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This Chicago Mother Is Fighting To Keep A Local School Open, Despite 'Being Ignored' By The Mayor

Thu, 2015-08-20 09:13

Chicago mom Jeanette Taylor-Ramann is fed up with the indecision over the now-closed Dyett High School, and she's calling out the leaders behind it.

Since the Chicago school officially closed this year, its fate has remained in limbo as officials decide the next steps. Chicago Public Schools appears to be considering a number of proposals, one of which would privatize the school and another that would keep its open-enrollment status. 

Taylor-Ramann, who has been participating in a hunger strike over the issue since Monday, told HuffPost Live that local organizers have been outspoken about their hopes for the school, but administrators are dragging their feet. 

"We've had over six town hall meetings, and the community has spoken that they want this school to be open-enrollment, a global leadership and a green technology school, but we're being ignored by our Alderman Will Burn and our Mayor Rahm Emanuel," she said. "CPS canceled a meeting that was supposed to happen Aug. 10, and they were supposed to make a decision on Aug. 22. They pushed it back an entire month [to Sept. 15], and that's just not good enough for parents in the community."

According to Taylor-Ramann, race has played a part in the silence from the mayor's office.

"The true reason is the color of our skin. We are not valued in the city of Chicago. Low-income and working families are not valued here," she told HuffPost Live's Josh Zepps.

In the event that Dyett High School remains closed, the lack of local school options could have a dire impact on her family and the rest of the community, Taylor-Ramann added. 

"If we don't get this school, my daughter will have to travel 16 miles -- that's two busses and a train -- to get to school," she said. "That's not bad parenting. That's not her not being a great student. That's her living in a city and a district that doesn't value her because of the color of her skin."

Watch the HuffPost Live interview about Chicago's Dyett High School above.

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live’s morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before.

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These Are the 25 Healthiest and Unhealthiest Illinois Counties

Thu, 2015-08-20 09:13
National health rankings published by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps reveals a detailed analysis on the healthiest and unhealthiest counties in Illinois for 2015. The counties are ranked according to a set of factors including length of life, quality of life, personal health behaviors, physical environment, access to clinical care and socioeconomic indicators.

Below is a graphic showing the weight of each category:

There are 102 Illinois counties, and the map below includes the 25 healthiest and the 25 least healthy in each category. For each county, there is a set of statistics providing a more detailed glimpse into the county's health. These statistics can be viewed by visiting Reboot Illinois:

  • Percent of adults reporting poor or fair health (age-adjusted).

  • Percent of adult population reporting a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 30.

  • Excessive drinking (binge plus heavy drinking).

  • Physical inactivity (number of adults aged 20 or over that report having no leisure-time to partake in physical activity).

  • Uninsured (percent of population under the age of 65 without health insurance).

  • Percent of 9th graders who graduate high school in four years.

  • Percent of children living in a single-parent household.

  • Violent crime rate per a population of 100,000.

  • Air pollution (average daily measure of fine particulate matter in micrograms per cubic meter - PM2.5).

You can read more on the ranking method here. To view all of Illinois' counties as well as additional metrics, check out County Health Rankings & Roadmaps' website.
*Click on the map to see the detailed list of counties

To see a detailed list of all 25 unhealthiest and 25 healthiest Illinois counties, including adult obesity rates and high school graduation rates for each county listed, check out Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Top 25 most dangerous cities in Illinois

  1. Top 25 Illinois counties with the highest and lowest median income; college-educated residents

  2. 10 Alarming Facts about the Heroin Epidemic in Illinois

  3. Top Illinois Counties with the Most Meth Lab Busts

  4. Top 10 Worst Tornado Disasters in Illinois

  5. Want to tell your elected officials what you think of the state of government in Illinois? Use our Sound Off tool!

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My Q and A With Petteri Lahtela, Whose OURA Ring Will Track Your Sleep

Wed, 2015-08-19 15:36
Petteri Lahtela is the CEO and co-founder of OURA, a wearable device -- in the form of a waterproof ring -- that measures our well-being as we sleep. In answer to my questions, he shared his insights on the restorative power of sleep, the future of sleep technology, and how wearable devices can enhance the body-mind connection.

What is the OURA ring, and why did you see a need for it?

Our goal was to create a simple and comfortable way for people to learn how to be fully charged at the start of every day, feel well and be ready to perform at their best. We needed to gain a long-term view on how our body and mind respond to sleep, rest and active life. To get that long-term view on physiological changes in the body, we had to find a unique way to access the data with high accuracy, yet at the same time we wanted to make a very desirable, comfortable and ergonomic design. Through extensive research and prototyping, we found the finger to be an optimum place for accessing comprehensive physiological data -- the OURA ring was born.

How is the OURA ring different from other tracker-type devices on the market?

OURA ring combines style and comfort with high-end technology and proprietary algorithms, with over three decades of science and pioneering research of human physiology, psychophysiology and behavior behind it.

OURA ring measures your sleep in detail, letting you know of your sleep time, sleep efficiency and how long you spend in each sleep stage. With OURA you can also see how your daytime activities are reflected in your sleep parameters and resting heart rate in both the short- and long-term. Once you get the objective data on your activity quantified, it's easier for you to set targets for gradual improvements and balancing them to the needs of your body.

OURA App gives personalized and actionable guidance on how you can balance your activity in relation to sleep and recovery. On some days your body is not ready for 10,000 steps, whereas other days it has the capacity for much more. Balancing the physical activity based on the actual needs and readiness of the body provides the way to maintain and increase capacity over time.

Can the OURA ring improve our sleep?

OURA learns about you and your body's reactions in relation to sleep, rest, activity, rhythms of life and your overall behavior. You can learn how improved sleep quality affects your daytime performance, feelings and health.

The app personalizes the guidance based on the correlated measured data and delivers clear, textual recommendations with actionable content. The app gives guidance on how to improve sleep quality and adjust daily activity based on recovery status. OURA helps you to build a proactive approach to stay healthy and maintain good performance levels.

What do you see as the future of the wearable/sleep tech industry?

With fitness gadgets you quickly learn about your activity level, but your body's reactions are not measured and therefore goals are not adjusted optimally for you. Therefore, benefit is very limited. But when people get personalized recommendations based on accurate and objectively measured data from their own body, they are more inclined to make small adjustments to their lifestyle for improved sleep quality and daytime performance.

We believe that one reason for ignoring the needs of the body is that we have not had easy and comfortable ways to monitor how our body is reacting in our daily life. There has not been a simple way to get concrete, quantitative and comprehensive information about how our body is doing in relation to our sleep, activity, overall lifestyle and daily rhythms.

For developing and maintaining optimal well-being, body-mind balance and performance we need to be able to form a comprehensive picture of how our daily choices affect our sleep and performance during the day. That is what we wanted to enable.

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Appeals Court Denies Petition By Former Governor Rod Blagojevich

Wed, 2015-08-19 13:49

CHICAGO, Aug 19 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court denied on Wednesday a petition by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for a rehearing of the court's prior ruling that upheld most of his convictions and ordered him to remain in prison while some were retried.

Blagojevich, who is serving a 14-year sentence for attempted extortion from campaign contributers, wire fraud and other crimes, had asked for a rehearing in front of the full 7th Circuit United States Court of Appeals.

On July 21, a three-judge panel of the court vacated five of 18 of his criminal convictions. The full court has 11 active judges.

The court denied the petition in a three-sentence order that said all of the judges on the three-judge panel had voted to deny a rehearing.

Blagojevich, a Democrat, was arrested in December 2008 when he was still governor. He was impeached by the state's General Assembly in early 2009, becoming the first Illinois governor to be removed from office. He began serving his federal prison sentence in 2012.

In the July ruling, the 7th Circuit court ruled that there was overwhelming evidence against Blagojevich, who attempted in 2008 to make money out of his power to appoint a replacement for Barack Obama, who was leaving his seat in the U.S. Senate after winning the presidential election.

The court did ask for a retrial on five counts, however, after determining there was a problem with instructions to the jury on those counts. (Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Alan Crosby)

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10 Adrenaline-Pumping Outdoor Activities in the West

Wed, 2015-08-19 11:31
buck·et list

noun, informal

A number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.

The diverse climate and terrain of the Western U.S. make it a popular destination for adventurers and adrenaline junkies. Quick to mind are the deep slot canyons of Utah or the towering rocks of Yosemite, but dig deeper and you'll find extreme adventures ranging from caving to whitewater rafting. All of these activities will get your heart rate up.

Want to chill instead? Consider ballooning over the wine country of California. Yup, the American West is a land of outdoor adventure opportunity.

Ready to add to your bucket list? Here are 10 adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities the West has to offer:

1. Hiking - Half Dome, Yosemite, CA


Bring your inner brave kid on this hike. Labeled one of the most dangerous hikes in the U.S., it's also one of the most spectacular. This hike is also extremely difficult, so you'll earn badass points for completing it....alive. Okay, I'm being a little over-dramatic. For more information visit

2. Climbing - Taos, NM


Solid climbs, beautiful views, and routes for all abilities, the area surrounding Taos, New Mexico is a great climbing destination. There are also some highly accomplished guide services available to show you the ropes. Bring the whole family on this adventure, there's something for all.

3. Canyoneering - The Subway, Zion National Park, UT


This 9.5-mile hike is both dramatically scenic and challenging. From the top down, the Subway is technical, requiring rappelling skills, 60' of rope, swimming, and solid route finding ability. Hiking this was one of my top outdoor experiences. It's worth the effort!

This is more than a simple hike; you must understand what you're doing. If you don't have the skills, but are in good shape, hire a guide. Fair warning, you'll likely get hooked on canyoneering! More information is available from the National Park Service.

4. Mountain biking - Moab, UT


The slick rock formations in this area are essentially petrified sand dunes. They appear smooth, but actually have the texture of course sandpaper, perfect for tire traction. At first you may fear your tires wont hold, but they will, up to breathtaking inclines.

I've heard riders utter in disbelief that they were able to ride seemingly impossible routes. The 12-mile Slickrock Bike Trail is the classic ride, but make sure you also check out other routes in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. Be ready for a workout, good traction doesn't equal lazy uphill'll feel this one!

5. Road biking - Going to the Sun Road, Glacier National Park, MT

PHOTO: National Park Service

Remote, rugged, and gorgeous! Time this ride for late spring and be sure the road is open or you'll get turned around by a wall of snow.

The vistas are otherworldly and could easily distract you from the road, so plan time for stops. Expect to see wildlife, mountain views, and waterfalls. Construction on Going to the Sun Road is nearly guaranteed; instead of fretting, use the delays to enjoy the scenery.

6. Backpack - Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, AZ


Steep, beautiful, and hard work. The 9.5-mile Bright Angel Trail is one of the preeminent trails of the Grand Canyon. Even though it's considered one of the safest trails in the park, this is still the Grand Canyon. All of the trails here deserve--make that demand--respect.

Spring or fall is the best time to hike this trail due to the high summer temps or treacherous ice in winter. Camp at either the Indian Garden or Bright Angel Campgrounds. For more information check out this Park Service pamphlet.

7. Kayak - San Juan Islands, WA

PHOTO: Dr. DeNo via Flickr

Your kayak is slipping silently through the water, then something disturbs the surface...something big. Your quiet paddle just got exciting. Known for wildlife and quiet towns, the San Juan Islands are a favorite destination for kayakers and divers hoping to view marine life, up close.

We're headed there this summer for four days of paddling and camping. Orcas are common in the area and we hope to see them. The last time I saw one I was swimming and panicked! This trip I plan on maintaining a tad more distance by staying in the kayak. Wish me luck!

8. Paragliding - Aspen, CO

PHOTO: purplemattfish via Flickr

Experience Aspen's stunning views from above in a paraglider. This sport is available in a number of places across the country, but seriously, why not pick someplace with a view? I'm in!

Ride up the mountain to launch, and then glide for roughly two hours depending on the thermal activity. For information on tandem flights check out

9. Caving - Moaning Cavern, CA

PHOTO: Bill Becher
Caving is one of my favorite sports because it often combines rappelling, scrambling, pretty scenery, and mud. What more could a girl ask for?

Moaning Cave is one of the few caves open to the public there you can get the full experience of a "wild" cave, including a 165' rappel into the main chamber. Visit the Moaning Cavern website for the beta on this adventure.

10. Rafting - Rogue River, OR

PHOTO: Columbia Sportswear/Mark Going
Feet wedged under the thwart, paddle in hand, and a face full of water. "Woohoo! What a rush!" Actually I think I screamed like a startled teenager.

Multi-day paddles on Oregon's Rogue River deliver this kind of exhilaration interspersed with lazy, slow, sections and swim holes. An added bonus, all of this is outside of cell range. I've paddled this river twice, most recently with Rogue Wilderness Adventures, which I highly recommend. The guides were unruffled under pressure, personable, and excellent cooks. We also had a brew-master and a keg raft, but that's another article... You can either self-guide or raft with a commercial outfitter. Either way, this is a wild adventure worthy of "the list."

Some of the adventures listed here are classics, while others sit in the shadow of better-known options, but all are worth exploring. What would you recommend adding? Please comment below!

Happy adventuring!

By Erika Wiggins / @Active_Explorer

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Editorial: Give Rauner room to do what he was elected to do

Wed, 2015-08-19 11:13
Editor's note: This is an editorial written by Reboot Illinois' Matt Dietrich and Madeleine Doubek.

Despite what House Speaker Michael Madigan believes, Bruce Rauner really did win the election last November. And however you feel about the anti-union vigor the new governor has brought to the job since then, one thing is undeniable: Rauner was elected to bring fiscal order to a government defined by financial chaos.

He can't do that if the General Assembly takes him out of one of the biggest responsibilities of the governor's office: negotiating the labor contract with the union that represents 38,000 state employees. That's exactly what will happen if the General Assembly overrides Rauner's veto of Senate Bill 1229, which swiftly would move stalled talks between Rauner and AFSCME Council 31 to an arbitrator.

We can't verify Rauner's claim that this is the "worst bill in state history," but we have no doubt that enacting it would be a very bad move so early in both this negotiation (AFSCME's contract expired June 30) and in Rauner's term (the bill expires in 2019, and clearly is aimed at shielding AFSCME from Rauner for the duration of his term).

We've been critical of Rauner's anti-union agenda to the extent that it has precipitated the current state budget impasse, which could portend very bad things to come for the state. That doesn't mean we support a panicked evacuation of the governor from what we believe is the greatest mandate he earned on Nov. 4 -- giving taxpayers a voice in the cost of government they fund.

Ostensibly, the bill is intended to prevent AFSCME members striking or being locked out by the administration in the event that contract negotiations become deadlocked. But Rauner has said all along that he will not lock out workers.

"I have stated publicly and I also pledge in writing to you that we will not lock-out state employees," Rauner said Tuesday in a letter sent to all members of the General Assembly. Breaking that pledge now would irreparably damage Rauner's credibility and usher in a period of unprecedented chaos to state government that would undermine his administration.

Yes, Rauner is making unprecedented demands of the union in these talks. It also happens that Illinois is in a period of unprecedented financial trouble.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois.

Aug. 19 is the last day that the Illinois Senate can vote to override Rauner's veto on that union contract negotiation bill. It also happens to be the first time since 2002 that a Republican governor will host the Illinois State Fair's Governor's Day. Check out Reboot Illinois to see how the politics of the two situations could clash.

NEXT ARTICLE: General Assembly prepares for vote on bill at center of Rauner, AFSCME feud

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Illinois' Geographic Rifts Grow Larger With School Spending Conflicts

Tue, 2015-08-18 12:34
Forget Democrats vs. Republicans. A brewing fight over how state government funds Illinois schools districts draws geographic battle lines that pit Chicago and downstate lawmakers against their suburban counterparts. Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek explains how this chasm came to exist and how it could continue:

If you asked Illinois lawmakers if it's fair that some school districts spend well above $25,000 per student and others spend just over $6,000, my guess is nearly all would say no.

If you asked lawmakers if it's fair one community pays for its own pensions and for some of the rest of the state's, I'd bet nearly all would say no. If you asked them whether it's fair for people to get multiple 6-percent salary increases year after year after year in order to boost their retirement income, a majority probably would say no.

Yet, whenever these topics come up for discussion in Springfield, there's great dissension and division. The state will fracture, largely along geographic fault lines, with suburban legislators feeling like their region is in the crosshairs on all three topics.

Now, the suburbs are in the crosshairs, along with some central and southwestern Illinois counties, in a new school funding and pension revamp offered by state Rep. Christian Mitchell and other Chicago Democrats.

Read the rest at Reboot Illinois to find out what exactly Mitchell's and others' plans would entail.

One part of the school funding puzzle that has proven hard for districts and government officials to iron out is property taxes. Gov. Bruce Rauner said Aug. 17 he wants to implement a plan that would freeze local property taxes for two years. Part of that plan would include about $400 million in state money for Chicago Public Schools' struggling pension system. Check out Reboot Illinois to see what Mark Fitton says is the sticking point for many General Assembly Democrats when it comes to this plan by the governor.

NEXT ARTICLE: General Assembly prepares for vote on bill at center of Rauner, AFSCME feud

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Northwestern Football Players Won't Get A Union, But Their Fight Doesn't End Here

Tue, 2015-08-18 12:14

On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board rejected a historic attempt by Northwestern University football players to unionize as employees of the school. The precedent-setting decision will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for college athletes to formally join labor unions in the future, forcing players to pursue other ways to change how they're treated by their schools and the NCAA.

In their ruling, the five-member board decided unanimously that it should not assert the agency's jurisdiction in the case, essentially dodging the complex question at its core -- whether schools exert enough control over scholarship athletes for them to be considered employees. Many experts were not surprised by the ruling. Though the board's liberal majority may well have sympathized with the student-athletes, a ruling in favor of them could have been politically explosive.

Labor attorney Bradford Livingston, who testified on the matter before Congress as a guest of Republicans, called the ruling "a 75-yard punt, down to the one yard line."

Any board members disposed to letting the players unionize "were caught between a rock and a hard place," said Livingston, of Seyfarth Shaw. "Had they decided that these individuals were in fact employees and had gone ahead and counted the [union election] ballots, I think there would have been a highly negative reaction, not only in the entire higher education and business communities, but in Congress as well. And it is Congress that funds the NLRB."

The narrow decision marks the end of the road for any Northwestern players who were hoping to have a union to bargain on their behalf. And though it does not rule out unionization for college athletes in general, it leaves them with few viable options moving forward. 

Because federal labor law would apply only to athletes at private universities -- 17 of the 125 that make up the NCAA’s top division -- players at public colleges and universities could still seek to organize under state labor laws. But given the federal board’s decision and the politically fraught nature of the case, labor experts said state boards would likely be reluctant to grant athletes union rights.

“I would not predict that any state, even a state that is perceived to be fairly union friendly, would open the door to this type of organizing,” said Jonathan Fritts, a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius in Washington, D.C.

And though there are ongoing legislative efforts to extend employee rights to athletes in states such as Connecticut, those protections would be limited solely to athletes at public schools within the state. Any major organizing campaign built around this tactic would therefore have to be piecemeal.

Though ultimately unsuccessful before the labor board, the Northwestern union movement, alongside other causes that brought awareness to issues facing college athletes, was not without its achievements. The Big Ten Conference, of which Northwestern is a member, and others have mandated that schools provide four-year guaranteed scholarships to athletes, and the NCAA has relaxed rules on meal allowances.

The Northwestern players also won a ruling from NLRB Regional Director Peter S. Ohr that they qualified as employees, a detailed tract that blew apart the “student-athlete” concept propagated by the NCAA. Ohr’s decision could be “persuasive, if not precedent” in future cases involving athletes’ rights, said John G. Adam, an attorney who represented the College Athletes Players Association, the players' would-be union, in front of the labor board.

Michael Wasser, policy analyst at Jobs with Justice, a worker advocacy group that supports the athletes, said Northwestern's pro-union players had plenty of reasons to "hold their heads high" despite Monday's ruling.

"The decision doesn't vindicate Northwestern or the NCAA," Wasser said. The board "didn't make a decision on college athletes being employees or not. In many ways, the players demonstrated that when they spoke up about issues and came together and used a collective voice, they pushed for changes that happened for all athletes and that the NCAA had been unwilling to make. They can take, in large part, responsibility for those changes."

The players can continue to press for policy changes at their schools and in the NCAA, even if they aren't recognized under federal collective bargaining law, Wasser noted. Plenty of workers are agitating outside the traditional union framework these days -- fast-food workers, taxi drivers and domestic workers, to name just a few. Such workers may not be able to secure union contracts, but they can still pressure their companies and their industries into raising pay and changing workplace policies.

Such campaigns typically rely on the funding and institutional support of established unions, and the Northwestern effort was no different. It has been backed by the United Steelworkers union. Despite the setback at the labor board, the union's president, Leo Gerard, said Monday that the steelworkers "will not stop fighting until athletes secure the basic protections they so desperately need."  

The NLRB’s ruling may be the “end of the line” for a traditional organized labor movement in college sports, Fritts said. But even if it is, current and former athletes are still pushing for major changes to the collegiate landscape through other legal avenues. The NCAA is currently appealing a federal judge’s ruling that granted athletes a share of revenues generated from their names, images and likenesses, and it is also facing a major antitrust suit from prominent sports labor attorney Jeffrey Kessler that seeks to create a free market for college athlete compensation.

Those suits may force larger -- and more sudden -- changes to college sports than an organizing push could have.

“If Jeffrey Kessler wins,” said Adam, the CAPA attorney, “that will open the NCAA up to issues that will be far more difficult for it to deal with.”

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The Amazon Fiasco: 4 Questions All Leaders Should Ask Themselves

Tue, 2015-08-18 08:06
In case you missed it, the internet was ablaze this weekend with talks about Amazon's work culture. The New York Times published a scathing expose of life in the Seattle company's headquarters, which prompted passionate debate on both sides and even rebuttals from employees. The article painted a picture of a brutal, soul-crushing, data-driven, relentless culture -- one which forced a woman to work the day after a stillbirth and encouraged employees to backstab coworkers with anonymous feedback.

While it's easy to simply give in to our lizard brain and either reactively grumble and moan or instinctively defend hard-charging corporate culture, moments like these provide a chance for us to reflect on our own leadership values. Here are a few questions we should be asking ourselves in light of the debate on Amazon's culture:

Do the ends justify the means?

The Times' piece tells the story of a project manager who says that the organizational culture is necessary to accomplish 'futuristic and magical' things. In this case, she is referring to being able to deliver a Disney doll in 23 minutes. Impressive, yes. But worth sacrificing one's personal life and emotional health for?

Jeff Bezos' hard-charging approach makes perfect sense in a teleological, 'the ends justifies the means' worldview. In other words, it shouldn't matter how we get there, as long as we do.

Great leaders, though, should take this moment to reflect both on whether there is inherent value in a working style irrespective of output, as well as asking, honestly, if these actually are ends worth sacrificing means for.

Do we stand for more than profit?

I'm hugely inspired by, which -- in addition to its outwardly social mission -- also considers itself a social enterprise in how it cares for its employees through empowering policies. They've approached corporate culture as a meta issue: only by being impact driven for its own employees can they create impact in the world. By making their employees happier and healthier -- for instance, market-leading parental leave, ample vacation time, and incentives to learn new languages -- they believe they are having an impact on the world beyond the actual work of the company.

As a leader, do you want your impact to simply be the output of your organization, or do you want your organization, itself -- the way you work, the values your team puts into action, and the standard you set for treating other people -- to be part of a better world?

Do we value all employees?

To be sure, our visceral reaction to the New York Times piece resonates with white-collar workers who either are themselves, or have friends, in similarly destructive work environments.

But we've also known for a while now how poorly Amazon treats its factory workers, as well: limiting rest and breaks; actively opposing unemployment compensation; and warehouses so hot that people were fainting on the job. All organizations have the opportunity, every single day, to treat each and every employee -- from CEO to mail-clerk -- with respect. Would our own organizations pass this test?

As leaders, do we value all employees equally? Are we just as outraged by terrible workplace conditions for blue-collar workers as white-collar ones? And if not, why not?

What 'everyday leadership' action can I take if this bothers me?

The truth is Amazon is a wildly successful company, and has surpassed Walmart as the world's largest retailer. And Bezos -- the results and data-driven leader he is -- will never change his leadership style unless Wall Street dictates it. This means that if one is appalled by this corporate culture, the only way to affect change is to change our own habits.

I'm the first to admit that I'm addicted to Amazon's offerings: it's my first search if I want to buy anything from a shower head to a banana slicer; I'm hooked by its free Amazon Prime two-day shipping; and I am huge advocate of, its audiobooks subsidiary.

We all face an opportunity, with every purchase, to commit a small act of everyday leadership. If Amazon doesn't resonate with our values, then it's incumbent on us to put our money where our mouth is. It's easy to sit back in our armchair and decry Amazon's work culture; it takes true leadership -- even if it's just leading oneself -- to make sure our actions reflect our values.

And so, with each Amazon purchase, we must ask ourselves: is this purchase in line with my leadership values?

Now, I invite you to take a moment to think about what you've learned about the way Amazon treats its workers, and reflect on what lessons you might take away from it for your own leadership journey.


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Creative Commons Image from Daniel Lee.

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Illinois Medical Cannabis: 6 Things You Need to Know before Applying

Mon, 2015-08-17 17:09
Major changes have been made in Illinois regarding medicinal marijuana. Former Governor Pat Quinn signed the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act in early August of 2013. Following this, it took a signature from new Governor Bruce Rauner on the rules for growers and dispensers and 17 months for patients to qualify for the use of medical cannabis.

As of early August 2015, more than 23,700 people had started applications for the use of medicinal marijuana and a total of 2,800 patients had been approved. The Illinois Department of Public Health also announced there were 10 approved applications for children under the age of 18.

Here are six tips for people applying for the Illinois medical marijuana program from the Illinois Department of Public Health:

10. Physician Written Certification Form - Meet with your physician to discuss the use of medical cannabis for the treatment of your condition. This is an important first step in the application process. Your doctor must complete and mail this form to the Department. Your appointment must be within 90 days of submitting your application to the Department.

9. Complete and sign application - Fill in all parts of the application, choose a medical cannabis dispensing organization and sign the last page. You may also fill out the optional demographic information. If you do not want to designate a caregiver, don't fill out that section of the application.

8. Application Fee - Non-refundable fee of $100 or reduced fee of $50 for veterans or persons enrolled in federal Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability program. Veterans, include a copy of your DD214. SSDI/SSI recipients, include a copy of your benefit verification letter, dated within the last year.

7. Photograph - Do not send in a selfie! Provide a 2x2 inch passport-sized photo. Double check - are you by yourself, facing the camera, is your full face showing? Take the picture against a plain, white backdrop with absolutely nothing in the background or visit a local passport photo service.

6. Proof of residency - You will need two items that prove you live in Illinois. The addresses on each of the documents must match the address on your application. Bank statements, utility bills, state ID, driver's license and voter ID cards are all acceptable. Check the application for a full list.

5. Proof of age and identity - Send us a copy of a valid, unexpired government-issued photo ID.

To see four more rules and regulations, including specific guidance for veterans, check out Reboot Illinois.

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NLRB Rules That Northwestern Football Players Cannot Form a Union

Mon, 2015-08-17 15:32

Meeting with Tim Waters (United Steelworkers), Ramogi Huma (founder of the National College Players Association) and Kain Colter (former Northwestern's quarterback) last year about Northwestern Football Players push for the right to unionize.

Today the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)'s has denied Northwestern University's football players' application to form a union. Here is my stance on this misguided decision.

I am disappointed by the decision of the NLRB to overturn an earlier ruling allowing Northwestern football players to unionize.

The latest NLRB decision is based on the claim that allowing one school's athletes to unionize would upset competition with other schools -- it did not come to a decision as to whether college athletes are employees.

As I have said in the past, these athletes dedicate 40-plus hours a week to their sport, helping to raise millions of dollars for the University each year. They deserve to stand on an even playing field with the University in negotiating for better health coverage while they are playing for their school and after their careers end, for guaranteed 4-year scholarships, and for a say in practice time and intensity. This decision denies them that opportunity.

Last year, I had a chance to meet Kain Colter, the former Northwestern quarterback who mobilized this effort. His candor, humility, and commitment to this effort -- even though he can no longer directly benefit from the formation of a union -- was inspiring.

Northwestern University is one of the best universities in the nation, and its players benefit from tremendous opportunities inside and outside the classroom and in life after football. That being said, the demands these players have made are reasonable and modest, and they have been denied an opportunity to form a union. As Tim Waters of the United Steelworkers said last year, "just because [Northwestern is] a good employer doesn't mean they're not an employer."

To a large extent, I believe the NCAA was to blame for the problems Northwestern players were trying to address. But the NCAA's stranglehold on college athletes and their schools is beginning to loosen.

Last August, the NCAA granted partial autonomy to the Big 10 Conference, of which Northwestern is a member, and four other major athletic conferences. Those conferences then elected to give their schools the option of offering scholarships that meet the full cost of attendance, ensuring that student-athletes are not left with thousands in debt each year on top of their full-time jobs in sports. The Big 10 has also followed Northwestern's lead in guaranteeing 4-year scholarships to its recruits (NU has done so since 2011). And the Pac-12 Conference guaranteed 4 years of medical coverage to student-athletes injured while competing for their schools. I urge all eligible schools to take those same steps.

The Northwestern unionization effort has played a major role in moving college athletics in the right direction. That being said, I am sorry that the NLRB has decided against college athletes seeking a seat at the table, and I look forward to further efforts that would allow players the right to bargain collectively.

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The Business of Etiquette

Mon, 2015-08-17 13:49
Last year, I wrote in US News & World Report that executives should add one or more foreign languages to their skill set to increase their competitive advantage in the workplace. I cited language expert and CEO of BRIC Language Systems, Ryan McMunn as saying, "In fact, those entering the workforce in 2014 with second language fluency can expect an additional 10 to 15 percent pay increase." Without fluency in Mandarin, McMunn would not have had the opportunity to develop relationships with Chinese executives and conduct business successfully. The language barrier would have been insurmountable.

Etiquette is equally important in the cultivation of business relationships, and those with international colleagues and clients are finding that they must globalize their manners to fit today's corporate environment.

I interviewed Beaumont Etiquette Founder, Myka Meier for advice on conduct in the workplace and beyond. Meier studied at several traditional etiquette schools in the United Kingdom, trained in part in London under a former member of The Royal Household of Her Majesty the Queen, and graduated from the prestigious Institut Villa Pierrefeu finishing school in Montreux, Switzerland. Her company has been featured across international media including Good Morning America, ABC World News, NY Observer and the London Evening Standard.

What is business etiquette?

It's more than just the practice of good manners and following respectful protocol when doing business with others -- it's the difference between a good businessman or businesswoman and a great one. Business etiquette is a customary code among professionals. I've met people in business who refuse to work with someone because they are rude or disrespectful. We recently worked with a CEO who said he was so turned off by a high level exec's dining manners over a lunch interview that he couldn't possibly hire the candidate in fear that they would be an embarrassment in front of clients.

Having good business etiquette can only elevate your career. Starting from making the best first impression when you walk into the room (good eye contact, a strong handshake and confident posture), business etiquette spans across many important topics.

Why is business etiquette important?

You can be the smartest person in the room, but if you don't practice proper business etiquette, the chances of maximizing success can be are slim. A Harvard study reported in Forbes revealed one's success is based 85% on social skills and 15% on technical skills.

Due to our current employment rate and downsized companies, working this 85% is never more important than when networking. Whether it's official business or social, making conversations can make or break how we build a network of people to call on as we make our journey up the professional ladder.

As the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Likewise, what comes out of your mouth can never taken back. Remember - working a room is work. It's exhausting, and it can be overwhelming

If you wonder why you haven't climbed the proverbial ladder fast enough, then maybe it's time to look at some of the many changes you can make through business etiquette.

Can business etiquette make or break a deal?

Absolutely. For instance, many business meetings can happen over a meal, and having bad table manners can be a horrible distraction. The four hours you spend learning dining etiquette can change the way you do business forever. Another common mistake is being lazy about your professional appearance. "Being" the brand may be more important than you may think to a company, from grooming and dressing to professional polishing. We love the quote "dress for the position you want, not the one you are in." To be the head of a successful firm, you're not coming in every day unshaven and wearing a wrinkled shirt. It's all about getting the small details right and making your company proud to put you out in front of clients.

Image provided by Myka Meier

Has the digital age ruined etiquette?

No, but etiquette is constantly evolving because of technology. In today's tech era, communication has increased through through emails, texts and social media. If you're writing a business email or text, you should remain formal and not use shortened version of words. Shortening words can often come off as sounding unsophisticated, uneducated or lazy in business. With work emails, always sign off with "Best regards" and never use emojis (often seen as unprofessional) when speaking online with clients. With social media make sure your opinion does not offend anyone and that you keep your personal issues just that... private. Whether it's "public" or not, once it's on the internet, it's never private!

Why do people think it's acceptable to be late???

People know it's not okay to be late but they often prioritize their own schedules over others. Good etiquette means being thoughtful and considerate towards everyone else. If you're late, give as much advance notice as possible. Alerting three minutes before the time you are supposed to arrive to say you are 15 minutes late is not good etiquette, and instead you should give a minimum of two minutes notice for every minute you're late. Therefore, if you're running five minutes late for a 1pm meeting (even a conference call), you should apologize for any inconvenience no later than 12:50pm.

Is etiquette dynamic?

Thankfully, yes. As society changes, so do the rules, and successful people adjust accordingly to reflect these changes.

Is etiquette global?

It has to be. From politics to business, if you want a successful working relationship with someone in another country, you must show respect for the culture you're working with. If you're an American and trying to do business in China, without training, the chances you may offend the other party are high. With a bit of preparation and training before working with another culture, you can confidentially do business globally.

What are the current worst offenses in business etiquette?

  • Being late

  • Texting/emailing on your phone when someone is talking to you or while in meetings

  • Interrupting someone when he or she is speaking

What are the top three business etiquette habits to practice?

  • Appropriate professional attire and grooming -- your appearance is an extension of the brand.

  • Have great table manners and dining etiquette -- it says more about you than you think.

  • Be positive and smile -- it sounds so basic, but people prefer to do business (and work with) positive people.

When in doubt...

Don't do it.

If you have to ask yourself if something is appropriate or not, the answer is usually no. Once you know the main rules of good business protocol, etiquette is a lot of common sense.

Always remember to...

Send hand-written thank you letters when possible (it's much more effective).

Make sure your stationery is representative of you. If emailing a thank you, it should go out immediately.

Thank you.

(A) In case you find yourself in the company of British royalty, Meier has worked with members of the British Royal family. ABC World News Tonight featured her lesson on Mastering Royal Etiquette & Style and Good Morning America consulted her on Royal Etiquette 101: Proper Tea Tasting Technique, Dining.

Myka Meier
Image provided by Myka Meier

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The 5.4 Percent Unemployment Rate Means Nothing for Millennials

Mon, 2015-08-17 13:16
The national unemployment rate has dropped to 5.4 percent, the lowest rate since 2008, but this percentage means nothing for millennials (born 1980-2000).

By this point, we've all realized that we've been lied to: working hard and getting a solid education does not necessarily lead to career success, or even a decent-paying job.

It does, however, lead to debt and a ruthless job hunt.

Such was the case for my client, Tess.

Tess spent years on her education before entering the workforce. When she hired me, she was working part-time at a flower shop and living with her mother so that she could make ends meet, despite being decorated with degrees from Northwestern and Berkeley. And she's not alone.

Why? Because the decreasing unemployment rate still means nothing for millennials.

The data is actually pretty scary: 44% of college grads in their 20s are stuck in low-wage, dead-end jobs, the highest rate in decades, and the number of young people making less than $25,000 has also spiked to the highest level since the 1990s.

There are various factors contributing to the absence of jobs for millennials.

First of all, employers are more hesitant to hire new graduates, as Baby Boomers delay retirement and hold onto their jobs due to financial insecurity. This creates stagnancy in the workplace.

Moreover, advances in technology are making many jobs obsolete because they can easily and cheaply be automated. In fact, renowned futurist Faith Popcorn argues that the "robot revolution" is coming, projecting that roughly one out of three U.S. workers will be replaced by robots by 2025.

This has all led to a major shift in the way of life for millennials.

We're adapting to the changing job market. We're not buying cars at the rates that previous generations have, instead opting to use public transportation or car-sharing services. Buying our first home is no longer a part of the "American Dream," as most of us aren't even buying homes at all. We've even been dubbed "The Cheapest Generation," but perhaps a more accurate title would be "The Generation Getting Shafted."

The job market simply has not allowed us to enter the workforce and achieve financial security the way that prior generations have been able to. Yet somehow, now we're being blamed for it, with claims that our reluctance to make these big-ticket purchases is devastating for the economy.

But it's not all bad news.

Despite the unprecedented challenges facing our generation -- unique challenges that no other generation has been confronted with -- there are actions you can take to increase your chances of landing a job that will help advance your career and put a decent paycheck in your pocket.

Here are a few best practices:

1. Cold network. An incredible 80 percent of available jobs don't get posted, and thus the ones that are posted have a tremendous amount of competition. Figure out ways to gain access to that 80 percent. Research companies in your field, and send cold emails to their HR departments or managers. Ask for informational interviews. Reach out to colleagues on LinkedIn.

2. Know where you're headed. The world makes way for people who know what they want. When networking, steer clear of saying, "I'm open to anything," and start picking two (not one, not three) areas that you're focused on for your job hunt so you can clearly articulate what your career goals are.

3. Practice your elevator pitch. Not knowing how to talk about yourself can be job hunting poison. The commonplace "tell me about yourself" prompt isn't going anywhere, so expect to be asked, and do yourself the service of preparing an intentional response. Come up with a few brief lines about your professional strengths and accomplishments, and practice pitching it to a friend.

4. Find a way to gain experience outside of the traditional job. Experience is so much more than the years you spend fetching coffee for someone. Find a volunteer opportunity in your field. Start a blog or a meet-up. This will help you not only stay current in your field, but could also lead to something bigger, like starting your own company, or linking up with a company that's hiring.

The obstacles facing millennials are tough, but surmountable.

When Tess came to me for career counseling, she was frustrated, even desperate, but we worked together to figure out how she could turn things around. With some cold networking, clarity and a powerful elevator pitch, she gained control of her career and her future. With a few adjustments and a little hustle, any one of us can go from selling flowers to pursuing a dream career.

Just ask Tess -- she starts at Google on Monday.

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Does the Republican Party Want Me?

Mon, 2015-08-17 13:14
Dear Republican Party,

We need to talk. I love you, but I don't like your friends.

From the moment I started dating paying attention to politics, I knew you were the one for me.

You stood for many of the things I believe in: personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, strong foreign policy and being pro business. You had leaders like Ronald Reagan who wanted to eliminate waste, but were still willing to help the truly needy. I was hooked immediately.

But as our time together progressed, I started to get a little disappointed. Sometimes I felt ignored. You seemed more interested in your extreme right-wing friends than you were in me.

Despite my disappointment, I still remained true to you. I defended you even when I didn't agree with you on same-sex marriage. I defended you when I didn't agree with you on abortion rights. I even tried to defend you when some of your extreme constituents turned a blind eye to racism. This needs to stop.

No relationship is perfect, but you really have to give me more of what I need. I'm just not satisfied.

And I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. It seems that many college students like myself are disappointed with Republican policies. Less than one-fourth of young voters (defined as ages 18-29) are registered Republicans. This is especially alarming when you realize that almost 40% of college students identify themselves as Democrats. You need to try harder to win our support. Don't forget that young voters make up one-fifth of the electorate.

I really want our relationship to work. I'm not sure you do. If not, I guess we'll have to break up. The ball is in your court. Let's see if you're really the one for me.


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101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

Mon, 2015-08-17 12:21

Photo Credit: Eric Shin / Ravi Bangaroo

This year, we let the people decide what America's best food trucks are.

Food trucks are more than just kitchens on wheels. Even if the buzz around the food truck renaissance started off frenzied and then cooled a bit, the resilience of these mobile eateries is a testament to the fact that creative, quite literally chef-driven food need not be limited to wallet-busting restaurants with month-long waiting lists. Here is our fourth annual list of the 101 Best Food Trucks in America.

Click Here to see 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

In the past, we decided this ranking by combining factors like Twitter followings, Yelp reviews, and Yelp stars into a weighted algorithm, rounded out by an originality score that took into account menu innovation, overall concept, and geography. This year, we made it simple: We let you decide, via a public survey. To compile our list of food trucks for voters, we expanded on our lists from 2012, 2013, and 2014, asked readers for suggestions, took a look at the winners of the Vendy Awards, and tried to find rookie trucks. This year's ranking is a result of 2,662 responses and a total of 5,634 votes (respondents were allowed to vote for multiple trucks). Thank you to everybody who took the survey -- you made our list more reflective of the general population's tastes. After all, if there's any type of establishment that is most explicitly for the people, by the people, it's a food truck.

There has been talk recently that food trucks are a moribund trend. We beg to differ. While trucks have been waning in popularity in New York -- where most food trends wane in popularity after spurts of growth -- this is hardly the case for the rest of the country. Perhaps it is not a surprise that the cities with the most food trucks on this year's list are Los Angeles and Philadelphia (expectedly) and Boston (not so expectedly). Boston owes its success partly to city laws: "Rather than limiting the number of food truck licenses," reports Galen Moore for BostInno, "Boston limits the number of locations on city streets and other public property." This means more food trucks covering a wider range of the city. However, while some food truck-loving cities benefit from local regulations, others don't. Raleigh and Providence, for example, are excellent food towns that have been unlucky when it comes to zoning laws.

Click Here to See The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015 Slideshow

Last year, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco led the way with the most amount of food trucks on our list, with 16, 9, and 12, respectively. Chicago (6), Twin Cities (5), and Miami (5) had a good amount of highly rated food trucks as well. This year, Los Angeles (11), New York (7), San Francisco (6), and Austin (4) continue to boast having a good amount of food trucks on our list, but Chicago (3) and Twin Cities (0), not so much. There are a few cities that came up strong this year that weren't on last year's list too much, most notably Boston (12), Philadelphia (8), and Cleveland (5). As for Washington, D.C. (4) and New Orleans (4), they continue to have robust food truck scenes.

Korean fusion, lobster rolls, and tacos seem to lead the way in terms of popular food truck cuisines; vegan food, barbecue, and grilled cheese make up a lot of the most beloved meals on this year's list. A shout-out to the trucks that are serving some more off-the-beaten-path foods: Boston's Sheherazad, which specializes in Iraqi cuisine; Phoenix's Emerson Fry Bread, which enhances a staple of much-forgotten Southwest Native American cuisine; and New York's Snowday, which serves maple syrup-infused grilled cheese sandwiches that are prepared by ex-convicts. That being said, almost every food truck on this list serves something totally out of the box; click through our slideshow to learn what these items are.

Photo Credit: People's Food Truck

Did we miss your favorite truck? There's always next year. Tweet @thedailymeal or leave a comment below to let us know about trucks that should be on our radar. But before you get too upset, keep in mind that our list only features food trucks, not carts. In other words, if it can't get a parking ticket, it can't be on the list. Some cities (especially much-beloved Portland, Oregon) pained us: many of their food "trucks" didn't make the cut because they weren't, well, trucks. Dessert or coffee trucks were also not considered.

Without further ado, here are the 101 best food trucks that you ought to travel from coast to coast for. Trust us; it's worth it.

#101 Swizzler Gourmet Hot Dogs, Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit:

This truck is brand new on the scene.

In 2012, three juniors at North Carolina's Wake Forest University invented a new fast food concept -- quality hot dogs spiral-cut lengthwise so they could better hold and integrate their toppings, which fall nicely into the grooves -- as part of a class project. The idea was good enough to survive graduation, and in 2014 the trio launched this mobile doggery. The franks are grass-fed beef. The offerings range from the J(ersey) Dawg (sauerkraut, diced onions, and spicy brown deli mustard) to the Acropolis (homemade tzatziki, feta, Kalamata olives, red onion, and cherry tomatoes), with flavors of Italy and the South along the way. We're almost certain that the only reason this gem isn't higher on the list is because they are brand new on the scene.

Click Here to See The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015 Slideshow

#100 Foodie Call, New Orleans

Photo Credit: Foodie Call / Facebook

The sandwiches at Foodie Call make for great late night munchies.

This cleverly named food truck serves burgers, sandwiches, fries, and a mouthwatering crawfish pie made with popcorn rice, local crawdaddies, sweet corn, and mushrooms in a crispy empanada shell. It's all in the details: Their original burger is latticed with Cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, and their ham and brie sandwich is elevated by a complex fig mustard. They can call us anytime. Foodie Call made our list of 101 Best Food Trucks in 2012, but dropped off in the following years. Since we opened our votes up to the public this year, we're guessing fans of the truck have been devoted to their food all along.

#99 Dim Ssäm à Gogo by Sakaya Kitchen, Miami

Photo Credit: Sakaya Kitchen / Facebook

Chef and owner Richard Hales has been fighting the good food truck fight for a while now in Miami since launching his food truck in 2010. Having dealt with more permit and event issues than he's likely interested to recall, it's no surprise that he makes his affordable 30-item menu available at brick-and-mortar locations as well as his truck. But you can still get your "popcorn" shrimp ssäm with spicy sticky rice and banchan on wheels -- provided the cops aren't harassing Hales. Also try the kurobuta pork belly "bao" sweet chili bun. Every once in a while, you'll find them at the beautiful Wynwood Art Walk.

Click Here to see The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

#98 Snowday, Brooklyn

Photo Credit: Snowday / Facebook

Snowday serves self-described "gourmet lumberjack" fare, meaning they take maple syrup and utilize it in some delicious, sweet-meets-savory ways. Exhibit A: their signature grilled cheese sandwiches, which you can order plain or with smoked ham, pea shoot pistou, or strawberry chutney. All the food is sourced from farms in New York. Even better, it serves an excellent cause. The truck employs formerly incarcerated youth, aiding these marginalized individuals through the difficult transition back into society.

#97 Solber Pupusas, New York City

Photo Credit: Solber Pupusas / Facebook

Pupusas, a traditional food from El Salvador, consist of grilled corn masa patties that are hand-shaped and stuffed with cheese, meat (chicharrones, chicken, fish, even pepperoni), and/or vegetables (pumpkin flowers, beans, spinach, zucchini). Winning the Vendys in 2011 was almost like the food world's version of an Oscar for lifetime achievement -- Solber Pupusas has been serving these treats at the Red Hook ballfields for upwards of a decade. Is the 45-minute wait worth it? Customers will almost always say absolutely.

Click Here to see The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

#96 Rigatoni's Mobile Crab Cakes, Prospect Park, Pa.

Photo Credit: Rigatoni's Mobile Crab Cakes / Facebook

"The best crab cakes are not in Maryland," boasts the writing on the Rigatoni's Mobile Crab Cakes truck, "They're here." In Prospect Park, Pennsylvania, that is. Don't believe us? Check out the lines outside the truck on their Facebook page. After all, who could resist their delightful take on the specialties of Baltimore and Philadelphia in the form of their crab pretzel, a soft pretzel topped with crab dip and Cheddar cheese? Their crab-stuffed onion ring ain't too shabby either.

#95 Arepa Zone, Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Arepa Zone

Voted Best New Food Truck and Food Truck of the Year at the 2014 Curbside Cookoff Food Truck Awards, Arepa Zone also snagged Breakthrough Dish for their sifrina arepa -- a grilled corn patty stuffed with chicken salad, avocado, and shredded Cheddar -- at the same competition. With a menu that boasts authentic Venezuelan cachapas (corn cakes similar to arepas), tequeños (fried cheese-filled breadsticks), and, you guessed it, arepas, we can see why Arepa Zone is finally getting a coveted spot in Union Market. See what all the fuss is about and try a ham and queso de mano cheese cachapa, or tequeños, which come in sets of five, with a side of their house-made AZ sauce.

Click Here to see The 101 Best Food Trucks in America 2015

Additional reporting by Dan Myers, Arthur Bovino, and Colman Andrews

Click Here to see the Original Story on The Daily Meal

Nikkitha Bakshani,The Daily Meal

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Northwestern Football Players Won't Be Getting Their Union For Now

Mon, 2015-08-17 12:09

The National Labor Relations Board announced Monday that it would not wade into the case of Northwestern football players who were seeking to unionize, meaning college football will remain union-free, at least for the time being.

In a statement, the five-member board in Washington said it did not feel it had jurisdiction in the case. Asserting such powers, the agency said, would not "promote stability in labor relations," as the board is tasked with doing.

The Northwestern players do have the option of taking their case to federal court, but they would face long odds in trying to have the board's decision overturned.

"For now, it seems the idea that these young men will be able to organize themselves into a union is not on the horizon," said Robert McCormick, a former labor attorney at Michigan State University. "For the time being, it does seem to be the end of the line."

In setting the case aside, the board declined to take on its thorniest question -- whether or not scholarship athletes are controlled enough by their schools to be considered employees and not just student-athletes.

One of the main reasons the board declined to assert jurisdiction is the makeup of NCAA football. Many of the colleges with scholarship athletes are state schools and not private like Northwestern. That means players at those schools would be subject to state collective bargaining laws. But recognizing Northwestern players as employees, the board said, could rock all of college football.

"Asserting jurisdiction over the single team in this case would likely have ramifications for those other member teams," the agency said.

Even if the players won't be unionizing under federal law anytime soon, that doesn't mean the organizing campaign is scuttled, said Fred Feinstein, a former general counsel for the NLRB. Players at state schools could still try to be recognized as union members under state law, he noted.

"If they make inroads in one state, it's conceivable others would follow," he said.

Feinstein also noted that they could bargain collectively outside the framework of labor law to have their grievances addressed, much like fast food workers have been doing.

"They can still organize, and they can still try to figure out the kinds of influence and leverage they might have to address some of the concerns that led them to file this petition in the first place," he said.

The Northwestern players filed their precedent-setting union election petition in January 2014. Two months later, Peter S. Ohr, the board's regional director in Chicago, ruled that the players qualified as employees who could organize, allowing them to cast ballots in a union vote. Those ballots were impounded pending an appeal by the school, but the results of that election would now be moot.

The College Athletes Players Association, which backed the union drive, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kain Colter, the former Northwestern quarterback who led the organizing push, tweeted that he was "disappointed by the NLRB ruling."

In a statement, Northwestern officials said they were "pleased" by the board's decision not to assert jurisdiction.

"Northwestern considers its students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, to be students, first and foremost," the school said. "We applaud our players for bringing national attention to these important issues, but we believe strongly that unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes."

NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy called the decision "appropriate" in a statement.

"This ruling allows us to continue to make progress for the college athlete without risking the instability to college sports that the NLRB recognized might occur under the labor petition," Remy said.

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With No State Budget, Illinois Spending Is Running Amok, Unchecked

Mon, 2015-08-17 11:13
House Speaker Michael Madigan last week made a statement that, when examined against recent events in Springfield, says a lot about the state budget standoff between him and Bruce Rauner.

In an interview with WICS Newschannel 20 Statehouse reporter Jordan Abudayyeh, Madigan contended that the election result in 2014 was more a matter of Pat Quinn losing than Rauner winning.

In other words, voters may have elected Rauner, but it was only by default. In Madigan's view, Rauner has a very limited mandate from voters and it's the majority Democrats' duty to enforce the limits.

That's how we ended up where we are: With Rauner refusing to negotiate on the state budget until Democrats help enact some of his reforms and Madigan refusing to support those measures in the form Rauner wants them.

The problem is, the vast majority of state government spending is happening even though there is no budget in place to authorize it. Through court orders and continuing appropriations, the state continues to pay state employees, make pension payments, finance many social service agencies and issue various other payments as if it were operating on last year's budget.

Which leads the bigger problem: We've got a lot less money coming in this budget year -- the first complete year under new, lower income tax rates that started Jan. 1 -- than we did in budget year 2015.

Watch Reboot Illinois' Matt Dietrich and Madeleine Doubek discuss these problems:

Perhaps there is one person who could break the budget deadlock so the state could start spending rationally again, says Capitol Fax's Rich Miller: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Miller says Emanuel has the power to work with Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who then could force Rauner's hand until he backs off some of his budget demands. Check out the whole explanation at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: General Assembly prepares for vote on bill at center of Rauner, AFSCME feud

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What It Feels Like to Be Part of the First U.S. Generation Worse Off Than Their Parents

Mon, 2015-08-17 11:12


Every day I am somehow reminded that I am a part of the first American generation to have it worse than my parents. I wake up at 5 every morning, my shoulders ache from making sushi for six hours (the newest minimum wage job I've acquired.) I check my email, using whatever random signal is floating around my neighborhood. Reluctantly, I accept my fall semester grad student loan amount in excess of $10,000. I drink my black coffee and grab my chef's jacket. I'm usually rushing, and as I button up while walking through the produce section to the seafood area, I feel myself becoming anonymous. Usually, somewhere near the mid-point of my day, I notice my rolls starting to get sloppy. I daydream a lot.

I wonder what my life would be like studying abroad in Finland, Norway or Germany, where tuition is free. I calculate how long it will take me to pay off my near $50,000 in debt when I graduate but stop myself. The light at the end of the tunnel is a degree and maybe an adjunct professorship, which would mean taking up a second or third job to make ends meet. I debate myself: Stephanie, it would mean doing what you love? Yes, but why should I have to be punished for doing what I love, having dedicated the same amount of time, if not more, to my studies and my art as anyone working in a more lucrative field?

I think about Charlotte Bronte, siphoning countless writing hours into household tasks and ponder the role of today's modern woman in the contemporary world. I attempt to calculate the amount of hours I've wasted doing subsistence work, completely unrelated to my writing, but I backtrack and try to tell myself that you learn something from everything, be it a co-worker's inflection, a customer's routine, the capacity some people have to smile, always. On Saturdays, I work as a glass-blower at the Sandwich Glass Museum, and it's the only time during the week that I feel of use, actively engaging my creativity, making something, regardless of the result.

Thoughts of a future family are kicked deep down, because unless my husband and I win the lottery, we won't be having kids until thirty, if that. I wonder whether or not I'll have the stamina to have children at thirty, as every year that passes correlates to a new kind of slowness, new aches, a new generalized fatigue a deadening of sorts. I think about wanting to be the type of parent that can tell her children firsthand accounts of the world, then tweak my goals to something less grandiose, like saving up for a plane ticket back to Vegas so that I can see my grandpa, mother, brother and uncle. I suppose that somewhere near a third of my day is spent suppressing either my wanderlust, my biological clock or my creative impulse. I tell myself that I am not alone, as birthrates among women in my age group declined more than 15% from 2007-2012, essentially meaning that we are reproducing at the slowest pace of any generation in US history. But, this collective hurt doesn't make me feel any better. It also doesn't help to know that suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst us.

I am one of many children who has been reared in collapse. Typically, we average around $35,051 in student debt upon graduation. We are skeptical of the world, and rightly so. Healthcare has become a business, $700 billion was spent to bail out the very people who chose greed over a thriving posterity and the education bubble looms ever on the darkening horizon. 34% of us still live at home with our parents. I try not to let any of the past-due bills and debt affect me, as there's a tragicomedy to it all. We live in a completely ridiculous society, where even produce (something that should be a given) is tainted with the stain of corporatization and a trip to the grocery store, more often than not, winds up in a state of disillusionment that eventually gives way to tacit compliance. I think of what my roommate said of past restaurant co-workers from other countries, who'd ask where our apple trees or farms were and be met with laughter. How preposterous is the idea of an agrarian America now? It's as if we've wiped the land completely free of our foundations.

On rare occasions, I go to a bar with my friends, feeling like the Vampire Lestat, hoping no one will comment on my unkempt nails or thrift store clothes as I re-emerge into a polite society, that I feel an ever-widening disconnect from. I listen to conversations, and realize I have forgotten about the world of concerts, road trips and housewarming parties. I return home, regretting having spent money on a well drink and curl up next to my sleeping husband, baffled by our having survived 2014. In December of 2013 my husband retired from the Air Force after five years of service, we moved across country to Cape Cod (which has a strictly seasonal economy and where the cost of living is roughly 3x higher) in the dead of winter, our car was nearly repossessed twice, we had to take in roommates in order to be able to afford rent, we worked somewhere near ten jobs between us and we, representing ourselves, gained shared legal custody of my step-daughter.

I can't sleep, as usual, and lay upside down at the end of the bed, letting the blood rush to my head to reaffirm that I am, in fact, alive, and that my life has so much dormant potential that I've forgotten about, in the rote motions of living to pay bills alone. I kiss my dog, who nudges me back into a normal position. I stare at him on the floor and think I'd be fine living in a shack as long as my family was with me. There are people who have it far worse off than I, and I can't allow myself to continue complaining.

I am one of ~80 million millennials. What's your story?


Stephanie Kasheta is a graduate of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she majored in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She is currently finishing up her MFA in Fiction at Emerson College in Boston. She is a Las Vegas native who recently relocated to Cape Cod with her husband, a veteran of the US Air Force. Stephanie is also step-mother to a seven-year old future writer named Olivia. When not reading or daydreaming of travel abroad, she can be found blowing glass at the Sandwich Glass Museum or working on her short story collection. Follow her on Twitter

Feature image Fin Kasheta Esq. 

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Odd 'Scarface' Creature Roamed Earth 255 Million Years Ago

Mon, 2015-08-17 09:51


 Say hello to "Scarface." The newly discovered species of pre-mammal roamed the Earth about 255 million years ago -- and was way more intimidating than Al Pacino.

The species, whose name, Ichibengops munyamadziensis, roughly translates to "Scarface of the Munyamadzi River," was recently identified on the basis of two partial skulls that were unearthed in Zambia in 2009.

Why Scarface?

"The groove on the face of Ichibengops is one of its most distinctive features, so it makes sense to have the name refer to that," Dr. Kenneth Angielczyk, associate curator of paleomammalogy at the Field Museum in Chicago and co-author of a paper describing the new species, told The Huffington Post in an email.

(Story continues below image.)

Ichibengops was about the size of a dachshund and had furrows above its teeth that might have been used to deliver venom. Yikes. 

Ichibengops belonged to an extinct group of reptiles called therocephalians, or "beast-heads." Since these animals were closely related to the ancestors of modern-day mammals, the possibility that Ichibengops might have been venomous spotlights the rare capability of mammals and their extinct relatives to produce venom.

The duck-billed platypus and certain shrew species are the only living mammals known to have the capability.

"There is only one other therocephalian that seems to show indications of being venomous," which would be the extinct therocephalian EuchambersiaDr. Christian Sidor, professor of biology at the University of Washington in Seattle and co-author of the paper, said in a written statement. "However, it’s very difficult to assess function in fossils, so we can never be 100 percent certain." 

The paper was published online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on July 20, 2015. 

Scarface wasn't the only monstrous species in prehistory. Check out the "Talk Nerdy To Me" episode below for five prehistoric beasts that may surprise you.

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'Agrihoods' Offer Suburban Living Built Around Community Farms, Not Golf Courses

Mon, 2015-08-17 09:18

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The phrase “planned community” conjures up a lot of images -- maybe a swimming pool, obsessively manicured lawns, white picket fences -- but a farm is probably not one of them. 

Pushing back against that stereotypical image of suburban living is a growing number of so-called “agrihoods” springing up nationwide. These developments center around a real, functional farm as their crown jewel. According to CivilEats, there are currently about 200 of them nationwide. 

The latest, called The Cannery, officially opened this past Saturday on a site that was previously home to a tomato cannery facility located about a mile outside downtown Davis, California. The 100-acre project of the New Home Company development company is considered to be the first agrihood to take root on formerly industrial land. All of its 547 energy-efficient homes will be solar-powered and electric car-ready, KCRA, NBC’s Sacramento affiliate, reports.

The Cannery is unique for other reasons, too. The community’s 7.4-acre farm will be managed by the Center for Land-Based Learning, a nonprofit group that plans to run agricultural education programs for students and aspiring farmers from the site in addition to a commercial operation focusing on organic vegetables once they’ve raised money for farm equipment and improved the soil, CivilEats reports.

There is a cost to all of this, of course. Homes in The Cannery range from the mid-$400,000s to just over $1 million, according to the Sacramento Bee. The median sales price for listings in the market is $524,000, toward the lower end of that range.

While the term “agrihood” may be relatively new, the concept is not. As Modern Farmer pointed out in a 2014 story, the broader concept has roots dating back to the mid-1800s. The nation’s first planned community, in Riverside, Illinois, had a decidedly pastoral feel falling somewhere in the middle of city and country life. 

And many established agrihoods have been around for some time, such as the Agritropia community in Gilbert, Arizona, the Serenbe development outside Atlanta and Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Illinois, all of which were established over a decade ago and appear to be flourishing.

While some have criticized the developments as an attempt at greenwashing in order to find buyers for locations that would otherwise be less popular, the trend is not showing signs of slowing down. 

The foodie generation has come of age,” Ed McMahon of the Urban Land Institute told Bloomberg this year. “The mainstream development community has come to think of these as a pretty good way to build a low-cost amenity that people seem to like and that also adds authenticity.” 

Newer agrihood developments include the Sendero village of Rancho Mission Viejo in Orange County, California, and the Kukui’ula community in Kauai, Hawaii. 

"I yearn, and I think a lot of people yearn, for the Earth to be connected with the source of our food,” a Sendero resident told the Los Angeles Times last year. "To get your hands dirty with growth ... I think it's good for the soul."

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