmar Polke's 'Siberian Meteorites' Installed at Park Hyatt

Fri, 2015-01-23 15:09

An arty crowd recently braved January's Siberia-like winter weather to assemble at the Park Hyatt Chicago in celebration of the installation of Sigmar Polke's 10-foot tall canvas entitled Siberian Meteorites. The 8-foot wide painting is a consummate example of a period in Polke's eclectic oeuvre and now replaces Robert Rauschenberg's Tropicana/Channel, which was on loan from Hyatt's Executive Chairman Tom Pritzker's private collection. Polke's painting dominates the same space where Gerhard Richter's Domplatz Malland (1968) was once displayed and later sold at Sotheby's for $37 million.

Public art has long been embraced by the city of Chicago, known for its vast number of outdoor sculptures. The Park Hyatts are leading the way globally in boutique luxe hotels that cater to the art world as well, displaying the work of significant, contemporary artists in their gathering spaces. The hotel chain even publishes ARTPHAIRE, a contemporary art magazine curated in-house.

"The Park Hyatt Chicago, and their other global properties, have led the way for luxury hotels to incorporate contemporary art into the luxury experience," said President and Director of EXPO CHICAGO Tony Karman. "This commitment is due in large part to the connoisseurship and art patronage of the Pritzker family and the Hyatt Hotels Corporation--to have works by Richter, Rauschenberg and now a Sigmar Polke in the grand lobby of a hotel is nothing short of extraordinary."

Polke, who died in 2010, was the subject of Alibis: Sigmar Polke (1963-2010), a spring retrospective at MoMA last year. Born in Poland, the German artist was often associated with his brethren painters Gerhard Richter and Joseph Beuys - indeed he was one of Beuys' favorite students at Düsseldorf. Polke assimilated some of Beuys shamanism and mysticism into his own work.

Birte Kleemann, director of the Michael Werner Gallery in New York, which represents the Polke estate, said "This is a museum quality piece that - besides its beauty and combination of several important ideas Polke explored during his lifetime - reveals to us a subject matter that was at heart to the artist: Meteors. The phenomenon of meteorites was crucial to Sigmar Polke and fascinated as he was by those cosmic elements, he was very well informed about their places of origin, their magical powers and properties...he started to integrate mineral material and other substances into his artwork. Siberian Meteorites plays with the materiality of the phenomena (of amber) by way of using artificial resin and other chemical processes in its creation."

EXPO CHICAGO President/Director Tony Karman, Executive Chairman of Board of Directors for Hyatt Thomas J. Pritzker, Director of Michael Werner Gallery Birte Kleemann, President and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation Mark Hoplamazian and Park Hyatt Chicago General Manager Peter Roth in front of Sigmar Polke's Siberian Meteorites, 1988 at Park Hyatt Chicago, January 7, 2015. Photo by Claire Demos.

The result is a stunning work that pulls us in with its illusion of depth and suggests that the meteorites are in motion.

Forget Tinder, 'Watchr' App Matches You Up Based On What TV Shows You Binge-Watch

Fri, 2015-01-23 15:02
Is your chance of finding love ... remote?

So you've tried all the dating apps out there right? Tinder, Plenty Of Fish, Hinge, Bears & Pears, DateSPLOSION, 2 Match 2 Curious -- okay, we made a few of those up, but you get the idea. There are so many and none of them are working. Besides, who has time for dating when there are so many TV shows you're still not caught up on?

With "Watchr," a dating app parody from UCB Comedy's Los Angeles Digital, you can find people who are completely right for you according to what shows you need to catch up on. Haven't seen the last few episodes of "True Detective"? Boom, here's a person with an HBO GO account, now let the romance blossom!

There can be absolutely no downsides to this, we're sure of it.

Windy City Happening: Jennifer Hudson and Turn It Up for Change (PHOTOS)

Fri, 2015-01-23 12:59
W Hotels Worldwide has joined forces with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, in the fight for nationwide LGBT equality by launching a fundraising and awareness initiative, Turn It Up For Change. As part of the program, W Hotels around the country will host monthly Turn It Up For Change music events, in which a portion of proceeds will benefit HRC.

Grammy and Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson, the official spokeswoman of the Turn It Up For Change campaign, hosted the Chicago event this month joined by DJ Terry Hunter, DJ White Shadow, Legendary Damon and featuring rousing performances from Jennifer Hudson impersonators Shea Coulee and Precious Jewel.

Hudson was thrilled to meet her impersonators and happily took selfies with attendees all the while enjoying the dance party that wrapped up the evening.

Check out all the action in the gallery below!

Mayors To File Brief In Support Of Obama On Immigration Actions

Fri, 2015-01-23 12:31
WASHINGTON -- A group of mayors led by New York's Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles' Eric Garcetti are coming to the defense of President Barack Obama on immigration.

Twenty-eight mayors have signed on to file an amicus brief this coming Monday in support of Obama's recent executive actions on immigration, which are currently the target of a lawsuit from 25 states, led by Texas. The suit aims to block the president's deportation relief policies that will apply to some undocumented young people as well as undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents -- specifically, allowing them to stay in the country and work legally. Republicans in Congress are likewise seeking to block the programs.

During remarks at the United States Conference of Mayors meeting on Friday, de Blasio said that the coalition of mayors wants to "support our president who, as we all know, is under attack on this issue."

"We think it is crucial that when the administration is trying to help us address these core issues and they come under attack, that mayors stand up and say, 'No, in fact the executive action will help our people and we think it's crucial to move forward,'" he said.

The states' lawsuit contends that Obama overstepped his presidential power in a manner that violates the U.S. Constitution, and that his actions will "exacerbate the humanitarian crisis along the southern border, which will affect increased state investment in law enforcement, health care and education."

The first hearing on the lawsuit took place last week at a U.S. district court in Brownsville, Texas. Attorneys for the states argued that Obama's executive actions should be blocked pending a decision on their legality.

The Obama administration has argued that the president's policies fit within his legal authority under the principle of prosecutorial discretion, because they will allow immigration authorities to focus on deporting people deemed a higher priority, such as criminals, national security risks and people who have more recently crossed the border.

Obama is backed by a dozen states and the District of Columbia, all of which filed an amicus brief earlier this month in support of the executive actions on immigration. The states in that brief were California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, along with the District of Columbia. Their amicus brief argues that the policies are legal and will have a positive impact.

The mayors' defense will be similar, arguing that Obama's executive actions serve the public interest, according to a press release from de Blasio's office. They will ask that the policies be allowed to move forward despite the lawsuit against them. Along with de Blasio and Garcetti, mayors from Washington, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Louis were among those who signed on.

"Our cities cannot afford delays to immigration reforms that will strengthen our economy and help families," Garcetti said in a statement. "This isn’t a blue or red issue, but a human and economic one."

The amicus brief comes after a summit de Blasio hosted last month to discuss implementation of Obama's executive actions.

Nisha Agarwal, New York's commissioner of immigrant affairs, told The Huffington Post in an interview Friday that the executive actions will help cities because people will get work authorization and become more economically productive. She also said that undocumented immigrants may be more likely to report crimes to police if they are no longer afraid it could lead to them being deported.

"From the perspective of cities, this next round of executive action, both for the kids and for their parents, is potentially transformative," said Agarwal. "It's not the long-term reform we all need, but it will be hugely important for us and for our cities economically and in terms of public safety."

Here's the full list of mayors, according to a press release:
The following Mayors have signed on to the amicus brief:
Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York, New York
Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles, California
Mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta, Georgia
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore, Maryland
Mayor Byron Browm, Buffalo, New York
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago, Illinois
Mayor Steve Benjamin, Columbia, South Carolina
Mayor Nan Whaley, Dayton, Ohio
Mayor Michael Hancock, Denver, Colorado
Mayor Muriel Bowser, Washington, D.C.
Mayor Pedro Segarra, Hartford, Connecticut
Mayor Annise Parker, Houston, Texas
Mayor Steven Fulop, Jersey City, New Jersey
Mayor Paul Soglin, Madison, Wisconsin
Mayor Ras Baraka, Newark, New Jersey
Mayor Michael Nutter, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mayor Bill Peduto, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Mayor Charles Hales, Portland, Oregon
Mayor John Dickert, Racine, Wisconsin
Mayor Tom Butt, Richmond, California
Mayor Lovely Warren, Rochester, New York
Mayor Ralph Becker, Salt Lake City, Utah
Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco, California
Mayor Gary McCarthy, Schenectady, New York
Mayor Ed Murray, Seattle, Washington
Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis, Missouri
Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Tacoma, Washington
Mayor Mike Spano, Yonkers, New York

The following mayors have expressed their support and will sign on to the brief, pending final local approvals:

Mayor Karen Majewski, Hamtramck, Michigan
Mayor Virg Bernero, Lansing, Michigan
Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mayor Betsy Hodges, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mayor Greg Stanton, Phoenix, Arizona

Empowering Women And Girls Is The Key To Ending Poverty, And Here Are Numbers To Prove It

Fri, 2015-01-23 11:50
The lives of people in some of the world's poorest countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history, according to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In their 2015 annual letter, which was published on Thursday, the Gates not only made that bold prediction but also noted that investing in women’s health and education will play a key role in the growth of prosperous communities and nations.

For instance, if women’s level of employment matched men’s over the next 15 years on a global scale, the gross domestic product (GDP) worldwide would go up by 12 percent, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Yes, worldwide.

How exactly does that data break down? Check out the video above and/or read the transcript below for a two-minute explanation, made in a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Huffington Post.


JACQUELINE HOWARD: When we talk about 2 billion people living in poverty, why should we try to gear resources toward women and girls in those communities? Well if you’re thinking: chivalry, you lose. It’s all about results.

You see, when women and girls are healthy, educated, empowered and able to work, everyone wins. How so? Let’s start with a few basics:

Since 1990, maternal deaths worldwide have dropped 45 percent. So the health and wellbeing of women, newborns, and children are closely linked and help build prosperous communities and nations.

Women spend 90 percent of their income on things that directly benefit their families. They prioritize things like food, medicine and education for their children.

And mothers who’ve had an education are more than TWICE as likely to send their own kids to school as mothers with no education.

Now I could go on…but you get the point.

No country can reach its full potential by ignoring half of its population. If we want a healthier, more productive world, then unleashing the power of women and girls is one of the smartest – and most obvious – ways to realize it. Here are just a few ways we can do that:

  • In Africa, where half of the farmers are women, giving them the same access to resources that men have – like mobile phones, farming tools and information – could increase their yields by 20-30 percent, feeding more people and driving economic growth.

  • In India, if women participated equally in the labor force, the country could see an additional 10 percent income per capita by 2020.

  • And globally, if women’s level of employment matched men’s over the next 15 years, the GDP of these countries -- which is a way to measure an economy’s health -- would go up by 12 percent.

The evidence is clear. When you invest in women and girls and help them thrive, you can make a difference.

Why should we care about poverty anyway? Watch the video below for five reasons.

Reeder: Quinn's Inauguration Absence a Disappointment

Fri, 2015-01-23 10:45
Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was not present at Gov. Bruce Rauner's inauguration ceremony on Jan. 12. To Scott Reeder of the Illinois News Network, this was the ultimate act of sour grapes.

Reeder writes:

With the exception of the day Rod Blagojevich was impeached, the outgoing governor -- for at least the last 50 years -- has always been there to hand the reins over to his successor.

It's a gracious thing to do.

In a democracy power is handed over peacefully.

In Washington, on inauguration day the outgoing and incoming presidents and their spouses have tea together before the swearing in.

It brings a certain civility to the process.

Ryan said when his successor, Blagojevich, was sworn in he sat through it.

"It was hard. He took hits at me. But I sat there and took it," he said.

Good for George Ryan.

Former Gov. Dan Walker beat Former Gov. Richard Ogilvie. But Ogilvie sat through the inauguration and listened to Walker say, "The free ride is over."

Ogilvie, a tough former World War II tank commander, sat there and took it.

But on Jan. 12, Pat Quinn was nowhere to be seen.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois to see why Reeder was so disappointed with Quinn's absence.

But the inauguration is over, and Rauner must now govern. One big challenge he faces is fixing the state's finances, for which he has appointed a "turnaround team" to spearhead to the effort. The experts on this team, which the governor announced Jan. 22, are Chief Financial Officer Donna Arduin, Deputy Governor Trey Childress and Senior Adviser Linda Lingle. Read more about their various qualifications and experiences that Rauner thinks makes them fit to take on the state's financial challenges at Reboot Illinois.

How much could the average Illinoisan buy with the state's $9 billion budget deficit?

Why Skipping The Flu Vaccine Could Harm Your Sense Of Smell

Fri, 2015-01-23 10:23

By Shereen Lehman

(Reuters Health) - In a small new study, skipping the flu vaccine was associated with a higher risk for trouble with a sense of smell or taste.

Researchers say the results are preliminary, but since respiratory viruses are a common cause of a lost ability to smell, it's possible that the flu could be a contributing factor.

Respiratory viruses can damage olfactory nerves directly and indirectly by causing inflammation. Sometimes the effect is temporary, but not always, Dr. Zara Patel and colleagues at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia write in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

"Patients who suffer from decreased or total loss of smell, called 'hyposmia' or 'anosmia' are deeply affected by this problem," Patel told Reuters Health by email.

"Compared to the other special senses, for example, loss of vision or hearing, the loss of smell is often thought of as relatively inconsequential, but this is far from the truth," Patel said.

People who can't smell may lose important safety mechanisms, such as the ability to smell smoke or spoiled food, Patel said. And 80 percent of taste is linked to smell, so a total loss of smell could ruin a person's ability to enjoy food and beverages and have a negative effect on their social life.

"This can (and often does) lead to deep depression and a drastic reduction in quality of life," Patel said, adding there is currently no established cure for the problem.

Patel said hundreds of different respiratory viruses might have an effect like this, including some 200 viruses that cause the common cold. But the influenza virus may be preventable with vaccines.

"I saw this as a potential opportunity to (look for) any association between rate of vaccination and rate of (olfactory) loss, and see if there's a way to eventually use this information," she said.

Patel and colleagues identified 36 patients with olfactory problems that started after upper respiratory infections. The average duration of loss of smell was about 19 months but ranged from three to 48 months.

They compared those patients to 38 patients of the same race, age and gender, but without olfactory problems.

Overall, only 19 percent of the group with smell problems had been vaccinated against the flu, compared to 42 percent of the group who had no loss of smell.

It's important to note this is a small study, and more research needs to be done, Patel cautioned.

Now her team needs to look at this same subject with more rigorously designed studies, she said.

Patel said viruses aren't the only cause of smell dysfunction - sinus disease, trauma and tumors are other potential causes.

She said a few people will spontaneously recover their sense of smell after losing it, but this chance decreases as time passes from the first month after the loss.

"If people realize they are not able to smell or taste as well as they used to, they should seek care from an otolaryngologist as soon as possible," Patel said. "Because the longer the amount of time that passes before they are able to start treatment, the less chance they have for recovery."

SOURCE: JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, online January 15, 2015.