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Chris Burke, 'Life Goes On' Actor, Reflects On The Message Behind His Success (VIDEO)

Fri, 2014-08-22 08:42
Long before Lauren Potter stole the show on "Glee" as Becky, the sharp-tongued cheerleader with Down syndrome, a different actor had changed the way television audiences viewed people with disabilities.

From 1989 to 1993, Chris Burke, who has Down syndrome, played the role of teen Corky Thacher on the series "Life Goes On," the first primetime television show to feature a main character with the genetic disorder. Storylines centered on the Thachers as Corky tried to find his place within his mainstream high school, sister Becca carried on a relationship with her HIV-positive boyfriend, and the whole family managed the ups and downs of middle-class life.

More than two decades later, "Oprah: Where Are They Now?" caught up with the 48-year-old Burke at his home in New York City.

"It's real great to be known on TV," he says in the above video from his interview. "I had the opportunity to do something that I always wanted to do, and now I have done it."

At a young age, Burke had expressed his strong desire to act on television. With his family's support, he landed his first role in the 1987 TV movie "Desperate," which soon led to his big break in "Life Goes On." Whether he's acting or working with the National Down Syndrome Society, Burke says there is an important message at the heart of his success.

"It really shows we all have different talents, and stick at what you're good at," Burke says. "It's not about performing disabilities. It's about performing abilities. That's the message."

"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on OWN.

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5 Ways To Explore The Amazing Planet Earth Without Leaving Your Computer

Fri, 2014-08-22 08:42
If you're sitting at your desk, wishing you were elsewhere, we have the perfect solution for you.

Below are five live-streams that allow you to appreciate the various animals, oceans and sunsets this planet has to offer, all while you're stuck inside. It's Mother Nature in real time.

1. From The International Space Station:

A few months ago, NASA gave us the opportunity to gain a little perspective in a big way. The High Definition Earth Viewing experiment, which went live in late April, tests how high-def video cameras, enclosed in special temperature-specific housing and affixed to the station, will fare in space's extreme environment.

The space station orbits Earth roughly every 90 minutes, which means every so often the screen will be black, because the cameras are facing the parts of Earth that are in "night." But this also means that viewers can watch multiple celestial sunrises and sunsets in a single day. And.they.are.awesome.

2. With The Creatures Of The Open Ocean:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Take a dip with dolphins without getting wet, via the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Open Sea Cam. The feed streams the California aquarium's largest tank, which holds more than 1 million gallons of water.

Watch for long enough and you might see a giant bluefin tuna, a glimmering school of sardines, scalloped hammerheads or lovesick sea turtles. The exhibition, along with the aquarium's many other live displays, aims to "inspire conservation of the oceans."

3. From The Mashatu Game Reserve:

width="570" style="overflow: visible;" border="0" frameBorder="0" seamless>

var iframe = document.getElementById('wildearth-cam');
var ratio = 4.0/3.0; // 4:3 is 4.0/3.0
iframe.height = (iframe.width / ratio) + 32;
var JWPlayer_stream_name = "";

Once hosted by National Geographic, the "Pete's Pond" webcam is now managed by WildEarth and brings you to eastern Botswana, where the Limpopop and Shashe rivers meet. The camera, which is operated by remote volunteers called "zoomies," might give you a glimpse at a hyena stopping by at night, or an elephant playing in the water during the day.

The WildEarth archives highlight the best footage, like this giraffe stopping by for some lunch:

4. From Beaches Around The World:

Surfers usually use's webcams to check out wave conditions, but the feeds are equally useful for those in need of a beach getaway. The cameras stream all day long from almost every continent, giving you the chance to zone out on a virtual vacation. We know you need it.

If you want to see Mother Nature's perfectly-timed power, try to catch surfers shredding during a good wave swell, or terrify yourself by watching while Hawaii's winter surf season consumes the islands' northern coastlines.

5. From A California Sunset:

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

California dreamin'? Now you can bring that dream a little closer to real life while watching the Santa Monica Sunset Cam. The camera streams all day and night, providing a gorgeous view 24/7, but set a reminder if you want to catch the colorful hues of the sunset:

The Media: Cherry Picking News Stories and Failing the Public

Thu, 2014-08-21 21:37
Announcements played overhead at Chicago Metra stations urged customers to participate in the transit company's drive to collect school supplies including pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, rulers, glue, crayons, markers, erasers and more. According to a press release dated the 5th of August, Metra is working in cooperation with the Chicago Public Schools.

Meanwhile, at a nearby hotel conference room where the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) had gathered for their Region IV conference, local media started assembled in preparation for Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn's remarks.

The governor spoke briefly, praising the UWUA for their Utility Workers Military Assistance Program, and their success in training more than two hundred Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, remarking that these jobs were important not only to the veterans who filled them and their co-workers in the union, but to the entire community because, "these jobs are important jobs that protect public safety."

Gov. Quinn also spent a few minutes stressing the value of utility jobs as occupations that could not be outsourced, "These are American jobs. This is what America is all about." Gov. Quinn wasn't just preaching to the choir by reminding the assembled workers that theirs were jobs that had to be done in the United States. He was also making a public statement to the press that, in this critical election year, his opponent couldn't take credit for putting Illinois workers back to work. The jab at opponent, Bruce Rauner, might have hit home, if the press had cared to pay attention.

Bruce Rauner's campaign website biography indirectly mentions Chicago based union jobs but only to state that his company invested their retirement funds. Rauner's investment company that was originally called Golder, Thoma, Cressey (now GTCR) - according to the site - "has been trusted for decades to oversee the retirement investments of first responders, teachers and other Illinois workers and has created tremendous returns for them..." and - one could argue - for Rauner.

Critics might find it ironic and even hypocritical that Rauner is campaigning for the pensions of state workers to be decimated now that he's made his money on them. His website again offers only this comment on Rauner's financial successes over the years - with or without the help of government employee pensions - "Bruce makes no apologies for his success."

When Gov. Quinn stood at the podium he praised the middle class workers assembled before him and noted that, "This country is built on the middle class. The heart and soul of America is a good middle class job." The governor noted that middle class thrives in a country where everyone pays their "fair share."

Gov. Quinn then accused his opponent of not only skipping out on paying his fair share, but also of running a business that helps other companies shirk their responsibilities as well. Gov. Quinn reproached Rauner of offshoring jobs as well as the companies who used to provide those jobs.

The governor closed with a reminder to those assembled that he faced a critical election and had only 75 days left to campaign, "150 if you don't sleep and I'm not sleeping." After shaking nearly every hand in the room the governor walked into the hallway where a dozen or so reporters and photographers were waiting for him.

Not one single reporter asked about the veterans to work programs. Not one single reporter asked about jobs. Not one single reporter asked him to comment on employment figures and the programs instituted by the governor as they related to middle class wages, utility workers, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans employment rates, or the governor's own controversial government employee pension compromise.

What was on the mind of the media after this event which brought utility workers from across the Midwest together in one room was - wait for it - term limits.

One lone reporter mentioned that Rauner remarked earlier this month that he shouldn't have to show anymore of his income tax returns to the people of Illinois. A savvy observer could glean from that comment a veiled reference to the Governor's claim that Rauner offshored businesses for a living.

The governor responded, "His (Rauner's) right to hide what's on his tax returns is not more important than the people of Illinois right to know what's on those returns."

When the press ignores the discussion at hand: issues as vital to the health and security of the working class as middle class wages, the utility workers, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans employment rates, and government employee pensions, one shouldn't be surprised that the public transit system is begging for school supplies.

In Champaign, Similarity and a Possible Way Forward for Ferguson

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:29
Virtually unknown a little more than a week ago, Ferguson, Missouri has, in part through social media's ability to bring light to many of the world's dark corners, come to dominate national, and even global, attention in  the days since police officer Darren Wilson ended Michael Brown's life by shooting him six times.

As difficult as it may be to envision now, amidst the tear gas, rubber bullets, and arresting of protesters young and old, eventually order will return to the suburban St. Louis community.

And, when that time comes, Ferguson residents could look at the actions of members of Champaign's black community in thinking about how to enhance their power going forward.

At first glance, the connection between the city in open revolt where the National Guard has been summoned and the site of Illinois' flagship state university seems tenuous at best.

But a deeper look reveals that the two cities share some important and distressing similarities.

Both erupted in protest after the death of an unarmed African-American teenager at the hands of a white policeman.

In Champaign, it was 15-year-old Kiwane Carrington who died after being shot in broad daylight on a Friday afternoon in October 2009.

Carrington's death sparked a protest movement that led in early 2012 to the retirement under duress of then-Police Chief R.T. Finney.

And both cities have black communities that simmered for years about its treatment by the majority-white police force sworn to protect it before taking direct action after one of their youth was killed.

The disparate treatment is visible in numbers.

In a New York Times article, Jeff Smith, a former state senator from St. Louis and a professor at the New School, cited a recent Missouri report that found that African-Americans were about 67 percent of Ferguson residents, but 93 percent of traffic stops by police.

This pattern occurred despite the fact that white people were more likely than black people to have contraband found on them, Smith wrote.

Champaign had even greater disparities.

Black people in Champaign were 16 percent of the population in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but accounted for at least 40 percent of all arrestees, according to an analysis we did of arrest data in 2012 when I worked at Hoy Chicago.

For some crimes, it was even higher.

Black people accounted for close to 90 percent of jaywalking arrests in Champaign as well as in neighboring Urbana, we found.  (One of the most surreal developments that has taken place since Brown's death was Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson's revelation that Wilson initially stopped the teenager for jaywalking.)

These numbers tell a potent story; the words of the residents speak even louder.

In John Oliver's biting, Last Week Tonight, Robert X, a young Ferguson resident talked about the daily, lower-level harassment he and other black people have endured from the police before Brown's shooting. Check about 2:17 for his comments.

For his part, longtime Champaign resident Charles McClendon described the negative consequences of police aggression, discriminatory practices and profiling on community-police relations. See his statement at the 2:25 mark.

Yet members of the black community fought back not only through the gritty protests being waged by many resilient people in Ferguson, but through a way that has the potential to bring about more enduring change: they voted.

Whereas turnout in black neighborhoods in Champaign historically had been low, leaders organized a stealth voter turnout campaign that some attributed as playing a critical role in underdog independent candidate Don Gerard defeating three-time incumbent and "birther" Jerry Schweighart by a margin of several hundred votes.

One of Gerard's first major appointments was to name Anthony Cobb, a black Champaign native, to head the police department.

Many members of the black community expressed their confidence in Cobb's ability to improve community-police relationships.

Champaign-area activists maintained that they needed to stay active after Cobb's appointment, and an analysis of arrests data appeared to confirm their point. Although the total number of arrests dropped during the first six months of Cobb's tenure, the percentage of black people arrested remained essentially unchanged.

Activist Martell Miller said Monday that the community has grown disillusioned with Gerard in the years since his victory, but gave Cobb high marks for communication.

As Oliver and others have noted, the repeated communication gaffes from various levels of law enforcement and politicians have been the proverbial gasoline on the fire caused by Brown's killing, with the latest being the dramatic understatement of the number of arrests Monday night.

It would be both naive and facile to say that better information sharing could have avoided the outrage that has been sparked and that continues to rage on Ferguson's troubled streets.

It's also important to be clear both about the limitations of the comparison and the extensive amount of multi-layered change needed in both communities.

Still, when the turbulence ultimately subsides, Ferguson residents can continue to strategize about the longer-term steps they and others can take to bring about the deep changes that are sorely needed to end the mistreatment and injustice they have endured for so long.

The Little League World Series Shows Everything Right In Sports (And What The Pros Are Missing)

Thu, 2014-08-21 16:55
Hey, is this heaven? No, it's South Williamsport.

Every August 16 youth baseball teams from around the globe descend on Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa. for the Little League World Series. First held in 1947, the event annually reminds everyone why they first fell in love with sports. In place of the highly-paid prima donna athletes and the recycled media hot takes they inspire, those tuning into ESPN for the Little League World Series are often treated to something increasingly hard to find: They will discover an unadulterated game imbued with joy and passion that produces both must-see highlights and heartwarming moments.

Here are 19 ways that all of those boys and girls of summer established the Little League World Series as a one-of-a-kind reminder of everything that can be right about sports.

Girls Don't Just Participate, They Dominate

This "World Series" Actually Invites The World

Pint-Sized Players Can Make A Major Impact

But So Can The Massive Ones

These Kids Aren't Pros, But They Can Really Hit ...

And Pitch ...

And Catch ...

And Celebrate Just Like All-Stars

All The Youngsters Get Big League Treatment

And The Attention Of Big Leaguers

Mo'ne Davis is straight to watch !!! #LLWS #MidAtlantic

— Mike Trout (@Trouty20) August 15, 2014

Yet Can Act Mature When An Ump Blows A Call

These Kids Care About The Games And Each Other

And Really Do Say The Darndest Things

Especially If You Question Their Power

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They Also Bring Communities Together

Only A Few Players Will Become MLB All-Stars

But All Are Heroes While In Williamsport

12-year-olds signing autographs for people is always a funny sight. #LLWS

— Kevin Horne (@KevinHornePSU) August 20, 2013

Where Even The Sad Moments Are Inspirational

And Sportsmanship Isn't An Aspiration, It's Tradition

7 Things That Are Not Like Rape

Thu, 2014-08-21 16:10
This week in stupid, men are lamenting that they are expected to make sure they aren't raping people.

Chris Herries, a senior at Stanford University, complained to Bloomberg News that the burden is on men to not rape.

There's an assumption female students shouldn't avoid drunkenness or risky behaviors, Herries said, before offering this gem of a comparison: "Do I deserve to have my bike stolen if I leave it unlocked on the quad? We have to encourage people not to take on undue risk."


Rape is not like stealing a bike. Women -- or men, for that matter -- do not have a responsibility to "lock themselves up" to avoid rape.

This is coming from a student at an elite university. One that is criticized for punishing a student it finds guilty of sexual assault with a forced "gap year." But that's besides the point. It's a comment from a student in California, which is currently considering a new law requiring colleges to adopt affirmative consent standards when dealing with sexual assault. It's part of a growing trend shifting from "no means no," to "only yes means yes."

Now that we've cleared up that sexual assault is not like stealing a bike, let's look at other things that are not like rape.

Drunk Driving

James Taranto, a man who knows so much about how women should live their lives, compared rape that happens while people are intoxicated to drunk driving.

"If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn't determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver's sex. But when two drunken college students 'collide,' the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault," Taranto wrote.


Both drunk driving and rape are against the law. We'd suggest a woman has a right not to be raped, and no one has a right to drive a car. Also, a person's body is not a car.


University of North Carolina graduate Annie Clark filed a federal complaint against her alma mater reporting a school official had commented to her, "Rape is like football, if you look back on the game, and you're the quarterback, Annie... is there anything you would have done differently?"

Come again?

Rape is not like a football game. Football games are potentially fun activities played by people who enjoy the sport. Rape is a violent crime.

Car Accidents

Michigan Right to Life President Barbara Listing said forcing women to purchase extra insurance to cover abortion in the cases of rape or incest was just like car insurance. "It's simply, like, nobody plans to have an accident in a car accident, nobody plans to have their homes flooded. You have to buy extra insurance for those," Listing told reporters.

Ugh, again with the car accidents?!

Women's bodies are far different than cars. Cars don't produce babies.

Root Sin

Katie Landry looked for help at her college, Bob Jones University, after being raped. A dean told her, "We have to find the sin in your life that caused your rape." Another student at BJU was told by a school official that her PTSD from her rape was her "own fault, because you're choosing to replay pornographic thoughts in your mind." That second student was told to call her rapist and ask for forgiveness.


Just no.

Bad Weather

In 1990, Texas gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams compared cold, foggy weather spoiling an event to rape, stating, "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."

Oh, God, no!

Ann Richards, a state treasurer at the time and eventual Texas governor responded thusly: "Rape is a crime of violence."


When Lawrence Lockman, a Republican lawmaker in Maine, was part of the Pro Life Education Association he compared abortion to rape, stating, "If a woman has [the right to an abortion], why shouldn't a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist's pursuit of sexual freedom doesn't [in most cases] result in anyone's death."


Rape is not like an abortion. It just isn't. Which is only part of the reason why the U.S. Supreme Court has stated a woman has a right to an abortion, but has not said the same about men and rape.

Bottom line: Rape is rape. There is no "legitimate rape." There is no reason to compare rape to car accidents, stealing bikes or bad weather. If you find yourself questioning whether the comparison you're about to make with rape is acceptable, it probably isn't. Because ultimately, no one understands what it's like to experience sexual assault other than a survivor of one.

Ferguson: The Untold Story

Thu, 2014-08-21 14:55
Think you have a pretty good idea of what's going on in Ferguson, Missouri? You may not, even if you've been watching a lot of cable news. Especially if you've been watching a lot of cable news. If the media's job is to give viewers and readers an accurate and full idea of what's really going on, we have to acknowledge that there is a long way to go. Of course, Ferguson is not an isolated case. But it is a chance for those of us in the media to expand our understanding of our role in covering the news.

We know there is racial division in Ferguson. The police officer who shot Michael Brown on Aug. 9 is part of a force that's 94-percent white in a town that's 67-percent black. The anger, resentment and concerns of the protesters are real. So is the disturbing trend of the militarization of our police force, and the way that minority communities bear the brunt of this. But endlessly rerunning protests getting out of hand, looting, tear-gassing and arrests is not giving viewers a full picture of what is happening in the community at large. Yes, all these things have happened, but what else is happening in the community? For much of cable news, nothing else. And that's simply not true.

In fact, one does not have to harbor the kind of delusions evidently held by Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, who claimed, "There's not a racial divide in the city," to see there is another side to Ferguson. The conflict, the arrests, the looting, the tear gas, the division -- that's a part of the story. But only a part. At HuffPost we have certainly been covering that part, but we are also committed to telling the "untold story" (as our splash put it on Tuesday). This untold story is one of compassion, ingenuity, kindness, trust, collaboration and community -- of the many who have reached out to help those caught in middle of the conflict, whether children who couldn't go to school or strangers without a place to stay.

Here are some of the stories we have run this week: There were looters, but there were also many people protecting stores from being looted, and cleaning up and giving support to those affected by the looting; there were people donating to local food pantries and offering rides and shelter to reporters; there were religious leaders from all faiths bolstering a sense of community; and there was Sonny Dayean, who owns a cellphone store and, as the riots began Saturday night, was afraid for his store and fought to make his way back to it.

HuffPost's Ryan Reilly spoke to Dayean and discovered that when he finally got there early the next morning, he saw that his store had indeed been broken into. But what he didn't expect was what happened next:

The good part is the people who were out here were waiting outside, they wanted to help me. So as soon as I got here, they said 'Can I help you? Can I do this, can I do that?' ... So that was very overwhelming, I didn't think I'd come in there to be so overwhelmed by the community.

Congregations of all denominations were busy cleaning up and helping people. The Passage Community Church in Florissant helped organize a cleanup. "I was very encouraged coming out here today, seeing all the groups helping," said Elise Park, a stay-at-home mom who brought along her two young children. "It's an opportunity for me to invest and really become part of the community."

In fact, HuffPost was a direct recipient of that community spirit. After Ryan Reilly was arrested, along with the Washington Post's Wesley Lowery, HuffPost Live producer Christine Conetta found herself in a bit of a jam. She was blocked by a police wall from getting to Ryan, who had all the equipment, including the rental-car keys. She couldn't even get to the police station to meet him there. Then the tear gas began, sending her fleeing into a neighborhood she was unfamiliar with. One stranger gave her a T-shirt to block the tear gas. Another helped her find her way back to the memorial site, where yet another offered her a ride to the police station. "The community was just very welcoming," said Christine. "Nobody was asking why I was there. Everybody said they appreciated the media being there and covering the ordeal and never had any qualms about answering questions."

That rallying spirit of coming together went beyond Ferguson. The Wisconsin Hope Lab helped secure college scholarships for the three siblings of Michael Brown. And since the first day of school for Ferguson kids has been moved back several days -- along with the lunches many of them depend on -- Raleigh, North Carolina, teacher Julianna Mendelsohn, in collaboration with a food bank in St. Louis, took to Fundly to raise money to fill in the food gap.

And there were hundreds more expressions of the better angels of our nature, a sample of them captured by our reporters on Twitter: Ferguson residents helping clean up; giving out diapers and children's books; handing out water, cookies and juice; setting up a food station for the protesters; giving the protesters free pizza; helping protesters hit with tear gas; letting strangers stay in their homes; lending a cellphone so someone could call his mother; handing out free lunches to anyone in the community -- including the police; giving free coffee and wifi to members of the press covering the story; and protecting a store from being looted.

It's all part of a larger picture of Ferguson that hasn't been very much in evidence in the media. But for Ferguson committeewoman Patricia Bynes it's not unexpected. "I'm not surprised because I live here, and I know that we have great people here," she told HuffPost. "So during times like this, this is when those people just step up and just fill the need."

To illustrate her point, Bynes recounted having seen a woman walking around during the protests with a gallon of milk -- to help those suffering from the tear gas. "Everybody has their weapon of choice," Bynes said. "Last night, she was my hero." And Bynes herself got in on the act too, giving a ride to a stranger, who then thanked her on Twitter.

Though she says it's been "heart-wrenching" to watch her community struggle, Bynes said it's also "brought out the best" in Ferguson. "There's something remarkable going on," she said.

In fact, this remarkable spirit of compassion and reaching out is the norm during crises. That's the focus of a fascinating book by Rebecca Solnit called A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. Here Solnit shows how the real story of what happens when things break down is actually the opposite of the cherry-picked narrative the media create. She describes how, even in times of danger and pain, powerful feelings of community are evoked -- born from our hardwired need to connect. It's a "sense of immersion in the moment and solidarity with the others caused by the rupture in everyday life," she writes, "an emotion graver than happiness but deeply positive. ... We don't even have a language for this emotion, in which the wonderful comes wrapped in the terrible, joy in sorrow, courage in fear. We cannot welcome disaster, but we can value the responses, both practical and psychological."

And this is incredibly important, because it shows us what's possible, not only for ourselves but for our society. Solnit goes on to write about how we're often wistful for a supposed "paradise" of community spirit that always seems to have resided only in some long-forgotten era. But it's in moments of crisis that we see our power to create it for ourselves:

[W]hat if paradise flashed up among us from time to time -- at the worst of times? What if we glimpsed it in the jaws of hell? These flashes give us, as the long ago and far away do not, a glimpse of who else we ourselves may be and what else our society could become.

Solnit's lovely description of that potential has actually been borne out by science. A 2006 study published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science found that in the case of Hurricane Katrina, contrary to "the imagery employed by the media," what filled the government and institutional vacuum was "a great variety of new, nontraditional or emergent behavior." Yes, there was looting, misery and indefensible neglect, but it wasn't the whole story. "Not being able to act in traditional ways," write the authors, "most of the citizens and groups in New Orleans as well as the rest of Louisiana rose to the challenge by engaging in primarily new but relevant coping behavior."

But that's not what most people saw. This is why the media need to expand their understanding of their role in times of crisis. The media's job is to report not just all that's dreadful, corrupt, dysfunctional and violent in our world but what's working, and the powerful and humane ways people in communities respond to that violence and corruption and dysfunction.

We often hear the bromide about how it's not the media's job to report on the houses that didn't burn down or the planes that didn't crash. And I'm not saying they should. A house not burning down or a plane not crashing is normal and unremarkable. But the response we've seen in Ferguson, and during other crises, is remarkable. We've seen some extremes of bad behavior in Ferguson, but we've also seen some extremes of good behavior -- though in the media we mostly see only the former.

The spirit on display in Ferguson -- as it was during Katrina -- is a glimpse not just of who we may become but of who we are right now. It's there, it's on display, and it's manifesting itself. And perhaps we would glimpse this side of ourselves more often if the media acknowledged it more often. It's not entirely absent, but too often it's relegated to the "hero" segment closing the local news, or to the Thanksgiving piece down at the local food bank.

We also know that what the media choose to shine a light on matters. The phenomenon of copycat crimes and the contagion effect of suicides are well established. So perhaps we'd see more than glimpses of our better angels if the media decided to include them as the vital part of the story that they in fact are. I'm not asking for depictions of utopia or a Pollyanna filter on the news. At The Huffington Post we're relentless in our coverage of corruption, injustice, poverty, joblessness, inequality and racial discrimination, but we are equally relentless in giving our readers and viewers a full and accurate idea of the entire human story. And that includes a lot of good news, which is why we even have an entire section dedicated to it.

Giving only one side breeds cynicism and a sense of hopelessness. The divisions and inequities exposed in Ferguson are real and formidable. But so is the spirit of those in Ferguson who have risen to this challenge with compassion, empathy and trust. And for those who want to join them, here are 10 ways you too can help. And we are definitely going to keep the focus on Ferguson long after the national spotlight dims -- both on the conflicts and divisions and on the acts of compassion and giving that bring the community together.

9-Year-Old Boy Fatally Shot In Chicago Yard

Thu, 2014-08-21 14:43
A distraught family is looking for answers after a 9-year-old boy was fatally shot in the back yard of a Chicago apartment building Wednesday afternoon.

Antonio Smith was shot multiple times about 4 p.m. Wednesday behind a building a few blocks from his home in the city's Grand Crossing neighborhood, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. He was taken to an area hospital and pronounced dead about an hour after the shooting.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Antonio enjoyed dancing and playing football. He would have been starting his fourth-grade year this fall.

"He was just a child, just a baby, still had a whole life ahead of him. And why? Just a child," Antonio's cousin Kenya Eggleston told the Tribune. “When is it going to stop?"

Eggleston and other family members are now urging the boy's shooter to come forward and turn himself in.

"My baby, he was a good kid. He was a mama's boy," Antonio's mother Brandi Murray told ABC Chicago. "My boy, he was just an angel."

No arrests have been made as of Thursday afternoon, and police have released few additional details as their investigation continues.

Father Michael Pfleger of St. Sabina's Church in Chicago is offering a $5,000 award will be offered for information benefiting the case, the anti-violence activist announced Thursday.

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Post by Father Michael Pfleger.

In a Thursday interview with DNAinfo Chicago, Pfleger said he believed people should have the "same anger" as a result of the third grader's shooting death as they did in response to Michael Brown's killing in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, located on Chicago's South Side, ranked sixth among the city's 77 community areas when it comes to the number of violent crimes reported per resident in the past month, according to the Tribune.

11 Biggest Charitable Illinois Donors in 2014

Thu, 2014-08-21 14:40
Illinoisans are a generous bunch when it comes to charitable causes, but not all have millions of dollars to donate. Those who do often give to organizations or institutions that made a significant impact during the course of their lives.

We've compiled a list of the largest Illinois philanthropists in 2014 thus far. In order to be on this list, the donors must live in Illinois and have given a minimum $1 million donation to an organization or institution -- either non-profit or for-profit -- within the state. Some of these gifts are bequests from individuals who have passed away.

16. David and Libby Savner
Source of wealth: Law

Cause: Colleges and Universities

Recipient: Northwestern University School of Law - Chicago

Gift value: $1 million

*David and Libby Savner's $1 million donation will aid in the construction of a classroom for technology-based instruction as well as an endowment to maintain the classroom. David Savner, who graduated from Northwestern's law school in 1968, is a partner at the Chicago-based law firm, Jenner & Block, and was formerly senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at General Dynamics Corp. -- a global defense contractor.

15. Janet Kjellstrom
Source of wealth: Investments

Cause: Social services

Recipient: United Way of Rock River Valley (Rockford, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*For United Way of Rock River Valley's endowment.

14. Morris and Jane Weeden
Source of wealth: Manufacturing

Cause: Arts

Recipient: Art Institute of Chicago

Gift value (bequest): $1 million

*Morris and Jane Weeden's $1 million bequest will help establish a research fund for the Art Institute of Chicago's department of American decorative arts. Morris Weeden retired from the Chicago-based company, Morton Thiokol, which manufactures specialty chemicals and propulsion systems. Morris and Jane Weeden passed away just one month apart, in May and April 2013, respectively.

13. John and Rita Canning
Source of wealth: Finance

Cause: Colleges and Universities

Recipient: Harper College (Palatine, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*Funds will be allocated toward the school's women's program, which offers support to single parents, domestic violence survivors and homemakers. John Canning is the chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners.

12. Janet Kjellstrom
Source of wealth: Investments

Cause: Social services

Recipient: United Way of Rock River Valley (Rockford, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*For United Way of Rock River Valley's endowment.

11. Greenberg Family
Source of wealth: Health care

Cause: Health

Recipient: Carle Foundation (Urbana, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*The Greenberg family's donation will establish the Dr. Eugene Greenberg Digestive Health Institute, which will aid in the institute's clinical care, research and education. Eugene Greenberg is a gastroenterologist at the Carle Physician Group in Urbana

10. Susan Brennan and Bob Morrison
Source of wealth: Advertising

Cause: Education

Recipient: Woodlands Academy of the Sacred (Lake Forest, Ill.)

Gift value: $1 million

*The $1 million donation will be used for the academy's endowment, where Susan Brennan Morrison graduated in 1969. She was a former executive at the Chicago-based advertising firm, DDB Needham.

9. Pat and Lou Bachrodt
Source of wealth: Retail

Cause: Education

Recipient: Boylan Catholic High School (Rockford, Ill.)

Gift value (challenge): $1 million

*Pat and Lou Bachrodt run a chain of family-owned car dealerships in Rockford. The $1 million gift was part of Boylan Catholic High School's "Imagine Campaign," which hopes to raise $10 million for school funds. Pat and Lou's father spearheaded the effort to raise $3.5 million for the initial construction of Boylan in 1960, according to Rockford Register Star.

8. Thomas and Barbara Galvin
Source of wealth: Family wealth, telecommunications

Cause: Health

Recipient: Presence Saint Joseph Hospital (Elgin, Ill.)

Gift value (bequest): $1.2 million

*Thomas Galvin's father and brother co-founded Motorola. He died in 2003, and his late wife, Barbara, passed away this year.

7. Samuel and Ann Mencoff
Source of wealth: Finance

Cause: Arts

Recipient: Art Institute of Chicago

Gift value: $2 million

*Samuel and Ann Mencoff's $2 million gift will endow a curatorial position within the department of American decorative arts at the Art Institute of Chicago. Samuel Mencoff is the co-CEO of Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm. Mencoff is also a member of the Art Institute's Board of Trustees.

6. Paul L. Ward
Source of wealth: Education

Cause: Colleges and universities

Recipient: Eastern Illinois University

Gift value (bequest): $3.7 million

*Paul Ward was a former professor of educational psychology at Eastern Illinois University; he died in June 2011. The money will provide scholarships to students majoring in counseling and student development.

Check out the top five Illinois donors to Illinois causes at Reboot Illinois.

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The Bakery Where The Twinkie Was Invented Is Closing For Good

Thu, 2014-08-21 13:54
CHICAGO (AP) -- Hostess Brands plans to close the suburban Chicago bakery where the Twinkie was invented in 1930, cutting 400 jobs and shuttering a piece of American baking history.

The company said Wednesday it plans to close the Schiller Park bakery in October.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times ( ), Hostess Brands CEO Bill Toler said the company is closing the plant as it tries to improve efficiency.

"While the old Hostess company was in bankruptcy, many competitors took over the shelves and are tenaciously defending their business and thus we must be highly efficient and technologically advanced to compete," he said.

Hostess filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

The plant's employees were stunned by the news, Donald Woods said. He is president of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 1.

"They were working like 12 hours, six days a week, and they were looking for this plant to be a part of their future," he said, adding that the workers voted in May to rejoin the union. They had been told the company planned to keep the plant open long term, he said.

The bakery had just reopened a little over a year ago as Twinkies returned to store shelves after Hostess' bankruptcy.

The spongy, cream-filled snack cake was invented in Schiller Park in 1930 by a bakery manager looking for uses for idle shortcake pans.


Information from: Chicago Sun-Times,

Illinois term limits effort comes to an end in court

Thu, 2014-08-21 11:35
An Illinois appellate court has written the obituary for virtually any citizen-led effort, ever, to impose term limits on state lawmakers.

Wednesday's ruling from the First District Court of Appeals about legislative term limits in Illinois upholds a June decision by Cook County Circuit Judge Mary Mikva that found the proposed amendment unconstitutional and ineligible for inclusion on the ballot.

The appeals court affirmed Mikva's ruling. It says that term limits are outside the bounds of citizen initiatives. The Illinois constitution specifies that citizen-initiated constitutional amendments (as opposed to those initiated by lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly) can seek to change only the structure and procedure of the legislature.

One section worth noting can be found on page 10, paragraph 22 of the opinion:

Based on the cases discussed above, some components of the Committee's proposed amendment may very well comply with article XIV, section 3. However, the proposed amendment is ultimately invalid because of its term limits provision.

Essentially, this means term limits are off limits from citizen-initiated constitutional amendment proposals. Only the General Assembly, which is not limited in the scope of constitutional amendments it can pursue, can place a term limits question on the ballot. Check out the court's full decision at Reboot Illinois.

Republican candidate for governorer Bruce Rauner has been at the forefront of the term limits fight. But how is his fight for the governership going? Paul Green has some thoughts for Rauner and Gov. Pat Quinn on how to make the most of the next few months on the campaign trail throughout the different regions of Illinois. Green said knows money, issues, personalities, endorsements and other factors can all impact the race. But the only thing that really matters in November is what the voters do. How can Quinn and Rauner win over Illinois voters?

Deep Justice in Ferguson

Thu, 2014-08-21 11:32
Black 'hood, white cops. "Get the fuck on the sidewalk."

And so it begins, and begins, and begins. An African-American boy dies for walking in the street -- for yet one more insanely small transgression. Protesters cry for justice. The legal bureaucracy hunkers down, defends itself, does what it can to paint the deceased 18-year-old, Michael Brown, as a bad guy. Sides harden in the media. Once more it's us vs. them. Nobody talks about making things right; nobody talks about healing.

But we can't talk about healing -- yet. We can't talk about Ferguson, Mo., and the standoff between angry residents and the heavily militarized police, now two weeks old, without talking about institutional racism. In a healthy, free society, the idea of a "standoff" like this would be absurd, because the police aren't a separate entity, controlling that society on outside orders, like an occupying army. In a healthy society, police serve the community; they're part of it.

What has happened, and is happening, in Ferguson is sufficiently preposterous and cruel that the mainstream media coverage hasn't completely surrendered its sympathy to the police and portrayed all the protesters as rioters. A young man, walking in the street with a friend, was shot six times -- twice in the head -- by a police officer. Even if the police version of events (he was defiant, there was a struggle) is true, the shooting was an act of breathtaking aggression and should never have happened. And so many witnesses dispute this story, the reality looks a lot more like cold-blooded murder; thus the residents of Ferguson have a right to demand answers, and justice.

What they also have a right to demand, though most of the coverage hardly acknowledges as much, is control over their own community and complete assurance that they are not regarded by their "protectors" as the enemy. They have a right to demand deep justice -- and deep change. Michael Brown's shooting was not an isolated incident; it's part of the legacy of manifest destiny, a.k.a., racism that has shaped the United States of America.

"Michael Brown's tragic death," writes Nadia Prupis at Common Dreams, "is part of a much more pervasive trend of police brutality on large and small scales that is strengthened and perpetuated by militarization -- one that encourages the police to see the people as an enemy, and vice versa."

The enemy, in particular, are people of color. Prupis quotes Eastern Kentucky University professor Victor E. Kappeler: "The institution of slavery and the control of minorities . . . were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing."

Slavery, of course, is "history." The conventional understanding is that we're long past that regrettable era. Human enslavement occurred so long ago it might as well be part of some other national history -- some other universe. Bringing it up, at least in the media, is in poor taste, apparently, guaranteed to summon groans and eyeball rolls. This is the case even though it's been barely a generation since the civil rights movement curtailed slavery's direct descendant, the Jim Crow laws and vicious racial discrimination on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Confederate flags still decorate public space and private consciousness. No matter. Slavery is history. Let's move on.

But, as Kappeler, who is in the School of Justice Studies, goes on to say: "The similarities between the slave patrols and modern American policing are too salient to dismiss or ignore. Hence, the slave patrol should be considered a forerunner of modern American law enforcement.

"The legacy of slavery and racism did not end after the Civil War," he adds. "In fact it can be argued that extreme violence against people of color became even worse with the rise of vigilante groups who resisted Reconstruction."

One phrase lingers: "control of minorities." Could it be that such an imperative is part of our social DNA? This is institutional racism. It would put the Ferguson killing into an all-too-graspable context, beginning with Officer Darren Wilson's command -- "Get the fuck on the sidewalk" -- to Michael Brown and his friend. The officer wasn't keeping order in Ferguson; he was controlling the movement of two young African-American males, who are "minorities" despite the fact that Ferguson is mostly black.

I have no doubt that the standoff in Ferguson -- the demand for change -- goes this deep. I also have no doubt that tear gas won't pacify the protesters and replace their anger with fear of authority. Neither will all the military hardware the Defense Department can supply.

Fascinatingly, the standoff between police and protesters all but ended for one evening a week ago, when the governor pulled the local police force off the front lines and gave control of the situation to Captain Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Instead of confronting the protesters as the enemy, Johnson, who is black and grew up in Ferguson, joined them. There were no gas masks, no armored vehicles -- and, suddenly, no standoff.

At Michael Brown's memorial service, Johnson said: "I will protect your right to protest." Turning to the boy's family, he added: "My heart goes out to you. I'm sorry."

This was a mirage, of course. The tear gas and confrontation -- the occupying army -- returned soon enough, and the community split apart again.

But deep change is coming. The events in Ferguson have forced our history out of hiding.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at


This Man Has Mad Rhythm, And His Love For Tap Dancing And Community Speaks Volumes

Thu, 2014-08-21 11:08
Bril Barrett was just 5 years old -- or 4, according to his mother -- when he met the love of his life: tap dance.

And It's clear from speaking to Barrett, the founder of M.A.D.D. Rhythms, a Chicago-based tap dancing collective and academy, that his romance is still very much alive today, some 30 years later.

Growing up on the West Side of Chicago, Barrett hadn't even started kindergarten when he first encountered tap thanks to a Better Boys Foundation theater program his mother encouraged him to try as a means of keeping him busy and out of trouble.

The program, he told The Huffington Post, included voice, drama and dance training, but the tap lessons are what truly captured him. "I was in love with it," he says. "I tried a lot of different things, but tap spoke to me."

Barrett remained committed to his tap lessons; he dreamed of one day becoming a professional dancer. At the age of 11, he says, he met a man named Mr. Taps who danced for change at subway stations. Barrett was so intrigued, he asked if he could perform alongside Mr. Taps, which he proceeded to do until the age of 15.

As he continued to develop his skills, he began to teach tap while in high school and auditioned for whatever theatrical productions passing through town required tap dancers. Before long, he joined the touring cast of "The Tap Dance Kid" musical and later toured with "Riverdance."

He had, in his mind, made it, but finding work between gigs wasn't always so easy, and he began to brainstorm an initiative that could serve as a foundation that he could occasionally leave for a tour and later return to.

That foundation eventually became M.A.D.D. Rhythms, which Barrett formed in 2001 and initially financed with his own money.

From the start, Barrett explains, the company's mission extended beyond just offering dance lessons. Having grown up with little money or resources, he watched as many of his peers "ended up on drugs, in jail or dead -- or a combination that led to the third one." That's not a future he wanted for others, especially his younger brother, who was among his company's first students.

"It unofficially started it as a volunteer program for young black men to have someone like me who had been in a situation like them and had found their way out, so I could be an example to them," he says. "Coming from the community that I came from, there weren't a lot of people sharing opportunities like that."

After his little sister objected, the program expanded to include female students. Today, M.A.D.D. Rhythms offers classes for youth, adults and families and continues to participate with the Better Boys Foundation, After School Matters and additional programs inside Chicago schools.

Barrett is also the director of the Chicago Tap Summit, which performs throughout Chicago and the nation. Last year, the company performed at the Kennedy Center, and this spring, the group made an appearance on the "Steve Harvey Show."

(Story continues below)

Barrett says he's aware that life could have turned out very differently for him -- which is why he says his program's community focus has "never been an option for me."

"Tap saved my life. If someone hadn't exposed me to the art form, I could have very well wound up a statistic like a lot of the guys who grew up around me," he said.

"Kids in underserved communities aren't exposed to as much different stuff so they don't understand you have all these options to choose from," he continued. "I really wanted to be someone who brought new options. It's a big part of what drives me -- to make sure they have other choices in front of them so that the drugs or the gangbangers on the corner are not the only options they see."

Chicagoans will be seeing more of M.A.D.D. Rhythms on Friday, as the company performs downtown as part of the summerlong Living Loop Fest, which Barrett sees as another opportunity to expose the public to a sometimes misunderstood art form.

Barrett, who says he's become an accidental tap "advocate," wants to set the record straight. He points to the success of the Beyoncé-approved Syncopated Ladies on "So You Think You Can Dance" as another example of how tap is much more than Old Hollywood actors dancing in black-and-white movies.

"People think tap is such an everyman's dance form. People refer to it as a dying art form, but it's not dead, and it's not old-fashioned," he says. "It's here, it's now, it's current, and it always will be."

'Kissed By A Pit' Challenges Dog Lovers To Get Slobbered On For Shelter Pups

Thu, 2014-08-21 10:59
The pit bull version of the ice bucket challenge won't get you wet, unless your dog's a big drooler.

The #kissedbyapit gauntlet's been thrown by the good people of Dog Park Publishing, a company that makes pit bull-celebrating calendars and other products. To complete this one, all you need to do is put up a picture of yourself kissing a pit, and send a $5 donation to the animal rescue group or shelter of your choice.

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Post by Pit Bulls and Itty Pitties.

Pit smoochers should also tag the Dog Park Facebook page like the folks below have done since this challenge got started on Wednesday.

"We are thrilled with the response we have already received," Dog Park Publishing co-founders Alisa Weberman and Jonathan Korzen told HuffPost by email. "It means we are showing pit bulls in a positive light and raising money for rescues and shelters across the world."

We really can't get enough of these photos and videos. And sure looks like the dogs are into it, too!

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Police Accountability After Ferguson

Thu, 2014-08-21 10:50
When I awoke to news of the National Guard coming to Ferguson Monday morning, I felt like I had been transported back to Newark, New Jersey. Not the Newark I left a few months ago to return to St. Louis, but the Newark of the summer of '67, when violence erupted, tanks rolled in and any remaining tendrils of trust between police and citizens burned with the city.

Over the 13 years I spent in Newark as Executive Director for the ACLU of New Jersey, I worked to repair the culture of police misconduct that lingered in Newark since that devastating summer. Each year, the ACLU office received countless requests for help with policing issues, many from parents seeking to address harassment and abuse on behalf of their children. A typical story is that of Tony Jetter-Ivey who police stopped, harassed and roughed up (along with his Pop Warner football coach and another player) without cause, leaving all three in fear for their lives and permanently eroding 13-year-old Tony's trust in police.

Such interactions remain the most direct and dangerous confrontations that citizens have with their government. African Americans and other communities of color are disproportionately targets. Given this reality, it's hard to understand why we have not enforced strong standards and practices nationwide to put an end to all-too-frequent tragedies like the killing of Michael Brown, and all abuse of power. Following Newark's uprisings, its citizens endured more than four decades of difficulties with the police. Today, in Ferguson and the rest of the country, we cannot abide by such a timeline. We need police accountability now.

But what does real police accountability look like? No single approach fits or fixes all. Instead, it requires three-prongs: internal controls (such as in-service training, use of dashboard and body cameras, and strong and credible internal affairs offices), progressive police leadership, and independent, external oversight. Together these can lead to sustainable reform.

But even with all stars aligned, improving policing in departments with entrenched cultures has proven a challenging endeavor. Departmental culture plays a defining role in how police officers conduct their work, and it flows from the top, or, as they say, rots from the head. Thus, we can only make progress on accountability with the right police leaders. In addition to recruiting qualified officers who reflect the communities they serve, cities must select chiefs with the kinds of qualities that will enhance the integrity and professionalism of the department. We need police professionals who, despite the natural discomfort of subjecting one's work to outsider review, embrace best practices and understand the role of oversight. In Ferguson we have seen indicators of such leadership from Captain Ron Johnson, who walked side-by-side with protesters, listened to people's concerns and spoke authentically about his own feelings on the matter.

I worked with two very different police directors in Newark. The first, brought in from NYPD, came to the table and made commitments, but did not take accountability seriously enough to follow through with any meaningful reforms (much to the expressed frustration of engaged citizens). To my surprise, the second, who rose through the ranks in Newark and had a reputation, neither dismissed nor acted defensively in response to our concerns. We often disagreed, but where we found common ground, he made improvements and in doing so strengthened police relationships with the community (and may have even avoided costly litigation). Even the simple step of providing clear policy guidance and training to officers that affirmed citizens' rights to videotape police in public went a long way toward deflecting hostilities between police and citizens, not to mention helping prevent false arrests and mistreatment, like that experienced by Newark high school student Khaliah Fitchette (now at Cornell University) who police took into custody when she used her phone to record officers responding to a problem on a city bus.

The most critical prong of sustainable reform is an independent and empowered external oversight body. These offices can take different forms. Some police departments become the subject of external monitoring as a result of a Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation. A number of cities including New York and San Diego have citizen review boards, though many lack sufficient resources, authority and access to information to succeed. Some jurisdictions, like Orange County, California and Denver, have permanent independent monitors. Departments with consistent, ongoing monitoring have the best hope to sustain reforms and maintain accountability.

Engaging with the DOJ is often necessary to force police departments to abide by their own internal controls. In Newark, the ACLU ultimately petitioned the Department of Justice to investigate police misconduct. Newark did not have a high-profile shooting like in Ferguson to bring attention to its problems, but we used the scant public records available to document 418 incidents of police misconduct over two and a half years, including nine wrongful deaths or deaths in custody. Last month, more than four years after the ACLU's petition, the DOJ completed its investigation and announced long-term monitoring for Newark.

Meanwhile, in Ferguson, numerous groups have already called for a DOJ investigation of Michael Brown's death, as well as the overall climate of discriminatory policing in St. Louis' North County. While the death of Michael Brown ignited this uprising, the community knows all too well that years and years of frustration with police harassment built the fire, and it isn't limited to Ferguson.

Even in the best scenario, it takes many years and significant resources to change police culture and build trust. To adequately respond to the crisis in Ferguson - for Missourians and across the nation - our leaders must commit to reform, both philosophically and financially. Naysayers should consider costs of reform against the costs of doing nothing: community distrust, loss of life, and chaos in the streets.

We are all witnesses to the fact of Michael Brown's death and the brutality that has followed, by virtue of the ever-present coverage of the news coming out of Ferguson. We have seen the stunning failure of the government to respond with measure, reason or transparency. As witnesses, let's seize this opportunity to participate in ensuring a system of police and government accountability to the people it serves. Each of us is responsible for fighting to make this the priority it deserves to be across the country. For our nation, police accountability is long, embarrassingly and heartbreakingly overdue.

Vic Mensa Explains Why Ferguson Protesters Are 'The Real Public Defenders'

Thu, 2014-08-21 09:34
In the wake of the tragic shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, some artists have taken the time to reach out to people immersed in protest and, often, tear gas. Hip-hop legends J. Cole and Nelly have made their voice known, and now rising hip-hop star Vic Mensa is ready to enter the conversation. Mensa spoke to HuffPost Entertainment about the systemized racism against minorities, the ever-increasing militarization of law enforcement and how accountability can help us build a better nation.

What has been your initial reaction to everything that has happened in Ferguson over the past two weeks?

You know, it’s been hugely publicized on every outlet and it doesn’t seem to have changed or helped the direction of the Ferguson police and the National Guard. The whole thing really just shines an unflattering spotlight on our nation’s systemized racism and oppression of poor black people.

There’s two things that we are seeing here: The first is, as you mentioned, the systemized racism in our nation, and the second is the increased militarization and abuse of power amongst police. We have seen cases of both in a variety of situations, and with everything that has happened in Ferguson, both of them seem to have really come to light together. Especially in regards to the latter, you have been very vocal.

Having a platform, in this day and age, most people, and myself too a lot of times, are programmed to just go to Instagram and see what people are saying about us, or go to Twitter and relish in compliments or make sad faces because of haters or do the ice bucket challenge. There’s so many fucking distractions. When you sit down and really look around at what’s going on, it’s shocking, it’s depressing, but it’s also motivating.

The attitude of law enforcement in America is meant to keep people in their place. It doesn’t come off as genuine. It’s power and power corrupts. It’s been a part of my whole life, you know. Being a kid and riding my bike down the street in Chicago on the south side of my neighborhood, I would get stopped and the police would just question me, like, “How you doin'? We saw you yesterday.” I would be like, “No you didn’t,” and they would respond, “Yes, we did, you ran from us yesterday. You have a brother? Do you have a twin brother?” That’s the type of shit we would go through, and that’s just when we were younger.

As we got older, these situations that you’re seeing in all of these pictures, these are real situations that people in the major cities face on a daily basis. When we were teenagers, downtown, the cops used to get calls about anything, stop people and jump out with their weapons immediately. They’ve got 16-year-old and 17-year-old kids face-down on the ground based off of a phone call that doesn’t have anything to do with us. That’s where I’m coming from. That’s the attitude and the type of situation that leads us to feel the way that we do.

At this point in my life I’m not even saying, “Fuck the police.” That’s not my mantra. The way I feel right now is that the police need to be policed. I’ve been advocating for filming the police because I’m not trying to antagonize, I’m just trying to bring some sort of law enforcement to the law enforcement.

The same way that seeing the flashing lights puts fear in our hearts instantly, you can see with these police in Ferguson, when you put the cellphone and camera on them, and you try to get their badge number and their name, they get scared. They need to be afraid of fucking up just like we are terrified of fucking up because it can go mortifyingly wrong in an instant.

The thing is, though, even when the police do get exposed for what they’ve done wrong, they have a million ways to get around it. They can always make up any story they want to make up, and they will be supported, and they won’t be punished for their crimes. That’s why we need to expose it more and more and more, so it is put so front page, so repeatedly, that people demand the policing of our police.

Being from Chicago, the media highlights the negativity, the killings and the shootings. The things that go on on the other side of all of these situations, these cops are dirty out here. I can tell you from really knowing, these cops are dirty. There are good police, as well, but there’s a whole other side of the police force that is making money, and really facilitating gang and criminal activity, and taking part in it.

It’s so hard for some people to understand all of this -- and it’s not necessarily an excuse -- simply because they grew up in a completely different environment than that or because they have been taught differently and have these ideas so deeply ingrained in them. Do you think that police being filmed at all times will not only help to establish accountability, but help others separate from these situations to truly grasp what is happening?

It’s just documentation. And documentation can show the positive police helping others just as much. They do exist and they should be celebrated if they are as good as the rest of the nation wants to believe. And for those people who grew up in a different situation, they have to understand, as black people in Chicago -- I don’t mean to make about a region or race, really, but just as people from inner cities, especially minorities and people of color, we don’t even want to call the police when we need the police. It’s a crazy thought. If I have a problem at home in which I would call the police -- I’ve been robbed and all that -- I don’t want to call the police because you see the things that happen. People call the police, and they show up and they might shoot you because they thing you’re the robber. That’s a bad feeling, you know?

The disconnect is so wide. I don’t mean to play anyone as the demon of the situation. The position of being the police officer, that’s something I think about a lot. The position of the officer and the juxtaposition of the people and the police is that these police are ordained with this greater authority over everyone around them. That’s the power that corrupts people. I don’t think everyone joins the police force because they hate the communities and they just want to lock people up. That’s not what I think the situation is. That’s why I hate it when the people who don’t understand the predicament try to make it seem so black and white. Like, these people hate the police, and the real reason black-people neighborhoods suffer often is these pictures of these gang members and theses drugs and these arrest statistics. Look, the statistics of drug use in America are not weighed towards black people. The statistics of drug arrests are entirely one-sided. The people that go to jail for the same crime are so predominantly black and hispanic that it’s crazy.

There’s a level of immunity and impunity that is placed along with the role of being a police officer that needs to be removed because in that situation there’s no real law enforcement and betterment of the community that can take place when you have a group of people who think they are better than the people they are supposedly put in place to protect and they don’t feel like the laws apply to them. You shoot an unarmed kid with his hands up and you go on paid leave. And that needs to change.

The reason I’m advocating for filming the police is because I just want everyone to recognize that despite the powers that be, and the way that our nation and our states and our cities are set up to the power away from us, the youth have the power. If we stay focused and we do give a fuck, there are ways we can use this power for change. We have the technology to do this and you see what the documentation is doing. It’s the photographs and the videos that really people around the world feeling just how fucked up it is in Ferguson.

If police are going to say things like, “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear,” and that needs to go both ways. To all of those in Ferguson who are protesting and just experiencing this tragic series of events, what message would you send them?

Stay strong. You are the real public defenders. Keep your goal in mind and vocalize your goal. They really have a stage right now. Whether or not their actions are being skewed or if their motivations are being skewed and misrepresented, they have a platform and people are listening. Don’t be gassed in vain. Those people are so brave. The things that they are going through right now … there are tanks and tear gas guns and these are the things the police are using on civilians. This is not an army. It’s not a war, it’s a one-sided war. They’re the real law enforcement. They are taking a stand and saying that they are not going to let this one boil over.

Any other final comments?

If you get pulled over, if you get questioned, pull your phone out and take a video. If you see someone being harassed by the police, take a video of it and share it. Also, you have the power to ensure that law enforcement has to wear a camera at all times.

For things to change, the change needs to come from all angles. It’s not just a couple weeks on Twitter. It needs to represented in the whole mind state. It needs to represented in music, entertainment, art, in policy everywhere. The people that point the finger and say that you did this to yourself, they need to go read the laws and understand that legislation is set up to systematically destroy minority inner city communities. They take fathers away and create a cycle. It’s so shortsighted to believe that we are creating our own problem. That this oppression hasn’t been warped and perpetualized for over 100 years.

And it is the fear that perpetuates violence and what needs to be understood by both sides is that violence and aggression doesn’t equate to strength. It doesn’t equate to power, it’s just destructive. Power is only in the constructive, so we all need to move past this fear complex.

How Your Doctor Is Turning Into An Airline

Thu, 2014-08-21 09:22
Some doctors seem to have embraced the airlines' model for doing business -- you know, the one where they now charge fees for things they used to just do for free.

I'll leave it to the experts to figure out if this is born of physician greed or physician frustration, but there is no doubt that an increasing number of doctors are jumping on board the concierge medicine train.

Michael Tetreault, editor in chief of Concierge Medicine Today, a trade journal covering the industry, said that there are about 12,000 physicians in the U.S. who now run concierge medical practices -- offices that charge annual fees, generally in the $1,200 to $2,500 range, for providing "enhanced" care. The total is up from just 4,000 physicians doing it in 2007, according to Tetreault. Some of them still work in-network for insurance companies, and others won't take insurance at all -- leaving it to their patients to file claims and wait for reimbursement.

And then there are those docs who don't have concierge-designated offices per se, and who nobody is counting, who have begun to charge extra fees for services that were previously part of the care they provided.

Here are a few examples of what is going on:

Fees for talking to you outside the office.
During a recent visit to a specialist, I was handed a notice suggesting that instead of coming to the office next time, I should consider asking the doctor my questions on the phone -- for a $50 fee. If that's too rich for my blood, a less expensive conversation could be conducted via email. (I'm thinking that a tweet, with just 140 characters, might eventually be the real medical bargain in the future. "Hey @drjones -- I think my blood pressure is up.")

The notice said that much of what patients generally want to talk about with the doctor could actually be handled quite effectively by phone or email, thus saving both time and money if we didn't need to see each other face-to-face.

Fair enough -- the part where he asks me how his daughter can blog for The Huffington Post can certainly be handled by email. But I think we are missing the larger point here: Wasn't answering an email or spending three minutes with me on the phone part of what he did because he was my doctor? What the notice was really saying is that he's going to start billing me for this time instead of letting me have it for "free" -- just like the airlines now charge me for checking my luggage or the crappy meals they offer. What was once considered part of the ticket price is now splintered off separately and has a dollar sign in front of it.

Fees for same-day or next-day appointments.
My husband's cardiologist sent him a letter that began by asking how he felt about the service and care he had received during his most recent visit. And then it asked if he'd be willing to pay between $150 and $250 a month out of pocket for a "Concierge Care" system that would ensure next-day appointments and give him the doctor's cell phone number. It's a program "for patients who want the doctor to act in an enhanced capacity," the letter noted, and would be available "to only a limited number of patients." The letter explained how "each day, special hours would be set aside for members of the program."

Nothing like the appeal of exclusivity, right? But putting that aside, are we to assume that this doctor has not been giving my husband the best care possible up until now and that "enhanced" care could be ours for an extra $3,000 a year? And just to be clear: If someone else pays $3,000 a year and we don't, will the doctor see that other patient first even when we are the ones with the greater medical emergency and need?

Fees for new patients and an annual fee to "join" the practice.
If those two personal examples weren't enough, I hit the audacity jackpot with a Los Angeles pediatrician in my Cigna network. Her office told me that in order to see my son as a "transfer" patient, I would have to pay a $500 one-time fee, and that the practice charged everyone a $200 annual fee every Jan. 1. I asked what was covered by the $500 "transfer" fee; would the new doctor's office run and fetch my son's records from the old practice? No, the patient must do that still. So what is covered? Well, nothing. (Roy DeLaMar, manager for Cigna's business communications office, declined to comment.)

So for the annual fee of $200, you basically get the right to make an appointment with this practice. You still pay your copays, your deductibles, and any other costs that your policy doesn't.

I was upfront in my shock. "This is all just extra money you want to collect, even though you are a network provider and are supposed to take what the insurance company pays you, right?" Righto. And if I don't like it and don't want to sign the papers that commit me to paying it, I can just go find some other doctor, even though -- and this bears repeating -- this doctor is an in-network provider of my insurance company.

For the uninitiated in the ways of the health insurance world, by agreeing to be an in-network provider, the doctor agrees to accept what the insurance company pays and not charge the patient any additional administrative fees.

But before we envision going postal on doctors, let's take a breath and figure out who we should really be mad at. I nominate the insurance companies -- who know this is going on and are turning a blind eye.

Consumers pick a health care plan based on the representation that certain doctors will accept what is paid to them, and that if you go to that doctor, according to the rules, you shouldn't have to pay a little something extra to just get in the door.

Jerry Flanagan, lead staff attorney with Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy agency based in Santa Monica, California that's been hounding the insurance industry for nearly 30 years, said the reason insurers play dumb about what's going on is that these direct-to-patient fees discourage people from seeking medical care. And if patients just ignore what ails them, the insurance company winds up paying out less. It makes perfect sense. The same disincentive occurs when there are higher co-insurance and co-payment costs. Even insurers know this to be true: A Kaiser Family Foundation report from 2006 found that "[O]nce patients bear some of the economic costs of receiving medical care, they are more likely to use only those health care services that are worth the additional cost that they must pay." The sad part, of course, is that when coinsurance amounts are too steep, people avoid getting the medical care that is actually necessary to their health, the report notes.

In other words, it's good for the insurer -- unless you get, well, really sick.

Flanagan doesn't mince words. You paid your premiums based on the promise that you wouldn't have to pay more to the doctor out of pocket. So your insurer is violating the agreement you made with the company when they don't enforce the in-network rules, Flanagan said.

It's fraud, he said, and one reason that nobody is doing anything about it is that it's really hard to sue your health insurance company. If you get insurance through your employer or a government entity, you are barred from suing the insurer, Flanagan said. Change will come when someone who is insured as an individual sues their insurance company for letting a doctor get away with charging extra. (Flanagan said to call him if you'd like to discuss.)

Now, not to be one-sided here: If your doctor doesn't want to talk to you on the phone at 10 p.m. because your kid's fever is up to 104 or the medicine he prescribed caused hives, I suppose no one can hold a gun to his temple and make him. But medicine isn't a 9-to-5 job. And yes, I understand that it's a pain for doctors to deal with insurance companies and try to wrangle money out of them. Doctors have grown increasingly frustrated, and some medical practices have had to hire full-time staff just to handle paperwork. I get it; what a drag.

But, from where I sit, what doctors are doing now is all kinds of gawd-awful. They are creating a multi-tier medical services delivery system where those who can afford to pay them more will get better care.

For what it's worth, Dr. Marcy Zwelling, an internist and critical care doctor in Los Alamitos California, thinks I've got it all wrong. She charges patients $2,000 a year and takes no insurance. Insurance is for catastrophic illness, she said, and in many cases patients should carry just that and pay for smaller services out of pocket. "They'll save money if they do," she said. Mammograms can be had for $75, and an MRI costs $200 cash -- tops, she said. According to Zwelling, if you have a copay and deductible on top of a high monthly insurance premium, chances are it is less expensive for you to just pay out of pocket for these and other tests. I wrote about how this was certainly the case with filling prescriptions: It's often cheaper to not put it through your insurance company but just pay out of pocket.

In the case of concierge medicine, Zwelling said, it's not about better care for the rich or a case of doctors being greedy. It's doctors who want to provide an enhanced level of care -- spend time with patients, not keep them waiting for hours, coordinate their care with specialists, do research and stay abreast of new treatment options. And that doesn't happen in a 15-minute office visit, she said. Concierge medicine "allows me to concentrate on the patients, not the paperwork," she said. The fees she charges go to hiring additional staff.

And doctors aren't the rich dudes we all think they are, she said. "This is about doctors trying to stay in business. When their bottom line gets near zero, they can't continue."

So consider me schooled, Dr. Z. But I just keep coming back to the airlines, which want to charge me $35 to bring my clothes along on vacation with me. Is taking my call for a simple question really that big a deal?

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

No, Northern Illinois University Is Not Banning Students From Social Media

Thu, 2014-08-21 08:14
Northern Illinois University faced a storm of haterade from the Internet this week after several news outlets reported the institution had banned students from visiting a slew of popular websites while on campus, including Facebook and Wikipedia.

But a spokesman for the university told The Huffington Post the rumors are "ridiculous."

The accusation that NIU had banned these websites from their campus Internet service started after a student posted on Reddit a screenshot of a "Web Page Access Warning" that popped up on his screen while attempting to access the Wikipedia page for Westboro Baptist Church.

"I just got settled into my new dorm. Found that the university has adopted a new policy that blocks many of the sites I normally go to. Is this common for a state-run university?" user darkf posted to Reddit.

The Reddit thread quickly caught the attention of news outlets like the DailyDot, which referred to the institution as 'Buzzkill University', and Jezebel, whose headline for the story read: "Northern Illinois University Bans Social Media, Happiness for Students."

Paul Palian, the university's director of media and public relations, says NIU is "in the process of modernizing [its] network capabilities" and that warning screen is just a new feature to protect the Internet server from external threats.

"The system does not block the content so much, it's to block the threats, the malicious code. That's what we're trying to do with these firewalls in place," Palian told HuffPost. "So our policy protects us from sites that have shown high frequency from being malicious or unethical. You can still have the option to go through and access [these sites], you just have to enter your NIU credentials first. It's a work in progress."

NIU's recently updated Acceptable Use Policy outlines which types of websites may be subject to this new security wall. Palian also clarified that a portion of the policy that deems unacceptable the “use of social media sites… including... Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc.,” applies only to staff.

"That only applies to employees. I think that's where the confusion is. Students -- unless they are an employee -- they're not subject to this [policy]," he said. "If you are a student employee, you are still an employee, that means you don't use state resources for personal use."

"As a research and educational institution there might be reasons to access porn sites and things like that," he added. "And nobody's sitting over students' shoulders saying they can't look at Facebook."

The Huffington Post Is Not Leaving Ferguson

Wed, 2014-08-20 19:12
What happens in Ferguson and the St. Louis metro area the day after everybody leaves?

It's a question on the minds of nearly every resident, who know the camera crews will eventually fold up their sticks and pack up their vans, the West Florissant McDonald's will transform from an international media filing center into a trivia question. But the local police will still be there, along with the structural inequality and racial disparities that sparked the crisis.

We plan to be there as it all unfolds. For The Huffington Post, this'll involve a first-of-its-kind collaboration with readers, the local community and the Beacon Reader to create what we're calling the Ferguson Fellowship. With reader support, we'll hire a local citizen journalist who's been covering the turmoil and train her to become a professional journalist.

Local resident Mariah Stewart has been covering the Ferguson protests as a citizen journalist with the support of readers through Beacon's platform. With HuffPost readers' support, we can make sure Stewart can continue her work.

Stewart will work directly with HuffPost's criminal justice reporter Ryan Reilly to cover the ongoing story of Ferguson, tracking the federal investigation into the killing of Michael Brown and reporting on the empaneled grand jury. She'll monitor the activity of the local and county police forces once the national spotlight dims, and will learn the intricacies of public records requests in an effort to divine the funding sources and uses of military gear in the county.

Click here to make a contribution and to learn more about Stewart and the Ferguson Fellowship.

Karen Lewis: Will She Give Rahm Emanuel a Real Fight?

Wed, 2014-08-20 17:12
"History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes."

This quote, which is often attributed to the satirist Mark Twain, is worth remembering when considering what a bid by Karen Lewis to replace Rahm Emanuel as mayor of Chicago might look like. One meaning of Twain's quote is that study of relevant history can shed insight into present-day events, even if the specific details may differ.

With that in mind, it may be worthwhile to look at four historical Chicago mayoral campaigns: Benjamin Adamowski versus Richard J. Daley in 1963; Harold Washington versus Michael Bilandic in 1977; Jane Byrne versus Michael Bilandic in 1979; and Harold Washington versus Jane Byrne in 1983. There are no relevant comparisons for Emanuel's immediate predecessor, Richard M. Daley, because Daley was much more popular during his five mayoral re-election bids than Rahm is now.

In 1963, Richard J. Daley was the popular sitting mayor of Chicago and had just completed his second term. In the Democratic primary for re-election, however, he was challenged by Benjamin Adamowski, a skilled Polish-Catholic politician who actively opposed open housing for blacks. Daley lost the white vote to Adamowski and barely won the Democratic primary. For the rest of his career, Daley "learned his lesson," becoming much more of a reactionary, especially on the issue of race. He consistently signaled to white voters that he was tough and that he would use his power to "draw the line" with respect to black civil rights. Historical lesson: the incumbent won, but was so shaken by his narrow victory that his leadership began to deteriorate.

In 1977, Harold Washington, one of Chicago's most well-known black politicians, broke with the local Democratic Party and ran against acting-mayor Michael Bilandic in the special mayoral election. Washington focused on campaigning in African-American neighborhoods on Chicago's south side. "There is a sleeping giant in Chicago," said Washington, "And if this sleeping giant, the potential black vote, ever woke up, we'd control the city." Washington struggled with fundraising, however, and lost to Bilandic in the Democratic primary. Historical lesson: the incumbent won, and the challenger learned that it was difficult to achieve victory with a narrow constituency and a lack of campaign funds.

In February 1979, Chicago Democrats picked Jane Byrne over Mayor Michael Bilandic as their next nominee to run the city. Byrne was a charismatic, high-energy campaigner who accused the somewhat dull Bilandic of mishandling the snowstorms of January 1979. In addition, many blacks, a key voting block for Democrats, felt that Mayor Bilandic was hostile to their race, and so they shifted their votes to Byrne. Upon winning, Byrne, a five-foot-three-inch political free spirit claimed that she "beat the whole god-damn machine singlehanded." Historical lesson: Voters may elect a charismatic challenger if they are dissatisfied with the incumbent.

In 1983, the charismatic and personable Harold Washington won an overwhelming percentage of the black vote to defeat states attorney Richard M. Daley and Mayor Jane Byrne in the Democratic primary. His victory was aided by Byrne's alienation of significant voter blocks and the splitting of the white vote by Daley and Byrne. Historical lesson: Even a talented, charismatic challenger may need to be lucky. It helps to run against a divisive incumbent and a field of candidates who divide up one of the important voter groups.

So what lessons could Karen Lewis learn from these four campaigns? First, incumbents have an electoral advantage, but only if they are popular. Unpopular incumbents can lose (i.e., Michael Bilandic in 1979, Jane Byrne in 1983). Second, challengers with a narrow constituency and a lack of campaign funds have a difficult time winning (i.e., Benjamin Adamowski in 1963, Harold Washington in 1977). Third, voters will vote for a challenger if they are charismatic and fun (i.e., Jane Byrne in 1979, Harold Washington in 1983). Finally, it is easier for a challenger to achieve victory if there is a field of candidates that splits core voter groups away from the incumbent (i.e., in 1983 Rich Daley and Jane Byrne split the white vote, enabling Washington's victory).

Based on these principals, what should Karen Lewis do if she wants to win? First, she should run a fun, upbeat campaign. Second, she should seek out a pragmatic, pro-business candidate and encourage him or her to also run against Emanuel. This would split off voters from one of Rahm's core group of supporters. Third, she should campaign as a potential mayor for all Chicagoans, rather than as a mere representative of unions or other narrow constituencies. Finally, she should raise as much money as possible.

Would these steps guarantee Lewis a victory over Rahm Emanuel in the upcoming Chicago mayoral race? Not necessarily. Rahm is a very skilled political operative with a thirst for victory. In 2006, as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee he overwhelmed the Republicans, leading the Democrats to a pick-up of 31 seats in the House of Representatives. He did it without apologies. "You've got to have a thirst for winning," Emanuel said. "You know what our party thinks? We're good people with good ideas. That's just enough, isn't it? Being tough enough, mean enough and vicious enough is just not what they want..."

It's too early to tell whether history will repeat itself, or even rhyme. However, if Karen Lewis does follow the steps outlined above, the upcoming mayoral race against Rahm Emanuel may become a knock-down, winner-take-all, Chicago-style political fight.