Subscribe to CNC Huffpo feed
Chicago news and blog articles from The Huffington Post
Updated: 1 hour 33 min ago

6 Illinois Counties With Some of the Highest Sales Tax

Mon, 2014-11-24 15:48
On top of the regular cost of buying everyday things, most Illinoisans also have to pay three different sales taxes on top of the price of goods. That's right, three. Illinois state sales tax is currently set at 6.25 percent, and city sales-tax varies throughout the state. Among the state's 103 counties, there are several different sales tax brackets around Illinois.

Illinois' state sales tax is 6.25 percent -- most goods bought in the state will come with this extra charge tacked on and headed straight for Springfield. (Some things, like food at restaurants, groceries and cars are subject to different rates.) Plus, every county in the state levies its own sales tax and many cities charge their own sales tax on top of that. When all is said and done, that reindeer sweater you bought for Grandpa not only put a present under his tree, but also money in the pockets of the governments in the capitol, your county and your city.

Here's a list six counties in Illinois with some of the highest sales taxes, from the Illinois Department of Revenue.

12. Saint Clair County 7.35%

11. Union County 7.50%

10.Macon County 7.50%

9. Knox County 7.50%

8. Champaign County 7.50%

7. Pike County 7.75%

Check out the top six highest sales taxes in Illinois at Reboot Illinois and a graphic that lays it all out--the top rate probably isn't where you think it is. Perhaps you'll find yourself needing to drive to the next county next time you need to run to the grocery store.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date on all things Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: 10 states with the highest state and local sales tax combined
Ride-sharing services become rare agreement point between Quinn, Rauner in fall veto session
Plan to change Illinois school funding takes center stage
Really, this is what Illinois "does best?"
Cartoon: Jane Byrne blazed trail for women in Chicago, all over the country as the city's only woman mayor

Northwestern Scraps Plans To Settle With Professor Accused Of Assaulting Students

Mon, 2014-11-24 13:46
Northwestern University agreed Monday to halt mediation efforts that could have resulted in an out-of-court settlement with a professor who was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing students.

Northwestern's legal team had quietly been considering mediation with Peter Ludlow, a philosophy professor who the school determined had harassed two students, though it did not find he had assaulted them. Ludlow sued the two students and the university this year for defamation. The university's mediation attempt could have resolved the lawsuit, over the objections of his accusers, three people with knowledge of the cases separately confirmed to The Huffington Post.

A group of students staged a sit-in at the university president's office on Monday, insisting Northwestern should take a moral stance against cutting a check to Ludlow after finding he had behaved inappropriately.

"At the end of the day, these cases are not about how to rearrange figures in the university budget," said Kathryn Pogin, a philosophy graduate student who led the protest. "They are human beings and have a right to be treated as such."

The accusers would no longer have been liable for defaming Ludlow had the university entered into mediation. But protesters were concerned that it would have denied the accusers the chance to have their names cleared in court.

Alan Cubbage, Northwestern's vice president for university relations, said mediation was only one route the school was considering. Administrators scrapped the plan after receiving an email on Saturday from one of Ludlow's accusers asking them to do so.

"The court case is proceeding, with the University asking for dismissal of the case against all the defendants, including the student," Cubbage told HuffPost in a statement. "Nonbinding mediation was being considered in an effort to avoid having the student and other defendants go through the lengthy and often stressful process of pre-trial depositions and a trial itself."

The university investigated the allegations against Ludlow and did not find him responsible for assault in either case, but did find he had sexually harassed both students.

The first, an undergraduate journalism student, sued the school in February, claiming it had mishandled her case when she first came forward in 2012, shortly after the alleged assault took place.

The second, a graduate student in the philosophy department, came forward in March to formally accuse Ludlow of assaulting and harassing her in 2012 as well. She did not file a lawsuit.

Ludlow responded by suing both students. He also sued Northwestern for defamation, gender discrimination and invasion of privacy, claiming the school had run flawed, biased investigations.

An attorney for Ludlow did not respond to a request for comment. Philosophy professor Jennifer Lackey, who assisted the graduate student's internal complaint and was named in the suit for doing so, declined to comment.

Ludlow is not the subject of any criminal investigation, and he has disputed the accusations against him, claiming that he had consensual relationships with both students. He has also asserted that he denied their advances.

Ludlow's spring classes were canceled when students began protesting them, and he was not selected to teach any courses this fall. The undergraduate student's lawsuit led to Ludlow being denied a raise and losing out on an endowed chair, the university has stated. He was also required to attend sensitivity training.

Jose Navarro Jr. Allegedly Faked 911 Call To Avoid Traffic Ticket

Mon, 2014-11-24 13:28
Nobody likes getting a traffic ticket, but calling in a fake shooting is not a way to get out of it.

But that was the method Jose Navarro, Jr., allegedly used early Sunday morning after being pulled over by police in Oak Lawn, Illinois.

Police said that during the traffic stop Navarro called 911 and falsely reported hearing eight gunshots. He also claimed that a man had been shot and was lying on the ground a few blocks away from where the police had stopped him, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The idea, according to police, is that the officers who had pulled over Navarro would leave him to respond to the more serious call.

It sort of worked: Several officers did drive to the scene with their emergency lights on, only to discover it was bogus, according to RedEye Chicago.

Police then asked Navarro about the shooting and he allegedly admitted making it up to avoid getting traffic tickets, Patch Illinois reports.

Navarro was arrested on a variety of charges including a felony charge for the made-up 911 call. He was also cited for illegal transportation of an open alcohol container, speeding, no seat belt, driving without lights and improper lane usage.

He was ordered held on $50,000 bail on Sunday.

@media only screen and (min-width : 500px) {.ethanmobile { display: none; }}

Like Us On Facebook |
Follow Us On Twitter |
Contact The Author

Chicago's Newest Independent Bookstore

Mon, 2014-11-24 13:22
Remember what it was like to walk into a small, cozy bookstore on a rainy or snowy afternoon? You can smell new books. It's like smelling curiosity. And yesterday, Chicago got a brand new independent bookstore, Roscoe Books, just in time for the rain and coming snow.

You walk in to the small space masterfully designed to feel like a large space. There is room to breathe as you browse. Taking in the titles you realize that whoever did the buying for this inventory was brilliant. What kind of books do they sell? Good ones! Sounds simple. But it's not.

I buy a copy of an old Raymond Carver book, one that had gotten lost through the years and really demands to be reread again and again. One that incidentally is NOT available in e-book format. I ask Erika, the smiling and welcoming owner if she knows about Willy Vluautin--a writer carrying on where Carver left off. She says no, and then does something rare. She writes down the author's name and promises to check into that.

Try finding someone who does that at a big box store or through the mail.

So with my Raymond Carver in hand, I say goodbye and walk out into the rain---thinking--this owner gets it. She gets what it takes to make Roscoe Books just sing. To make the little bookstore a neighborhood community center. She is a natural.

Check the place out. Chicago's newest independent bookstore isn't just another retailer. It's a celebration of the neighborhood bookstore. Once again alive and well and with promises of great things to come.

I'll see you there. You'll be glad you stopped by.

Jim Edgar remembers his own time as an Republican governor working with a Democratic legislature in Illinois

Mon, 2014-11-24 12:11
Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner will follow in the footsteps of former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar when he takes control of a state in a fiscal crisis with a Democratically controlled legislature.

Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek spoke with Edgar about his time in office, Rauner's upcoming term and compromising with Democratic legislative leadership.

From their conversation:

Q: You've been out there talking a lot lately about Gov. Rauner's election and you're serving on the transition committee. You told the story about how, after your election, Mike Madigan wouldn't talk to you for four months after you won the first time. Looks like Rauner's off to a better start.

A: I told him, "You're lucky." Plus, they talked for an hour and a half, which is an hour longer than I thought they'd talk, so that's good.

Check out the rest of the Q & A at Reboot Illinois and read Edgar's advice to Rauner and how he thinks government is or is not like business.

With Rauner's inaguration quickly approaching, the governor-elect may want to soak up as much of Edgar's input as possible. The impending date of the new gubernatorial term has left many Illinoisans with questions about Rauner's plans. Watch Doubek and Matt Dietrich discuss whether or not Rauner's comments Friday about the state's "stunningly bad" assessment of the state's finances offer any clues about where his head is at regarding the state's income tax and budget.

First Lady Michelle Obama Praises Chicago DJ Doug Banks

Mon, 2014-11-24 11:23
It's not easy being #1 in the radio ratings in a town like Chicago. Especially when competing against some 60 other stations.

Yet the Doug Banks Show in the afternoons on WVAZ-FM, gets it done with a mix of rhythm and blues, dusties, soul, slow and sassy, hip and old school, interspersed with hard news and Hollywood gossip.

In the final days leading up to the 2014 midterm elections, Doug Banks, who by the way is featured at, scored an exclusive live interview with President Obama, grilling him about the handling of Ebola cases in the U.S., asking questions rivaling those posed by top television news anchors.

Then on election eve, the president's better half, First Lady Michelle Obama, on-air at WVAZ-FM to get out the vote, revealed she grew up listening to Doug Banks on the radio here in Chicago. "If Doug said do it, I was doing it."

He's been doing it a long time. I first met Doug Banks, shortly after the election of Harold Washington as Chicago's first African-American mayor, taking office on the heels of Chicago's first and only female mayor Jane Byrne, who passed away last Friday at age 81.

When Harold Washington took office, it was at a time when Chicago's City Council was very polarized on race matters with the new mayor at its vortex. Many made a living out of lampooning this political divide. Unforgettable was Chicago standup comic Aaron Freeman's career-making Council Wars, a takeoff on the space opera film franchise of Star Wars creator, George Lucas.

I had been hired to anchor weekend news at WBMX-FM, now WVAZ-FM. Doug was working a 6-day week, including Saturday mornings. I also anchored news on Rev. Jesse Jackson's Sunday Morning Live call-in show. Took two elevated trains and a bus to get to the Oak Park studios from downtown Chicago where I lived, leaving at 6 AM Saturdays and Sundays. Not great for nightlife, when you're young and single. I had met what turned out to be my longtime boyfriend at an after-work cocktail hour for recent grads of the Seven Sisters and Ivy League. He thought it was cool I worked weekends at WBMX, but really, really didn't like my hours. Of course, his hours weren't so great either, working pro bono as Chicago's youngest-ever school board president, appointed by newly-elected Mayor Washington in addition to his law practice.

As the first on-air Caucasian at urban WBMX-FM during a racially challenging time in Chicago's history, I had a tense luncheon interview with a rival news director, who approached me about switching stations. His first interview question was, "Do you date black guys?" Asked by a white news director in the Reagan 80's. I was shell-shocked. I didn't answer his question, and I didn't get the job which would have paid a lot more money than I was making at the time. Doubt he would have asked a male job candidate that question. My Chicago lawyer/politician boyfriend, happened to be of Mexican-American heritage.

Soon after, Doug Banks' morning drive show on WBMX-FM, reached a pinnacle #2 ranking, right behind market leader, WGN-AM. Doug left for Gannett-owned urban WGCI-FM where "fly jock" Tom Joyner flew back-and-forth, doing a Dallas morning show and an afternoon show in Chicago.

I had graduated from doing the news with Doug Saturday mornings at WBMX-FM to representing on-air talent, including four of the six music jocks at WGCI-FM, Chicago's First Lady of Radio Yvonne Daniels (daughter of singer Billy Daniels), Irene Mojica, Chili Chiles and Marco Spoon. I remember telling WGCI-FM General Manager Marv Dyson, if he added my client, WBMX's Marco Spoon to WGCI's lineup, WGCI would beat WGN. Marv made the hire, and WGCI became #1 in Chicagoland, toppling WGN, a feat at one time deemed impossible.

Fast forward, it's great being #1 time and again with Banks back at WVAZ, where it all started for him in Chicago with the call letters WBMX, over 30 years ago. How Doug must have felt to hear Chicago born-and-bred, First Lady Michelle Obama sing his praises election eve for all the world to hear. I felt so blessed to have turned on my radio at just the right time. I'm sure my dear mother, Lillian, was smiling in heaven. She and Doug share a June 9th birthday.

Often times, we don't realize when young people are watching us and emulating what we do. I am so proud of my niece, Jacqueline Ann, for following in my footsteps, when I wasn't looking. I got a call from Jackie asking for help in getting a keynote speaker for Bryn Mawr College's Black History Month. My niece had volunteered to co-chair. I suggested civil rights activist/comedian Dick Gregory. He graciously accepted. Eighty-year-old Gregory did three hours of standup without a bathroom break, bookended by two standing ovations. My interview with Dick Gregory , titled "What I'm Running From", took place a few days before his February 28, 2013 appearance at the all-women Seven Sister school.

As my teen niece Jackie followed in my footsteps when I wasn't looking, Doug Banks gets an on-air recommendation from someone who listened to him as a teen, our First Lady herself.

May I second our First Lady's recommendation?

Doug Banks, a great role model for teens and young adults.

Parents, are you listening?

Lonna Saunders may be reached at

. .

Here Are The 2015 Rhodes Scholars

Mon, 2014-11-24 10:25
The 32 American students chosen as Rhodes scholars for 2015, listed by geographical region:

District 1:

Noam Angrist, Brookline, Mass., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Benjamin D. Sprung-Keyser, Los Angeles, Harvard University

District 2:

Matthew J. Townsend, Chappaqua, N.Y., Yale University

Ruth C. Fong, Somerset, N.J., Harvard

District 3:

Joseph W. Barrett, Port Washington, N.Y., Princeton

Gabriel M. Zucker, Brooklyn, N.Y., Yale

District 4:

Jordan R. Konell, Philadelphia, Yale

Kate I. Nussenbaum, Newton, Mass., Brown

District 5:

Fang Y. Cao, Silver Spring, Md., University of Maryland

Maya I. Krishnan, Rockville, Md., Stanford University

District 6:

Sarah M. Bufkin, Atlanta, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ridwan Y. Hassen, Marietta, Ga., Dartmouth College and Emory University

District 7:

Ameen Barghi, Birmingham, Ala, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Jane Darby Menton, Tallahassee, Fla., Yale

District 8:

Sai P. Gourisankar, Atlanta, University of Texas at Austin

Abishek K. Kulshreshtha, Grapevine, Texas, Brown

District 9:

Jacob L. Burnett, Mishawaka, Ind., Wabash College

Alexander F. Coccia, Columbus, Ohio, University of Notre Dame

District 10:

Rachel V. Harmon, Champaign, Ill., Cornell University

Rebecca A. Esselstein, Dayton, Ohio., U.S. Air Force Academy

District 11:

David S. Moore, Holland, Mich., University of Michigan

Tayo A. Sanders II, Neenah, Wis., University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

District 12:

Anisha N. Gururaj, Chesterfield, Mo., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Robert A. Fisher, Chattanooga, Tenn., The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

District 13:

Emily E. Witt, Greenwood Village, Colo., Stanford

Peter N. Kalugin, Albuquerque, N.M., Johns Hopkins University

District 14:

Aven P. Satre Meloy, Helena, Mont., Santa Clara University

William J. Rathje, Lake Oswego, Ore., University of Puget Sound

District 15:

Elliot H. Akama-Garren, Palo Alto, Calif., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rachel A. Skokowski, Palo Alto, Calif., Princeton

District 16:

David R.K. Adler, Encino, Calif., Brown

Sarah E. Yerima, Los Angeles, Princeton

Tower Bridge Official 'Gutted' After Beer Bottle Shatters New Glass Walkway

Mon, 2014-11-24 10:14
Part of Tower Bridge's latest attraction, a glass walkway soaring 140 feet above the Thames, has shattered just two weeks after opening, when a tourist dropped a beer bottle on one of the glass panels.

The attraction, which cost London a cool $1.5 million, was part of the Tower's 120th birthday celebration and recently opened on November 10. According to ITV News in London, the November 21 incident occurred when a glass bottle was dropped -- causing the initial cracks to the glass panels -- and further damaged by a woman wearing stilettos.

Visitor Peter Gordon, who was at the Tower at the time of the incident, told HuffPost Travel that a "waitress dropped a bottle on one of the glass panels on the walkways; it smashed the upper, sacrificial layer of the glass that lies over the supporting walkway. It looked a bit scary, but there were no safety issues." After the incident, he said that workers "cordoned off the area and covered it with carpet to stop any fragments [from] spreading."

Gordon's Twitter picture shows the damage to the glass:

Was in tower bridge walkway today, someone dropped a beer bottle; this happened

— Peter Gordon (@the1gordo) November 21, 2014

In a statement to ITV News, Chris Earlie, Head of Tower Bridge said, "We are gutted it's happened in the first couple of weeks when it's been open to the public but it's completely safe. We should have said no glass on the glass section of the floor. It was a bit shortsighted of us."

When asked about danger to visitors trying to go to the attraction, Earlie assured the public that the attraction was not only open, but safe, "The floor has five layers of glass with this sacrificial layer on top -- it's there so we can replace it if it gets scratched. We are still open to the public and if we had any concerns we would have closed."

The incident is not unlike what happened earlier this year at Chicago's Willis Tower Skydeck, when one of the glass balconies on the 103rd floor cracked beneath visitor's feet. Luckily, no one was harmed in either of the incidents.

Members Of Chicago LaSalle Street Church Get $500 Each To Do Good For World

Mon, 2014-11-24 09:48
CHICAGO (AP) — On a very memorable Sunday, Pastor Laura Truax surprised her congregation with a bold announcement: She was about to hand out money to everyone.

Not a huge sum, but the pastor said the LaSalle Street Church had received a tidy $1.6 million from a real estate deal, and $160,000 — a typical 10 percent tithe — would be divided among some 320 regular attendees. Each would get a $500 check to do something positive for anything or anyone, including themselves. It was an unorthodox gesture, but Truax notes, LaSalle is "a gutsy little church" with a history of making waves around socially progressive causes it embraces. In 1972, when it stood in the shadow of the now-demolished Cabrini Green housing project, the church established a criminal defense legal aid clinic for the poor.

Decades later, LaSalle remains an activist church, doing everything from feeding homeless families on Wednesday nights to buying an ambulance for a medical clinic in Niger. The non-denominational congregation is racially and economically diverse: More than 60 percent of members have advanced degrees; about a third live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Not surprisingly, many donations from the congregation will reach far-flung places, including a school in the Himalayas, a health clinic in Uganda and an irrigation project in Tanzania. Closer to home, some checks are going to families and friends in financial trouble.

Church members, Truax says, are doing just what she'd envisioned when she distributed the checks that first Sunday in September.

"I hoped that they would recognize the power they had to bless others and change somebody's life," she says. "I hoped that they would see their connection between their little piece and the bigger thing the church was called to do, that they would feel like they actually had some skin in the game, some prayers in the game. And that has largely happened."

Here's how ...


Jeliner Jordan remembers being young and in debt.

More than 40 years ago, she was a divorced mother of three who couldn't stretch her seamstress earnings far enough to support her kids. She took out a loan of about $4,000 to attend a business college, hoping it would lead to better opportunities — and it did.

But repaying that loan turned out to be hard, and Jordan fell behind, before eventually settling her debt.

She never forgot that pressure.

Aware that her granddaughter, Deitra Holloway, was saddled with college loans, Jordan knew what she'd do with part of her church money: She gave Holloway $300, figuring it might cover a month's payment. She was shocked when her granddaughter revealed her school debt was in the many thousands.

Though her gift to her granddaughter was small, Jordan still felt mighty good. "That's more money than she had in her pockets before," she explains. "Anything I would give would help her."

A grateful Holloway used the money instead to help pay a loan on her 2003 Nissan Sentra. It was just another example of her grandmother's generosity, including taking her on a trip to Paris when she was in college.

"I always thought she was rich because she would do these things for me and it never seemed like money was an obstacle," the 26-year-old says.

Far from it. Jordan, now 71 — her grandkids call her Grandma Jelly — is a meticulous planner who watches every dollar.

"She's a great role model," Holloway says. "She has order and structure and discipline. ... She always makes sure there's adventure. There's never a dull moment with her."

Jordan, who had a long career in the insurance industry but still enjoys sewing, divided her remaining money: $100 to Art on Sedgwick, a neighborhood art center, and $100 to the nearby Manierre elementary school, which the church had supported when it faced possible closure.

Niguel Neal, 13, a budding cartoonist and 8th grader at Manierre who'll likely benefit from both donations, thinks the money will be well spent. "It's good to help people with their dreams," he says.

Jordan is happy to do her part.

"I honestly felt it was God's money for me to pass on to other people," Jordan says. "It's not possible to give without receiving. And what I received immediately is joy."


At first, Jonas Ganz figured he'd go the traditional charity route, helping those with basic needs.

But his friends are trying to raise $25,000 to build the Seven Hills Skate Park in Amman, Jordan — the city where Ganz spent most of his youth — and pitching in to make that happen, he says, seemed "the right thing to do."

As a teen, Ganz whiled away many hours on Amman's Thaqafa Street, darting, weaving and zipping along on his skateboard.

He says he knows there are more urgent needs in life, but doing good is about more than tending to the essentials.

"If I were to put food in someone's mouth for a week, a week later that person would be hungry," he says. "This project has the potential to have a lasting impact on the community. ... It's something they can invest in, have a passion for, cultivate a skill and just enjoy." Park organizers hope to set up a free-loaner program for kids who can't afford skateboards.

Ganz, whose Swiss-German parents were teachers in Jordan and now help Syrian refugees there, also likes what this program says about his church. "They're putting their money where their mouth is," he says. "It really demonstrates the level of trust the leaders have in us."

Ganz donated $450 to the skateboard park — the rest to World Vision, a Christian international relief agency.

Now a junior at Moody Bible Institute, Ganz, 20, is returning to Jordan this winter to study Arabic.

His athletic days are temporarily on hold; he recently had knee surgery for a soccer injury.

But when Ganz packs up his gear, he'll include a favorite possession: his skateboard.


Kristin Hu was inspired by her grandmother, Irene, who died in June.

When Hu received her $500, she remembered how her grandmother worked until she was 80, giving private piano lessons, using her savings to help her eight grandchildren pay for college.

As a political science teacher at Lakeview High School, a melting pot of ethnicities, Hu decided she wanted to help some kids who don't have a guardian angel: the Dreamers, those young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children without legal permission, raised here and now going public, fighting to stay.

Hu, 29, was moved after hearing an impassioned speech by Lucy, a young accomplished Mexican-born Dreamer in her class, who spoke of how she and others like her want to attend college but don't qualify for financial aid because of their status.

"They have amazing potential but our country isn't investing in them the way they should," Hu says. "Many of them are so motivated and such leaders in the school. They've really touched me."

Hu plans to give $500 to a Dreamer organization or start a scholarship foundation for the kids.

LaSalle's program, she says, also made her think beyond this one donation.

"Why can't I contribute more to the causes I care about?" she says. "What's holding me back from being a more generous person? What about next year? There will be the same need then. There's always going to be a need. ... It's important to remember the responsibility of paying it forward and giving back."

She credits her grandmother for setting her on the right path.

"I think this is living out her legacy," Hu says. "I'd like to be there for someone else."


Rosemary Baker stashed her $500 check under a book at home, trying to decide who should get it.

"It felt like just such a big burden to do the right thing," she says.

Baker and her husband, Erik, who had his own $500, were looking for a large charitable organization with a noble cause. "We didn't even want to think about something close to us. We felt it might be too small."

Then two crises changed everything.

One involved a woman Baker calls "my little sister,'" a former student she'd mentored while teaching at a Catholic elementary school.

Baker watched as her friend, now in her 30s, depleted her banking accounts to pay for her grandmother's funeral and worried about the pressures she'd face now that her extended family would be turning to her for support. "I was trying to help her understand not all the responsibilities were hers," Baker says.

Her friend always puts her family first and neglects her own needs, so Baker made her promise to use the $500 to take care of herself. "I felt it was God calling me to give her the money," she says. "She couldn't really deny that."

The Bakers' other $500 went to another friend who'd recently lost his marketing job and has been trying to support his family working at a car-sharing service. "They're really private and didn't want any handouts. ... We kept telling them this isn't our money. It was a gift."

Baker says helping those close to them was the right decision.

"It was powerful just to be able to be the gift-giver," she says, "be part of that moment and see that the impacts of seemingly small gestures were huge."


Randy Dill was almost in a panic to find the right place for his donation — and do it quickly. "I wanted a 100 percent return on my investment," he says.

But then he slowed down to conduct a careful search for a place to help the unemployed and those trying to boost their skills to earn more money.

Dill, a 36-year-old supervisor at a suburban Chicago assembly plant, eventually settled on the Jane Addams Resource Corporation. The nonprofit helps low-income people with worker training, financial coaching and other services so they can be self-sufficient.

Dill's wife, Erika, a human resources manager, had recommended the nonprofit after she'd recruited machinists from there. He visited the program and liked its all-encompassing approach to keeping people out of poverty.

His wife had another idea for using her $500: to help needy families at their daughters' public school buy winter clothes for their kids.

"What the money did for us was help open our eyes to some things that we take granted," Dill says. "This was a not-so-subtle reminder how fortunate we are and those things that we have, such as good health, are blessings that are so easy to ignore."

And that return on investment?

Dill hopes the hundreds of church donations will eventually pay bigger dividends.

"This was a moment that kind of defines the congregation," he says. "I have no idea how this will look five or 10 years from now. I think we're all reading a book and nobody knows how this thing will end."


Sharon Cohen, a Chicago-based national writer, can be reached at National Writer Martha Irvine contributed to this report.

25 Thanksgiving Jokes That Will Get You Through Dinner With Your Family

Mon, 2014-11-24 09:35
If returning to your hometown, having dinner with your extended family and eating yourself into a food coma aren't your bag, Thanksgiving can be a little uncomfortable. Luckily, these comedians know exactly how you feel.

We rounded up 25 of the best musings on Turkey Day so you can crack a smile when your drunk uncle wants to talk about politics or your parents decide to break out those photos from your awkward years.

Check them out below, and when your aunt asks you why you're looking at your phone under the dinner table, just tell her you're posting on Facebook about how good her mashed potatoes are.

America's Infrastructure Disinvestment Will Slow the Development of a Sustainable Economy

Mon, 2014-11-24 08:16
This is the 50th anniversary of New York's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the span that connects Staten Island with Brooklyn. As a child growing up in Brooklyn I remember watching its towers rise as if by magic. I always connected it with the 1964 World's Fair which took place the same year the bridge opened, thinking they were both signs of the dazzling modern world that we would all get to live in. The bridge remains as beautiful as ever, although it eventually led to a great deal of poorly planned development in Staten Island, and its rising tolls remain a source of frustration to many who need to use it. Still, like New York's third water tunnel and the Second Avenue Subway it is a sign of New York's willingness to invest in the future. Infrastructure in a place like New York is a matter of survival. The City's $20 billion climate resiliency plan includes major improvements in critical pieces of the City's infrastructure, and the need for this investment transcends politics.

But unfortunately New York is an exception; throughout America, disinvestment in infrastructure is far more typical. America's focus seems to be on individual spending, not investment in community resources. We refuse to tax ourselves and the signs of neglect are everywhere. Our airports are second-rate, our roads are crumbling, our rail system is a joke, and our power grid is inefficient and a long way from the smart grid we will need to make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. According to an article in The Economist earlier this year:

America saw two great booms in infrastructure spending in the past century, the first during the Great Depression... and the second in the 1950s and 60s, when most of the interstate highway system was. Since then, public infrastructure spending as a share of GDP has declined to about half the European level.

One of our deepest problems is that the federal gasoline tax was not established as a percentage of the price of gasoline, but as a set amount of cents per gallon. It has not kept up with inflation, and the federal highway trust fund which once built the interstate highway system does not have enough money in it to maintain the system already built.

The problem is not simply with highways and is not limited to the federal government; the problem is reduced public investment by all levels of government. This past June, in, Andrew Flowers made sense of the situation in an excellent analysis entitled: "America's Broken Infrastructure." According to Flowers:

Quantifying infrastructure investment is a challenge, but one place to start is by looking at the amount of money the government spends on buildings and large-scale projects. Nationwide, public construction spending is just over 1.5 percent of GDP -- the lowest share since 1993. Public construction does not exactly equate with infrastructure investment, but it's a fair proxy...Most of the money spent on building schools, highways and waste disposal facilities comes from state and local governments, not from the federal government. As of April 2014, more than 90 percent of the $267 billion spent by the public sector (at a seasonally adjusted annual rate) was at the state and local levels...

Flowers believes the cause of state and local disinvestment is fiscal stress from three sources:
  1. The 2008 financial meltdown and Great Recession. State and local debt as a percentage of GDP grew from 12% in 2000 to over 20% in 2010, declining to about 17% last year. The high level of state and local debt service has made these governments reluctant to borrow more for infrastructure.

  2. Pension obligations for retired government workers.

  3. The dysfunction in Washington that has endangered the highway trust fund. The federal highway trust fund typically distributed between $40-50 billion a year, but is now essentially broke.

America's fundamental problem is that anti-tax ideology has become an anti-investment reality. We would rather pay for high-definition TV's and new iPhones than invest in the cost of community resources. We don't trust our institutions to deliver what they promise, and so we have lost our ability to build for the future or even maintain the infrastructure we built in the past.

To get out of this box we will need the Republican Party to enact state taxes for infrastructure. Starting in January 2015, 67 of the 98 state legislatures that permit partisan control will be run by Republicans. Twenty-four states will be controlled by both Republican governors and Republican legislatures compared to six states controlled by Democrats. Therefore, at the state level, the Republican Party is now the majority party in the United States. Republicans now hold the responsibility for the nation's crumbling infrastructure. Unfortunately, there is no chance that they will raise the revenues needed for rebuilding. Many of them came to office fighting new taxation, and they tend to be committed to reducing rather than increasing government spending.

Moreover, right-wing think tanks like the Cato Institute reinforce anti-government ideology by redefining infrastructure itself, and opposing increased public spending. In a fascinating 2013 analysis of the issue entitled, "Infrastructure Investment," Chris Edwards observes that: "The word "infrastructure" generally refers to long-lived fixed assets that provide a backbone for other production and consumption activities in the economy." He then defines private infrastructure so expansively that he includes investment in private factories. According to Edwards:

Most of America's infrastructure is provided by the private sector, not governments. In 2012 gross fixed private investment was an enormous $2 trillion, according to national income accounts data. That includes investment in factories, pipelines, refineries, cell phone towers, and many other facilities. By contrast, total federal, state, and local government infrastructure investment in 2012 was $472 billion. Excluding national defense, government investment was $367 billion. Thus, private infrastructure investment in the United States is five times larger than total nondefense government investment.

Edwards believes that the public sector tends to waste the money it spends on infrastructure and there would be more infrastructure investment if we just privatized everything. He denies that we have a problem with infrastructure and notes that highway maintenance and bridge quality is improving. (I'm not sure where he drives, but it can't be in this country). It is very difficult to address the problem of crumbling infrastructure when it is defined away, or seen as a function of overregulation by government. The problem is underinvestment, not overregulation.

Susanne Trimbath takes a more sophisticated but also expansive conception of infrastructure in her U.S. Chamber of Commerce analysis entitled: "Economic Infrastructure: building for prosperity." In her view, "infrastructure is not the end result of economic activity, rather it is the framework that makes economic activity possible." Trimbath examines the impact of public infrastructure investment on economic growth. Generally speaking it has a positive impact on growth when it is either not accompanied by regulation or is accompanied by predictable, but flexible rules. Trimbath observes that one of the problems we see everywhere is that those providing capital like to set rules, and sometimes on the ground those rules can lead to costly mistakes. Her analysis is not ideological, but rather seeks to identify the best way to fund and structure cost-effective infrastructure. She is not opposed to public infrastructure expenditure, she just wants to make sure that it pays off. In the past year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce went on record in support of an increase in the gas tax. America's businesses seem to be in favor of paved highways.

What I took from Trimbath's work was that we must transcend the left-wing ideology that government must "build baby build" and the right wind ideology that "only the private sector knows how to build" and approach the real, more complex issue. All infrastructure is not created equal. Some deliver pure public goods that cannot be priced by the market, require subsidies and involve issues of social equity, such as the infrastructure that delivers water or that transports motor vehicles. In contrast, some infrastructure is designed to help a private business build and operate a facility, like an entrance ramp from an interstate to a Home Depot and Costco. Some infrastructure is a good investment of public debt; some is not. A convention center or stadium is less essential than a water tunnel, sewage treatment plant, a bridge, a port or an air traffic control facility. Some infrastructure investments pay off faster than others. Some will always require a subsidy.

My concern is that the anti-tax ideology of the day is removing the public's voice in influencing the long-term shape of economic development. My particular fear is that the public resources needed to hasten the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy will be impossible to generate. I see a federal investment in smart grid design and implementation as the modern-day equivalent of the interstate highway project of the mid-20th century. Similar funding is needed to manage our water supply and waste management system and to update our transport system. The capital needed will come from many sources, but if government is not a major contributor it either will not happen or it will happen in a way that reduces access and opportunities for America's middle and working class.

A just society requires equality of access to information, energy, transport and economic opportunity. Capitalism will ensure that outcomes and the odds of success will remain unequal. That is the cost of a system that rewards individual achievement; the benefit is the productive economy many of us enjoy. However, only government can ensure that everyone has access to opportunity. Public funding of infrastructure is a critical element of that access. In my home city, everyone can ride the subway from home to work. My late grandfather could take the subway from his home in East New York to his job as a baker. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg took the same system from his townhouse to City Hall. Without that subway, my grandfather could not have gotten to work, my father and his brothers wouldn't have attended college, and I would not have had the opportunity to write this piece.

Marijuana Industry Sets Its Sights On The Mainstream

Mon, 2014-11-24 06:31
Marijuana is growing up. As Colorado and Washington’s recreational marijuana industries blossom and new markets in Oregon and Alaska begin to take shape, so-called ganjapreneurs are looking for ways to take cannabis mainstream. Before long, they hope, marijuana products will be as widely available as alcohol -- and just as socially acceptable.

“Ideally, I would like to see the 21-to-35 year-old taking a four-pack of these to a barbecue,” Joe Hodas, chief marketing director for the marijuana product manufacturer Dixie, said earlier this year of the company's new watermelon cream-flavored "elixir," Dixie One. The drink contains five milligrams of THC -- just enough to produce a subtle buzz.

“This is a full experience in a bottle, much like beer," Hodas said. "Sometimes they’ll want a beer, sometimes they’ll want two or three beers. This sort of affords you that calibration."

Since starting in 2010, Colorado-based Dixie has developed a wide array of marijuana products, from THC-infused chocolates to concentrated cannabis for e-cigarettes. Many of its offerings are aimed at experienced marijuana users with high tolerances -- the company's top seller is a line of elixirs containing 75 milligrams of THC. Lower-dose products are proving increasingly popular, however.

“It’s been selling really surprisingly well,” Hodas told The Huffington Post recently of Dixie One. “In some of our stores, it had been outselling our 75 mg elixir. We were going to be happy if it sold decently well, but it was outselling in some cases. That said to us, we were correct, there is a market for that consumer.”

Encouraged by the success of Dixie One, the company is focusing on casual cannabis consumers. This week, Dixie released another low-dose product, a mint that releases THC directly into the bloodstream as it dissolves in the mouth.

“I think the low-dose consumer is an expansion demographic for us,” Hodas said. “It’s my belief that the core marijuana user is a small circle, and in a much larger surrounding circle is the casual user and a much larger market.”

At the moment, the recreational cannabis industry is limited to Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon. Marijuana advocates and business owners say it's only a matter of time before more states follow, bringing cannabis products like Dixie One to store shelves and backyard barbecues across America. More than 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and this month voters in Washington, D.C., approved a referendum to legalize recreational use in the nation's capital.

Already, Colorado and Washington state illustrate how cannabis is shedding its stoner image and entering mainstream culture. Marijuana products have been featured prominently in gourmet dinners and in cooking seminars in both states. The drug has become a fashionable substance to offer as a celebratory toast at weddings. Yoga enthusiasts can seek zen at marijuana-fueled classes.

Earlier this year, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra held a “Classically Cannabis” fundraiser, where well-heeled attendees sipped drinks, shook hands and smoked pot from joints, vaporizers and glass pipes, while a brass quintet played Debussy, Bach, Wagner and Puccini.

"Cannabis is being elevated into the pantheon of refined and urbane inebriants, no different than boutique rye or fine wine," said Matt Gray, the publisher of a new gourmet marijuana cookbook.

A number of worrying episodes have accompanied the legal high, however. In March, a 19-year-old college student leapt to his death from a hotel balcony in Denver after eating marijuana-infused cookies. In April, police said a Denver man shot his wife to death after he said he had eaten marijuana candy and prescription pills.

Hospital officials in Colorado have said that they have been treating a growing number of adults and children who have consumed marijuana products, whose potency can be hard to judge.

State laws in Colorado and Washington already require a “serving” of THC in an edible marijuana product to be limited to 10 milligrams -- about the amount in a medium-sized joint. (The rules in Alaska and Oregon have not yet been set.) Some products, such as candy bars, may contain multiple servings, however, and package labels do not always include serving size or dosage information.

To address these issues, Colorado and Washington officials, and representatives of the cannabis industry, are finalizing new regulations that will require clearer labeling and childproof packaging. And, much like the alcohol industry encourages consumers to "drink responsibly," the makers of marijuana products are taking steps to educate customers and encourage responsible consumption.

“I think the idea of being proactive with our messaging -- being safe and responsible with our messaging -- we’re trying to do that now early on, versus being told to do that after the fact,” Hodas said.

“We are concerned about the uneducated consumer who may have a bad experience with edibles, because that means they may not use our products in the future," Hodas added. "So educating that consumer and making sure they know how to use them is of great importance to Dixie and the rest of the industry."

To that end, Dixie, like most marijuana product companies, has detailed information its website about how to enjoy its products. The industry at large has launched an educational campaign, aptly named ”Consume Responsibly,” with advice about preventing and responding to over-consumption or accidental consumption, as well as other detailed information about cannabis products, their effects and the laws that govern their possession, sale and use.

Recognizing that Colorado's marijuana laws are luring tourists to the state, the inaugural billboard for the campaign in Denver encouraged moderation and patience. “Don’t let a candy bar ruin your vacation," the sign read. "With edibles, start low and go slow.”

"We are aiming to boost the industry's image by removing negative stereotypes and stigmas, while promoting education surrounding the many uses of cannabis,” said Olivia Mannix, co-founder of Cannabrand, an ad agency representing marijuana-related businesses. “We feel that the public image of cannabis ultimately influences policy makers and is crucial for widespread legalization.”

Still, getting the message -- and brands -- in front of the public has been a challenge for marijuana companies. State laws ban advertisements on television or billboards that directly market marijuana products. Google, Facebook and Twitter refuse to accept marijuana advertising on their websites.

While marijuana businesses may have dreams of mass market sales and global domination, for the moment, they seem to be taking the "go slow" approach.

“The eyes of the world are on us right now, and how we handle that spotlight will go a long way in shaping public opinion about legal marijuana,” Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told HuffPost. “Our businesses and our people are committed to building an industry we can be proud of. That means no shortcuts and none of the leeway that plenty of other industries out there get."

Her appeal to the marijuana industry is simple: “The future of this industry depends on the present -- don’t screw it up.”

Jeff Flake Urges Republicans To Move On From Benghazi

Sun, 2014-11-23 10:28
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) thinks it's probably time for Republicans to drop their fixation on Benghazi.

The senator was asked during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday about the House Intelligence Committee's findings from its two-year investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. The committee, which released its findings on Friday, concluded that there was no evidence that the Obama administration tried to cover up the deaths of the four Americans who died in that attack.

The report was a blow to Republican claims that the administration knowingly lied about what happened in Benghazi. Susan Rice, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has been accused of deliberately misleading the American public when she appeared on the Sunday talk shows after the attack.

Flake said on Sunday that he thought Republicans needed to move on from the Benghazi issue.

"I always thought the biggest problem with Benghazi is how it was cast by the administration, and the remarks of Susan Rice just really flew in the face of what we knew was going on," he said. "But with regard to other things that were addressed by this report, yes, I've thought that for a long time we ought to move beyond that."

Although previous reports have also cleared Rice and the administration of deliberate wrongdoing, Friday's findings were significant because they came from a Republican-controlled committee in Congress.

The committee's report concluded that Rice's talking points, which portrayed the attack as being sparked over anger at an Internet video, were indeed inaccurate, but her comments were not a result of a cover-up attempt. The report stated that even days after Rice delivered the talking points on television, the CIA was still sorting out what had happened.

"Based on the testimony and the documents we reviewed, we concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes," said committee chair Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) in a joint statement Friday. "Their actions saved lives."

But it doesn't seem like Republicans will be rushing to follow Flake's lead. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said during an interview Sunday with CNN's "State of the Union" that he didn't buy the committee's findings. Graham said the report was "full of crap."

"That's a bunch of garbage. That's a complete bunch of garbage," the senator said when host Gloria Borger pointed to the report's conclusion that no one in the administration had lied.

"Why is the Republican chairman on the House Intelligence Committee buying a bunch of garbage?" Borger asked in response.

"Good question," said Graham.

Want more updates from Amanda? Sign up for her newsletter, Piping Hot Truth.

Enter your email address:

10 Foods Overweight People Eat Regularly

Sun, 2014-11-23 07:30

Not all foods are created equal when it comes to the impact on body weight. Some are higher in calories than others. Others are tougher to eat in small portions. Still others are both rich in calories and impossible to consume in small amounts—which spells double trouble for the waistline.

So when you load up on these foods day after day, it’s not surprising that your weight goes up. Portion control is the best solution but there are ways to enjoy these foods in more healthy ways. Here are 10 foods that overweight people eat every day:

Read more from
5 most common nutritional deficiencies in people over 50
6 easy tricks to help you stop overeating
Is organic food really better for you?

These Adorable Beagles Got A Second Chance, But Their Story Is Part Of A Much Bigger Problem

Sat, 2014-11-22 13:28
Few things prompt you to grab a hankie quite like seeing adorable animals taste freedom for the first time.

On Wednesday, a CBS affiliate in Chicago shared the story of four beagles getting a new lease on life after being released from unnamed research labs into the care of the Beagle Freedom Project, an animal advocacy group.

The four beagles -- Casper, Jack, Bandit and Sparky -- were freed in April and were fostered and ultimately adopted by families in the Chicago area. And while Shannon Keith, president and founder of the Beagle Freedom Project, said the animals are happily adjusting to their new homes, the conditions they left behind are still a reality for thousands of animals that have yet to be released.

Beagle Freedom Project workers hold the "Chicago Four" released earlier this year.

"Animal testing is still as big as it ever was," Keith told The Huffington Post. "There are hundreds of thousands of animals in the U.S. being tested. Every animal you can think of is being used -- rats to rabbits, to dogs and cats, horses, goats, pigs."

Beagles are the most common dog breed used for animal testing because they're "docile, friendly and forgiving," Keith said.

"They will not bite a researcher when they’re being injected or having a tube being put down their throat," she explained. "They're also the perfect size -- not too big and not too small."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was unable to immediately provide the total number of animals currently being used in lab testing, although CBS, citing 2012 USDA figures, reported that an estimated 70,000 beagles are used in U.S. research labs.

In the Chicago area alone, the pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories (whose medical research is now handled by AbbVie) had 1,286 dogs as of 2012, according to CBS. In 2013 the University of Illinois had 751 dogs, while the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology had 129 and 114, respectively. As of this year, the Deerfield, Illinois-based health care company Baxter had 16 dogs, according to CBS.

Calls to AbbVie and Baxter seeking comment about the number of animals they currently use in testing, and the conditions of their laboratories, were not immediately returned. No one at the various schools' laboratories was immediately available to comment.

Casper enjoys a birthday celebration the Fosters threw for him after his rescue.

Jaime Foster of Naperville, Illinois was among the people to adopt one of the "Chicago Four" this spring. She told The Huffington Post that all she knows of Casper's former life is that he came from a pharmaceutical company in the area and that he was used in medical testing.

"He's pretty amazing," Foster said of Casper, now 5 years old. "When we picked him up [from the shelter after his release], the other beagles were so skittish and frightened. But his tail was wagging and he was ready -- like he was just ready for the world.”

Still, Foster said, a lifetime spent in a testing lab had left its mark. Casper's teeth were in bad shape, and TV, music and loud noises "really freaked him out."

"He still has nightmares, and you can only imagine what's going through his little head," Foster said.

Keith said that the Beagle Freedom Project often takes in former lab animals that are in Casper's condition -- or worse.

"Even when we get them as puppies, their teeth are falling out and we have to do extractions because the food quality is so poor,” she said. The dogs rescued by Keith's group have commonly been fed “laboratory chow,” a kind of food engineered to make them produce as little waste as possible.

“Coats are usually very dull and falling out," said Keith. "They often have ear infections, and pads of the paws are usually inflamed from standing on wire cages all the time."

Many times, Keith said the dogs don't get to see one another and are given "zero enrichment" in the lab.

"When we get them, they don’t even know how to eat out of a bowl," she said. "They’ve never seen a treat or a toy."

But most heartbreaking, she said, is the silence.

"Eighty percent of the beagles we get have had their vocal cords cut," Keith said. "The [laboratory] techs don’t want to be disturbed by the crying, howling and barking.”

After they're rescued, it's not uncommon for the dogs to pace in circles or even have seizures.

Sparky is one of the "Chicago Four" beagles freed in Illinois earlier this year by the Beagle Freedom Project.

Though the USDA has some guidelines for the treatment of lab animals under the Animal Welfare Act of 1966, Keith said that many of the statutes, like daily breaks for the animals, are difficult to enforce.

Most labs receive dogs from facilities that breed them specifically for laboratory use, though Keith said some labs have also started to breed their own animals to save money. The beagles that Keith's group cares for begin undergoing lab testing as early as five weeks old. They're released weeks, months or years later, once they're considered "spent" by lab testing, unless they are euthanized first. (According to the U.S. Humane Society, "the majority" of lab animals in America are euthanized rather than released, although the actual figures are unclear.)

Sue Leary, president of the American Anti-Vivisection Society, a 131-year-old group that aims to end medical and cosmetic testing on animals, said that while testing cosmetics on animals in the U.S. happens less often than it used to, pharmaceutical testing is still common.

"Pharmaceutical companies have two reasons to test. They want to see if [the drugs] are effective. And the FDA wants to know if there are going to be toxic side effects," Leary told The Huffington Post. "A lot of what pharmaceutical companies are testing for is for the benefit of the regulatory agencies -- toxic effect to the liver is a big one -- but the regulatory agencies are still interested in seeing data from the animal tests."

Yet despite the testing demands, Leary said that many pharmaceutical companies are actively looking to embrace non-animal alternatives, such as computer modeling and testing of human cells and tissues.

“Computer modeling is crazy-fabulous," Leary said. "Once you have these test results, you can use them to model other situations. A lot of what we’re funding is computer modeling.”

“As far as the dominance of alternative methods, I absolutely believe it’s not 'if,' it’s 'when,'” Leary continued. "But if I’m that poor little soul sitting in a cage, it’s not happening fast enough.”

See more photos of the "Chicago Four" below.

Obama Quietly Broadens Mission In Afghanistan

Fri, 2014-11-21 23:01

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, broadening previous plans that had limited the military to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after this year, U.S. officials said late Friday.

The president's decisions also allow the military to conduct air support for Afghan operations when needed. Obama issued the guidelines in recent weeks, as the American combat mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, thousands of troops return home, and the military prepares for narrower counterterrorism and training mission for the next two years.

Obama's moves expand on what had been previously planned for next year. One U.S. official said the military could only go after the Taliban if it posed a threat to American forces or provided direct support to al-Qaida, while the latter could be targeted more indiscriminately.

"To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al-Qaida, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe," the official said.

The Taliban's presence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of al-Qaida, adding significance to Obama's authorization. The president's decision came in response to requests from military commanders who wanted troops to be allowed to continue to battle the Taliban, the U.S. officials said.

The New York Times first reported the new guidelines. Officials confirmed details to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama's decisions by name.

The decision to expand the military's authority does not impact the overall number of U.S. troops that will remain in Afghanistan. Earlier this year. Obama ordered the American force presence to be cut to 9,800 by the end of this year, a figure expected to be cut in half by the end of 2015.

The president wants all U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan a year later, as his presidency draws to a close.

Some of the Obama administration's planning for the post-2014 mission was slowed by a political stalemate in Afghanistan earlier this year. It took months for the winner of the country's presidential election to be certified, delaying the signing of a bilateral security agreement that was necessary in order to keep U.S. forces in the country after December.

In Kabul, officials with the Afghan Defense Ministry declined to comment Saturday, while officials with the presidency could not be reached.

However, Afghan military analyst Jawed Kohistani said the move likely would be welcomed as President Ashraf Ghani's new administration upon taking office immediately signed a deal with the U.S. to allow a residual force of 12,000 foreign troops in the country.

"We have heard from many military officers who are involved in direct fighting with the Taliban and other insurgents that still there is a need for more cooperation, there is need for an ongoing U.S. combat mission and there is need for U.S. air support for the Afghan security forces to help them in their fight against the insurgents," Kohistani said.


Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.

6 Reasons Boomers Fail At Online Dating

Fri, 2014-11-21 22:06
What's with boomers and online dating? The generation that toppled a president, ended a war and preached free love seems to be floundering when it comes to finding romance online. The one refrain we keep hearing from boomers is this: They don't want to fly solo into aging and yet the main avenue that other generations are taking -- finding their mates online -- seems to be filled with potholes for them. We turned to dating coach and author Ken Solin, who recently published "The Boomer Guide To Finding True Love Online," for some ideas about what we are doing wrong. Here's what he said:

1. We don't stick to people our own age.
Those who are serious about finding life mates, don't date people the age of their kids, says Solin. Why? Because partners from different generations have different tastes, values and don't share cultural reference points. In short, you really have nothing in common and are likely just caught up in the idea that someone so much younger is willing to sleep with you. If you want a lasting relationship, find someone your own age, Solin says.

Solin's words were born out by a recent Emory University study that showed the larger the age gap, the greater the chance of a marriage ending in divorce. A five-year age gap statistically means you are 18 percent more likely to divorce (versus just 3 percent with a one-year age difference). That rate rises to 39 percent for a 10-year age difference and 95 percent for a 20-year age gap, reported MoneyWatch.

Said Solin: "The biggest mistake newly single boomer men make getting back into dating is chasing younger women. Reasons abound, but here are two popular myths: Young women are easier to date because they’re not jaded and boomer women are bitter and angry. Neither is true. Besides, do you really want to have to explain that Paul McCartney wasn’t always a solo act and that the Jefferson Airplane never flew anywhere?"

Here's another reality: Young women generally want to have children, which for most boomer men means a second family, started at an age when they may not live long enough to watch them grow up.

2. We aren't emotionally honest about what we want.
Some boomers -- mostly men -- are just looking for casual sex, says Solin. That's fine, he said, but these people need to be upfront about it. In fact, we all should be upfront about whatever it is we want. Don't waste your time or someone else's by pretending to be in it for the long haul when you aren't. And don't deny that what you want is marriage or a long-term commitment. The point is: In the end, everyone's goals need to match up or someone gets hurt.

While we're talking honesty, says Solin, don't lie about your age either. "Being dishonest about anything is a red flag," he said. The truth will come out eventually. Trust is defined by integrity. He notes that if you believe you are too old to date successfully online without lying about your age, you probably are. But, he notes, it's your unwillingness to be honest that's the problem, not your age.

3. Put your libido on hold.
Boomers, and men in particular, just out of long-term relationships are sometimes eager to become sexually active again, says Solin. But the last thing a newly single boomer needs is to become embroiled in another disaster, and sexually fueled rocket rides practically guarantee failure. "We’ve all been hurt by crashed-and-burned sexual rockets, and getting older doesn’t make healing easier," he says. Besides, the best sex imaginable is in a relationship in which partners are also best friends, which, while contrary to what boomer guys whose heads are still in the 60s believe, is absolutely true.

4. Post a good current photo.
Don't post a photo that doesn't look like you. You will eventually be meeting these people in person, so what's the point? "A major gaffe that drives boomer daters crazy is a boomer who uses old photos in their online profile," says Solin. "It’s a smoke-and-mirrors approach to online dating that no one appreciates, and worse, old photos guarantee your first in-person date will fall apart quickly," he adds. We’re in an era where everyone is wary about being treated dishonestly. Using an old photo is lying, while honesty is refreshing.

And another thing: Please smile. Too many women hide behind big floppy hats and dark sunglasses in their photos and too many have gloomy looks instead of smiles. And men? Guilty of the same mistakes. Most online dating prospects want to see a full-length shot, so post it. It's fine to include photos of your children, pets, and grandkids. Just no baseball caps or frowns.

5. Don't keep celebrating Groundhog Day.
In other words: Stop dating the same person with different names. Solin says that this one took him a long time to overcome too. "I dated the same short, blonde, curvy, ski-jump-nosed woman with different names for a decade before waking up to the fact that I was intentionally eliminating the majority of prospects. I met my partner as soon as I became open to other types. And I wasn’t her physical type either, but when we met we both felt the earth move a bit. Typecasting only works in the movies, because if it actually worked for you, you’d already be in a long-term relationship with someone who’s your type," he says.

6. Stop trying to be anyone but yourself.
The notion that the only way to attract dates is to present yourself as someone other than who or what you really are is badly flawed, and reflects low self-esteem. It won’t take long before the man or woman you’re dating to figure out the truth. Besides, if you don’t feel good about yourself, no one you date is going to feel good about you either. "The old bromide, there’s someone for everyone, is more true than not, so be yourself, because the trick to successful dating is finding someone as much like you as possible. [The idea that] opposites attract is nonsense," believes Solin.

Have you had luck with online dating? Let us know in comments.

Students: University Of Chicago's Racist Halloween Costume Controversy Is Part Of A Larger Problem

Fri, 2014-11-21 17:30
Students at the University of Chicago say a recent controversy surrounding a racially insensitive Halloween costume is only a small part of the school's larger "culture of intolerance."

The controversy began when third-year Vincente Perez confronted a student dressed in a costume that stereotypes Mexicans and later spoke out over a photo he saw on social media featuring more students in similar getups. After he and other students of color presented their concerns in a letter to university officials and started a petition calling for greater cultural diversity and sensitivity on campus, Perez was named in a threatening Facebook update posted by a supposedly hacked account.

Federal authorities are reportedly investigating the Facebook post, but students say the school is not doing enough to address the broader concern that its campus is unsafe for students of color.

“I don’t feel comfortable being on this campus and I’m not comfortable with the response from the administration,” Perez told The Huffington Post. “There have been no clear ideas on actions that will happen.”

In response to the inflammatory Facebook posting, University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer and Provost Eric Isaacs issued a statement Wednesday, saying the Facebook post was “unacceptable and violates our core values.” The university is partnering with “federal law enforcement agencies and third-party website providers” to determine the source of the message and plans to pursue criminal prosecution and -- if the poster turns out to be a student or faculty member -- disciplinary action.

In a separate statement, issued later on Thursday, two more University of Chicago officials -- John Boyer, dean of the college, and Karen Warren Coleman, vice president for campus life and student services -- described the students’ concerns outlined in their initial letter and their petition as “serious and important” and acknowledged that the Facebook incident was “part of a larger pattern” the university is working to address.

“We know that members of the University community have experienced bias, insensitivity, and outright threats and discrimination,” the statement continued. “These situations are especially painful and frightening when they attack one’s identity. These events require our serious attention, both immediately and over time.”

Perez told HuffPost on Thursday that he is unimpressed with the administrators' statements. Other students who spoke to HuffPost agreed, saying the school could do more.

Fourth-year Jaime Sanchez, who created the petition, also criticized administrators for focusing primarily on the alleged Facebook hacking incident and not the other concerns that students of color have communicated.

“It shouldn’t be the case where we have to talk about these cases of extreme racism and bigotry … for the university to step up,” Sanchez told HuffPost.

A number of other racial incidents have taken place on the University of Chicago campus and drawn criticism in recent years, including the creation of a “Politically Incorrect UChicago Confessions” Facebook page and a Confederate flag being hung on campus. Critics of the university previously pointed out that no one ended up being punished for the past incidents, according to campus newspaper The Chicago Maroon.

A growing coalition of student and faculty groups are speaking out on the recent incident. A group of 41 faculty members signed a letter expressing solidarity with students critical of the university’s campus climate, saying that they “find the lack of a serious response [to racial incidents on campus] by the administration to be problematic.”

On Thursday, the school's Organization of Black Students also issued a statement of solidarity with “all victims of intolerance, marginalization, and targeted personal attacks” at the campus.

“While some may be inclined to perceive this most recent event as an isolated incident, this is instead the latest iteration of a historical trend of antagonism, symptomatic of a broader culture of intolerance,” the statement continued.

On Wednesday, Perez, Sanchez and other students of color held a demonstration inside the campus' busy Harper Reading Room. Sanchez said participants chanted “We are here, we are here” before reading from students' comments posted on the petition.

"Was your studying interrupted? Good. Our study environment is already disrupted." #WeAreHere #liabilityofthemind

— SJP U of Chicago (@SJPUChicago) November 19, 2014

Students are continuing the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #liabilityofthemind. A binder containing printouts of 1,500 of these hashtagged tweets was reportedly delivered to university administrators on Friday.

Apparently it's not enough to say "your institution isn't serving us and our specific needs and we are suffering" #liabilityofthemind

— Patty Fernandez (@PattyFerpi) November 21, 2014

This week I was told my claims that minority @UChicago students felt unsafe here were unsubstantiated. #liabilityofthemind

— Nissa Wan Ying (@HappyNiss) November 19, 2014

when an administrator tells you to "consider the image of the school" after your on-campus sexual assault. #liabilityofthemind #uchicago

— Nina Katemauswa (@lilyoftheflames) November 19, 2014

Sanchez told The Huffington Post he is hopeful their activism will result in substantive change at the university.

“I think we’re kind of making headway and showing administrators we’re not joking around, that this is a real problem that is not just present in these cases of extreme bigotry, but also present everyday in and out of the classroom,” he said.

Perez is feeling less confident.

“It’s disheartening that it took a very violent threat for people to care about what’s been happening to me and other students of color on this campus for years,” he said. “It shouldn’t take that for people to listen to our lived experiences. Until the university stops being reactionary in their response, these things will continue to happen.”

A University of Chicago spokesman declined to comment for this story.

Here Are Those Immigration Riots Tom Coburn Warned Us About

Fri, 2014-11-21 15:10
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), like many other Republicans in Congress, did not want President Barack Obama to announce deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants. But while most GOP critics merely expressed concerns about border security and presidential overreach, Coburn made a darker prediction: There would be rioting in the streets.

"The country's going to go nuts, because they're going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it's going to be a very serious situation," Coburn told USA Today. "You're going to see -- hopefully not -- but you could see instances of anarchy. ... You could see violence."

Despite this warning, Obama went ahead, announcing in a prime-time address Thursday that he would use his executive authority to help more than 4 million undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows and live in the United States legally.

Witness the carnage that followed, just as Coburn predicted:

Beverly Hills




Fort Worth


New York

San Francisco

Washington, D.C.

What do your streets look like now that Obama has made his immigration announcement? Tweet your photos with the hashtag #CoburnRiots and we'll check them out.

There was at least one small howl of protest, according to the Argus Leader, although it came before Obama spoke. When Darin McDonnel of South Dakota heard about the planned executive action, he went outside -- in the 19-degree Sioux Falls weather -- and held up a sign reading, "Obama is mocking our Constitution."

"I'm out here because I love this country," McDonnel said, "and I think our Forefathers were brilliant."

Johanna Barr, Kim Bellware, Jennifer Bendery, Janie Campbell, Matt Ferner, Ryan Grenoble, Kate Abbey-Lambertz, Grace Maalouf and Nico Pitney contributed reporting.

Want more updates from Amanda? Sign up for her newsletter, Piping Hot Truth.

Enter your email address:

Dem Governors Struggle To Overcome Opposition As Obama Embraces Executive Powers

Fri, 2014-11-21 15:08
WASHINGTON -- The six Democratic governors who face GOP-controlled state legislatures may be slightly jealous of President Barack Obama's ability to do things like go out on his own and protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

This past election's Republican wave resulted in a historic number of state legislative chambers dominated by the GOP. That sweep may be problematic for Democratic governors in Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, who will be much more limited than Obama in the executive remedies they can take in the next two years of their terms.

In comparison, Republican governors in just four states -- Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey -- will be forced to work with legislatures controlled by Democrats in 2015.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who was elected in 2013, campaigned on a promise to expand Medicaid for Virginia's residents. After failing to reach an agreement with the legislature over the program earlier this year, he announced a much more modest plan that would circumvent the legislature, while acknowledging his political options were limited.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock similarly wants to expand Medicaid and proposed a plan this week that would extend coverage to 70,000 people in the state. Though the Democrat was able to advance some of his proposals in the last legislative session because of a coalition of Democrats and self-described "responsible Republicans," the coming session's Republican leadership skews more conservative, and some GOP state lawmakers have already expressed hostility toward his new proposal.

Incoming Republican state Senate President Debby Barrett, however, told HuffPost on Friday that she is open to his Medicaid proposal, though she hasn't had a chance to read it yet.

"If it's a Montana solution, I'm willing to look at it," she said.

In West Virginia, where Republicans will control both state legislative chambers for the first time since the Great Depression, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and GOP legislative leaders have spoken about their willingness to cooperate on economic issues, as the more conservative Democrats and Republicans in the legislature have done in the past.

"In effect, other than Republicans now controlling the committees, you've been seeing an effective conservative majority for the past couple of years," Neil Berch, an associate professor of political science at West Virginia University, told HuffPost. "There's going to be a push from the Republicans in the legislature on cutting taxes and spending but I don't anticipate huge changes other than pressure on the budget."

"The governor and the legislature used more of the state's so-called 'rainy day fund' to balance the budget in the last session than I think Republicans wanted, so [Tomblin] is not going to be able to go that route again," Berch added.

Though Maggie Hassan's re-election in New Hampshire was a rare bright spot in an otherwise terrible election for Democratic gubernatorial candidates, she now must work with a Republican-controlled legislature, after the GOP captured the majority in the state legislature. Hassan may have a foe in the House's incoming speaker, Bill O'Brien, a tea party favorite with a history of making controversial statements about the Affordable Care Act and college-age voters.

One of the nation's more acrimonious legislative-executive relationships is in Missouri, where Gov Jay Nixon issued a record number of vetoes of Republican-backed legislation in the last session. The GOP kept its supermajorities in both legislative chambers, where it has already displayed its muscle in recent years by overriding his vetoes on legislation involving gun rights and abortion restrictions.

"The implication is that the Republican-controlled legislature can basically pass whatever policies it wants to pass, dare Nixon to issue a veto, and vote to override if he does," said Jon Rogowski, an assistant professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis.

And in Pennsylvania, the expectation is that incoming Gov. Tom Wolf, who routed Gov. Tom Corbett (R) earlier this month, will face similar challenges dealing with Republicans in the legislature. Wolf campaigned on promises to increase education funding, tax natural gas and make the wealthy pay higher taxes, but all of those aims could prove infeasible given the makeup of the legislature and the politics of the new Senate majority leader, who is considerably more conservative than his predecessor.

However, Wolf's fellow Democrats are optimistic that Republican legislators will be charmed by the new governor, who is expected to be more conciliatory than Corbett.

"Ironically, the Republican legislature is going to be looking forward to something they haven't had for four years -- a chief executive who is willing to sit down with them and listen," Jim Burn, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, told HuffPost. "There's obviously going to have to be give and take, what that give and take consists of remains to be seen."

"We're encouraged by the olive branches on both sides. Everybody's going into this with cautious optimism," he added.