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Experts Criticize Higher Ed Lobby For Undermining Federal Fight Against Campus Sexual Assault

Tue, 2014-11-18 09:18
A group of researchers sent a letter Monday calling on the leaders of 60 top universities to reject a sexual assault survey that, the researchers warn, could interfere with the federal government's efforts to combat sexual assault on campus.

Sixteen professors from a number of campuses, led by University of Oregon psychology professor Jennifer Freyd, wrote a letter to the presidents of all member institutions of the Association of American Universities, a higher education trade group that counts some of the country's top public and private research universities as members, including all eight Ivy League schools. The letter criticized the trade group for trying to head off congressional lawmakers and the White House by developing a campus sexual assault survey that the signatories say could undermine the government's efforts.

AAU announced Friday it was contracting with the firm Westat to create a campus climate survey and administer it to as many of its member institutions that choose to participate.

The researchers contend that AAU's survey will undermine the proposal by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators to require each college to conduct its own campus climate survey, in order to gauge the prevalence of sexual assault at those schools.

The letter urges member institutions not to participate in AAU's survey. The universities' cooperation, opponents of AAU's effort fear, could allow the higher education lobby to argue that a federal mandate for a sexual assault survey is not needed. This would be a major blow to the assault survivors who pushed lawmakers to take on the issue.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a coauthor of the Senate campus sexual assault bill, backed up the professors' arguments.

"Universities and colleges need to be a part of the solution, so I welcome their proactive measures to help solve the scourge of sexual assaults on campuses," Gillibrand said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "But this proposed survey raises a number of questions that are well articulated in this letter and must be addressed for it to have credibility as a good faith effort rather than a public relations tool to blunt needed action in Congress."

AAU's plans for the survey have been known for some time. The group said in April that it planned to conduct a climate survey of its member universities, and called for proposals from institutions to be submitted by September. Since then, the group has been cautious about publicly stating its position, saying it is not against a federally mandated climate survey, but not cheering for one either.

However, internal correspondence has suggested that AAU does oppose the government's effort. In a May 19 report about an AAU meeting that was sent to chancellors and presidents of the member schools and shared with HuffPost, AAU President Hunter Rawlings wrote, "One of the issues we discussed was our concern that the White House could soon end up mandating that every college and university conduct a campus climate survey developed by the federal government."

Rawlings noted in the report that AAU was working closely with the American Council on Education, the nation's top lobbying group for college presidents. ACE has repeatedly criticized the crackdown by federal officials and lawmakers on how colleges handle rape cases, arguing that officials are overreaching and imposing unfunded mandates to address a complex issue.

The 16 professors pointed out a number of flaws with AAU's plan in their letter. It was "disturbing," they said, that AAU would give its member institutions just two weeks to decide whether to buy into a survey that had not been designed yet. Moreover, they warned, the survey could diminish the schools' willingness to take part in more extensive efforts to address campus sexual assault.

"Spending $85,000 for a non-transparent survey may well relieve institutions of the incentive to perform valid surveys conducted by those with expertise in researching campus sexual assault," the letter said.

On top of that, the researchers noted, the results of AAU's survey wouldn't be widely disclosed.

University-specific information will be shared only with that school, so no one in the general public would be able to see the rate of sexual violence on a campus unless the institution chose to release it, according to a packet of information AAU sent to its member universities. In contrast, proposed federal legislation would require each college to disclose the findings of the climate surveys to the public. This public disclosure has been a key point for sexual assault survivors and experts on the issue.

"Why would you keep that secret? What are you hiding? And what right do you have to hide it? I just think it's an odd thing for universities to be in the position of arguing for less transparency," David Lisak, a prominent sexual assault researcher, told HuffPost in July.

AAU only plans to make the aggregated results available to the public next fall. Barry Toiv, a spokesman for AAU, told HuffPost that the group wanted to leave individual results up to the schools, and felt confident in the team that was working on the survey.

"Our goal is not to compare institutions. Our first goal is to help our universities craft the best-informed policies for protecting their students from sexual assault and promoting safety on their campuses by providing a survey put together by top professionals in both survey development and on sexual assault," Toiv said.

The survey is not required, but Rawlings wrote in the packet sent to AAU member institutions that he would "strongly encourage all AAU Presidents and Chancellors to participate in this effort, even if your institution already has a climate survey in the field."

The AAU survey design team will be chaired by Sandy Martin of the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, according to the packet. Martin was one of the researchers on the most recent Justice Department review of campus sexual assault in 2007.

The survey design team is filled with faculty, deans and officials from Brown, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Virginia and UNC-Chapel Hill, according to an AAU document obtained by HuffPost. A majority of the team members are administrators.

"The lack of transparency and absence of experts in sexual assault assessment on the advisory panel, combined with no opportunity for experts to comment on the proposed survey and make recommendations for revisions, weaken confidence that the resultant survey will be the best it can be," said Jacquelyn White, a signatory of the letter and a senior research scientist at UNC-Greensboro, "and nothing less should be expected of AAU universities."

Read the letter from the 16 researchers sent to university presidents:

Scientists to AAU Member Presidents by Tyler Kingkade

After Tragedy, One Mom's Mission To End Distracted Driving

Tue, 2014-11-18 08:54
On a late afternoon in 2007, the day after Thanksgiving, Kimberly Schlau of O'Fallon, Illinois told her 8-year-old daughter Maddy to put on her coat so they could go for a drive. She was fighting to contain her growing alarm over the whereabouts of her two eldest daughters -- Maddy's half-sisters Jessica, 18, and Kelli, 13 -- who had gone to their father's to take family photos earlier in the day. She did not tell Maddy about the numerous times she'd already tried, unsuccessfully, to reach Jessica on her cell phone.

"I didn't want to scare her, but I needed to get out of the house. I needed to go find them," Schlau, 46, told The Huffington Post. "I thought, 'Maybe Jessica's cell died. Maybe she had a flat tire. Maybe she's sitting at a friend's house.' I was in the process of getting ready to leave when I heard car doors shut in my driveway and thought, 'Oh thank God, they're home.'"

But when she looked out the window, she saw two police officers, a chaplain and a coroner walking toward her home. Schlau's heart sank. "I didn't want to open my door," she said. "I did not want to hear what they had to say."

The police officers ran through their questions. Did Jessica drive a white Mazda? Who was she traveling with that day? Hearing Schlau's answers to these questions, the officers told her that that afternoon, both Jessica and Kelli had been instantly killed on Interstate 64 in southwestern Illinois when a state trooper lost control of his vehicle, crossed a median and slammed into their car.

"I didn't want to open my door ... I did not want to hear what they had to say."

"Because of the nature of the crash, the roof of the car was ripped off and my kids were unrecognizable," Schlau said. Police officers were able to identify Jessica by her license. Kelli was too young to be carrying ID, Schlau said, but they could tell she was a child by the braces in her mouth.

In the following days, weeks and months, details began to emerge about the circumstances of the deadly accident. The trooper was driving at over 120 mph when the crash occurred. He'd reportedly been responding to another crash scene.

At the time of the crash that killed Jessica and Kelli, the trooper was reportedly on the phone with his girlfriend and using his car's computer system to get directions. (Various news reports differ on whether the trooper was speaking or texting on his phone, and the trooper himself maintains that he'd stopped using both his phone and his computer some time before the actual crash.) He later said he did not hear a dispatcher say that the initial crash had already been secured, Schlau told The Huffington Post.

"We did not find everything out all at once," she said. "Every time we would think, 'What else could they tell us?' You just go back to the beginning again, thinking, 'How did this happen? How did this happen? How did this happen?'"

There was a coroner's inquest, followed by a grand jury investigation. In 2010, the trooper pled guilty to reckless homicide and aggravated reckless driving as part of a plea bargain. Schlau said she and her husband wanted the trooper to go to jail -- but they thought that if they went to trial, there was a chance the trooper might be acquitted and allowed to return to his job.

"We did not want that to happen," she said. "If he pled guilty, there was no way he could be a police officer again."

A year later, a claims court awarded Schlau's family $8 million. In 2014, the former trooper publicly apologized to the girls' family during a request to reinstate his license.

The accident instantly claimed the lives of Jessica and Kelli.

Even as Schlau was reeling from her daughters' deaths and the subsequent legal proceedings, she threw herself into the work of establishing a scholarship at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in honor of Jessica, who had been just a few months into her freshman year there.

Education, Schlau always told her daughters, was one of the most important things in their lives, second only to family. They took the advice to heart. Jessica was a true firstborn child, Schlau said -- outgoing, talkative, bossy and smart, "too smart for her age."

"She wanted to go into marketing or PR, and I think she would have been amazing at it," she said.

Kelli had a big personality as well, and "such a tender heart," her mother said. She loved animals and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian -- or opening a combination dog-grooming parlor and ice cream shop.

Schlau knew she had to do something to honor her girls' legacies. Remembering how she'd made a point of impressing upon them the value of education, Schlau began to think about how to help other students realize their own goals.

Working with a friend, Schlau came up with the idea of a fundraiser. The pieces came together quickly. The local Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall gave them a discount, as did a caterer. Local businesses contributed silent auction items. The event, held in autumn 2008, was full of dancing and food, as well as reminiscing and tears. The fundraisers have since become an annual event -- always held around Thanksgiving, to mark the anniversary of the girls' deaths -- although Schlau did not hold one last fall after the death of her own father, who had been devastated by the loss of his granddaughters and with whom she had been extremely close.

The Jessica Uhl Memorial Scholarship provides $500 for one student to attend Southern Illinois University Edwardsville -- not a huge sum of money, Schlau said, but hopefully enough to help defray the cost of books or a meal plan. Kelli's scholarship is $500 toward the cost of one student's tuition at any college. All told, the Jessica and Kelli Uhl Memorial Foundation has awarded nine scholarships in six years, and Schlau said she hopes it will award "many, many more."

In 2010, Schlau began working for her daughters in another way after the chief of the St. Louis County Police Department asked her to come in and share her story with the academy's new recruits. It was an opportunity to speak to future police officers who would one day be driving at high speeds in order to do their jobs.

"I talked to them about day-to-day things -- what it's like to go up into [the girls'] rooms and have them not be there ... All of the things we went through," she said. "We were hoping that me talking to them before they got into those police cars, and started forming bad habits and making bad choices, would make a difference."

Distracted driving is a major public health concern in the U.S. -- at least nine people are killed every day in crashes that reportedly involve a distracted driver, while more than 1,153 are injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and talks like Schlau's can be a valuable education tool. After she addressed the SLCPD, Schlau was contacted by a police training company that wanted her to come in and share her daughters' story with in-service officers. That led to speaking engagements at police departments and law enforcement conferences across the country.

"Jessica will always be 18 for me and Kelli will always be 13, but their friends are getting older."

"I'm probably on track to do 40 to 45 this year," said Schlau, who splits her time between fundraising work, speaking engagements -- some of which are paid -- and a part-time job as a paralegal.

Keeping up with so many lectures can be draining, she admits.

"There are times when I wake up and think, 'I just don't want to do this.' But I do it -- and it seems like, recently, every time I've thought that, someone has come up to me afterward and said, 'That made such an impact on me. I'm going to do better,'" she said.

Schlau still grieves every day. She has found it bittersweet to watch her daughters' friends -- who make a point of attending the annual fundraisers, and who continue to tell Schlau new stories about her girls -- grow into women.

"Jessica will always be 18 for me and Kelli will always be 13, but their friends are getting older," she said. "One of Jessica's girlfriends got married recently. And it was good to see, I was so glad to be a part of it, but part of me was like, 'Jessica should be up there as a bridesmaid.'"

Even the family's beloved rescue dogs struggled after the girls died. DeeDee, the spaniel who used to sleep in Kelli's bedroom, would scratch at her door and walk around the house, seeming lost. Last summer, the family had to put down Nolan -- the greyhound the girls used to call "Norlando Bloom" -- and it felt like ripping her heart out all over again, Schlau said. Maddy was amazing, she said, whispering into the old dog's ear: "You can go and find Kelli now."

But Schlau says that Maddy has also struggled, working through anger management issues and problems with authority. Now 15, she is doing much better, her mother says, and she often comes with Schlau to presentations.

"We've made it our mission to keep this from happening to someone else," Schlau said. "We tell our story, show pictures ... Really, what parent doesn’t love to talk about their children? It's just unfortunate it has to be like that."

Schlau has dedicated her life to honoring her daughters and preventing future accidents.

If you or someone you know has started a charity after the loss of a child, we'd love to hear your story. To submit a nomination, email For more stories in this series, click here, here or here.

Small Plane Crashes Into Chicago Home

Tue, 2014-11-18 07:43
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago police say a small plane has crashed into a home on the city's southwest side.

Police spokesman Ron Gaines says the single-engine plane crashed into the house around 2:45 a.m. Tuesday. Gaines says the occupants of the home were not injured but he did not know about the condition of the person or people aboard the plane.

Fire officials told local news outlets they were still searching for the plane's pilot.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Corey told the Chicago Sun-Times the small cargo plane, an Aero Commander 50, had just departed from Midway International Airport on its way to Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling when the pilot reported engine problems and tried to return to Midway. The plane crashed about a quarter-mile from its departing runway.

Official Bob Marley Weed Will Be For Sale Next Year

Tue, 2014-11-18 07:39
The family of reggae superstar Bob Marley, whose public embrace of marijuana made him synonymous with cannabis culture, has joined a private equity firm to launch the first global consumer marijuana brand.

Marley Natural products will begin appearing in shops located in countries and U.S. states where marijuana is legally sold in late 2015, the Marley family and Privateer Holdings announced Tuesday.

“If you were to try and pick one person in the history of the world associated with this product, it would be Bob Marley," Brendan Kennedy, CEO of Privateer Holdings, told The Huffington Post. “Everyone has a little Bob Marley on their playlist and that’s different than anything else out there in this market.”

Marley, a Jamaican who died in 1981 from cancer at age 36, was world acclaimed for hits that included "Exodus," "I Shot the Sheriff," and "Jammin." He used marijuana as part of his Rastafarian religious beliefs and said its use was important to spiritual growth.

Here's a look at the Marley logo:

The new marijuana company will have a suite of products that include heirloom Jamaican cannabis strains said to be similar to the ones Marley consumed. “Bob’s favorite strains were the strains that were prevalent in Jamaica historically like lambsbread, pineapple skunk, and some others … that he used to get from Nine Mile, Saint Ann Parish, in Jamaica,” Kennedy said.

Marley Natural also will feature cannabis-infused and hemp-infused lotions and balms, as as well as accessories for storage and consumption of marijuana.

Kennedy said that Marley Natural will feature recreational and medical marijuana products, depending on local laws, because of Marley’s deep beliefs that cannabis use is a natural and positive part of life that helped to produce “inner-peace and creativity” for the artist.

“Creative inspiration was everything for my father -- it was like breathing or life to him,” Marley’s daughter Cedella said in an interview for the brand’s launch. “Every time he smoked, he was inspired and an open mind was the open door for his creative inspiration. He thought the herb was actually a gift.”

Cedella Marley, along with Bob Marley’s son Rohan and wife Rita, are partners in the Marley Natural brand with Privateer.

From left, Cedella sits with Rita and Rohan Marley.

“My father thought that herb is for meditation, herb is for higher vibration and herb is for the healing of the nation,” Rohan Marley added.

Four U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana and more than 20 have legalized medical cannabis. About a dozen more are considering similar laws. Guam became the first U.S. territory to legalize medical marijuana this month. Last year, Uruguay became the first country to legalize recreational marijuana. Several other countries have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.

While the sale of marijuana is illegal in Jamaica, the government of Caribbean island is likely to decriminalize possession and use of the plant for religious purposes. The island's Rastafarian spiritual movement sees marijuana as a sacrament.

Kennedy said he and a partner founded Privateer Holdings with the premise -- “the end of marijuana prohibition is inevitable.”

“It’s a 30-year deal,” Kennedy said.

“Marley Natural is a brand with deep roots in the life and legacy of our father Bob Marley,” Cedella Marley said. “He’s smiling, right now, he’s smiling at what’s really happening.”

An Open Letter From Ferguson Protestors and Allies

Tue, 2014-11-18 07:31
The Ferguson Protester community is home to many voices and experiences. Informed by many voices, this letter serves as a statement of purpose for those who may not yet understand the movement in #Ferguson or why protests still continue, 102 days later.


Originally published October 17:

In Ferguson, police met our protesting of police brutality with the disgusting irony of greater brutality, the likes of which Americans had never seen on our own soil. In this American town, officers tapped their batons, pointed guns in our faces, kneed our women's heads, threw our pregnant mothers to the ground, jailed our peaceful clergy and academics, and tear gassed our children.

We are living an American Horror Story.

But it is significantly past time for the story to end. Never to be told again.

The onus to close this book falls directly on our leadership. Our elected leaders bear direct responsibility to ensure the safety of every one of its citizens at the hands of its agents, and to capture justice for every life taken. In this, the land of the free, you are responsible for securing and preserving that freedom for all of your citizens, irrespective of -- or perhaps, especially because of -- our skin. In a story in which we have been overwhelmingly targeted, unduly struck down by threat of our blackness, we require explicit attention, protection and value. We require freedom, and will hold everyone accountable to preserving our inalienable right.

We will no longer live this American Horror Story.

Nonviolent direct action is a necessary, vital, and wholly American tool in forcing meaningful, permanent, transformative action from our leaders and fellow citizens.

Today, the 70th day of this nightmare, some may wonder why we have yet to stop - to stop chanting, stop marching, stop occupying. But we have not yet found peace because we do not yet know justice. Therefore we, together with our allies, will continue to occupy the streets and the American consciousness until the book is closed.

Even in facing this terror, we have not met those who mean us harm with the same. Even in the face of this terror, we will continue to force the readers and writers of this, a most American of horror stories, to face the blackness that they fear, the blackness they have spent this entire story trying to erase, trying to soften, trying to co-opt, trying to escape. We will no longer allow you to escape this story and pretend that the epidemic of black lives dying by white hands is merely a figment of an active Black imagination. You must come face to face with the horror that we live daily. You must come to know and profess the truth of this story, and be determined to end it.

We are not concerned if this inconveniences you. Dead children are more than an inconvenience.

We are not concerned if this disturbs your comfort. Freedom outweighs that privilege.

We are not concerned if this upsets order. Your calm is built on our terror.

We are not concerned if this disrupts normalcy. We will disrupt life until we can live.

This is an American Horror Story. Together, we are writing the final chapter.

We sign:


5 Powerful Lessons From 3 Incredible Women at the Chicago Humanities Festival

Mon, 2014-11-17 18:04
There's something important to be said about any event that manages to bring people together, put away their phones and pull our their notepads by the thousands these days.

And that's exactly what was achieved by the Chicago Humanities Festival, which wrapped its 25th-anniversary fall festival last week.

This year's CHF, Chicago's own take on the New Yorker Festival, boasted an incredible roster of events including interviews, concerts, readings and practically every conceivable combination of the three imaginable. Speakers included Lena Dunham, David Brooks, Anjelica Huston, Anne Rice, Darlene Love, Gary Shteyngart, Patti Smith, Marjane Satrapi, Wallace Shawn, Renee Fleming, Cheryl Strayed, Jamaica Kincaid, Marcus Samuelsson, Eric Schlosser and dozens upon dozens more.

The events are an incredible treat for lifelong learner types and it wasn't unusual to see folks taking notes during the talks, or striking up conversations with strangers before and after the events, or along the route to attend their next lecture at Chicago's own little university of life.

Luckily enough for me, I was able to take in three CHF events this fall -- Smith, Satrapi and Huston. Turns out there's a lot a guy like me can learn about life from three fabulous, fearless women who have been, collectively, killing it for decades. These were my takeaways.

It's OK to be choosy, and to listen to your instincts.
In explaining why she returned to working at the bookstore after her first public reading in 1971, rather than taking up one of the many lucrative deals being offered to her by record executives, Patti Smith told Tribune music journalist Greg Kot she had no other choice because the executives had a different idea of the sort of art Smith should produce. She said she is proud she stuck to her own path.

The same can be said for Anjelica Huston, who told CHF program director Alison Cuddy she learned during her modeling career the importance of working with the best people possible and not settling for a dull role or other opportunity.

Patti Smith.

It is empowering to tell your own story, rather than let others tell it for you -- and get it wrong.
When asked why she had opted to write such a personal two-part memoir, Huston described the multi-year process of writing the books as similar to therapy -- except you don't have to pay anybody for it. Hinting at the influence of social media and how much information individuals readily make publicly available about themselves, Huston also referred to the current time as "the age of exposure," making the case that the time is ripe for a tell-all that sets the record straight.

Still, sometimes (often?) the best person to bring your idea to life is someone else.
When discussing her process of working with her fellow filmmakers of The Voices, the new film Marjane Satrapi directed starring Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick, Satrapi told Chicago writer Rebecca Makkai that filmmaking is far more exciting to her than writing currently because watching other people work from her vision is "the gift of life." She described the process as thrilling and always full of surprises.

Marjane Satrapi.

Labels, who needs them?
Smith expressed frustration with her unofficial, oft-repeated title of "godmother of punk," joking that she has also been called the "princess of punk," the "queen of punk" and will one day become the "dinosaur of punk." Adding to the misnomer, Smith also pointed out that while part of her creative soul does relate to the punk movement, that facet is only one of many parts to her identity.

Meanwhile, when Satrapi was asked if she still refuses to identify as a feminist (as she had in a 2004 interview with Bookslut), she defiantly reiterated that she is always "on the side of the oppressed" but that she identifies more as a humanist" and dislikes being asked to partake in female-only events or initiatives, saying she hesitates to see women "ghettoized." Also, don't go calling Satrapi's comics "graphic novels" -- she says that makes them sound like porn.

Nobody goes it alone.
Both Huston and Smith spoke at length about how loved ones helped give them confidence in their craft. In Smith's case, she said the self-confidence embodied by her artistic soul mate Robert Mapplethorpe rubbed off on her, while her work ethic rubbed off on him. She got the better end of the deal, she claimed before a sold-out audience.

As for Huston, who worked as a model with some of the world's most acclaimed photographers for years, she spoke about how her mother helped her come to terms with her somewhat unusual beauty -- particularly her pronounced nose, which Huston suggested did not do her any favors in the U.S. at the start of her career.

Anjelica Huston.

Until next time, CHF!

Hundreds Of Abused Dogs Have A Second Chance Thanks To This Amazing Chicago Rescue Program

Mon, 2014-11-17 15:57
This is Braveheart. Her owner was arrested on felony animal cruelty charges in August 2014. At the time, Braveheart was covered in bite marks, her muzzle was swollen and her ear had been ripped in half. She was impounded as evidence in the criminal case against her owner.

Not long ago, a Chicago-area dog like Braveheart would have been warehoused until the owner's case was decided or the owner gave up the dog. But even then, the animal's future wouldn't have been bright. "The dogs were in legal limbo, and then routinely euthanized following the disposition of their owners’ cases," says Cynthia Bathurst, founder of the Safe Humane Chicago group, which works to make life better for dogs in the legal system.

Thanks to the efforts of this group, Braveheart and many others like her are now available for loving homes. (Here's Braveheart's adoption listing.)

Since 2010, Safe Humane's Court Case Dogs program has been seeking more favorable outcomes for dogs who have had the misfortune to be pulled into the legal process. January marks the fifth anniversary of this program.

Bathurst and Safe Humane Chicago board member Keri Burchfield -- a sociology professor who studies animal crime -- recently spoke with The Huffington Post by email about what has changed for dogs like Braveheart in the last five years, and how these changes benefit not just the dogs, but also the people around them.

What is the Court Case Dogs program?

Cynthia Bathurst: A partnership with Chicago Animal Care and Control (CACC) and other government and nonprofit organizations, it seeks to change perceptions of “evidence animals,” to ensure humane, compassionate outcomes for these animals and to educate the public about the significant role of the human-animal bond.

The program partners with the City of Chicago and Safe Humane volunteers and other program participants to house, vet, socialize, exercise and train dogs who have been seized from neglectful or criminally charged owners. The program also transfers them to rescue groups, adopts them into loving homes, supports their staying in loving homes and facilitates their “giving back” to the community as ambassadors and loving companions.

Bandit came to be available for adoption through the Court Case Dogs program when a woman came home in July and found the dog and a strange man in her apartment. The man fled, leaving Bandit behind.

Why is this program important? What was happening to dogs in these situations before this program got started?

CB: Court Case Dogs was a first step toward justice for these animals. Before the program was established, “evidence dogs” routinely sat in cages at CACC while their owners' court cases dragged on. When the program started in 2010, about 2 percent of “evidence” dogs made it out alive, and they stayed in their cages until their deaths for about a year on average. In 2014 the program saves more than 70 percent of them, and they stay at CACC for an average of two to four weeks with socialization, training and love.

Keri Burchfield: The Court Case Dogs program is important to the dogs because it gives them much-needed opportunities for socialization, training and affection, and to the volunteers for the impact they have on the dogs’ lives. It is important to potential foster and adoptive homes because these dogs come with a lifetime of training and behavioral support from Safe Humane.

It is also important to Chicago, as it showcases these dogs as models of resilience, and the volunteers for their ethic and compassion. And it is important to society for shedding light on the problem of animal abuse and ways to improve our criminal justice system’s response to it.

Honey is available for adoption, after her previous owner was arrested for drowning puppies.

How many dogs have you helped through this program? What sorts of circumstances did these dogs live in before they were brought in?

CB: Since its inception, the Court Case Dogs program has welcomed more than 600 dogs, and more than 500 have been adopted into loving homes. These dogs come from a variety of circumstances, most commonly from abuse and neglect, some from fighting or related criminal enterprises, some from hoarding situations. Some of these dogs have endured especially unjust treatment. All are now humanely and lovingly cared for and act as representatives of the kind of compassion our communities need to be safer.

As the program and its reputation grow, individuals and organizations beyond the Court Case Dogs are reaping benefits. Incarcerated young men are taught how to socialize these dogs in a three-month program at the Illinois Youth Center Chicago. Police officers, attorneys, judges and court advocates are learning better ways to investigate, prosecute, adjudicate and track criminal cases involving dogs so that the cases resolve quicker and the dispositions are restorative. And the dogs no longer languish at the shelter. Even Chicago-area military veterans suffering various effects of PTSD are given a chance to heal and be healed by connecting with these dogs.

Scarlett's prior owner was charged with cruelty. She's now available for adoption.

What have been the biggest lessons learned over the last five years?

CB: Perhaps the biggest lesson is that evidence-based knowledge matters and will overcome the biggest obstacles over time –- whether we care about the individual dogs or families or the way we address public safety and welfare. Just as big is the lesson that all dogs, like all people, are individuals and must be treated as such, whatever they look like or their background.

We’ve learned about the amazing resilience of dogs and their loyalty to human beings, and the benefits and joys that our bond with them brings.

Do you think other jurisdictions could adopt similar programs?

CB: It should be a priority for any jurisdictions interested in safe and humane communities. Such programs ensure that all creatures who are victims under the law are protected. It only takes a few people in key places in law enforcement, animal control, the court system, the rescue community and the community at large to educate others about the laws and the principles and procedures that make for better communities.

How do dogs get selected for the program?

CB: Court Case Dogs are selected through assessments that ensure that the dogs can be safe and safely managed around people and other dogs. This process includes veterinary assessments and any veterinary care needed, and behavioral assessments of the dog on and off the leash and in playgroups with one or more other dogs. They may also be assessed with children and other youth during their participation in one of our programs.

Once selected for the program, they have access to free behavioral consultation and training for life.

Tex is all love. Here's his adoption listing.

Are there any challenges?

CB: Finding rescue groups to transfer our dogs is a challenge, not just because of the large number of dogs at CACC but also because of the way dogs who have been abused may be viewed.

KB: Also needed are effective community welfare laws that address the significant connection of people and animals and focus on restorative justice; education and training for all stakeholders in our efforts to make all communities safe and humane; effective practices and collaborations applied to local problems; and better resources and more collaboration to effect those goals.

Court Case Dogs are the forgotten victims in our criminal justice system. They have done the time, but not the crime. Even though high-profile animal abuse cases like Michael Vick's have generated public interest in what becomes of animal victims, most people do not know how long these animals sit and wait and suffer, or that so many go on to live amazing and fulfilling lives as therapy dogs, loving family pets or advocates against breed-discrimination.

Sweet Sedona is looking for a new home. Here's her adoption listing.

Would you like to see this program expand? Are there any barriers to expansion?

KB: The Court Case Dogs program needs to expand to other communities as well as within Chicago, not just to help more animals trapped in our legal system, but also to help people understand the significance of preserving the human-animal bond.

The greatest barrier is lack of resources -– mainly money -– or lack of access to appropriate and adequate training. We need more volunteers, too. But that’s not all.

Although there is a well-established connection between violence against animals and violence against people, many law enforcement and criminal justice agencies feel that they are too over-burdened and under-resourced to tackle cases whose victims are "only animals." So organizations like Safe Humane have mobilized at the grass-roots level, with a core of dedicated volunteers, to keep these programs running.

CB: Reliance on stereotypes and lack of knowledge are also barriers that will take time and unrelenting education to overcome. Better animal welfare laws, integrated with community welfare laws -– and enforcement -– are also needed. All of this, of course, will happen in time and with commitment.

Safe Humane depends on alliances with like-minded organizations to provide education, advocacy and successful second chances.

Smitten's owner was charged with animal cruelty. She's now available for adoption.

How can people get involved or help out?

CB: Visit the Safe Humane Chicago website or email You can volunteer with the Court Case Dogs program (or one of the other Safe Humane programs), donate, advocate, transfer a Court Case Dog, foster a Court Case Dog for a rescue or adopt a Court Case Dog.

You can also help us kick off our end-of-year campaign to raise needed funds for Safe Humane Chicago to provide education, advocacy and second chances for at-risk dogs and their people. A generous donor has agreed to match the first $5,000. Just go to and note that your donation is for the end-of-year matching appeal.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Willow and her puppies were rescued out of "deplorable conditions" after police heard them crying out and found them starving and living in filth. Willow is now available for adoption.

Get in touch at if you have an animal story to share!

Just Half Of Americans Think Calling Police Helps Resolve Disputes Peacefully

Mon, 2014-11-17 15:26
As issues of police brutality and accountability continue to receive national attention, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows about half of Americans aren't convinced calling law enforcement is an effective way to peacefully resolve a dispute.

In the poll, just 49 percent of respondents said they believe police officers responding to a situation are most likely to help resolve it peacefully. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said law enforcement is most likely to make the situation more volatile, while 24 percent said they weren't sure.

White respondents were more likely than any other race polled to say they thought police would resolve a situation peacefully, while black respondents were the most likely to say police would make it more volatile.

The poll also showed that 28 percent of respondents had called the police to resolve a dispute in the past, while 72 percent never had. These findings were relatively uniform across racial demographics.

The survey comes as the nation waits to hear if a grand jury will indict Officer Darren Wilson in the August death of Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old who Wilson shot in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident has led to increased scrutiny of the tactics employed by law enforcement, and the violence that sometimes comes as a result of police involvement.

Just two weeks after Brown's death, for example, St. Louis police responded to a call that 25-year-old Kajieme Powell had shoplifted drinks and donuts from a shop. The video of the ensuing confrontation, released by St. Louis police shortly after the incident, shows just how quickly things escalated. Powell can be heard yelling "shoot me" at the officers, before advancing in their direction. He was armed with a knife, but details of how close he got to the officers or how he was holding the weapon remain in dispute. Just 15 seconds after officers arrived at the scene, Powell was killed by a barrage of bullets.

In another fatal incident in 2013, officers were called to help resolve a family dispute. After an argument over a pack of cigarettes, Tyler Comstock, an unarmed 19-year-old, took off in his father's car, and his father called the police to intervene. A short time later, Comstock was killed by officers after leading them on a chase and refusing their orders to turn off the vehicle's engine.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll found large demographic disparities regarding the belief that police brutality takes place locally. Of total respondents, 29 percent said the problem existed around them, while 43 percent said it didn't and 27 percent said they weren't sure. Among white respondents, 25 percent said police brutality was an issue in their local law enforcement. But among black respondents, 58 percent said police brutality existed in their area, while 22 percent said it didn't and 20 percent weren't sure.

Previous HuffPost/YouGov polls conducted in the wake of Brown's death have tracked issues around how race plays into perceptions of law enforcement and police treatment of suspects. A survey released in August found that a 53 percent majority of all Americans thought police in most big cities are tougher on blacks than on whites. That number rose to 86 percent among black respondents.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Nov. 12-14 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.

New Ad For Obamacare Is Genuinely Hilarious: 'You'll Be Okay, Probably'

Mon, 2014-11-17 14:13
Let’s face it: Whoever has been attempting to market President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and its associated health insurance plans to a younger generation has had a pretty rough go of it.

But a genuinely funny new ad from Get Covered Illinois, the state's health insurance marketplace, might just be the best attempt yet at catching the eye of younger, uninsured types. (At the very least, it’s better than a solid chunk of this season's “Saturday Night Live” sketches.)

Outlining a tongue-in-cheek health care plan "based entirely on luck," the ad shows 20- and 30-somethings galavanting around Chicago, wearing homemade neck braces, eyepatches and casts made of bubble wrap, cardboard and duct tape.

“I just cross my fingers and hope for the best!” one of the characters in the ad says.

"You'll be OK, probably," quips another.

The spot appears to be the first in a series of videos from Get Covered Illinois's "Luck Health Plan" campaign.

According to Chicago Business Journal, the ad campaign, which recalls the Illinois website's successful partnership with The Onion earlier this year, will be rolling out this week.

Illinois' split government might just work

Mon, 2014-11-17 13:17
While Illinois House Speaker Rep. Michael Madigan can seem like a formidable figure in state politics, Rich Miller of Capitol Fax believes that he and Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner can work together to govern competently.

Miller writes:

Right now," Rauner continued, "Madigan controls the Legislature from his little pot of cash. It isn't that much money. And he runs the whole state government out of that pot. We need a pro-business, pro-growth, pro-limited government, pro-tax reduction PAC down there in Springfield working with the Legislature for those who take tough votes."

Word is that Rauner's new legislative PAC will be launched relatively soon - perhaps after the governor-elect's transition committee has finished its job.

Rod Blagojevich tried the same thing with his Move Illinois Forward PAC several years ago. As I pointed out on my blog when Rauner revealed his plans, Blagojevich's PAC didn't work out all that well, partly because Blagojevich was relying on a Democratic donor base which didn't want to step too hard on Madigan's toes.

Rauner, of course, won't have that problem. And he also has plenty of his own cash.

Read the rest of his thoughts on Madigan and Rauner's upcoming working relationship at Reboot Illinois.

Maybe the Illinois government will become the best bi-partisan coalition in the nation and set an example for the rest of the country. We could use some "best of" monikers to balance out the designations of being the worst state in the nation to raise kids, the worst debt, the worst credit rating and more. One of our current "best ofs" isn't actually all that great--Illinois is best state in the country at having citizens with gang affiliations. The website says that eight to 11 per every 1,000 of Illinois' residents are affiliated with gangs. Check out Reboot Illinois to see a map of what every state is best at. Most of the awards are better than ours.

The Fat Cats at College of DuPage (an Illinois Jr. College)

Mon, 2014-11-17 11:30
Gift bans be damned. It's steaks, ribs, filet and crème brulee... for all.

In June, the College of DuPage (COD) lost a $20 million state construction grant because of corruption. In July, COD was exposed for paying up to $27,000 in fees and private membership dues at the presidents shooting club. In September, COD won a national "Golden Hammer" award for hiding $96 million in "Imprest" accounting payments that weren't disclosed to the public or trustees. In October, COD was forced to publically acknowledge "possible fraud" in the radio station for possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Therefore, it's mystifying to many that the Board of Trustees and Senior Management Team have brought forth zero reform measures. But thanks to the information made available by the Edgar County Watchdogs, we are starting to gain insight into how the elected trustees and entire management/oversight structures at COD have "gamed the system for personal gain."

It seems everybody who is somebody at COD is on the gravy train.

A few examples:

Consider the COD's very own Five Days of Christmas party during which $9,254.63 in gifts, dinners, and alcohol flowed to COD senior managers and trustees.

Here are the details: during a five day period in December 2013, $9,254.63 was spent on a Christmas gift of steak and ribs to the Senior Management Team ($2,345.03), a Senior Management Team Holiday party wasted $3,572.40 including $1,553 in booze, a Holiday Board of Trustees dinner ($2,331.60) included $807 in booze, and a Board of Trustees "retreat" dinner squandered another $1,005.60. View all receipts here.

All this eating and drinking on the job occurred at the upscale French restaurant at COD, The Waterleaf. This restaurant sports a fully stocked wine cellar--with more than $192,000 of wine and wine accessories purchased over the past three years. The Waterleaf lost $560,000 in its first year of operation (2012) and losses for 2013 are not disclosed.

Another example of largesse: House Account #10 - COD President's fund for eating and drinking.

President Robert Breuder has led the way in lavishing himself and others with fine food and drink. Using "House Acct #10," Breuder has not only charged at least nine "board of trustee dinners" to the tune of $10,466.40, but he's also been compensated for another $10,864.18 in meals and alcohol. During one evening, on November 6, 2013, Breuder even needed a bartender change of shift to accommodate the late night drinking (a bottle of Nautilus, two Miller Lites, a Honey Bourbon, Pomelo SBG, and three Diet Pepsis). And he's even racked up 14 nights for $1,429.68 at the upscale campus hotel.

All of this, of course, has been funded by the hard working students and over-taxed property taxpayers of DuPage County. We know this because the college previously admitted that Dr. Breuder has never paid back a dime during his tenure as president.

This also happened after the board awarded the president a compensation package worth nearly $500,000 per year. After all, half a million dollars isn't enough to satiate Breuder's refined taste for other people's money. And the sense of entitlement continues to build not just with Breuder but with the entire leadership structure of COD...

For the Senior Management Team and Board of Trustees, the litany of charges reads like an all-you-can-eat country club feast: crab cakes, gnocchi, scallops, Carpaccio, duck, salmon, bass, matelote, Bavarian cake, and porchetta. Before the October 17, 2013 board meeting, the Trustees feasted on filet mignon, pork chop, toffee pudding sorbets, bread pudding, salmon, potato puree, chicken mousse, French onion, vegetable strudel, halibut, duck breast, steak salad and more.

To acknowledge that there is a severe lack of accounting control at COD is an understatement. Corruption is a more appropriate term. Most of these food and alcohol charges flowed through the Imprest hidden payment scheme or other hidden accounting tricks at COD. These payments were deliberately hidden from the public and board meetings lacked basic transparency. Many payments violated the $75 statutory limit on gift bans, which is also board policy.

Thomas Glaser is the Treasurer at COD and previously held a similar position, Chief Financial Officer for Cook County in the administration of the legendary county boss John Stroger (1995-2007). At the last board meeting in October, Glaser pulled his 13 college accountants and put them behind the podium. For 40 minutes, they tried to say "we're clean."

But the facts tell another story. Taxpayers are outraged by this behavior and are calling for a house cleaning at COD

Alstory Simon Talks About Life After Wrongful Conviction (EXCLUSIVE)

Mon, 2014-11-17 11:18
No one argues that two teens were shot and killed in bleachers above a swimming pool on Chicago's South Side more than 30 years ago. What's harder to say is who the shooter was late that August night in Washington Park.

That's because two men have been separately accused, convicted and, more surprisingly, exonerated for the 1982 killings of 18-year-old Jerry Hillard and 19-year-old Marilyn Green.

Police and prosecutors first thought the couple were killed in an armed robbery by Anthony Porter, a convicted felon. Multiple witnesses allegedly saw him in the park around the time of the 1 a.m. shooting. A jury agreed and condemned Porter to death. But he was hastily freed in 1999 when another man confessed in a news broadcast to the killings.


The Cook County state attorney's office reset its sights on Alstory Simon, the man who confessed to shooting Hillard and Green in a dispute about drug money.

Simon pleaded guilty to pulling the trigger and tearfully apologized to Green's mother, saying that he accidentally shot her daughter. Down came a 37-year sentence.

But in a remarkable twist, Simon regained his freedom on Oct. 30.

The current Cook County state attorney, Anita Alvarez, cast doubt on Simon's confession and the original lawyer who represented him. Alvarez leveled the blame for Simon's predicament on the Medill Innocence Project, a team of students and a journalism professor from Northwestern University with a stated mission of freeing innocent prisoners. Her office wouldn’t share copies of the review that laid out specific misdeeds by the Northwestern team, but Simon’s new attorneys said their client confessed because he’d been threatened and promised money from book and movie deals if he cooperated.

It was all but a formality when Circuit Judge Paul Biebel vacated the murder and voluntary manslaughter record.


The dust has just begun to settle for Simon, 64. He spoke exclusively with The Huffington Post about his transition to life outside the walls of Illinois' Jacksonville Correctional Center.

"It feels good to be out," Simon said on a telephone from an undisclosed location. "I've still kind of been sheltered away. I still kind of feel myself institutionalized in many respects. The world has changed so much with the technology."

For 14 of his 15 years in prison, Simon was locked in a cell for 23 hours a day with another inmate. It’s no wonder that freedom has come as a shock to Simon.

"It's like a frightening experience in a sense," he told HuffPost. "I've got to get adjusted all over again. I was so used to being confined for so long that I still feel a sense of solitude is a security blanket. I was surprised by how much fear I had crossing the street. I feel more comfortable being secluded in my room."

An undated photo of Simon before his release.


How could a conviction fall apart for the second time in a single case? And if Simon isn't guilty, who is?

Alvarez, the state attorney, stopped short of saying he's innocent. She blamed former Northwestern University journalism professor David Protess, his students in the Medill Innocence Project and private investigator Paul Ciolino for manipulating Simon. Her review "raised serious questions about the integrity" of their work.

“At the end of the day and in the best interests of justice, we could reach no other conclusion but that the investigation of this case has been so deeply corroded and corrupted that we can no longer maintain the legitimacy of this conviction,” Alvarez said.

Documents vacating Simon's conviction.

The argument Protess, Ciolino and the students had assembled against Simon that until recently passed official scrutiny went as follows:

The mother of Marilyn Green saw Simon and his wife Inez Jackson with her daughter and Hillard shortly before the shooting. Jackson told the Northwestern unit that she'd seen Simon shoot the couple. She accused him on television. At least one other witness has lined up against Simon. He then made the confession, recorded in his Milwaukee home by Ciolino.

Simon refused to explain why he confessed and repeatedly admitted to the killings, because he's considering pursuing litigation over his lost years.


A new documentary made with Simon's participation, called "Murder In the Park," charges that Ciolino resorted to shady moves to coerce Simon into confessing. Ciolino brandished a gun, promised Simon money from book and movie deals, and duped him by saying he'd get a two-year sentence if he cooperated, according to director Shawn Rech's film.

Jack Rimland, then Simon's defense attorney, had a conflict of interest, according to Rech: Rimland worked closely with Ciolino and Protess, people who portrayed Simon as guilty.

Anthony Porter, the man initially charged and convicted for the 1982 murders.

Protess and Rimland overlooked the fact that six original witnesses who said they saw Porter commit the shooting, commit a robbery or, at least, run through the park at the time of the shooting, according to documents Rech cites. The case weakened as Simon's estranged and dying wife Jackson recanted her accusation.

"The decision [to prosecute Simon] flew in the face of all the evidence," Rech told HuffPost.

"A Murder in the Park" premieres Nov. 17 at the DOC NYC festival in Manhattan. Simon will be in attendance.

"You judge it for yourself and you'll see if I'm guilty," Simon said, the closest he came to an outright denial.


Protess' gleaming reputation was already partly tarnished before Alvarez's announcement. He retired from Northwestern when a university review said he'd made "false and misleading statements" about his work on a separate wrongful conviction. He now runs the Chicago Innocence Project.

He declined to comment, but has written blogs for HuffPost with a full-throated defense of his investigation, and criticism of the motives of Simon's attorneys and the documentarian.

Ciolino remains a Chicago P.I. and says it's hard to ignore the incriminating statements Simon made.

"Simon confessed to a Milwaukee TV reporter, his own lawyer and others since he confessed to me. You explain that," Ciolino said in a statement.

Any fault must rest with the Cook County state attorney's office, according to Paul Cates, the spokesman for the Innocence Project. (The national Innocence Project, which tries to find DNA evidence to free the wrongly convicted, is not affiliated with Protess or the Chicago Innocence Project.)

"Whatever sins that David committed, it was ultimately the state that decided to prosecute him," Cates told HuffPost. "If they no longer feel confident in their evidence, then they did the right thing."

Richard Devine, the Cook County attorney whose office prosecuted Simon, is now in private practice. He did not respond to requests for comment.


The ripples from these events traveled in many directions. The mishandling of Porter's case led to former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R) banning the death penalty.

Witness testimony in the case was always shaky, and after Simon's confession, even more witnesses changed their statements.

Additionally, after Simon pleaded guilty in Chicago, prosecutors in Milwaukee stopped pursuing him as a suspect in another killing there that had once been linked to him.

"It was just a lot of suspicion," Milwaukee Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams told HuffPost. "There wasn't a whole lot of solid evidence against him."

With those cases and his prison time behind him, the simple pleasures are enough to satisfy Simon now. He's been taking long walks, visiting his daughter and grandson, and cooking favorite foods like banana bread.

"I would like to maybe settle down in a nice, warm-climate place and maybe travel a little bit and keep my family close," Simon said. "I'm getting on with my life."

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated attorney Jack Rimland's name.

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Everything You Need To Know About The Campus Editor-At-Large Program

Mon, 2014-11-17 10:12
Do you want to be a campus editor-at-large for The Huffington Post? Here's your chance!

HuffPost has a long history of featuring college students' voices on our site and on HuffPost Live. We've highlighted your take on everything from racial tension to Snapchat, along with an array of personal topics that touch your daily lives.

Our campus editor-at-large program is a way to build your network and help contribute content to our blogging platform. We're searching for ambitious college students with an obsession for news and a deep desire to understand and help shape the way the Internet is changing, while bringing a deeper focus to the lives and perspectives of college students everywhere. Our editors-at-large help spread the word on their campuses about blogging opportunities with HuffPost, creating a unique opportunity for students to have their voice heard by millions worldwide. We’d like to be more connected with students, and through your everyday experiences, social media networks and campus activities, you and your peers can direct and shape the conversation online.

Responsibilities include:

  • Recruiting college students to write for The Huffington Post's blogging platform.

  • Pitching features, HuffPost Live segments and evergreen content to help sharpen your editorial skills.

  • Blogging for HuffPost's various sections.

  • Update HuffPost editors on campus-related news.

  • Assist in planning any campus projects (namely the HuffPost Finals Oases).

  • Communicating regularly with your HuffPost manager.

If you're an undergraduate student excited about building your network and connecting people and content on your campus, please submit your information through the link below.

The application will close at 11:59 pm on Nov. 30, 2014. We look forward to reading your submissions!

Click here to apply for and editor-at-large position on your campus.

Feel free to email for any related questions.

New Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich Set To Assume Leadership

Mon, 2014-11-17 09:05
CHICAGO (AP) -- The process of installing a bishop as the new spiritual leader of more than 2 million Catholics will begin with a knock on a door.

Blase Cupich will arrive Monday night at the Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago for the Rite of Reception. After he knocks on the cathedral door, he will be welcomed inside and presented with the garment called the archdiocesan stole. Then he'll greet civic and ecumenical leaders representing various religions.

The process sets into motion a transfer of power in which Cupich succeeds the retiring Cardinal Francis George the next day as the archbishop of one of the largest archdioceses in the United States. It will be the first time in the history of the archdiocese that a new archbishop has assumed leadership while his predecessor is still alive.

Cupich, 65, will deliver a sermon called a homily during a prayer service, according to the archdiocese's website.

During the Mass, Cupich will be seated in the cathedra - the chair where the archbishop sits - and George will present to him the crozier, or staff, that signifies the leader of the archdiocese.

George, who is battling cancer, is retiring after leading the archdiocese since he succeeded the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in 1997. Cupich has held a number of positions in the church. He comes to Chicago from the state of Washington, where he was the bishop of the Diocese of Spokane.

Cupich is being watched closely to see how he deals with a host of issues including the shortage of priests, poverty and gun violence. Though he has said he will continue to speak out on a need for immigration reform and that he favors transparency in dealing with the priests accused of sexual abuse, he has not offered many specifics.

When he arrived at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport last week, he said some of the answers to reporters' questions about how he might work with political and civic leaders to address some of those issues might be found in his comments Monday night.

Bloomingdale's Black Friday Sale Has Everything From Cashmere Sweaters To Nutribullet Blenders

Mon, 2014-11-17 08:41
The store: Bloomingdale's

The time: There will be special savings for early shoppers, available from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 28, e.g. receive a $15 b.Money card with almost any $100 purchase.

The deals:
  • Take an extra $25 off a selection of women's cashmere sweaters.

  • Take an extra $50 off when you spend $100-$499.99 on almost all women's and men's coats; take an extra $100 off almost all women's and men's coats priced at $500 or more.

  • Take 25 percent off almost all women's regular-price contemporary denim; take 25 percent off almost all men's and bKids' regular and sale-price premium denim.

  • Buy one, get one 50 percent off a selection of women's small leather good (wallets, belts and more).

  • Take 50 percent off a selection of men's fall suits, sportcoats and trousers in men's tailored clothing until 1p.m.

  • Take 30-35 percent off regular prices of The Ninja Professional Blender in Black (Ninja Model BL610) or select Nutribullet Blenders.

Click here for J.C. Penney Black Friday deals.

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Your Kitchen Sponge Is As Revolting As It Smells

Mon, 2014-11-17 07:22
The kitchen sponge is the single dirtiest item in your house. Yes, it's nastier than the toilet seat, the garbage can and the diaper genie.

"It has a lot of nooks and crannies, so as you clean up a mess with potential pathogens in it, some of the organisms become lodged in between the sponge," Dr. Philip Tierno, a clinical professor at the Microbiology and Pathology departments at NYU Langone, and author of, The Secret Life of Germs told HuffPost. "People rinse their sponges, but they really need to sanitize them. And that's something people don't do."

When you wipe food remnants from your dirty dishes, cutting board and countertop, any pathogens from your spills can fill the holes of the damp sponge, which sits sink-side. While the sponge hangs out wet and stagnant until next use, new bacteria grows at the surprising rate of once every 20 minutes, according to Tierno.

The cutting board is particularly notorious: After you've cut up a piece of raw meat, it's common to wipe off whatever blood and other liquid has collected there -- often ground zero for one of the most common food-poisoning bacteria: salmonella. But that doesn't let vegetarians and vegans off the hook.

"Even vegetable matter may contain these germs," Tierno said. The veggies could be contaminated with E.coli, some strains of which cause diarrhea. E. coli infections are also often the cause of urinary tract infections and pneumonia.

If you're using a sponge to clean off a dish, and then consider that dish "clean," well, it's actually probably dirtier than it was before you scrubbed. "Soap and water don't kill germs -- they only wash germs away. But if you have a dirty sponge to start with, you have a nice layer of germs to cover your plate." So basically, the germs on the plate might dissipate, but the more robust germs on the sponge will transfer to the plate. Yikes.

As for that notorious sponge smell? "Where there is odor, there are germs," said Tierno.

But fear not, there is hope for a more hygienic kitchen without abandoning the sponge as a cleaning tool. The best sanitizing agent is chlorine bleach. Make a disinfecting solution by mixing one part bleach with nine parts water and drop the sponge in the mixture from 10 to 30 seconds (or longer). "This will kill all of the organisms growing in the sponge," Tierno said.

He suggests keeping a container of the solution for easy access any time you use the sponge, you can clean it with the mixture (but don't reuse the mixture). After the sponge is soaked, ring it out and allow it to dry: "Dryness itself is like a preservative -- it prevents anything from growing." But, Tierno warns, dryness alone will not kill organisms -- the sponge must be disinfected first.

You can also microwave the sponge to disinfect it, but this method isn't as simple as plopping it in and hitting "start." Tierno says the sponge should be submerged in a bowl of water and then placed in the microwave. The water has to be heated to a boil -- it will permeate the sponge and kill of the organisms. This sanitizing strategy will take longer than the bleach-water method, because you have to watch to make sure the water bubbles. Again, after the sponge is saturated, allow it to dry.

Once you've properly cleaned your sponge, be sure to wash your hands. After all that scrubbing and cleaning, you've touched a lot of the organisms that make your sponge germy in the first place.

Question Before the Court: Can Corporations Betray Retirees?

Mon, 2014-11-17 06:44

At a chemical plant called Point Pleasant in a town named Apple Grove in a state John Denver labeled almost heaven, a man known as Freel Tackett helped negotiate three collective bargaining agreements that provided raises and decent benefits for workers and retirees.

Heaven ended in 2007 for Tackett and other retired Point Pleasant workers. That’s when the corporation that now owns the plant betrayed them by refusing to continue paying the full cost of retiree health benefits. These days, it’s almost hell for retirees. For seven years they’ve lived under a dark shadow, as if Point Pleasant’s most infamous denizen, the monster Mothman, immortalized in the book and movie The Mothman Prophesies, had returned.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union told the U.S. Supreme Court last week that these workers had labored a lifetime to earn retiree health benefits. The court should forbid the company from rescinding earned benefits, the USW argued. The corporation, M&G Polymers, asked the court to validate its reneging on its pledge to workers because, it contended, the collective bargaining agreement is insufficiently specific. M&G insisted that vagueness gives it carte blanche to shift costs to workers. 

M&G Polymers is Point Pleasant's new Mothman

“I think a lot of corporations these days are doing the same thing,” Tackett said.  “I am just hoping the Supreme Court will prohibit it,” added Tackett, who is one of three named plaintiffs representing the class of 492 Point Pleasant plant retirees and spouses. Workers at the West Virginia plant are members of the USW. 

Tackett talked about the appeal as he prepared to go to a funeral for a friend from his days in the plant. That man will never know the ultimate outcome of the case that the retirees won at both the trial and appeals levels. The man’s widow is struggling financially and told Tackett she thinks she will be forced to sell her home to cover the cost of her husband’s unpaid medical bills. Tackett urged her to try to hold out for the high court’s decision.

Tackett told her that if the justices rule for the retirees, then M&G Polymers will likely have to reimburse her the nearly $20,000 that her husband and other retirees paid to maintain their company health insurance until the trial court ordered M&G Polymers to resume paying the full premiums.

“We have several people who passed away,” as they awaited the outcome, Tackett said. “We just don’t know how many of them died as a result of not going to the doctor when needed or not getting medication they needed" because they couldn't afford the insurance, he said.

Court records show that as of Dec. 14, 2011, only 96 of the retirees were still paying the costs imposed by M&G Polymers to cover themselves and their spouses. Some retirees quit the company plan because they found less expensive insurance elsewhere. Others, the court records show, went without coverage.

The fees M&G charged retirees rose dramatically each year. For those old enough to receive Medicare, the initial cost was $144.44 a month. But for younger retirees, it was $856.22 a month. By 2011, those charges rose to $452.01 a month for the Medicare eligible and $957.92 a month for the others.

“It is a huge amount of money when you are on a fixed income,” Tackett said, “I had to spend a big part of my pension on health insurance.”

Tackett started working at the plant when Goodyear owned it. He negotiated contracts and served for four years as president of the local union in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before Goodyear sold the plant to Shell in 1992. Shell sold it to M&G in 2000.

Throughout that time, Tackett said, he believed that language in the collective bargaining agreement guaranteed the company would pay the total cost of health benefits for workers who were eligible for full pensions when they retired. The lawsuit quotes the collective bargaining agreements as saying that workers earning a full pension “will receive a full Company contribution toward the cost of [health care] benefits.”

And the collective bargaining agreement says that if a retiree dies before his or her spouse, then the spouse remains entitled to health benefits until death or remarriage.

The agreement never says the retiree loses the benefit after so many years or must pay a portion of the costs. It also doesn’t say benefits earned by retirees over their work lives end with the expiration of any given collective bargaining agreement.

Even conservative Justice Antonin Scalia seemed to agree with the retirees on that point, saying during the arguments, “It is a reasonable assumption, call it a presumption if you like, that any promise to pay those benefits continues after the termination of the union contract.”

The fact that the collective bargaining agreement never specifically says the benefits must be paid in full by the company for the retiree’s lifetime is not unusual. A law firm with no financial interest in the outcome of the case reviewed collective bargaining agreements providing health insurance for retirees and reported to the Supreme Court that only 26 percent contained at least one clause suggesting that the benefit must be paid for life, while 14 percent contained ambiguous language and 16 percent were silent on the issue.

Previous owners of the plant never questioned the obligation and paid the benefits in full until the retiree and spouse died. In addition, M&G’s demands of Shell show that it knew the obligation was not limited.

When Goodyear sold the plant to Shell, it retained responsibility for the workers who retired during its ownership. Shell did not want to do that. So M&G hired actuaries to calculate the cost of the benefits that would be owed to the workers who retired in the eight years Shell owned the plant. That would include costs for Tackett who retired in 1996.

Shell allowed M&G to subtract that amount from the price of the Point Pleasant plant.  As a result, Shell paid M&G the costs for those retirees. Now M&G is trying to get paid a second time by demanding those Point Pleasant retirees pay part of their premiums. 

Tackett, who lives in Bidwell, Ohio, started work at the plant in 1966. That, coincidentally, is the year that Mothman began terrifying local residents.

As Mothman did, M&G has stricken hundreds of families in this rural West Virginia region with fear. They’re scared they won’t be able to afford health insurance they believed they’d earned. A decision by the Supreme Court affirming the lower courts’ rulings would relieve retirees like 78-year-old Tackett and restore justice in Point Pleasant.


These Vegetarian Meatballs Are Made With Eggplant, And They're The Real Deal

Mon, 2014-11-17 06:00
By their name alone, meatballs subtly hint at their main ingredient -- meat. And yet, these vegetarian meatballs are made with no meat at all, and they pull off the good work that a good meatball does. Who woulda thunk? Check these out:

The secret is eggplant. Yes, marvelous eggplant gives these balls a "savory, meaty vibe," says blogger Ciao Veggie, who masterminded this recipe. Pulse breadcrumbs, cooked eggplant and a few other spices in the food processor and once the mixture sets, roll them into balls to pan fry. When they're brown and ready, eat 'em on their own, douse them in marinara or top them on spaghetti with a little bit of feta for a smart, Italian twist. Mama Mia, these meatballs are destined for tastiness. Get the whole recipe here.

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'It's On Us' Week Of Action Aims To Raise Awareness Of College Sexual Assault

Sun, 2014-11-16 07:57
The White House's campaign against college sexual assault will launch a "Week of Action" on campuses nationwide on Monday, coordinated by the progressive interest group Generation Progress.

The "It's On Us" campaign was launched by the White House in September. The campaign aims to get students -- especially men -- to make an effort to prevent sexual violence by changing their own attitudes and intervening in risky situations.

The week of activism comes on the heels of a new White House Public Service Announcement, which was released on Nov. 13. The PSA calls on men to practice bystander intervention, which refers to noticing when a sexual assault is about to occur and stepping in to stop it.

"The Week of Action is building on the momentum from this fall and getting more people involved so we can include them next year and in the spring," said Kristin Avery, who is managing the It's On Us campaign at Generation Progress. "Our goal is to really spark as many conversations as we can."

Generation Progress said that it has planned at least 150 events in 35 states, ranging from holding round-table discussions about sexual violence to collecting signatures for the It's On Us pledge, a commitment to helping stop sexual assault on campus. The group hopes that the Week of Action will get more people in college to sign the pledge.

Northern Illinois University, for example, will have self-defense and bystander intervention training, and events discussing what it's like to be a survivor. The school will also screen a student-filmed documentary about sexual assault, called "Red Blooded Men":

At least 40 colleges and universities have also created their own It's On Us PSAs, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University and UCLA.

Some universities have specifically highlighted Greek life in their promotional materials, like George Washington University:

The fraternities Pi Kappa Alpha and Tau Kappa Epsilon have signed on as sponsors of the It's On Us Campaign. Generation Progress officials said the fraternities actually reached out to them, looking to get involved. Pi Kappa Alpha, often referred to as Pike, is also providing each of its chapters with an educational program, entitled "Taking a Stand: Preventing Sexual Assault on Campus," during the current academic year.

The NCAA is another sponsor of the Week of Action.

Generation Progress used regional staffers and coordinated with the National Collegiate Leadership Conference to organize the effort on campuses around the country. The White House announced when It's On Us was launched in September that student leaders from 233 campuses had signed up to endorse the campaign.

The Marshall Project Aims Spotlight On 'Abysmal Status' Of Criminal Justice

Sun, 2014-11-16 07:05
NEW YORK –- Neil Barsky has taken on varied roles over the years, from Wall Street Journal reporter to Wall Street analyst, hedge fund manager to documentary filmmaker. Now he has returned to the newsroom as founder and chairman of The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering criminal justice and edited by New York Times veteran Bill Keller.

Barsky’s interest in criminal justice and the inequities of the U.S. system was ignited in recent years by two books: The New Jim Crow, which tackles mass incarceration and the over-representation of African-Americans in prison, and Devil in the Grove, which focuses on a 1949 rape case fought by Thurgood Marshall, then head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and later the first black Supreme Court justice. The project gets its name from Marshall -- and for Barsky, its inspiration.

In an interview at The Marshall Project’s midtown New York offices before Sunday’s launch, Barsky said he wants to push criminal justice issues into the national spotlight. There's a lack of urgency in dealing with the system's flaws, he said, despite “how abysmal the status quo is.”

“Nobody in their right mind, if they had to start a criminal justice system from scratch, would come up with what we have in America. Nobody,” Barsky said. “And yet ... it is not front and center of the national debate. For me, journalism is a great way to break through not only the complacency but the tolerance we as a society seem to have.”

Barsky, who is funding about 20 percent of The Marshall Project's budget himself, is now focused on raising several million dollars from foundations and individual philanthropists to pay for a staff of roughly two dozen. In February, he tapped Keller, a former top editor of The New York Times and most recently an op-ed columnist, to oversee the project's journalism. The media industry suddenly took notice of the venture, and according to Barsky, so did potential backers.

Keller, seated next to Barsky under a framed poster from the latter's 2013 film “Koch," joked that he’s just “the arm candy.”

The Marshall Project is nonpartisan but mission-driven in looking to shed light on injustices that could spark calls for reform. Keller said part of the appeal of joining the project was that criminal justice “is one area where there is a little common ground and therefore the potential to see things change.” For instance, he said, there’s already broad consensus among many Democrats and Republicans about reducing prison sentences for low-level drug offenders.

The Huffington Post reported last week how, even in gridlocked Washington, the Democratic White House and Republican Congress could come to the table over criminal justice reform. In one example of bipartisanship, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a likely contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, teamed up this past summer to introduce sentencing reform legislation.

“I would hope that by 2016, no matter who the candidates are -- whether it's Hillary Clinton or Rand Paul or Jeb Bush or anybody -- that criminal justice would be one of the more pressing and important topics,” Barsky said. He also hopes The Marshall Project can play a role in making that happen.

Like the investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica, The Marshall Project plans to partner with more established news organizations to maximize the impact of its reporting. Before officially launching, it had already published two deeply reported pieces through partnerships with Slate and The Washington Post, the latter of which is also involved in Sunday’s full rollout.

On Sunday's front page, the Post published the first part of reporter Ken Armstrong's two-part series detailing the harm caused by a 1996 law intended to speed up the time between a person's being sentenced to death and being executed. Since then, lawyers in some 80 cases have ended up missing deadlines to make final appeals for their clients. "People are going to die as a result of those blown deadlines,” Keller said.

Keller said he likes coming out of the gate with Armstrong's piece because it shows readers that The Marshall Project won't expose flaws in the system only when they concern the wrongly convicted.

“The easiest way to get reader sympathy is to write about people who are innocent,” Keller said. “Everybody feels a sense of unfairness if the law sends somebody away to jail for something they didn’t commit.”

Keller recalled how early on, he and Barsky visited different advocacy organizations, including the Innocence Project, which fights to exonerate those wrongly convicted through DNA evidence. After their meeting, Keller recalled that Barsky said, "You know, we’re sort of the Guilt Project."

“Most of what we’re going to write about is people who are not innocent,” Keller said. “But people who are not innocent are entitled to a fair trial. They’re entitled to not being raped when they get to prison. They’re entitled to competent defense. They’re entitled to prosecutors who don’t withhold exonerating information. They’re entitled to cops who follow Miranda. All these things that are built into our criminal justice system are there for the guilty as well as the innocent. That’s one of the reasons I particularly liked this piece as a debut.”

Beyond lengthier investigations, Keller said he wants The Marshall Project to become part of the ongoing conversation on criminal justice. There will be a daily email newsletter that mostly aggregates stories, and staffers will be expected at times to follow up with quick reported pieces. Gabriel Dance, a highly regarded digital journalist who joined from The Guardian in May, is overseeing a team that will produce interactive and multimedia projects.

With only a handful of reporters, Keller will have to pick and choose where to put his resources. For instance, he said he wouldn't have flown a reporter to Ferguson, Missouri, in August to cover the unrest in real time alongside a flock of other journalists. He suggested that The Marshall Project would have followed up on topics like the militarization of police forces in America or the history of unrest in predominately African-American communities with largely white police forces. By focusing exclusively on criminal justice, Keller said, the project could be "a jump ahead of the rest of the press [on a story like the Michael Brown shooting] in identifying the issues that are at the heart of it.”

Keller said he has spoken to television outlets such as “60 Minutes,” “Frontline” and “48 Hours" about potential partnerships, but for now, The Marshall Project isn't doing original video. Barsky noted that the organization is still being built “brick by brick,” and he guessed it would have a video component in a year.

“There’s no template for doing what we’re doing,” Barsky said. “There was no template for Vox or FiveThirtyEight or First Look. There are all these new enterprises that I feel, maybe I feel, some kindred spirit with them, but everybody should be given a little time because it's difficult. It’s not like a newspaper where, for the last hundred years, all newspapers more or less had the same model.”

Keller, who spent 30 years at The New York Times before joining the journalism start-up, said he's enjoying “being part of the great experiment that our business has become.”