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A Conversation With Eckhart Tolle

Tue, 2014-04-22 08:04
One of my favorite moments on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday came when Oprah asked the poet Mark Nepo what he considers sacred. When he replied, "Conversations like this are sacred to me," Oprah said, "They're so sacred to me I created a whole show to have them!"

In 2008 Oprah and the spiritual teacher and author Eckhart Tolle held a number of those conversations as part of their Web series Oprah & Eckhart Tolle: A New Earth. Now they're bringing those episodes to television for the first time, Sundays at noon on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. Since my new book Thrive is concerned with many of the same questions, I asked Tolle about the series, why this is a conversation we as a society need to have now, and the moment he knew he needed to change his life. Here's our conversation.

There's a great deal of common ground between your work and Oprah's: You share belief that by looking at our inner world, we can better equip ourselves to improve our outer world and the lives of those around us. Why did you decide to join forces with Oprah for this series, and how did it come together?

It all started when Oprah chose A New Earth as one of her book club selections. I got a message from my office that Oprah wanted to talk to me. At the time I was at our little island vacation home when Oprah called and told me that she had chosen A New Earth to be her book club selection, which was wonderful news. Then she said, "There's something else: I don't just want to have this book as my book club selection; I also want to do a teaching seminar with you on the Web, and we can do that over a 10-week period to bring the teaching to all those people who chose to tune in." I was amazed. I didn't even realize that such a thing was possible.

I said to Oprah, "Have you ever done this before?" She said, "No, this is completely new," and then I immediately heard myself say, "Yes, I'll do it." That's how it started. It was, for both of us, and for millions of other people, a wonderful experience and a way to use the new technology to bring greater consciousness to the planet and to humans on a very large scale. That's how it started, and it acquired its own momentum, as things do. By now it has been viewed over 40 million times.

Now, for the first time, it's on television, because when we first did it, it was only accessible on the Web. Now it will be reaching even more people, and there are people now who were not ready at the time, because to be able to understand and become transformed through a spiritual teaching, there needs to be a point of readiness. Not every human has reached that point of inner readiness. Sometimes it takes time and more suffering before people become ready to awaken. So the series is reaching people now who perhaps it could not reach then.

In your book A New Earth, and in the new series with Oprah that's based on the book, you made a compelling case for the need to be more present in our lives. Is there something about this particular moment that makes that message more important and urgent?

To become present in one's daily life is the arising of what may be called a different state of consciousness or a shift in consciousness. Everybody can verify that for themselves by noticing the difference between what it feels like when you are completely identified with every thought that comes into your head and what it feels like when you are present. When you are present, there is clarity, inner peace and a sense of aliveness, which is so different from the mind-identified state. When you are completely identified with thinking, you are also reactive. This is a dysfunctional, negative state that creates a lot of conflict.

Collectively, we are at a point where the old -- I call it the old, dysfunctional, egoic state of consciousness -- has become extremely dangerous. We can go back 100 years ago, which is 1914, when World War I started, and that was the first time humans fully realized how insane warfare was because of all the advances in technology that had happened by that time. Millions upon millions of people died in World War I from chemical warfare, tanks, poison gas, machine guns and all the other clever inventions of the egoic mind. That was the first time we realized the magnitude of the dysfunction in the collective consciousness, as it became amplified by the advances in science and technology.

We have reached a point now where if there's no shift in consciousness away from the dysfunctional, egoic state that generates all that insanity, then humans would most likely destroy themselves, or at least bring about a complete collapse of civilization. We have arrived at a point of great danger, collectively, but danger also means great opportunity for change. There's a fundamental universal truth, and that is humans do not change until they reach a point of crisis. That applies not only to individuals, but it also applies to humanity as a whole. It's only when we reach a state of crisis, the suffering that it produces creates the impetus behind the shift in consciousness. This is the point that we have reached now, and we've been moving towards this for the past 100 years. This is why so many people are now ready to undergo that shift.

So this is a very important moment in human history, where there is a possibility of almost a quantum leap in human consciousness. There's also the possibility, of course, that humans are not going to make it, that the shift won't happen, in which case there would be a regression in human evolution that could throw us back several thousand years. Hopefully, that's not going to happen, but it could happen, and even that would not be ultimately tragic, because I believe that consciousness is destined to grow and flower on this planet. I'm fairly confident that it is happening already, but we must not underestimate the gravitational pull, so to speak, of the old, dysfunctional consciousness that is still here and operates, as you can see when you watch the daily news. Most things you see on the daily news are reflections of the old, dysfunctional consciousness, or, rather, unconsciousness. We have reached a very interesting point in human evolution. It's quite amazing to be alive at this time.

Was there a moment in your own life -- a wakeup call or a personal turning point -- that showed you the importance of presence, focus and stillness?

Yes, there was a moment when the unhappiness in me became almost unbearable. I was depressed and anxious most of the time. This is what we've just been talking about now, the deep crisis that precedes a change in consciousness. I experienced that in my own life. I briefly describe it in the introduction to The Power of Now. I couldn't live with myself any longer, and so I considered suicide. I had considered suicide quite a few times in my life. At that point, suddenly something happened within me. I didn't understand what it was, because it happened spontaneously. It was only later I realized that what happened inside me was the arising of presence.

It was spontaneous. Nobody had told me that there's such thing as presence; it just happened. I disidentified from the thinking mind, the voice in the head that, in my case, as it is in many people's lives, was quite negative and self-destructive. I stepped out of the stream of thinking, and what arose inside me was presence or awareness, and suddenly I found this inner peace, and this happened as a result of extreme depression and anxiety. So I reached a crisis point in my life, and then, spontaneously, this shift in consciousness happened. This could be called a spontaneous healing at a very deep level, because the only true healing is a change in consciousness.

All other forms of healing, although they may be helpful and beneficial, are ultimately temporary and relatively superficial. This deep healing happened to me without a conceptual understanding, and that's an interesting thing, because it's not that I suddenly understood everything. I didn't understand conceptually what happened, so the shift in consciousness does not happen on the conceptual level. For most people it is helpful to come into contact with a teaching, to read a spiritual book or to listen to a spiritual talk. Those are conceptual pointers, and they can be helpful, but presence itself has nothing to do with concepts in your mind; it's going beyond thinking. You realize that there are basically two dimensions inside of you.

One of those two dimensions is thinking, which is where your identity as a person lies. The other dimension is consciousness itself, which is a where you are connected with something vast that goes far beyond who you are as a person. It is where you are connected to the universal intelligence itself that underlies the entire universe. This happened to me as a result of suffering, so there is a redeeming feature to suffering, because suffering can bring about that shift, and until a certain point in an individual's evolution is reached, suffering is inevitable and fulfills a necessary function, without which the shift would not take place. Humanity as a whole has already suffered enormously. Most of history is a history of dreadful suffering, much of it self-inflicted through violence and continuous conflict.

Because humanity has already gone through acute suffering, there are many people alive now who are actually at a point of readiness. They don't need to suffer that much more, because now we benefit from the past collective human suffering.

The ego is central to your work and the series -- how to understand it, talk about it and ultimately transcend it. How can we begin to free ourselves from our own egos?

In A New Earth I dealt in more detail with the ego and the various ways in which it manifests. I recommend that people read those chapters, but here I'd just like to mention that on the most basic level ego means complete identification with the thinking mind. In the egoic state, your sense of self, your identity, is derived from your thinking mind -- in other words, what your mind tells you about yourself: the storyline of you, the memories, the expectations, all the thoughts that go through your head continuously and the emotions that reflect those thoughts. All those things make up your sense of self. This mind-made sense of self is a mental image, and you live through that mental image. This mental image is the ego.

How you can free yourself from the ego is by realizing that there is another dimension of consciousness in you. That dimension is in everybody, but if you're completely identified with every thought that comes into you head, then you continuously overlook that there is that dimension of stillness and spaciousness inside you. Thought can be so seductive and hypnotic that it absorbs your attention totally, so you become your thoughts. When you become your thoughts, that is the ego. To realize that you are not your thoughts is when you begin to awaken spiritually.

For example, when your mind is very critical of yourself or other people, frequently complaining or berating yourself or creating anxiety by worrying about what might go wrong in the future, this creates a lot of unhappiness. Then you reach a point where you ask yourself, "What is at the root of this unhappiness I feel all the time?" And then you may be amazed to realize that in most cases when you are unhappy, you're not unhappy because of something that's happening in your life; you're unhappy because of what your mind is telling you about it. It's not a situation or an event that makes you unhappy but your mental commentary about it, the voice in your head. When you realize that, that's when you begin to disidentify from the voice in your head. The disidentification from thinking is the arising of presence. Then you realize that there is a sense of conscious presence behind your thoughts, and that this conscious presence is who you are. The thoughts happen within that presence, so thoughts come and go.

I like to give the analogy of the sky. The sky also has two dimensions: There are clouds, and there is the empty, blue sky. In this analogy the clouds are your thoughts, and they continuously drift past. And for many people there are so many clouds that their inner sky is continuously overcast. They don't realize that beyond the clouds is a vast, blue sky -- luminous vastness. But then a moment comes when there is a break in the clouds, a gap between two thoughts, and you realize, "Oh, the clouds are there, but I am that spacious vastness that is beyond the clouds." That means you're beginning to be free of the ego. Then your sense of identity is the feeling of your own presence. This is the realization that the essence of who you are is consciousness. Consciousness can be compared to space. It enables everything to be. We could put it like this: You are not what happens; you are the space in which it happens. That space is consciousness.

Thoughts are fine when you don't confuse them with who you are, and then thoughts are not a problem. Thinking is a wonderful tool to create things in this world. It only becomes problematic and a source of suffering when you confuse thinking with who you are. When you no longer confuse thinking with who you are, you begin to be free of the ego. It doesn't mean that you don't periodically fall back, because awakening is gradual.

20 DIY Lifehacks With Office Junk That Will Blow Your Mind

Tue, 2014-04-22 06:43
Sure, your iPhone is cool and all. But wouldn't it be cooler if it were powered by toilet paper speakers and propped up by binder clips?

To figure out the answer to that question, we tried out many of the most brilliant DIY computer hacks we had heard of. Here are the best of the bunch, which often require little more than random office supplies but make life way, way better.

Disposable Cups + Toilet Paper Roll
= iPhone Speakers

We were initially skeptical about the possibility of creating iPhone speakers out of two plastic cups, one roll of toilet paper and a pair of scissors. But within 5 minutes, we had crafted this beauty.



OK, so maybe we're not going to win a design award anytime soon. But to our surprise, it noticeably increased the phone's sound capacity both at low and high volumes.



Plastic Cup
= iPhone Speakers



If tossing together two plastic cups and a toilet paper roll is beyond your artistic capabilities (or you are actually the laziest person alive), plop your phone in a plastic cup or a mug. While it's not quite as effective, it does amplify the sound a fair bit.

Paper Clip + Scotch Tape
= Lint Roller For Your Headphone Jack

Flatten out a paper-clip...



Wrap scotch tape (sticky-side out) around the top of the paperclip...



Carefully insert it into your headphone jack.



Look at all the crap that came out of ours!



Gross? Yes. Gratifying? Obviously.

Binder Clips + Business Card
= iPhone Tripod

Voila! A kick-ass solution to your selfie and/or video woes.



Binder Clip
= Headphone Organizer

Protect your headphones from getting tangled with this low-budget hack. You can even clip them on your backpack or shirt if you're on the go.



Or to your desk or filing cabinet so you always know where they are.



Binder Clips
= Desk Cord Organizer

Following the same basic principle, you can organize your whole desk of cords and cables. This is what my desk looked like before:



And this is what it looked like after:



Here's a close-up view of this genius innovation:



Paperclip
= iPhone Stand



Perfect for watching videos, you can make this yourself in 2-minutes flat by following these step-by-step instructions:



Flatten the paperclip...



So it is entirely straight...



Double-bend it at the base into an un-pointed V...



Then bend the legs of the V and bend again so you wind up with this:



Let it lovingly cradle your Phone while you tune into your favorite show.




Toilet Paper Rolls
= Cord Organizers



If you have a lot of cords you want to store or a lot of cords you just don't use on an everyday basis, try empty toilet paper rolls to organize your mess.

The Spring From An Old Pen
= A Cord Maintainer



If you have a dried-out pen and some well-worn chargers and USB cords, we'd highly recommend this one. And really, who doesn't love a little office-supply surgery?

Ruler + iPhone
= iPhone Ruler



Sometimes the most genius ideas are the most simple, right? By that measure (hehe), this hack is completely brilliant and especially useful if you occasionally need to take small measurements but don't feel like carrying around a ruler.

How do you do it? Take a picture of a ruler and use it as your background or wallpaper. When you scale the photo in the edit function, line your phone up with the ruler to ensure it is true to size. Then thank us later.

MacBook
= Headphone Magnet



OK, this is less of a hack and more of an overlooked trick, but your earbuds actually magnetize to the border of your Macbook display, which is sort of cool?

Sticky Note
= Keyboard Cleaner



Use the adhesive side of a sticky note to get hard-to-reach dirt and dust out of your keyboard. It actually works.

Egg Carton
= Laptop Overheating Prevention-majig



Need we say more? No, we need not.

Three Adhesive Wall Hooks
= Tablet Mount



These cheap, plastic wall-hooks will turn your tablet into a mounted TV by getting your peel and stick on. (Literally, you only need to peel and stick. It's almost too easy.)

Cutting Board + Scrabble-Tile Holder
= Tablet Stand



A bit more intensive to make than the rest, but still easy enough for the most novice of DIY-ers, this tablet stand works in or out of the kitchen. Check out these step-by-step instructions to make your own.

Washi Tape + Keyboard
= Computer Beautification



Like a rainbow umbrella in a sea of boring black, a little bit of Washi Tape (which is basically patterned masking tape) can really make your laptop stand out from the crowd. If you're ready for a little color in your life, head over to crafty blog Granola To Glam for an easy-to-follow tutorial.

Washi Tape Or Nail Polish
= Gadget Chargers With Personality



Make it impossible for anyone to ever say that they "accidentally" stole your charger by making it one of a kind. With Washi tape or nail polish (or even a sharpie), you can personalize your chargers. Here are a few of our favorites to inspire you:





Washi tape power adapters #diy http://t.co/H9cMJ1DTn7 pic.twitter.com/oocczmqhwb

— Claire D (@hearthandmadeuk) August 11, 2013


Washi Tape
= Gadgets With Personality

Don't stop with your chargers! Get creative with the gadgets themselves. Like this one from Craft and Creativity:



Or this:



Bread Ties
= Cord Labelers



You know that panicked sensation that comes over you when you need to free up a plug but aren't sure which cord attaches to which device? Bread ties to the rescue! Look at you, getting your recycle on.

20. Washi Tape Or Masking Tape
= Cord Labeler


Washi Tape and Masking Tape also make for easy labels.



Just roll around the cord near the base of the plug itself and leave some extra room to label.



Ta-da! Time to go try one of these out for yourself.

Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah Named The Defensive Player Of The Year

Mon, 2014-04-21 17:35
DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Monday in front of friends and family.

"This is very humbling to be in this situation right now," Noah said at a news conference where his family was in the front row. He told coach Tom Thibodeau: "Without your system, this wouldn't be possible." Noah joins Michael Jordan in 1988 as the only Bulls players to win the award.

The recognition comes after he helped Chicago win 48 games and capture home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs despite losing Derrick Rose to a season-ending knee injury and trading away Luol Deng. It also comes at a time when he's getting about as much praise for his ability on offense after being known primarily for his defense and rebounding.

Noah has improved in a big way in that area since he was drafted out of Florida in 2007 and was the Bulls' most valuable player this season, averaging career highs of 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He's a focal point on offense, with the ball often being funneled through him, and he remains their anchor on defense. His ability to cover ground and rotate onto smaller players in pick-and-roll situations creates havoc for opponents. He averaged 1.5 blocks.

The recognition comes at a difficult time for Noah, whose mentor and second father figure Tyrone Green recently died. The Bulls, who won more games after New Year's Eve than any other Eastern Conference team, dropped the playoff opener to Washington on Sunday after blowing a 13-point lead. Game 2 is Tuesday in Chicago.

___

AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this report.

More Than 40 People Were Shot In Chicago Over Easter Weekend And The Feds Are Stepping In

Mon, 2014-04-21 16:47
The feds are stepping into Chicago's seemingly intractable gun violence problem.

A newly-formed prosecutorial unit called the Violent Crimes section will focus solely on how federal statutes can be used to stem the city's bloody gun crime epidemic, the U.S Attorney's Office in Chicago announced Monday. The unit began operations April 1.

The announcement comes less than a day after five children were shot at a South Side park on Easter Sunday. The children, who were between 11 and 15 years old, were among the more than 40 people wounded by Chicago gun violence over the weekend, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Eight people died, the Associated Press reports.

Randall Samborn, a spokesman for local U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon, told the Tribune the 16-member Violent Crimes unit will use a combination of drug and gun statutes along with extortion and money laundering laws to go after "criminal crews" that commit shootings and other acts of violence.

As Chicago's former Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Levenson told the Associated Press last year, using federal drug or gun laws to hit at gang members means stiffer sentences and fewer complicated hurdles than labor-intensive racketeering, or RICO, laws.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron DeWald, who previously served as deputy chief of the narcotics division and as a former Cook County state's attorney, was picked to lead the team, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Fardon's office has been under pressure to tackle both the area's violent crime problem and corruption since he was sworn in late last year.

The Violent Crimes section comes as a part of bigger change within the U.S. Attorney's Northern District office. The office has undergone a complete restructuring that prompted the breakup of larger divisions, like gangs and narcotics, into smaller groups, NBC Chicago reports.

In addition to the newest violent crime fighting unit, the office created a new section focusing on securities and commodities fraud, and will also target cybercrime.

I on Beauty: Chapter 1

Mon, 2014-04-21 15:51
I am approaching 70 years of age and the question I am always asked is... "What is my secret to beautiful skin."

The one and most important answer is "Consistency." That is a foreign word to both women and men alike when it comes to skin. I have found out no matter how great a product is, if you are not consistent every single day and night; you will not achieve the best results. Many people have said to me that three times a week is enough, but it is not. For example; how good would an athlete be if he or she trained just three days a week or every other day? Would they ever attain the best results... NO... In fact it might not get them on the team. My point is: to be on the top of your game you must have a strict regimen.

With this in mind try the following routine for two weeks. Start the day with a clean face then use your moisturizer, apply tonic and spritz your face with a protein mist before applying any make up. You will like the way your skin looks and be pleased when the compliments start to come your way. Every individual prefers certain cosmetics. I use a variety of products, some from pricey department stores and others from the drugstore. There are also different protocols for varying climates but no matter where I go I stick to a routine.

Some advice that I picked up when modeling and sitting with women whose livelihood depends on their looks is the model's mantra, "Never sleep in your make-up" and to keep your hair fresh, "Always sleep with it tied up on top of your head." Check back for more red carpet secrets.




I enjoy using the product line called Kanebo, a department store brand. It is imported from Japan and has a very light texture. This product has a bit of silk in it. Remember the Geisha girls that danced in a white face of make-up? Kanebo must have been inspired by centuries old recipes that rendered these women, the models of their day, as flawless as possible. Every part of the line reflects light, which gives a very youthful appearance. Their skin care products have a variety of creams for summer and winter as skin care is all about nurturing your skin in the environment, particularly after this super cold and super dry winter across the country.

In order to get a glow for decades and maintain it, exercise is a crucial part of the beauty regimen, as well. To look young and healthy you have to feel healthy and consistency is my mantra for exercise as well. I am an avid horsewoman and show jumper -- and have the broken bones as well as the hard muscles to prove it. Jackie O is a favorite icon of mine and by swimming and riding she went into the decades with that fabulous face and figure with style. A writer friend of mine knew her at the publishing house she worked at and shared with me many of the little beauty secrets she discovered.




I am a strong believer in working out with a trainer, exercising with my tapes, "walk instead of ride" kind of woman and I am as disciplined about moving my body as I am about caring for my skin. Healthy living keeps you beautiful. We do not want to be a well-preserved mummy on the divan as we move through the decades, but instead a vital, vibrant, active woman who wants to look as good as she feels.

After a big exercise day, take a warm bath in soothing bath salts, I use the brand Soothing Touch, then dry off, but not totally. Apply moisturizer on your body and seal it with baby powder, to keep the moisture in your skin. I consistently also use a variety of products from New York's most respected dermatologist. If you can afford it, investing in regular visits to a respected skin doctor is money well spent. And often they have their own recipes, outside of the usual injections that are so popular and for my money overused by women of a certain age. The maintenance creams my New York dermatologist creates are superb and rejuvenate the skin against aging. We all want to look our best with a clear complexion and a youthful appearance, these products have an outstanding outcome for me; they are like magic.

Skin and body care is not the only practice. We also have to feel pretty and think good thoughts. It's as important to nourish your soul, as it is your face and physical body. A pretty face, positive thoughts and a fresh perspective is a good start. Also remember, our bodies change as we get older and our wardrobe should alter accordingly. One of the biggest sins is trying to look 20 when we are over 50.

In closing one of the most powerful beauty secrets today is TO FALL IN LOVE. At any age being in love gives people a certain glow. Love can come in many forms and we should embrace it. We have choices in life and if you practice the good ones and try to remove the bad, you have a better chance of achieving your goals.

Love yourself at every age. We are God's beautiful creatures! It's part of the recipe for having people ask you, "How do you look so good after 50?"

Follow Irene on Facebook & Twitter!

Illinois GOP Ousts Officials Who Opposed Former Chairman's Support Of Same-Sex Marriage

Mon, 2014-04-21 15:20
A number of Illinois GOP officials who wanted to remove former state Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady after he publicly supported same-sex marriage last year lost their party positions last week, according to The Associated Press.

The AP reports:

Illinois Republicans across the state held elections for all 18 state central committee member posts this week, replacing six of the seven officials who signed on to a letter last year to hold a vote on removing Brady as chairman. The seventh person to sign the letter, Mark Shaw of the 10th Congressional District, was re-elected to a four-year term.

Brady began making public statements in January 2013 in support of same-sex marriage, contrary to the party's platform that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Committee members in favor of his removal said he not only violated the platform, but commented without notifying them first.

Brady, in turn, described the party as "on wrong side of history."

Brady resigned as chairman in May, a move that highlighted a rift between the state GOP's socially conservative and moderate wings. Jack Dorgan took over as chairman in June.

Many Republicans have shied away from opposition to same-sex marriage recently, as polls have shown rising support for same-sex marriage in the party. The Nevada Republican Party dropped opposition to gay marriage from its platform this month.

State Sen. Jim Oberweis (R), who led last year's effort to oust Brady, continues to be a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. He is looking to oust Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in November.

(h/t Political Wire)

This Interactive Map Will Help You Find Your Perfect Summer Music Festival

Mon, 2014-04-21 15:10
Coachella might be finished, but there are still lots of music festivals ahead in the U.S. to choose from. But how to choose? You want the most ideal lineup of your favorite artists at a location that interests you -- read: fits in your budget/doesn't sound like an awful place to spend a few days. Thanks to Hopper's interactive festival planning map, comparing lineups and figuring out your travel arrangements is now that much easier.

Plug in all of the artists you would love to see this summer in the search field below to figure out which festival has the greatest concentration of your favorites. Then add in your nearest airport and the map will show you the cheapest way for you to travel, taking into account flights and festival ticket prices. Give the map a try below.



A Type of Public Harassment We Need to Talk About More

Mon, 2014-04-21 14:36
What's your boyfriend's name?

I don't have a boyfriend.

You should have a boyfriend. You're cute.

This was the end of a conversation I had yesterday with a bartender who -- maybe because he was significantly older than me, or maybe because he had my credit card in his possession -- felt this was okay.

He greeted me at the bar by telling me it had been so long since he had seen me. I was confused because I had never seen him before, but it became clear that his opening was part of a larger narrative he probably uses with a lot of guys. The tenor of his story was this: It had been so long since he had seen me after we spent such an amazing night together, and then he never heard from me again. I wanted to close my tab and get back to my friend, so I pretended to be amused by his bizarre roleplaying.

But I wasn't.

What I experienced is an under-discussed and under-researched form of street harassment -- or public harassment more generally -- and it's a problem.

While the street harassment of gay and bisexual men is largely conceived of as homophobic in nature, that's not always the case. In my research on the public harassment of this population, men also reported incidences involving other gay and bisexual men.

One of the men I interviewed from Chicago told me he's "felt unwelcome in public many times. As a frequent/daily rider of the CTA trains, I constantly feel uncomfortable when there are older men making suggestive gestures at me, regardless of the time of day or location. Also, I feel like whenever I visit the Boystown area of Chicago that I am constantly unwelcome, mostly because there are a large number of men who make obscene gestures at me or check me out so thoroughly that I feel violated."

Age isn't always a factor, though it can certainly add to feelings of discomfort or uncertainty.

One reason this form of harassment is given less attention, especially in relation to harassment stemming from homophobia, is the same reason that women's stories of street harassment are often brushed off: We're supposed to be flattered by it. We're supposed to be excited about a stranger commenting on our appearance and asking personal, invasive questions. And we're supposed to -- and do -- accept these exchanges as standard or okay because it's unfortunately been normalized that way.

For men whose identity development isn't as far along -- they're either not out to themselves, or not out to others -- this form of harassment can be particularly harmful. Internally reconciling a non-normative sexual orientation and simultaneously being approached because of the identity you haven't yet accepted isn't easy. But it happens.

Public harassment often is internalized as a compliment though because -- for men just coming out and for many women -- it may be the first attention they've received from a man. Whether that attention is helpful for those people is murky. Whether it's unnecessary -- well, that's clear.

No one deserves to be approached in public by strangers and asked intimate questions. Women walking down the street shouldn't have to constantly endure being told by men to smile. Simply navigating public spaces shouldn't constitute an invitation for strangers to comment on someone's body or appearance. And most importantly, people shouldn't be shamed for taking it seriously. Street harassment -- and all forms of public harassment -- is a serious issue. And it's time for it to end.

Taste Of Chicago 2014 Lineup Includes Jeff Tweedy, Janelle Monae, AWOLNATION

Mon, 2014-04-21 11:43
The 2014 Taste of Chicago musical headliners were revealed early Monday as organizers look to breathe new life into the sprawling 34-year-old food festival, the largest of its kind in the world.

This year the festival -- which runs July 9-13 in Chicago's Grant Park -- will include performances from Janelle Monae, Nickel Creek, AWOLNATION, Emmylou Harris, and hometown favorite Jeff Tweedy of Wilco (see full lineup below). Additional daytime musical acts outside the main stage at the Petrillo Music Shell are forthcoming.

Once an unmissable Midwestern summertime event, Taste of Chicago has struggled in recent years with declining attendance, and was eventually shortened from 10 days to a long weekend.

Thanks to a hipper musical lineup (all but one of 2013's musical acts sold out) and the addition of food trucks and celebrity chefs, the last year's Taste turned a profit for the first time in six years.

With the Taste on an apparent upswing, even celebrities have come flocking. And, of course, there's always the chance attendees will catch the city's occasionally foul-mouthed mayor whipping off his tie and busting a move:


Mayor Rahm Emanuel dancing to Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines."

Indie rockers Spoon were apparently slated for the Taste as well, but as Time Out Chicago notes, their name was mysteriously yanked from the city's website early Monday.

2014 Taste of Chicago Lineup

Wednesday, July 9:
AWOLNATION
Saints of Valory

Thursday, July 10:
Janelle Monae
Gary Clark Jr.

Friday, July 11:
Nickel Creek
Emmylou Harris
Parker Millsap

Saturday, July 12:
Jeff Tweedy
(Openers TBA)

July 13:
Aloe Blacc
The Wailers

Reserved seats for for acts at the Petrillo Music Shell go on sale May 22.

Are You Worldly Enough To Ace This Geography Quiz?

Mon, 2014-04-21 11:30
Sure, you can point your own country and a few others out on a map, but just how far can you go? How well do you actually know the world you live in? Lucky you, we've got a quiz that will tell you just how much of a geography genius you actually are -- or aren't.

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Thought this quiz was too easy? Then you're ready for some next level geography testing. Enjoy!

Meryl Streep Knows How To Give Great Body Image Advice

Mon, 2014-04-21 10:59
Could Meryl Streep be any more perfect?

After accepting an honorary doctoral degree from Indiana University last week, Streep sat down with professor Barbara Klinger to answer questions submitted via Twitter. And her advice to aspiring performers was amazingly applicable to all women:
For young women, I would say, don’t worry so much about your weight. Girls spend way too much time thinking about that, and there are better things. For young men, and women, too, what makes you different or weird, that’s your strength. Everyone tries to look a cookie-cutter kind of way, and actually the people who look different are the ones who get picked up. I used to hate my nose. Now, I don’t.

For a woman who inhabits so many different roles to feel so comfortable in her own skin is seriously inspirational.

Check out more of what she had to say at Indianapolis Monthly.

[h/t Cosmopolitan]

Early Take On NBA Playoffs: Pacers Lay Easter Egg And Home Court Ain't So Sweet

Mon, 2014-04-21 09:55
The opening weekend of the NBA Playoffs is over, and it delivered on its promise of both brilliant and poor performances, leaving upsets and what-ifs in its wake. San Antonio limped its way to a Game 1 win over pesky Dallas, but what does that mean for its title chances? Portland showed why you can't discredit a great offensive team, but Indiana, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, laid an egg on Easter weekend. Here is what we learned from the early stages of the playoffs and what to expect looking forward.

16 Straight

The Miami Heat has now won 16 straight games over Charlotte (with the Big 3, LeBron James, Dwayne Wayde and Chris Bosh) and, as expected, easily handled the overmatched Bobcats 99-88, despite a rather inconsistent performance. The trick for head coach Erik Spoelstra -- particularly in these early series -- is to limit the minutes of James and the other two while maintaining the momentum and fluidity his club thrives on. So far, so good. None of the Big 3 played 40 minutes and perhaps just as importantly, the creaky Dwyane Wade -- whom he says faces no limit restriction -- played just 34, right around his season average.

Offense Kills

Two of the league's premier offensive teams -- Portland and Golden State -- put on spectacular performances on the road. The Blazers, fueled by LaMarcus Aldridge's 46 points, lit up Houston's improved defense en route to 122 points in a thrilling overtime win. The question all year long for this offense has been whether or not a jump-shooting team can sustain its scoring prowess in the prolonged format of the postseason. And yet, Aldridge's ability to spread the floor and create driving lanes for Damian Lillard (31 points, 10-12 free-throws), proved the difference. As for the Warriors, its vaunted backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson (22 points) was lethal against a Clippers team that has made substantial defensive strides under first-year coach Doc Rivers. It is very early, but the quick-strike scoring of both the Blazers and Warriors was impressive.

The Stunner

Indiana meanwhile, has endured offensive issues all year. But not showing up against a modestly talented Atlanta team without its best player, Al Hoford, in Game 1 of the playoffs, at home, is a shock. All-Stars Paul George and Roy Hibbert were handcuffed, combining for a mere 10-27 shooting, and the Pacers shot just 42 percent from the floor. Ball movement was severely lacking, as was defensive discipline and the normally lightning-fast defensive shifts. Again, this is just one bad performance, but the Pacers' 11-14 record since March 1 fails to inspire confidence. In fact, no other team in the East other than the Hawks has a worse record since the All-Star break.

Why does this matter? According to the Wall Street Journal, during the past decade, 14 of the 20 teams that made the Finals had top-four post-break records in their respective conferences.

Timmmmyyyy



Tim Duncan may not run and jump like a gazelle anymore, but his spry 27 point performance in San Antonio's 90-85 Game 1 victory over Dallas showed us why he may be the greatest power forward of all time. Duncan, after banging knees with Monta Ellis in the third quarter, was sensational from the block and high post, finishing with either hand and taking over for a Spurs offense that struggled for much of the game. With him having to check out, the offense predictably sputtered, going just 2-12 from the floor. Upon his return though, the Spurs went on a 17-1 run, earning their 10th consecutive win over the Mavericks and proving once again why they can never be counted out. Mastermind coach Gregg Popovich ranks fifth all-time in playoff wins to go along with four championship rings.

Home Woes

Teams work all season to earn home-court advantage in the playoffs, but it hardly seemed to matter this weekend. Washington, with its rather convincing 102-93 win in Chicago, became the fourth road team to win Game 1, joining the likes of Portland, Golden State and Atlanta. It's something to watch in the East especially, where the separation between the top two and the next six seems rather vast, but also in the West, which seems wide open.

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

Chance The Rapper Hospitalized, Cancels Coachella Performance

Mon, 2014-04-21 09:29
Chance The Rapper was hospitalized two hours before his performance at Coachella on Sunday, April 20, forcing him to cancel his second show at the festival.

“On behalf of @chancetherapper and our entire team- We sincerely regret to have to cancel our 2nd weekend at coachella," his management tweeted.

While the details of his illness were not disclosed, Chance had tweeted on April 18 that he was sick. The Chicago MC's reps said that he is expected to make a full recovery. A picture of Chance in his hospital bed was posted on Instagram earlier, but has since been deleted.

Got the next two days off and got sick. #goeshomehappily

— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 19, 2014


Don't worry. I'll have a full recovery in time for my @coachella set Monday night.

— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 19, 2014


Don't worry. I'll have a full recovery in time for my @coachella set Monday night.

— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 19, 2014


On behalf of @chancetherapper and our entire team- We sincerely regret to have to cancel our 2nd weekend at coachella. -CTR MGMT

— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 20, 2014


Chance fell ill on Friday night & was admitted to the hospital today- Doctors & family are with him & he is expected to make a full recovery

— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 20, 2014


Thank you for the prayers and support during this time, Chance, his team and family deeply appreciate it.

— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 20, 2014

Nene Powers Wizards Past Bulls For Game 1 Win (VIDEO)

Sun, 2014-04-20 22:52
CHICAGO (AP) — Nene started thinking about how it would all unfold in the middle of the night. No way could he have scripted it any better than this.

Nene dominated with 24 points, Trevor Ariza scored 18, and the Washington Wizards rallied from 13 down to beat the Chicago Bulls 102-93 in their playoff opener on Sunday night. John Wall scored 16 in his postseason debut. Marcin Gortat added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and the fifth-seeded Wizards pulled out the victory even though they looked like they were ready to be blown out.

They cut a 13-point deficit to one in the third and trailed by three going into the fourth, before outscoring Chicago 18-6 over the final six minutes to come out on top in their first playoff appearance since 2008.

"We had a team dinner, and after that, in the middle of the night I started thinking about what I'm going to do," Nene said. "How I'm going to defend. ... Things like that. It's a good feeling."

Game 2 is Tuesday in Chicago.

Nene was locked in from the opening tip, dunking on the game's first possession and scoring eight points in the first six minutes, and the Wizards turned it on down the stretch.

Gortat's layup started the decisive run, and Ariza gave the Wizards an 88-87 lead when he hit a pair of free throws with 4:17 remaining. Jimmy Butler tied it for Chicago with one of his own, but a layup by Gortat and basket by Nene made it 92-88, and Washington hung on after Chicago's Joakim Noah cut it to two on a tip-in with 2:11 left.

Gortat hit two free throws and added a jumper with 34 seconds left to make it a six-point game, and the Wizards took the early lead in the best-of-seven series.

Washington shot 49 percent and outrebounded Chicago 45-39 with Nene setting the tone inside. He hit 11 of 17 shots and grabbed eight rebounds.

Andre Miller came on strong down the stretch, scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth, and the Wizards pulled this one out even though Wall and Bradley Beal (13 points) combined to shoot just 7 of 25.

Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin each scored 16 points, and Butler had 15. But after posting more wins since Jan. 1 than any other Eastern Conference team, the Bulls find themselves in a hole.

"There are a lot of things you can do to help your team win. We're capable of playing a lot better," coach Tom Thibodeau said.

The Bulls led by 13 early in the third and were up 69-57 midway through the quarter when the Wizards went on a 13-2 run to make it a one-point game.

Ariza's 3-pointer cut it to 71-70 with 3:32 remaining. Noah answered with a layup and Taj Gibson hit two free throws to make it a five-point game, but a basket by Miller made it a three-point game going into the fourth.

"Up 13, we exhaled and they came back," Noah said. "Bad turnovers. They got some easy scores. We got to make our adjustments. This is chess. It isn't checkers."

The collapse was surprising given the resolve the Bulls showed all season. They could have easily packed it in after losing Derrick Rose to another season-ending knee injury and trading away Luol Deng. Instead, they dug in, and they were in good shape in this one before everything came apart.

The Bulls overcame a 14-point first half by Nene and took a 54-48 lead to the locker room after a strong second quarter.

Augustin drove for a three-point play with just over a minute left to finish the first-half scoring and start a 13-3 run that stretched into the third quarter and made it 64-51.

"You have to stay in the moment," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "There will be times in the playoffs where we have to survive and stay in the game with six or seven straight possessions and not score. Both teams can do that. Who is going to stay in the fight when you do that? We did. We had a period where they outplayed us, no question about it. We had to get that back, and in the second half, I thought we did."

NOTES: Wall on playing in the postseason: "It's very intense. I've watched it going to a couple of games, but it's a lot different when you're on the court. There was one segment when I couldn't really breathe when I was going up and down the court." ... Augustin hit just 3 of 15 shots but made all 10 free throws. Chicago was 20 of 26 at the foul line, while Washington was 26 of 35.

Blackhawks' Brent Seabrook Suspended Three Games For Brutal Hit (VIDEO)

Sun, 2014-04-20 15:58

CHICAGO (AP) — Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook has been suspended for three games for his hit on Blues center David Backes during their first-round playoff series.


The NHL announced the punishment Sunday, Seabrook's 29th birthday.


Seabrook received a five-minute major and game misconduct penalty for a vicious elbow to Backes' head late in the third period of Saturday's Game 2. Backes had to be helped off the ice and did not return during St. Louis' 4-3 overtime victory.


Seabrook's penalty led to Vladimir Tarasenko's tying goal with 6.4 seconds left in regulation.


The suspension is a big blow for the Blackhawks, who are down 2-0 heading into Game 3 on Monday night. Seabrook had a goal and an assist in each of the first two games of the series.

The 11 Stupidest Arguments Against Legalizing Marijuana

Sun, 2014-04-20 08:43
A version of this story was first published in February.

Nearly 80 years ago, the feature film "Reefer Madness" hit theaters, projecting demonstrably false anti-marijuana propaganda all over the big screen. In today's era of legal medical and recreational cannabis, the tone of this movie is often mocked. But drug warriors are still employing many of the same hysterical arguments to prop up their campaign against weed.

When it comes to public opinion, it's becoming clear that anti-pot crusaders are losing the battle. Recreational marijuana is for sale in Colorado, it’s coming to Washington sometime soon and a number of states have considered legalization measures this legislative session. In all, 20 states have passed laws allowing the medical or recreational use of marijuana, and with a majority of Americans now in favor of legal weed for the first time in U.S. history, the momentum is on marijuana's side.

As more states move toward reforming pot laws, many anti-weed groups have clung to the same tired rhetoric, a decision that has only served to further marginalize them. Greater public acceptance and access to the drug mean that many of marijuana's stigmas, once accepted as fact, now appear increasingly out of touch with reality.

While there may be more reasonable arguments to make when considering the issue of legal marijuana, these overused statements are not among them:

1. "Marijuana is addictive."



Like pretty much any substance (or activity, for that matter), marijuana can be abused, and frequent use can lead to dependency. But if we're going to keep something illegal just because it has the potential to be addictive, we'll also have to reconsider our approaches to a number of other substances. Studies have found cannabis to be less addictive than nicotine, alcohol and even caffeine, according to research by one scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

It's believed that somewhere between four and nine percent of regular marijuana users are likely to develop dependency problems, and it's true that a good number of marijuana users later avail themselves of professional help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that 957,000 people age 12 and over sought treatment for marijuana in 2012. But while drug warriors have touted this as evidence of a marijuana abuse epidemic, pot policy reformers have noted that the large majority of these patients have been referred by the criminal justice system, which has expanded options for treatment over jail time or other penalties. While it's a clear step up from imprisonment, many of the people who end up in treatment are still forced there for minor marijuana charges.

Furthermore, "not all abuse and dependency is created equal," as the authors of Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know put it. The authors point out that while some heavy marijuana users do experience symptoms of clinical dependency and feel discomfort or withdrawal when trying to quit, kicking a pot addiction doesn't lead to the same type of intense, dangerous physical and psychological pain that often accompanies alcohol, nicotine or heroin dependency.


2. "It's as dangerous as heroin and LSD."



Not many people may be willing to make this argument directly -- even President Barack Obama knows there isn't any reliable evidence to support it -- but the Drug Enforcement Administration's classification of pot is based entirely upon this contention. Schedule I drugs like marijuana, LSD and heroin "are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence," according to the DEA. They are also said to have "no currently accepted medical use."

Key anti-drug officials have been unwilling to budge on the supposed parallels between pot and these harder drugs. During congressional testimony in 2012, DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart refused to answer a question about whether crack was more harmful than pot. In January, Michael Botticelli, the drug czar’s chief deputy, ducked a question about whether meth or cocaine was more addictive than marijuana, leading Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to explain why these repeated denials and other inconsistencies in federal anti-drug policy only serve to undermine broader anti-drug efforts.

"Being unable to answer something clearly and definitively when there is unquestioned evidence to the contrary is why young people don't believe the propaganda, why they think [marijuana is] benign," Blumenauer said. "If a professional like you can't answer clearly that meth is more dangerous than marijuana -- which every kid on the street knows, which every parent knows -- if you can't answer that, maybe that's why we're failing to educate people about the dangers. If the deputy director of the office of drug policy can't answer that question, how do you expect high school kids to take you seriously?"


3. "Pot is a gateway drug that will lead you to more dangerous substances."



The claim that marijuana use will tip people toward other, harder substances has long been pushed by drug warriors, despite a lack of factual basis. The argument goes that because people often try harder drugs some time after having tried pot, the user's experience with marijuana must have played a significant part in later experimentation.

But in reading drug use statistics -- or any statistics at all -- it's important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. Just because users of heroin, cocaine or other hard drugs are very likely to have used marijuana earlier in their lives doesn't mean that the pot itself was the catalyst for their later drug-related decisions.

As Maia Szalavitz writes at Time, "Hell's Angels motorcycle gang members are probably 104 times more likely to have ridden a bicycle as a kid than those who don't become Hell's Angels, but that doesn't mean that riding a two-wheeler is a 'gateway' to joining a motorcycle gang. It simply means that most people ride bikes and the kind of people who don't are highly unlikely to ever ride a motorcycle."

It makes sense that statistics would show drug users frequently turning to pot first. Marijuana is relatively easy to lay hands on, meaning that anybody with a desire to alter their state of mind with a substance can likely access it (though if this is the actual standard-bearer of a gateway drug, as some would argue, then studies have also shown alcohol to be the true gateway substance).

Studies have pointed out this flaw in the "gateway theory" since as early back as the late 1990s, though the failure to find a direct link hasn't stopped anti-drug crusaders from pushing the argument.


4. "You smoke marijuana like tobacco, so it must be just as bad for you!"



Cigarettes lead to nearly half a million American deaths each year, so it might seem natural to assume that marijuana smoke drawn into the lungs in the same fashion would also do some serious physiological harm. But science hasn't borne out this hypothesis. Studies have found that cannabis and tobacco smoke contain some of the same carcinogens -- but cigarettes, which contain nicotine, cause significantly more harm than marijuana, which contains cannabinoids.

While many marijuana smokers may report respiratory discomfort like coughing or wheezing after excessive pot use, an extensive study released in 2012 found that the drug itself does not impair lung function. Other studies have found that cannabis can even suppress a variety of aggressive cancer cells. If medical science has reached any real conclusion about marijuana, it's simply that more research should be done to pin down the exact effects of cannabis smoke and cannabinoids.

And while smoking is the most common way to use marijuana, there are also other methods of delivery that allow users to minimize or avoid potential harm to the lungs: Ingesting high-potency cannabis-infused edibles or using a vaporizer, which eliminates much of the heated marijuana smoke, are a few of the most common alternatives.

5. "Pot can make you go insane."



In "Reefer Madness," teens are driven to murder, sexual assault and insanity after indulging in pot. TV host Nancy Grace still thinks marijuana users "shoot each other, stab each other, strangle each other" and "kill whole families," and that such behavior is all pot's fault.

While it's established that psychotic people are more likely to have used drugs -- and most commonly cannabis -- before the onset of the disease, research has shown that smoking pot simply leads to an earlier onset of psychosis by an average of 2.7 years in people already prone to the condition. Other research suggests that marijuana emphatically does not cause psychosis, and past research has not been able to definitively rule out the possibility that people who are prone to developing mental illnesses like schizophrenia may simply be more likely to turn to drugs like marijuana. Furthermore, other research suggests that another cannabis compound, cannabidiol, may negate some symptoms of psychosis.

Studies have also shown that changes in the brain due to marijuana use are likely reversible and that the legalization of medical marijuana may reduce suicide rates. While no substance is completely harmless, marijuana, in many studies, has been shown to be relatively safe. But again, until a larger wealth of research is completed in all of these areas -- which will likely only be done after further legalization -- we are left without more concrete conclusions.

6. "Marijuana leads to criminal behavior."



While some studies have indicated higher marijuana use among criminal offenders, that doesn't mean it's the pot itself that leads users to a life of crime. In fact, dozens of studies on the issue show that a causal relationship between marijuana use and crime has not been found.

When it comes to violent crime, alcohol is a much more significant factor than marijuana. A report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests that 25 to 30 percent of violent crimes are linked to alcohol use. A 2003 article from the journal Addictive Behaviors noted that "alcohol is clearly the drug with the most evidence to support a direct intoxication-violence relationship," and that "cannabis reduces likelihood of violence during intoxication." The National Academy of Sciences even found that in chronic marijuana users, THC causes a decrease in "aggressive and violent behavior."

Although there is little evidence that marijuana use increases the likelihood of criminal behavior, marijuana convictions are definitely likely to ruin lives and expose people to a life of crime behind bars. State laws differ, but in some places, possessing just one marijuana joint can be punishable by up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine. Marijuana convictions also appear to be racially biased. A recent ACLU report, which tracked marijuana arrests by race and county in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, found that black people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people.

7. "It makes you lazy and unsuccessful."



Marijuana opponents often point to studies suggesting that long-term use could result in a lack of motivation and a life of bumming around in your mom's basement.

A Marijuana Policy Project study, listing 50 of some of the most successful people in the world who have admitted to using pot, completely shatters this mythology. President Obama, Jon Stewart and billionaire George Soros can hardly be characterized as lazy or unproductive.

Anti-drug groups have also argued that marijuana nullifies the traits required to be a successful athlete. That's probably news to a lot of football players. Despite a league policy that bans the substance, one former player has said that something like half of all NFL players smoke pot either for medical or recreational reasons. Professional football is one of the most demanding and competitive sports in the world. Players probably aren't high while competing, but the fact that some turn to pot during their free time underscores the point that it's possible to achieve a balance between one's professional life and one's recreational marijuana use.

8. "Legalization will cause mass zombification!"



While the threat of a zombie apocalypse is one of the Internet’s favorite fantasies, some anti-legalization opponents use it as a metaphor for their unsubstantiated fears of a lazy pothead nation developing in the wake of legal weed.

Putting aside the fact that the link between marijuana use and habitual laziness is tenuous at best, multiple studies suggest that the decriminalization of marijuana has little to no effect on consumption rates. And prohibition has been woefully ineffective at deterring use. “Fear of arrest, fear of imprisonment, the cost of cannabis or its availability do not appear to exert much effect on the prevalence of cannabis use,” says one frequently cited study on marijuana prohibition.

9. "I tried it once and didn't like it."



So you don't like marijuana. Or you tried it once but didn’t inhale. Or maybe you smoked a lot of pot a while ago, but now can't get off the couch while you're high, so you don't anymore. That's fine -- the drug affects people differently, and anybody with knowledge of marijuana is well aware that "highs" vary greatly. But should your personal opposition to pot really require us to uphold a status quo of prohibition that results in one marijuana arrest every 40 seconds in the U.S., costs the nation between $10 billion and $40 billion a year and deprives state and federal governments the tremendous revenue generated from taxes on legal weed?

10. "People don't even use it at weddings, so obviously it's more harmful than beer."



This is an odd one. Earlier this year, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) pulled out this wedding scenario while claiming that "it’s a big jump" between having a beer and smoking pot.

"If I'm at a wedding reception here and somebody has a drink or two, most people wouldn't say they're wasted," Walker said, according to The Capital Times. “Most folks with marijuana wouldn’t be sitting around a wedding reception smoking marijuana.”

Walker appears to be employing some serious circular reasoning here, claiming that weed -- which is illegal, obviously -- is less socially acceptable than alcohol, which is (he seems to be saying) one reason it should remain illegal. Walker has said that there's "a huge difference" between marijuana and alcohol, and the governor is right: Most studies show that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol.

In 2010, for example, there were approximately 189,000 emergency room visits by people under 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol, including accidental poisoning. While there have been reports of people being treated at the hospital due to discomfort after using too much marijuana, these are far outweighed by the number of alcohol-poisoning incidents. To this day, aside from one recent, unprecedented and widely contested conclusion about a cannabis-related death in the United Kingdom, there have been no reported deaths due to marijuana overdose in at least 10,000 years of human consumption.

On the other hand, just 10 times the recommended serving of alcohol can lead to death, a recreational drug study from American Scientist found. By contrast, a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC in a joint in order to be at risk of dying, according to a 1988 ruling from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

11. "Uhhh ... but don't you care about the children?"



Yes, which is why it's important to understand that when it comes to marijuana, drug warriors are lying to them and causing more harm than good. Lawmakers have recently argued that the anti-drug crowd is losing the faith of teens because they pummel them with blanket statements instead of offering factual explanations about marijuana use and how to approach the drug responsibly.

There are admittedly legitimate questions and concerns about adolescent marijuana use, including hotly debated claims about the effects of the drug on teens' mental health. And the fact that marijuana studies so often show conflicting findings is a sign of how much more research is needed in this area and how important those answers are.

No one needs to encourage anybody, teenage or otherwise, to use marijuana. But if the drug warriors are to be taken seriously, they need to retire these shopworn arguments and update their playbook for a new century.

4/20 May Be Legal Federally Before The End Of The Decade

Sun, 2014-04-20 08:43
A version of this story was first published earlier in April.

Two states with legal recreational use. Twenty-one that allow medical use. Record-high support at the national level for more permissive policies. It seems fair to say that the United States' official stance on marijuana is shifting quickly. In fact, one congressman is predicting that U.S. pot prohibition will be a thing of the past relatively soon. Meaning, America may see it's first legal 4/20 before the end of the decade.

"I think it’s game over in less than five years," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said during an interview with The Huffington Post.

"There's no question that we're likely to see another state or two this year legalizing [recreational] use," Blumenauer said. "We're going to see more medical marijuana progress. The crazy prohibitions on bank services and probably the tax disparities -- these are all eroding."

As of now, 21 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, and voters in Colorado and Washington have approved marijuana for recreational use. About a dozen more states are expected to legalize marijuana in some form over the next several years. One recent study has projected a $10 billion legal marijuana industry by 2018.

Despite a growing and profitable legal marijuana industry, the federal government continues to ban the plant, classifying it as a Schedule I substance alongside drugs like heroin and LSD, and maintaining that it has "no currently accepted medical use."

Such policies cause a number of problems for state-legal, state-licensed pot businesses. Banks often refuse to work with marijuana businesses out of fear that they could be implicated as money launderers if they offer traditional banking services. The pot businesses also can't deduct traditional business expenses like advertising costs, employee payroll, rent and health insurance from their combined federal and state taxes, meaning that dispensary owners around the U.S. often face effective tax rates of anywhere from 50 to 80 percent, due to an antiquated Internal Revenue Service rule.

But more than a dozen members of Congress, including Blumenauer, have sponsored legislation aimed at reforming federal marijuana laws. Blumenauer himself has sponsored three bills -- States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection (H.R. 689), Marijuana Tax Equity Act (H.R. 501) and the Small Business Tax Equity Act (H.R. 2240) -- and has supported several other bills seeking everything from increased banking access for pot businesses to a complete end to federal marijuana prohibition.

It's already possible to observe significant shifts in federal policy toward pot. The federal government allowed Colorado and Washington's laws to take effect last year. The FDA recently green-lit a clinical trial that will study the safety and efficacy of cannabidiol in children with severe epilepsy. And just this month, the Department of Health and Human Services approved a long-delayed study looking at marijuana's effect on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

President Barack Obama's recent signing of the Farm Bill, which legalized industrial hemp production for research purposes in the 12 states that permit it, is one of the most recent indications that the federal government's decades-long war on cannabis may be winding down, Blumenauer said. He also pointed to the flood of state hemp bills this year as further evidence.

"Part of what is going on with the hemp discussion is that people are seeing through the nonsense that somehow this is cover for surreptitious marijuana production, conflating industrial hemp with marijuana," said Blumenauer. "And throughout the whole marijuana issue debate, there are numerous flat-out falsehoods. Schedule I drug? No therapeutic use? Worse than cocaine and meth? I mean, wait a minute."

"But the hemp one, that was so blatant and so obvious," Blumenauer went on. "And that is what's changing the whole marijuana landscape, is that all the falsehoods, misrepresentations and misclassification that have been basically sanctioned by inertia no longer work. And hemp is the best example of that."

Confused by the video above? See here: 4/20: How Weed Day Got Its Name

Marijuana Has Come A Long Way Since Last 4/20

Sun, 2014-04-20 08:39
What a difference a year makes. From 4/20, 2013, to 4/20, 2014, marijuana has taken big steps out of the shadows of the black market and into the light of the mainstream -- from record high popular support and the first legal recreational sales, to an entire country legalizing marijuana.

Here’s a look at the last 12 months of marijuana milestones:

Colorado Sold Legal, Recreational Marijuana For The First Time

Partygoers smoke marijuana, left, and cigarettes during a Prohibition-era themed New Year's Eve party celebrating the start of retail pot sales, at a bar in Denver.(AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

The first month of legal sales generated $14 million. Those millions were brought in by only 59 marijuana businesses that were able to get through the application process, and represent just a fraction of the approximately 550 outlets in the state eligible for retail licenses.

Now, as the fourth month of sales winds to a close, Denver has still not descended into the crime-filled hellscape that some members of law enforcement predicted. In fact, overall crime in Mile High City appears to be down since legal pot sales began.

And as time passes, more Coloradan voters are happy with legalization. A recent survey from Public Policy Polling showed that 57 percent of Colorado voters now approve of marijuana legalization, while 35 percent disapprove. Amendment 64, the measure that legalized recreational marijuana in the state, passed by only a 10-point margin.

The Promise Of Medical Marijuana Continued To Grow


Matt Figi hugs and tickles his once severely-ill 7-year-old daughter Charlotte, as they wander around a greenhouse for a special strain of medical marijuana known as Charlotte's Web, named after the girl early in her treatment, in a remote spot in the mountains west of Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

"Charlotte's Web" isn't just a classic children's story. It's also the name of a coveted medical marijuana strain used to treat children with epilepsy.

Over the last year, hundreds of families uprooted themselves and moved to Colorado to take advantage of the state's expansive medical marijuana laws, and in search of Charlotte's Web -- a strain of pot high in CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient, and low in THC, which causes users to feel "high." The strain was developed by the Colorado Springs-based Realm of Caring nonprofit.

The pot strain is named after 7-year-old Charlotte Figi, who used to have hundreds of seizures each week. Charlotte now controls 99 percent of seizures with her medical marijuana treatment, according to her mother Paige.

Also this year, the Food and Drug Administration moved forward with an orphan drug designation for a cannabis-based drug called Epidiolex to fight severe forms of childhood epilepsy. The Epidiolex maker still must demonstrate efficacy of the drug in clinical trials to win FDA approval to market the medicine, but the orphan drug designation represents a tremendous step for cannabis-based medicine.

The federal government signed off on a study using medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, another sign of shifting federal policy.

Study after study demonstrated the promise of medical marijuana since last 4/20. Purified forms of cannabis were shown to be effective at attacking some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use has also been tied to better blood sugar control, and to slowing the spread of HIV. The legalization of the plant for medical purposes may lead to lower suicide rates.

The Return Of Hemp


Colorado farmer Ryan Loflin harvests hemp on his farm in Springfield, Colo. Emboldened by voters in Colorado and Washington in 2012 giving the green light to both marijuana and industrial hemp production, Loflin planted 55 acres of several varieties of hemp alongside his typical alfalfa and wheat crops. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)

A flag made of hemp flying over the U.S. Capitol in July may have been a sign that hemp was going to have a banner year.

Just months later in Colorado, farmer Ryan Loflin planted 55 acres of hemp -- the first legal hemp crop planted in the U.S. in nearly 60 years.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 70 bills related to hemp have been introduced in more than half of U.S. states. That's more than triple the number of hemp bills introduced during the same period last year, and nearly double the number hemp bills introduced in all of 2013.

Added to that is the recent passage of the Farm Bill, which legalizes industrial hemp production for research purposes in states that permit it.

Support For Pot Surges


(MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

An October Gallup poll showed for the first time that a clear majority of Americans want to see marijuana legalized. Gallup noted that when the question was first asked in 1969, only 12 percent of Americans favored legalization.

Americans also want an end to the long-running war on drugs. A recent survey from Pew found that 67 percent of Americans say that government should provide treatment for people who use illegal drugs. Only 26 percent thought the government should be prosecuting drug users.

Americans regard marijuana as relatively benign. In that same Pew poll, 69 percent of Americans felt that alcohol is a bigger danger to a person's health than marijuana, and 63 percent said alcohol is a bigger danger to society than marijuana.

Of all the vices a person can indulge in, Americans told NBC News/The Wall Street Journal that marijuana may be the most benign substance -- less harmful than sugar.

More States Approved Progressive Pot Laws


(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

While the title of third state to legalize marijuana is still up for grabs, lawmakers around U.S. the have been scaling back harsh anti-weed laws. Maryland recently became the latest state to officially decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Washington, D.C., awaits congressional approval of a similar measure. New Hampshire appeared poised to pass a similar law, but it was recently rejected by state lawmakers. Other states, including Illinois, are considering legislation to decriminalize low-level possession.

Medical marijuana has also made some strides since last year's 4/20. Maryland this month became the 21st state to legalize marijuana for medical use. A new trend has appeared in conservative and Deep South states, as bills to legalize medicine derived from marijuana have found surprising support in places like Alabama, where a measure was signed into law this year.

Uruguay Makes History


People take part in a demonstration for the legalization of marijuana in front of the Legislative Palace in Montevideo, on Dec .10, 2013, as the Senate discusses a law on the legalization of marijuana's cultivation and consumption. (PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP/Getty Images)

At the end of 2013, Uruguay became the world's first country to legalize a national marketplace for marijuana. Citing frustrations over failed attempts to stem the drug trade, President Jose Mujica signed a law handing the government responsibility for overseeing the new industry.

The move drew some derision from the international community, including the United Nations, but also applause. Mujica was nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize, in part for his work legalizing the plant.

In an effort to undercut the black market, the Uruguay government has set the starting price around $1 a gram. Legal weed in the U.S., including at legal pot shops in Colorado, can cost around $20 for the same amount. There are also limits on the amount residents can buy or grow. But with marijuana already accessible in Uruguay before legalization, many pot reformers have hailed the move as an alternative to prohibition that will ultimately give the government more avenues to help protect public health and safety.

Obama Says Pot Is No More Dangerous Than Alcohol


(JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

The president was an admitted pot user in his youth. And while he now regards his experiences as foolish, he revealed earlier this year that he didn't believe his behavior was particularly dangerous.

"I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol," President Barack Obama told The New Yorker's David Remnick in a January interview.

The president said that would discourage people from using it, but his comments led to a much bigger question: If marijuana is as dangerous as alcohol, why does Obama's administration insist that it is rightfully considered an illegal Schedule I substance, alongside heroin and LSD? The irony of this wasn't lost on Congress. A month after the interview, a group of representatives a called on Obama to drop pot from Schedule I. The administration has resisted the request.

Eric Holder Is ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Legal Weed

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Some of the biggest advances in pot policy over the last year have come thanks to action -- or perhaps inaction -- by the Justice Department. Last August, it decided that it would allow legalization laws in Colorado and Washington proceed. And this month, Attorney General Eric Holder told The Huffington Post that he was cautiously optimistic about how those state laws were proceeding.

Holder has said the Justice Department would be happy to work with Congress to reschedule marijuana and has been clear that the administration won't push the issue without action from lawmakers.

Pope Francis Celebrates Easter Sunday With Huge Crowds In St. Peter's Square At Vatican (PHOTOS)

Sun, 2014-04-20 05:51
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity's most joyous and hopeful day, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria and for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted many Christians.

More than 150,000 tourists — Romans and pilgrims, young and old — turned out for the Mass that Francis celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica. So great were their numbers that they overflowed the huge square, which was bedecked with row after row of potted daffodils, sprays of blue hyacinths and bunches of white roses. Waving flags from the pope's native Argentina as well as from Brazil, Mexico, Britain, Poland and many other countries, they also filled the broad boulevard leading from the square to the Tiber River.

Dawn brought clear skies and warm temperatures for Easter, the culmination of Holy Week, the day which marks the Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

Francis noted that this year the Catholic church's celebration of Easter coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine. Some of the hymns at the Vatican Mass on Sunday were in Russian.

Invoking God, he said, "we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence."

Tensions between pro-Russian supporters in Ukraine and those loyal to the interim government in Kiev have sparked bloodshed in recent days.

Francis also prayed that all sides in Syria will be moved to "boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue." Since March 2011, Syria has been wracked by a civil war that has cost 150,000 lives and forced millions to flee the country.

Christians make up about 5 percent of Syria's population. In comments to mark Easter there, the Greek Orthodox patriarch vowed that Christians there "will not submit" to extremists who attack "our people and holy places."

Francis makes a pilgrimage to Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel next month. On Easter, he prayed that hopes sparked by the resumption of Mideast peace negotiations be sustained.

He also recalled those suffering in Africa from an epidemic of deadly Ebola and urged a halt to "brutal terrorist attacks" in parts of Nigeria.

Nigerians marked Easter with heightened security against a spreading Islamic uprising, mourning the deaths of 75 bomb blast victims and fearful of the fate of 85 abducted schoolgirls. The homegrown terrorist network Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for last week's rush-hour explosion in the capital, Abuja, and threatened more attacks.

In Venezuela, there were hopes that Vatican mediation can help end the country's violent political unrest and Francis urged that "hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord" there.

But Francis' Easter message also urged people to pay attention to the needy close to home. He said the "good news" of Easter's joy and hope means "leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life's troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast."

Cheering and applauding, the crowd tried to catch a glimpse of the pontiff as he circled around in his white popemobile before going to the basilica's balcony to deliver his commentary.

Reflecting the worldwide reach of the Catholic church, faithful read aloud prayers and passages from the Bible in Hindi, French, Chinese, German, Korean, Spanish, Italian and English.

___

Follow Frances D'Emilio on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio

Why Progressives Should Think Twice About Embracing Uber and Lyft

Sat, 2014-04-19 16:38
Since 2005 it has been my pleasure to be a cab driver in my hometown of St. Louis. On a daily basis I get to see all parts of St. Louis City, St. Louis County and often the Metro-East and beyond. While I love my job there are also many challenges. I've had to deal with attempted robberies, people throwing up in my cab, urinating in the cab, fighting in the backseat, inappropriate sexual behavior in the backseat, people who jump out and run, passengers who have tried to fight me, and almost anything else you can think of. Still, I love my job.

What do I love? I love meeting new people every day and hearing their stories. There are some passengers I've been picking up for years and by now they know my kids' names and I know their kids' names. There have been passengers I became friends with and others I have counseled through divorces and deaths in the family. When my ex-wife and I divorced, I told my passengers even before I told my family. These relationships, and the thrill of seeing the look on the faces of my passengers when they see the Arch, Old Courthouse or Central Library for the first time, makes all the hard times worth it. We get them all. One day I picked up former St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan and dropped him off at Busch Stadium and my next passenger was a homeless guy out of the New Life Evangelistic Center. The full microcosm of society.

What Uber and Lyft Do and How They Damage the Profession

Uber and Lyft may sound like a good idea and may sound "progressive." They probably sound the best to people who know the least about cabs. We can start with the knowledge that St. Louis has a long history of cab companies. Some still operating and many who have went away. There are many professional cabbies who have been driving for decades. For cabbies to earn a decent living there has to be proper regulation of the industry. Too few cabs and the public isn't served and too many and drivers can't make decent money. St. Louis has done a pretty good job at regulating the industry through the Metropolitan Taxi Commission. Not perfect by a long shot; but one of the better regulatory bodies by national standards.

Driving a cab in St. Louis is a job that has allowed drivers to buy homes, raise families and send their children to college. Its not a plaything for me. I work six or seven days a week on this job (usually 10-12 hours a day) and that's the money I use to support my children and pay my bills. While business in the fall, winter and spring is brisk, for the most part come summer time business grinds to a halt. Drivers barely make it in the summer time and there is little margin for error. With Uber and Lyft appearing on the scene that margin of error may be wiped away, drivers may lose their jobs, tuition may not get paid, the lights may go out, the gas may get cut off, evictions can happen, and marriages and relationships may crumble. Its that serious.

St. Louis is already a city that has lost so many good-paying blue-collar jobs. America has become a nation of haves and have-nots and St. Louis is no different. Gone are the days when you could walk up and down Broadway or Hall Street and find good-paying jobs with ease to feed your families. Good jobs are scarce in this city for the working-class and driving a cab is one of those good jobs. Lyft and Uber are part of the Walmartization of America. Part-time workers earning fast-food wages. These drivers are in a very real sense akin to scab workers, and like the companies they drive for, represent regression and not progression.

There is nothing progressive about lowering earnings for working-class people, nor is there anything progressive about undercutting labor costs to the point workers are driven into poverty and homelessness. It's a game as old as the laborers in the days of the Bible and as recent as those sweating in the mines of Western and Southern Africa. Play the working class against one another for the benefit of the wealthy who seek to be served no matter the human cost.

Who Catches Cabs

There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about who actually catches cabs. In a city with the "Delmar Divide," where black and white don't mix as much as we should and the poor and the rich mix even less, people tend to not know a lot about each others lives.

Most of the people who catch cabs in St. Louis are not hipsters, or yuppies or business people or college students. They're not out drinking and partying. No, the bulk of our passengers are the elderly and the working poor. People who catch cabs to and from work every day. Those who take cabs from the grocery store or to the doctor's office. Sunday is Easter and without a doubt I will be taking people to church and to their families homes to celebrate, There are others who we pick up from the emergency rooms of hospitals, rescue from domestic violence taking them to shelters or pick up from the Ronald McDonald house for sick children. No tips and usually not that much money.

We can afford to do that because come Thursday night we get the college kids from Washington University and St. Louis University and on Friday and Saturday night we are both delivering and picking up those enjoying the nightlife of St, Louis. That's where we are able to make serious money. Take that away and we lose drivers -- and losing drivers will hurt the poor and working-class people who need cabs the most. Lyft and Uber are not designed to serve the poor and working-class populations in the St. Louis area. It's an elitist concept for an elite crowd. But rest assured its casualties will be in deep south city, north city and north county.

Problems With St. Louis Cab Service


No business or business-model is perfect. People aren't perfect and from time to time we all may need a little rejuvenation. There are certainly things cab companies and drivers can do to improve the industry. There are also things that have already been done like the "STL Taxi" and "Taxi Magic" apps to order legal cabs in St. Louis.

However, allow me to share how customers can be proactive in improving their experience. Since Uber and Lyft are designed to serve the hipster population let me share with you some of the problems hipsters seem to have with catching cabs:

  • Making time-orders and then still coming out late or not coming out at all


  • Calling from high-rise apartment buildings and not waiting in the lobby forcing drivers to double-park and block traffic


  • Calling for a cab from a bar and then just hopping into the first cab you see regardless as to whether its your cab or not


  • Getting into unlicensed cabs and then complaining you got screwed



On the driver's part, if you are displeased with any licensed driver or have a complaint, you can call the company or the MTC. There are safeguards in place to protect passengers.

Hipsters and a Just Society

To call a spade a spade, Lyft and Uber aren't coming to serve good ol' St. Louis Hoosiers or North St. Louis. Nope, they are coming by invitation and for the hipster population (and to a lesser extent business people and college students). Hence they kicked off at Nebula (the center of hipster thought in St. Louis).

So, now, let me use this time to call out hipsters and ask: What kind of a society do you want to live in? Do you favor the right-wing economics of the GOP or do you favor a more humane and just society? Hipsters are mostly associated with the left and being progressive. But with a closer look you could very well come to a different conclusion. Of course there are many brilliant and progressive folks in the hipster population who do much good, but still these questions need to be asked.

If you're supporting the decimation of good working-class jobs you can't make a very good claim of being progressive. Uber and Lyft are conservative economic ideas. Over the last several years, I've heard several young hipsters tell my they're socially-liberal and economic-conservatives, a popular trend in American politics. Well, I hate to break it to you buddy, but it's economics and the role of the state that defines politics. If you're an economic conservative, despite how ironic and sarcastic you may be or how tight your jeans are, you, my friend, are a conservative.

However, there is something even worse. If you believe the resources of the state should be used to help the affluent and disenfranchise the poor, which often happens during gentrification, that puts you in a category that conjures up some very nasty images from the 20th century.

Some will look from the outside and say hipsters succeed because of three things: government aid, racial solidarity and class solidarity. If I were a hipster, I would be looking to counter that image. I would be looking to hire African-Americans in bars and restaurants opening up in heavily black areas and let it be known those in the neighborhoods will be the first to be hired. Yet, that is not the case. These bars and restaurants open in black neighborhoods with high unemployment rates and the staffs are either all-white or nearly all-white and not from the neighborhood. St. Louis cabbies are mostly minorities; but I am willing to wager most Lyft and Uber drivers won't be. This is an issue the local NAACP, Black Clergy Coalition and Urban League needs to take up for this reason.

There is nothing progressive about moving into black neighborhoods. The term "settler" and "pioneer" are hardly progressive. St. Louis was a Native American neighborhood when the Europeans arrived and that didn't turn out to be very progressive. If moving into black neighborhoods made one a progressive surely the likes of Cecil Rhodes, the Belgians employed by King Leopold in the Congo and the Afrikaans of South Africa would be seen as the most progressive people ever. If being a settler and pioneer was such a beautiful thing, Israel wouldn't need to keep over 100,000 troops in the West Bank. It's what you do when you move in. Do you move in as brothers and sisters or do you move in as conquerors? Do you come to work with the local population or do you come to eradicate the local population?

Gentrification fueled by hipsters is in its early stages in St. Louis. You have a choice: do you want to repeat the methods that have brutalized the poor and working-class in cities like New York, DC and San Francisco -- or do you want to be true leaders and trailblazers in St. Louis and advocate for a just society? Saying no to Lyft and Uber and yes to good-paying working-class jobs will be a step in the right direction and a show of good faith.

The media also has a role. While hipsters may be few in numbers, they have a stranglehold over conversations about St. Louis in the media (particularly in public media). Their side tends to be the only side to get air or ink. So, I ask the local media to be fair and just and cover both sides of this issue.

Solidarity With Labor and Show-Me 15 and Mayor Slay

Lyft and Uber come at a time of great turmoil for the working-class in St. Louis. Republican lawmakers (who I'm sure would love Lyft as Lyft has hired GOP lobbyists before) are trying to make Missouri a right-to-work state. In other words, they're trying to get rid of unions in Missouri and make our state more equivalent to Mississippi or Arkansas in terms of worker's rights.This was tried in the 1970s and failed miserably. Those were different times though. That was a Democratic Party committed to the poor and working-class. Many Democratic voters today think being progressive is about watching Stephen Colbert and eating from Whole Foods (owned by a right-winger, by the way) and are not concerned with issues like right-to-work. Yet there are many who are fighting on behalf of the people. As St. Louis cabbies we must stand with them because Lyft and Uber come in the same spirit as right-to-work. We must also support the Show Me 15 campaign organized by fast-food workers in St. Louis. Lyft and Uber want to drive down our earnings and McDonald's and Burger King are seeking to do the same with their workers. Working-class solidarity between professions.

In closing, I would like to thank St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, who has been supportive of St. Louis cabbies and the MTC. Today more than ever I am happy I voted for Mayor Slay and worked for his re-election and consider him a friend to cabbies and a great mayor (now don't let me down).

Umar Lee is a full-time cabbie, father of two, and author of crime-fiction novels. He writes a blog at: umarlee.wordpress.com

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