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Chicago Sun-Times Reporter Resigns, Says Paper 'No Longer Has The Backs Of Reporters'

Wed, 2014-10-22 16:01
A veteran Chicago Sun-Times reporter has resigned from his job amid speculation that the newspaper bowed to pressure from the campaign of Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner (R), an ex-stakeholder in the paper, to punish the reporter for writing a story the campaign was not happy with.

Dave McKinney, who had served as the paper's Springfield bureau chief and led its Illinois political coverage since 1995, announced his resignation Wednesday via an open letter addressed to Sun-Times chairman Michael Ferro Jr.

Earlier this month, McKinney co-authored a story centered on allegations that Rauner verbally threatened an executive of LeapSource, a company owned by GTCR, Rauner's investment firm. The Rauner campaign has denied the allegations, pointing out that the complaint was dismissed in summary judgement, though the campaign for incumbent Governor Pat Quinn (D) has been using the story in its advertising.

McKinney in his open letter writes that the Rauner campaign tried to block the LeapSource story by suggesting a conflict of interest between the reporter and his wife, Ann Liston, who works as a political consultant. According to McKinney, Sun-Times publisher Jim Kirk responded by defending McKinney and the story, but the reporter was nonetheless pulled from his beat and told to go on leave. McKinney also says Kirk offered up other jobs at the paper that McKinney "considered demotions."

McKinney eventually returned to his position. Soon after, the Sun-Times, which had instituted a policy of no political endorsements in 2012, endorsed Rauner, who was a 10-percent owner of Sun-Times parent company Wrapports LLC until shortly before he launched his gubernatorial campaign.

Though Kirk has publicly defended McKinney and his story -- as well as the paper's endorsement of Rauner -- the reporter writes that the controversy has "had a chilling effect in the newsroom."

"Readers of the Sun-Times need to be able to trust the paper. They need to know a wall exists between owners and the newsroom to preserve the integrity of what is published. A breach in that wall exists at the Sun-Times," McKinney writes. "While I don’t speak for my colleagues, I’m aware that many share my concern. I’m convinced this newspaper no longer has the backs of reporters like me."

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m. -- In response to McKinney's resignation, Kirk said in a statement to Crain's Chicago Business that he "disagree[s] with Dave's questioning the integrity of this newspaper and my role as editor and publisher. I call the shots. While I've been here, our ownership and management have never quashed a story and they have always respected the journalistic integrity of this paper." He also described McKinney as "among the best in our profession" and said he still stands behind the LeapSource story.

Rauner is challenging Gov. Quinn in what has been called one of the nation's most expensive governor races this year.

Pest Company Says Chicago Has the Most Rats of Any City

Wed, 2014-10-22 15:06
Keep an eye out, Chicago. The Windy City was the most rat-infested city in the country in 2013, according to pest-control company Orkin. The company based its rankings on the number of rat-eradication service requests it received in specific cities.

The company says cities can be great homes for our rodent friends because they can thrive with help from human infrastructure -- specifically by eating out of our garbage and taking shelter in our buildings.

From a press release that announced Orkin's rankings:

Fall is a prime time for commensal rodents to actively seek food, water and shelter when temperatures drop and before the winter weather arrives. Each fall, rats and mice invade an estimated 21 million American homes. It only takes a hole the size of a quarter for a rat to squeeze inside, and a hole the size of a dime for mice. Rodents are also known to chew around holes to make them larger, after which they can slip into homes. It is not uncommon for homeowners and businesses to begin spotting rodents beginning in October.

Orkin reminds city-dwellers that besides being gross and annoying, too many rats in an area can also be a health issue. They can carry and spread respiratory and neurological diseases and are the hosts for several types of insects that can carry and spread even more diseases. Plus, they can trigger allergic reactions. Pregnant women and children are at particular risk.

Five of the most infested cities:

1. Chicago

2. Los Angeles

3. Washington, D.C.

4. New York

5. San Francisco


See the five cities that round out the top 10 most-rat-infested cities in the U.S. at Reboot Illinois.

The City of Chicago website says the Chicago species of rat is called the Norway rat-but the species originated in Asia.

The rat has an average life span of six to twelve months. Beginning at the age of two to three months, a female rat can produce four to seven litters per year with each litter containing eight to twelve pups. Females can become impregnated within 48 hours after giving birth. The number, size and survivability of litters produced depends upon the amount of food and shelter available.

They prefer fresh food, but will eat many things such as pet food, dog feces, garbage and plants. If food is scarce, the strongest rats may even eat the weakest and young.

Norway rats prefer to live in burrows in the ground. They are excellent climbers and swimmers and most active at night. They have very hard teeth and can chew through wood and plaster or any other material that is softer than their teeth. They can crawl through holes the size of a quarter, tread water for three days and land unharmed after a five-story fall.

Norway rats live in colonies that have very well defined territories. The strongest colonies get the best places to live.

A rat in an alleyway may be creepy, but a rat in the home is downright icky. Orkin offered some advice about how to prevent and deal with these twitchy pests.

  • Regularly inspect the home - inside and outside - for rodent droppings, rub marks or burrows.

  • Seal all cracks and gaps around utility penetrations larger than 1/4 of an inch, as well as install weather stripping at the bottom of exterior doors.

  • Trim overgrown branches, plants and bushes near the home, and consider keeping a 2-foot barrier between any landscaping and the home.

  • Store all food (including pet food) and garbage properly in sealed containers both indoors and outdoors.

  • Remove all pet bowls after animals are finished eating, and remove pet waste from the lawn promptly.

  • Contact a pest professional for assistance managing rodents, as these pests can be dangerous and difficult to control.


Chicago has also been named the top city for bedbug infestations for two years in a row and general pest infestations by Orkins, according to Crain's Chicago Business. According to Crain's, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti in March suggested the city use a bait that sterilizes female rats as a way to control the animals.

Chicagoans can call 311 or go online to report a rat infestation.

See which other cities near Chicago are also infested with rats at Reboot Illinois.

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Robert Peace and the Educational Reform Movement

Wed, 2014-10-22 14:52
How can a brilliant man who received a rigorous education at a private school and graduated from Yale University end up living in poverty and shot dead for dealing drugs in Newark? That is the question I grappled with as I read The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs.

There is no question that Rob Peace was brilliant. School was his place to shine. His test scores were always excellent. So he would be the perfect example of what the educational reform movement hopes to accomplish by standardizing education through the Common Core curriculum and making teachers and schools accountable for educating every child, regardless of socioeconomic inequality. Except he wasn't.

As Hobbs explains, there was also Shawn Peace, the name Rob was known by in Newark. In that part of his life, he was the child of a single mother who struggled to provide him with food and safe housing. His father was in jail, convicted of murder. Marijuana, both consuming and selling it, was part of his everyday life. And without the structure of school, he had no idea how to live in a world outside of the one in which he grew up.

Ironically, while I was reading this book, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Alex Kotlowitz, author of There are no Children Here. When this book was published in 1992, I was totally moved by the plight of the two boys and their family in Chicago's Henry Horner housing project. Connections for the Homeless, a local organization that works to provide stable housing for some of the 639 kids in Evanston, Illinois who do not have homes, sponsored the lecture.

Kotlowitz spoke of how inequality, poverty, racism, violence, and hunger make it difficult for kids to benefit from educational opportunities alone. In the 20 plus years since his book was published, things have gotten even worse. Poverty has become an entrenched way of life and the sense of community has unraveled. People no longer trust their neighbors, the culture of meaningful work has vanished, and foreclosed and boarded up homes (18,000 in Chicago since 2011) have degraded neighborhoods. He referenced what Mother Teresa called "the poverty of the spirit."

As I listened, I wondered what had happened to the boys Kotlowitz wrote about in his book, Pharoah and Lafayette. Sadly, the brothers, now 36 and 33, both served time in prison. You can read the full story HERE and HERE. Like Rob Peace, they could not escape the drug culture and violence in which they were raised. Despite having a mother who tried her best and despite Kotlowitz's efforts to help them, their lives assumed the trajectory of their peers.

Kotlowitz and Hobbs discuss the similarities in the stories they told in a review published by Barnes and Noble, Where Empathy is Born. Hobbs shares how his Yale roommate's 2011 death set him on a quest to understand how a brilliant man given so many educational advantages could end up dead from dealing drugs in Newark. While receiving an excellent education opens many opportunities for success in life, sometimes the overriding issues of inequality and poverty prevent people like Rob Peace from living up to their potential.

In his recent post One-Third Of Americans Are In Or Near Poverty, Matt Bruenig points out that the recent census data reveal children are the largest subgroup of the poor in this country. While 15% of Americans live below the poverty line, another 17% are slightly above it and struggling to survive. That's a lot of children in the US who come to school hungry and often lacking the basic necessities of shelter and clothing.

I have often wondered why some people are able to overcome adversity and others are destroyed by it. Several days ago, the actress Viola Davis talked about growing up in poverty.  She was fundraising to combat the extreme hunger she experienced as a child. You can hear her speech HERE. She said, in part:

"I was one of the 17 million kids in this country who didn't know where the next meal was coming from, and I did everything to get food. I have stolen for food. I have jumped in huge garbage bins with maggots for food. I have befriended people in the neighborhood, who I knew had mothers who cooked three meals a day for food, and I sacrificed a childhood for food and grew up in immense shame."

Somehow, despite her childhood filled with extreme hunger and poverty, she achieved unimaginable success, starring in a television series, appearing in many movies, and nominated for an Academy Award. Unfortunately, Davis is the exception. More often, things end poorly for people like Pharoah, Lafayette, and Rob Peace.

Sports Illustrated's recent cover story, Young, Gifted, and Homeless, also grapples with the issue of the 100,000 youth, public school, and college athletes who do not have homes. They are part of the 1.3 million homeless children enrolled in our schools in 2012-13. That's a 58% increase over the previous 6 years. Can we really expect kids who come to school hungry, who have no place to call home, who have nobody to help with homework to "race to the top"? Can we really expect teachers and schools to overcome these obstacles by preparing these kids for "college and career" without addressing the inequality and poverty their students experience everyday?

I know. The problem is huge and overwhelming. I have no magic answer. Of course, educational opportunities are very important, but I also agree with Connections when the organization points out,

"Chronic stress associated with living in poverty has been shown to adversely affect children's concentration and memory which may impact their ability to learn."

In 2001, the Act to Leave no Child Behind, proposed by the Children's Defense Fund, was introduced in Congress. Of course, while it sounds similar, this is not at all the same as what passed Congress, No Child Left Behind.  Here are a few of the things left out of the measure that became law:

  • Health care for all uninsured children

  • Head Start for all eligible preschoolers

  • Child care for all eligible children

  • After school youth development programs

  • Tax relief for low-wage working families

  • Nutrition and housing assistance for low-income children

  • Protection of children from abuse and neglect

  • Finding permanent families for vulnerable children and youth

  • Protection of children from gun violence

  • Working to lift all children out of poverty

  • Prevention and intervention to prevent juvenile delinquency

  • Building supportive communities for children and their families


Maybe the educational reformers should check out this list. Perhaps some money spent on these items will go farther to help kids like Rob Peace than funding more high stakes testing of our kids.

I invite you to join my Facebook community and subscribe to my newsletter.

A version of this post originally appeared in ChicagoNow, October 16, 2014

New Chicago Archbishop Won't Live In $14.3 Million Cardinal's Mansion

Wed, 2014-10-22 12:08
Chicago’s incoming Archbishop Blase Cupich is foregoing the archdiocese’s lavish $14.3 million Cardinal’s Mansion for humbler digs.

The Chicago Archdiocese confirmed in a press release Wednesday that Cupich is breaking from the tradition set by his predecessors and has made up his mind to move instead to the rectory at Holy Name Cathedral.

The decision was made, in part, because Cupich expressed a “desire to reside in a place where he could be most effective in serving all the people in the Archdiocese of Chicago.”

The Archbishop also has plans to say daily mass at Holy Name Cathedral, which is the seat of the Chicago archdiocese.

Hailed as “Pope Francis’ American Messenger” after the pontiff tapped him for the top job in Chicago’s archdiocese, Cupich’s decision seems to mirror Francis’ modus operandi. The pope has rejected the opulent Apostolic Palace for a no-frills room in a Vatican City guest house, the Casa Santa Marta.

The North State Parkway mansion rejected by Cupich “has been the home to every archbishop in Chicago since it was built in 1885,” the Chicago Sun Times reports.

The historic red brick mansion will be used for official functions and as a guest house, the Chicago Tribune reports. The residence also has 19 chimneys and contains a chapel.



Cupich's track record as a priest and as bishop of Spokane, Washington has won him support among the Catholic Church's progressive wing, according to Religion News Service. The 65-year-old has "steadily staked out positions that align him with Catholics who want the church to engage the world rather than rail against the forces of secularism."

The Archbishop will take over the reigns as leader of Chicago's 2.2 million Catholics on November 18, after an installation ceremony at Holy Name Cathedral.

Illinois Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate explains why she thinks we need new leadership

Wed, 2014-10-22 11:50
With so much focus on Illinois gubernatorial election Nov. 4, it can be easy to forget that Illinois is also in the midst of five other statewide races. Illinois Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate Sharon Hansen, who is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican state Sen. Jim Oberweis, reminds Illinoisans the othe races also deserve our attention--and she calls for attention to Libertarian candidates specifically.

From Hansen:

I decided to run for office for two reasons. I got sick and tired of telling my so called representatives what I wanted only to be told that essentially that they are smarter than I am. The second reason is that our country is rapidly going down the tubes and I believe we need citizen legislators who are not interested in a life in politics but want to change the direction of our state and country. I am not doing this because it is something I've always wanted to do. To be honest, I hate politics. It stinks. This is something that we all need to do but most won't. I didn't want to do it, but I believe that I must do it. Someone has to and there is no one running for this office that I would vote for except for myself. And, I'm not brimming with self confidence. I just think that my opponents are that bad for the country. I am honest, have no personal agenda, and want to do what is right for the people.

Read the rest of her thoughts at Reboot Illinois.

Politics can be frustrating for many people, not just Libertarian Senate candidates. Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association said there might be corruption issues surrounding waste processing in Cicero, Ill.

From Shaw:

The Better Government Association recently reported that a suburban waste processing company has contributed big bucks to political funds controlled by Cicero's Town President, Larry Dominick.

The firm, Heartland Recycling LLC, is a longtime Cicero contractor that's been paid more than $15 million since Dominick was elected in 2005.

And the whole thing has a bad smell to it.

Read the rest of Shaw's thoughts at Reboot Illinois.

The Procrastinator's Halloween Costume Timeline

Wed, 2014-10-22 11:46
A few months before Halloween hits, we all tend to have big, BIG costume ideas. Then as the date approaches, and we still have no costume, our standards begin to fall rapidly.





What we think our costume is going to look like...





And then reality...



5 NBA Sleeper Teams You Can't Afford Not To Know

Wed, 2014-10-22 10:55
The NBA season is an 82-game whirlwind -- read my preview here -- and predicting what will actually happen is just about impossible. We all know who the league's big guns are, and we can surely predict a San Antonio repeat or LeBron James bringing a title to Cleveland. What we also know, however, is that parity reigns, and there are an abundance of quality teams lurking.

GOLDEN STATE

Poisonous coach Mark Jackson has finally been fired, with Steve Kerr hired in his place. That's a very good thing for an organization that needs stability from its head coach. Kerr, one of the game's all-time 3-point shooters, will lean on Team USA FIBA stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson -- both of whom connected on 42 percent from distance last year -- but the key to success for the Warriors will be on the other end of the floor. With a healthy Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut (for now), this could be a top five defense across the board, and a must in the Western Conference, where teams like Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas can really score the ball.

DALLAS

Speaking of the Mavs, don't forget that they took the champion Spurs to seven games and added two-way weapon Chandler Parsons, who averaged 17 points as the third option for a very good Rockets team. Parsons' arrival will take pressure off Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis, who can play a little more off the ball as well, given Parsons' dynamic playmaking ability. Head coach Rick Carlisle also gets Tyson Chandler back, his defensive anchor from the 2011 title. Chandler, who wore out his welcome in New York, will be better used in a system he thrives in, and is sure to improve the league's 22nd-ranked defense.

NEW ORLEANS



They aren't deep at all, but the Pelicans are becoming increasingly dangerous in a loaded Western Conference. The impetus for the turnaround has been Anthony Davis, the top overall pick in the 2012 draft, who averaged 21 and 10 along with a league-best 2.8 blocks per game. Davis, still just 21 years old, has emerged as an excellent pick-and-roll threat with point guard Jrue Holiday (who's having a bounce-back year), and he continues to improve on the low block. The addition of 7-footer Omer Asik, an elite defensive center, will take pressure off Davis and give New Orleans another defensive presence in the paint. They are probably still another scorer away from being a real contender, but there is a whole lot to like about this team, the second youngest in the West.

CHARLOTTE

The name change wasn't the only positive that happened during the offseason for the Hornets. They also went out and got the dynamic Lance Stephenson in free agency, awarding the 24-year-old combo guard with a handsome three-year, $27 million contract. That gives coach Steve Clifford fantastic quickness and athleticism on the perimeter alongside Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. As for the paint, Al Jefferson is healthy, as is Noah Vonleh, the lottery pick from Indiana who has a ton of ability and will contribute offensively right away. All in all, Charlotte can really defend. Forty-eight wins is a real possibility for this team, and so is winning a playoff series for the first time since 2002.

TORONTO

We could go with Indiana (they'll win more games than you think) or Brooklyn (ditto), but the Raptors seem to have taken a backseat in the East thanks to LeBron's return to the Cavs and Derrick Rose's newfound health. Keep Toronto in mind, because this team has the potential to beat a lot of others, especially with a budding superstar in DeMar DeRozan, who tallied 23 points per game last season and should cut down the turnovers in 2014. Meanwhile, Kyle Lowry is a lot richer and back to run the point for Dwane Casey's offense. Lowry, who reportedly entered camp in great shape, will thrive in pick-and-roll with 22-year-old Jonas Valanciunas, one of the league's most talented young big men. The most important question may be whether this team can consistently defend, but that's something Casey, one of the best coaches around, has built his reputation on.

Email me at jordan.schultz@huffingtonpost.com or ask me questions about anything sports-related at @Schultz_Report, and follow me on Instagram @Schultz_Report. Also, be sure to catch my NBC Sports Radio show "Kup and Schultz," which airs Sunday mornings from 9 to 12 EST and 12-1 for fantasy football, right here.

Suspected Killer Of 7, Darren Vann, Refuses To Speak, Postponing Hearing

Wed, 2014-10-22 10:54
CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) -- A man who allegedly confessed to killing seven women in Indiana refused to respond to the judge during his initial court appearance Wednesday, prompting her to postpone it and to warn him he'd spend "the rest of his life" in jail unless he cooperates.

When the judge asked Darren Vann if he swore to tell the truth at his initial court appearance in the strangulation death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, he didn't respond or flinch.

Lake Superior Court judge Kathleen Sullivan warned Vann, who stood with his wrists and legs shackled and flanked by two jail guards, he could be held in contempt and he still declined to speak.

"Mr. Vann, are you choosing not to take part in this hearing?" Sullivan asked Vann during the hearing in a courtroom at the Lake County Jail in Crown Point.

Sullivan then addressed Vann's public defender, urging him to make his client speak.

"Tell your client that he stays in jail the rest of his life until this hearing takes place," she said.

Vann's public defender walked up to him and put his hand on Vann's shoulder encouraging him to speak, but he refused.

Sullivan said she would schedule another initial hearing for next week.

Vann, 43, is charged with the strangulation death of Hardy, whose body was found Friday in a bathtub at a Motel 6 in Hammond, 20 miles southeast of Chicago.

Police say Vann also directed them to the bodies of six other women in nearby Gary, and that more charges are likely.

Investigators in Indiana and Texas, where he has also lived and served time in prison, have been poring over cold case files and missing person reports to determine if there are more victims.

Actor Who Played John Wayne Gacy Thinks Hauntd Houses Based On Real Crimes Can Be A Good Thing

Wed, 2014-10-22 09:44
After a Chicago-area haunted house drew criticism for featuring a room dedicated to local serial killer John Wayne Gacy, an actor who previously portrayed the murderer is speaking out about the potential benefits of such an attraction.

"People forget that this really happened," California-based actor Richard McVoy told The Huffington Post of Gacy, who murdered at least 33 young men and boys in the 1970s. "They don’t grasp it. What’s really sad is that people forget about victims."

McVoy played Gacy's alter ego "Pogo The Clown" in the 2013 run of Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare in California. He said he was drawn to playing such a horrific character -- and gave a performance he called "terrifying," "X-rated" and "over-the-top" -- because his own past as a victim of violent crime.

"In 1992 my little brother was murdered at 18 years old. I was 21 at a time," McVoy said. "In 2002, my mother and nephew were murdered. My mother had married a gentleman and wanted a divorce. He got mad, got his guns out, killed my 17-year-old nephew, went into another room, and killed my mother in front of my niece.”

He said his experience portraying Gacy was a positive one for him, calling it both "helpful and cathartic." As he explained it, playing the killer in an over-the-top way was a way to remind people that the terror felt by Gacy's victims was real.

"If I were to talk to Gacy's victims, I’d say, 'I feel your pain. I feel it everyday. It is hell,'" McVoy said. "At the same time, it’s OK for someone to share that -- to share the pain that you feel everyday.”

(Story continues below)

Richard McVoy portrays Gacy's "Pogo The Clown" during the 2013 run of Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare in California.

An image of McVoy's character was used to promote the current haunted house in Villa Park, Illinois, where relatives of Gacy's victims live. The location is what many people, such as Bob Egan, who co-prosecuted the Gacy trial, found so problematic.

“I’ve got no quarrel with this person’s right to do this, but you exercise a little common sense of where to do it," Egan previously told HuffPost. "If it was in Nebraska or Florida, I’d have no problem because there’s no proximity to the victims' next-of-kin."

Asked if his intentions might be better served in a historical or educational context rather than for a money-making entertainment attraction, McVoy said that he's "thinking outside the box as a crime victim myself.”

“I do feel for everybody who is in Chicago," said McVoy, who has not attended the Villa Park version of the attraction. “I wouldn’t go somewhere where there’s a scene depicting my mom or nephew."

McVoy said he empathizes with the families of Gacy's victims and says he understands how the memory of their personal tragedy could be eroded over time.

"People think, 'This is so long ago, they should be healed by know. They should get over it,'" he said. "But every day you still have it with you. It’s still a part of your life that never goes away."

Partial Solar Eclipse 2014 Arrives Thursday. Here's How To Watch It Safely

Wed, 2014-10-22 08:12



(Animation of the "penumbral shadow"
sweeping across our planet. Credit:
NASA/Sinclair)



It's already been a big week for skywatchers, and more celestial fun is on the horizon.

On Tuesday, skywatchers were treated to the annual Orionid meteor shower. And now a spooky partial solar eclipse will darken skies for viewers across North America on Thursday, Oct. 23.

A partial solar eclipse occurs when the new moon passes in front of the sun, casting a shadow on Earth and blocking a portion of the sun from view.

The eclipse will be visible in the late afternoon between the East and West Coast of the U.S., as far north as the Arctic, and as far south as Mexico.

(Story continues below.)


(Map by Michael Zeiler/www.greatamericaneclipse.com)



If you'd like to watch the eclipse, be very careful. Eclipse or no eclipse, scientists caution that staring at the sun with the naked eye can cause permanent eye damage.

Safe ways to view the event include wearing special eclipse glasses or making a pinhole projector to project the view onto another surface. If you'll be using a telescope, you'll need a special filter.

The Coca-Cola Space Science Center at Columbus State University in Georgia, and the Slooh Community Observatory, with its main feed coming from the Prescott Solar Observatory in Arizona, will live-stream the eclipse starting at 5 p.m. EDT.

Click here to find out when the eclipse will begin in your area and when it will reach its maximum.

If you snap a great photo of the eclipse on Thursday, we want to see it! We'll be hosting a live blog of the event on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. EDT.

You can tweet your photos with hashtag #HuffPostEclipse. Or submit them directly to our "Partial Solar Eclipse" slideshow.

We'll be collecting user photos from all over, and yours may be featured!

How You Expect To Feel At An Art Museum Vs. How You Really Feel

Wed, 2014-10-22 08:09
The art world can be like a guarded fortress. Its expertly decorated walls are difficult to penetrate, and once inside, you might feel like a prisoner to other people's strange beliefs. Lots of people feel intimidated by today's art in particular, with its incomprehensible "masterpieces" and slightly disturbing figureheads. We want to understand it, be accepted into it, but even the act of visiting a museum can be less than ideal. With formidable columns and elaborate floor plans, entering a modern art haven can just as easily take the form of a dreamy afternoon jaunt or a nightmarish descent into the netherworld.

But we all want that dreamy afternoon, so what's an art admirer to do? The Washington Post tried to advise us earlier this month, and more than a few writers disagreed with it. So we turned to the great 19th century poet Alexander Pope, who stated, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.” In the spirit of a true pessimist, we could take this to mean we anticipate too much from a day looking at art. To help lower your expectations, we've compiled the definitive "How You Expect To Feel At An Art Museum Vs. How You Really Feel" list. Behold:

1. How you expect to feel: Heroically intelligent. Only hyper-sharp, enlightened, and uniquely creative people visit a museum, right? The institutions are always teeming with elite thinkers, well-dressed professionals and artists on-the-brink-of-bursting-with-ground-breaking-ideas... right? Upon entering the museum, I will immediately inhale a breath of fresher, smarter, just plain better air and through osmosis will absorb a higher IQ. RIGHT?



How you actually feel: Slightly out of your league. Museums are built to intimidate you. They are abnormally quiet, palatial and pristine, filled with guards and attendants who will only speak to you if you mess up. "Don't touch the art," is not a statement reserved for children. You might expect to blend in with an art world version of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, but you'll probably feel a touch out of place. Which is fine.

Like we said, everything from the architecture to the pretentious docents to the gaudy frames to the priceless artworks is meant to impress you. Sometimes, even the signs are perplexing and can throw you off your game. Just don't let all the bells and whistles keep you from confidently purchasing a ticket so you can drool over your favorite paintings and sculptures.


2. How you expect to feel: You will waltz into the museum with an innate knowledge of where things are. You're a blood hound for art. Once you bust open those ornate doors, you're going to fling yourself past the turnstiles and navigate the halls like an old sea captain.



How you actually feel: Like the kid who got left behind in a department store. It's like someone told you to head toward the North Pole. You have an idea of how to get there. It's north, so... you head in, like, that direction. But then there are these mountains, rivers, oceans, etc., that derail your linear path. Before long you're hanging out in the depths of the medieval archives, face-to-face with a whole lot of judgmental monks. Just grab a map and look like a tourist. We've all done it.


3. How you expect to feel: Peaceful. Like a yogi-samurai on vacation.



How you actually feel: Weirdly alert. Like someone who's never used public transportation, or a wounded animal. Yes, a museum is a calming place. It can be quiet, lit to perfection, filled with soothing colors and forms. But on busy days, calm is a pipe dream. First, there will be children. As far as we're concerned, children should absolutely be welcome at every single art establishment on the planet. But you should also be aware that they will rupture any expectations of heavenly peace with their voice immodulation and urges to break into a sprint when faced with an open hallway. This is okay.

Second, there will also be tourists, who've never seen the "Mona Lisa" or "Starry Night" and can't help exclaiming their excitement. And hey!, you might be one of them. This is also okay. Third, there will be restrictions galore. You can't go into this gallery without paying the special exhibition fee. You can't step too close to this sculpture because we're afraid you're going to put your tongue on it. You can't take a photo of this painting because it's a no-camera zone. If you've ever been to the Museum of Modern Art during its free Friday hours, you know what we're talking about. Tip: take an hour or two off work during the week to visit your favorite art haven when it's least popular. You'll have a better chance at finding peace then.


4. How you expect to feel: Like that one semester of art history really paid off. You're a savant. Once you lock eyes with "The Arnolfini Portrait" you'll immediately remember that the dog in the foreground symbolizes loyalty and that the trinkets next to the convex mirror represent the Passion of Christ. To quote Celine Dion, it's all coming back to you now.



How you actually feel: Like art is a foreign language that no one ever taught you. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that those early Dutch painters were overly obsessed with symbolism. And take solace in the fact that placards accompanying artworks are there for a reason. You might have once heard that reading the liner notes is akin to cheating. This is not true. Curators pore over those snippets of information, delicately sprinkling nuggets of wisdom across an exhibition for your benefit. It doesn't hurt to do a little research before you head to a museum, either. For example, are you going to see the MOCA Pacific Design Center show, "Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman." We suggest brushing up on your knowledge of Aleister Crowley and the Los Angeles avant-garde. It will make ogling Cameron's eerie sketches all the more wonderful.


5. How you expect to feel: You're going to be blown away by every work of art. Cue spotlights and carefully placed fans, because Marilyn Monroe is in the building.



How you actually feel: You hated 75% of what you saw. Hopefully, this is an exaggeration. But when it comes down to it, art movements have varied drastically over time and place, and a person who loves traditional Japanese printmaking might not be in love with American Pop Art from the 1960s. Futurism, fauvism, cubism, Impressionism -- they're not for everyone. And it's not uncommon to spot a few eye rolls whilst perusing a contemporary artist's work.

But here's the thing: you don't have to like everything. You don't have to have a Hollywood moment with every piece you lay eyes on. It's hard for anyone to innately understand the gestures contained inside a Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin, let alone find it aesthetically pleasing. That's not the point. To Georgia O'Keeffe art is beauty, to Fellini it's autobiographical, to André Malraux it's revolt, to Seurat it is harmony. Art can be many things all at once, but it doesn't have to be loveable. Let yourself experience hate, repulsion, and anger, and maybe eventually that freedom will allow you to discover a whole host of other emotions. Stop confining yourself to reactions like "I love it" or "I hate it" and maybe you'll find a totally new and explosive experience.


6. How you expect to feel: The world makes perfect sense! Artists are truth tellers. They reveal the inner workings of the universe.



How you actually feel: The world is chaos and nothing makes sense. Art is full of contradictions. And, as we've emphasized, you're going to have to work a little hard to get to that "A-HA" pinnacle of universal understanding. Especially when it comes to conceptual art. Why are two clocks mounted by Felix Gonzalez-Torres or a staring contest staged by Marina Abramovic considered art? There's certainly no definitive answer, nor should there be. If you spend less time trying to define art and more time trying to immerse yourself in the creative work of another human being, the chaos might start to drop away.

If it comforts you, Roberta Smith, New York Times art critic extraordinaire, has faith in all of us: "I think the general public really gets conceptual art because it's actually about ideas. What you have is this idea of creativity being able to affect things, and I think that that's really amazing."


7. How you expect to feel: You have a photographic memory. You're a visual leaner. You'll never, ever forget the art. You'll never, ever forget the artists. This whole experience will leave an indelible slideshow in your brain.



How you actually feel: You want to document anything and everything you see on social media. On the one hand, taking photos of art can be tedious. The images will almost always fail to capture the actual feeling of standing in front of beloved photograph or installation. And, some studies have shown that snapping photos can actually hinder your memory of art, as we're wont to rely too much on technology to organize and catalogue our experiences.

On the other hand, taking a photo of an artist's name or a painting you'd like to revisit in the future isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, the museum should spark curiosity in the patron, not stifle his or her interest in knowing anything more about an artwork or artist than is offered in one show. Respect an institution's rules on photography, but don't feel like you can't take visual notes on a great exhibition. Just shy away from selfies.


8. How you expect to feel: Like you could spend hours staring into centuries of fading paint and nicked bronze. The museum is a shrine and you are its most fervent disciple. You will worship at the feet of Milton Avery and Joan Brown until you reach moksha. As Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones wrote, "The simplest, most final way to dismiss a work of art is to say it does not reward serious attention."



How you actually feel: Tired after 30 minutes, maybe less. Standing plus staring plus attempting to remain quiet does not bode well for energy levels. And hey, you might positively adore that Joan Brown nude but that doesn't mean it's going to captivate your senses for eternity. Blame it on our depleting attention spans if you'd like. Some people spend less than five seconds looking at a contemporary artwork. We encourage you to give it a little more than a passing glance, but you're not letting the art world down if you deck over to the cafe for a bit of caffeine midway. As Jonathan Jones later wrote, "There is no such thing as a totalizing gaze -- the look that comprehends everything -- because the nature of visual perception is momentary, partial and fragmentary."

For more advice on making it through an art viewing experience, check out our guide to reading abstract art and our guide to reading monochrome paintings.

Pat Quinn vs. Bruce Rauner vs. Chad Grimm -- Nonpartisan Candidate Guide for Illinois Governor's Race 2014

Tue, 2014-10-21 23:14


Are you looking for a nonpartisan voter guide to the Pat Quinn vs. Bruce Rauner vs. Chad Grimm Governor's race? One that will give you an unbiased, no-spin comparison of candidate positions on key issues? That's what our Campus Election Engagement Project guide will give you! We are a national nonpartisan initiative working with college and university administrators, faculty, and student leaders to increase student participation in America's elections. For the 2014 elections we have created and distributed voter guides to campuses in more than 20 states so they can provide their communities with accurate information for informed voting. Because these guides have been so well received and are useful for all voting citizens who want to be better informed, we are also posting them here.

We developed our guides by analyzing information from trusted resources such as www.votesmart.org, www.ontheissues.org, www.ballotpedia.com, www.politifact.com, www.factcheck.org, www.vote411.org and from candidate websites, public debates and interviews, and statements in major media outlets. We also showed them to groups like campus Young Republicans and Young Democrats at the schools we work with to verify their fairness and lack of bias.

So here are the issue-by-issue stands for Pat Quinn, Bruce Rauner and Chad Grimm, with additional links at the bottom for each candidate if you'd like to dig deeper.

----------
Education: Do you support increasing funding for K-12 education?
Quinn: No
Rauner: No
Grimm: Unknown

Education: Do you support providing vouchers to parents to send their children to private schools with public money?
Quinn: No
Rauner: Yes
Grimm: Unknown

Education: Do you support increasing funding for higher education?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: Unknown
Grimm: Unknown

Elections: Do you support requiring registered voters to present a photo-ID in order to vote?
Quinn: No
Rauner: No
Grimm: Unknown

Elections: Do you support increasing restrictions on campaign donations?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: Yes

Environment: Do you believe that human activity is a major factor contributing to climate change?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No. Has funded major think tanks that argue against human-caused climate change.
Grimm: Unknown

Environment: Do you support taking government action to limit the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: No

Environment: Do you support government mandates and/or subsidies for renewable energy?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No. Does support oil and gas subsidies
Grimm: Unknown

Gay Marriage: Do you support gay marriage?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: Yes

Gun Control: Do you support enacting more restrictive gun control legislation?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: No

Healthcare: Do you support the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: Unknown

Healthcare: Should your state accept federal funds so Medicaid will cover people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No
Grimm: Unknown

Marijuana: Do you support efforts to decriminalize and/or legalize marijuana?
Quinn: Supports medical marijuana
Rauner: Supports medical marijuana
Grimm: Yes

Minimum Wage: Do you support raising the minimum wage?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: History of strong opposition shifting to current limited support. (Currently willing to support under certain conditions, but has previously talked of eliminating state minimum wage and largely still opposes. Public statements within past year have changed significantly from advocating outright elimination, to reduction only, to supporting federal increase that would increase Illinois minimum wage if it were combined with pro-business reforms.)
Grimm: No. Seeks to eliminate it.

Social Issues: Should abortion be highly restricted?
Quinn: No
Rauner: No
Grimm: Yes

Social Issues: Should employers be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees if they disagree with it morally?
Quinn: No
Rauner: Unknown
Grimm: Unknown

Taxes: Have you signed the Americans for Tax Reform Pledge to oppose any tax increases to raise revenue? (The answer to this question is taken from the database of signatories of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, created by Americans for Tax Reform. Signers to the pledge promise to oppose "any and all tax increases" meant to generate additional revenue.)
Quinn: No
Rauner: No
Grimm: No

Taxes: Would you increase taxes on corporations and/or high-income individuals to pay for public services?
Quinn: Yes
Rauner: No. Seeks to reduce all taxes.
Grimm: No. Seeks to reduce all taxes and move toward zero income tax.

Learn more about the candidates:
Quinn: Pat Quinn Vote Smart pages and Pat Quinn On the Issues pages
Rauner: Bruce Rauner Vote Smart pages
Grimm: Chad Grimm Vote Smart pages
-----------------
Other gubernatorial candidates include Scott Summers (Green Write-In). Due to limited space, we can't include his positions, but invite you to check out his website.

Who Were The Victims Of Alleged Serial Killer Darren Vann?

Tue, 2014-10-21 20:05
Seven women have been found dead this week in northwestern Indiana, one in a motel and six in abandoned houses in Gary.

Darren Vann, 43, was charged Monday in the death of the woman whose body was found Friday at a Motel 6 in Hammond, 20 miles southeast of Chicago. Police say Vann has confessed to all seven killings and hinted that there could be more, stretching back two decades. Family and friends of three victims reached by The Associated Press on Tuesday remembered the women as caring, loving family members who will be missed.

___

ANITH JONES

Jones was a fixture in Natasha Conway's life for 25 years.

She was the little girl who wanted to play when Conway moved to a new neighborhood on Chicago's South Side at 9. She was the teenager who promised to carry on the tradition of baking Betty Boop birthday cakes after Conway buried her father at 18. She was the woman who snuck a McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich into the hospital room after Conway gave birth to her second child at 25.

So when Jones went missing in early October, Conway, 34, noticed.

"They say you never know what you've got until it's gone," Conway said. "I knew what I had in a friend."

As young women, Conway and Jones visited Memphis, St. Louis and Detroit. They shared a love of Chicago's reggae clubs. They got tattoos together.

"She just wanted to travel and enjoy life," Conway said.

Apart from her dog, Buzz, and cat, Chuck, Jones, 35, had no children. Instead, she was godmother to her friends' children, including Conway's son and daughter.

One of several siblings, Jones was also the "favorite aunt to every last one of her nieces and nephews," Conway said.

Jones moved to northwest Indiana from Detroit between 10 and 12 years ago, Conway said. Her most recent apartment was in Merrillville, but she sold men's clothing at a market in Gary.

Conway said Jones hoped the stand would be a gateway to a store of her own.

"She had big dreams," Conway said.

___

TEAIRA BATEY

Batey was the proud mother of a 2-year-old son who didn't wait for her longtime boyfriend to propose.

"We were sitting at home having dinner. ... And she said, 'You know what? I want to get married and have more kids one day,'" Marvin Clinton said. "She said, 'Are you interested?'"

The 45-year-old Clinton accepted that proposal two years ago and the two were working on wedding plans when she went missing last January. Clinton said he loved her because she was sweet and beautiful.

"She wanted to get married, raise our son together and just live a prosperous, happy life," he said.

Batey also had struggles. She was bipolar and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression. Clinton said he knew the 28-year-old Batey had been a prostitute "back in the day" but said she hadn't been involved in that for at least three years.

Her mother, Gloria Cullom, described her daughter as trusting and vulnerable. She was born in Chicago and moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, when she was about 4, then moved to Gary in 2004.

Cullom said Batey also had two daughters, ages 8 and 7, who were taken from her by the state and put up for adoption. Cullom thought the state was wrong to take her granddaughters but was pleased Batey had found happiness with Clinton.

Clinton and Cullom said they thought Gary police should have done more to look for Batey. Clinton said he's frustrated that Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the only missing person report the city had received was for Jones, because he and Cullom filed one for Batey.

___

AFRIKKA HARDY

At age 19, Hardy was trying to figure out what she wanted to be.

She wanted to be a nurse. She wanted to be a singer. She wanted to be music engineer. Mainly, she wanted to be an independent adult.

"She had so much potential," said her mother, Lori Townsend. "She could write you a poem in a matter of seconds, and it was original and from the heart. She wrote short stories. ... She could sing. Her mind was a sponge. She absorbed everything."

Townsend said Hardy went through a lot, growing up in poverty and with a father in prison. The family lived in Chicago before moving to Aurora, Colorado, more than five years ago. Hardy decided to leave home in June and move to Gary.

"She was 19. She didn't want to be under mom's wings anymore," she said.

Despite that, the two talked nearly every day, even if it was only to say "I love you," she said.

Townsend said her daughter was trying to get a job and support herself and "fell into a trap" when she apparently turned to sex work.

Police say the discovery of Hardy's body at the Motel 6, where they say she went as a prostitute, led to police arresting Vann and uncovering the other bodies.

Townsend said her daughter died "as a hero in a sense" and said of the prostitution allegations that: "People don't understand people's circumstances. That wasn't who my daughter was."

Hardy's biggest fault might have been that she was too trusting, Townsend said.

"She didn't believe the world is as ugly as it is," she said. "Unfortunately, she succumbed to the hands of ugliness."

Jimmy John's Noncompete Agreement Comes Under Congressional Scrutiny

Tue, 2014-10-21 17:41
WASHINGTON -- House Democrats plan to send a letter to the Labor Department and the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday asking the federal agencies to look into the use of noncompete agreements by the Jimmy John's sandwich chain.

As The Huffington Post first reported last week, many workers at Jimmy John's stores have been required to sign noncompete clauses in which they agree not to work at a competing sandwich shop for a period of two years following their employment at Jimmy John's. A competitor is defined as any business that earns 10 percent or more of its revenue from sandwich sales and sits within three miles of a Jimmy John's location.

The use of the noncompete is apparently at the discretion of individual franchisees, and HuffPost knows of no instances in which the noncompete has been enforced upon a worker. Nonetheless, several rank-and-file employees, including low-wage delivery drivers, have said they were required to sign the agreement upon accepting the job.

The letter to the FTC and the Labor Department was spearheaded by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.). In it, the lawmakers tell FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Labor Secretary Tom Perez that such a noncompete agreement could be "anti-competitive and intimidating to workers."

"There is no justifiable business interest in imposing such a restriction on restaurant employees that are not privy to any of the company’s proprietary information," reads the letter, a copy of which was provided to HuffPost by Crowley's office. "Furthermore, we believe this practice can intimidate working individuals, many of whom are struggling to support themselves and their families while earning barely above the minimum wage."

The lawmakers ask that the agencies "investigate this practice, determine the impact these agreements have on both workers’ rights and free competition, and take any necessary action to deter or prevent such agreements from impacting employees."

According to Crowley's office, more than 20 House Democrats had signed the letter as of Tuesday afternoon.

Jimmy John's had declined to comment on the letter as of Tuesday evening.

Noncompete agreements were once reserved for certain types of workers: engineers with access to trade secrets, for instance, or salespeople who could decamp to other companies with large pools of clients. But the agreements have become increasingly common, even in lower-wage fields, as businesses take whatever precautions they can against competitors.

Earlier this year, The New York Times reported on a camp counselor who had a noncompete agreement enforced upon her, preventing her from working at another day camp.

The enforceability of noncompetes varies from state to state. California, for instance, forbids the use of such clauses with only a few exceptions, and many other states decree that noncompetes have to be reasonable in scope.

Police Search For More Bodies After Darren Vann Allegedly Confesses To Killing 7 Women

Tue, 2014-10-21 17:10
An Indiana man accused of murdering one woman may have killed at least six more, hiding their bodies in abandoned houses, police said.

Authorities now believe there could be even more victims, and spent Tuesday searching more than 90 dilapidated, empty buildings using a cadaver dog.

Though officers aren't currently calling suspect Darren Deon Vann, 43, a serial killer, Hammond Police Chief John Doughty told CNN that Vann has been charged in at least one murder while investigators work to connect him to other murders in the area.

Police were called to a Motel 6 in Gary, Indiana, Friday night when acquaintances of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy found her naked corpse in a bath tub, according to a probable cause affidavit. (Read The Probable Cause Affidavit)

Victim Afrikka Hardy



Hardy was allegedly working as an escort and met Vann on a page of the website ChicagoBackpage.com. Vann, who was going by the alias "Big Boy Appetite," was the last person to see Hardy alive, police said. Vann is a convicted sex offender.

Investigators described the scene in graphic detail. According to police records, Hardy was found with a missing fingernail on the floor, a torn condom wrapper, and beds "moved away from the headboard to suggest there was probably a struggle there." There were red marks on her neck consistent with being strangled, and a pillow by the toilet that appeared to have blood on it, police said.

Surveillance video that night shows Vann allegedly running from the room shortly after police believe he killed Hardy. When investigators arrested the suspect, Vann allegedly confessed to having sex with Hardy before strangling her with his hands, then a cord.

After confessing to the murder, Vann told police he had killed at least six other women, their bodies scattered over a five-mile stretch of abandoned houses in the area, according to CNN. Over the weekend, authorities said they had found all six bodies.

Of the six, only three of the women had been identified as of Monday, including Teiarra Batey, 28, Christine Williams, 36, and Anith Jones, 35, Reuters reported.

Victim Anith Jones



The suspect's ex-wife, who was married to him for 16 years, told the New York Times she was "lightheaded" over hearing the news.

“He was a little bit of a loner," Maria Vann told the publication. "He could be on his own, listening to his own music, for a long time. He would stay at the library a ton of time. He was always by himself.”

The two split in 2009 after Maria Vann found out about her husband's previous sexual assault conviction of a 25-year-old woman. Vann spent five years in a Texas prison on the conviction before moving to Indiana.

Police said it's possible there are other bodies to be found in murders that could stretch back as far as 20 years ago. The search will be difficult, however, in a town overrun with abandoned buildings.

More from the New York Times:

Ms. Freeman-Wilson, the mayor, said that the authorities in Gary had been doing their best to board up and demolish abandoned houses, but that it had not been possible to clean up every blighted property. Officials there estimate that one in five buildings in the city are vacant.

“We have 10,000 abandoned buildings and can only account for five that were the location of these bodies,” the mayor said as the houses were being searched. “Do the math.”


An abandoned home where investigators said they found one of six women's bodies over the weekend.

Vann's brother, Reginald Beard, told The Chicago Tribune that the news came to him as a shock.

"To the [victims' families], I'm sorry for their loss," Beard told the publication. "I'm a father of two daughters myself...This is a painful moment for us, too."

In 2004, Vann was sentenced to 18 months probation after a violent confrontation with a woman who had lived with him for nine months before moving out. Court records state Vann was upset with the woman for leaving him and confronted her and another man with a red plastic gasoline can, threatening to burn the place down.

"You're going to burn my family, innocent people, over a woman?" one of the witnesses asked Vann, to which he replied: "Give me $7,000 and you can have her."

Of the seven victims, only one of the women had ever been reported missing. Gary, Indiana Mayor Freeman-Wilson told reporters on Monday that Vann deliberately preyed on women who would be "less likely to be reported missing."

Hardy's mother, Lori Townsend, told ABC 7 Chicago she was grief-stricken over her daughter's death.

"I can't tell her I love her anymore," Townsend said. "I can't give her hugs. I can't give her kisses. She was supposed to come home for Thanksgiving."

As police continue their investigation, Townsend told the station she wonders how many other victims there could be.

"He was a convicted sex offender," she said. "Who knows how long he's been doing this? Him, wanting to be caught and confess. That's only stuff from a movie."

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Darren Vann Probable Cause Affidavit

Bill Clinton Stumps For Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Senator Dick Durbin In Chicago

Tue, 2014-10-21 15:42
CHICAGO (AP) -- Former President Bill Clinton became the latest high-profile Democrat to back the re-election bids of Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, saying Tuesday that the candidates focus on issues important to voters, like jobs and health care.

"I'm here to support Dick Durbin and Pat Quinn because I think they're about the future," Clinton told workers at Chicago-based manufacturing company Wheatland Tube. "What this election should be about is what your lives are about ... more jobs, higher incomes, better education and training, secure health care and stronger families and communities. ... The rest of it is all background music."

Clinton has stumped for vulnerable Democrats in Arkansas and Louisiana, with upcoming stops in Kentucky, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Campaigns hope his star power and continued popularity will help sway undecided voters and boost minority turnout. In Chicago, he played to President Barack Obama's hometown crowd by saying Republicans in other states are using the Nov. 4 contest as a protest vote against the president.

Illinois' gubernatorial matchup is one of the most expensive and competitive nationwide. Quinn is seeking a second full term, but faces a tough challenge from Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, a venture capitalist trying to wrest away one of the last Democratic strongholds in the Midwest. Clinton's visit was preceded by a Sunday rally headlined by Obama and events with first lady Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Rauner's campaign deemed the visits by Democrats "full rescue mode." Rauner appeared with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Rockford on Tuesday, part of a nationwide tour for Christie, who serves as the head of the Republican Governors Association. Christie has been to Illinois for Rauner several times.

Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, is seeking a fourth term against Republican dairy magnate and state Sen. Jim Oberweis.

Clinton reiterated themes that have been prominent in Quinn's re-election bid: That the Chicago Democrat took over and led Illinois at a time of ethical and economic crisis. Quinn, a former lieutenant governor, assumed office in 2009 in the wake of ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption scandal.

Quinn noted the drop in unemployment during his tenure. State figures showed a September rate of 6.6 percent, compared to 9.1 percent a year earlier. Durbin also praised Quinn's jobs record.

But Rauner has said Illinois still lags behind other states and isn't growing or competitive.

Clinton told the enthusiastic crowd - including several state lawmakers - that the GOP elsewhere are "relentlessly attacking the president," and using the midterm election as a referendum on his presidency. He said voters shouldn't become pessimistic.

He said he's been thinking about the future more, in part because of his new granddaughter, and reflected on his role in politics.

"I feel like an old racehorse that's retired. I'm in a barn somewhere. About once every two or four years they come and bring a little extra hay," he said. "They brush me down real good, take me out to the track, slap me on the rear and just see if I can get around that track one more time."

--

Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen

Top Illinois Gubernatorial Campaign Donors for Third Quarter

Tue, 2014-10-21 15:09
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican candidate Bruce Rauner raised and spent a staggering amount between July 1 and Oct. 1, the latest campaign funding reports show.

Combined, both candidates reported $35 million in expenditures during the third quarter alone. Quinn and Rauner also raked in a considerable chunk of change. Between July 1 and October 1, Quinn raised roughly $8.3 million, whereas Rauner reported more than $20 million in donations.

While Quinn ended the third quarter with just over $1 million more cash on hand than this opponent, Rauner threw in an additional $3 million into his campaign with two, $1.5 million contributions on Oct. 3 and Oct. 10.

Now it's time to take a look at where all this money is coming from. Since Rauner began his bid for governor in March 2013, we've tracked donations back to the first of that month.

Contributions to Quinn, who never had an official Democratic challenger, date back to Jan. 1, 2014. Here are five of the top campaign donors for each candidate:

Pat Quinn:

10. IBEW PAC voluntary fund--$314,102

9. United Food and Commercial Workers Union--$350,000

8. DRIVE Committee--$400,000

7. International Association of Firefighters--$500,000

6. Engineers Political Education Committee--$530,000


Bruce Rauner:

10. Digital Greensigns--$253,200

9. Glen Tullman--$280,300

8. Illinois Manufacturer's Association--$350,000

7. Elizabeth Christie--$405,300

6. Edgar Jannotta, Jr.--4405,300



See the top five donors for each campaign at Reboot Illinois.

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Tribune Publishing May Buy The Chicago Sun-Times' Suburban Papers, According To Report

Tue, 2014-10-21 14:51
The parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times reportedly plans to sell its entire stable of suburban newspapers to Tribune Publishing, the parent company of the rival Chicago Tribune.

Calling the sale "a blockbuster deal that could change the Chicago journalism landscape," independent media reporter Robert Feder broke the news of the rumored sale Tuesday afternoon. If the deal is completed, Feder reports, Sun-Times Media Group's parent company Wrapports LLC will be left with just two metro papers: the daily Sun-Times tabloid and a free alternative weekly, The Chicago Reader, which Wrapports acquired for a song in 2012.

Tribune Publishing would acquire 38 daily and weekly newspapers currently in the Wrapports fold. The larger editions -- the Aurora Beacon-News, the Elgin Courier-News, the Lake County News-Sun, the Naperville Sun, the Southtown Star and the Indiana Post-Tribune -- serve the Chicagoland suburbs and northwest Indiana.

Though terms are unknown, Feder's sources said the rumored deal was on a "very aggressive timeline" for changes that could take place as early as November. Poynter notes that in July, Tribune CEO Jack Griffin expressed his intent to purchase smaller papers "geographically adjacent to where we run big papers and big brands."

Matthew Hutchison, a spokesperson for Tribune Publishing, refused to confirm or deny reports when contacted by Poynter.

“We do not comment on speculation,” Hutchinson said. Wrapports CEO Timothy P. Knight reportedly sent an email to employees stating the company was "evaluating a variety of investments."

The suburban papers are thought by many to be the most profitable part of the Wrapports newspaper portfolio. Just last year, Wrapports unloaded its Joliet, Illinois paper -- believed to be the most profitable in the chain -- for an estimated $6 million.

Wrapports purchased the Sun-Times Media Group in 2011 after the publisher emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy; it has continued to struggle financially. In 2013, two years after winning its eighth Pulitzer Prize, the Sun-Times notoriously laid off its entire staff of 28 full-time photographers to trim costs.

5 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Oscar de la Renta

Tue, 2014-10-21 14:10
"Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself." -- Oscar de la Renta, Vanity Fair, 2009.

Legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died on Monday but his iconic designs will live on. A true American icon, de la Renta dressed women in the public eye. His beautiful designs were seen on the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker to Oprah to Hillary Clinton (you can thank him for some pretty awesome pantsuits).

Since becoming a household name in the 1960s, de la Renta has been referenced repeatedly in pop culture and fashion. But there's more to this designer than stunning evening gowns. Here are five surprising things you might not have known about de la Renta.

1. He reimagined the official uniforms for Boy Scouts of America in 1980.



Most people think of couture gowns when they think of de la Renta, but according to Scouting Magazine, the designer took on the two-year task of remaking the official uniforms boys, girls and adults. He transformed the previously constricting military-style uniforms into more functional outfits by switching out the pants and designing new shirts that were made to use "de la Renta-designed neckerchiefs."

"It should be suitable for strenuous activity; it should be made from an easy care fabric; and at the same time the wearer should still look like a Scout," de la Renta told "Scouting Magazine" in 1980.

2. He convinced Anna Wintour to put Hillary Clinton on the cover of Vogue.



Vogue has a history of photographing first ladies, however the magazine did not put a first lady on its cover until de la Renta told Anna Wintour that Hillary Clinton's 1998 photo shoot should be a cover. "I think that article, it helped demystify my mom," Chelsea Clinton said in a 2013 interview about the designer. "The first encounter that [readers] would have had with her before they read the article was her looking so magnificent in Oscar's dress on the cover."

3. He took out a full-page ad to respond to a negative review.



In 2012, then New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn wrote some pretty harsh comments about his 2012 collection (read: "Mr. de la Renta is far more a hot dog than an éminence grise of American fashion.") As a response, de la Renta purchased a full-page ad in Women's Wear Daily and wrote, "If you have the right to call me a hot dog, why do I not have the right to call you a stale three-day old hamburger?"

4. He adopted his son from the orphanage he founded in the Dominican Republic.



De la Renta said in a Bill Clinton Presidential Library tribute video that his orphanage in his native country was started "totally by accident" when a woman asked him if he would help her. It started with a small school but then he "fell in love with it." He loved it so much he even adopted his son, Moises, from the orphanage. "My only ambition for Moises was that he would be a good-hearted man," de la Renta said in the video. "And that he is."

5. Michelle Obama made her first public appearance in an Oscar de la Renta dress just weeks before his death.

My First Lady is beautiful and inspiring. @michelleobama @reachhigher2020 @thewhitehouse #FashionEDU

A photo posted by Nneya Richards (@doublenrich) on Oct 10, 2014 at 6:31pm PDT




The first lady is known more for putting smaller designers on the map and steering towards more affordable options, but for the first time in her tenure as first lady, Obama followed in the footsteps of Kennedy and Clinton and donned a de la Renta frock from his 2014 Fall collection at her White House Fashion Education Workshop.




BONUS: Many of his closest friends say he was a great singer.


De la Renta with Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo in 2013.

In the Bill Clinton Presidential Library tribute video to de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg says, "Oscar is [...] an incredible singer. I love to watch him sing." And Anna Wintour says, "You know, he sings every night!"

All images courtesy of Getty unless otherwise indicated.

Illinois Coal Rush Crisis: Citizens Sue Feds to Take Over Rogue State Mining Agencies

Tue, 2014-10-21 14:08
As the onslaught of the nation's fast-growing coal-mining boom tears across the heartland, citizens in southern Illinois have filed a Writ of Mandamus in Federal District Court against the US Secretary of Interior, in an attempt to revoke the state's control over its notoriously inept and rogue mining agencies.

The huge coal-mining rush in Illinois, against the grain of the nation's shift from coal and in defiance of climate action initiatives, might be the most under-reported environmental story in the nation. But the residents in southern and central Illinois, home of the massive expansion of longwall mines and strip mines, are holding the line against mounting coal slurry and mining damages.

"The goal of the Writ is to ensure Illinois citizens have a working coal program as required under Federal regulations," says Bob Johnson, with Citizens Opposing Pollution (COP). "We hope the Federal District Court agrees."

Meanwhile, in the small farming community of Rocky Branch in Saline County, elderly residents continued to document the pollution fallout and health and civil rights violations from nearby blasts by a controversial Peabody strip mine operation.


Photo courtesy of Shawnee Hills and Hollers/Justice for Rocky Branch

In a written statement released at the courthouse last week, Citizens Opposing Pollution (COP) claimed Illinois citizens are currently unable to ensure "compliance and clean up of coal slurry disposal sites in Illinois" due to a 2012 Illinois Supreme Court ruling. The group is requesting the Court to require Secretary Sally Jewell of the U.S. Department of the Interior to revoke Illinois' coal mining program. According to the COP statement:

"COP claims that precious Illinois underground fresh water resources underneath coal refuse sites are at stake. The group points to the Pearl Sand and the Trivoli Sandstone Aquifer, both located underneath a former coal mine owned by a division of ExxonMobil Coal USA. The Pearl Sand aquifer was the primary fresh water source for Clinton County residents until 2001. However, in 2001, it was determined that it was no longer safe for human consumption. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency allowed ExxonMobil Coal USA to donate 1 million dollars to help set up an alternative public water supply for residents living above the Pearl Sand Aquifer instead of requiring clean-up of the site. To this day, the coal refuse, a sludge like material, continues to leach contaminants into the Pearl Sand Aquifer, making the groundwater unusable for human consumption."

"COP wants to ensure that if coal extraction continues to exist in Illinois," says Penni S. Livingston, attorney for COP, "that coal production operators abide by the rules; and if they are unable to do it, then they should reconsider whether coal production is really a profitable enterprise."

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