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The Reason We Waste So Much Food Is Because We Love Too Much

Wed, 2016-06-15 16:22

If there’s one thing Americans do better than pretty much anyone else, it's putting perfectly good, edible food to waste.

An estimated 30-40 percent of food that is grown, harvested, processed and transported to retailers in this country ultimately goes uneaten. And all that wasted food has to go somewhere. Most of it -- an estimated 30 million tons each year, according to the EPA -- ends up in landfills where it emits methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Thankfully, interest in combatting food waste is perhaps higher than ever -- the U.S. government announced its first-ever national target for cutting waste last year -- and the push for a solution is prompting a close examination of many contributing factors. According to a new study published this week in Journal of Food Products Marketing, one key issue has been left off the table.

Researchers from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab along with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation and the Sao Paulo-based Getulio Vargas Foundation say that key issue is the way that many well-intended families over-prepare food, much of which goes uneaten, as a means of showing affection for their loved ones.

To arrive at this conclusion, the researchers analyzed food storage, preparation and disposal behaviors in 20 Upstate New York households with lower-middle class income levels. They observed that the caretakers in the homes -- all of them either mothers or grandmothers -- identified preparing and serving large portions and varieties of food and snacks to their families as a way of showing affection, of being a “good mother.”

These tendencies, the paper’s lead author Dr. Gustavo Porpino explained to The Huffington Post, can contribute significantly to the amount of food most households waste -- an estimated $640 per household annually -- as well as patterns of overeating and obesity.

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The leading source of household food waste identified in the paper was leftover cooked food that went uneaten, followed by unused raw vegetables.

Ironically, lower-income households facing significant budgetary constraints may be even more susceptible to the tendency to not only over-prepare food but also to stock more food than they need. This is particularly the case among mothers and other caregivers who have experienced food scarcity in the past, Porpino believes.

“It’s reassuring to serve food in large portions,” Porpino told HuffPost by email. “It has the symbolism of wealth. It is a form to distance themselves from the state of poverty.”

In order to address the issue, researchers suggested that informational campaigns centered on positive messages -- particularly the potential financial benefits of reducing food waste in the home -- would be more helpful than negative messages that shame families or simply aim to raise awareness of food waste more generally.

In addition, the researchers emphasized the importance of involving food pantries -- which 50 percent of the study’s participants relied on to supplement their family’s food supply -- with efforts to help caregivers manage their food supply at home and meal plan.

Such efforts, the researchers write, could not only help these families -- many of whom are Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) users -- waste less food, but also eat more healthily as they would be less reliant on often-cheaper, processed foods at the end of the month, when SNAP benefits are running low and pantries experience higher demand.

“Nudges can be used to guide them not only to healthy choices, but also to take home portions appropriate to family size,” Porpino added.

Norbert Wilson, a professor of agricultural economics and rural sociology at Auburn University who specializes in food pantry research, said pantries can also reduce waste in more straightforward ways, including simply offering clients to choose the food products they prefer rather than being given a box filled with foods they may or may not like.

“Having choice will allow clients to select products that are most likely to be consumed,” Wilson told HuffPost.

There are challenges there, however. Some pantries are hesitant to embrace a client choice model because they fear this would create unequal levels of access to all foods. Further, Wilson noted, pantries are typically run by volunteers who may lack both the time and training needed to pass along information on nutrition, meal planning or food preparation.

While meal planning is key to reducing food waste, other experts have also pointed out that simply educating oneself about what expiration dates on food really mean can make a big impact. In an effort to help consumers do just that, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) introduced legislation last month that would standardize food date labeling.


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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A Coalition Of Hope For Saving Imperiled Iguanas

Wed, 2016-06-15 14:50
Collaborative post by Charles Knapp, Vice President of Conservation Research, John G. Shedd Aquarium; Stesha Pasachnik, Conservation Research Postdoctoral Associate, San Diego Zoo Global; Tandora Grant, Senior Research Coordinator, San Diego Zoo Global; John Iverson, Biology Research Professor, Earlham College; and Allison Alberts, Chief Conservation and Research Officer, San Diego Zoo Global

This week the online journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology published a compilation of research papers titled Iguanas: Biology, Systematics, and Conservation. The compilation highlights the diversity and unique ecology of iguanas, while emphasizing the threats to their survival and need for conservation action. Though the Green Iguana, most commonly seen in pet stores, often comes to mind when people think of these lizards, researchers have described 44 unique species of iguanas, with more on the way. Iguanas are found throughout the New World including Central and South America, the islands of the West Indies, and within the Galápagos Archipelago. However, some species can even be found in Fiji and the Tonga Islands. With so many species and so many unique environments, the diversity of sizes, colors, and behaviors among iguanas is impressive. Iguanas live in trees and on the ground. Some climb volcanoes to lay their eggs in the warm soil within calderas, while others dig nests in termite mounds and guard them for months! Some swim in the ocean and munch on algae, others restrict their diet to mangrove leaves; however, most feed on leaves, fruits and flowers of terrestrial trees and shrubs. Regardless of where they live, iguanas serve a vital ecological role because of their herbivorous feeding strategy, which is relatively unique among lizards. By eating leaves and fruits, iguanas promote foliage growth, provide nutrients for seedlings, and disperse seeds to new areas.

Although iguanas are vital to many ecosystems, they face serious threats. Deforestation and other human-caused disturbances such as predation and competition from non-native species, hunting, smuggling for the illicit wildlife trade, and unregulated tourism, have brought many species near extinction. In fact, while we celebrate the recognition of 44 species, we also mourn the fact that 82% of the 34 species that have been listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species are threatened with extinction. Consequently, these distinctive lizards are among the most threatened vertebrate groups on the planet, surpassing turtles (50-58%), primates (ca. 49%), and amphibians (ca. 41%).

There is hope. The iguana conservation and research community has grown over the last two decades. A major factor in bringing together this community has been the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Iguana Specialist Group (ISG). The ISG was formed in 1997 and has since expanded to 93 members in 24 countries, including representation from all regions in which iguanas occur naturally. The group has worked with local government agencies and NGOs to draft 14 Species Recovery and Conservation Management Plans that outline the most urgent research needs and conservation actions for individual taxa, many of which are reflected in Iguanas: Biology, Systematics, and Conservation. Not surprisingly, 29 of the 69 authors (42%) contributing to this collection are ISG members.

Conservation action requires that local stakeholders take ownership of initiatives aimed at studying the unique ecology of individual iguana species, and implementing tailored mitigation strategies that work best when socioeconomic and political considerations are addressed. Encouragingly, scientists from countries where iguanas occur contributed significantly to the compilation. Moreover, 42% percent of the authors contributing to the compilation represent eight countries outside of the United States and Europe. This is a dramatic increase from the past two iguana compilations, published in 1982 and 2004, demonstrating the expansion of the global iguana community.

Everyone can play a role in iguana conservation regardless of where you live, or if you have a scientific background. The IUCN SSC Iguana Specialist Group is always open to new collaborators, and we enthusiastically welcome those who have a contributing skillset to join us. Likewise, people can contribute to the International Iguana Foundation, which supports conservation, awareness, and scientific programs that enhance the survival of wild iguanas and their habitats. For pet enthusiasts interested in iguanas, it's important to understand the damage done to many threatened iguana species as a result of illegal or unregulated trade. Listing a species as captive bred is a loophole that traders sometimes use to sell illegally exported animals. Further even if iguanas are captive bred, it does not mean that the original breeding pairs were exported legally from their country of origin. Consider conducting research on the legality and ethics of commercially traded animals, as well as their status in the wild, when purchasing a rare species. One place to start is EcoHealthyPets. Your small collective actions can make a big difference for protecting endangered iguanas.

-- 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.

Citizen-Led Illinois Redistricting Reform Effort Notches Another Key Milestone

Tue, 2016-06-14 17:22
Opinion by Reboot Illinois' Madeleine Doubek

How about some good news about citizens taking control of their own government?

The citizen-led Independent Map Amendment initiative easily cleared hefty signature requirement hurdles, was deemed valid and won tentative approval Monday to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed to try to thwart it.

In a first for an Illinois redistricting attempt after two previous attempts in 2010 and 2014, commissioners on the Illinois State Board of Elections declared the signatures valid, giving a tentative green light to the ballot question that would ask voters if they want an 11-member independent commission to design state legislative districts rather than letting ruling politicians draw them.

"This is a huge hurdle that we've cleared and it's one that no redistricting amendment has so far cleared in Illinois, so we're very excited," said Dave Mellet, campaign manager of the Independent Map Amendment. When this was tried in 2014, "they realized this is a pretty massive undertaking and there's a lot you need to learn about duplicate signatures," he added, "so to get to 290,000 valid signatures is a huge step."

Steven Sandvoss, executive director of the elections board, told commissioners a random sample of 5 percent of the voter signatures the group turned in showed map workers had far surpassed the minimum required number of 290,216 valid Illinois voters' signatures, so a second, random sample was not needed.

A similar citizen effort in 2014 failed at this stage when the sample showed problems with many of the signatures. Two years ago, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva ultimately ruled the previous independent redistricting effort unconstitutional because it would have banned commissioners from running for public office for 10 years after serving on the commission. The new redistricting proposal does not include that restriction.

A lawsuit filed by a group calling itself the People's Map and made up of Chicago-based minority business and advocacy executives suggests the Independent Map group's efforts are unconstitutional, contending it has not met the requirement to change both the process and structure of legislative mapmaking. The People's Map group hired Michael Kasper, the same lawyer who blocked the last independent redistricting effort and who has long been connected to Democratic Party of Illinois Chairman and House Speaker Mike Madigan. Madigan's spokesman Steve Brown previously has denied Madigan is behind the People's Map objections. Kasper did not return a call for comment Monday.

The ballot question asking voters if they want to create an independent commission to draw maps could be officially certified for the ballot at the election board's August meeting if the court challenge is resolved. Cook County Circuit Court arguments over the constitutionality of the citizen redistricting effort are expected June 30.

Further, Sandvoss noted there has been no sign of any attempt at a line-by-line thorough review of the redistricting petition signatures and elections board General Counsel Kenneth Menzel said it "bodes well" that no one has asked for a copy of the petitions to examine them for problems.

"I think they understand that I think it was 73 percent of our signatures were found to be valid by a random sample," Mellet said. "The last attempt, they went through the 5 percent sample and they were found to have, I think, a 45 percent validity rate, so we're talking about almost 30 percent higher. We learned a lot of great lessons from the previous amendment and we had a lot of the same great volunteers. We had over 2,000 people, individual circulators, so it is a huge difference from that."

With the help of prominent citizens and strong donations, more than 2,000 Illinoisans did the tough work to try to change their state government and make it less political. Nearly 300,000 validated Illinois voters said all of us should have that chance to change the map rigging that occurs when politicians of one party or another draw districts after each census.

That power grab and political mapmaking is where corruption is born in Illinois. The 11-member commission would have Democrats and Republicans on it and likely won't be entirely free from political influence, but it is a giant step forward toward fairness and it just took one big leap toward a ballot near you.

With luck, and perhaps providence, the amendment will move past the courts and to your ballot. Illinois citizens are standing up and attempting to own their government.


NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois' taxpayers paying for billionaires' stadiums

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10 Simple Strategies for Outstanding Customer Service

Tue, 2016-06-14 14:32
I remember very clearly the first time I really understood the importance of customer service.

We were still a young company when floods hit Chicago back in 2010. All of our teams stayed busy, but my employees were especially concerned about an elderly client.

The torrential rains had completely flooded his home and washed away his garden out back. His late wife had planted it with beautiful, yellow flowers, and he was so sad to see them all gone.

Several days after completing the flood damage restoration job, my technicians visited him again. They replanted his lost garden with fresh, yellow flowers. I didn't know that they had planned on doing this, but they were so happy when they returned to our headquarters and shared their experiences.

The gentleman had been moved to tears, and we were too when we heard about this wonderful act of kindness.

Setting the Standard for Customer Service

I knew that providing the best possible customer service was important to business success, but I realized that my caring employees had set a special standard.

They inspired me to add an Act of Kindness policy to our employee handbook, and it's a very important part of our company's culture.

Here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we back up that policy with 10 simple strategies to make sure that our clients always receive outstanding customer service.

1. Define Your Brand

Determine what makes your business unique and how you can translate your products or services into a better customer experience.

Use that edge to deliver a level of client care that sets you apart from the competition.

Happy customers are repeat customers because they know that they can trust your brand.

2. Hire Employees Who Care

I hire people who take real pride in their work.

My employees are the face of my company, and they often help our clients through very difficult situations. I value their ability to really connect and make a difference.

They understand that we have our jobs because of our customers.

3. Address Your Online Presence

Keep up with your company's online presence by responding to review sites.

This shows that you really care about your customers' experiences. It also gives you a platform to politely answer the large percentage of people who post negative comments when they're unhappy with customer service.

4. Don't Assume Anything

Don't assume that customers are happy after a job or sale.

Follow up with a phone call or an email.

When a client is especially pleased with a project, I ask if he would mind leaving my employees a positive review online. Most people are happy to share great customer service experiences.

5. Listen to Your Customers

We get to know our customers by name and make the effort to understand their individual needs.

This helps us serve them better, and they appreciate knowing that we care enough to listen even when they're unhappy.

Let clients know that you hear what they're saying.

6. Develop a Resolution Process

Your employees are an excellent resource for identifying how to resolve problems with dissatisfied customers.

Start with brainstorming sessions, formalize your ideas into steps for dealing with complaints, and incorporate a formal resolution process into your employee manual.

7. Never Let It Get Personal

U.S. businesses lose more than $80 billion every year because of poor customer service.

The only way to combat that statistic is to do a good job when things go bad.

It can be challenging to deal with a complaint that you know is unfair. Rely on your resolution process, and never let it get personal.

8. Always Be Available

My company provides fire and flood damage restoration services 24/7, but not all businesses can keep our hours. Still, it's important to give clients dependable lines of communication.

Post solid contact information on your website, and regularly check and respond to emails and voice mails.

9. Keep Your Promises

You can't promise one thing, deliver another and expect that customers won't notice.

You have to exceed their expectations for outstanding client care. They vote with their pocketbooks, and 78 percent walk away from businesses that provide poor customer service.

10. Go the Extra Mile

I oftentimes finish projects by sending handwritten notes to clients thanking them for their business. I let them know that we're always here for them.

Not many companies do this anymore, but I believe that it shows our company's willingness to go the extra mile.

As a customer service strategy, I know that it pays off. It's always satisfying to hear back from clients who appreciate this extra effort.

Enjoy the Rewards

On a personal level, providing outstanding customer service is a rewarding experience. As a business strategy, it makes all the difference in achieving long-term success.

It's a team effort, and I'm fortunate to have a very dedicated group of employees on my side every day.

We help people deal with difficult situations. Our customers value our hard work, but they also appreciate our real concerns for their welfare.

Our teams here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba do more than restore their property. We restore their peace of mind, and that defines our special brand of customer service.

-- 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.

Envisioning Peace

Tue, 2016-06-14 12:17
Chicago Foundation for Women joins the nation in honoring the lives of those lost in this weekend's deadly shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. What would already be a horrific crime is made all the more devastating that it happened during Pride month, a time when we celebrate the LGBTQIA movement, not mourn monumental loss.

The atrocities of early Sunday morning is a stark reminder that despite gains made over the last forty years, LGBTQIA individuals around the country continue to face unprecedented levels of violence. 2015 may have marked the historic marriage equality ruling, but it also noted a historically high number of transgender murders, particularly against trans women of color. And sadly, this year does not look to be much better with at least ten murders already accounted for. 2016 has also brought us "bathroom bills" in North Carolina and other states, which only opens trans people to more surveillance, harassment, and assault. The threat is now a reality. A local Target store recently experienced a small bomb going off in the women's restroom. The retail chain has been a site of protest recently for allowing transgender people to use the restroom and changing room of their choosing.

In the wake of the Orlando massacre, some have chosen to focus on the shooter's alleged ties to ISIS and global terrorism, avoiding "LGBTQIA" all together, including many politicians around the country. We cannot mask this as anything other than domestic terrorism and a hate crime. This happened to a very specific group of people and for a very specific reason. Not now or ever should we engage in Islamophobia to stand against homophobia. We must reject both. Political writer David Klion said it best: "There will be attempts to pit two vulnerable communities, LGBT and Muslims, against each other. Resist them."

Every day we must recommit ourselves to the movement of social and political progress. Grassroots activists, civic leaders, every day people dedicated to positive change, and organizations like Chicago Foundation for Women work tirelessly to carry the movement forward, creating a world where race, gender, and sexual orientation are no longer tools of control or a rationale for discrimination. Just as we must all come together to pick up the pieces from this tragedy and support our LGBTQIA communities, we must also recognize our role and responsibility in fostering a world free from hate.

Let us not give up on that vision. We all deserve to exist, and in a world where we can all live in peace and be at peace.

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Chicago Public School Students Are Learning How Outsider Art Can Combat Hate

Tue, 2016-06-14 08:46

The genre known as outsider art is loosely tied together by a few guiding principles. First, outsider artists are not typically trained in a traditional or academic way. Second, outsider artists usually work outside of the mainstream art world and its historical precedents. Third, the artistic process tends to serve a deep need or function for an outsider artist, unrelated to ambition or ego. And fourth, outsider artists often do not define themselves as artists. 

Beyond these characteristics, outsider artists generally work in isolation, partially or entirely disconnected from contemporary influences or a larger artistic community. This is, commonly, a matter of circumstance rather than preference, since the art world is generally perceived of as an insular and elitist bubble. As a result, many outsider artists are the first and last of their kind, particular gems whose subject matters, techniques and idiosyncrasies are not immortalized in museums or taught in schools. This is generally the case, but not always. 

Since the mid-1990s, Intuit: Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, the nation's only nonprofit devoted solely to self-taught and outsider artwork, has been in the business of teaching public school students how to be outsider artists. This year, the Teacher Fellowship Program (TFP) reached 600 students across 13 Chicago public schools, guiding them through a curriculum designed to inspire creative expression without all the rules, the rigid goals, or the expectations of mainstream art. 

Joel Javier is an education manager at the TFP, in charge of directing and coordinating all public education and outreach programs at Intuit including curator talks, panel discussions, film screenings, museum tours, and DIY Visionary Art workshops. One of only four full-time and three part-time TFP staff members, Javier is largely responsible for the small program's functional operation. 

The mission of the Teacher Fellowship Program, Javier explained to The Huffington Post, is to provide teachers with the opportunity to use the visual power of outsider art as a catalyst for arts-integrated, cross disciplinary learning. "The core value of the program is to enable teachers to give their students an opportunity to translate their personal vision into art-making using non-traditional materials and methods characteristic of self-taught/outsider art," he said. "The result is a supportive community of learners and educators in the field of outsider art."

This year, 24 teachers were enlisted to bring the TFP curriculum to life. This includes not only art teachers but educators from multiple related disciplines including special needs, music, social studies, dance, and science. 

For Javier, the decision to employ outsider art as a teaching model, as opposed to a more traditional fine art practice, rests on the former's ability to nurture free and unbridled expression, without as much anxiety or self-doubt. "Students are given the opportunity to let go of standard art studio training and to focus on their personal vision regardless of skill level and experience," he said. "This gives the student confidence not only in their ability to make art but it creates a pathway to innovative learning for the student."

On the Intuit website, students express what they've gained from the unorthodox learning experience. "I learned that ironically, outsider art comes from the inside of yourself and displays who you are," ninth grader Jesse Rose explains. 

Artwork from the most recent school year is currently on view at Intuit's 2015-2016 Teacher Fellowship Program Student Exhibition. The exhibit is up at Intuit, alongside the work of iconic outsider artist Lee Godie and skilled miniaturist Steve Moseley. As you can see in the featured images here, when fixed expectations and stylistic clichés go out the window, there is no hierarchy when it comes to talent.

The students' work, vibrant and passionate and obsessive and strange, radiates with honesty and intensity, the result of bringing personal imagination into the world. The exhibition communicates the core belief of outsider art: that the power of creativity is not in its technical acuity or clever themes, but in its ability to speak truths without words, to conjure worlds with only shapes and colors, to make the darkest and most personal of details beautiful and universal. 

According to Javier, 278 students, teachers and families attended the exhibition's opening, many surprised and moved by the creative energy in the space. "One teacher at the opening reception related a story about a mother who was brought to tears after realizing she was symbolically portrayed in a painting by her son," Javier said. "The mother mentioned to the teacher that they had been going through some difficulties at home and this was a break through moment in their relationship."

The innovative program, above all else, believes in the power of art to overcome hatred to create a more beautiful and connected world. In Javier's words: "Through the TFP program and exhibition we hope to communicate that the instinct to create is universal and the arts must embrace all, celebrate all, and be accessible to all regardless of education level or socio-economic status. With all the hatred in the world we want to also communicate that art can touch many lives and heal."

If you're in Chicago, be sure to check out the Teacher Fellowship Program Student Exhibition on view until July 5, 2016, at Intuit: Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art.

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Every Major Development in the Stanford Rape Case, in One Place

Mon, 2016-06-13 13:45

The Stanford Rapist, Brock Turner. (jocelynbyrd/Flickr)

On January 17, 2015, Brock Turner, then a student at Stanford University, raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster.

The sexual assault was witnessed by two grad students passing by on bicycles, who tackled the rapist, who tried to flee, and helped the victim. Turner was found guilty of the crime in court.

Here are all the things people are talking about, and saying, surrounding the now-infamous Stanford rape case.

1. Turner got a light sentence for his crime

Brock Turner's mugshot. (Facebook)

After almost a year and a half, a judge finally sentenced Turner ... to six months in county jail.

The internet exploded with outrage. Tons of people have voiced their opinions in strongly-worded letters, provoking more responses and discussions.

Why the light sentence? The violent attack could have landed Turner in jail for 14 years. Prosecutors asked the judge to put Turner away for six years. But the judge decided to be lenient and sentenced the 20-year-old rapist to a fraction of that time. And he might end up staying for only three months, if he behaves well.

Defending his decision, Judge Aaron Persky said,

"A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others."

The whole Brock Turner case makes me sick to my stomach. The justice system is a joke.

— kenz (@MackenzieHays) June 10, 2016

2. Many have called for the judge to be fired

Prospective jurors refused this week to serve in a courtroom presided over by Aaron Persky:

— Us Weekly (@usweekly) June 10, 2016

The judge's statement didn't satisfy a lot of people. Over 1 million people have signed a petition calling for the judge to be impeached. (Judges can't technically be fired, but they can be recalled from the bench.) Prospective jurors in a later case refused to serve when they found out Judge Pesky would preside.

The argument? The light sentence doesn't fit the violent and horrendous crime. Many attribute the light sentence to the fact that Turner is a white upper-class male. (Studies find that black men receive sentences that are 20% longer than those of white men.) Oh, and Persky also went to Stanford.

3. The survivor went public with her powerful statement

BuzzFeed published the statement the woman who survived the rape, who wishes to remain anonymous, addressed to her attacker in court.

It starts with the words,

"You don't know me, but you've been inside me, and that's why we're here today."

The survivor then goes on to recall, in searing detail, her memories of that night and its aftermath, including the horrifying effect it has had on her life. The brutally vivid letter spread like wildfire.

The @Stanford rape victim's letter should be read aloud at freshman orientations. @BuzzFeed

— Harry Allen (@harryallen) June 7, 2016

CNN's Ashleigh Banfield read it live on the air.

Others have read it live to show support. It will even be read aloud in Congress on June 15th. Representative Jackie Speier said,

"I hope that by reading it into the record, by elevating this issue, that we're going to take some steps to provide leadership on the federal level to address sexual assault on campus and in the military."

4. The vice president of the United States responded

Even VP Joe Biden was moved to write an open letter to the woman being called the Stanford Survivor.

"You are a warrior."

VP Joe Biden writes letter to woman Brock Turner assaulted:

— espnW (@espnW) June 10, 2016

Biden--who has gone around the country trying to change rape culture on campus--praised the survivor's bravery:

"I am in awe of your courage for speaking out -- for so clearly naming the wrongs that were done to you and so passionately asserting your equal claim to human dignity. And I am filled with furious anger -- both that this happened to you and that our culture is still so broken that you were ever put in the position of defending your own worth."

5. The rapist's father defended his son

It wasn't just the light sentence the public found repulsive. The collective outcry also focused on Dan Turner's defense of his son in court.

Dan Turner father argued that Brock should just get probation, not jail, and attempted to invoke sympathy for his son by detailing he bright future he had had before him. In the father's most often quoted line, he said,

"His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life."

So basically, the father is painting sexually assaulting an unconscious woman as getting "action," and that he son doesn't deserve to pay for his crime. Dan Turner even suggested Brock was a victim who was suffering in this situation, unable to enjoy the foods he loves.

Brock Turner isn't an athlete who made a mistake, he's a rapist who can swim. #BrockTurnerIsARapistNotASwimmer

— haley (@ayyeitshaleyy_) June 10, 2016

#BrockTurner is now in protective custody so he doesn't get attacked. What if it's just 20 minutes though

— Ryou Bakura (@HashBrownShawty) June 10, 2016

Brock Turner's father says his son has paid a steep price for '20 min of action'...that caused a lifetime of damage for this victim.

— Molly Qerim (@MollyQerim) June 10, 2016

Whether a rape lasts 20 mins or 2 days, what I know is that the impact lasts a lifetime for all the courageous survivors I know #brockturner

— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) June 10, 2016

One writer took it upon herself to fix the statement for him.

Here, I fixed his letter (changes in bold)...

— Ali Ozeri (@alexandraozeri) June 6, 2016

6. Another dad responded to Turner's father

Dan Turner's statement wasn't the only viral letter from a father to come out of this case.

Jon Pavlovitz, an author and pastor and a father himself, penned a letter on his blog taking Dan Turner to task for defending his son:

"I need you to understand something, and I say this as a father who dearly loves my son as much as you must love yours:

Brock is not the victim here.
His victim is the victim.
She is the wounded one.
He is the damager."

7. A friend of Turner's got backlash for defending him

Dan Turner was also not the only one to defend the Stanford rapist during his trial. Almost 40 people served as character witnesses for Brock Turner, including a longtime friend named Leslie Rasmussen. She famously blamed "political correctness" for the response to the rape. She also insisted that Turner isn't a real rapist and that alcohol, not Brock, is responsible for his actions.

Rasmussen wrote,

"I don't think it's fair to base the fate of the next ten + years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn't remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him. I am not blaming her directly for this, because that isn't right. But where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn't always because people are rapists."

Rasmussen is in a band, The Good English, and they had to cancel their Brooklyn tour due to outrage over her statement.

The girl harping on alcohol being a contributing factor in Brock Turner sexually assaulting an unconscious woman is the dumbest human alive.

— Simply Perfect Girl (@SimplyPerfGirl) June 10, 2016

After the outrage broke out, Rasmussen apologized and admitted she has a lot to learn.

8. Turner's guidance counselor recanted her support

Brock Turner's high school guidance counselor, Kelly Owens, also wrote a letter supporting him to the court about what a good kid he is and pleading for leniency:

"I plead with you to consider the good things -- the positive contributions -- he can make to his community if given a chance to reclaim his life."

She got backlash too, and she published a statement walking back her support:

"In the statement I submitted to the judge during the criminal proceedings and before sentencing referencing Brock's character, I made a mistake. Of course he should be held accountable. I pray for the victim, her family and all those affected by this horrible event. I am truly sorry for the additional pain my statement has caused. I tell my students they have to be accountable, and Brock is no exception."

9. The Swedish bikers shared their story

Stanford at night. (P^2 - Paul/Flickr)

Swedish PhD students Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson were cycling to a party when they saw a Turner raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. Arndt said,

"We saw that she was not moving, while he was moving a lot. So we stopped and thought, 'This is very strange.' When he got up we saw that she still wasn't moving at all."

Brock Turner is blowing up but these men (Carl Fredrik and Peter Jonsson) rescued the girl and called the police. RT

— Tweet Like A Girl (@TweetLikeAGirI) June 10, 2016

They spoke to Turner briefly, and then he took off. As Turner ran, one of the bikers chased him while the other made sure the woman was still alive. The survivor says she was told one of the men had trouble giving a statement because he was weeping over what he had seen.

Fortunately this story has heroes who stopped to intervene and help the young woman. But many have asked: If the sexual assault hadn't been witnessed, and interrupted, by these two men, would anyone have believed her? If Turner hadn't been caught in the act, would he have been brought to justice at all?

10. Stanford University made a statement about the case

Stanford University. (hoyip/Flickr)

Stanford released a statement about the case, praising the two bikers and defending the University's actions regarding the situation:

"In less than two weeks after the incident, Stanford had conducted an investigation and banned Turner from setting foot on campus - as a student or otherwise. This is the harshest sanction that a university can impose on a student."

11. It came out that Stanford has a high rape rate

In 2012, 2013, and 2014, Stanford reported 26 on-campus rapes. That's about one every two weeks, on average.

Campuses all over the country have been accused of being hotbeds for rape and sexual assault. Is Stanford helping or hurting the problem?

12. Turner was officially banned from competitive swimming

"Brock Turner is not a member of USA Swimming and, should he apply, he would not be eligible for membership."

— josh (@motoyoshycle) June 10, 2016

Turner, who was a competitive swimmer, just got banned from USA swimming for life. So, you know, that's something.

This article was written by Alison Maney and originally appeared on Kicker. Kicker explains the most important, compelling things going on in the world and empowers you to get in the know, make up your own mind, and take action. For more, check out the Kicker site, like their Facebook page, or subscribe to their email newsletter.

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Don't Allow Haters Win in Orlando

Mon, 2016-06-13 12:19
The worst thing we could do right now is compound a horrible act of anti-LGBT hate by promoting anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant hate. To use the worst shooting tragedy in U.S. history to promote Trump-like behavior would be despicable.

It is a race to the bottom -- outright bigotry -- branding all people in a group, regardless of character, as the enemy.

We LGBTs have recently won so many rights -- with the aid of so many non-LGBTs of all faiths -- that it would be unworthy of us to become haters towards any other group of people.

We have in our rainbow LGBT community many Muslims and immigrants who catch it from both sides -- racist Islamophobes on one side, anti-LGBT bigots on the other. We especially need to stand with them, and stand against scapegoating, period.

At the same time, we cannot allow political leaders to gloss over the fact that this was an attack directed specifically against LGBTs, and that the toxic hate directed against us by people of all different faith traditions has played a role in it.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson said yesterday that we need to refuse to be "hyphenated Americans, but stand together as Americans." Sorry, Mr. Senator, but this was an apparent anti-gay attack. Disregarding that fact is to disregard the hate that has been promoted by anti-gay political and religious leaders of both parties, especially in the American South.

Much of the U.S., especially the South, is currently being swept with anti-Transgender "bathroom bills" aimed at dehumanizing Trans people, and by extension, all LGBTs. These bills dehumanize us, and thus make it "okay" to attack us. We would be more inclined to believe politicians' expressions of sympathy for the Orlando victims and their families, were they not also pushing these anti-Trans, scaremongering bills.

Our country is already a violent, tinder box of hate. Things have gotten so bad that we now have a major party presidential candidate who has made it his calling card to make openly racist incitements against immigrants, Latinos and Muslims.

Knowing so much hate and violence directed at us as LGBTs over the decades, we have a responsibility to help end it, not augment it.

We must stand together as human beings of every race, nationality and religion -- not as parochial Americans concerned only with "our own."

We must confront what our own leaders are doing to perpetuate outrages like the scapegoating of groups here in the U.S. We must forcefully oppose the serial bombings and invasions of other countries, and support for despots against their own peoples, which breed terrorism.

Otherwise the cycle of violence will continue.

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Pat Quinn Pushes Chicago Term Limits, Elected Office for Chicago Consumer Advocate

Mon, 2016-06-13 11:51
Before serving as governor from 2009 to 2015, Pat Quinn was known as a rabble-rousing reformer who, most famously, led a 1980 citizen initiative that cut the membership of the Illinois House by one-third.

A year and a half after losing the governor's race to Bruce Rauner, Quinn announced he is reviving his political activity with an effort to impose a two-term limit on the mayor of Chicago and create an elected office of Chicago consumer advocate.

"As a long-time Chicagoan, I've been dismayed as insiders tighten their grip on the levers of our government," Quinn wrote in an email to supporters announcing the launch of "That's why I'm launching the Take Charge Chicago petition drive to put two binding referendums on the ballot: a term limit on the Chicago Mayor and creation of a Chicago Consumer Advocate."

Quinn is up against an Aug. 8 deadline to get roughly 53,000 signatures of registered voters in Chicago on petitions to get the proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot. The next Chicago mayoral election not until 2019, so Take Charge Chicago could have an effect on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's future even if it fails to place the term limit question on this year's ballot. The group would get a second chance for the 2018 general election.

Quinn is not a newcomer to term limit advocacy. In 1994, as he was pursuing an unsuccessful bid for secretary of state against incumbent George Ryan, then-Treasurer Quinn led a statewide ballot initiative to put a term limits question for state elected officials on the ballot. The Illinois Supreme Court, however, ruled the measure unconstitutional. Ironically, 20 years later, Bruce Rauner -- during a hotly contested gubernatorial race against Quinn -- would lead a similar effort with the same result.

On the consumer front, Quinn's activism led to the creation in 1984 of the Citizens Utility Board, the state government consumer advocate on energy prices.

Quinn's referendum seeks to make Chicago consumer advocate an elected office, but he offered no hint whether he would pursue such an office to the Associated Press: 

He refused to answer if he'd seek public office again. Quinn has recently been making the rounds at political events, fueling talk that he's wants to throw his hat in the ring again.

"I've run for office before," Quinn said. "We'll see about the future."

Here's the complete email message Quinn sent to supporters on Sunday:

Dear Friends,

As you know, I'm a believer in the power of petition and referendum. Over the years, we've used these tools of direct democracy to win major reforms, such as cutting the size of the Illinois House, creating the Citizens Utility Board and allowing recall of Illinois governors.

As a long-time Chicagoan, I've been dismayed as insiders tighten their grip on the levers of our government. That's why I'm launching the Take Charge Chicago petition drive to put two binding referendums on the ballot: a term limit on the Chicago Mayor and creation of a Chicago Consumer Advocate.

These reforms would put everyday people in charge, not the plutocrats. Take Charge Chicago would bring openness to City Hall and offer relief to beleaguered taxpayers and consumers. It can be accomplished by Petition Power, but I need your help.

Consider three points:

1. Chicago is the only city among the nation's 10 biggest cities without a term limit on its mayor.

2. Incumbent Chicago mayors routinely outspend their challengers by millions of dollars reaped from lobbyists, corporations and billionaires.

3. The best way to achieve true campaign finance reform and end secrecy in City Hall is through mayoral term limits. And the only way to achieve term limits is through a petition drive and binding referendum, a power authorized by the 1970 Illinois Constitution.

So, here's the plan. We hope to gather 100,000 signatures from Chicago registered voters to put the Take Charge Chicago referendums on the ballot. Then, if a majority of voters say "Yes" to a term limit on the office of Chicago mayor and creation of a Consumer Advocate for consumers and taxpayers, both reforms become effective in time for the 2019 election.

We can make history: these would be Chicago's first binding referendums in memory. I expect it will be a healthy exercise in democracy and hope it sparks a citywide debate over the structure of our government.

The Take Charge Chicago referendums will open up City Hall and let the people of Chicago in. Let's change Chicago one petition signature at a time!

Go to to learn more and download our petition, or call 773-999-2016 and we'll mail you a petition kit. And I invite you can join me this summer at a farmers' market or neighborhood festival to gather autographs from everyday Chicagoans for the Take Charge Chicago petition drive.

Thanks for your help.

Pat Quinn

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois nabs two spots on the list of 10 hardest-working small towns in America

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#DoYourJob, #ILBudgetNow: Use These Hashtags and Send a Message to Springfield

Fri, 2016-06-10 15:17

Events this week in state politics inspired us to begin promotion of two Twitter hashtags: #doyourjob and #ilbudgetnow. We hope you'll join us in using these tags to send a message to Springfield.

A week that had started out with at least a glint of hope for progress on a state budget -- working groups of lawmakers said they were making progress behind the scenes -- rapidly devolved into sniping over blame for the budget crisis, a serious reprimand from two credit agencies and more sniping over who's to blame for the state's deteriorating credit rating.

Lots of finger pointing today on Illinois credit rating downgrade. Let us agree that it was a team effort.

— Mark Brown (@MarkBrownCST) June 9, 2016

This started Tuesday, when House Speaker Michael Madigan canceled the House's scheduled session on Wednesday because, he said, working groups of rank-and-file lawmakers were making progress on a temporary budget.

On Wednesday, as those groups were working in the Capitol, Gov. Bruce Rauner held a press conference in his office in which he accused Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton of trying to sandbag work on a budget to create a crisis. Rauner said the two top Democrats wanted a crisis in state government -- especially one that would arrive if there's no K-12 school budget within a month and schools can't open in the fall -- so they could use it as leverage to pass a tax increase without implementing any of Rauner's business or government reforms.

A few hours after Rauner met with reporters in Springfield, Cullerton did the same at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. He said he heard from Senate Democrats in the working group meetings that as they were trying to craft a stopgap budget based on the governor's own plan, they started seeing tweets on their phones from the governor's press conference.

Cullerton said Rauner's campaign-style rhetoric is not helping the budget cause and urged Rauner to "take a break" and let the working groups work out a compromise.

Senate Pres John Cullerton begins presser by congratulating Rauner on winning election - 18 months ago

— Tony Arnold (@tonyjarnold) June 8, 2016

As if to remind Illinois taxpayers that their leaders' squabbling had real, adverse effects, Moody's Investors Service on Wednesday night downgraded the state's credit rating to two steps above junk status. On Thursday, S&P Global Ratings did the same.

Both ratings agencies said Illinois' leaders had all the tools to repair the state's broken finances but political gridlock was preventing them from getting to work.

It sounds so simple, right?

That's what we're talking about after a challenging week in state politics on this week's "Only in Illinois."

You can also listen to the podcast here or through iTunes:

NEXT ARTICLE: Illinois transportation coalition warns 25,000 jobs could be lost without funding by July 1

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Chicago Police Cannot Stop Killings

Fri, 2016-06-10 14:11

This post is not intended to serve as a criticism of the Chicago Police Department, but a learning opportunity for police and the community at large.

Since the beginning of 2016, shootings and homicides have escalated in Chicago. The current strategies being implemented by the police has fallen short as it relates to stopping the killings on the front end. The police are taught to respond to a crime and not to prevent it. It is hard to know when someone is about to take a life, which is not good for the public. The police can only do so much and now is the time for us to begin the dialogue in regards to addressing what it will take to stop the killings before it even happen.

If you look at the historical data in Chicago, you will see that this city has always experienced an increase in homicides. From 1928 to the 1990s, the average homicide rate ranged from 450-800 per year. One may argue that the numbers were down in the past. However, we know that homicides still exist and the question remains: How can we reduce the homicide rate by 70%? The police are doing more undercover work, beefing up patrols, cracking down on gangs, intercepting illegal guns, marching throughout the community, and using other collaborative efforts, even though the numbers continue to soar.

This represents a new problem for the police since the gangs are not structured like the old days. There are many different cliques that exist and motives behind the violence. How can you effectively stop killings on the front end when you do not know anything about the motives or when the person will commit the act? The Chicago Police Department should take a look at hiring a younger Police Superintendent with a background from a crime ridden community and one who understands the youth of today.

It's easy to keep playing a broken record because it's your favorite song, but when people are losing their lives, then it's time to stop playing the same old song. This is very important if the Chicago Police expect to get a handle on this issue. There are ways to stop the killings on the front end, but transparency from the community and police is crucial for this to happen. The Chicago Police Department is currently in the process of making several changes from the top to the bottom. Hopefully the changes will lead to a stronger relationship with the community which in turn can help reverse this epidemic of violence citywide. The only barrier in the way would be the old versus the new.

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The Water Circus is Coming to Town

Fri, 2016-06-10 09:25

Chicago is about to dive into the magical world of Cirque Italia, the first ever Italian water circus, when it returns to town with a brand new show June 9-12 and June 16-19.

This amazing traveling, European-style circus is filled with aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, high wire acts, giant bubbles, jetskis, a laser man, a mermaid, and even a dinosaur to add a little extra excitement.

As if that weren't enough, the entire show takes place on a custom built 35,000 gallon water stage which features a dynamic lid that lifts 35 feet into the air, "curtains" of rain, lasers, lights, and fountains which dazzle the audience. And of course, the show takes place under a majestic white and blue big top tent as any spectacular circus should.

For comparison, Cirque Italia's water circus is similar to Cirque du Soleil - although drastically more affordable, more family oriented, and more interactive with the audience - and nothing like the Ringling Brothers as there are no animals involved at all. The show makes for a perfect afternoon or evening for the family, a group of friends, or even a date night, and is guaranteed to bring a smile to every audience member's face, regardless of age.

The show's owner and founder, Manuel Rebecchi, has a deep seeded history in the circus industry as his late aunt ran one of the largest circus shows in Europe. When Manuel came to the states several years ago, he decided that Americans needed to experience a European-style show and had the brilliant idea to create the first traveling "water circus" in the US. He immediately wanted to create something special and memorable and has managed to put together an astounding stage production with some of the finest performers from around the world.

Each show takes place under a grand, swirling white and blue tent which seats about 1,200 people who are all welcomed into the big top setting as if it was their own home. The variety show can be fun, intimate, and romantic and truly appeals to all ages.

Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to meet and take photos with the performers, as well as bring home some special Italian souvenirs.

Tickets are extremely affordable, ranging from $10-$50 per person, and certain seating areas even have a "free child" offer with the purchase of an adult ticket. Basically, the show provides loads of entertainment for less than the price of a trip to the movies, enabling families, friends, and couples to make memories without breaking the bank.

Cirque Italia takes place in Cicero, IL and will be in town for a limited run, so make sure to experience the family-friendly, Vegas-style circus and variety show before they drain the massive pool, pull up to the tent poles, and take their water show on the road to the next town.

This article by Party Earth.

Click here to get the inside scoop on the best concerts, festivals, parties, and more in your city every weekend!

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How One Trip To Africa Forever Changed Harry Belafonte's Life

Wed, 2016-06-08 15:56

Legendary actor and singer Harry Belafonte has belted out many great hits and graced many stages throughout his illustrious career of 60-plus years. However, it’s how he used his voice outside of music and acting that has truly inspired millions around the world.

On Tuesday, the famed global activist -- who has fought relentlessly for decades for equality and justice everywhere -- was honored in New York with the 2016 Humanitarian Award. The honor was made on behalf of the Children’s Health Fund, an inspiring organization working to provide healthcare to underserved and vulnerable children across the country. Actor Morgan Freeman helped to make the moment even more special by presenting Belafonte with the award and praising his amazing accomplishments.

“Harry Belafonte is an example of potential that will not be stopped,” Freeman told the crowd, which included former New York Mayor David Dinkins and current mayor Bill De Blasio.

“What a talent he is. What a heart he has. What a life he has lived and what a difference he has made in millions of lives,” he added.

Upon accepting his award, Belafonte thanked Freeman, a long-time friend of his, for the warm introduction. “I love Morgan Freeman,” he said, before cracking a joke about the Oscar-winning actor. “He took all my best parts and never asked for permission.”

Belafonte then shared his longtime connection with the fund and told of one eye-opening trip he took to Africa in the early 80’s that forever impacted how he saw the world.

“What struck me about that experience was not so much about the tragedy of the event itself but that there was a world that sat by with such indifference,” Belafonte said of witnessing the devastation of famine and drought. “When I came back to America, the thought constantly tugged at me...what could I do? I knew there was no way to fix the problem, but that didn’t motivate or justify doing nothing about the problem.”

What struck me about that experience [in Africa] was not so much about the tragedy of the event itself, but that there was a world that sat by with such indifference"
Harry Belafonte

What Belafonte did when he returned to America was rally some of his celebrity friends to sing the iconic song, “We Are The World.” The album featuring the song went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide and raise around $60 million for health needs in Africa. The song, which was written by Michael Jackson and featured countless of other celebrity cameos, was performed by celebrities as part of a benefit concert for Belafonte’s USA For Africa campaign.

It was through the USA For Africa campaign where Belafonte met public health activist Irwin Redlener, who, at the time, was a pediatrician who practiced in underserved communities around the globe. Redlener joined USA for Africa project as its medical director and helped to lead its health efforts abroad. 

“Most of the people who were part of [USA For Africa] were artists,” Belafonte said. “We had to reach out to other segments of this society to guide us in this effort.”

Redlener and Belafonte returned to Africa together and visited various countries, clinics and camps to better understand the harsh health conditions people faced and do what they could to administer aid. Belafonte said it was an overwhelming experience for them both, and one that eventually prompted a pretty powerful revelation for Redlener.

“It was a solemn moment,” Belafonte said. “But I could see that in Irwin Redlener, something was churning.”

Belafonte described how Redlener was so moved by the trip that he expressed to him a need to “do something that will eternally be a declaration” of what they experienced in Africa. It was then that Redlener decided to launch of the Children’s Health Fund in 1987 as a way to provide healthcare to hundreds of thousands of kids in America who need it most.

“This evening celebrated the outcome of that story and that journey… it’s an extension of the experiences that we’ve had," Belafonte said of Redlener. "And that the reward, and my having to be here tonight, is because of [Redlener] and what his team has done.”

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Fierce Conversations - Be Intentional About Developing Poor Communities

Wed, 2016-06-08 15:27

Chicagoans weekly brace for news reports with the latest shooting death tally, public school funding crisis or failings on the part of elected officials. But they're not sitting idly waiting for answers.

As common is the expectation of bad news, Chicago residents are keen to author their own solutions. The venerable Chicago Community Trust is one such organization that provided a platform to help residents do just that in a series of On the Table civic discussions. The location and composition of people who attend the talks, however, were emblematic of Chicago's problem: They're segregated and siloed with communities unable to get an airing of their issues and solutions with neighbors across town.

I attended several and sensed resident skepticism about any value added outside of networking and the free food. I and many people I spoke with didn't feel they walked away with anything substantive. I understand why. As a result of crises facing schools, public finances, police, criminal justice and City Hall, black communities are experiencing its version of the Arab Spring. Though much of Chicago expresses righteous indignation, so, too, their faith in government has all but disappeared. Is anybody listening?

In Fierce Conversations, author Susan Scott says life's most important conversations must be "robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager and unbridled." The most consequential heart-to-hearts demand the courage to interrogate reality and provide an impetus to change behavior. Fierce conversations require broaching subject matter other people can't say, won't say, haven't said or don't know.

"When the conversation is real, the change occurs before the conversation is over," Scott writes.

A sense of fierceness was lacking at many of the On the Table discussions. Participants coming from business, not-for-profits, and neighborhoods are often nice and politically correct when engaging in the topic at hand. "Fierce" attempts at forthrightness are often met with backhand compliments meant to thwart discussion: "We really appreciate your passion, but ... " Candor should be the litmus test for accomplishment. Instead the standard is whether attendees leave the table comfortable. This type of exercise will never accomplish anything because fierce conversations require discomfort and anxiety.

So in true "fierce" form, let's interrogate reality and be real about where we've gone wrong in Chicago civic life, economic development and social support for all it residents.

Chicago has failed its poor, and since they are predominantly black and brown, we act like we don't care. Poor communities are managed, not developed. Development in poor communities is an afterthought, rarely intentional. Racial segregation has and continues to be a dead-end management strategy. Symptoms of bad management show up in chronic unemployment, decrepit schools and broken families. Too many times government manages poverty by breaking the law, and poor people break the law to manage their poverty.

Cynicism and inaction are destructive when it becomes an impediment to what is possible. For example, while Mayor Rahm Emanuel's unveiled law enforcement strategy, public safety changes and recent appointment of Andrea Zopp as deputy mayor may ease tensions, it won't be enough. Being intentional about developing poor communities requires collaboration between the private sector and government. To be successful, they must work in concert with and not on behalf of the poor.

A case in point: To avoid a missed opportunity that would benefit underserved communities, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art development plan should be salvaged -- not scrapped --with compromises, to spur development.

To be sure, Chicago has more important priorities (education, violence, civic engagement) than helping "Star Wars" billionaire couple, George Lucas and Mellody Hobson build a $1.17 billion tribute to his legacy along the lakefront. And Friends of the Parks certainly has a point in opposing lakefront development that honors the Burnham Plan to keep that public treasure forever open and free, but we have options, including the following:

• Relocate the project to the vacant U.S. Steel site along the South Shore's lakefront. The museum could be the economic stimulus to spur development in a part of the city desperate for it.

• Create a Lucas violence prevention match fund, in collaboration with area foundations and employers, focused on year-around job training, placement and mentorship for high school youth residing in designated communities.

• Fund a civic literacy and advocacy curriculum initiative for CPS students between grades 6-12, culminating with automatic voter registration at 18 years of age.

We are all connected, and the negative activity and symptoms of poverty in certain parts of the city manifests itself in other parts, ultimately affecting us all.

Scott expresses it best: "I apologize to all those with whom I learned a thousand and one ways not to have a fierce conversation. Thank you for all you taught me."

Our challenge is to master the same fierce lesson.

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Summertime in Chicago Bucket List

Wed, 2016-06-08 07:39

There is literally something to do every day in the summertime in Chicago. And I don't mean literally in the way most people use it. I mean every day, without fail, there is something going on. So instead of listing the endless events, I wanted to share with you my top 10 things I am looking forward to most this summer in Chicago as a follow up to my Springtime in Chicago Bucket List.

1. Architecture River Cruise
I have not been on a architecture river cruise since I was a kid. I really enjoyed it back then but something tells me I will enjoy it even more as an adult - not to mention I no longer have to wind my camera to take photos. I've been keeping my eye on the Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago's First Lady. I'll be sure to post again with updates and photos after I take the tour!

2. A Picnic and an Outdoor Movie
I have been loving the feeling of the sun on my skin during the late afternoon and then the cool evening breezes once the sun has set. One of my favorite ways to take in both during the summer is to pack a picnic for dinner and head to a local park during a movie night. The timing usually is perfect to enjoy some sun, see the sunset, and then take in a movie. You can see a full list of movies and locations this summer here.

3. Watch Fireworks Over the Lake
Lake Michigan is such a beautiful setting for the city and fireworks are always a fun summer tradition. Independence day is a given, but in Chicago, fireworks are shot off every Wednesday and Saturday for the entire summer. More information can be found here.

4. Lit Fest
This is one of the first festivals of the summer every year and it is one of my all time favorites. The festival has more than 200 booksellers from across the country displaying new, used and antiquarian books and features more than 200 authors participating in panels, discussions and a variety of other programs. More information can be found here.

5. Chicago Blues Festival
Chicago is known for amazing Blues music. I will admit I don't spend all year long listening to Blues, but I do really enjoy listening now and again. Plus, I cannot pass up hearing some of the best musicians there is for free in the middle of my favorite place in the world. For more information, click here.

6. Eat Italian Ice
I have been having some serious cravings for Italian Ice recently so this bucket list item is likely going to be checked off as early as this weekend. But I'm sure I will hunt some down more than once this summer. And I for sure want to visit the best in the city, Mario's.

7. Chicago Pride Parade
This is the first item on my bucket list that I haven't ever been to in previous years. I've always wanted to attend and show my support but the timing never worked out. Luckily this year the parade is a bit later in the month and I should have no problem making it! From what I hear, the event is a blast and of course, a great way to celebrate how far we've come in the recent years. For more information on the pride parade, visit here.

8. Randolph Street Market
The Randolph Street Market is an indoor and outdoor market featuring 300+ venders which include vintage, antique, indie designer, global goods, and food. The market takes place the last full weekend of every month. While this is a year round event, the summer is the best time to visit. Check here for more information.

9. Adler After Dark
I have yet to visit our planetarium for one of their 21+ night time events, but this year is going to be the year. Adler After Dark offers you open access, unlimited shows, and unique entertainment every third Thursday of the month from 6:00-10:00 pm. More information can be found here.

10. Sketch
There is nothing like finding a seat in a park with a great view and a sketch book. This summer I'm hoping to find enough time to fill an entire sketchbook with doodles and drawings from my adventures wandering the city.

I admittedly still have a few items to check off of my Springtime in Chicago Bucket List as well, but I'm hoping to have both lists complete by the end of the summer. And if you're looking to spend some time inside to get away from the heat, check out my list of Free Chicago Museum Days for 2016.

Do you have an item on your summer bucket list you cannot wait to check off?


Alexandra is a Chicago area blogger at Her writing includes life advice, random musings, her journey with PCOS, and details about moving into urban life in Chicago to start a family. Check out her popular post How to Survive Feeling Like You're Stuck.

She can also be found on the following social media platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin.

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Taking Stock of Failure, Finding Ray of Hope From 2016 Legislative Session

Tue, 2016-06-07 10:54

For the second straight year, the Illinois General Assembly left Springfield this week without a budget in place for fiscal year that starts July 1.

A year ago, when Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrats who control the Legislature first deadlocked over the FY 2016 budget, the situation today was unthinkable. A full year without any plan for state spending and revenue was unprecedented.

But also unimaginable a year ago was that Rauner and the Democrats would enter FY 2017 not only without a balanced budget, but with a goal that in effect will prolong the budget standoff through calendar year 2016.

After nearly a year of rejecting pursuit of short-term budget fixes -- which he said would take pressure off for business and political reforms -- Rauner on Memorial Day abruptly changed course. He endorsed a stopgap budget to carry state government through 2016 and urged House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton to pass a stand-alone K-12 school funding bill so school districts statewide can be assured of opening on time in the fall.

A few days after Democrats in the House rushed to approve a budget from Madigan that was $7 billion out of balance, Cullerton attempted to pass it in the Senate, where it got a very unfriendly reception. Republicans railed against its massive unfunded spending while many Democrats rejected it both for its imbalance and the way Madigan forced it through the House.

In an attempt to appease Rauner while also backing him into a corner, the Senate in the final minutes of the spring session passed a stand-alone K-12 bill, but it increased school funding by an astounding $900 million. That was far more than Rauner's original proposal, which increased funding by only $120 million. It passed in the Senate but failed miserably in the House, where suburban representatives questioned why $475 million of the increase would go to Chicago Public Schools.

Thus our lawmakers left Springfield with neither a state budget nor a school budget in place.

In the two days that followed the session's collapse, Rauner hit the road on a tour of Illinois to gin up support for a "clean" school funding bill and a broader, stopgap plan to get state government through the calendar year. In the process, he did some Chicago bashing that probably isn't a healthy addition to the process.

We review the final days of the legislative session and look at what's to come on this week's "Only in Illinois." Despite all the bad news, we end this edition on a positive note thanks to the closing speeches of Cullerton and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

You can also listen to the podcast here or through iTunes:

Next article: Superintendents rip Rauner on school funding

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Real Government Shutdown May Be Only Way To End Budget Crisis

Mon, 2016-06-06 10:04
My how our expectations of our government have fallen over the past year.

A year ago, Gov. Bruce Rauner rejected nearly all of the Democrats' budget, citing its $4 billion imbalance. While acknowledging a need for more tax revenue to get state finances in line, Rauner said he would not discuss those options until Democrats passed government and business reforms that made up his Turnaround Agenda.

Passing a piecemeal budget was not an option, Rauner said, because it would take the pressure off for reform.

This was when House Speaker Michael Madigan began holding weekly press conferences at the Capitol, repeating his pledge to work "professionally and cooperatively" with Rauner, emphasizing that the House was in "continuous session" and chastising the governor at every turn for attempting to bring "non-budget issues" from his agenda into budget talks.

In the months to come, Madigan would sharpen his criticism of Rauner and his policies, which Madigan said sought to revive a vision of government that predated the New Deal. Rauner's ultimate plan, Madigan said, was to "lower wages and the standard of living of the middle class."

I can assure you that no one with a background in state government ever envisioned we'd be where we're at today, with Rauner and Democrats pushing for a temporary plan to allow them to continue their protracted feud through January. That's because those who know the Illinois Constitution are familiar with its appropriations clause:

The General Assembly by law shall make appropriations for all expenditures of public funds by the State. Appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.

Illinois Constitution, Article VIII, section 2 (b)

"All expenditures of public funds" includes the paychecks of all Illinois state government employees. In early summer 2015, the notion of paychecks halted for thousands of state workers -- leading to a shutdown of state government -- meant that the Rauner-Madigan standoff could last at most a few months. Public pressure when state facilities closed would be too great and the damage too obvious for an extended impasse. (Rauner cannily had headed off another potential source of untenable public pressure by signing the budget bill authorizing funding of K-12 education, thus ensuring elementary and high schools would open on schedule in the fall.)

But we did not anticipate the bizarre legal crossfire that would ensue in courtrooms in Cook and St. Clair counties in which the Rauner administration and organized labor became allies in the fight to ensure that state employee paychecks continued even without a state budget to authorize them.

The fight ended in a St. Clair County judge's ruling that failure to issue paychecks would violate protected contractual agreements. Attorney General Lisa Madigan had argued that issuing payroll without a budget appropriation was illegal, but she opted to not pursue an appeal after the Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear the case on an expedited schedule.

So the "government shutdown" didn't happen in a sudden, widespread burst. Instead, it slowly crept through social services providers for the disabled and elderly, who stopped receiving payment for contracted work. Public universities were left to fend for themselves, and by winter were facing severe hardship.

At the same time, roughly 90 percent of the spending from FY 2015 was continuing because it was covered by continuing appropriations passed by the General Assembly or was required under court order. With the governor and lawmakers having neither made spending cuts nor approved new taxes, state spending was on auto-pilot and exceeding revenue by $13 million a day.

Now our leaders are working on competing stopgap plans to keep government minimally functioning through the end of the year.

Folks, what we've come to call the "Illinois budget impasse" is on the verge of becoming standard operating procedure in Illinois. This state can't afford seven more months of operating with no plan, or with a "plan" whose goal is merely to let state government limp through another half-year.

The end to this crazy of Illinois non-governance may have been written in an Illinois State Supreme Court decision in March that, in essence, said the St. Clair County ruling that allowed continuous state payroll without budget authorization was wrong.

In a case in which AFSCME Council 31 sought to recoup raises that had been promised to its members in 2011, the court cited "a well-defined and dominant public policy under which multiyear collective bargaining agreements are subject to the appropriation power of the State, a power which may only be exercised by the General Assembly."

So collective bargaining agreements -- union employment contracts -- don't supersede the appropriations clause of the state constitution. The opposite of the St. Clair County ruling of last July.

This would appear to be an invitation for Attorney General Madigan to revive her effort to halt state payroll pending approval of a state budget. So far, Madigan's office has said only that it is reviewing the decision.

I don't like the idea of bringing financial hardship onto state employees, and missing even a single paycheck will do that for many. But the new front in the budget battle that now has opened -- that of finding a way to extend the impasse through the end of the year -- makes me think that a real government shutdown is the only thing that can force a real solution.

Lisa Madigan, of course, is the daughter of one of the combatants in the budget struggle, but it's hard to make a case that her reiterating her original position tips the scale politically to her father or hurts Rauner's position. An election season with state government in chaos wouldn't serve Madigan's Democrats or Rauner's Republicans well.

And besides, I really don't care about the politics. That's what got us here. Rauner and Madigan have been gambling for a year now that they'd win the public opinion jackpot if they just outlasted their opponent. They both have lost and Illinois can't take another six months of trying.

Here's hoping the attorney general's "review" leads her back to court on this one.

Next article: Top 25 most and least stressed out cities in Illinois

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I On Exceptional Living - The Chicago Edition

Sun, 2016-06-05 16:44

Irene Michaels, Arny Granat, Kay Rose, Richard Rose
Photo Courtesy of Irene Michaels

In I On Exceptional Living I have discussed a supermodel, Beverly Johnson, to a suburban-supermom, Vicki Reece, and now I am happy to continue the series with more special individuals whose lives are leaving a mark on the world in a variety of ways - this time some special Chicagoans will be highlighted. The following six people are especially deserving of recognition for their achievements in the Windy City and beyond, and I'm excited to share a snippet of their stories with my readers. And perhaps we can expand in the future

Kay Rose

Kay Rose has spent a lifetime excelling in the world of fashion. As a St. John's specialist at Chicago's Saks Fifth Avenue, she turned a small boutique section into one of the most profitable departments in the entire country. Featured multiple times in Chicago Magazine, Kay is one of the faces of Chicago fashion. Her current venture, the Kay Rose Collection, brings fashionable accessories to customers of great taste. With this business, Kay will no doubt continue to be a vital part of the Chicago fashion world. Check out all of her designs at The Kay Rose Collection.

Alex Pissios

As the President of Cinespace Chicago Film Studio Alex Pissios has been at the center of Chicago's revitalized film and television industry. Cinespace converts old factories into soundstages, and Pissios' studio occupies 1.45 million sq. ft. of what use to be the old Ryerson Steel Company, a former steel-processing plant on the Southwest Side. Pissios' work has been instrumental in drawing filming of such hit shows as "Chicago Fire" and blockbuster films like "Transformers" to Chicago, prompting hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of investment into the Windy City. Pissios also leads the Cinecares Foundation which was was founded in 2014 to fulfill the legacy left behind by the founder of Cinespace, Nikolaos Mirkopoulos, and has led remarkable initiatives for both improving education and supporting community-based arts programs. Pissios truly is succeeding in his effort to enrich Chicago, in more ways than one.

Stanley Paul

For more than 30 years, Stanley Paul has been a Chicago institution, and perhaps one of the best-know bandleaders in America. As head of the eponymous Stanley Paul Orchestra, he continues to be a fixture of the city's social scene. Whether a wedding or a gala ball, the Stanley Paul Orchestra can be counted on to provide the finest music playing around. Stanley Paul himself has overseen the band's growth and the develop of an astonishingly broad repertoire ranging from the classics to the contemporary. A true Chicago legend, we look forward to his gracing city ballrooms for years to come.

Contessa and Irene Michaels -- Photo courtesy of Irene Michaels

Contessa Helena Bottega

Contessa Helena Bottega is undoubtedly one of the finest fashionistas in world. Her boutique in Chicago's Gold Coast is a one-stop shop for all of the finest designers and most fabulous clothes you can find today. It was at the Contessa's boutique that I found my own wonderful wedding dress, the bridal couture section is absolutely DIVINE, so I have a deep personal affection for the place. In addition to her fabulous sense of style, Contessa Helena showcases an eclectic mix of classic and exotic fashions by designers like Roberto Cavalli, Blumarine, Rocco Barocco and Morgan de Toi, to name just a few.

Joseph Ahern

Joseph Ahern is one of the titans of Chicago television. As the chief of ABC 7 from 1985 to 1997, and of CBS 2 from 2002 to 2008, Ahern has shaped Chicagoans' TV-watching experience for decades. He has left a mark that stretches far beyond local television however, as he helped accelerate the career of one of Chicago's finest when he supported the launch of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" while at ABC 7. Ahern continues to give back to the community, currently serving as CEO of the 100 Club of Chicago, which helps support the families of first responders who have fallen in the line of duty. Ahern's work for the people of Chicago makes him deserving of special recognition.

Richard Melman

One of Chicago's great restaurateurs, Richard Melman has been at the center of some of the city's great culinary landmarks, including Wildfire Grill, Shaw's Crab House, and Big Bowl. Melman's Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has grown to include more than 100 venues. Not bad for a kid who used to sell ice cream and peanuts on Chicago's beaches! Despite his vast culinary empire, Melman's life still revolves around his family, his wife of 40 years and three children. Truly, he is a great Chicagoan.

I am so excited to highlight the exceptional lives of some of my Chicago friends...Frank Sinatra said it best "'s my kinda town"...and the people in it are so exceptional I could not wait to tell the rest of the world about 'em...

Check back for full stories on some these great Chicago residents.

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King Rahm for Alderman!

Fri, 2016-06-03 14:37
(Chicago-Thursday June 2, 2016) Appointed 4th Ward Interim Alderman Holds Fundraiser Next Door to Opponents Campaign Office.

When I heard that Rahm Emanuel's 4th Ward Aldermanic Appointee was having her fundraiser literally next door to my office I knew that I was witnessing a classic Rahm 'fish wrapped in newspaper' tactic - in other words try and intimidate me and my supporters with the big money people he controls. So I went to my office Thursday evening to see who would be raising money for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handpicked interim/candidate Sophia King.

Wow! I saw a lot of folk who I've become acquainted with over my years of advocating for the public good in Chicago. Sadly none of the folk leaving the fundraiser are folk I've seen fighting for the poor, challenged and disadvantaged. I'm not saying they haven't contributed to any worthy causes I'm just saying I haven't seen them rubbing shoulders with the poor. I didn't see anyone from the 'Laquan McDonald 16 shots and a Coverup' crowd.

It is crystal clear to me that my opponent in this race is Rahm Emanuel. I have been consistent over the years spotlighting the pain and damage his administration has wrought because he lacks the skill-set as well as the political-will to govern the poor, disadvantaged and challenged.

The 4th Ward is markedly diverse. Hyde Park. The University of Chicago. A bit of Downtown and the plain-old-everyday-neglected-west of the Obama Presidential Library-neighborhoods. The haves and the have-nots. The issues and headlines that affect my city also affect the 4th Ward in which I live. Policies, programs, education and public safety must be intentional and optimally developed for the entire ward lest we continue to shortsheet the least of these.

Whoever wins this seat can be the independent community voice and will of all the people. Or another rubber stamp that executes the orders of the Few in total obeisance to the Mayor. Checks and Balances be damned.

The special election for the 4th Ward aldermanic seat is February 2017. My name will be on the ballot. Rahm Emanuel's name will not but I know that back behind the big curtain it will be him I'm running against.
Twitter: @gslivingston

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The Hidden Cost Of Cheap Pizza

Fri, 2016-06-03 11:10

If you’re tuned into the politics of food and the influence that large corporations can have on public policy, you’re probably familiar with the term Big Food by now. And Big Ag. And don’t forget Big Soda.

But you probably haven’t heard about another powerful arm of the food industry's lobbying: Big Pizza.

Meet the American Pizza Community.

A coalition founded in 2010 and led by some of the nation’s largest pizza retailers, the APC includes popular national chains including Domino’s, Papa John’s, Little Caesars and Pizza Hut, plus many of their suppliers.

The group, according to its spokesman Tim McIntyre, is aimed at “work[ing] together on topics that are unique to the pizza industry” and no, that doesn’t just mean trying to get you to eat more of that cheesy, greasy goodness we all know and love.

The way the APC puts it, they’re going to battle in the war on pizza.

“We want to stop the demonization of pizza,” McIntyre said in a statement sent to The Huffington Post. “Think of it this way: bread is good; tomato sauce is good; cheese is good. Put them together and they’re somehow bad.”

This has meant that, since its inception, APC has focused primarily on fighting the push to add nutritional information to restaurant menu boards. The APC has vocally opposed this, arguing in a 2013 Bloomberg article that the mandate would be “virtually impossible” for the pizza industry to meet due to the seemingly endless combination of toppings a customer might choose for their pie, as well as the fact that most chains’ customers don’t even set foot in a store to buy from them.

That’s not all the group is up to.

In a press release issued last month and reprinted by the Pizza Today trade publication (but not published on the organization’s own website), the APC lashed out against the Department of Labor’s final ruling on overtime eligibility. That ruling doubled the overtime salary threshold from the current $23,660 to $47,476, guaranteeing overtime pay for millions of additional workers.

The APC believes the change will be an expensive one that will negatively impact job and income growth, overburdening employers already facing small profit margins with significantly increased administrative costs.

The ruling, McIntyre told HuffPost, “cuts right at the heart of the restaurant industry.”

This was not APC’s first foray into wage issues. It had previously opposed the minimum wage hike in California and lists employment and labor policies among its top issues on its website, but the group has received little publicity for these efforts.

Of course, these policy positions should not come as a surprise given the stance of the restaurant industry as a whole on worker pay. Trade groups like the National Restaurant Association, home to industry heavyweights including McDonald’s and Darden Restaurants, have been consistent and vocal opponents of wage increases.

That opposition also shows in the data. Restaurant workers across the board struggle to get by as the majority of them receive low wages and few benefits. According to a 2014 report from the Economic Policy Institute, one in six restaurant workers live below the official poverty line.


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Still, there’s good reason to believe pizza restaurants, while rarely the target of #FightFor15 worker protests, are among the broader industry’s biggest offenders on worker pay and conditions.

The major pizza chains’ records on these issues reveal a long string of controversies. Last month, the attorney general of New York filed a lawsuit accusing Domino’s of “rampant, systemic wage theft” at 10 stores where workers were allegedly underpaid at least $565,000 and that the company’s headquarters, not just its franchisees operating those stores, were involved.

For his part, McIntyre, who also serves as executive vice president of communications, investor relations and consumer affairs at Domino’s, told HuffPost that the company “believe[s] in paying people fairly -- and we believe in providing opportunity to those willing to come in and work hard every day to build a career with our brand.”

Of course, Domino’s isn’t the only pizza chain that has been involved in worker pay controversies.

Previously, four franchisees operating nine Papa John’s restaurants in New York similarly were forced to pay almost $500,000 in back wages and damages to its workers. Though Papa John’s headquarters was not named in that lawsuit, nor another one alleging delivery drivers were being short-changed, the company’s CEO John Schnatter has faced criticism over the low wages paid to his company’s workers or the remarks he made in opposition to healthcare reform.

Pizza Hut franchisees, too, have also faced wage theft allegations.


Despite all this, it almost appears as though Big Pizza gets a pass on its questionable politics.

Even as consumers, especially younger ones, are becoming more health-conscious in their food-buying habits, we're still eating a ton of this stuff. 

According to a 2014 USDA report, about one in eight Americans has consumed pizza on any given day. And, contrary to the trend of health-conscious youngsters, that number rises to one in four when only males aged 6 to 19 are considered.

Pizza is retaining its throne as America's go-to comfort food, too. According to research released earlier this year by Harris Poll, pizza is more popular than the creamy triumvirate of chocolate, ice cream and macaroni and cheese.

In addition to eaters becoming more health-conscious, they are also -- thanks to the growing food movement -- drawing new connections between the food they eat and its politics. All of this should spell disaster for Big Pizza, so why -- the industry's own proclamations of the "war on pizza" aside -- isn't it?

Michele Simon, a public health attorney and the author of Eat Drink Politics, argues there could be a class element to be considered when one compares how activists often protest McDonald’s, for example, but rarely target popular pizza chains.

“Activists often choose issues, especially in public health, based on what they, the privileged class, can look down on,” Simon told HuffPost. “So it’s easier to look down on eating low-brow foods like cheeseburgers, fries and soda than pizza, a fun food everyone enjoys.”

“We’re not responsible consumers when we buy four pizzas for $20 and tip $3 to the delivery person, if that."
Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project


Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, a non-profit working to expand opportunities for low-wage workers, added that pizza is not only tasty and convenient, but also extremely cheap, which makes it appealing for a wide cross-section of eaters.

It’s not uncommon for major pizza chains to offer coupons lowering the price of a single pizza as low as $3 or $4, or even less. On honor of the opening of their 100th Chicago location in 2014, Domino’s offered $1 pizzas at all of its Chicago-area locations for a 100-minute window.

But such extremely low prices are not sustainable. When food prices go that low, Conti argued, someone -- almost certainly a worker -- is getting stiffed.

“We’re not responsible consumers when we buy four pizzas for $20 and tip $3 to the delivery person, if that,” Conti told HuffPost. “If we’re getting that much of a bargain, someone somewhere is paying the price. We have to realize this is no way to have an economy that works for everybody and is robust.”

Of course, not all pizza restaurants have spotty records on worker’s issues, so there is reason to be hopeful.

Saru Jayaraman is the director of the University of California Berkeley’s Food Labor Research Center and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, a group working toward improved wages and working conditions for restaurant workers.

Currently among ROC United’s 100 “high-road” restaurants the organization has partnered with -- employers that offer better wages, paid sick days and advancement opportunities -- are two pizza restaurants, Dimo’s Pizza in Chicago and The Just Crust in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Beyond that, pizza pickings are slim. No national pizza chains are among ROC United’s “high-road” employers, but Jayaraman is confident that could change. She said she is meeting with restaurant CEOs every week who are interested in treating their workers better, and is confident there is an opportunity for a pizza retailer to step in and fill the void.

“In 15 years of organizing, I’ve never seen a moment where the high road is more visible, viable and trendy,” Jayaraman told HuffPost. “I think there’s a consumer community out there that is certainly wanting to eat good pizza that treats its workers fairly.”

Meanwhile, the next time a piping hot pizza arrives at your door an hour after you ordered it, it might be worth considering what that pie actually cost.

“Our workers and our local economies pay the price for those cheap pizzas,” Conti added.

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