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A Tree Dies in Chicago

Sun, 2016-10-02 14:37

This is Chicago. Where the cold grey October rain pounds streets soaked in blood. We kill people here. And we do it a lot. Giggling babies in their beds snuffed out by stray bullets pinging through the walls. Tired old working men on their front stoops taking a well deserved rest, slapped down by a 12 year old with no clue till this moment that firing an assault rifle ain't like T.V. The old man's blood dripping down the front porch steps he'd kept painted now for 40 years.

This is Chicago where a cloud like a tired and angry October sky is slapping the city into the darkest horror of them all: the belief that all this killing happens somewhere else. That it's not in my neighborhood. Not my problem. It is something that just happens to those other kinds of people. The killing is somewhere on the other side of a wall that some slick talking bully says he will build for us. Selling protection the same way it's always been sold. "Gimme some cash Mister Store Keep. Gimme some cash or maybe just vote for me and your store won't burn down"

This is Chicago where the killing and the blood and rain all stream together with a river of talk. So what am I doing, being sad about a tree?

There it is on the right. It's twin tree in our yard on the left. A pair of towering Christmas trees all year long. Pine needle protection. Home base to an ongoing chattering, busy, buzzy bird song that would always be there to welcome us home. Migratory birds to mark the changing of the seasons. Once a flock of Chicago's famed Wild Canaries fluttered in for a visit. Darting yellow sparkles doing the business of joy.

Presiding over all this like gentle monarchs was the mourning dove couple we named Patrick and Louisa. Keeping watch across our fourteen years and still counting in the house. Their home was the tree, their descendants carrying on forward. Their ancestors going back to another Chicago. The house is over 100 years old. The tree was there for a good many of those years. As was the spirit of the mourning doves. Patrick and Louisa.

Till one day we all came home and the tree was gone.

The neighbor took it down. No clue why. We don't talk much. And it was his tree. As much as a tree can belong to anyone. I can't believe the tree was ready to die.

The list of bigger problems than the disappearing tree is too long to count. But the void. The shivering grey emptiness where the tree used to be---that strikes a familiar chord. It's the same sick feeling in your stomach that you get when you hear that the blood street killing in Chicago is someone else's problem. Someone else's fault.

It's all the same void.

There is a void now where the connection between the people used to be.

We still cry for babies or dying trees. But only in our neighborhood. Only in our yard.

Make no mistake, Chicago has never lacked for stone cold brutal segregation. Whether it's rolling out expressways that divide neighborhoods, building towers that stack the vulnerable on top of each other, redlining like Papa Trump or a million moments of a child learning the hard way that there are just streets upon which you just do not walk. Our sins have never been far away.

But the October wind this year carries a sickly sweet cold emptiness. The tree is gone. The killing goes on. The wind blows empty. The void grows wider. Deeper. That which connects us grows empty.

Empty like the intersection of Damen and Addison, just a few blocks away. Anastasia Kondrasheva, 23 and full of smiling, young life. Riding her bike to work at the Harken Health Center up in Edgewater. Her work as a Health Coach.

The traffic light changes. The truck makes a right turn. The driver doesn't see the bicyclist. The young girl dies.

The driver, physically unhurt but devastated by what just happened, is put in the ambulance and taken for treatment of an emotional wound that might never heal. The news goes out, at the Harken Health Center, where there is a work family, to friends and family, to the bicycling community, to all of Chicago. A memorial service is organized, and here we get a hint of what it will take to fill our common void, a service is organized for the corner of Damen and Addison, by people who never even knew Anastasia.

Three hundred people came to that service Friday night. The Chicago Police quietly diverting traffic while neighbors kneeled put down flowers and cried in the streetlight shadows. A "Ghost Bike," placed on the corner. Ghost bikes are painted white bicycles that serve to memorialize a spot where a bicyclist has died. Where maybe the void grew wider for those who chose to think, "What does the accident have to do with me?"

Or maybe the Ghost Bike could start us down another path. Prompt us to strengthen the connections between us. Offer up a set of guiding principals to help us fill the void where the tree, the young woman, where all of us touched by the ripples of the emptiness live our lives. Riding in on the ghost bike come five principles, like lights on the handlebars, to guide us on our common way:

1. Tell your story. Channel the power of every person's story. Never write a policy, make a plan or spend a dime unless you can name a person you will serve. Bring back the time when words mattered. Stories build highways and food pantries. Jobs and schools. Temples, mosques and churches.

2. Add Music. Find what flows between the facts. The fit. If you're going to curb violence, let the whole orchestra play.

3. Communitize. Make community a verb.

4. Solve a mystery. Honor the space where that tree grew even if you don't know why it's gone. For young Anastasia, figure out how to make bicycling safer.

5. Practice Stewardship. Take care of something larger than yourself.

At the corner of Addison and Damen, in the drizzling rains of October, the spokesperson for Anastasia's family said "This is everybody's problem."

Looking out my window to the gaping space where the tree used to be, I wonder how many believe that the killing rippling out to every corner of Chicago is everybody's problem.

I wonder if there is even one single person who will read the five principles, and ask the questions:

What if this were a path to the belief that the violence is everyone's problem?

What if we all saw ourselves standing in that river of blood?

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Common's Message For Politicians Who Keep Referencing Chicago's Gun Violence

Fri, 2016-09-30 16:39

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Hip-hop artist Common is done with politicians who bring up Chicago’s gun violence to score political points. 

When moderator Lester Holt asked both candidates how they would improve the nation’s racial divide at Monday’s presidential debate, Trump said his approach would be to reinstate “law and order” and quickly pivoted to the number of shootings in Chicago. He even suggested reinstating “stop and frisk,” a tactic that was ruled unconstitutional in 2013. 

Common, who hails from The Windy City, was not impressed. 

“Usually the people that it’s being brought up by, whether it’s [Rudy] Giuliani or Donald Trump, I never feel like they’re saying it because they care about the people, that they really care about Chicago,” he told HuffPost’s Jacques Morel during an interview on Thursday.  

The Republican presidential nominee has referenced the violence in Chicago on a number of occasions, but Common isn’t convinced that he’s done anything to fix the problem. In fact, Trump stopped by Chicago on Wednesday and avoided the neighborhoods that have been hit hardest by violence. 

Common suggested that political figures, like Trump, have used the issue to “justify” and “distract” from other problems like police brutality. 

“What are you doing to help that situation?” Common asked. “And if you know that situation exists, have you ever reached out to do something? Are you actively doing something or are you just mentioning it as a ploy just to combat what’s going on and to distract?” 

Common added that the posturing is nothing but “political theater.” 

“I ain’t falling for it,” he said. 

Watch Common’s full interview here

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The Key To Solving Teen Hunger? Involving Teens.

Fri, 2016-09-30 11:47

Many low-income U.S. teens are resorting to risky and disturbing behaviors like stealing, selling drugs or trading sex — through “transactional” dating with older, wealthier individuals — in order to get food.

An estimated 6.8 million young people between the ages of 10 and 17 don’t have enough to eat.

This is according to a new report released earlier this month by the Urban Institute research group in collaboration with Feeding America, a nonprofit hunger organization.

The report’s findings, which were based on a series of focus groups with teens in 10 communities throughout the country, were “shocking” to its co-author Susan J. Popkin, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. And that’s despite a background that includes 30 years of researching poverty.

“We found the same story of kids being very aware of food insecurity in their community,” Popkin said. “I thought maybe there’d be somewhere we went where the kids would say, ‘No, this doesn’t happen here,’ but that didn’t happen.”

The fact that the report shocked Popkin and has attracted so much media attention since it was released can be attributed to the fact that hunger in teen populations is a problem that is has been largely overlooked when compared to younger children experiencing food insecurity.

Typically, Popkin said, younger children and teens all get lumped together in research settings, which erases the unique challenges facing the older youth population. This includes the fear teens experience of being stigmatized by their peers for needing assistance and the pressure of finding work and supporting their family as part of an “expedited adulthood.”

The older youth are also often stereotyped and “viewed through a negative lens” once they get caught up in the types of risky behaviors identified in the report, Popkin added.

“They’re [viewed as] part of the problem and not the solution if they’re engaging in some of the things the kids talked about — shoplifting, stealing, selling drugs, transactional dating,” she said. “They get treated as status offenders and caught up with the juvenile justice system instead of being treated as kids who are traumatized and need help and support.”

So, how do we fix the problem?

The report outlined a number of proposed solutions, including increasing the amount of food provided by the federal nutrition assistance program, or SNAP, and expanding programs that expand job opportunities for low-income youth.

Progress is already being made toward another solution outlined in the report, which involves teens directly: making food charity programs, like food banks, more teen-friendly.

A pilot program in Portland, Oregon, aimed at addressing food insecurity in the New Columbia neighborhood, a public housing community on the city’s north side that also struggles with access to affordable, fresh healthy food, is having an impact on this front and was featured in the report.

The signature piece of the program, led by a group of teens called the Youth Community Advisory Board and supported by Feeding America, is its monthly Harvest Share, when the Oregon Food Bank drops off free, fresh organic food that the teens distribute to families in need. 

The Harvest Share has been a tremendous success, serving more than 100 households each month, according to Assefash Melles, who oversees the program. Last month, she said, the youth provided food for 120 food-insecure households.

The New Columbia program is now entering its second phase, where the teens will train a younger class of volunteers through a 15-week youth empowerment curriculum. This will enable more of the community’s youth to directly participate in the council’s mission to reduce the stigma that often blocks teens and their families from accepting help.

The fact that teens are directly involved in both planning and executing the program is key to its success, Melles said.

“Sometimes, as adults, we don’t go to the kids and ask for solutions. We put programming in place without really asking them,” Melles told The Huffington Post. “You need to do an assessment, understand them and their families and build a trusting relationship. When you build that trust, it’s amazing what comes out. They know what they want to do and they own that.”

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Teens themselves are deeply involved with other efforts to address the issue throughout the country.

Another example cited by Popkin is the spread of in-school food pantries that allow students to anonymously grab food they and their family need. In recent years, pantries like these have cropped up in high schools in a number of states including Wisconsin, West Virginia and Tennessee.

Another strategy to address the problem is to integrate food assistance into existing after-school programming that teens already take part in.

At the Loveland Public Library in Colorado, teen services director Amber Holmes leads the youth-focused Teenseen program.

Last year, when Holmes and other staffers noted that teens taking part in their after-school programming and services were arriving “ravenous” with hunger after not eating since lunch. So they began to offer small, shelf-stable snacks.

The snacks were a hit and Holmes said the offering of food contributed to increased participation in the program and resulted in fewer conflicts between groups of teens. But library staff still wanted to do more.

“We found a packaged granola bar or some pretzels weren’t really meeting the nutritional needs for the kids,” Holmes said.

Beginning last month, the library partnered with the Food Bank for Larimer County to become a Feeding America-sponsored Kids Cafe site. This means that, twice a week, the library offers cooked-from-scratch foods that the food bank delivers to the site.

Holmes said she is impressed with the way the teens have taken ownership of the program, taking part in the library’s teen advisory board and even helping to fundraise the money needed for the library to purchase a refrigerator required so that the facility could become a Kids Cafe site.

“There’s this stereotype of teens misbehaving and doing awful things, but the kids I see every day are making the choice to come to the library, that could be out there experimenting with drugs, sex, alcohol and theft,” Holmes said. “They’re choosing to come here, so we need to rise to that and meet their needs.”

For such programs to continue to succeed, they will need ongoing support from policymakers and funders. And those sorts of relationships will require stronger research and data specific to food insecurity among teens.

Little data like this currently exist so the problem remains largely misunderstood, Popkin admitted. That knowledge gap will need to be addressed so that the problem can be effectively dealt with.

“I imagine that when most people think about child hunger, they think we’re talking about little kids and they aren’t thinking about their older brothers and sisters,” Popkin said. “So we need to know more about what’s happening to understand how bad it is.”

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

AFSCME Ad Accuses Rauner of 'Waging War' on Illinois Workers

Thu, 2016-09-29 17:58

You don't have a seat at the bargaining table as Gov. Bruce Rauner and AFSCME Council 31 attempt to create a contract for the 38,000 state employees the union represents. Nor is Rauner on the ballot this year.

But AFSCME wants to make sure, as Election Day nears, that you have an opinion on the protracted and contentious negotiations to replace a contract that expired 15 months ago.

A new, 30-second video and TV ad titled "Negotiate" uses the headline of a Feb. 13, 2015, New York Times editorial -- "A war on workers in Illinois" -- in introducing three state workers who make their cases against the governor.

"Gov. Rauner is so far disconnected from how real people live," says one. A few seconds later, she adds that Rauner "refuses to negotiate. He gets up and walks away whenever he doesn't get his way."

"Public service workers in state government protect kids, care for veterans, keep us safe and more," AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said in a press release announcing the ad. "State workers have always been willing to do their part. We're prepared to compromise. But we can only do that if Governor Rauner puts the public good ahead of his personal demands and returns to bargaining ready to negotiate."

Though it doesn't mention any candidates or the Nov. 8 election, the ad's election implications can't be ignored. At the moment, Democrats -- and their union supporters -- are doing everything they can to link their Republican opponents to Rauner. They believe this will negatively affect Republican candidates in legislative races by linking them to an agenda that Democrats have portrayed as anti-union and extreme. This ad, which portrays Rauner as out of touch with average workers and intent on busting the union, plays into that narrative.

(Conversely, Republicans are doing the same to Democratic candidates, whom they are linking to House Speaker Michael Madigan at every opportunity.)

The negotiations between the Rauner administration and AFSCME Council 31, whose last contract expired June 30, 2015, have brought incremental victories to both sides over the past year even as each accused the other of sandbagging talks.

A year ago, Democrats passed a bill that would have curtailed sharply Rauner's power in negotiations. He vetoed it, and the failure of an override effort in the House was a major victory for Rauner.

In January, the administration said negotiations were at an impasse and filed an unfair labor practices complaint against AFSCME with the Illinois Labor Relations Board. AFSCME filed a complaint accusing the administration of bargaining in bad faith.

The Labor Relations Board, whose members are appointed by the governor, heard the case from April to June, and the matter then was turned over to Administrative Law Judge Sarah Kerley, who will issue a recommendation to the board. Rauner in June asked that the judicial review process be skipped so the case could go directly to the board, but the board denied that request. Kerley said at the time she hoped to forward a recommendation in time for the board to discuss the case at its November meeting.

The board does not have to accept Kerley's recommendation, and its decision could be the most significant event in Rauner's term to date. A ruling in the union's favor would send the two sides back into negotiations. A decision for Rauner would allow the administration to impose its own terms. That would force the union to choose between accepting Rauner's contract, going on strike or suing to force continued negotiations.

Illinois never has had a state employee strike, nor has it ever had a governor who has taken on AFSCME with such ferocity. You may not have a seat at the bargaining table, and you can't cast a ballot for/against Rauner on Nov. 8, but AFSCME in this ad is making sure that the suspended negotiations don't get shoved to the back burner as election season hits its boiling point.

Recommended: "Hamilton" hit Chicago and everyone freaked out

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Farm Animals Actually Eat People’s Leftovers — And It’s Good For The Planet

Wed, 2016-09-28 14:59

When restaurants and grocery stores end up with scraps and other leftovers that cannot be donated to food banks, what happens to them?

A lot end up in landfills, contributing to the already massive amounts of food waste that emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas, as it breaks down. But a growing amount is being used to feed farm animals.

As the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy specifies, this strategy is one of the most effective ways to deal with food waste that cannot be used to feed people.

The practice is an age-old one that fell out of fashion in the 1980s due to a number of disease outbreaks that were linked to animal feed. 

Today, however, it appears to be having a comeback as interest in food waste reduction efforts is rising dramatically, evidenced by a range of efforts across the food industry.

In general, this is how it works: Leftovers such as kitchen scraps and plate waste are collected, treated and processed into an oat-like consistency, then are fed to livestock such as pigs and cows. Even zoo animals can benefit from this type of feed.

Darden Restaurants is among the companies getting on board.

In 2014, Darden, which owns national chains including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and The Capital Grille, launched an organics recycling pilot program. The company sends scraps and other food waste that cannot go to food banks to be converted into animal feed, and composts other waste through the program.

The nascent program still represents just a small percentage — 0.53 percent, according to a company report — of Darden’s overall recycling efforts and is only taking place in a limited number of locations, the exact number of which a company spokesman declined to disclose.

Still, Darden appears to be alone in its food recycling efforts (the company has also been accused of underpaying and discriminating against workers.)

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Some university dining halls, like facilities at Rutgers and University of California at Berkeley, have also instituted similar programs. Rutgers diverts about 4 million pounds of waste from landfills per year this way, saving the university’s dining services division about $100,000 annually in waste-hauling costs.

Grocery stores have also embraced the concept.

Quest Resource Management Group helps grocers and other companies reduce the amount of waste they generate. The largest portion of Quest’s business comes from its work helping grocery stores reduce their food waste, mostly by donating scraps to farms.

According to Hatch, the company helped divert over 600,000 tons of scraps from the waste stream last year, 60 percent of which was used to feed animals, while 35 percent was composted and another 5 percent was converted into a renewable energy source by going through anaerobic digestion.

“Those tons, before we came along, were all going to the landfill,” said Ray Hatch, the company’s CEO. “Everything went in the dumpster.”

The company works with four of the top 10 national food retailers, including Walmart, and three large regional chains, according to Vanessa Lepice, its vice president of marketing and new business development.

All told, they are working with about 6,000 grocery stores throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. They train partnering stores’ employees how to properly separate scraps that can be donated to local farms and processed into animal feed from types of waste that are not safe for the animals to eat, like plastic packaging and raw meat. 

It appears to be working. The amount of food waste the company has diverted has grown fivefold since the program was first rolled out in 2010, including about 20 percent each of the past two years, Quest said. 

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But perhaps it’s not growing fast enough. The practice still hasn’t caught on in a way that would make a more significant dent in the 60 million tons, or $218 billion worth of food, that the U.S. wastes each year.

Zhengxia Dou, a professor of agricultural systems at the University of Pennsylvania, believes she knows why progress is lagging. She, along with several colleagues, explored the topic in a paper published earlier this year in the academic journal Global Food Security.

According to Dou, the strictness of health-related regulations concerning the practice is a big factor. Federal law mandates that scraps must be heated to 100 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes before being fed to pigs, for example. An incompatibility with the precision feeding techniques typically preferred on today’s farms, particularly larger ones, is another.

Technological innovation will be necessary in order to overcome these barriers, Dou said. She hasn’t seen much evidence of that happening quite yet.

“As an academic, I don’t know much how to make it happen, from an idea to a feasible technological solution and to a successful business,” Dou said in an email.

Another likely reason is that the regulations concerning the use of food scraps as animal feed vary widely from state to state.

A new report from Harvard University and University of Arkansas researchers published last month aims to address any confusion about the practice by laying out all of the federal- and state-level rules and suggesting best practices for safe and effective implementation.

“We want to show people that this is what you can do and this is how you do it, to encourage people to start this process again,” said Christina Rice, a clinical fellow at Harvard’s Food and Policy Law Center and one of the report’s authors.

Rice believes that the practice will continue to become more common, and as that happens, she is confident many current obstacles will dissipate.

“This got taken out of the conversation for a while, but it can happen again,” Rice added.

Lepice agreed, pointing out that states like Minnesota and California have instituted tougher commercial recycling regulations, which will encourage firms to get more creative in addressing their waste issues.

They may, she believes, turn to animal feed diversion as a solution. She expects consumer pressure will aid in that progress.

“Consumers are driving this, too. They’re asking what companies are doing with food waste,” Lepice added. “I firmly believe we’re on the right path.”

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

How Much Education Funding Comes From The Illinois Lottery?

Wed, 2016-09-28 10:34

Lottery proceeds to the state's main education fund increased by roughly $13 million last fiscal year, according to an analysis of unaudited monthly financial reports.

In total, the Illinois Lottery transferred $691.6 million to the Common School Fund during fiscal year 2016, accounting for almost 15 percent of General State Aid appropriations for K-12 education.

Over the past decade, the lottery has transferred an average of $650 million to the Common School Fund each year, with annual contributions rising from $670.5 million to more than $691 million during that time.

The lottery was established in 1974 with the notion it would adequately fund public education. While nearly $19 billion has been transferred to the Common School Fund since then, some have criticized the program for not covering as much school funding as originally planned.

Proceeds from lottery sales typically make up between 13 percent and 15 percent of General State Aid appropriations for K-12 schools, but how do these hundreds of millions of education dollars compare to the billions in revenue the lottery brings in each year?

We've created an infographic showing the lottery's total revenue and expenses since 2006, and how much has been transferred to the Common School Fund during that time.

At the bottom of the graphic is a pie chart that shows CSF transfers as a percentage of lottery revenue and General State Aid appropriations. Hover over the data points to see exact amounts and click on the years to see the lottery's finances for that fiscal year.

The infographic can be found here.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Guarding Against Damaging Implicit Racial Bias -- Even In Our Preschools

Tue, 2016-09-27 21:30
In 2014, California author and mother Tunette Powell wrote a piece for the Washington Post that as an educator and parent continues to shock.

In it, the African-American mother of two recounted the details of her sons' preschool experiences.

Both boys -- ages 3 and 4 at the time -- had been suspended from preschool, multiple times, for inappropriate behavior such as throwing a chair and hitting a staff member on the arm.

If the idea of suspending a preschooler -- so young as to be unable to tie his shoes or brush his own teeth -- is baffling, wait until you hear the rest of her story.

Powell and her husband wondered what they were doing wrong, until they brought the subject up at a child's birthday party. Mostly White parents of her sons' classmates were in attendance.

One after another, White mothers confessed the trouble their children had gotten into. "Some of the behavior was similar to [Powell's oldest son]; some was much worse," Powell said in her Post commentary. "Most startling: None of their children had been suspended."

Powell was startled by that revelation. Maybe you are too.

Uneven treatment of Black and Brown children has a long history.

But the sad fact is that this kind of uneven treatment of Black and Brown children has a long history -- and is more than just anecdotal. It continues to be proven by unassailable research.

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights reported recently that Black children represented 19 percent of preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of those receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.

And new research by the Yale Child Study Center, released Tuesday, shows that preschool teachers and staff show signs of implicit bias in administering discipline and that the race of the teacher plays a role in the outcome.

The research used high-tech eye-tracking technology and found that preschool teachers "show a tendency to more closely observe Blacks and especially Black boys when challenging behaviors are expected." Moreover, Black teachers, the study said, were even more likely to hold Black students to a higher standard of behavior.

The study explores many reasons why this might be the case: Black educators are trying to prepare Black children for a harsh world, is one hypothesis.

Whatever the impetus, this kind of implicit bias is detrimental to the growth and well-being of Black children, whether the discriminators share their skin color or not. What we believe about a person  --  or a group of people  --  translates into how we act toward them, and, worse, what those people start to believe about themselves. That translation of beliefs into actions, and guiding thoughts, is pervasive in our society and it is dangerous. And many of us are painfully aware of the reasons the Black Lives Movement became a salient part of the American narrative.

This kind of implicit bias is detrimental to the growth and well-being of Black children, whether the discriminators share their skin color or not.

This narrative for the very young was captured, for instance, in the doll preference studies from the 1940s. Psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted a now famous series of experiments to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children. The study became an important basis for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

Using four dolls, identical except for color, children between the ages of three to seven were asked to identify both the race of the dolls and which color doll they preferred. A majority of the children preferred the white doll and assigned positive characteristics to it. The researchers concluded then that "prejudice, discrimination, and segregation" created a feeling of inferiority among African-American children and damaged their self-esteem. In other words, Black children internalized the stereotypes they gleaned from growing up in a society that devalued them, discriminated against them and dismissed them as inferior.

Sadly it would seem, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Implicit bias is the tendency for our subconscious selves to feel or exhibit a bias toward certain groups of, or characteristics in, people  --  in part because we've been bombarded by negative images and messages. It was as prevalent in the 1940s as it is now -- even in our preschools.

But the good news is, it doesn't have to be this way.

"We know that implicit bias can be reduced through proper training and should be a core component of early childhood teacher education," said one of the Yale study's authors, Dr. Walter S. Gilliam, director of The Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and Associate Professor of Child Psychiatry and Psychology at the Yale Child Study Center.

That's exactly what we know to be true at NUA. And it's precisely why we partner with school-based educators to do what we do in school systems across the country.

Working with teachers in a true partnership, we check, challenge and change deep-seated beliefs that can be barriers to effective teaching and learning. We model and demonstrate effective best practice in classrooms led by educators --  with science, data and meaningful interactions with students and communities  --  that all students have the capacity to think and achieve at high levels, extend beyond their current boundaries and reach their full potential.

We establish with teachers that neuroscience continues to suggest that all students have 86 to 100 billion neurons capable of adjusting to the environmental challenges that poverty, segregation and discrimination have on learning.

Even 4-year-olds.

Especially 4-year-olds.

We should be nurturing our youngest members of society, not harshly punishing them. When we increase opportunities for teachers to confront their biases, learn culturally responsive pedagogies and begin to appreciate the strengths and capabilities of all their students, we increase self-esteem, academic performance and upward mobility.

We should be nurturing our youngest members of society, not harshly punishing them.

Implicit bias is a dangerous weapon. It can come to dominate and damage a national socio-cultural-psychological and political discourse. Used appropriately, education can establish a shield for Black, Brown, White, Asian and Indigenous peoples, so that life trajectories can be improved and sustained.

There is no more important national priority for our diverse nation than that.

Eric J. Cooper is the founder and president of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, a nonprofit professional development organization that provides student-focused professional development, advocacy and organizational guidance to accelerate student achievement. He can be reached at He tweets as @ECooper4556.

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Road Lockbox Amendment Vote Could Send Us Careening

Tue, 2016-09-27 16:47
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek


It's rough riding out there in Illinois. Dodging the potholes is like running an obstacle course. Plenty of our train and el cars look worse for wear. And do you ever kind of hold your breath when you start to cross a bridge?

Well, now there are organizations and citizens trying to do something to fix that.

On Nov. 8, Illinois voters will get to have their say on something that's being referred to as the transportation lockbox amendment. In a nutshell, it will ask if the Illinois Constitution should be amended so that gas taxes, airplane fees, vehicle sticker fees and the like - collected for years in the state's road fund - should be restricted so that the money can be used only to fix roads and rebuild bridges and finance runways and replace railroading track and so forth.

A coalition of citizens and organizations called the Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding just spent $1 million to produce and air a 30-second ad that will be airing statewide to convince you to vote for this ballot question.

The ad says our roads and highways are crumbling and 4,200 bridges are in "poor condition." It says nearly $7 billion in transit-related taxes and fees have been swept from the state's road fund over 12 years to be used for other purposes, including $500 million last year.

Mike Sturino, president and CEO of the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, said the group pushing passage of the amendment has collected more than $2.5 million for its campaign and will have another ad out before Election Day.

He said 34 other states have amended their constitutions to protect transit funds, with Wisconsin being the latest in 2014. So why not us?

Sturino argued a constitutional amendment would bring overdue accountability to part of state government. "It kind of goes to greater accountability for the folks in Springfield to do what they said they were going to do," he said. "They do have a problem with broken promises."

That they certainly do. Hundreds upon hundreds of funds get raided regularly whenever things get tough in Springfield. And, Sturino added, everyone benefits from a safe transit system.

It's tough to argue with any of that unless, of course, you have loved ones in public schools or you're owed a public pension, or you benefit from or work in any of scores of human service fields.

This is the problem in Illinois right now. Everyone is owed something because we've been living beyond our means.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that public pensions were a constitutionally protected right. Their benefits, once promised, cannot be "diminished or impaired." That exact wording was in the constitution. And if the transportation lockbox question passes, transit funding could be just as untouchable as public pensions.

Because of that constitutional language, Illinoisans are going to have to find $116 billion to pay off our pension debt. And then there's the $8 billion in other unpaid state bills. But if this question passes Nov. 8, we won't be borrowing any more from the road fund to cover any of those debts.

We don't even have a budget now. When we do, it will be only so big. And if we cut off a slice for pensions and we cut off a slice for transportation and we cut off a hunk for interest on overdue bills, well, you get the picture: We'll be pie-less before we get to anything else.

Only four members of the 177-member General Assembly voted against the amendment. One of them was Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook.

Nekritz said she supports transportation, "but this, I thought, tied our hands and takes away a lot of flexibility."

"We don't do that for education, we don't to that for funding for the disabled, we don't do this for prisons or any other government function," Nekritz added.

Sturino said the transit question was a way for Illinoisans to tell elected officials "enough" with their "self-inflicted" financial problems.

But Laurence Msall, president of the public finance watchdog Civic Federation, strongly disagreed.

"It is incongruity that we would seek to amend our constitution, not to provide the savings and the unfunded liability of our pensions, not to provide equal protection for school children, not to provide a more fair and equitable way to draw legislative maps, but to protect one interest group," he said. "The teachers, mental health advocates, people who care about education and higher education need to think very clearly" about this constitutional change.

It's one that could have us careening into an even deeper ditch.

Recommended: Federal judge blocks same-day voter registration in Illinois -- for now

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I ON EXCEPTIONAL LIVING - Gustavo Bilbao & Qatar Airways Chicago Beach Polo Cup

Tue, 2016-09-27 05:32


Long known as the stronghold for polo in North America, Chicago recently hosted the first ever Qatar Airways Chicago Beach Polo Cup. The tournament's founder, Gustavo Bilbao, hoped the tournament would re-ignite interest in the century old game in the United States.

"Growing up in Argentina, I used to hear about the US Polo Open taking place in Chicago," Bilbao said. "Polo and Qatar Airways both offer an exceptional and aspirational lifestyle experience."

"Together, we have brought entertainment and excitement to the city and put Chicago back on the polo map, where it belongs."


The origins of polo in Chicago date back to the 1950's when the U.S. Polo Open Championship was played at the Oak Brook Polo Club. The American interest for the sport revived during the 1960's and eventually in 1967, the USPA (United States Polo Association) moved its headquarters from New York, to Illinois.

By all accounts the event held at North Avenue Beach was an unbridled success, and the organizers are looking to continue the polo cup in 2017.

The Chicago Beach Polo Cup was held over the course of three days, September 9th through the 11th, with co-ed teams competing from six countries descending on Chicago.

The Royal Wales Polo Team walked away from North Avenue Beach with the event's first ever cup trophy, and will be ready to defend their title next summer.

The event was organized to re-introduce the North American audience to the game of polo. Known as the "Sport of Kings", polo is a game often connected to royalty. However, Bilbao and company are attempting to bring the game to a wider audience by setting up tournaments on custom-built polo grounds.


Players rode their horses up to 30 miles per hour during the games as they attempted to score goals to win the tournament's trophy. A traditional polo field is about 300 yards by 160 yards. However, the ground on North Avenue Beach was slightly smaller than the size of an NFL field, giving spectators a far more intimate view of the players in action.

Over the course of the weekend as title sponsor, Qatar Airways hosted a variety of events that took place alongside the polo action. The Doha-based airline provided a VIP lounge throughout the weekend for fans and many of the area's well-known guests in attendance. Prior to each day's matches, team captains met at the Lounge to shake hands with a Qatar Airways representative, who was then given the honor of throwing out the first match ball of the day. Qatar Airways Country Manager, USA, Richard Oliver kick started proceedings on the first two days of the tournament, while Mr. Saurwein inaugurated the final day of competition and presented the champion's cup to the winners on Sunday evening. Also participating in the festivities were several Chicago area politicians and members of City Hall.

All proceeds of the tournament went to the Sentebale Foundation. The charity was founded by Great Britain's Prince Harry and strives to help vulnerable children in Lesotho, South Africa.
With this year's Chicago Beach Polo Cup such a success, next year's event should be even bigger.

Now that Chicago is back on the map for the international game that is polo, fans will have to wait and see if the Royal Wales Polo Team can retain its trophy in 2017.

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Man Admits To Murder That Kept Twin Jailed 13 Years

Mon, 2016-09-26 15:23

More than a decade after Kevin Dugar was convicted of firing a gun into a small group of people, killing one man and wounding another, his twin brother has made a shocking courtroom confession.

“I’m here to confess to a crime I committed that he was wrongly accused of,” Karl Smith, who has adopted his mother’s maiden name, testified on the witness stand, according to The Chicago Tribune.

The Illinois court confession comes three years after Smith, who is serving a 99-year prison sentence for a 2008 home invasion robbery, sent a letter to his brother confessing to the crime. Smith, 38, wrote that he was owning up to it because “I have to get it off my chest before it kills me.”

Smith later signed a sworn affidavit detailing his admission.

Testifying before Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan on Thursday, Smith said it was him, and not his brother, who in March 2003 shot into a small group of people, killing 27-year-old Antwan Carter and wounding Ronnie Bolden, then 24.

A month after the shooting, Bolden, who survived being shot twice, picked Dugar out of a photo lineup and identified him as the shooter. Dugar was ultimately convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 54 years in prison.

According to Dugar’s lawyer, Karen Daniel, authorities have no evidence linking her client to the crime. She also claims Smith’s photo was not included in the photo lineup that was shown to Bolden. Smith’s confession, she argued in court, raises enough doubt to grant her client a new trial.

Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Rogala on Thursday questioned Smith’s motive in coming forward, saying he only chose to do so after an appeals court upheld his own conviction.

“He’s got nothing to lose,” Rogala said.

The twins’ mother, Judy Dugar, disagrees with Rogala, saying she is certain that Smith is telling the truth.

“He wouldn’t lie about that,” she told the Tribune. “I hope Kevin will get out. I hope he change his whole life around.”

It’s unclear when Gaughan will decide if Dugar should be given a new trial.

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More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Our Violence Problem

Mon, 2016-09-26 13:42
So the City is going to hire yet more cops. Yet more, you say? Yes - the city already almost leads the nation in its level of sworn officers, and has got precious little to show for it.

When politicians say we need more police, from Bill Clinton's 1990s call for 100,000 more cops, to the 2012 Chicago mayoral election, a certain amount of fact-free electioneering is expected.

But when Crain's Chicago Business' Greg Hinz is joined by his editorial board in this fact-free nonsense, we've reached a new low in the civic discussion about how to save more lives in our city. Like the mass incarceration boom of the 1990s, the City is escalating a disastrous trend which our communities (and wallets) will spend many years extricating ourselves from.

Before making their hire-more-cops pronouncements, did either Hinz or Crain's editorial board bother looking up the numbers and crunching them to see where Chicago ranks on sworn officers per capita?

According to data from the FBI's Uniform Crime Report for 2014 (the latest year available), the number of sworn cops per capita in Chicago is already almost the highest in the nation -- No. 3 out of the 669 U.S. cities with 50,000 or more people. Since the UCR doesn't crunch the numbers on a per capita basis, I've done so here.

As Crain's correctly points out, while the absolute number of homicides in Chicago is shocking - more than LA and New York combined (with a quarter their combined population) - the city's per capita homicide rate is still outpaced by cities such as Baltimore. But that presents another fact-based problem for Crain's hire-more-cops prescription - Baltimore ranking No. 2 in the nation for cops per capita, also has the second highest murder rate in the U.S.

So arguably, to the extent that there is any correlation between the number of cops and the amount of violence, it's that having lots of cops equals having more homicides. The reason is quite simple: the more you spend on cops, the less you have to spend on things that actually reduce social tensions and violence.

As Black Lives Matters activists have pointed out, spending on the city's police already consumes 38-40% of our city's operational budget - $4 million per day. That's a lot of money that could be spent on real measures to prevent violence. And the American Friends Service Committee notes,

One day spent on policing in Chicago is the equivalent of what the city spends on:
* 5 months of Mental Health Services ($9.4 million per year)
* 18 months of Substance Abuse Treatment ($2.6 million per year)
* 32 months of Violence Prevention programs ($1.5 million per year)

In many respects, Chicago's violence problem is not all that different in scope from that of other U.S. cities. But when compared to the rest of the industrialized world, the U.S. violence rate is off the charts. As I have argued elsewhere, the number one factor in promoting violence - far more than the presence or absence of guns and other factors - is inequality. The internationally-recognized best measure of inequality, the so-called Gini Index, shows over and over again that nations with high inequality rates have high violence rates. As with the world, so with our city.

Against this poor national baseline, Mayor Emanuel and Richard M. Daley have engaged in a series of disastrous policies that have exacerbated the growing inequality that Chicago shares with other U.S. cities:

* Destroying thousands of units of CHA and SRO housing has put upwards pressure on the rents for all working class people. It's simple market economics - as units of affordable housing are destroyed, there are more people chasing fewer units of affordable housing, driving rents up. Rent subsidies fail to address the root of the problem because they don't lead to construction of additional affordable housing units. They simply enrich landlords owning units that might not otherwise rent.

* Showering millions on gee-whiz projects like Millennium Park, the lakefront bike bridge by Lake Point Towers, the Chicago river walk, the DePaul basketball arena, and several TIF-subsidized luxury high-rises. Meanwhile, many of the institutional anchors of working class neighborhoods, especially predominately black and brown ones, are wiped out or greatly diminished. Library hours are cut back, mental health clinics are closed, schools are closed, and their extracurricular programs, arts and athletic program are cutback or destroyed.

* While housing markets in black neighborhoods were hit hardest by predatory home loans, and the Great Recession wiped out the first decent home equity ever seen by most black Americans, Daley and Emanuel have piled on with a series of regressive taxes on water, garbage removal, parking, and a host of others, while scrupulously avoided taxes that primarily hit the rich, such as a financial transactions tax.

* The cutbacks in neighborhood institutions and programs have been laser-focused on our at-risk youth, particular in predominately poor black and brown neighborhoods, leaving them with historically low employment levels as they age into what should be the start of their prime years in the workforce. The result is youth without training or entry level jobs, and the underground economy as one of their few options for income.

Ironically, past police "successes" in combating crime have also exacerbated our violence problem. "Tough on crime" measures gave police and prosecutors license to embark on a mass incarceration boom, disproportionately targeting black and brown youth for petty drug crimes (while white youth largely went free). With prisons bursting at the seams and long sentences expiring, people with "bad paper" exited Illinois's prisons skill-less and in a virtually unemployable state even if they had skills. Their choices for survival were largely limited to the underground economy and recidivism.

Our city used to have two large, admittedly violent gang federations. But just as the break-up of the mob by the feds did a few decades ago, the CPD's success in putting big gang leaders behind bars has simply spawned a swarm of much smaller gangs each fighting over tiny patches of territory a few blocks square, with much more violence as a result. Much smaller territories mean that public housing shutdowns and school closures are much likely to force youth across gang boundaries than in the days of the big gang federations, again with more violence as a result.

Flooding "hot spots" with cops or CAPS' "positive loitering" simply moves the problem elsewhere or temporarily suppresses it, because the root of the violence problem - increasing inequality - remains unaddressed.

Publications like Crain's, the Wall Street Journal, and the Tribune frequently publish articles decrying growing inequality in this country. But they're nearly always found wanting when it comes to supporting specific measures to redress this imbalance by funding the rebuilding of our poorest neighborhoods, supporting a financial transactions tax, or opposing sweetheart TIF deals that shovel funds away from those who need it most.

Instead, they have the ignored facts and stupidly aped politicians' demagogic appeals for more cops - something that won't save our youth, and will instead drain funds from programs that help them and the rest of us.

As recent events in Milwaukee and Charlotte show, people's patience with the non-solutions from our so-called civic leaders is at an end.

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Mike Ditka Has 'No Respect' For Kaepernick, Tells Him To 'Get The Hell Out'

Mon, 2016-09-26 12:32

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Former Chicago Bears coach and current Donald Trump supporter Mike Ditka has some thoughts about Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protests.

To say he isn’t a fan would be an understatement. Ditka seems absolutely livid.

“I think it’s a problem, anybody who disrespects this country and the flag,” Ditka told a Dallas sports radio station during an interview Friday. “If they don’t like the country, they don’t like our flag ― get the hell out, that’s what I think.”

The 49ers quarterback has refused to stand for the national anthem before NFL games this season, a silent protest that Kaepernick says is about highlighting racial inequity in the U.S. ― a problem that’s “bigger than football.”

But Ditka, who played for Chicago for much of the 1960s ― a fairly turbulent time for the city, which to this day remains highly segregated and is struggling with a rash of gun violence ― doesn’t see what the problem is.

“I don’t see all the atrocities going on in this country that people say are going on,” Ditka told the radio hosts. “I see opportunities if people want to look for opportunities. Now, if they don’t want to look for them, then you can find problems with anything.”

“I have no respect for Colin Kaepernick. He probably has no respect for me,” Ditka added. “That’s his choice. My choice is that I like this country. I respect our flag.”

“But this is the land of opportunity, because you can be anything you want to be if you work,” he concluded. “Now if you don’t work, that’s a different problem.”

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2015 Was One Of The Safest Years In The Past 2 Decades, According To FBI Crime Stats

Mon, 2016-09-26 09:52

WASHINGTON ― The national homicide rate rose slightly in 2015, according to FBI crime statistics released Monday. But the report also indicates that overall, 2015 was one of the safest years on record.

The FBI found an increase of 3.1 percent from the 2014 violent crime rate estimate. But that year-over-year increase only tells part of the story. Looking at every year since 1996, the violent crime rate has only been lower in 2013 and 2014.

2015 was safer than any year during the presidencies of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush or Ronald Reagan. Looking back at trends over the past five and 10 years, the total number of violent crimes in 2015 was 0.7 percent below the 2011 level and 16.5 percent below the 2006 level. Nevertheless, in a poll conducted earlier this year by The Huffington Post and YouGov, most Americans incorrectly believed that crime had risen overall in the past 10 years. 

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has declared himself the “law and order” candidate, is widely expected to seize on the statistical uptick in the homicide numbers ahead of the first presidential debate on Monday night. 

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. of Harvard Law School says it’s important not to “read too much into year-to-year fluctuations” reflected in the FBI crime statistics.

“Two of the cities with homicide increases in 2015 are the District of Columbia and Baltimore,” Sullivan said. “Yet, already in 2016 we are seeing near double-digit decreases in both cities.” He also noted that homicides were more common in heavily segregated and impoverished cities.

John Pfaff, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law, said that even if the jump in the violent crime rate is similar to jumps seen in the 1990s, the actual effect of this one is much smaller.

“Crime was and remains quite low. Even in terms of worst case scenario with FBI numbers, things look similar to what they did four to five years ago,” Pfaff said. “At the time we celebrated those as being great.”

“The report shows that there was an overall increase in violent crime last year, making clear what each of us already knows: that we still have so much work to do,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Monday. “But the report also reminds us of the progress that we are making.”

The report “shows that in many communities, crime has remained stable or even decreased from the historic lows reported in 2014,” she went on. “And it is important to remember that while crime did increase overall last year, 2015 still represented the third-lowest year for violent crime in the past two decades.”

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly
political violence
and is a href=""> style="font-weight: 400;">serial liar, href="http://www.huffingtonpost
.com/entry/9-outrageous-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-latinos_55e483a1e4b0c818f618904b"> style="font-weight: 400;">rampant xenophobe
.com/entry/donald-trump-racist-examples_us_56d47177e4b03260bf777e83"> ">racist, .com/entry/18-real-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-women_us_55d356a8e4b07addcb442023"> style="font-weight: 400;">misogynist and href=""> >birther who has
repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from
entering the U.S.

.com/newsletter/must-reads">Sign up for the HuffPost Must Reads newsletter. Each Sunday, we will bring you the best original reporting, longform writing and breaking news from The Huffington Post and around the web, plus behind-the-scenes looks at how it’s all made. Click here to sign up!

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4 Ways Single Entrepreneurs Can Get In On Cuffing Season

Sun, 2016-09-25 20:24
It's that time of the year! The leaves are changing colors, the sun is setting earlier and we're trading our icy Coolattas for warm pumpkin spice lattes: cuffing season has officially arrived. Cooler weather and reluctance to leave the house, suddenly has men and women gravitating to one another, looking for someone to keep them warm throughout the winter.

It's hard enough for people who work 8 hour days, to find their cuddle buddy, but what if you're an entrepreneur working 16+ hours a day? Trying to date someone while building a brand is damn near impossible. You feel like your emotions are in a pressure cooker, ready to explode.

However, if you're any good at entrepreneurship, you don't accept the word "impossible". You buckle down, find solutions to your problems and get shit done. So how about transferring that go-getter spirit to your love life? Here are four ways to participate in cuffing season and be successful.

Spread the Word

Go ahead and put it other there! Just like you mustered up the courage to start telling people about your service or product, you gotta let people know that you're single and looking to mingle. Referrals were a big part of getting your business rolling so transfer the practice. Ask your family and friends to introduce you to people and set you up.

Become A Socialite

Start RSVP'ing because networking events aren't just for business. Attend watch parties, panel discussions, business launches, etc. Don't turn down any invitations. You never know if the next person you exchange business cards with, will be the same person you'll be kissing under the mistletoe. Ladies, put on that sexy sweater dress and gentlemen rock that dapper sports coat.

Swipe Right

Pretend like you're writing your sales page and create an appealing account on BeLinked, Meld or Whim. Dating apps are the easiest way to meet lots of cuff potential, so get to swiping. You're working all the time and don't have an extra minute to spare? Lies! Entrepreneurs prioritize their schedule to what's important to them. Pencil yourself in! You probably generate leads and book prospect calls through social media, so why not your cuff buddy?

Date Multiple People

All prospects don't turn into paid clients. So between incompatibility and flaking, expect that some dates won't pan out either. Fight the feeling that being a serial dater is slimy and keep your dating pipeline active until you've officially sealed the deal and are cuffed.

Remember, the whole point of cuffing season is to have someone to spend time with during the winter. But don't let the term "season" make you view your cuff buddy as a per diem deal. If they display staying power, go ahead and lock them into a contract deal. Win big!

Are you wondering if you're capable of turning your cuff buddy into a long-term relationship? Are you dateable? Find out now! Take a quiz here.

Kenyatta is the founder of Polished Personas, a consulting agency that empowers service based professionals and entrepreneurs to build standout personal brands that position them for next level success in business and love. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook.

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Fixing Our Food System Shouldn't Be A Partisan Issue

Fri, 2016-09-23 16:19

Whether it’s the massive amount of food we waste, the burden large agribusinesses places on our environment or the staggering number of children who go to bed hungry every night, the American food system is obviously quite far from perfect.

The question of how to address the above failures is, of course, a tough one. In fact, it’s a question so tough it’s gone mostly ignored, so far, in the presidential contest.

The answers that some call for involve the implementation of further regulations for farmers, food manufacturers and consumers alike, and advances in these areas are often touted as successes by “good food” activists like Michael Pollan, author of Food Rules and The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

But not all food rules are good food rules, and many regulations concerning the American food supply have actually had a negative impact on food producers, particularly small ones, while incentivizing instead the sort of practices preferred by larger, corporate producers.

Such is the argument laid out by food writer, attorney and professor Baylen J. Linnekin in his new book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us, out this month.

In just one example, Linnekin points out how the cosmetic standards laid out by the EPA and USDA and adhered to by many retailers result in countless pounds of “ugly” but otherwise delicious produce — an estimated half of all the produce grown in the U.S. — going uneaten.

The book makes a strong case that the biggest issues facing our nation’s food supply are ones deserving of bipartisan solutions — and that those solutions might actually entail fewer, better food laws instead of a spate of new ones.

The Huffington Post recently spoke with Linnekin.

What was the inspiration behind your new book? Who did you write it for?

Obviously, I would never have written the book if I didn’t think sustainability in our food system wasn’t an important goal. But I think people look at sustainability as something that must be supported always by stricter and stricter, more and more, greater and greater regulations. I think that would turn off anyone who identifies as a conservative or libertarian and I think that’s too bad. As I point out in the book, this is not the case.

I think I’m appealing to the people on the ideological right to recognize that there are ways to have a sustainable food system that don’t involve the government telling us everything to do. I’m also pointing out the ways that some on the right, like Michele Bachmann, the former representative of Minnesota, are big recipients of farm subsidies and are hypocrites on these issues. And to the people on the left, I’m suggesting that not all regulations are bad. The book is about how some regulations are bad, and if we’re unwilling to repeal the bad regulations that harm the food system you want to exist, I think you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

None of these are political issues that belong to either the Democratic or Republican or Green or Libertarian Party. These are issues everyone can, should and does care about.
Baylen J. Linnekin, food writer, attorney and professor

This is, essentially, a conservative case for fixing our food system. Would you agree with that assessment?

I should stress that I identify as a libertarian and not a conservative. There are people that I portray in the book, like Thomas Massie, a more libertarian-minded member of Congress who raises grass-fed beef on his farm in Kentucky, who has co-sponsored legislation with Chellie Pingree, a stalwart liberal member of Congress who is, likewise, an organic farmer who lives on an island off Maine. I think that’s a great example of the actual food movement, the people who really care about the small farmers on the ground and the individuals that want to make their own food choices, rather than the sort of politicized food movement. They recognize that so many regulations value large producers over small ones, wasting food and getting in the way of people growing fruits and vegetables in their own yards.

None of these are political issues that belong to either the Democratic or Republican or Green or Libertarian Party. These are issues everyone can, should and does care about. I’m not trying to discourage people from getting too “political” about their food, but I think that when some of the ideology gets in the way of recognizing that there is room for collaborating with people who you don’t agree with on some issues to create meaningful change, you’ve got blinders on. I hope this book will be a way to look at food regulations and food sustainability in a different way such that people will come to see others, whether they be Republicans or Democrats, as a partner on food issues instead of this sort politicized enemy.

In your book you discuss food waste reduction efforts as a promising example of bipartisanship on this. Could food waste activism provide a model of collaboration going forward?

We certainly need less partisanship on issues like this. Some of the good food rules I cited in the book are ones that have tackled food waste. The Emerson Act was named after a Republican congressman who passed away before that law took effect and was sponsored during the Clinton administration, which was not exactly an era of cooperation, but was very successful in the Republican House, and President Clinton signed it gladly. The PATH Act was sponsored by [Republican] John McCain and several Democrats. Those are both efforts to increase food donations with the ultimate goal of reducing both hunger and food waste.

I think food safety is another area where there’s a divide, particularly on the left, between supporters of local food and supporters of increased food safety. I don’t know exactly how to bridge that schism between people like Pollan who identify as local food supporters and people like Marion Nestle who are more aligned with food safety rather than local food. I think my appeal would be for food safety supporters to rally support for regulations that actually make our food safer.

You do criticize some individuals and programs typically revered by the food movement — not only Pollan, but also the Michelle Obama-backed Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, as two examples. Were you nervous to air these critiques of folks held dear by many who would be considered your book’s target audience?

I wasn’t the least bit nervous. I think that disagreement and debate is healthy. I’m certainly not lashing out at Pollan [for his support for the Food Safety Modernization Act] or calling him names. I think it’s important to add to the discourse and constructively dialogue with one another. With the first lady and the National School Lunch Program, it’s important to point out that the idea that the first lady created food waste in the program is absurd, but it’s worth noting that food waste has increased due to some of the measures in the act.

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There is obviously a lot of work to be done to get both these “bad” food laws repealed and “good” ones passed. What do you think all of us can do, as consumers and eaters, to speed up progress?

Some of the things I talked about in the book include the role of consumers in, say, ugly fruits and vegetables. The regulations the USDA and EPA have established make wasting the “ugly” fruits and vegetables often times easier than actually picking them at the farm and trying to sell them. The government’s at fault there, full stop. But it’s also incumbent upon consumers to change their behavior and recognize that.

Now, I’m not a food anarchist and this is not a book about eliminating all rules. This is about eliminating the bad ones, but also changing our own behavior and expectations to also improve the food system and make it more sustainable.

Are you optimistic that we are on a path toward a better food system?

I think I am optimistic. I think there is a growing interest and understanding about food and sustainability, and people increasingly care about this even if it’s not sort of traditionally in their political or ideological wheelhouse. I think that trend will only continue.

If you look back maybe 10 years — even 5 years — food waste, for example, was an issue very few people were talking about and now it’s very much at the forefront of the food system. As I note in the book, if food waste were a country in terms of how much waste it contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, it would be the third largest country in the world, behind the U.S. and China in terms of its GDP. I think that shows the potential impact reducing our food waste from the 40 percent we currently waste to even cutting it in half would have on both the food issue and climate change.

If readers take one thought away from reading your book, what do you hope that will be? 

I hope that people who are skeptical of sustainable food because they think it’s a system that requires billions of new regulations will read this book and come to embrace sustainability in food not as something that requires this huge new regulatory structure, but as something that would actually benefit from deregulation in many ways.

And I hope supporters of sustainable food who I think are sometimes guilty of thinking we just need more rules will instead recognize that the people arguing against more regulations aren’t always wrong and that perhaps these two groups can meet somewhere in the middle and hold hands and eat a sustainably raised, grass-fed hamburger.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food and water. In addition, Erbentraut explores the evolving ways Americans are identifying and defining themselves. Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. Tips? Email

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Mired In Personal Attacks, The Kirk-Duckworth Campaign Hasn't Lived Up To Its Billing

Fri, 2016-09-23 14:30

The Mark Kirk-Tammy Duckworth U.S. Senate race early on had all the markings of a campaign that would rise above the personal attacks and innuendo typical of modern politics.

Kirk in 2012 suffered a serious stroke and his recovery won him universal admiration. In his first term in the Senate, Kirk distinguished himself as arguably the most moderate Republican in the chamber.

Duckworth, now serving her second term representing Illinois' Eighth Congressional District, is a decorated war hero who lost both legs and nearly was killed when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2004.

The two candidates have differing views on important issues like immigration and national security, but so far those have not been the focus of the campaigns.

Kirk has done everything possible to link Duckworth to imprisoned former Gov. Rod. Blagojevich, who appointed Duckworth to head the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs. Kirk has made an 8-year-old workplace retaliation lawsuit by two workers at the Anna Veterans' Home a focal point of the campaign. A recent ad featured the plaintiffs in that suit claiming Duckworth retaliated against them to protect Blagojevich.

Duckworth's campaign has sought to link Kirk to Donald Trump and also has emphasized episodes from Kirk's 2010 Senate run in which he was found to have exaggerated his military activities.

The tone of the campaign may change once the candidate meet face to face for their first debate on Oct. 3 at the Chicago Tribune.

That's what we're talking about on this week's "Only in Illinois."

Recommended: Tax burden in Illinois continues to grow, report finds

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'Married... With Children' Star Opens Up About Show's 'Shocking' Cancellation

Fri, 2016-09-23 05:30

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For “Married... With Children” star David Faustino, playing wisecracking son Bud Bundy on the provocative series was something of a dream. Though Faustino wasn’t quite as outgoing as his character, he and the other stars often seemed as close as a real family, and, as Faustino tells “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, it was the camaraderie and talent on set that made “Married... With Children” a work experience they always wanted to continue.

“It was such a well-oiled machine and so easy and so much fun and we got along so well that I don’t think that any one of us were ready for it to end,” Faustino says. “We were like, ‘Let’s just ride this thing until the wheels fall off.’”

However, the network felt differently. After weekly episodes of the popular show had aired for 10 years, ratings reportedly declined and FOX cancelled “Married... With Children” in a manner that Faustino found extremely abrupt.

“It was pretty shocking,” he says. “They made just a real hard, cold business decision, like, while we were shooting the last season. It was like, ‘Oh, no, we’re cutting it. That’s done.’”

As upset about the cancellation as Faustino and the close-knit cast were, he says that there are others who also took the news pretty hard ― and still do, to this day.

“The fans are really the ones that got kind of screwed over,” he says. “They didn’t get any resolution or end or something cool as a last episode. Fans are still pretty ticked about that.”

Catch up with more celebrities on “Oprah: Where Are They Now?”, airing Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET on OWN. You can also watch full episodes on demand via the Watch OWN app.

Another television favorite:

“Gilligan’s Island” star reveals co-star romance that might have been

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Millie Brown's EXPO CHICAGO Artistic Takeover

Thu, 2016-09-22 16:46
Millie Brown is a British performance artist, who began her career at the age of seventeen. Constantly praised as one of the new YBA's (Youth British Artists), Brown is an artist who explores the synergy and separation of mind, body, and spirit. While she is mostly recognized for her artistic collaborative projects with global icons like Lady Gaga, Millie is committed to expanding her work and continuing to shed light on the natural beauty of the world.

Fortunately for the arts, curators, and art enthusiasts of Chicago, Millie Brown will be bringing her talents to the Windy City during the well-regarded EXPO CHICAGO art exposition which is taking place this upcoming weekend. Hosted by Virgin Hotels Chicago, guests will experience and see the artist's work through a custom paint & glitter splattered painting on Miss Ricky's windows, a "glowing" dinner in the dark, a screening of the artistic visual titled Pendulum, and a live art performance by Millie Brown and music by Pablo Dylan.

All of this artistic amazingness will begin on Thursday, September 22, with an "Illuminating" dinner in the dark hosted by Millie herself and this once in a lifetime experience will be immediately followed by the highly anticipated screening of Pendulum. If you miss any of the fun you can feel free to catch other screenings of Pendulum as well as her displayed work at Virgin Hotels Chicago anytime this weekend.

Millie Brown's Chicago Takeover will come to an end on Sunday, September 25th with a "Glowing" brunch which is also graciously hosted by Millie and Virgin Hotels Chicago. If you are a true artist, a pure creator or just a human who enjoys weird & whacky wildness, you will not want to miss out on this experience! For more information go to in order to learn more about this special Chi-town experience.

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Gun Rights Advocates Go Silent When Trump Wants To Frisk Black People

Thu, 2016-09-22 16:10

WASHINGTON ― The nation’s top gun rights advocates were notably quiet this week after Donald Trump proposed more aggressive stop-and-frisk policing with a focus on taking away people’s guns.

“If they see a person possibly with a gun or they think may have a gun, they will see the person and they’ll look and they’ll take the gun away,” Trump said Thursday on Fox News, laying out his vision of how the practice works. “They’ll stop, they’ll frisk, and they’ll take the gun away and they won’t have anything to shoot with.”

“I mean, how it’s not being used in Chicago is ― to be honest with you, it’s quite unbelievable, and you know the police, the local police, they know who has a gun who shouldn’t be having the gun. They understand that,” Trump added.

The Republican presidential nominee was following up on comments he’d made the previous day at a Fox News town hall event on “African American concerns,” when he said he “would do stop and frisk” to address violence in black communities. (After Wednesday’s interview, Trump’s campaign suggested he was only calling for more stop-and-frisk policing in Chicago.)

All that sounds like the kind of initiative that should disturb gun rights advocates.

As Leon H. Wolf, a writer for the conservative website, put it on Thursday, “Seems like the sort of thing an organization committed to the preservation of the Second Amendment rights of all citizens should be vigilant against and using its considerable political power to oppose, right?”

But spokespersons for the National Rifle Association, (which has endorsed Trump for president), the National Association for Gun Rights and the Second Amendment Foundation did not answer multiple requests for comment in response to Trump’s remarks.

Their silence was not new: Many of the same people arguing for more access to firearms don’t stand by that support when it comes to fellow citizens of color. 

The NRA was criticized earlier this year for taking two days to comment on the death of Philando Castile, a black man who was shot multiple times by a police officer during a traffic stop in Minnesota. Castile had just informed the officer that he had a gun in the car and a permit to carry it. 

Stop-and-frisk tactics have been broadly condemned for disproportionately targeting minorities while only incrementally reducing crime. Such efforts were even found unconstitutional in New York because they amounted to racial profiling. But a vigorous stop-and-frisk policy was championed by then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has endorsed Trump. 

Black gun rights activists were, in fact, more willing to speak out against stop-and-frisk policies on Thursday. Philip Smith, founder of the National African American Gun Association, said he’s always concerned when people talk about taking away firearms.

“Thinking someone has a gun as opposed to them actually doing something with a gun illegally is two different things,” Smith said. As for police stopping and frisking more people, he said, “I think that’s the wrong way to go to have any kind of community building and community relations.”

Smith said he still wasn’t sure whom he’ll support for president. Neither is Maj Toure, who founded the group Black Guns Matter.

“That particular thing that he said about trying to add more stop and frisk: no,” Toure said. “That is directly adverse toward people’s constitutional rights to exist without being harassed.”

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for clarification of his remarks.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly .com/entry/donald-trump-violence_us_56e1f16fe4b0b25c91815913">incites political violence and is a serial liar .com/entry/9-outrageous-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-latinos_55e483a1e4b0c818f618904b">rampant xenophobe .com/entry/donald-trump-racist-examples_us_56d47177e4b03260bf777e83">racist .com/entry/18-real-things-donald-trump-has-said-about-women_us_55d356a8e4b07addcb442023">misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

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Stop The Killing

Thu, 2016-09-22 16:01
Maybe half a million dead, half a country -- 10 million people -- displaced from their homes, jettisoned onto the mercy of the world.

Welcome to war. Welcome to Syria.

This is a conflict apparently too complex to understand. The U.S. brokered a ceasefire with Russia, then proceeded to lead a bombing strike that killed 62 Syrian troops, injured another hundred -- and gave tactical aid to ISIS. Later it apologized . . . uh, sort of.

"Russia really needs to stop the cheap point scoring and the grandstanding and the stunts and focus on what matters, which is implementation of something we negotiated in good faith with them."

These are the words of U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, as reported by Reuters, who went on to point out, with exasperation, that the U.S. was investigating the air strikes and "if we determine that we did indeed strike Syrian military personnel, that was not our intention and we of course regret the loss of life."

And. We. Of. Course. Regret. The. Loss. Of. Life.

Oh, the afterthought! I could almost hear the "yada, yada" hovering in the air. Come on, this is geopolitics. We implement policy and make crucial adjustments to the state of the world by dropping bombs -- but the bombing isn't the point (except maybe to those who get hit). The point is that we're playing complex, multidimensional chess, with, of course, peace as our ultimate goal, unlike our enemies. Peace takes bombs.

But just for a moment, I would like to step back into the middle of that quote by Samantha Power and point out that, in the wake, let us say, of 9/11, no one in the United States, speaking in any capacity, official or unofficial, would have spoken thus about the victims: with cursory regret. The fact that their deaths occurred in a complex global context didn't somehow minimize the horror of the event.

No. Their deaths cut to the national soul. Their deaths were our deaths.

But not so with the dead of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan -- not so with the victims of our bombs and bullets, the victims of our strategic vision. Suddenly the dead become part of some larger, more complex picture, and thus not our business to stop. The "regret" we express is for PR purposes only; it's part of the strategy.

So I give thanks to Jimmy Carter who, in a recent op-ed published in the New York Times, took a moment to look beyond the moral unintelligence of our militarized worldview. Speaking of the fragile Syrian "ceasefire" brokered by the United States and Russia, he wrote: "The agreement can be salvaged if all sides unite, for now, around a simple and undeniably important goal: Stop the killing."

He presented this not as a moral imperative but a strategically smart plan:

"When talks resume in Geneva later this month, the primary focus should be stopping the killing. Discussions about the core questions of governance -- when President Bashar al-Assad should step down, or what mechanisms might be used to replace him, for example -- should be deferred. The new effort could temporarily freeze the existing territorial control . . ."

Let the government, the opposition and the Kurds keep their arms, focus on stabilizing the territory they control and guarantee "unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, a particularly important demand given the strike on an aid convoy near Aleppo," he wrote, detailing some of the long-term realities and urgent needs any legitimate peace negotiations must confront.

Compare this with the simplistic moral righteousness of bombing our way to peace. Last June, for instance, the Times reported: "More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration's policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country's five-year-old civil war. . . .

"The memo concludes," the Times informs us, "'It is time that the United States, guided by our strategic interests and moral convictions, lead a global effort to put an end to this conflict once and for all.'"

Oh yeah, that should pretty much fix everything. War is addictive, whether you wage it from a terrorist cell or from some perch in the military-industrial complex of the most powerful country on the planet.

The Center for Citizen Initiatives responded at the time: "Similar statements and promises have been made regarding Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. In all three cases, terrorism and sectarianism have multiplied, the conflicts still rage, and huge amounts of money and lives have been wasted."

The statement, signed by 16 peace activists, also says: "We are a group of concerned U.S. citizens currently visiting Russia with the goal of increasing understanding and reducing international tension and conflict. We are appalled by this call for direct U.S. aggression against Syria, and believe it points to the urgent need for open public debate on U.S. foreign policy."

The time is now. Foreign policy should no longer be classified, hidden, the province of an unelected government engaged in a game of global chess and high-tech terror, a.k.a., endless war.

Peace starts with three words: Stop the killing.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. Contact him at or visit his website at


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