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1974, The Cubs, Mom And Me

Wed, 2016-11-02 23:43

It was 1974. I was bored silly in a fog of ADHD (when they called it “unsettled”) and sitting at my desk at Dirksen Elementary. It was first grade. I was pouring glue on a fresh spot of marker ink, letting the color soak in so I could manufacture a rare jailhouse jewel while ignoring Mrs. Lancaster.


The intercom exploded, “Kevin Folta, come down to the principal’s office.”


“What did I do?” I thought. Certainly it could not be my glue gems.


When I got to the office the school nurse told me I had to head out for my doctor’s appointment. I had no idea what the hell she was talking about. She told me my mom would be there to pick me up for a medical dismissal.


I was puzzled. My folks were pretty straight about filling me in on medical stuff. I was 7 years old, I had a good command of immunology and memorized my vaccine schedule, and today was absolutely not the day. I sat on the vinyl couch making fart noises with my wet thumb on the cushion before my mom arrived. We left the school, climbed into her maroon Buick Regal with the white interior and drove away.


“Whazzup with the doctor?” I asked.


Mom looked at me reassuringly, “We’re going to a Cubs game.”



My mom was only in her mid-20s, and she was lying to my school so that we could watch baseball ... That is pretty damn cool.



Yes. Baseball in the sunshine. Back in 1974, the Chicago Cubs played every game during the day, meaning that no kids were in the stands from opening day until mid-June, and Labor Day until the World Series. Of course, that was not much of an issue, as the Cubs season was doomed well by the time we returned to school in the fall.


Mom and I drove to an office building on the corner of Cumberland and Addison and snuck the car into the back of the parking lot. We lived on the edge of Chicago. Wrigley Field is on Addison Avenue and it ended at Cumberland, and that parking lot where we’d grab a bus ride.


The bus was pretty empty out there. I’d read and try to memorize the new swears I’d read on the back of bus seats.


As we’d crawl stop-to-stop toward Wrigley Field at Addison and Clark. We’d pass Lane Tech where my dad went to high school, WGN where the TV shows happened, and the Addison Snack Shop where the red first letters spelled “ASS.”


That was primo stuff. First grade comedy gold. Comedy gold.


After about 45 minutes, the neighborhoods transitioned into strangely residential, and a few stops later, we’d see the majestic façade of Wrigley Field rise into the windshield. We’d disembark on the southwest corner of Clark and Addison, crossing two streets carefully, looking both ways and holding her hand to get to the stadium.


If the game started at 1:15, we’d get there about 10:30. There was nobody there, but we’d push through the turn-style and inhale the cool rotten beer stink of an even-then-ancient stadium. We’d head out of the grey shade of the stadium’s metal beams up the stairs toward the light of the field. It was an early-day pre-game practice of batting cages and players on the field, taking swings and fielding baseballs.


We’d walk up onto the first level and then turn left away from the fancy plastic seats near the field, and make our way up to the dark-green wooden seats that matched our ticket numbers. These were not the cheap seats of the bleachers, the place where the drunks and chronically self-unemployed would sequester. These were the grandstands, a lavish $2.25 a seat. A bit rich for our blood. We’d look down at the $6.00 box seats near the field, wondering how people possibly could afford such an exorbitant luxury.


My mom liked to go early because we’d watch batting practice. We’d watch Jose Cardenal, Rick Monday, and Bill Madlock smack baseballs into the stands while eating hotdogs and listening to solitary drunkards yell at imaginary problems.


I don’t remember who won or lost. I remember a few little bits and pieces like when outfielder Larry Biittner pitched game two of a double header and when Bill Madlock needed to go four for four to win the batting title in the last game of the season, and he did it.


That was the point. It was not about baseball.


Baseball was simply the place where we created a tapestry. My mom was only in her mid-20s, and she was lying to my school so that we could watch baseball players hit soft lobs into the stands during batting practice and then sit together in a day game, in an irrelevant baseball season, with nobody around us for miles.


That is pretty damn cool.


After that era we’d watch salaries skyrocket, players become rock stars, baseball become a wild commercial enterprise. I really lost interest.



My mom had a love for baseball and a love for me, and she felt the best situation was putting the two together.



But my mom would watch every season with great interest. She’d suffer through every game of every Cubs season for the next 35 years. It was a willful subscription, a glimmer of hope in April that would fade in painful slow motion into baseball’s cellar year after year. Heartbreak happened early except for 1984 and 2003 when she’d scream at the TV to push promise to success, only to find profound disappointment.


Tonight, I’m watching game seven of the improbable Cubs in the World Series. I’m watching the Cubs battle in this game tonight not because I like baseball. I’m watching it because my mom loved baseball. It was the reason she hustled home to watch the game on a tiny fuzzy TV screen. It was the noise from her radio, and the reason she felt a day with her in Wrigleyville was a more important lesson for me than another day riding second-grade desk.


These visions live in my head and no place else. My mom had a love for baseball and a love for me, and she felt the best situation was putting the two together ― even if it meant breaking a few rules.


If we had just one last time together, last night’s World Series deciding game would have been a good one. It would have been her and me, sitting on my couch like we sat on that Addison Avenue bus. Sadly, she’s not here. I don’t think she’d ever believe the success that her favorite team, or that little kid, eventually might eventually find.

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11 Ways The World Has Changed Since The Cubs Last Won A World Series

Wed, 2016-11-02 22:08

As the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians battled Wednesday night in a historic Game 7 of the World Series, Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Twitter to give a history lesson on just how long its been since the Cubs last won the championship in 1908. 


And as usual, the renowned astrophysicist’s scientific knowledge did not disappoint. 


From the mind of Tyson, a look at all the ways the world has changed since the Cubs were crowned champions 108 years ago ― from advances in human flight to the discovery of Pluto and our expanding universe.  



The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, the existence of the Atom had only recently been established.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



The last time the Cubs won the World Series, the Wright Brothers were debating if aeroplanes could ever fly from NYC to Paris

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, the Periodic Table had only 85 Elements on it.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, the cosmic object known as Pluto was not yet discovered

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Mark Twain was still alive.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



In the same year the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed in Bolivia.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



Five years *after* the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series, Henry Ford perfected the moving assembly line.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



The modern Planetarium was invented 15 years after the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



The expanding Universe was discovered by Edwin Hubble 21 years *after* the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, three years would pass before the discovery of the atomic nucleus.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



One more?

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016



Halley's Comet has appeared TWICE in our skies since the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016


After the Cubs won the Series, Tyson finished off his tweet streak:



The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Real Estate developer Donald Trump was running for President of the USA.

— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) November 3, 2016


This article has been updated to add Tyson’s postgame tweet.

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Writing On Wrigley Field's Walls

Wed, 2016-11-02 18:05

Still think it's just about the baseball? Just north of Wrigley Field is Graceland Cemetery. And under the wild grey skies of November, on a tiny peaceful lake near the grave of the great ballet dancer Ruth Page, is the grave of Mr. Cub--Ernie Banks. And you know, as the Cubs take the stage tonight, tonight with only two teams left playing, tonight there will be spirits of all shapes and sizes dancing.

Still think its just about the team or the baseball? Tonight it's about spirits dancing down through the generations. Heroes and grandmothers and fathers and a life force that connects us all. And when the spirits dance, you gotta look real, real hard because often it only lasts for a moment. Or it might be hidden in such plain sight that you don't even see it. You don't realize, this is different. Because this could be for everyone.

Like when the Cubs scattered pieces of chalk outside the walls of Wrigley Field and invited one and all to write their messages to the team.

Write whatever you want. Go ahead and write your stories on these walls.

Most of us don't have the money to get inside the park. Many don't have the cost of cable tv needed for the playoffs. Most times the money matters.

But it didn't cost a dime to go write on those walls. To share what it means to carry on hope. To share your respect. Maybe a message to the team. Maybe not. And if your choice is to share hate, you can even do that too.

Her choice, as she picked up the piece of blue chalk was to share a spiritual shout out to the great Chicago music man Steve Goodman. She just felt that his name should be up there too. Him being so much a heartfelt part of this ongoing song.

And that W you see in the corner? There was one square left. So what better message on this brick wall love letter? She wrote that W and it didn't cost a dime.
As if the spirit dancers sang to us all like we were winners.

All of us.

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Illinois Conservative Group Denies Sitting On People's Ballot Applications

Wed, 2016-11-02 14:33

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The Democratic clerk of Rock Island County in Illinois says a conservative group allowed more than a thousand completed vote-by-mail applications to sit in a post office box for three weeks before someone raised questions about it.


“We think they had no intention of ever delivering it to us,” Karen Kinney said in an interview.


Kinney said she learned of the problem last month after hearing from voters who hadn’t received their ballots. She said the 1,500 applications would have continued to languish if she hadn’t contacted law enforcement.


Illinois law allows outside groups to send out ballot applications to potential voters, who can fill out the forms in order to receive a vote-by-mail ballot from their county clerk’s office. The controversy in Illinois is over how long the completed applications allegedly sat in a P.O. box without being handed over to the clerk. State Democrats say it looks like it could be a voter suppression scheme.


“When you solicit absentee ballot applications and then sit on them, that’s about the only thing you can call it,” Steve Brown, spokesman for the Illinois Democratic Party, said in an interview.


Pat Hughes, the co-founder of the Illinois Opportunity Project, the conservative group that distributed the applications, said the criticism is bogus because the applications have, in fact, been submitted to the clerk.


“It’s a red herring,” Hughes said. “It’s a pretext for harassment.”


The Illinois attorney general’s office last week warned voters that if they filled out vote-by-mail ballot applications, they should “stay alert and monitor whether they then receive a ballot in the mail.” The office, which is headed by Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, sent several letters last month to the Illinois Opportunity Project demanding information about its vote-by-mail efforts in Rock Island and six other Illinois counties.


Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said people were confused because the group’s vote-by-mail solicitation didn’t say who it was coming from.


“Because the Illinois Opportunity Project’s mailings do not identify that organization and, instead, are sent from ‘[Name of County] County Vote By Mail Center’, they have led to voter confusion regarding whether they are official documents from the counties,” Possley said in an email.


The Illinois Opportunity Project has ties to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican. One of the group’s co-founders, the conservative radio host Dan Proft, also heads up a big-spending political action committee that is funded partly by Rauner. The governor is looking to chip away at Democrats’ supermajority in the state legislature. Madigan’s father, state Rep. Michael Madigan (D), has been speaker of the Illinois House for decades.


The Illinois kerfuffle is one of several voting controversies, some more serious than others, unfolding in various states as Election Day nears.


After finding a number of allegedly forged applications in Indiana, Republican officials there have warned that a Democratic voter registration drive could be committing fraud. In North Carolina, the NAACP has alleged in a lawsuit that the state illegally canceled the voter registrations of thousands of black residents. And based on the fact that polls show him likely to lose, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed the election will be “rigged” in favor of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.


Hughes said the Illinois Opportunity Project mailed applications to voters on Oct. 11, and picked up the returned applications from the Rock Island Post Office on Oct. 26, after receiving inquiries from law enforcement. Hughes says the group didn’t break any laws by not grabbing the applications sooner. He also says that because the group distributed applications on the 11th and collected them on the 26th, it disproves the Democratic clerk’s claim that the applications languished for three weeks.


Mark Curley, postmaster for the Rock Island Post Office, corroborated Hughes’ timeline.


“There was no three weeks,” Curley said. “They didn’t languish.”


Rock Island Democratic Party chair Doug House said that a preliminary analysis of absentee ballots processed by the clerk on Oct. 27 showed they are mostly from Democrats and older voters.


“Why in the world would a dark money group that supports Bruce Rauner target high turnout Democrats and independents like this unless they wanted to suppress voters?” House said in an emailed statement. “We’ve closely examined the related facts and I am convinced that Bruce Rauner’s allies are trying to win one of the most competitive State House seats in Illinois through dirty tricks, deception and possibly illegal voter suppression tactics.”


Kinney said the deadline for Illinois clerks to receive vote-by-mail applications is Thursday. People who applied for ballots but didn’t receive them can still vote in-person on Election Day.

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Will Gov. Rauner Target the Illinois Supreme Court in 2018?

Tue, 2016-11-01 11:15
llinois Supreme Court Justice Burke faces retention in 2018

Since becoming a candidate for governor in 2013, Bruce Rauner has put $60 million into various campaign funds. That's more than double the Top 10 contributors gave in the four-year cycles starting in 2005 and 2009 combined.

Rauner has completely redone the political finance landscape and taken financial control away from Democrats.

But is he becoming Boss Rauner, the head of the executive branch who exerts excessive control over the legislative branch?

If Rauner really wants to test the checks and balances of the three-branch government, he'll have a chance in 2018, when he could lead the charge against retention of a Democratic Illinois Supreme Court justice who is married to one of the most powerful politicians in Illinois.

We're talking campaign money on this episode of "Only in Illinois."

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Opinion: Let's Vote And Treat Politicians Like They're Our Children

Tue, 2016-11-01 11:10
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

I was texting with some family members over the weekend and I'm sure it will come as no shock that one of my sisters told me she'd done the deed and voted early, figuratively holding her nose all the way up and down the ballot.

It's not a stretch to predict there'll be more of that than ever before this year with polls showing most of us don't like or trust the major party presidential candidates. And then, within Illinois, Democrats and Republicans are breaking records spending money on tearing each other apart.

One of my nephews chimed in that he'd be happy to vote for several of us and would we please just run because he really needs someone to clean up this state.

I'm sorry, bud, but I don't see any of us becoming candidates any time soon.

And here's the thing, voting is one step. A big, critical one to be sure, but it's one step.

We've got a long way to go and many, many steps to take before we get close to a clean up.

That doesn't mean we should give up before we begin.

Maybe it would help if we all learned to think of ourselves as being a part of one big, raucous family in Illinois? We voters are the parents and our elected officials are the children. (Truth, right?!) At the first sign of the kids getting in trouble, parents don't just walk away.

We can't give one lecture, or cast a vote now and then, and think we're done.

Most of us commit to our families through thick and through thin. We keep trying and arguing and looking for different approaches and solutions when something or someone in the family goes wrong because we're committed to each other long term.

We keep trying to remember that relationships take work. They require that we don't take each other for granted. Or, more likely, we do take each other for granted and then we work harder to make up for that mistake when it happens.

And so, it stands to reason, voting cannot be like that once every five years or so extended family holiday dinner where we all get together, stuff ourselves to the gills, fight over who's washing dishes, yell it out and then retreat to our separate corners to ignore the problems until the next gathering of the clan.

We've got to work at it constantly. Keep the kids in line. Keep the pressure on for good grades. Make sure the homework and the chores are done well and regularly. We've got to deliver some stern discipline to the kids when and however often it's needed.

That kind of involvement, steady attention and stewardship is what it will take to start making headway in Illinois as well. Voting is one thing. We've got to pay attention to what happens after that. We've got to put in some quality time with the kids regularly, pressure them to quit their procrastinating and moaning and groaning and get to work at solving our debt problems and our pension problems. We've got to make sure the kids know how to live within our means, create a budget and live with it and put away some savings for college and the rainy days ahead.

Listen. There are plenty of people in Illinois politics and government who don't expect any wholesale dramatic improvement after next week's election in Illinois. Despite the hyperbole tossed our way in all the election messaging, few people expect many seats will change parties. Madigan will remain speaker and Rauner will remain governor. More and more, people say the two feuding teens don't intend to collaborate on their group assignments and pass a budget until after we vote again when Rauner takes his run at re-election in 2018.

Ugh. If that happens and we do nothing about it, the family will fall apart. A study by the United Way found that, already, one million of us have lost services and been hurt by the refusal of those two teens to work together.

To end the extended metaphor, voting is one step. We've got to walk toward a new way. We've all got to tell our family members, friends and neighbors to join us. Get engaged. Learn about Illinois' problems. Commit to spending even 15 minutes a day keeping up to date on those problems by reading a reliable news source. Pressure whomever wins those state representative and state senate seats. Call, email, show up at their offices at least once a month. It really won't take that long. Tell them they need regularly to pressure Rauner, Madigan and the other legislative leaders to quit acting like teenage dumb jocks and work together to solve the family problems. Tell them that's what you expect and remind those lawmakers they work for you.

We can save this family. But it will take commitment and effort from us all. We're worth it. Vote now and then let's keep working hard at moving forward.

Recommended: The 25 best and worst small cities in Illinois for 2016

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Many People Already See Prisoners As Monsters. Do 'Haunted Prisons' Make It Worse?

Mon, 2016-10-31 15:14

CHICAGO ― Each fall, thrill-seeking visitors show up to one of the most infamous maximum security prisons in the United States, only to be turned away.


Five minutes away, the loved ones of prison inmates send mail and phone calls to Paul Siegel’s farm, hoping to find out about commissary accounts and prisoner release dates. 


The Halloween season is peak time for confusion between Stateville Correction Center and Statesville Haunted Prison, two sites located a stone’s throw from each other roughly 40 miles southwest of Chicago.


That tourists easily mistake one for the other has been a boon to Siegel since he opened the attraction on his farm in 1996. The site is consistently named among the best haunted houses in the state, and for Siegel’s livelihood as a farmer, “it’s a very big piece of the puzzle,” he said.  


But the proximity is troubling to others ― namely, prison reform advocates and those who work in restorative justice.


Critics say these kinds of prison-themed haunted amusements reinforce existing stigmas that make it hard for inmates to reintegrate into society once they’re released. 


“It’s indirect damage, that’s what’s insidious about it. It affects us on a level that’s really hard to be conscious of,” said Kimberley Moe, who teaches a course on restorative justice at Stateville as part of the Inside-Out prison exchange program at DePaul University. The course is held inside Stateville itself, with DePaul undergrads and inmates studying side by side for the term.


Jamal, one of the program’s students and an inmate at Stateville, said he feels conflicted about the haunted prison being so close to his real-life prison. In a letter to The Huffington Post, Jamal called the attraction a “complete contradiction of our reality.”


“You profit off the sorrows of men who are more than the sum of their mistakes,” he wrote. 


Andre, another student from Stateville, wrote that visitors likely see the attraction as just harmless entertainment.


“They don’t realize they’re being fed some of the worst, most sensationalized versions of prisons and prisoners,” he said.





Old prisons that no longer house inmates can experience a wide variety of second acts. Some become popular filming locations, like the Tennessee State Prison in Nashville that’s been used in movies like “The Green Mile” and “The Last Castle.” Others, like Alcatraz in San Francisco, become museums and historical sites. Increasingly, as the Marshall Project noted in July, old prisons are becoming so-called “dark tourism” sites that host haunted houses and ghost tours.


Rutgers University Professor Michael Welch, who studies penal tourism and wrote the 2015 book Escape to Prison, says haunted prisons and similar attractions offer an alluring mix of frightening authenticity and safe distance. 


“A haunted prison has a gravitational pull because people want to be on an actual site where horrible things have happened, but they also want safe contact,” he said. “If you said ‘you can come into this haunted prison, but only half of you will be allowed to leave,’ well, that’d be the end of it.”



Housing an attraction at an actual prison, or at least near one, is crucial in providing what Welch calls “sited-ness” ― a kind of authenticity that can’t be replicated just anywhere. 


Statesville Haunted Prison gives a false sense of sited-ness since it was never a real prison to begin with, Welch said. Even so, having an actual prison nearby adds an extra dimension to it.


But since the haunted attraction is highly dramatized and the scenarios it depicts are fantastical and embellished, Welch doesn’t believe there’s much negative impact.


The haunted prisons have “no authenticity” with regard to actual prisons ― something that Welch says most visitors understand.


Alan Mills disagrees. Mills, the executive director of the Chicago-based Uptown People’s Law Center, which advocates for prisoner rights, says that sensational portrayals of prisons and inmates do a disservice to everyone ― not just the incarcerated.  


“Done right, like the Eastern State Penitentiary, it can serve as an excellent means of opening up a world that is usually closed, exposing just how inhumane prisons are,” Mills told HuffPost in a Facebook message. 


But haunted house-style attractions meant only to thrill or scare “add nothing to our understanding of prisons” and are “dehumanizing,” he said.


“It encourages people to think of prisoners as scary monsters, rather than people exactly like everyone else ― except they had fewer choices, and (may have) made a bad decision in their lives,” Mills said. “They encourage people to accept prison conditions which constitute torture, by getting people to think of prisoners as less than human.” 



Apart from an incident in the 1940s when two escaped inmates allegedly stole a family car at knifepoint, Siegel, 59, said Stateville’s closeness had never had much of an effect on the farm one way or another, until he opened the haunted prison to support the farm’s finances.


Twenty years ago, there were fewer haunted houses around, and the ones that existed typically offered a melange of pop-culture movie monsters and references to famous historical events. Today, haunted houses are an industry worth nearly half a billion dollars, according to the Haunted Attraction Association. 


“I wanted to have [a] themed haunted house that was scary but was also very different than what most of the slasher-movie type things would be produced,” Siegel said.


Stateville holds a number of historical distinctions. It was the execution site of serial killer John Wayne Gacy and the home of the last functioning panopticon, or “roundhouse” unit, in the country. Earlier this month, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) announced he was closing down Stateville’s panopticon, calling it dangerous and antiquated. 


“Of course I wanted use the notoriety of having a very scary maximum security [prison] next to the place,” Siegel said, explaining his decision to give his haunted prison attraction a name almost identical to Stateville’s.  


Statesville Haunted Prison’s conceit is simple enough: The “guards” have fled, and a cast of deranged “inmates” have taken over. The attraction is for adults only and takes about 45 minutes to navigate, although Siegel says not everyone is brave enough to make it through. 


About 160 actors work the haunted house, including star players with intricate makeup and detailed backstories. One character is a mental health patient whose history includes “the murder and mutilation of 6 teenagers and 1 police officer” with “hands and feet” as the weapon of choice. 


“We’re not glorifying anything or showing any mayhem,” said Siegel, who notes that the attraction never depicts torture or murder. “We’re not showing guards getting taken over or killed or anything like that.”


Siegel also points out that the prison is just one of his farm’s holiday offerings. Most are decidedly more family-friendly, like pumpkin festivals, hayrides and corn mazes. But the haunted prison is crucial to the farm’s finances, he says. And people enjoy it. 


Moe, the DePaul professor, acknowledged that the issue is not black and white.


“I understand that people need to live and need to make money,” she said. “It’s not easy to make ends meet on a farm.”


While some of the Stateville students say they’re deeply offended and frustrated by the haunted prison, others simply shrug it off as a product of capitalism.


Moe is aware of the challenges her Stateville students will face if and when they’re released. She said that some of them share “a kind of worn down-ness that no matter which way they turn, they’re met with these real negative things.”


An estimated 95 percent of state correctional inmates, like those at Stateville, will return to society at some point. 


More than a dozen of the Stateville students wrote that their biggest desire is to be productive when they’re released, and to be able to contribute to society instead of being shunned.


“Just because you’ve been touched by the correctional system,” Moe said, “that does not make you a monster.”

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From 1908 To 2016: How The Cubs Were Named To Win The World Series

Mon, 2016-10-31 13:26
It is a foregone conclusion that the Chicago Cubs will win the 2016 World Series. How, you ask? Well Dr. Mallory Katz of BabyNames.com analyzed the names of both the 1908 and 2016 rosters and came to the realization that, by any other name, this year the Cubs will be champions once again.

First, I must admit that I am a die-hard Cubs fan from a die-hard Chicagoland family, growing up in Evanston, Illinois. As co-founder of BabyNames.com, I have compared the rosters of the 1908 and 2016 players and have determined, even if in name only, the Cubs will win the 2016 World Series.

Who else is from Evanston? Why, John Cusack of course. Of note, John (God is gracious) and derivations of John (Jon, Johnny, Jack) are the most common name on the 1908 Cubs roster and also appear on the 2016 roster twice (Lackey and Lester). Lackey and Lester, along with 1908's Jack Fiester, pitch. The other most common name of pitchers from the two years is Carl (Lundgren, Spongberg, Edwards), meaning manly.

So what names are the least alike on the two rosters? Well, 1908's hall of famer pitcher, Mordecai (warrior) Brown and infielder Heinie (ruler of the home) Zimmerman stand out from the rest. From 2016, pitcher Aroldis (likely from Harold, meaning army ruler) Chapman and outfielder Dexter (dyer of clothes) Fowler also are among the most unusual names.

If you look just at the meanings of names, however, the name Vin (Campbell) means victorious. Other "fighting" names include Mordecai (warrior), Bill (strong willed warrior), Harry/Aroldis (army ruler), Jimmy/Jake (supplanter), Hector (steadfast), and Pedro (rock). But the 2016 Cubs also have religion on its side, with names Mike Montgomery and Miguel Contreras (Who is like God?), Kris Bryant (Christ bearer), and the aforementioned John Lackey and Jon Lester (God is gracious).

Now, although I'd rather not, I must discuss the challengers, the Cleveland Indians. First of all, if we are talking about names, it is mandatory that we mention the horrifyingly monickered "Chief Wahoo." But the Indians are already on the hot seat for their "mascot" (can a culture actually be a mascot?) and we will move on to the given names of the 2016 Cleveland Indians roster. For sure, there are peaceniks on the Cleveland team, including Jeff (peace of a stranger) Manship and Francisco (free) Lindor. One name means chocolate bean (Coco Crisp) and another means hollow (Corey Kluber). There are other names that have meanings that are more cryptic, such as Cody Allen (descendent of Oda), Trevor Bauer (from the big settlement), Tyler Naquin (tile maker) and we cannot forget Brandon Guyer (from the broom hill). Do these meanings equate to champions? I think not.

I know some of my readers will say that it is too early to predict who will win the World Series. And yes, names don't necessarily indicate whether a team will prevail or not. To these naysayers, I answer Cubs fans do anything for a chance to win the big one - from rituals such as chants and dances to non-ticket holders descending upon Wrigleyville just to sing Go Cubs Go and smell the air of excitement. Yet, this is the year that the men in blue stripes can channel their 1908 counterparts and repeat the win of the century. Oh, and we cannot forget Addison Russell, whose given name is defined as "child of Adam," although I would argue that it means "child of Wrigley Field." To Chicagoans, however, aren't we all?

Dr. Mallory Moss Katz is a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner and co-founder of the foremost baby names websites, BabyNames.com. Dr. Katz has written several pieces on a variety of subjects for the Huffington Post, The Hill, Eurasian.com and Foreign Policy Daily. Her expertise includes adult psychiatry and psychotherapy, Eurasian foreign affairs, celebrity baby names, and (of course) Chicago Cubs baseball!

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The Ghost of Wrigley Field?

Fri, 2016-10-28 14:15
The Chicago Lutheran theological Seminary. Site of present day Wrigley Field.


Am I the ghost of Wrigley Field? That echo of distant laughter you can almost grab on to before everything goes icy dark? Is that me?

Perhaps it would be best for you to decide. It is October again. When there is always more than what you see.

But where are my manners? I am Pastor John. And I walk.
Across the years, across the decades, I walk this patch of land, these celery farms and swamps near the shores of Lake Michigan. Before me, the Winnebago, Ottawa, and Miami people stopped here on their trails to better times. After me, when the man from Switzerland, Conrad Sulzer, built a home and settled in to stay, because he knew all about snowy winter winds, back when they named this the township of Lakeview, laid out the streets and lit the night with gas lamps, I was here too.

And I am still here now.

With wide rushing streets like concrete streams. Waveland Avenue and Sheffield, Addison and Clark Street. Mr. Weeghman's baseball stadium, now cradling 42,000 swaying souls instead of the 14,000 in shirt, suit coat and tie gentlemen cheering on the home team. The home team then was the Chicago Whales. Then the Chicago Cubs moved from their original field on the west side of the city and in 1920, this green grass, white line diamond on the middle of the gritty gray city that was growing like a mushroom, became Cubs Park. And then in 1927, it became Wrigley Field.

But I jump ahead of my story. I've always done that. I suppose it started when the neighborhood children started calling me "Pastor Whatsnext."


And I've been walking this land since long before there was even a glimmer of a thought in Mr. Charles Weeghman's mind that there should be a baseball stadium here in the township of Lakeview, in what they now call Chicago.

Long before that frozen February ground was broken for what later became Wrigley Field, I was here on the very same land where the ballpark would be built.

In Chicago, everyone comes from somewhere else. I was born in a cherry blossom summer. A house my father built. We farmed endless acres of cherries right up to where the trail took a dip just past Fish Creek Wisconsin and down to the Bay Shore. They tell me I passed crawling and went straight to walking. So I walked our land, helping my father build and repair, wrapped in the scent of those cherry blossoms, the fruit like tiny, perfect red pearls from above.

Fish Creek made me into a walker and that made me curious.

So my father understood when letters from his brother in New York City, read around the fireplace one snowy winter night, spoke of the green fields of Mr. Olmstead's Central Park. Grassland, trees and trails not all that different from the land that surrounded our cherry orchard. But this Central Park was planned and sprang up in the middle of the coal dust, yelling, throngs of people and buildings, this constant river of people and noise. Peace in the middle of chaos. That's what Central Park sounded like. So I went. A steamer across the Lake Michigan. Walking and a train ride chugging into New York City. I saw the Park. Watched the sun touch the grass. And on Sunday afternoons, I saw the men play this game in an open field. Smack this ball with a giant stick. No limits to how far could travel. No boundaries of time. Just running around a diamond while everyone cheered and clapped. And there was something in the game. Something in the full-throated joy of touching each side of the diamond that was instantly familiar. It was as if the joy in the game had always been there.

And I remembered that joy on my trip home when the steam ship docked in Chicago. The Chicago River was even wilder than the streets of New York. Slower but deeper. Dirty and loud and brimming with eyes of men that were always asking, "Where's mine?"

It was October. A day not all that different from today. The golden, orange, red autumn leaves whirling in a warm wind that still had undertones of a coming winter. I set out on the walk north from the river to Lakeview where my uncle was a Supervisor in Mr. Abbott's pill company. My uncle and aunt had a tiny cottage just east of The Lutheran Theological Seminary, at the corner of Addison and Clark Street. The Seminary buffeting the music and the noise of the drinking bursting out of the bars on Clark Street.

I remember walking up Addison, and seeing my aunt and uncle sitting on their front porch. Seeing them stand, the expression of sorrow on their faces, and the song in my head was one of Mr. Stephen Foster's. I heard, "Hard times come again no more" as if the song was a gift to prepare me for what was to come. And then they told me. During my time in New York, my father had passed. They told me it had been quick. They told me that not for an instant did he complain. They told me he was not alone. My mother was there with him. And before he had gone, he had bought her a small house in town so she would be among friends. He sold the farm. And finally, he had a message for me. They said he was smiling when he said his message to me was "Keep walking."

That evening, after dinner, I walked thru the grounds of the Seminary. The noise of the Clark Street bars floating over the Biblical Studies. The children of the neighborhood running aimless in the streets and across the grounds of the Seminary.

It was a week of those after dinner walks that I began to feel it well up inside like one of Mr. Foster's songs. I had what they said was a calling. I would stay at the seminary. I would become a Pastor. I'm not sure why. I had a trip up north to make sure my mother was safely ensconced in her new home in town. But then I came back. Turns out I was to keep walking, but the walking would all be on a small piece of land.

In the seminary, it was hard to read with that Clark Street noise. I knew the noise would eventually win and the seminary would be no more. But my eyes were on those children. Aimless and ragged. They needed something more than words. So it seemed only natural that I would introduce that same game of baseball I had watched in Central Park.

The parents first thought it strange. A young man studies to be a minister only to go playing a child's game with a stick and a ball. The parents would tell their kids, "What's next!"

The kids picked up the phrase. Mimicking the exasperated tone of their parents they'd call out "Hey Pastor Whatsnext!"

Then someone would take that stick, smack that ball up high into the heavens, where it might, where it could, go on forever.

And that's when I'd smile, laugh, clap my hands and cheer.
The kids would watch me, they'd cheer too as the batter ran the diamond, the ball went on forever, and finally that cheer went on forever.

And if you listen hard at Wrigley Field; you can hear us cheering even now. The kids and I. Back where there used to be a seminary. But now stands Wrigley Field.

Am I the ghost of Wrigley Field? You decide.

Photo Credit--Chicago Historical Society. Public Domain

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Mark Kirk Apologizes to Tammy Duckworth for Heritage Comment

Fri, 2016-10-28 13:52
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk took to Twitter Friday to apologize after created a national media firestorm Thursday during a debate with his odd remark that questioned his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth's heritage. (See the first video below.)

Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family's service. #ilsen


-- Mark Kirk (@MarkKirk) October 28, 2016






Kirk noted challenger Duckworth's family heritage and sought to link her to imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich during a 90-minute debate that found the senator on the offensive and, at times, rambling.

Kirk's aggressive approach Thursday was a marked contrast from that of the last debate between him and Duckworth on Oct. 3, when Kirk was low-key and often gave short answers before the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

Duckworth at times appeared taken aback by Kirk's statements, as when early in the debate he spoke over her to say, "We agree on one key point. That we both believe the next senator from Illinois should use a wheelchair."

When Duckworth, answering a question about American involvement in the Middle East, said that her family "served this nation in uniform, going back to the Revolution," Kirk replied, "I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington."

Kirk's comment was met with awkward silence from the crowd. Duckworth, who was born in Thailand, responded, "There's been members of my family serving in uniform on my father's side going back to the Revolution. I'm proud of both my father's side and my mother, who's an immigrant. She became a citizen in her 50s. And I'm just as proud of that."

Asked by media panelist Jim Leach of Springfield radio station WMAY-AM 970 about whether his stroke has affected his ability to handle "the rigors of this demanding job," Kirk was emphatic in defending his health.

"I would say that the stroke has made me much stronger as a senator," Kirk said. "When you conquer something as difficult as a stroke, you get in there and you're going to fight, fight, fight to make sure you deliver for the people of Illinois."

Duckworth said she did not believe Kirk's health should be an issue in the campaign.

"I think the senator is perfectly capable of doing his job. The concern I have is he's not doing his job," Duckworth said.

The event was sponsored by The State Journal-Register, University of Illinois-Springfield, WICS NewsChannel 20 and Springfield radio stations News/Talk 94.7 and 970-AM WMAY.

Adam Rife of WICS moderated and the media panel featured State Journal-Register political columnist Bernard Schoenburg, Leach and WICS reporter Jordan Abudayyeh.




Recommended: Barney Frank uses new math against U.S. Rep. Dold, Paul Ryan

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We Don't Know Yet If Soda Taxes Will Make Us Healthier

Thu, 2016-10-27 19:41

With the election less than two weeks away, Big Soda is preparing for battle.


The soda industry, led by the American Beverage Association trade group, is spending many millions of dollars in a carefully coordinated effort to defeat proposals in four U.S. cities to tax local sales of sugar-sweetened beverages.


Three of the cities where voters will consider the proposals on Nov. 8 — San Francisco, Oakland and Albany — are in California, while the fourth, Boulder, is in Colorado. The industry is spending about $19.3 million to fight the Bay Area proposals alone.


They may follow in the footsteps of cities like Berkeley, California, which passed its tax in 2014, and Philadelphia, which earlier this year introduced a tax that’s currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by the ABA.


As supporters of the soda taxes tell it, the beverage industry is fighting the new soda tax proposals so aggressively because it can sense proponents of such legislation gaining momentum.


Marion Nestle, a pro-soda-tax New York University nutrition professor and author of the book Soda Politics: Taking On Big Soda (And Winning) told The Huffington Post she believes the tipping point on the taxes has already been reached.


“This fight is a last act of desperation,” Nestle said by email. “The more they fight the taxes, the more people learn that sodas are best consumed in small amounts.”


If soda tax proponents succeed at the ballot box in all or most of the Nov. 8 votes, Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina, believes more municipalities will soon follow. Cook County, Illinois, the nation’s second most populated county, already appears to be on the verge of proposing its own 1-cent-per-ounce soda tax.


“I think this is going to empower enormously the advocates,” said Popkin, who has researched the impact of soda taxes extensively. “I see a series of counties and maybe one state that will be the next generation.”



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Supporters like Nestle and Popkin point to research showing that soda taxes in Berkeley and Mexico, which enacted a nationwide tax in 2014, resulted in reduced soda consumption, as evidence they could be effective. 


The World Health Organization agrees. Earlier this month, WHO issued a report urging that the cost of sugar-sweetened beverages be increased at least 20 percent to curtail consumption and reduce obesity.


Opponents, however, say there are few signs the taxes will have any impact on the nation’s diet-related health challenges.


An ABA spokesman pointed to Popkin’s own research and a second study, conducted by the Mexican Institute of Technology’s Center for Economic Research, on the impact of the Mexican soda tax that the legislation had only a negligible impact on soda consumption over its first year in effect.


According to Popkin’s paper, the Mexican soda tax resulted in a reduction of soda consumption of just 11.6 fewer milliliters of soda — about 4.9 calories — per day. This was in line with the second study, which found a reduction of soda consumption equivalent to just 6 calories per day.


“That’s not even measurable on a bathroom scale,” ABA vice president of policy William Dermody Jr. told HuffPost.


type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related... + articlesList=5804d60be4b06f314afeb7e6,57bcd98be4b03d51368b953b,576304bae4b0df4d586fa45d

Baylen Linnekin, an outspoken critic of the soda taxes and author of Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, agreed that the soda taxes do not appear to be having the impact their supporters claim they do.


“There’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever from the taxes that have existed or been proposed that there is any connection between soda taxes and health,” Linnekin said.


Linnekin pointed to the overall trend of soda consumption running parallel to increasing rates of obesity in the U.S. as further evidence that there is no relationship between the two.


“There are lots of calories that aren’t taxed, so picking on soda is not a scientifically, economically or dietarily legitimate policy,” Linnekin added.


A new study from a team of Swedish researchers runs counter to some of the arguments of Linnekin and other tax opponents.


According to the study, published last month in the European Journal of Endocrinology, daily intake of sweetened beverages like soda was associated with double the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.


Proponents for the soda taxes also argue that such objections do not take into account the heightened rates of diet-related health challenges in low-income and minority communities in particular.



Further, Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit group, argues that such criticisms ignore the benefits associated from the revenue generated from such taxes.


In the case of Berkeley, money from the soda tax has funded youth-focused education programs on health, nutrition, cooking and gardening in the city’s public schools. The full impact of such programs, of course, won’t be fully understood for some time.


“Public health always depends on approaching a problem from many angles,” O’Hara told HuffPost. “[The tax opponents] are doing a very crude analysis that doesn’t fully address the issue.”


Regardless of what happens in the soda tax votes this Election Day, it is clear the broader battle on the issue has only begun.


Proponents of the taxes anticipate any victories at the ballot box will be met with legal action from the industry, just as they were in Philadelphia.


“The DNA of these beverage companies is ‘no regulations’ and they’re going to continue to fight,” Popkin said. “I can see them losing all of [the ballot measures], but I don’t think it will stop.”



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

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A 92-Year Cubs Fan And A Lifetime Of Baseball Memories

Thu, 2016-10-27 13:21
My dad was the quintessential Cubs fan. Years ago as the Cubs made the playoffs, he reminisced. Now with the Cubs in the World Series, or as we Chicago fans say "Hell frozen over," it feels appropriate to share his story.

The year was 1927 and Calvin Coolidge was President. Charles Lindberg flies his first solo flight from New York to Paris. The Model A car debuted and the mechanical cotton picker was invented. That was also the year my father's love affair with the Chicago Cubs began.

"I was four years old," said Sheldon Sternberg, 80, and former Wilmette resident. "I sat on my father's lap for my first Cub's game and Hack Wilson autographed a baseball for me."

When asked if he kept the autographed ball, Sternberg said, "I probably used it."

Hack Wilson held the National League home run record of 56 home runs, a record that would not be broken for 68 years.

Over the next seven decades, there were many changes in my father's life. He grew up in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, attended DePaul University for two years and enlisted in the Air Force when he was 19. He flew seven bombing missions in World War II and received an Air Medal and four bronze stars. He married Elaine Oscherwitz, whose father started Best Kosher Sausage Company and went on to run the business. They had four children and 13 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

But the one constant in my dad's life was his love for the Cubs.

"The last time my dad and I went to a game, we saw Don Cardwell pitch a no-hitter. It was 1960. We sat in the bleachers," Sternberg said.

This love for the Cubbies was something all of us Sternberg children inherited. If I close my eyes, I see my dad with his transistor radio, sitting on the patio, listening to the game. I can still hear the voices of Lou Boudreaux, Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray. And I can still remember our summer weekend ritual.

On Sundays, my dad's first stop would be the now defunct Ricky's Deli in Skokie. There he would order three large loaves of rye bread.

"What, no corned beef or pastrami to go with that?" the counter men said each week.

My father would bring home Best Kosher corned beef, salami, bologna for the sandwiches we would take to the Cubs game. Along with my brothers, Michael and David and sister, Nancy we would begin our assembly line. One person laid out the bread, the next slapped on the mustard, then someone added the meat and last person cut the sandwich.

And so we would enter Wrigley field with two dozen sandwiches. More, if there was a doubleheader.

Each summer, we all worked at Best Kosher. But the best part about our job was that often, on a moments notice, we would leave at 1:00 p.m. and head out to Wrigley Field. We attended so many games, that I have clear memories of Ernie Banks, Don Kessinger, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, Ted Abernathy's submarine pitch, Adolpho Phillips and Randy Hundley. They were, after all, almost family.

In 1962, my dad and mom went to Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona. There they were greeted by Charles Grimm who escorted them to their seats.

In 1969, I remember having dinner on a Friday night when the phone ring. I answered. It was for my dad and when I asked who was calling, the voice said, Maury Wills of the LA Dodgers.

I replied, "Sure Uncle Jerry (the family prankster) and I'm the Queen of England."

It was in fact Maury Wills who was a representative for Best Kosher in L.A. Later that year we were his guests at a game and had front row dugout seats.

My siblings and I made a sign that read, "Go Cubs Go". The sign caused such a commotion that ushers told us if we didn't put it down we would have to leave.




My friends all thought my father had a hearing problem since the always had an earphone in his ear listening to baseball. In 1975, I got married on a Sunday afternoon, a day the Cubs had an important (well, they were all important) doubleheader. Everyone took bets that my dad would walk me down the aisle with an earphone.

In 1984, my dad and David sat in the bleachers for the playoffs. And in 1985, another thrill. My dad was invited to be on the Cubs Care committee to raise funds for Nothwestern Memorial. Ron Santo chaired the committee.

My father's love for his team never wavered. In spite of sometimes calling someone a bum for striking out, it was pure loyalty. When I asked my dad to explain where that came from, his answer was simple.

"It's the fact that the Cubs are the Cubs. And for years, when I was a kid, the Cubs were a great team," he said. And then he surprised me with statistics which he easily rattled off.

"They were in the World Series in 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938 and 1945," he said without skipping a beat.

Just last week, my husband Billy and I hurried back from a quick trip in time for Yom Kippur services. My dad planned to go with us to Temple.

I called my dad as soon as we got home. Services were at 6 p.m. and the Cubs were playing the Braves in the playoffs.

"Dad, what are we going to do?" I said. "It's Yom Kippur. We have never missed that service."

And my father's reply still has me laughing.

"Susan," he said. "A prayer for the Cubs is a Yom Kippur prayer."


Postscript: My dad passed away April 9, 2015. But not before rallying in his hospital room with all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to watch opening day. I remember him with his oxygen mask and Cubs hat. Someone had Arietta send him a personal video thanking him for his years of dedication to the Cubs:



And here is his headstone:

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Mark Kirk Won't Say Who Has His Vote For President

Wed, 2016-10-26 13:31

WASHINGTON ― Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) won’t say which presidential candidate he’s voting for, a curious move considering he’s now changed his mind about his endorsement four times.


Kirk, who is struggling in his Senate race against Democratic challenger Tammy Duckworth, said months ago that he planned to write in former CIA Director David Petraeus for president. But in an interview with a Chicago radio station on Wednesday, he refused to confirm whether that was still his plan.


“I said that largely out of total frustration,” Kirk said. “The joke I’ve seen going around is, ‘If you had a rowboat and it sprung a leak with Hillary and Trump in it and it sank, who would win?’”


Asked if that means he doesn’t have a candidate he’s planning to vote for, the Republican senator replied, “I don’t at this point. Pretty frustrated by the choice that we have now.”


Kirk’s comments come after he’s endorsed ― and then un-endorsed ― different people for president four times. He originally backed GOP nominee Donald Trump, but announced in June that he couldn’t support him anymore and planned to write in Petraeus instead. In July, he changed his mind and said he planned to write in former Secretary of State Colin Powell. By mid-August, Kirk changed his mind again, and was back to endorsing Petraeus.


His latest position, which is that he has no candidate, comes less than two weeks before Election Day.


Asked for comment on Kirk’s changing positions, his campaign spokesman Kevin Artl had only this to say: “Give it up.”


Kirk isn’t the only GOP lawmaker in a tight race who is trying to escape Trump’s shadow. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) won’t say who he’s voting for, either. Senate hopeful Joe Heck (R-Nev.) said Tuesday that voters don’t have a right to know who he’s voting for. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) said he might not vote at all.


HUFFPOST READERS: What’s happening in your state or district? The Huffington Post wants to know about all the campaign ads, mailers, robocalls, candidate appearances and other interesting campaign news happening by you. Email any tips, videos, audio files or photos to scoops@huffingtonpost.com.

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Why Police Reform Needs To Be An Inside Job

Wed, 2016-10-26 13:12

CHICAGO ― Even staunch advocates of policing admit that major changes are needed to salvage the institution’s reputation and efficacy after two years of harsh scrutiny over racism, secrecy and lack of accountability.


They disagree, however, on how to best do that.


The discussion around police reform hit a major flashpoint last November with the release of a video showing a Chicago cop shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times as the teen walked away. 


“Because it was so stark, there was no denying how horrible it was,” Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, told The Huffington Post ahead of last week’s Chicago Ideas Week conference. He and several other policing experts met there to discuss the police force of the future ― with discussions ranging from better officer recruitment to full-scale abolition.


“But perhaps more important, what caught even the most causal observer, was what happened afterwards,” Futterman added. 


Footage of the fatal shooting was only made public after an anonymous tipster told Futterman it existed, and he stared a yearlong legal battle to have it released. In addition to discrediting the police’s official narrative, the video galvanized already growing scrutiny around problems that reform advocates say are pervasive in police departments across the U.S. 



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Some law enforcement officials, including FBI Director James Comey, have responded by invoking the “viral video effect” ― a popular but discredited theory that filming police has actually resulted in higher overall crime rates and fewer arrests. 


But Futterman says videos only reveal problems that have been there all along.


Rationale for police misconduct has changed from “justified shootings” to “acts of self-defense” to “one bad apple,” he said, noting that videos force departments to reckon with patterns that have led to that evolution.


“We shouldn’t forget the whole saying: One bad apple spoils the whole bunch,” Futterman said. “We’ve had systemic issues with regard to racism and brutality for years. That goes beyond the bad acts of a single person.”  



I think the profession has been irreparably damaged and we have to figure out what’s next.
Former NYPD officer Eugene O’Donnell


Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York City police officer and prosecutor who now teaches at John Jay College, took issue with the belief that Americans are generally unhappy with the police. He argued instead that “elites” ― like journalists and politicians ― have led much of the anger directed at law enforcement.


Still, he acknowledged that departments can’t go on with business as usual. 


“I think the profession has been irreparably damaged and we have to figure out what’s next,” O’Donnell said. 


Many of his peers support community policing ― a strategy that involves officers fostering trust by patrolling a specific area to build relationships and familiarize themselves with the issues there ― but O’Donnell said that tactic ignores the reality of police work.


“Built into the police role is that they make enemies with people,” he said. “That’s the way policing works.” 



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O’Donnell said he believes the current climate of scrutiny could lead to a longer-term crisis of no one wanting to be a cop.


A dearth of recruits has prompted departments to lower their hiring standards related to such issues as exam performance, drug tests and academic qualifications, he said. About 1 percent of police forces nationwide currently require a four-year degree; nearly a decade years ago, 75 percent of forces required one


“I don’t know what [police] are allowed to do once they get hired,” O’Donnell said, noting that widespread criticisms of law enforcement have resulted in some officers feeling like they can’t use traditional policing methods.



President Barack Obama established a task force on 21st-century policing in 2014. The group recommended in a report released the following year that police departments should improve how they collect data, particularly regarding use of force. 


Cedric Alexander, a task force member and public safety director in DeKalb County, Georgia, said better data collection could be a step toward building better community-police relations and rooting out excessive force.


“I think you’re going to see a much better police department if you can see the data and see what they’re doing the street,” Alexander said during a panel discussion at Chicago Ideas Week. 



Marc Lamont Hill, an African-American studies professor at Morehouse College and former HuffPost Live host, was the panelist most wary of the proposed reforms. He comes from a self-described radical background, and said the institution of policing is too broken to mend because it was built on a foundations of racism, brutality and secrecy. 


In the immediate term, Hill suggests decreasing the overcriminalization of small infractions, which are overwhelmingly enforced against black and Latino Americans. Something like selling CDs in front of a store should be regulated by a community entity rather than an armed police force, he said. 


The cost of perpetuating bad practices, Hill said, is loss of human life.


“Take Eric Garner ― that’s ticky-tacky policing,” he said. “That’s ‘I gotta stop a guy selling loose cigarettes because those type of minor offenses lead to major ones.’ Bad policing causes people to die.” 


Futterman, the University of Chicago professor, said the tight-knit, fraternal culture of police departments has contributed to the challenge of overhauling the institution. There is a dangerous “us versus them” mentality that has abetted misconduct ― and punished whistleblowers trying to do the right thing.


“If you buck the official narrative, you get crushed. Not just by the rank-and-file, but by the entire department,” Futterman said. “That could mean the end of your career, the end of your life, the end of your family.” 


The person who alerted him about the McDonald footage, for example, still works in Chicago law enforcement and has chosen to remain anonymous. 


Moving forward, Futterman said departments must fire officers who lie on reports and criminally prosecute anyone who retaliates against their peers for blowing the whistle on misconduct. 


“If you’re going to lie, if you submit false reports, put people in jail who shouldn’t be in jail, if you’re going to abuse your power to wantonly hurt someone who is weaker than you, you absolutely have no business wearing a badge,” he said. 


Reconciling the longstanding practices with the new expectations is part of the issue, Futterman said. And he agreed it would be difficult for the officers. 


“If you’ve taught me for all these years that policing means laying hands on more and more people, and you’re telling me not to do that, what do I do now?” Futterman said. “The ground has moved beneath them.”  

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Will judge strike down Chicago's food truck rules?

Tue, 2016-10-25 15:31
For the past four years, Chicago has forced food trucks to live under ridiculous rules. But depending on the outcome of a case now before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Anna Helen Demacopoulos, the Chicago Way may have to change.

The anticipated Dec. 5 court ruling - and the hope it could change things for the better - couldn't come at a better moment for food trucks. In recent weeks, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been coming after these small-business owners. But they've faced the city's wrath for years, even after City Council passed rules "legitimizing" the industry in 2012.

Vendors who want to operate in the city:

• Can't sell within 200 feet of a brick-and-mortar business that sells food (including anything from McDonalds to CVS)
• Have to be on the move every two hours (it takes about this long just to set up and tear down for the day)
• Plug in a GPS tracker to let the government know where they are (creepy)

Food trucks can park legally by just 3 percent of curbs in the Loop, the city's busiest weekday lunch district, according to analysis from the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Va.-based litigation group that represents food truck owners in the lawsuit against the city.

Food trucks have become an easy target for politicians and insiders because they threaten the status quo. For many years, the restaurant industry has propped up friendly politicians with campaign cash and support. In return, restaurants get preferential treatment.

Restaurants, and groups and individuals affiliated with them, gave total campaign donations worth $180,926 to Chicago aldermen in 2015, according to Illinois State Board of Elections data compiled by the Chicago watchdogs at Project Six. This figure doesn't include some restaurant owners or lobbyists, who likely donate under other names or entities.

Chicago's failure to fully embrace food trucks is a shame, because the burgeoning industry is a bright spot of entrepreneurship in the city. After years of the same old options, people working downtown can pop outside to get an empanada, fried chicken or an organic salad. The options are expanding all the time as more food entrepreneurs move in to meet growing demand.

"The people obviously want food trucks and line up for us. They want more," said Jacob Rush, co-founder of Bruges Brothers food truck. "But to think that every business is looking over their shoulder every day for another beat cop to put a boot on a truck, waiting for a new regulation, waiting for a new license fee or tax that could hamper our business ... it's baffling."

And while owners scrimp and sweat to make ends meet, they're met at every turn with animosity.

"It's clear based on comments by the aldermen that the laws exist to protect certain businesses," said Rush, who has operated his business in Chicago for two years, and now has three full-time and several part-time staff.

"Some of my employees have kids, and they depend on us," he said. "But the laws here are constricting the businesses so much that it puts 10-12 trucks out of business every year."

It's time Chicago's elected leaders stopped targeting the little guy. Unfortunately, it may take a court ruling to get officials to do the right thing.

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Man's 1993 Yearbook Photo Predicts Chicago Cubs Win 2016 World Series

Tue, 2016-10-25 13:30

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Chicago Cubs fans are looking at a 1993 yearbook photo taken in Mission Viejo, California as a sign of good fortune.


The Cubs last won a World Series in 1908, but in 1993, Michael Lee outrageously predicted a World Series win for the Cubs in his yearbook picture.


He cheekily added, “You heard it here first.” 



The photo has since gone viral after Twitter user Thomas J. Dale posted a photo of the yearbook prediction that he said his mother found.



*mom walks into my room* -look at my yearbook from '93 #...
This dude called the cubs winning the series in 2016 for his senior quote. pic.twitter.com/Dq4kWFIziy

— Thomas j Dale (@tommydale33) October 25, 2016


Admittedly, faking a yearbook pic is well in the realm of a capable photoshop hoaxer.


However, one Reddit user named number1makeitso claims to have found four other copies of the same yearbook, and that Lee’s prediction is in those yearbooks as well. The user posted them on Imgur as evidence:





And Lee’s former classmate Marcos Meza never forgot the prediction, according to WGN TV.


“When [Lee and I] connected on Facebook in 2009 I sent him the photo and told him we were nearing 2016. He posted the photo of his prediction on August 8th,” Meza told the station. “After my Dodgers lost it was time for me to make this go viral and BeLEEve in the Cubs for 2016.”


The station has been in contact with Lee, who, fittingly, lives in the Chicago area and is waiting to see if his prediction comes true.

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Even The Lions Outside The Art Institute Of Chicago Have Cubs Fever

Mon, 2016-10-24 09:49



These Cubs fans are roaring.


The lions outside of the Art Institute of Chicago received Cubs hats on Monday morning in honor of the team’s first trip to the World Series since 1945. WGN TV provided live coverage of the caps being placed on the statues around 8 a.m. ET. 


As the pictures below show, getting a hat on these animals takes a bit of work. 




Art Institute lions get Cubs caps for first time ever https://t.co/accok7DZYW pic.twitter.com/F8dZxfLIWS

— WGN TV News (@WGNNews) October 24, 2016


The Art Institute’s support of the city’s sports teams has become a Chicago tradition. In the past, the lions have worn Bears, White Sox, and Blackhawks gear during those teams’ championship runs.


Of course, it has been a while since the Cubs were in the World Series. This marks the first time these lions have sported Cubs hats



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Tic Tac Trump

Mon, 2016-10-24 07:10
With Donald Trump still unwilling to say that he'll leave the political stage gracefully after voters send him packing on November 8, I decided to write him some exit music.

My message to the Donald is simple: "Pop a Tic Tac and kiss your ass goodbye."



TIC TAC TRUMP
(M. Farmer)

It was last July in Cleveland
When the circus came to town
And the GOP went and sold its soul
To a TV circus clown
Now weeks away from Election Day
The Trump Train's off the rails
Thanks to Tic Tacs,
Billy Bush and Roger Ailes

So now his game is to pin the blame
On everyone but him
By talking up a conspiracy
That's led by Carlos Slim
A billionaire from Mexico
Who somehow has the clout
To rig the race
And keep the Donald out

CHORUS
Hey, Donald Trump, time to hang it up
But thanks for stopping by
Your vision for America is never gonna fly
We won't have to say "You're fired"
'Cause you damn sure won't be hired
So pop a Tic-Tac
And kiss your ass goodbye

The Sunkist man with the spray-on tan
Has his back against the wall
And he's blowin' up the whole neighborhood
Just to watch other people fall
And to those too weak to take a stand
Against what he's said and done
We'll remember you
The next time that you run

CHORUS
Hey, Donald Trump, time to hang it up
But thanks for stopping by
Your vision for America is never gonna fly
We won't have to say "You're fired"
'Cause you damn sure won't be hired
So pop a Tic-Tac
And kiss your ass goodbye

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Bill Murray Crashes White House Press Room To Talk Chicago Cubs

Fri, 2016-10-21 16:21

Funny man Bill Murray has never been one to shy away from crashing a good time ― engagement photos, bachelor parties, kickball games, you name it.


But on Friday, the actor and comedian took his legendary spontaneity to new heights when he turned up in the White House briefing room decked out in Chicago Cubs gear. 


“So, you can actually sort of lean on it,” Murray said as he approached the lectern.


Asked if he thought his beloved Cubs would defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday to clinch their first World Series appearance since 1945, Murray said Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is a “great, great pitcher,” but the Cubs “got too many sticks.”


“And at home, with our crowd, the weather,” he said. “We also, we get a little bit of autumnage in Chicago. You don’t get that in Los Angeles. Trees just die in Los Angeles. In Illinois, they flourish.”





Murray took to the microphone shortly after White House press secretary Josh Earnest finished an official briefing, CNN reports. The comedian was reportedly in Washington to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from President Barack Obama.


After beating the Dodgers 8-4 on Thursday, the Cubs have a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.


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How Downstate GOP Lawmakers Are Dealing With The 'Trump Effect'

Fri, 2016-10-21 15:20


For downstate Republicans, the subjects of voting for and supporting Donald Trump are a minefield.

They know that their districts gave Trump heavy support in the primary and the voters they need may be Trump loyalists. If they say they're not voting for Trump or that they don't support him as their party's nominee, they risk being branded as turncoats or "establishment" Republicans.

But Trump throughout the presidential race has issued ever more controversial statements that have turned many moderate Republicans against him. Republicans who too vociferously support Trump risk alienating these voters and, worse, risk becoming the subject of attack ads that link them directly to Trump's most outrageous episodes. It's already happened to Gov. Bruce Rauner, who never has endorsed Trump by name.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, had signed on to be Trump's agricultural adviser in August, but withdrew his support for Trump after video emerged of Trump speaking in crude and offensive terms about women. Davis announced his disavowal of Trump in a Facebook post, then incurred the wrath of hundreds of commenters who accused him of being a traitor and worse.

At a candidate forum hosted by The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Republican state Reps. Avery Bourne and Sara Wojcicki Jiminez both gave careful answers when asked if they would vote for Trump. Bourne said she would but did not mention Trump by name. Jiminez gave a very tactful answer that ended with her statement that she would decide Nov. 8.

Whether Trump's presence at the top of the ticket helps downstate Republicans or hurts them is something we won't know until after Election Day. But the "Trump effect" is a strange phenomenon and it's our topic on this week's "Only in Illinois."

Recommended: Was UIC Trump rally canceled because of Democrat-hired agitators?

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