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'The Mugshot Series' Reverses Ugly Stereotypes Of Black Men

Tue, 2015-05-26 16:12
Artist EJ Brown is fed up with the media perpetuating damaging and destructive stereotypes of black men.

Specifically, the 25-year-old Point Park University graduate feels frustrated when the media places blame on black victims of police killings and refers to these men as thugs and criminals.

To combat those frequent misrepresentations, Brown created a powerful photo series that flips the narrative on its head.

The photo project is titled “The Mugshot Series," and it includes seven black-and-white images of young black men dressed in cap and gown holding plaques that indicate their names, ages and academic majors. The project is part of a larger campaign Brown launched called “A Perception of Complexion.”

The striking photos mimic the style of criminal mugshots in order to juxtapose commonly-seen negative images of black men with more positive portraits that are rarely recognized. Brown hopes that mixture will deconstruct ugly stereotypes associated with black men and boys.

“We’re not condoning violence, or gang activity or criminality, we’re just bringing to light these negative perceptions and how we feel about them," Brown told The Huffington Post. "I’m about spreading peace, love and understanding."

Brown wants the photos to show his black peers that they are more than just a stereotype. Brown's love for the performing arts has allowed him to tell his own story. He enjoys acting, filmmaking, production, comedy and singing -- his friends even call him the “Renaissance Man.” Now, he wants to empower other men to define their own narratives, too.

Keilynn Burkes, pictured below, participated in the photo series to fulfill the same mission.

“The portrayal of young black men in society is not a positive picture,” Burkes told HuffPost. “Just because a person [is] African-American does not mean we are ‘hoodlums’ or individuals involved in crime.”

Burkes, Brown, and the other men who participated in the project have introduced a more positive portrayal of black men to help uplift and contrast the current offering. They are actively working together to amplify their voices, share their images and celebrate the varied accomplishments of black men everywhere.

So far, Brown says the campaign has been well-received by classmates and the community who have described the project as “bold” and “liberating." For him, it is a mission accomplished.

Scroll down for more photos from the series.

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Never Never Land

Tue, 2015-05-26 14:04
The best thing about Tomorrowland is, for those of a certain age, being reminded of the innocent purity of the original Tomorrowland at Disneyland. Monorails and rockets, workers in futuristic clothing, America looking into the future, and not seeing dystopia. The next best thing, is being reminded of how NASA used to be tomorrow today: the best scientists in the world, the best engineers, the best of America, united in a common goal: to reach the Moon. Building and inventing and trying and experimenting and imbued from head to toe with a can do spirit. An immensely exciting example of what a free society, a meritocracy, led by leaders who made no small plans could do...and do in a decade, about the time it takes now to repair a bridge.

Now, NASA is but another politically correct shell devoted to cultural outreach and selling Global Warming. Which is the admirable, but soon lost, plot starter for Tomorrowland.

The next best thing, are the two female leads, young actresses, convincing in their roles, trying their darnedest not to allow George Clooney's Fabian, admonitory hectoring, seemingly channeling Al Gore, to destroy their big Hollywood break.

There are interesting sets, wonderful CGI, fun homages to other movies, but, the movie is leaden, convoluted, and drags on and on. At the end, the banality of its core 'It's A Small World' theme is pounded home with a multicultural Peace Corps-esque fantasy, accompanied by George Clooney's fickle political finger (he evolves with the headlines) poking you in the chest and saying: See! See how you're screwing up!!??? If you'll just let my friends and I, the intellectual elites, rule your lives with coercive laws and regulations all may yet be well...unless it's already too late and Western Civilization has already ruined the planet.

A planet, by the way, that supports more human life, produces more food, allows longer, healthier lives, treats animals better, plants more trees, and, at least in one country, recognizes a pursuit of happiness as a universal right, than ever before in its entire history.

Maybe with not as many snail darters or passenger pigeons, but a planet where it's easy to find a good hamburger, tell time, not fear dentistry, see Game of Thrones on your laptop, and vote for your favorite on Dancing with the Stars.

Tomorrowland the movie, abandons the spirit of the original Tomorrowland the attraction, which leapt Athena-like (there's an Athena in the movie) from Walt Disney's imagination. Instead, with many inexplicable twists and turns, it turns tomorrow into a guilt trip of what we aren't doing today, or, more to the point, what George and his fellow futurists think we should be doing today.

For most of the movie, Clooney is Dr. Brown of Back to the Future fame, complete with wild eyes, and a perfect three-day beard. Which reminded me that beyond perfecting CGI, Hollywood has perfected a technology that ensures neither a two or four day growth on uber hip male actors, but the perfect three-dayer. Well, why am I surprised? If they could make Alan Ladd a tall-ish leading man sixty years ago, three-day beards are child's play.

By the way, George Clooney is an actor I'd like to like, and have liked in the past, but whose politics now intrude on almost all of his projects. It's become sort of like if you've seen one Hugo Chavez movie, you've seen them all.

One other thing: the uneven violence in Tomorrowland would make me hesitate to take a child to see it. People are blown up, very human robots' heads are torn off, favorite characters do die. Think Tarantino by way of Capra. And, not particularly in the service of a coherent script or story, more, as movie lovers have come to realize, we are already living in a dystopian Hollywood world where the new normal is ISIS like brutality on the screen.

At the very, very, end, when a portal opens to show what George wants the world to be, the first image shown is a row of those giant, clean energy, wind turbines...a classic progressive ideal to close the movie...pity about the thousands and thousands of birds killed by them every year. Pity that they turn huge swathes of lovely countryside into sets from War of the Worlds. Too bad, that their incessant humming drives humans living nearby insane. Get with it people...they produce clean energy. Sort of.

In George-topia, it's all acceptable collateral damage. Sometimes you have to destroy a world to save it.

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Gov. Bruce Rauner: We must change now

Tue, 2015-05-26 12:35
With the state facing a pension crisis, a difficult-to-balance budget and a divided government, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner tried to offer some reassurance to his constituents: "I know what I was sent here to do."

The governor writes:

I'm the new guy in Springfield. I'm proud of that.

Although being new means I'm not as familiar with how things historically have been done in state government, it keeps me idealistic and hopeful. I'm not jaded or cynical about what we can accomplish to make Illinois great again.

But I've grown concerned by what I've seen in the legislature during the past few weeks. We're approaching the end of the regular legislative session with no apparent long-term solution to the state's budget, pension and economic mess.

It's time to focus on what's really going on and what we must change now. Illinois needs a turnaround. The public understands that, but it appears many state elected officials do not.

We have the worst pension crisis and the second-highest property taxes in America. After enacting the largest tax hike in Illinois history, we still have more than $6 billion in unpaid bills. We've lost more than 300,000 manufacturing jobs in the past 15 years.

Merely raising taxes will kick the can, not solve the problem. We need to shake up the old ways of running state government. We must end the special-interest deals that drive up costs inside government and wreck current and future budgets. We must reform anti-growth policies that make Illinois unable to compete with other states for good-paying jobs.

We must deliver true pension reform that protects what's been earned, but in the future provides state workers with benefits that are more in line with the taxpayers who pay for them. We should not allow voting districts to be drawn just to protect incumbents.

And we must make term limits a reality, helping to ensure elected office is about public service, not personal gain.

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

Some of Rauner's fellow Republicans are not happy with the way the divided government is turning out. Republican state House of Representatives members gathered at a press conference May 20 to express their displeasure at what they see as Democratic partisan politicking and a refusal to cooperate. Watch them explain their grievances with Speaker Michael Madigan and other Democrats at Reboot Illinois.

NEXT ARTICLE: Best of the best: The top 10 hospitals in Illinois

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Houston Rockets Fans Play The Worst Game Of Tic-Tac-Toe Ever ... No, Really, EVER

Tue, 2015-05-26 10:26
Stay in school, kids.

During a promotional event at the Houston Rockets' NBA playoff game Monday night, two men entered the arena to battle in the ancient ways of tic-tac-toe. For every lay-up they hit, the competitors would lay down their respective Xs or Os on the giant tic-tac-toe board at center court.

The onslaught was extreme, the thirst for blood unquenchable, and the carnage gut-wrenching to witness ... but mostly it became sort of sad, as the crowd watched two Houston Rockets fans just completely forget how to play a game of tic-tac-toe.

Set your faces to "cringe."

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5 Of The Oldest Prisoners In Illinois

Tue, 2015-05-26 10:18
While many people might think of criminals as young people, some of the about 48,000 prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections system are much older than most of Illinois' non-incarcerated residents.

Here are five of the oldest prisoners in the Illinois Department of Corrections:

10. Kenneth I. Turner, 84

DoB: May 5, 1931

Offense: Sexually Dangerous Person

County: Sangamon

Sentence: To be determined

Custody date: Nov. 7, 1995

Facility admission date: March 20, 1996

Projected discharge date: To be determined

Facility: Big Muddy River

9. Ernest Cornes, 84

DoB: April 15, 1931

Offense: Armed Robbery, Rape, Intimidation, Sexual Assault

County: Cook, Williamson

Sentence: 10 years, 60 years, 75 years, life

Custody date: Dec. 17, 1953, Oct. 11, 1977

Facility admission date: Feb. 11, 1954

Projected discharge date: To be determined

Facility: Shawnee

8. Richard A. Duda, 84

DoB: June, 18 1930

Offense: Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault

County: DuPage

Sentence: 15 years

Custody date: Feb. 26, 2009

Facility admission date: March 5, 2009

Projected discharge date: 3 years to life

Facility: Dixon

7. Rudy G. Aviles, 84

DoB: July 26, 1930

Offense: Attempted Murder

County: Will

Sentence: 72 months

Custody date: Dec. 13, 2007

Facility admission date: Jan. 18, 2013

Projected discharge date: Aug. 6, 2015

Facility: Dixon

6. Richard Hanus, 84

DoB: Dec. 24, 1930

Offense: Criminal Sexual Assault

County: Cook

Sentence: 6 years

Custody date: Oct. 19, 2005

Facility admission date: Jan. 4, 2008

Projected discharge date: Jan. 21, 2021

Facility: Pickneyville

Check out Reboot Illinois to see the five oldest prisoners and their crimes.

Sign up for our daily email to stay up to date with Illinois politics.

NEXT ARTICLE: 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in Illinois in 2015

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This Is You At Home Alone Versus You At Home With Other People

Tue, 2015-05-26 09:45
Home alone = no pants.

Being the only one in your home is a completely freeing experience. Perhaps too freeing. And sometimes we forget just how liberating it is until we have friends over and have to act all "respectable" and "dignified."

BuzzFeed brings you a video comparison of how you act at home when you're by yourself versus how you act when people are over. Hint: Being alone isn't as pretty.

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Former CBS News Anchor Dan Rather Explains Modern Internet Slang

Tue, 2015-05-26 08:53
If you love "Dad Bod," you'll love "Grand Dad Bod."

It's fun listening to older generations learn and discuss newfangled Internet slang, but also a little humbling when you realize that, one day, we'll all be old and out of touch with whatever the young people are up to. And you'll say things like "the young people."

BuzzFeed had former CBS News anchor Dan Rather sit down to talk about the latest in Internet language: terms like "on fleek," "bae," and of course "dad bod."

Yep, that's it, laugh while you can. You'll be there soon.

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Emilio Estevez Just Dropped The Best 'Mighty Ducks' Reference Ahead Of Anaheim Ducks' Win

Tue, 2015-05-26 08:27
For many of us, Emilio Estevez isn't just Emilio Estevez, son of Martin Sheen, brother of Charlie Sheen or distinguished member of the '80s Brat Pack.

No, above all of that, he is, and forever will be, Gordon Bombay -- as in, the reluctant coach of the greatest hockey team to ever (fictionally) exist, The Mighty Ducks.

Well, turns out the real-life NHL team, the Anaheim Ducks (which was created and named in 1993 following the success of the 1992 film), are doing pretty, pretty good as well.

The Anaheim Ducks won in a stunning 5-4 overtime victory against the Chicago Blackhawks during Monday's Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. Two goals came from Jonathan Toews within 72 seconds during the third period, leading to the overtime. Charlie Conway would be proud.

Ahead of the game, they got a little "Flying V"-style love from Estevez Coach Bombay.

GO GET 'EM TONIGHT DUCKS!!! @AnaheimDucks#GordonBombay

— Emilio Estevez (@EMILIOTHEWAY) May 26, 2015

And of course after they win? A classic "Quack" chant.

DUCKS: 4!!!!!! HAWKS....two.....QUACK! QUACK! QUACK! @AnaheimDucks @NHL

— Emilio Estevez (@EMILIOTHEWAY) May 26, 2015

But where have we seen a Ducks-Hawks rivalry play out before? OH, THAT'S RIGHT.


"The Mighty Ducks" predicted the Ducks - Blackhawks series back in 1992! (Via @takenoyujin)

— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) May 11, 2015

Now leading the series 3-2, the Ducks will faceoff against the Blackhawks in Game 6 on Wednesday. We can only hope for some Averman-level trash talking:

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The Fallen Served for Our Freedom

Mon, 2015-05-25 12:34
Memorial Day is all about celebrating the lives of the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. The United States is made great because of their heroism. Their lives are remembered, honored, and celebrated by all of us, including the friends, family and fellow service members who knew them best.

Sadly, this month we lost six U.S. Marines when their helicopter went down during a relief mission for those impacted by the Nepal earthquake. Those Marines included U.S. Marine Corporal Sara Medina of Aurora, IL. Our hearts go out to the families of these Marines and we will never forget their great contribution to our country.

This is also a time to reflect on the lives that have been lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. We have lost 6,861 brave American soldiers in these wars, and thousands more have been injured. We will forever honor their patriotism and the bravery of those lost in prior wars.

So this Memorial Day, as families and friends gather, we must pay homage to those who gave their lives for us. We must do everything we can to support the loved ones of the fallen as we mark Memorial Day and always. The United States is the greatest country in the world because of their sacrifice.

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Artist Jim Bachor Fixes Chicago Potholes With Ice Cream Mosaics

Mon, 2015-05-25 09:53

Devouring a melty, delicious Good Humor bar on a stoop on a steamy July afternoon -- does anything say “summer in the city” more perfectly?

With the hottest months fast approaching, mosaic artist Jim Bachor is bringing those frosty memories to streets around Chicago. In a series called “Treats in the Streets,” Bachor fills in potholes in city avenues not just with cement, but with bold, colorful mosaics of ice cream treats.

“Potholes are universally hated/despised no matter who you are,” explained Bachor in an email to The Huffington Post. “Ice cream is (almost) universally loved.” This isn’t the first time he’s both repaired and beautified potholes with his art. Last fall, he installed flower mosaics in a number of potholes in Chicago. “I like the contrast of juxtaposing something 'bad' with something 'good,’” he says.

While an untended pothole is an annoyance, a public eyesore, even a danger, Bachor’s guerrilla mosaic repairs are both practical and healing on a more soulful level. Instead of jagged holes in the concrete, Chicago streets are dotted with cartoonishly bright, meticulously crafted patches of public art, adding a touch of optimism to the neighborhood.

Many street artists work in ephemera -- graffiti that will soon be removed, murals that will eventually be painted over -- but Bachor is intrigued by the possibility of longevity offered by these street mosaics. “Ancient mosaic art -- its durability astounded me,” he says. “2,000-year-old mosaics look exactly like the artist intended today!” By combining this durable art form with a problem of crumbling infrastructure, he saw a way toward achieving two highly desirable ends.

As for the beneficiaries of his reparative art, he says the Chicago public has been “overwhelmingly positive” about the project. City officials have been more measured in their response. Last year, city spokesman Bill McCaffery told The Chicago Tribune, “Mr. Bachor and his art are proof that even the coldest, harshest winter can not darken the spirits of Chicagoans. But filling potholes is a task best left to the professionals and CDOT."

Fortunately for the grateful citizens of Chicago, Bachor isn’t leaving well enough alone. Instead, there are a few fewer potholes, and a few more pieces of striking public art, around the city. Sounds like a great start to the summer.

HT Junk Culture

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Joe Plumeri Tells New York Law School Grads: 'Go Play In Traffic'

Sat, 2015-05-23 11:21
Businessman Joe Plumeri, who currently serves as vice chairman of the First Data Board of Directors, gave the commencement address at New York Law School on Tuesday. He dropped out of New York Law School in the 1960s to pursue a job on Wall Street but was awarded an honorary degree this week.

In his energetic speech, Plumeri said graduates must have commitment, purpose and vision in order to have success. He encouraged graduates to commit fully to whatever they wanted to do, using the analogy that Vikings burned their ships when they landed at a place they wanted to conquer. But without purpose, Plumeri said, they won't succeed.

"The purpose has got to be genuine concern for what you do and the people you do it for," he said.

Plumeri told the graduates to "go play in traffic" to find their vision.

"Now you’re saying, 'What's wrong with the guy? He wants me to go get hit by a car!'" Plumeri said. "That's not what I want you to do. What I want you to do is engage."

He further explained that "playing in traffic" is all about going out there and exploring your vision, making blunders and taking risks.

"Go out, play in traffic," he said. "Something's gonna happen eventually."

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B.B. King Viewing Draws More Than 1,000 In Las Vegas

Sat, 2015-05-23 07:57
LAS VEGAS (AP) — B.B. King kept drawing fans in Las Vegas, and a family feud simmered, during a public chance to say goodbye ahead of a weekend memorial service and a final King of the Blues road tour leading back home to the Mississippi Delta.

More than 1,000 people streamed past the body of the music legend during a four-hour public viewing Friday, said Matt Phillips, manager of the Palm South Jones Mortuary several miles west of the Las Vegas Strip. Ushers ran out of 900 printed cards bearing King's dates of birth and death and lyrics to his signature song, "The Thrill is Gone."

A steady string of King's hit songs — "Everyday I Have the Blues," ''Sweet Little Angel," ''Why I Sing the Blues" — never stopped as ushers directed people to move past a casket framed by floral arrangements and two of his guitars, always called Lucille.

King died May 14 at home in Las Vegas. He was 89.

One of his 11 surviving children, daughter Rita Washington, greeted some of the 350 people in line when the doors opened. The day smelled like desert rain, but just stayed gray.

"Dad is just loving this," she said. "This is part of his homecoming."

Hours later, another daughter, Shirley King, said she was nothing but angry about the venue and the viewing.

"I'm very upset," she said. "I don't want to be out here disrespecting my father's rest. But something's wrong here."

Shirley King lives in Chicago, and it was her first glimpse of B.B. King since December. She said she thought there should have been seats for people to sit and talk, not just an aisle to shuffle past the body.

People who brought guitars had to leave them outside. No photos were permitted, and ushers stopped several people from trying.

But Marilyn and Tommy Burress weren't disappointed.

The couple from Milwaukee knew when they heard B.B. King had died that they had to pay their final respects. They were in Las Vegas this week for Tommy Burress' 72nd birthday.

"It's inspiring to see how many lives he touched," Tommy Burress, a retired auto worker, said afterward, "how many people loved his music and loved his attitude — friendliness, friendship and love of the people."

Pam Hargraves, 50, flew to Las Vegas from Providence, Rhode Island, because she couldn't bear not to say goodbye to a performer she'd seen maybe 50 times at venues around the world.

"I just knew when he passed, wherever he was, I would be there," she said.

The viewing was followed by a Friday night musical tribute at a rock 'n' roll venue on the Las Vegas Strip hosted by Shirley King, who performs as Daughter of the Blues.

A Saturday memorial was set at a Palm Mortuary chapel in downtown Las Vegas.

In King's Mississippi hometown, Indianola, hundreds of people were expected to attend the B.B. King Homecoming Festival on Sunday, a free gathering he started 35 years ago.

A procession Wednesday on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, is scheduled to begin the last leg of his trip back to Indianola for burial May 30.

In Las Vegas, the family feud began weeks ago, when King was hospitalized and then brought home for hospice care. Several of his adult children accused his longtime business agent, LaVerne Toney, of endangering his health and raiding his wealth.

A judge said two investigations found no evidence that King was mistreated or abused.

Daughters Karen Williams and Patty King accuse Toney of keeping them from seeing their father for a week after he died — and of preventing them from taking photos of him in his casket.

They and three other children — Washington, Willie King and Barbara King Winfree — refer to themselves as a family board. They've hired a lawyer to handle their complaints.

"We're his children," Patty King said after a private family viewing of King's body on Thursday. "We're going to fight with every breath in our body."

Toney, who worked for King for 39 years, said she's doing what B.B. King said he wanted.

"They want to do what they want to do, which is take over, I guess," Toney said of the family group. "But that wasn't Mr. King's wishes."

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Free, Low-Cost Cooking Classes Aim To Help Underserved Communities Eat Better

Fri, 2015-05-22 17:03
CHICAGO -- A weekly after-school cooking and nutrition class is having a big impact on the lives of families in some of the city's underserved communities.

The Chicago Park District's "Fun With Food" program is using the city's former field houses, website CivilEats reports, as venues to teach children how to prepare healthy food that's also appealing to their taste buds, such as "apple nachos supreme" and creamy avocado toast.

Classes, tailored to children ages 6 to 12, will be held in 11 locations throughout the city this summer, and will also teach participants about food sanitation, knife and utensil skills, and portion control in line with U.S. dietary recommendations. The program's partnerships with area urban farms, such as Growing Power, and nearby school and community gardens help students learn more about where their food comes from. Some of the classes, particularly those in lower-income parts of the city, are free, while others charge a low registration fee.

CPD wellness manager and registered dietitian Colleen Lammel-Harmon, speaking to Chicago Health magazine in 2012 about the program, explained that participants learn how to make healthier food choices at the grocery store in a way that's fun, accessible and hopefully will result in a lasting change.

"One week, we will ask the children to bring in their favorite food, and we'll break down the ingredients so they can get a better sense of what they are eating and what is and isn't healthy,” Lammel-Harmon told the magazine. "Another week, we will create a mini grocery store and help them identify better options for their favorite foods."

Programs elsewhere in the country are making similar efforts to help families in low-income communities learn to shop for and prepare healthy, budget-friendly meals.

Cooking Matters, an initiative of the national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength, teaches free, six-week-long nutrition classes for adults, children and families alike, and has been doing so since its founding in 1993. The D.C.-based program facilitates the classes nationally by partnering with volunteer instructors like 18 Reasons, a San Francisco group that runs a community cooking school.

Programs like Cooking Matters can be effective, too. According to the group's 2013 annual report, 71 percent of adult graduates of the class reported eating more vegetables, and 66 percent of teen graduates said they were eating more fruit after the program.

Such programs do face some challenges. Multiple studies have indicated there's no connection between access to fresh food and a community's eating habits or obesity rates, suggesting that the need for effective nutritional education is all the more important.

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Mother Stands In At Graduation For Son Killed In Prom Night Crash

Fri, 2015-05-22 13:26

CHICAGO, May 22 (Reuters) - A Chicago area woman whose 18-year-old son was killed in an alleged drunk-driving crash after his high-school prom last weekend wore his cap and gown at his graduation in a tribute to him.

Katherine Jackson, mother of Aaron Dunigan, walked across the stage during the ceremony on Wednesday. Along with Dunigan's father, she received a special plaque with his diploma, awards and a graduation ticket.

"She got a standing innovation, a lot of tears, a great deal of cheers," said Dwayne Evans, principal of the school in the south Chicago suburb of Calumet City. "It was mixed joy, happiness, and a lot of sadness."

Thoughts & Prayers to mom... Aaron Dunigan, 18, killed after prom in car crash

— Judy Hsu (@JudyHsuABC7) May 18, 2015

Dunigan, a quarterback on the school football team, was one of two people killed in the crash. He and another classmate were passengers in a car driven by a third friend and classmate, according to local media reports.

The three were on their way home from prom when the driver crashed into another car. Dunigan and the driver of the other car were both killed. The other passenger was badly injured and attended graduation in a wheelchair, local media reported.

The driver has been charged with driving under the influence causing death and reckless homicide with a motor vehicle.

Evans said Dunigan's mother was one of about 2,000 people attending the ceremony for some 400 graduates.

"It was very strong of her to be willing to do that," he said. "She brought the house down, and she said: 'I think Aaron can hear the cheers from the crowd.'"

Dunigan was preparing to play football for Southern Illinois University in the fall, local media reported. The school said his funeral is scheduled for Saturday. (Reporting by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Frances Kerry)

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Chiraq: Where a Kid Can Be a Kid

Fri, 2015-05-22 12:07
File this under: People be cray.

You should never, ever, never, let your three-year-old go to the park all by herself. Unless she's your third child. Then it's okay.

Every kid is different. When you have your first baby you're afraid. You don't know any better. It's terrifying. You don't let your first born cross the street by himself until the day he goes away to college.

But by your third, you are so worn down. And to be honest you really just don't care. And don't even get me started on number four. Because I haven't seen him in days. And I don't know all that much about him.

I read about some parents getting arrested or some jazz for letting their kids go to the park all by themselves. Their children were actually taken away by Child Protective Services and the parents had no idea where they were. That's some scary stuff.

These parents are being called Free Range Parents. Apparently meaning they let their kids roam and be free. Hmmmm.... that's one name for it.

I prefer to call it Common Freaking Sense Parenting. (I'm going to have to trademark that). There are just too many freaking rules. And too many freaking people with too much freaking time on their hands.

It's not for everyone. Not everyone can handle Common Freaking Sense Parenting. There aren't many rules and not too much structure. You just do what you see fit for your own child. Because no one knows your child like you do. Oh, and you mind your own damn business.

When my third child turned three she was allowed to roam freely. It wasn't so much a conscious decision as it was exhaustion. We were just too tired to keep tabs on her. And she was fast.

But we live on the south side of Chicago. I believe Better Homes and Gardens named it the safest place to raise a family in the nation, if not the world. But I could be mistaken. It's easy for us to be so calm when we live in a modern day utopia. It's our own private Camelot.

I realize not everyone has the luxury of living in one of the safest cities on earth. Even Spike Lee is making a movie lovingly entitled, Chiraq. I can actually hear the value of my house going up when I say that word. Chiraq. Cha-ching.

In my defense, we live right on the park. And it's awesome. The entire park is my kids' personal playground. So for me to let my kids roam free isn't that big of a deal to me. I used to love when people would bring my third child home and proudly declare, we found her! Ummmm, she wasn't missing.

Sometimes I look around the house and notice number three is not here. I know her usual hot spots. One of her personal faves is the port-o-potty by the field house. Indoor plumbing is so overrated. She will actually leave our house to go use this port-o-potty. My first born never used a public bathroom let alone a port-o-john. In the park. Right behind our house.

Things are definitely different nowadays than they used to be. When we were kids my Dad would send us for the morning paper each morning. But he was really strict. You had to be six to go get it. And only had to cross one busy street.

My mom would send us to the corner store with a note that said "Virginia Slims Menthol Lights". The woman who worked there had no problem selling us cigs. But God forbid I try to buy some candy with the change in my pocket. They would stop me and say, does your mother know you're buying this?

I still contend that walking to the park by yourself is much safer than surfing the web (as the kids say) by yourself. I was a kid. I walked places by myself. I met friends at the park. I hung out. I understand these things. I do not understand the world wide web. But last time I checked I haven't heard of any parents getting arrested for letting their kids be on the computer alone. Which in my eyes is a much scarier place to be.

Eileen O'Connor is a woman, wife, and mother living on the south side of Chicago with her family.

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Poll: Duckworth Zaps Zopp in U.S. Senate Democratic Primary

Fri, 2015-05-22 12:00
"We're running a poll to test what I'm hearing from people, and if that poll comes out positive, then I have every strong expectation that I am going to get into the race," Chicago Urban League CEO Andrea Zopp told National Journal in an interview on Friday, May 1, regarding a potential primary fight with U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) over the right to challenge U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) in 2016.

On Friday, May 15, the Chicago Sun-Times' Michael Sneed reported that Zopp, who has been recruited by ex-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, had decided to run.

Apparently, Zopp got her poll results back.

But "positive," as far as a primary goes at least, must be an assessment fixed firmly in the eye of the beholder.

According to a new poll of 1,051 Democratic primary voters commissioned by The Illinois Observer for its subscriber e-newsletter, The Insider, Duckworth is cleaning Zopp's clock, winning 50.8% to 5.2%.

Brutal. Positively.

The survey, conducted by Ogden & Fry on May 16 with a +/- 3.08% margin of error, showed 44% of Democratic primary voters undecided.

"Congressman Tammy Duckworth not only holds a commanding lead of potential rival Andrea Zopp, but she also exceeds the important 50% mark," Ogden & Fry pollster Tom Swiss wrote in his polling momentum.

Still, even with a 45-point lead, the bulging number of undecided Democratic primary voters gives Zopp, who was appointed to the Chicago Board of Education by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, an opportunity, Swiss acknowledges.

"It is not surprising to see a large undecided percentage early in a race, but this could develop into something significant if a rival candidate catches momentum," Swiss wrote.

Some insiders think that Democrats need an African-American at the top of the Illinois ticket in 2016 in order to motivate black voters to the polls and they fret that Duckworth, who ran a centrist campaign in her failed first bid for Congress in 2006 against U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL), will fail to ignite enthusiasm among the Democratic base.

Duckworth's support in 2006 for the extension of President George W. Bush's controversial tax cuts, including those for the wealthy, for example, will hurt her with progressives, they argue.

They worry about media reports from the 2006 campaign that showed her endorsing the Bush tax cuts, such as that of then-Daily Herald reporter Eric Krol that could undermine enthusiasm among the Democratic rank-and-file.

"She doesn't favor rolling back the income tax rate cuts - even for the wealthy - saying she'd 'leave (them) where they are at present.' Duckworth also favors rolling back only half of the Bush administration's proposed tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, even though she argues they disproportionately help those with the most money," wrote Krol for a March 16, 2006 story.

In 2015, Democratic grass roots fume over the top 1% and chafe at centrist Democrats who are perceived as allies of the wealthy and corporate chieftains.

For Duckworth to be undermined by her earlier embrace of the Bush tax cuts, she would need a Senate primary opponent to raise the issue.

Enter Zopp - and Bill Daley.

Some Democratic insiders see the Zopp-Daley tag team - both of whom who possess lucrative corporate resumes and both of whom who both could be 1% poster children themselves - as part of a Daley effort to ingratiate himself with Governor Bruce Rauner, who appointed Daley to his gubernatorial transition team and who is fully committed to Kirk, by aiming to weaken the financially flush and well-known Duckworth in an expensive, bitter primary or secure a narrow victory for the unknown Zopp.

Within hours of the disclosure of the Zopp candidacy, the Illinois Republican Party issued a statement attacking not the potential new challenger to Kirk - but Duckworth, confirming their fear of Duckworth and indifference towards Zopp.

"Tammy Duckworth is a partisan voice who sides with Washington insiders and powerbrokers, not the independent-minded people of Illinois," said Nick Klitzing, Executive Director of the Illinois Republican Party. "The inability to clear her path in the U.S. Senate primary demonstrates a massive failure by her Washington friends."

Not a word about Zopp. Zero.

If Zopp taps the Daley clan's network of corporate campaign donors and begins to raise her profile, she may well likely begin to move some of those 44% undecided Democrats into her column and perhaps as well as pick off some of Duckworth's supporters, creating a competitive, expensive campaign. That would force the second-term congresswoman to spend the $1.5 million that she already has in the bank on Zopp, not Kirk.

And that's exactly what the Kirk and Rauner camps would like to see.

Were Zopp to win, that would be the bonus.

But Zopp, a former general counsel to Exelon and Sears, is no U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. Zopp, who did Emanuel's bidding by voting to close 50 Chicago Public Schools, will be hard pressed to morph into a progressive darling in order to challenge Duckworth's centrist record.

That ain't gonna fly.

And Duckworth should avoid becoming too enamored with her early lead.

That could be fatal.

David also edits The Illinois Observer: The Insider, in which this article first appeared.

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The Roots Aim To Expand Music Festival Following Record-Breaking Ticket Sales

Fri, 2015-05-22 10:45
Music festival season is upon us, and that means that the legendary Roots crew will host their 8th annual Roots Picnic on May 30 at Philadelphia’s Festival Pier.

In response to the event’s growing popularity, the group has curated a diverse lineup which includes their performance, as well as Erykah Badu, The Weeknd, A$AP Rocky, electronic rock duo Phantogram and hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, to name a few.

This year’s bill has helped the festival net its biggest ticket revenue yet, according to The Roots frontman Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter. “Eight years ago we didn’t have a sponsorship; we didn’t have that much support on a local level, either. The Roots Picnic began as something we did and said that ‘we’re going to do this and they will come,’” Trotter explained to The Huffington Post. “And so we did it and folks have begun to come around.”

“This year is our best year for ticket sales thus far, and this is going to be the largest that we’ve ever been in the past 8 years as far as expansion. But I feel like pretty soon, we may be growing out of the festival here in Philadelphia. Because we’re close to capacity now,” he added.

Trotter mentioned the group is looking to potentially expand the festival to places such New York, Washington D.C., Detroit and Baltimore.

While the group's place as the as the “Tonight Show” band has certainly helped ticket sales, Roots Picnic co-founder and group manager, Shawn Gee attributed this year’s record-breaking sales to the brand awareness surrounding the event.

“We toured the world for countless years and played these multi-act, multi-genre festivals and wanted to provide that same experience for our hometown fan base,” Gee told HuffPost. “I think we've delivered on that goal and now the Roots Picnic brand itself means something, regardless of the talent that we book.”

“People know what to expect and they know they will have a great time and discover new musical talent at our event. We have also organically grown the footprint and this year added a 3rd stage and more artists to the bill."

In addition to organizing this year’s 8th Annual Roots Picnic, in July the Philadelphia collective will also release a music project in conjunction with the Broadway play “Hamilton.” The special set is expected to feature interpretations of the production’s original recordings reworked by Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, John Legend and Alicia Keys among others.

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Is 'The Big Lebowski' Actually A Retelling Of 'Alice In Wonderland'?

Fri, 2015-05-22 10:42
Walter ... walrus ... whoa.

So you've seen "The Big Lebowski" dozens of times. You loved "Alice in Wonderland" when you were a kid -- and you loved it even more when you grew up and understood all the drug-related undertones. But what if we told you that these two films ... COULD BE THE SAME FILM?

The good people at Cracked have tied together this theory in neat little package for your eyes and ears to consume. Does it blow your mind to think that Alice might have been the original Dude?

Does this theory stand, man?

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Smokeless Tobacco Is On The Rise In These States

Fri, 2015-05-22 10:24
First, the good news: Smoking rates are down significantly in 26 states. The bad news? The use of smokeless tobacco (also known as dip, snuff or chew) is up in four states, while using both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco is up significantly in five states.

“Although overall cigarette smoking prevalence has declined significantly in recent years in many states, the overall use of smokeless tobacco and concurrent cigarette and smokeless tobacco has remained unchanged in most states and increased in some states,” summed up researchers for the Centers for Disease Control, which published the data in their weekly Morbidity and Mortality report.

From 2011 to 2013, four states showed increased smokeless tobacco use: Louisiana, Montana, South Carolina and West Virginia. Only two states -- Ohio and Tennessee -- exhibited decreases. In terms of total use, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia reported the lowest numbers of smokeless tobacco, at 1.5 percent, in 2013. In contrast, West Virginia reported the highest use, at 9.4 percent, with Wyoming and Montana coming in second and third, at 8.8 percent and 8 percent, respectively.

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The findings are significant because past research has shown that people using both products are more addicted to nicotine and less likely to want to quit both habits than those who just smoke cigarettes. It also suggests that the public may have misperceptions about the safety of smokeless tobacco -- namely, that it is a safer alternative to cigarettes -- thanks to advertising campaigns.

In reality, smokeless tobacco is addictive because of the nicotine it contains, and it can cause oral, esophageal and pancreatic cancer, according to the NIH’s National Cancer Institute. It may also cause other diseases like gum disease, oral lesions and precancerous patches in the mouth called leukoplakia. In no way should it be considered an aid to help people quit smoking, notes the NCI.

The CDC researchers aren’t sure why smokeless tobacco use is going up, but the report notes a few possible reasons.

"These increases could be attributable to increases in marketing of smokeless tobacco, the misperception that smokeless tobacco is a safe alternative to cigarettes, and the lower price of smokeless tobacco products relative to cigarettes in most states,” wrote the researchers. "In addition, the tobacco industry has marketed smokeless tobacco as an alternative in areas where smoking is otherwise prohibited."

Just last month, the Food & Drug Administration rejected tobacco producer Swedish Match AB's request to remove cancer warnings from their smokeless tobacco product, Snus, and replace the warnings with the claim that it is safer than cigarettes. And last week, the FDA also rejected a petition from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and American Snuff Company to similarly alter the labels on their smokeless products.

To combat rising rates of smokeless tobacco use, the CDC recommend that states increase their spending on anti-tobacco programs, which include increasing the price on products, restricting tobacco advertising, increasing anti-tobacco graphics and commercials, and helping users quit their addictions. Indeed, while states will bring in more than $25 billion in settlement payments and tobacco taxes in 2015, they're also projected to spend less than two percent of that revenue on such programs -- much less than the CDC-recommended levels for each state.

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'This Week In Unnecessary Censorship' Shows Taylor Swift In A New Light

Fri, 2015-05-22 09:41
Wait, that's what happens on "The Bachelorette"?

On Thursday, "Jimmy Kimmel Live" looked back at the previous week of television and tried to make it more inappropriate than it was originally. Why? Because [bleep] the FCC, that's why.

Who knew newscasters, reporters and Taylor Swift had such filthy mouths!

"Jimmy Kimmel Live" airs weeknights at 11:35PM EST on ABC.

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