Subscribe to CNC Huffpo feed
Chicago news and blog articles from The Huffington Post
Updated: 36 min 44 sec ago

Former Indiana governor explains what's wrong with Illinois

Fri, 2014-10-17 11:46
As Illinois moves ever-closer to decision time on finding a new governor, could our elected officials learn something from looking at our neighbors? Scott Reeder spoke with former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels about how he ran his state and his advice for his friends to the west.

From Reeder:

"I told my people early on in my administration that I wanted to build the best sandbox in America. I wanted to create an environment that encouraged the hiring of people and more investment in Indiana," he said. "I asked them to consider what they can do better, faster - or stop doing - to ensure that the next job comes here and not Illinois or some other state."

Daniels said focusing on improving the overall business climate has been the key to Indiana's success.

Daniels indicated Illinois and other states have become overly reliant on offering special incentives to select businesses.

Folks on the left call this practice "corporate welfare" and on the right they call it "crony capitalism."

Check out the rest of Daniels' tips for the state at Reboot Illinois.

No matter who wins in November or what tips they do or do not take from Daniels, the next governor will have to tackle questions about education. Andrew Broy, the president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, says Illinois' schools are at a critical juncture and aren't receiving the guidance they need.

From Broy:

The new report on Chicago charter school performance by the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity fails to provide accurate information at a critical time for public schools in our city. Unfortunately, the report is the latest in a long trend of policy preferences masquerading as research. With so much at stake in our struggle to improve Chicago's public schools, we must separate fact from fiction and truths from half-truths.

Read the rest of Broy's thoughts on Illinois charter schools at Reboot Illinois.

People Are Now Apparently Faking Ebola To Get Faster Medical Treatment

Fri, 2014-10-17 11:15
The Ebola hoaxes have begun.

Authorities in Columbus, Ohio, received a call around 9 p.m. Thursday, according to NBC's WCMH, claiming a local woman was suffering from Ebola-like symptoms. ABC's WSYX reported it was also claimed the woman had recently traveled to West Africa, where the Ebola outbreak has lead to almost 9,000 cases and 4,500 deaths.

Hazmat crews were sent to the woman's home, and she was taken to Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Isolation Unit, Columbus' WBNS reported.

Once there, officials discovered it had all been a hoax.

Jose Rodriguez of Columbus Public Health said the woman did not exhibit Ebola symptoms and had not traveled to West Africa, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Tracy Smith, a battalion chief with the local Fire Division, said the woman may have devised the story because she "simply wanted faster treatment for a different illness."

“We are trying to protect the community,” Rodriguez said, “and a hoax really wasted our resources.”

Police will investigate the incident, according to WBNS.

Hoaxes tend to occur in the midst of a health crisis or national tragedy, like the AIDS crises or the 9/11 attacks.

“The more widespread the tragedy, the more attention it gets in the press over a long period of time, the more likely it is that powerless individuals will see a way of establishing control in the worst kinds of ways,” Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University and author of many books about violence, previously told The Huffington Post. He said more Ebola hoaxes will likely happen in the coming months.

These 7 Pizza Styles Dominate the Midwest

Fri, 2014-10-17 10:26
Ask 10 people to tell you which region can lay rightful claim to pizza -- that illustrious, oozing, Italian-American disc over which we all obsess -- and you'll get 10 different answers. But we're not here to argue; we're here to educate! So we teamed up with World Champion Pizza Maker Tony Gemignani* and Roots co-founder Scott Weiner** to create the official Thrillist Regional Pizza Index, a multi-part series exploring the proud provincial pie persuasions that are found across the country (and the world). We started in the Northeast; now, the Midwest!

Chicago. It's what we talk about when we talk about Midwestern pizza, and rightly so: its deep-dish is a national treasure. But that's just one of the three (3!) pie-nnovations that The Chi has given the world, and beyond Windy City limits, there's an even vaster plain of perpetually overshadowed Midwestern 'za. From St. Louis to Detroit, and from The D to the Quad Cities, Chicago's deep-dish is surrounded on all sides by the lesser-known Midwest pizza hotbeds. Strap on your rust belt, kids.

More: Your Regional Guide to America's Greatest Pizzas: Northeast Edition!

Back-of-the-napkin report
Oven: Gas brick
Cheese(s): Whole or part-skim mozzarella
Key practitioners: Lou Malnati's; Art of Pizza; Pizzeria Uno and Due; Pizano's

Tony's take
If you had any doubts deep-dish was a heavy-hitter, Tony puts those to rest. "You're cooking [deep-dish] like you'd be cooking a cake", he says, with temperatures at the (relatively low) range of 450-520ºF. After oiling/buttering the round, black steel pan, the dough -- "traditionally... butter or lard, along with cornmeal, potato" -- gets tucked in, then loaded up with cheese. After that, it's on to toppings (sausage & spinach are popular) and sauce, usually "a blend of chunky with hand-crushed tomatoes".

Ingredients of greatness:

Credit: Grant Condon

This circular, jet-black steel pan is the proverbial vessel for which the pie is named. (But these days, not everyone uses it -- more on that later.)

In the city that brought you Abe Froman -- Sausage King of Chicago -- the de-cased meat is a go-to topping. But spinach is also popular... and delicious.

Whole or part-skim mozzarella is the dairy of choice for deep-dish. It's that richness that produces tasty, oozy moments like this one.

Don't you dare cook that sausage!
The deep-dish shown here is topped with spinach and sausage (it's hard to see!), but in Chicago, "'ingredients usually means 'sausage'", says Tony. "More importantly, raw sausage." The meat is either laid in patty form or squeezed from its casing, then baked concurrent with the 'za so it stays juicy and moist.

Credit: Grant Condon

Back-of-the-napkin report
Oven: Gas brick
Cheese(s): Wisconsin brick cheese (which is very real), plus white cheddar (sometimes)
Key practitioners: Buddy's; Cloverleaf; Niki's; Jet's; All these places

Tony's take
"The flavor profile" of the Detroit pie, Tony explains, "is sorta like mac & cheese -- that slightly burnt mac & cheese taste". That's because the edges of this rectangular Sicilian/cast-iron hybrid are crispy brown flanges of cheese that've been flash-caramelized by the searing heat from the pan's walls (more on that in a minute). "It's all about those burnt edges & corners. Everyone wants the corners. That's just life," he muses. "That's why I cut my Detroit [pies] into fourths -- so everyone gets a corner."

Ingredients of greatness:

Credit: Grant Condon

Detroit is deep-dish, sure. But it's a much spongier, air-filled crust than its Chicago counterpart, so you'll feel surprisingly not-awful eating multiple pieces.

"The red-top is just cheese with two racing stripes over the top," explains Tony. "You'll see some people finish those pies with Parm or Pecorino, and all toppings are normally placed under the cheese."

Pushed right out to the edges of the blue steel pan, the mozz & cheddar have no choice but to transform into tasty golden-brown stalagmites. These are the crowning glory of the Detroit deep-dish.

Blue steel pans are paramount
You can't cook one of these right-angled monstrosities in just any pan, by the way. The official vessel is a blue steel pan sourced from a small manufacturing company in West Virginia. "The blue steel... gets to a high, high heat, so it really burns the corners," says Tony. Wes Pikula, the general manager of Buddy's, told Detroit Free Press in 2011 that the pans "have a way of capturing the flavors in the metal", similar to a black skillet.

Skillets are intended for the kitchen, but apparently, blue steel pans were never supposed to be "pans" in the first place. In an odd twist of Motor City history, the manufacturer -- who inadvertently caused a pan shortage when it moved its operations to Mexico three years ago -- claimed in the same article that its blue steel pans were meant as small-parts trays for factory work, not for baking. No one's quite sure how they came to be a Detroit pizza essential, but they remain one to this day.

There's plenty more Midwest pizza styles, like Chicago Thin-Crust, St. Louis-Style, Quad Cities-Style, and much more -- all on Thrillist!

More from Thrillist:

The 33 best BBQ joints in America

33 of the Best, Most Iconic American Foods

Follow Thrillist on Twitter:

100-Year-Old Wrigley Field Reduced To Rubble As Renovations Begin

Fri, 2014-10-17 09:40
CHICAGO (AP) -- Construction equipment is starting to take big bites out of Wrigley Field's exterior outfield walls.

The demolition of the famous bleachers at the historic ballpark in Chicago is part of a project to build a large electronic sign and six other outfield signs.

Chicago Cubs spokesman Julian Green said Thursday that the affected walls won't be rebuilt for several weeks. He says the ivy-covered outfield wall will not be taken down.

The work is part of the Cubs' privately funded $575 million renovation project. The Cubs started the project despite a legal fight involving owners of rooftop businesses across the street.

Those businesses fear their views of the field will be blocked. They have sued the city.

(AP Photos/M. Spencer Green)

Man Suspected Of Shooting 2 Illinois Deputies Caught

Fri, 2014-10-17 09:35
CHICAGO (AP) -- A man suspected of shooting two sheriff's deputies in suburban Chicago was arrested Thursday after residents told investigators a man fitting the suspect's description was walking on a nearby street, authorities said.

McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren said Scott Peters, 52, did not resist arrest about two miles from his Holiday Hills home. Peters has not been charged yet.

Peters is suspected of firing "several rounds" from a rifle through the front door when deputies arrived at his home early Thursday in response to a request for a wellness check, Nygren said.

Peters fled, and his wife and child were in the home but unharmed, Nygren said.

One deputy was shot in the torso and leg, and was listed in serious condition after undergoing surgery at a nearby hospital, said Nygren, who noted the deputy was a 7-year veteran of the sheriff's office.

The second deputy, a 12-year veteran, was shot in the leg. She was listed in good condition, the sheriff said.

"We think they will recover," he said. "It will be a long road."

When the deputies arrived, Peters fired "several rounds through the door without opening it and kept firing through the open door," Nygren said.

Nygren said it was unclear how Peters escaped or where he may have hid before he was arrested. Peters was still wearing the shorts and T-shirt he had on in the morning, and all of the family's vehicles were accounted after the shooting, the sheriff said.

The weapon Peters allegedly used hasn't been recovered, although authorities said believe they know where it is.

Sheriff's deputies conducted a door-to-door after the shooting in Holiday Hills, a village with a population of about 600, to make sure residents were safe.

Authorities say about 250 officers from several jurisdictions - including the FBI and the U.S. Marshal Service - were involved in the search about 45 miles northwest of downtown Chicago.

Nygren said local police didn't have "much of a past history" with Peters. He said Peters is a military veteran, but didn't have details about his service history.

Nygren also said he did not know what Peters did for a living, saying only that he "may be on disability."

How Google Glass Apps Showcase the Potential of Wearable Educational Technology

Fri, 2014-10-17 09:09
Last month Google made its wearable Glass product available to the general public for the first time. While you no longer need to be an invited Google Glass Explorer to play around with the pioneering (albeit unfashionable) platform, you still need $1,500 to get one shipped to you from the Google Play Store.

It's unclear whether this high profile focus on wearable computing will come anywhere close to matching the success of Google's Android operating system. Many, including famed tech commentator Robert Scoble, believe that Glass is not ready for prime time and will ultimately sink like Google's once trendy Wave messaging platform.

Regardless of whether Google Glass will succeed, wearable technology -- sooner rather than later -- will profoundly impact learning. We are seeing how iPads, Android tablets, and Chromebooks are "flipping" traditional educational models by allowing students to view classroom lectures at home and reserving classroom time for personalized instruction. Apps created for these platforms can also assess real-time progress by individual and groups of students in ways that were never possible before.

We shouldn't forget that the technology that enables flipped learning and real-time personalization barely existed just five years ago. Things change fast. Understanding the potential ahead, app developers are reimagining how they can reach students, teachers and schools on devices that will literally be connected to us.

Until the Apple Watch comes out early next year, Google Glass will be the highest profile wearable computing device that doesn't count your steps or monitor your heartbeat. While the Google Glass app ecosystem is still in its embryonic stage (there are less than 100 apps developed specifically for use on Google Glass), it does offer some breadcrumbs in terms of how wearable technology will impact education.

Here are five areas where we can already see wearable technology's current and potential impact on education.

Personalized learning instruction and assessment
Assessment apps like Socrative -- available for the iPad, Android tablets, and Chromebooks -- allow teachers to see real-time analytics that show how well a student or groups of students are responding to any particular lesson at any particular time. The one thing any of these screen-based apps cannot do is simultaneously interpret student body language, which is an equally important signal to comprehension. Imagine a version of Socrative built on top of a Google Now framework, however, where a teacher can view quantitative comprehension data while also being able to look at any of their students in the eye.

Field trips and Career Training
The first-person broadcast capabilities of Google Glass, where users can record and/or transmit in real-time what they are hearing and seeing, will allow teachers to record and share virtual field trips like never before. From a narrated tour of an art or science museum, to showing elementary students a day in the life of a firefighter, to giving physics students lessons from a particle collider (buggy, but A for effort!), Glass will provide context to worlds outside the classroom. This understanding was previously unfathomable.

It's not that Glass and other wearable devices will teach students to be any more productive. The aim in this early stage is to create a vocabulary of gestures that allow users to harness everything they are tracking with the technology. From sharing a real-time video with the wink of an eye, to storing an audio file in Google Drive with a slight tilt of the head, users, developers and media companies are tinkering with the next generation of taps, zooms and two finger scrolls. Not surprisingly, Evernote is already staking a claim by investing considerably in this new platform. Expect others to dive in soon.

Language Learning
When Google acquired the game-changing technology of language translation app Word Lens, it had plans for applications not just confined to a touch screen. Through augmented reality, Word Lens quickly scans words in one language and translates them to another. It doesn't take too much imagination to predict how this -- and associated technologies that do the same for audio (see below) -- will impact multilingual communication in the near-term. Popular language-learning app Duolingo also has an official presence on Google Glass.

Serving students with audio and visual disabilities
Developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Captioning to Glass app converts audio spoken into a smartphone to captioning that will be visible to anyone wearing the device. Currently, the app is used to help anyone with a hearing disability refer back to words that were spoken and not picked up by reading lips or facial gestures. Conversely, the speaker has the chance to edit out "uhs," "ums" and other verbal tics. The same team is also working on a Translation to Glass product, that will aim to replicate the functionality of Word Lens for audio translation.

Highest-paid Illinois College Football Coaches

Fri, 2014-10-17 08:19
College football can be a huge money maker for schools. On top of being a way to generate revenue, good football teams can also help a school attract prospective students.

Football is essentially a major investment for colleges, and their board members are willing to shell out big bucks to hire and retain football coaches who can win and provide the maximum return on that investment. While football might not be as big in Illinois as it is in the South, particularly the Southeastern Conference -- where University of Alabama Head Coach, Nick Saban, made $5.4 million last year -- coaches at Illinois' public universities are still earning six-figure salaries.

Of Illinois' 12 public universities, six have football squads that compete in either the Division I-A (FBS) or I-AA (FCS) level. Since taxpayer dollars are on the hook for these salaries, take a look at what each coach is making, along with any additional compensation and bonus incentives. Contract details were obtained from each university through Freedom of Information Act Requests.

[Note: The NCAA changed its college football playoff rules, eliminating the Bowl Champion Series (BCS) system, which determined the top 25 rankings through a complex computer algorithm, and replaced it with selection committee consisting of experts responsible for issuing ranks. The Bleacher Report has more on these changes.]

Here are three of the coaches with the top Illinois football salaries.

6. Eastern Illinois University (FCS)

Coach Kim Dameron

Contract term: Jan. 11, 2014-Dec. 31, 2018
Base salary: $170,000
Additional compensation:
$500 automobile stipend
Base salary increase of $15,000 if employed through Sept. 1, 2017
Conference: Ohio Valley Conference
2013 season record: 12-2 (8-0 in OVC)

5. Western Illinois University (FCS)

Coach Bob Nielson

Contract term: July 1, 2014-Dec. 31, 2017
Base salary: $206,892
Conference: Missouri Valley Football Conference
2013 season record: 4-8 (2-6 in MVFC)

4. Southern Illinois University (FCS)

Coach Dale Lennon

Contract term: Jan. 1, 2014-Dec. 31, 2016
Base salary: $220,788
Additional compensation: $4,000 per year for each year Lennon's son is enrolled full-time at SIUC.
Conference: Missouri Valley Football Conference
2013 season record: 7-5 (5-3 in MVFC)

Check out Reboot Illinois to see which school's football team has a coach that makes almost half a million dollars a year, plus see what bonus incentives all football coaches receive every year.

NEXT ARTICLE: Beauties and the beasts of Illinois' college campuses
The most unusual high school mascots in Illinois
Illinois two-year colleges whose graduates have the highest earning potential
States with the highest average in-state public tuition and fees
What's it cost to attend a public university in Illinois?

Anna Quindlen On Tooting Your Own Horn, Fearlessness And Raising Feminist Sons

Fri, 2014-10-17 08:08
What does it take to get to the top -- without losing your center? Our “Making It Work” series profiles successful, dynamic women who are standouts in their fields, peeling back the "hows" of their work and their life, taking away lessons we can all apply to our own.

Anna Quindlen has always told stories.

She began her career at newspapers, starting off as a copy girl at the New York Times and eventually becoming a reporter there and at the New York Post. In 1992, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for her NYT opinion column, "Public and Private." From 2000 to 2009, she wrote the "Last Word" column for Newsweek. Now, at 62, she is the author of seven novels and 10 nonfiction books, the mother of three grown children aged 31, 29 and 26 and a much sought-after college commencement speaker.

The stories Quindlen tells are both trivial and important, fictional and personal. In her columns, readers learned why she kept her last name after marrying and left the Catholic church. Her most recent novel, Still Life With Bread Crumbs, explores how a 60-year-old photographer reinvents herself. In a review for NPR, Heather McAlpin writes that the book "makes a case for seizing control of your life" -- something Quindlen herself firmly believes in.

We recently spoke with Quindlen about leveling the playing field and where we would be without feminism. Here's what she had to say.

Let's jump right into it. How would you define success?

It’s a little bit like what Louis Armstrong once said about jazz. If you have to ask, you’ll never know. It’s a gut reaction. There are moments in your own life that don’t necessarily have to do with getting the promotion, or getting the raise, when you are sitting there and you think -- well, I’ve done it. Whatever it is. That feeling that somehow, there was an internal standard that you may not have even known you had, and you met it. That’s what I think of as success.

And so by that definition, are you successful?

Yes. I think women are so hesitant to say that -- anything that sounds even dimly like tooting your own horn, women back off from. And it’s one of the things that holds us back. I honestly don’t understand, given the retail price of a book, how you could go out there in the marketplace without a novel that you thought, was successful -- without feeling that, deep down inside. I think that part of our socialization as women is hesitating to put ourselves forward. Talking about yourself as successful, feels a little bit like that. But I think we’ve got to get rid of that.

Quindlen with Barnard College president Debora Spar (L) and Meryl Streep

Something that really resonates in your books is how female characters define themselves and ultimately reinvent themselves. Why are these themes so important to you?

In modern life, reinvention had better resonate with you, because the data now shows that many of us will have four to five different jobs or careers over the course of our lifetime. Speaking of the course of our lifetime, one of the reasons that’s true is because in the year when I was born -- 1952 -- the average life expectancy of an American was 68. Now that we’ve added about 12, 13 years to that, people feel as though there’s more opportunity to reinvent themselves. But also I think for women, there can be a requirement to reinvent ourselves because our domestic roles change. My life was one kind of life when I had three little kids under the age of 5, and it’s a different kind of life now that I have a 31, 29 and 26-year old. Luckily I think most women are pretty good at that -- at saying, "I was one thing and now I’m going to become something else."

Do you think young girls and women are appropriately socialized to reinvent themselves in that way, or is it a crisis point for many women?

I think it can be a crisis point for lots of people. There’s nothing like being a really high-powered working woman and then waking up one day and discovering you’re somebody who’s been wearing the same yoga pants for three days and is covered in spit-up. There can be an element of whiplash to it.

But the older women get, the better they get at setting their own standards, which makes reinvention easier. When I got over 50, I really didn’t give a damn what anybody thought of me any more. The only voice I listened to after that point was my own. I’ve encountered that a lot in women at a certain age. I think we lose patience with those outside voices of the world that seem to hold us to such a ridiculously high standard, and lets guys get away with murder. I think there comes a moment in many of our lives at which we think: enough.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

From the time I was pretty young, I always thought of myself as a writer. And that was abetted by a whole line of teachers, God bless them, who kept saying to me -- "You’re really good at this, and you should keep doing it." The first person who ever told me I was a writer, as opposed to "you should think about being a writer" or "you might be a writer," was a teacher. And thats a very, very powerful thing.

I wanted to be a fiction writer. That was my goal. My class prophecy in my high school says “I want to write the great American novel,” which just shows how utterly full of yourself you are when you’re 17. I wanted to be a fiction writer, but I also wanted to purchase attractive clothing and pay rent. I couldn’t figure out how a fiction writer did that, and that’s why I went to work as a copy girl, then as a city desk clerk, and then as a young reporter. And being a reporter was just so much fun that I stayed for much longer than I’d planned. I only got the chance to write on my first novel when I was on maternity leave when I had my second kid.

What advice would you give to young women starting out in their careers? Especially those who want to be writers?

It’s the Nike slogan: just do it. People spend a lot of time waiting to write. They wait for the right time, they wait for inspiration, some of them are foolish enough to wait for a book deal -- and there’s no point to that. Inspiration doesn’t come around very often, there’s never a right time to write, and book deals come after you’re done, more often than not. You have to try to set aside an hour or so every day and just pound something out.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about women and success, and women and feminism. Some young celebrities, like Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry, have publicly distanced themselves from feminism and downplayed its role in their success. How much is feminism a part of your life, and your work?

That’s a little like being asked how being female relates to my work. Feminism has been the ruling impulse of my adult life, and is frankly responsible for the existence I have. I’ve said that if I live to be 70, I will get a tattoo to celebrate. I could just as soon get the word "feminism" tattooed on my body as almost anything else, because it’s so much a part of me. I always just turn to the dictionary: "social, political and economic equality." Hello! It just seems so simple, and eloquent, and right to me, that the idea that there’s any kind of dismissal, distrust, whatever -- it makes me nuts. Especially with smart young women.

People say to me constantly when I speak on college campuses, “Why don’t you call it humanism?” And I always say the same thing: When there is a level playing field, I will call it humanism. But I can tell you unequivocally that we are nowhere near a level playing field. It just seems like such a no-brainer to me. Younger women can dismiss feminism if they want, despite the fact that they are living lives that would have been impossible without it. Unthinkable without it! And that’s what I think makes [some of us] crazy. We know that without feminism, those young women would have vastly diminished existences.

Anna Quindlen and Cynthia Nixon at Newsweek's 4th annual Women & Leadership Conference in 2008

What can we do to level that playing field for women? What are the key issues you think feminists and advocates for women should be focusing on?

Job one for me was raising feminist sons. Unless men come along for the ride, you’ll be left with all the stuff women were obliged to do 100 years ago, because men haven’t changed as well.

But I also think it’s really important that we have better top-down leadership. There’s been a leadership lid in this country for the last 20 years. If you look at virtually any line of work, from Wall Street, to medicine, to journalism, the percentage of people at the top in every business and industry and field, is about 20 percent female. Twenty years ago, the line on that was "there aren’t enough women in the pipeline." With 50 percent of graduating law students female, and only 17-18 percent of partners at top law firms female, you can’t make the pipeline argument any more. There’s a lot more than that going on.

So how did you raise feminist kids?

I have two boys and a girl. It’s actually fairly easy to raise a feminist daughter. I have a very smart, strong-minded daughter who only needed to be told “Gee, Maria, a woman has never been president of the United States” for her to go off like a rocket. It’s harder to raise feminist sons, because what you’re basically saying to your kids is, "you should give up this privilege that society hands you with both hands, and you should be different from your colleagues." I used to talk all the time about parity between men and women. I used to talk all the time about the gross inequities. They certainly never thought twice about whether women worked or had positions of power and influence in the world -- my friends include a federal judge, a correspondent on "60 Minutes," a New York Times critic. So they grew up thinking women did all those things. Ultimately, while I think sometimes it was hard for them to be asked to be different from their peers, when push came to shove it worked out pretty well for them.

What advice would you give yourself when you were in high school?

The size of your thighs is irrelevant. Stop worrying so much, it will all be alright. Try to get rid of the fear. I feel like fearlessness can make everything better, and make everything work. It’s really fear that holds us back from doing the things we really want to do, from doing the things that we could really be great at, from doing the things that could change everything. When you look at the women that have made a real difference in the world throughout history, what they’ve done has almost always been defined by fearlessness. That’s something I came to at a certain point; I wish I’d come to it younger. Stop looking over your shoulder -- there’s nobody who matters back there.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Haunted House With 'John Wayne Gacy Room' Erected Near Where Serial Killer Was Active

Fri, 2014-10-17 08:01
In a small community near where John Wayne Gacy abducted and murdered dozens of young men and boys in the 1970s, tensions have been simmering for weeks over a Halloween haunted house featuring a room dedicated to the notorious serial killer.

The so-called "Gacy room," part of the Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare attraction that opened this fall in the Chicago suburb of Villa Park, has forced both supporters and detractors to question society's tolerance for wringing entertainment value from real-life horrors.

“I find it to be very despicable. I think it’s cruel," Terry Sullivan, an attorney who co-prosecuted the Gacy trial, told The Huffington Post on Thursday. "There are many victims of Gacy that are still here and still in the area. I realize that it is part of history. But if it’s going to be part of history, I don’t think that it should be put into a Halloween scene or have any deadpan humor attached to it.”

The real Gacy abducted at least 33 local young men and boys, strangling and suffocating them before burying many of them in the crawlspace of his Chicago home. He was apprehended in 1978 by police in the city of Des Plaines -- mere miles from Villa Park -- and was executed in 1994.

The Villa Park haunted house's Gacy room is one of 13 inspired by infamous killers like Ed Gein and Ted Bundy. Visitors to the Gacy room are greeted by a live actor dressed as Gacy's alter-ego, Pogo the Clown, blowing up balloon animals until they pop. Seated on a nearby sofa are a pair of mannequins dressed as young Boy Scouts.

(Story continues below.)

An actor portrays Gacy's Pogo the Clown alter-ego in the Gacy room of the Great American Nightmare attraction.

Steve Kopelman, who co-produced the attraction, said he hasn't heard complaints about the Gacy room. A 33-year veteran of the haunted house industry, Kopelman blamed reporters for turning the issue into a "media frenzy."

"If the media hadn’t made a big stink about it, I doubt anyone would even know about it," he said. "Someone who had to deal with this 40-something years ago isn’t really the audience for the haunt."

“I’m not the victim’s family, so I can’t tell you what they feel or what this does to them," Kopelman also told HuffPost. "But I can’t say enough that the people who are probably hurt by this probably wouldn’t have found out if were it weren’t for the media."

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, founder of victims advocacy group IllinoisVictimsCalling told the Daily Herald, a local paper, she considers entertainer Rob Zombie the "lowest form of human slime" for trying to profit off the tragedy. "Would you go to a spoofy entertainment thing about a rape or a child molestation?" she said. "There's nothing funny about it."

Kopelman said the haunted house didn't raise an eyebrow during its run in Pomona, California, last year. But Bob Egan, another co-prosecutor of the Gacy case, says this year's Chicago-area attraction is contentious because of its proximity to families of Gacy's real-life victims.

“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 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."

"But this is an active cold case," said Egan, who currently works with the Cook County Sheriff's Department, which handled the Gacy investigations. "You just don’t go into a geographic area and make light of something like this."

Sam Amirante, who served as Gacy's defense attorney, said families of the Gacy victims have been "pretty understanding" of the public's fascination with the case. Though he finds the Villa Park haunted house "a little insensitive" because of how geographically close it is to the crime scenes, Amirante recognizes the producers' right to free expression.

"As a person who was his lawyer, I don’t like it. I don’t like that kind of exploitation," Amirante told HuffPost. "But where do we draw the line? I think we’ve come to a point in our own society now where we worry too much about where we’re going to offend somebody."

Kopelman said the Great American Nightmare haunted house won't return to Chicago next year -- not because of the controversy, but because the creators want to keep the attraction fresh. Kopelman fully expects to up the ante again next year.

“I’m sure there is a line [I wouldn’t cross], but I don’t know what that is,” he said.

Sullivan, who blasted the house as "pornography at its worst," remains unconvinced that line will ever be found.

"We’re pushing it now," he said, "and I don’t know where it’s going end.”

The entrance to one of the three haunted houses that make up the Great American Nightmare attraction.

9 Reasons We Should Abolish Tipping, Once And For All

Fri, 2014-10-17 07:55
Tipping is a strange, self-defeating phenomenon. The practice as we know it today has come to negate the very reason it exists: What started out as a reward for exceptional service has now become compulsory. "Tipping starts with people wanting to be generous, or to show off, but then it becomes something where people just do it because it's expected of them," says Michael Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior and marketing at Cornell University who has written more than 50 research papers on tipping. When we tip, we are essentially buying the right to avoid disapproval and guilt -- a uniquely first-world problem.

Still, tipping is a huge thing, accounting for around $44 billion in the U.S. food industry alone, according to the economist Ofer Azar. Polls show that Americans love to tip. "People like the power," says Sage Bierster, a waiter friend of mine who's been in the business for more than six years. But tipping brings with it a welter of problems: It's costly for taxpayers, it's often arbitrary (and even discriminatory) and it contributes to poverty among the waiters and waitresses who must grovel for our change to earn their living.

That's why I'm proposing that we abolish tipping. Just get rid of it entirely. Here are nine reasons to ban the begging bowls once and for all:

1. It Pushes Waiters Into Poverty (And Helps Keep Them There)

In most states, restaurants are allowed to pay waiters far less than the minimum wage. The federal rate for servers in the U.S. is just $2.13 an hour, and in 19 states, that's what servers make. Each state, though, has leeway to set a higher wage for servers. Twenty-four states have voluntarily raised servers' minimum wage above $2.13 an hour, and seven states have gone as far as requiring servers to be paid the same minimum wage as everyone else.

This is a great system for the restaurant industry, because it lets businesses pay less than the minimum wage in almost every state. But it contributes to poverty among the waiters and waitresses who toil in diners and other inexpensive restaurants across the country. (Servers in higher-end places tend to earn a livable wage.) In fact, servers are nearly three times as likely as other workers to experience poverty, according to a March 2014 report from the National Economic Council, the U.S. Department of Labor and others.

Tipped workers and their families often depend on welfare programs to survive -- and they do so at significantly higher rates than non-tipped workers, according to a 2014 report from the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on labor issues. "Tipped workers are heavily reliant on public subsidies to help make ends meet," said Sylvia Allegretto, a research economist at the University of California, Berkeley and a former waitress, who co-authored the report. "Who helps them bridge the gap? Taxpayers."

2. Servers Make Less Per Hour Than They Used To...

The "tipped minimum wage," which is the amount servers make per hour (not counting their tips), was established in 1966 by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Prior to 1966, there was no standard rate for servers and other workers who earned tips, like hotel workers. The FLSA established that the tipped minimum wage had to be no less than 50 percent of the regular minimum wage. That way, when the regular minimum wage increased, the tipped minimum wage would automatically increase along with it.

But in 1996, that changed. Under pressure from the restaurant lobby (led at the time by fast-food mogul Herman Cain), the Clinton administration decoupled the tipped minimum wage from the regular minimum wage. As a result, because of inflation, the value of the tipped minimum wage has steadily fallen over the years, as this chart from the Department of Labor report shows:

The current federal tipped minimum wage for servers, $2.13 an hour, is exactly the same as it was in 1991, when the regular minimum wage was $4.25.

"What a boon to the restaurant lobby, that for 23 years in a row they've been able to pay the same low wages [to servers]," said Allegretto.

3. ...And People Tip Less Now Than They Used To, Too

It's generally accepted that when you go out to eat, you're supposed to leave a 20 percent tip for good service. But most people don't tip that much, according to a survey conducted earlier this year by the coupon site Vouchercloud. The company polled more than 2,600 adults from all over the country, asking them what percentage of the bill they usually leave as a tip when they dine out. Just 23 percent said they leave a 20 percent tip, and about half the survey's respondents said they tip less now than they did five years ago, with the majority saying it was because their "financial situation had changed."

4. Abolish Tipping, And Customers Will Still Spend The Same Amount

Here's one argument you often hear in favor of keeping the tipped minimum wage so low: If restaurants have to pay servers a higher hourly wage, they'll be forced to increase menu prices and that will drive business away by giving people "sticker shock." But in all likelihood, the price hike of your meal, or the mandatory service charge tacked on in lieu of a tip, would be roughly equal to what you would have paid in tips anyway. In reality, customers already pay 100 percent of servers' wages, said Azar, who has done extensive research on the subject.

"Restaurant owners don't bring money from their own personal pocket to pay servers," said Azar. "Whatever they pay waiters is from the restaurant revenues, and [those revenues] come from customers paying. It makes no difference if these payments are called tips, prices, or service charges."

So if you're bothered by restaurants that add a mandatory service charge to the bill, don't worry: You're paying the same amount, albeit in a different form, that you normally would.

Restaurants like Sushi Yasuda in New York have already gotten rid of tipping. (Photo Yelp/Germain W.)

5. Paying Waiters A Low Hourly Wage Can Be Bad For Restaurants' Profits

According to a 2014 report by the union-backed Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC), those states that legally require restaurant owners to pay servers higher hourly wages also have higher per capita restaurant sales. Why? Because, the report says, when workers make more, they stay at their jobs longer, increase their productivity and spend more of their own money at restaurants.

Packhouse Meats, an independent eatery in Newport, Kentucky, is one establishment that's already experienced the benefits of paying waiters a guaranteed wage. Servers at Packhouse Meats make $10 an hour or 20 percent of their sales -- whichever amount is greater.

The online menu for Packhouse Meats alerts customers to its no-tipping policy.

"We have very low turnover here, because our waiters don't want to leave," said Packhouse manager Kurt Stephens. Low turnover means the restaurant spends less time and money training new servers, and so it can provide a better experience for customers, according to Stephens.

"We end up saving a hefty sum," he said, "and the feedback I get from customers is, they love it, because the price on the menu is exactly what they end up paying."

6. When People Tip, They Discriminate

Every waiter knows that tips are unpredictable -- sometimes you'll earn 10 or 15 percent just because your customers don't like you. Worse, sometimes they don't like you because of the way you look. Studies by Michael Lynn, the Cornell professor and tipping expert, have shown that waitresses with larger breasts, smaller body sizes and blond hair tend to earn more tips than waitresses without such attributes. A separate study by Lynn found that white servers are tipped more than black servers for the same quality service and regardless of the race of the customer.

7. Tipping Culture Is An Incubator For Widespread Sexual Harassment

The tipping economy is particularly unfriendly to women. According to an October 2014 report from ROC, 80 percent of female servers say they've been sexually harassed at some point in their careers, and sexual harassment is more prevalent in states that only pay servers the federal sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, as opposed to states that mandate a higher minimum wage.

"Since women restaurant workers living off tips are forced to rely on customers for their income rather than their employer, these workers must often tolerate inappropriate behavior from customers, co-workers, and management," the report says. "This dynamic contributes to the restaurant industry's status as the single largest source of sexual harassment claims in the U.S."

8. It's Arbitrary

We like to think of our tips as a reflection of how well a server did his or her job. But in reality, the reasons we tip are often irrational. Research has found that we tend to tip waiters more if they touch us on the arm or draw a sun or a smiley face on our check. We also tip servers who wear red or squat next to the table more than we do servers who wear other colors or remain vertical while working.

What's more, lots of people like tipping because they believe it gives them power -- they think that leaving a small tip, or no tip at all, sends a message to a server that he or she needs to do a better job next time. (See Steve Buscemi's "Reservoir Dogs" rant, above.) In reality, multiple waiters I spoke to for this story said that getting a substandard tip tells them very little.

"If you had a bad experience, say something to your waiter, say it to a manager, but don't say it with your money," said my friend Sage, who has spent years waiting tables and managing various New York restaurants. "There could be a million reasons your experience wasn't good. But you leaving a 10 or 15 percent tip with no explanation, it tells me nothing."

9. At High-End Restaurants, Tipping Creates Income Inequality Between Waiters And Kitchen Staff

As already mentioned, for many servers in cheaper restaurants, the tipped minimum wage contributes to poverty. But in high-end restaurants, tipping leads to a different form of income inequality. When menu prices are higher, servers often end up making a lot more in tips than kitchen staff, who have equally valuable skills but are often paid modest wages.

Because the Fair Labor Standards Act restricts servers from sharing their tips with workers who aren't directly engaged in customer service, some upscale restaurants have banned tipping altogether in favor of a service charge, which those restaurants can use to pay their employees more equitably.

The restaurants Next and Alinea are sister establishments in Chicago. Neither is cheap. (With wine pairings, the bill at either restaurant can easily exceed $300 for one person.) Customers at Next and Alinea pay a mandatory 20 percent service charge, a system that co-owner Nick Kokonas says allows him to pay all his employees a fair, performance-based wage, whether they're waiters or sous-chefs.

"Before, we could only share gratuities, which were a large portion of our revenue, with a small amount of the staff" -- namely, the servers, Kokonas said. Having a service charge "allows us to run a much more balanced and efficient operation."

Getting Rid Of Tipping Will Take Time

A bill introduced last year, the Fair Minimum Wage Act, would re-couple the hourly wage for tipped workers to the minimum wage. If it passes, every restaurant in the country would have to pay servers a rate equal to 70 percent of the national minimum wage. But the bill is opposed by the restaurant lobby and a number of Republican lawmakers, and it has only a minute chance of passing this year.

Still, despite political opposition, there's public support for both a higher national minimum wage and a higher wage for tipped workers. A 2004 poll cited by Lynn in his research paper "Tipping and Its Alternatives" found that only 22 percent of respondents said they would prefer waiters to be paid in tips instead of regular wages. Thirty-four percent said they had no opinion, while 44 percent said they would prefer waiters to be paid a guaranteed wage. Still, people love to tip. A survey conducted by Azar in 2010 found that 60 percent of Americans prefer tipping to a service charge.

Why are we so enamored of this strange, antiquated custom?

Michael McGuan, a former manager at the Linkery, a now-closed San Diego restaurant that was one of the first to outlaw tipping, offered some insight into why we're so gratuity-obsessed. Speaking to The New York Times Magazine in 2008, McGuan said that Linkery customers would sometimes get offended when told they weren't allowed to tip.

"I'll go over to the table and ask if there is a problem with the service. If there is, then I offer to remove the service charge," McGuan said. "Almost always, the customers' issue isn't about the service but about not being able to handle their loss of control."

Women, Vote Yourselves a Raise

Thu, 2014-10-16 23:10
America goes to the polls in less than 3 weeks, there's a lot at stake for the majority of voters -- namely women. Unfortunately women also make up another majority -- those working for our pathetic $7.25 an hour minimum wage. We've all heard the numbers on the gender pay gap -- women make about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men for full time year round work. And one of the biggest factors in the pay gap is the low minimum wage.

That's because adult women make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. Even so, in an election year when candidates know female voters can make them or break them, too many are saying these women don't deserve a raise.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently said a raise would be a "job killer" -- a theory frequently harped on by his fellow conservatives. They say employers will lay off some workers to pay for the increase. But it just ain't so. In the 13 states that raised their minimums this year, employment has actually gone up.

Naysayers also like to claim that companies will move to lower wage states. Wrong again. The New York Times studied businesses on either side of the Washington/Idaho border when Washington's minimum wage was nearly $3 higher than Idaho's. And guess what? Firms in Washington did not move across the state line. They were going strong, maybe because higher paid workers had more money to spend.

Workers who get tips -- so-called "sub-minimum" wage workers -- are the worst off of all. And no surprise, they're mostly women too. According to the Economic Policy Institute, two-thirds of tipped workers are female, and roughly 70 percent of the food servers and bartenders are women.

Yet employers like Darden Restaurants ,the largest full-service restaurant company in the world and owner of Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Yard House, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, and Eddie V's refuses to raise wages for these workers above the mandated $2.13 an hour. Recent research by U.C. Davis, says it would cost just 10 cents per $5 in sales over a five year phase-in to raise wages for all Darden employees to $15 per hour. Dishes like Olive Garden's popular Tortellini al Forno would increase by a exactly one thin dime if all of the costs were passed on to the customer. But why should customers pick up the tab? Why not take it out of CEO mega-salaries and bonuses, or share the cost with the investor class in the form of slightly lower cash dividends (Darden made $286.2 million in profits last year).

One more thing -- the same candidates that don't want a higher minimum wage also want to cut safety net programs like Medicaid and food stamps. Supports made necessary because workers can't earn enough to live on, even with two jobs paying $7.25 an hour.

Public polls show that close to 70 percent of Americans favor raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. But Republicans in the Senate refused to vote on it earlier this year, and you can bet it won't come up at all if they take the majority away from the Democrats. So any action is likely to be at the state level -- meaning pay attention to those local candidates. They're the ones most likely to hold the purse strings for the next two years.

Listen to the 2 minute radio commentary here:

Our Souls Turned Into Weapons

Thu, 2014-10-16 17:57
"During basic training, we are weaponized: our souls turned into weapons."

Jacob George's suicide last month -- a few days after President Obama announced that the US was launching its war against ISIS -- opens a deep, terrible hole in the national identity. George: singer, banjo player, poet, peace warrior, vet. He served three tours in Afghanistan. He brought the war home. He tried to repair the damage.

Finally, finally, he reached for "the surefire therapy for ending the pain," as a fellow vet told Truthdig. He was 32.

Maybe another war was just too much for him to endure. Military glory -- protection of the innocent -- is a broken ideal, a cynical lie. "Times for war veterans are tough because we know exactly what is going to happen with the actions that Obama talked about in his recent speech," his friend Paul Appell told Truthdig. "Jacob and other war veterans know the pain and suffering that will be done to our fellow man no matter what terms are used to describe war, whether it is done from afar with drones and bombs or up close eye to eye."

And wars don't end. They go on and on and on, inside the psyches of the ones who fought and killed. War's toxins hover in the air and the water. Landmines and unexploded bombs, planted in the earth, wait patiently to explode.

In a chapbook that George published called "Soldier's Heart," which contains the lyrics to a number of his songs accompanied by essays discussing the context in which they were written, he explains his song "Playground of War." It was written when he returned to Afghanistan with a peace delegation -- George was one of the first Afghan vets to do such a thing -- and at one point visited, God help us, a landmine museum.

The guide, "hard-faced," overflowing with emotion, explains, George writes, that "it would take over a hundred years of working seven days a week to clear every single landmine out of Afghanistan. He says their fathers and grandfathers used to work their fields with plows, but now they work their fields with metal detectors and wooden rods. Instead of harvesting potatoes, they harvest explosives. He tells me all kinds of things that change my life in a matter of minutes."

This is war. War never ends. George came home with the war raging inside him and rode his bicycle across the country to promote peace. Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh, he understood that veterans "can help lead the healing of the nation" In 2012, he marched in Chicago in protest of NATO and returned his medals. Marching with fellow vets, he led this cadence call: "Mama, Mama, can't you see/What Uncle Sam has done to me?"

He called his peace work a "righteous rite of passage." He said it was "how we transform PTSD into something beautiful."

He also chipped the last letter off the acronym: post-traumatic stress is not a disorder, he realized, but a completely natural, sane reaction to causing harm to others. He called it a moral injury.

A fellow vet, Brock McIntosh, interviewed on "Democracy Now" shortly after George's suicide, said: ". . . he saw a lot of killing in Afghanistan, and he also talked about seeing fear in the eyes of Afghans. And the idea that he could put fear in someone kind of haunted him. And he had lots of nightmares when he returned, and felt kind of isolated and didn't really tell his story. But over the last few years, he's had the opportunity to tell his story and to build long-lasting relationships, not only with other veterans who are like-minded, but also with Afghans."

In "Soldier's Heart," George talked about the dehumanization process that begins in basic training. Young people's souls are "turned into weapons." This is an image I can't move beyond. It's an insight into the nature of war that cannot be allowed to remain trapped inside every used up vet -- that our deepest hunger to do good, to contribute to the good of the world, is commandeered by selfish and cynical interests and planted back into the soil of our being like a landmine.

"Through my personal healing from PTSD, I've discovered it's not possible to dehumanize others without dehumanizing the self," he wrote in "Soldier's Heart."

George, unable to find a place in the society he thought he was leaving home to protect, spoke primarily to all the other returning vets trapped in the same existential hell. What he came to realize was that only by surrendering the rest of his life to the elimination of war could be himself find any peace. In doing so, he made a spiritual transition, from soldier to warrior.

"You see," he wrote, "a soldier follows orders, a soldier is loyal, and a soldier is technically and tactically proficient. A warrior isn't so good at following orders. The warrior follows the heart. A warrior has empathic understanding with the enemy, so much so that the very thought of causing pain or harm to the enemy causes pain to the warrior."

And now one more warrior lets go just as another war begins.

"We have been at war for 12 years. We have spent trillions of dollars," Bernie Sanders said recently on CNN. "What I do not want, and I fear very much, is the United States getting sucked into a quagmire and being involved in perpetual warfare year after year after year. That is my fear."

I'm sure that was Jacob George's fear as well. I'm sure he felt it in his soul.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at


Foo Fighters Release 'Something From Nothing,' First Song Off 'Sonic Highways'

Thu, 2014-10-16 16:26
Foo Fighters have released the first new song off the band's eighth studio album, "Sonic Highways": the Chicago-inspired-and-recorded track, "Something From Nothing."

Starting off with some muffled guitar plucking and vocals from Dave Grohl, the song begins its monstrous ascent at the 90-second mark with some deep riffs. At 2:10, we get a few dissonant strums and a quick double-time from drummer Taylor Hawkins. A huge buildup controls the first half of the third minute, and after that it's nonstop ferocious rock 'n' roll. Grohl's gritty vocals are as domineering as ever as he sings out lines like, "Fuck it all, I came from nothing!" topped by an epic scream starting at 3:55.

“Something From Nothing” was recorded in Chicago with producer Steve Albini. Albini will also make an appearance in the first episode of the band's HBO mini-series, premiering on Friday night. The episode documents the band's recording process during their week in Chicago, as well as conversations with Chicago legends Buddy Guy and Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen. HBO will also be streaming the Foo Fighters live performance at the Cubby Bear in Chicago, where Grohl saw his first punk show, on their Facebook page immediately after the premiere airs.

Foo Fighters' "Sonic Highways" releases on Nov. 10.

The West Coast Is Still The Best Coast For Trick Or Treating

Thu, 2014-10-16 16:07
Life on the West Coast has some advantages.

Okay, who are we kidding? It's pretty much perfect by these standards. And, according to the results of Zillow's annual trick-or-treat ranking, it's also the best place for kids to score copious amounts of sweets this Halloween.

San Francisco reigns supreme for the fourth year in a row, winning the title of the city that "will provide the most candy, in the least amount of time, with the fewest safety risks," according to Zillow.

For those who think their city was shafted, here's how the list was compiled: "The ranking was calculated using four equally weighted data variables: Zillow Home Value Index, population density, Walk Score and local crime data." Got it?

Your move, NYC.

Koch-Backed Group Ramps Up Intervention In Tight Illinois Governor's Race

Thu, 2014-10-16 16:01
With less than three weeks to go before voters head to the polls in one of the nation's most contentious gubernatorial races, a conservative advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers launched an unusual campaign aimed at helping unseat the state's Democratic incumbent.

The Illinois chapter of the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity is behind the so-called "Leaving the Land of Lincoln Tour" tour, which features a large moving truck emblazoned with Gov. Pat Quinn's face and the statistic -- from the most recent United Van Lines study -- that Illinois is home to the second-highest outbound migration in the nation. The tour launched Oct. 11.

Crain's Chicago Business reports that the tour's "Gov. Quinn Moving Company" truck, which also calls out Quinn for the state's $5 billion-plus unpaid bill backlog and 67 percent income tax increase, is expected to turn up in some 23 towns across the state before the Nov. 4 election.

Americans for Prosperity Illinois also held a tour rally at the home of controversial former congressman Joe Walsh, a tea party favorite.

The Koch-backed group has some close ties to Quinn's challenger, Republican candidate Bruce Rauner. His Rauner Family Foundation donated $150,000 to Americans for Property in 2012, as the Chicago Reader reported this week.

Americans for Prosperity has also funded anti-Quinn television ads, as well as an online and direct-mail campaign criticizing the state's income tax hike the governor approved in 2011 and has proposed keeping.

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch's Americans for Prosperity was founded in 2004 and has grown into one of the conservative movement's most influential outside groups, pouring undisclosed "dark money" into political races throughout the country.

The group was criticized last month when its North Carolina chapter sent hundreds of voters -- and at least one cat -- incorrect voter registration information.

The Coolest Hotel in Every State (and DC!)

Thu, 2014-10-16 14:33
By: Matt Meltzer

Credit: Shutterstock

Unless your name happens to be Arthur Fonzarelli (in which case, that's crazy!), it's hard to define the word "cool." And even harder to apply the label to hotels, when "cool" could mean historic, or trendy, or that the place is actually a decommissioned Coast Guard helicopter with a full-service bar... in your room!

But since we're not above doing hard work, we tried to figure out just how each state would define cool, and then applied that spirit to their hotels. In the end, we came up with what we think is each state's coolest, most emblematic hotel. Or we were wildly off. You decide.

More: Stop Packing These 15 Items In Your Suitcase

Credit: Battle House


The Battle House Renaissance Hotel & Spa
Mobile, AL

With a badass name like The Battle House, you'd assume this place was some sort of Confederate headquarters during the Civil War. Turns out that while the historic hotel was indeed open during the war, it got the name from its founder, a guy named James Battle. Mildly disappointing, indeed, but it doesn't make this spot -- where Stephen Douglas stayed when Lincoln whipped him in the election of 1858 -- any less awesome; the interior will make you feel like you've time-traveled back 150 years.

Credit: Ultima Thule Lodge


Ultima Thule Lodge
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, AK

It's Alaska, so you know we're not gonna tell you about some swanky joint in Anchorage with a killer brunch buffet. No, we're gonna tell you about this luxury lodge that's 100 miles from the nearest road, and only accessible by private plane. Here you'll sit in the middle of the largest swath of protected land on the planet; you'll hike, fish, and boat while your hosts spend the day cooking an epic meal that you'll eat in a dining room full of oversized chairs, before retreating to your private, hillside cabin.

Credit: Shady Dell


Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court
Bisbee, AZ

A lot of hotels will claim to "transport you back to another time," but as soon as you flip on the TV and Real Housewives comes on, you become painfully aware it's still 2014. Not so at this vintage trailer park, where not only have they adorned every trailer in perfect 1950s kitsch, but the radios only play music from that era, the TVs are black and white, and there's nothing to read but words printed on old newspaper rife with cigarette ads. But don't let the ads fool you; the only 21st-century advent at Shady Dell is a strict non-smoking policy.



Beckham Creek Cave Lodge
Parthenon, AR

Don't try to sound all "back-to-nature" when you tell friends you're unleashing your inner caveman by staying in this lodge built into a real cave in the Ozarks. The place is actually a full-on house complete with Jacuzzi, five master bedrooms, satellite TV, and, oh yeah, a heliport. That's one big cave. Obviously, Beckham Creek's a popular spot for weddings, events, and celebrities who don't want anyone to know they're in Arkansas.

Credit: Queen Mary


The Queen Mary
Long Beach, CA

We're not really sure what else to say about this other than IT'S THE QUEEN FREAKING MARY. As in, the most famous cruise ship ever that didn't crash into an iceberg. Yeah, that Queen Mary. And while this trans-Atlantic luxury liner from a bygone era now makes its permanent home in the LBC, it's also a 346-room luxury hotel complete with a spa, shopping, and first-rate gym.

Credit: Facebook user The Stanley Hotel


The Stanley Hotel
Estes Park, CO

Colorado's got plenty of luxurious mountain resorts, but there's only one so awesome it inspired Stephen King to write 200,000 words about it. This spot (named for the same guy who founded Stanley Steamer) is the hotel from The Shining, and while you might not run into a bartender who tells you to kill your family, there are enough rumored ghost stories in this place to make it a bonafide haunted landmark.

Credit: Winvian


Litchfield Hills, CT

Try not to get the theme from Airwolf stuck in your head (because it will, GOD it will) when you check into this 118-acre resort in rural Connecticut, because of all their 18 themed cottages, the one you're 100 percent going to stay in is the fully-restored 1968 Sea King Pelican HH3F helicopter. If somehow that's not your thing, there's also a log cabin, a treehouse, a greenhouse, and even something called the "secret society."

Head over to to check out the complete list of coolest hotels in every state, including a luxury treehouse and a former jail!

More from Thrillist:

10 Of The World's Most Iconic Hotels

Insane Hotel Suites You Can't Afford To Spend The Night In

Follow Thrillist on Twitter:

Halloween Costumes For Twins That Will Win You Over, Twice

Thu, 2014-10-16 13:26
The only thing cuter than twins wearing coordinated outfits? Twins wearing coordinated Halloween costumes.

See, while children's Halloween costumes are pretty much universally adorable, twin Halloween costumes are double the fun.

Whether your two favorite troublemakers go together like peanut butter and jelly or soy sauce and sushi, we've got a twin costumes that will win your hearts (and theirs!):

More Halloween Ideas: See costumes for families, couples, moms-to-be and more.

More amazing Halloween ideas over on Pinterest!

Follow HuffPost Parents's board Halloween on Pinterest.

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

Like Us On Facebook |
Follow Us On Twitter |
Contact HuffPost Parents

11 People Who Should Really Shut Up About Ebola

Thu, 2014-10-16 12:58
For months, we've been discussing how to stop the spread of a deadly virus that's already killed over 4,000 people, almost entirely in Africa. As each new Ebola case is reported, officials have shared their differing ideas on how best to respond to the outbreak.

But while there are plenty of scientists, health care workers and people with knowledge of the crisis saying their piece, certain people with no expertise on the matter seem to think it's their job to weigh in with unfounded suggestions and theories about Ebola. You might even call these people irresponsible, especially given that this is a conversation easily swayed by fear caused by misinformation.

Here are some people who really have no business sounding off on Ebola, no matter what you see in headlines.

Andrea Tantaros

How can we be sure potential Ebola patients won't seek treatment from witches? "In [Africa]," the Fox News host said in a recent segment, "they do not seek traditional medical care. So someone could get off a flight [in the U.S.] and seek treatment from a witch doctor that practices Santeria." Casual racism aside, she's just saying they could. Science reporter Miles O'Brien, however, called Tantaros' comments "offensive on several levels" in a CNN interview. "It reflects," he said, "a level of ignorance we should not allow in our media and in our discourse."

Laura Ingraham

President Barack Obama's "familial connection" and "core ties to the African continent" are the reason the U.S. has not banned flights from certain West African nations, the conservative radio host said. "He's mindful of his own family history there," she continued. A majority of Americans may actually favor a flight ban. But Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, believes a travel ban would only exacerbate the situation, as Ebola patients would simply find alternate ways to cross borders, making the spread of the disease much harder to track. One study showed that even restricting air travel to infected countries by 80 percent would only delay the virus' international spread, and just by a few weeks.

Chris Brown

I don't know ... But I think this Ebola epidemic is a form of population control. Shit is getting crazy bruh.

-- Chris Brown (@chrisbrown) October 13, 2014

The violence-prone R&B singer catapulted himself to the forefront of the Ebola conspiracy movement on Monday with the above message to fans. Brown issued a non-apology in a later tweet: "I say what I want. If u don't like it.... 'SUCK MY ASS' ( little Asian girl voice)." Honestly, we don't know what we expected.

Morgan Brittany

This former "Dallas" soap opera actress wrote a column on Ebola last week, using the expertise she'd gained during a Los Angeles dinner party. She said guests had discussed skepticism over the U.S. government's response to the current outbreak and about what officials really knew and when, a conversation that got a bit kookier when Brittany suggested that government officials "orchestrated" the whole thing. "Maybe the current administration needs this to happen," she wondered, "so martial law can be declared, guns can be seized and the populace can be controlled."

Dr. Cyril Broderick

The U.S. apparently created Ebola, according to the Liberian-born Broderick, who is listed as an associate professor of agriculture and natural resources at Delaware State University, with a stated interest in soybeans and winter squash. Last month, Broderick published an article in a Liberian newspaper, titled "Ebola, AIDS Manufactured By Western Pharmaceuticals, US DoD?" Between references to conspiracy theorist websites and "The Hot Zone," a popular book about Ebola from the 1990s, Broderick implies the virus is a result of bioterrorism experiments carried out by the U.S. government in Africa.

Rush Limbaugh

Explaining the "leftist" mindset -- according to him, anyway -- the conservative radio host told a caller that Obama believes Americans might deserve Ebola as payback for slavery. Since "Liberia came to exist because of American slavery," Limbaugh explained, it's as if "we can't turn our backs." He went on to use authorities' refusal to ban flights from West African nations as proof of his claim. This claim from a man who, in the same discussion, claimed Sierra Leone was formed by "British African-Americans."

Dr. Robin Cook

Ebola might be transmitted through the air, "the man who wrote the book on Ebola" recently told CNN. Of course, that book was a fictional thriller called "Outbreak" published in the late 1980s by a medical doctor whose views differ vastly from the majority in the medical community. Those experts say Ebola is NOT airborne. The CDC and most other health organizations agree that Ebola can't be transmitted through the air and that it's highly unlikely to develop that ability.

Donald Trump

President Barack Obama has a personal responsibility to visit & embrace all people in the US who contract Ebola!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2014

Trump's Twitter feed generally functions as an ongoing critique of Obama's leadership. One of his most recent tweets, however, seems to suggest the president should risk his own health and "embrace all people" in the U.S. with the deadly virus in a show of support -- or something? The CDC, on the other hand, recommends keeping patients with highly infectious diseases such as Ebola in quarantine. And Obama did embrace nurses caring for Ebola patients to thank them and show he supports CDC protocol. Trump has said he thinks health care workers treating Ebola are doing a great job, too! But, he says, if they go overseas to fight the outbreak, they should not be allowed to come back.


Perhaps Ebola is just make-believe. Ignoring the heart-wrenching images and stories coming out of Africa, some in the anti-vaccination camp propose that Ebola exists only "to poison us with drugs and vaccines." But if it does exist, some who fear modern vaccines claim alternative treatments, such as homeopathic spider venom and coffee, may be a better cure. While no Ebola treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration exists, some patients are being treated with experimental vaccines.

These Congressmen

Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) know where the real Ebola threat lies: with Latin American immigrant children. Both attempted to tie the African Ebola outbreak to the surge of unaccompanied minors attempting to enter the U.S. through the southern border in the past year. Rokita's comments came during a local radio interview where he said, in light of the deadly virus, "we need to know the condition of these kids." Gingrey warned migrants could pose a "grave public health threat" in a July 7 letter that mentioned Ebola as one such threat. Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) has made similar statements. This fear, of course, is not a real concern.

Todd Kincannon

The protocol for a positive Ebola test should be immediate humane execution and sanitization of the whole area. That will save lives.

-- Todd Kincannon (@Todd__Kincannon) October 4, 2014

This one-time GOP official turned full-time troll shared a novel solution to the Ebola epidemic: Kill everyone infected. Kincannon explained in a series of tweets earlier this month how we might, if we were all sociopaths, stop the epidemic with napalm. Luckily, no one really listens to him, as they shouldn't.

The Illinois gubernatorial candidates spent $35 million in the third quarter

Thu, 2014-10-16 12:13
Oct. 15 was the Illinois statewide candidates' deadline for filing their 2014 third quarter campaign contributions with the Illinois State Board of Elections. All together, the 10 candidates for statewide office spent more than $42 million from July 1 to Oct. 1. The candidates for governor, Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner spent more than $35 million.

Between July 1 and Oct. 1, Republican candidate for governor Bruce Rauner received more than $20 million in donations and spent almost as much. The Quinn campaign received and spent less than Rauner's over the last three months. Quinn received more than 8 million in donations and spent more than $15 million.

For the most part, candidates who are showing stronger in the polls had campaigns with more money than their opponents. Two of the only campaigns that ended the quarter with more money than they started with were Secretary of State Jesse White's and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's, two strong incumbent candidates. The treasurer candidates' campaigns (the only race without an incumbent) were the only two that did not follow this pattern.

Check out every candidate's quarter three financial breakdown from the Illinois State Board of Elections at Reboot Illinois.

Illinois' state finances are also under scrutiny. No matter who wins the election, Illinois will have to find a way to deal with its bill backlog, pension debt and come to a conclusion about whether or not to raise the income tax. But there are 13 things about the 2015 state budget that are absolutely absurd.

1. Unpaid bills and other General Fund liabilities are expected to increase from $6.0 billion in FY2014 to $6.4 billion in FY2015, marking the first year-end increase since fiscal year 2012 when the backlog was roughly $8.8 billion.

2. General Funds revenue to decline by $1.7 billion to $35.1 billion in FY2015, which includes $402 million in income tax diversions.

3. The 2015 budget will borrow $650 million from the state's Special Funds, a sum that must be repaid within 18 months in order to boost General Funds assets to $35.8 billion.

Check out 10 more crazy facts at Reboot Illinois.

Crazy-Talented Cartoonist Will Turn Your Selfies Into Instant Art

Thu, 2014-10-16 11:19
Sixteen-year-old Hayley Connolly's Instagram (@oxtlxnes) doesn't contain your typical selfies, beach sunsets or pictures of dessert. Instead, the teen's page shows off the striking cartoon portraits she's drawn of her Instagram followers:



View on Instagram

@-webkit-keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} } @keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} }

The teen was recently spotlighted on the Instagram blog for her awesome, bold cartoon depictions, which have amassed her over 10,000 followers. On her Instagram page, Hayley invites any of her followers who would like a portrait to message her. She then picks her portrait subjects at random from amongst those requests, of which she currently has over 300.



View on Instagram

@-webkit-keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} } @keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} }

Hayley thinks Instagram offers an amazing opportunity for teens to showcase their art. She told the Instagram blog “I think it is really important to see art made from teens. We haven’t made our life choices yet, so we’re looking at the world in many different ways. We’re really in the height of our creativity because we are growing up.”

Scroll down to see some more of our favorite cartoons by Hayley:


this took 4eva nd eva @joannakuchta

View on Instagram

@-webkit-keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} } @keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} }



View on Instagram

@-webkit-keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} } @keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} }



View on Instagram

@-webkit-keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} } @keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} }



View on Instagram

@-webkit-keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} } @keyframes"dkaXkpbBxI"{ 0%{opacity:0.5;} 50%{opacity:1;} 100%{opacity:0.5;} }

Follow HuffPost Teen on Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr | Pheed |