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Most Important Election of 2015: Chuy Garcia's People's Campaign Versus Rahm Emanuel's Big Money

Mon, 2015-03-23 10:00
Every so often, a local election comes along that has enormous implications in terms of the national political narrative. Back in the 1980s, Harold Washington's stunning upset of the Daley machine in Chicago was one of those moments. Bill de Blasio's surprising come from behind win in NYC a couple of years ago was the most recent example -- his win created months of discussion about the rising progressive populist movement in the Democratic party.

If Garcia wins, it will be an even bigger deal than either the Harold Washington or Bill de Blasio races, for the following reasons.

The first is that Rahm is an outsized national political figure, beloved by the national Democratic establishment for his tough talking swagger and his ability to raise money from Wall Street and big business -- an example of the latter being the $750,000 hedge fund speculator and major Republican giver Ken Griffin has already invested in re-electing Rahm. If a major national figure known so well by the national media like Rahm went down in spite of all the money he has raised and spent, it would probably be the number one political story of the year. A thousand political obituaries would be written; a hundred stunned DC pundits would be asking themselves how this could have possibly happened. And in all this conversation, a major underlying narrative would be about the rising progressive tide shaking up Democratic politics.

Secondly, electing a Hispanic mayor to a city like Chicago would be a huge political moment all by itself. Chicago is a city with an outsized place in America's imagination. It is a sort of capitol of the heartland, which is the most important swing region in American politics. And to have a Hispanic mayor in a city whose Hispanic population is not as big as either the white or African-American populations, and whose history has been dominated by black-white political conflict, would create a different level of conversation in America about the rising importance of Hispanics in America.
Third, Garcia winning would profoundly impact the presidential race. Even with Hillary Clinton so far ahead and with no strong challenger yet to emerge, the loss of the ultimate Clintonite, Rahm Emanuel, would change the discussion about presidential election dynamics and force a serious rethink of Clinton's strategy.

So this is a very big deal. Is it really winnable for Garcia? With Rahm being backed by all this corporate big money like the Ken Griffin 750K, he outspent Chuy 12-1 in the first round of the primary, and has had the airwaves to himself for a while in the runoff campaign, so he has a small lead -- although certainly not as big as the ridiculous Chicago Tribune poll several days ago that gave Chuy only 50 percent in the Hispanic vote when every other poll has him over 70 percent. But Chuy is going up with ads this week, and that will cut the margin. More importantly, the underlying dynamics in this race are in his favor: Rahm's unfavorable ratings are still through the roof; Chuy has picked up some very big African-American endorsements since the first vote, including Jesse Jackson, former IL Senate leader Emil Jones, Con. Danny Davis, and a group of influential black ministers; all the grassroots energy and the GOTV operations of most of the Democratic base organizations (including AFT, NEA SEIU, CWA, Moveon, DFA, and PCCC) are on the side of Garcia.

There is a money bomb today and tomorrow for Chuy. You should throw whatever you can into the hopper. It's the most important money bomb and most important election of the year. Rahm has his big money guys; Chuy has grassroots progressives. We can win this race, and if we do, it will be a very big deal.

America's Best Pepperoni Pizzas

Mon, 2015-03-23 09:30
From Philadelphia to Atlanta to Seattle, there are some excellent pepperoni pies being served across the nation.

When you think about it, few dishes are more American than a pepperoni pizza. Both pepperoni and pizza are versions of Italian specialties that we as a nation have made our own. (In fact, there's no such thing as "pepperoni" in Italy, and American visitors who order it there are often surprised and disappointed when what they end up with is peperone -- bell pepper.) Few other cuisines are as widely popular as pizza, and pepperoni is one of the most widely popular toppings, no matter the regional style of pie they are decorating.

Click Here to see the America's Best Pepperoni Pizzas

In our most recent ranking of the 101 best pizzas in America, more than 700 pizzas were considered by 78 pizza experts, who selected a wide variety of pies from all over the United States. There were a few pies that incorporated pepperoni, but it was usually not the starring ingredient. Take Eddie's special at Eddie's in New Hyde Park, New York -- sausage, meatball, pepperoni, pepper, mushroom, and onion -- or the deep dish with sausage and pepperoni at Pequod's in Chicago, Illinois. There were many pies on our list, however, that featured little else but sauce and cheese as their bases before being topped off with pepperoni. To us, this is the correct definition of a true pepperoni pizza, and here are the ones that made our list of the 101 best in the country:

#7 The Backspace, Austin, Texas

Photo Credit: Carrie Ryan, Sweet Louise Photography

With a pedigree that includes a degree from the Culinary Institute of America and stops at the French Laundry and Café Boulud, it's not a huge surprise that chef Shawn Cirkiel has found huge success with his restaurant Parkside -- but culinary degrees and highfalutin restaurant experience don't necessarily mean that you can make a great pizza. Luckily for Austin, Cirkiel does, serving pizza cooked in a wood-fired brick oven from Naples at a temperature of 900 degrees. There are six pies on the menu at The Backspace, featuring toppings like fennel sausage, roasted peppers, and roasted mushrooms, but the one that garnered our enough of our experts' votes to come in at #92 is the Pepperoni Americano: picante salame, tomato, mozzarella, and basil. Pair it with an aranciata, just like in Naples, or enjoy it Texas -style with a glass bottle of Mexican Coke.

Click Here to see the America's Best Pepperoni Pizzas slideshow

#6 Pizza Brain, Philadelphia, Pa.

Photo Credit: yelp/MikeyI

"Increase the piece!" It's the world's first pizza museum, for heaven's sake, and those in the know know that when you're craving great pizza in Philly, you need go no further than this nineteenth-century brick building in Kensington. There, you'll eat thin-crust pizza cooked in the double-deck gas-fired oven at the cash-only joint Kickstarted in 2012 by Ryan Anderson, Joseph Hunter, Brian Dwyer, and Michael Carter. As you wait for the crew to cook your pie, bask in Pizza Brain's unique ambience, check out their pizza memorabilia museum (featuring what the Guinness Book of World Records called the largest collection of pizza memorabilia in the world), or rummage through their pizza tattoo book for a few laughs. Pizza Brain's "Jane" is their version of a Margherita -- a cheesy trifecta of mozzarella, aged provolone, and grana padano blended with basil -- and that's a good place to begin. The salty and satisfying Forbes Waggensense is the one that was ranked #80 by our panel: it features mozzarella, fontina, Grana Padano, basil, smoked pepperoni, and tomato sauce.

Click Here to see the Original Story on The Daily Meal

-Kate Kolenda, The Daily Meal

More Content from The Daily Meal:
America's Favorite Pizza Chains
They Put What on Their Pizza in Russia? 10 Weird Pizza Toppings from Around the World
Get Pizza Delivered Anywhere With the Push of a Button
15 Better-Than-Takeout Pizza Recipes
America's 10 Most Outrageous Pizza Toppings

Rahm Emanuel Is Andrew Cuomo: Hillary Are You Listening?

Mon, 2015-03-23 07:05
Rahm Emanuel is in trouble. His re-election as Mayor of Chicago is no longer a lock. His challenger has come out of nowhere, parlayed unease with his right-wingish economic policies, and a big controversy, to gain real traction in the April 7 run-off. Her name is Zephyr Teachout.

Wait, that's wrong. His name is Jesus Garcia. But if you're looking for explanations, it's the right mistake to make. Teachout rode the same wave, organized similar political forces in New York, and got almost 40 percent of the Democratic gubernatorial primary vote in New York, against the previously formidable Andrew Cuomo.

What's up with that? Well, the parallels are eerie. Pundits point to Emanuel's tough guy personality, budget and financial issues, and coziness with corporate interests, stoked by a particular controversy about school closings. In New York, the same complaints emerged, but the controversy was about public ethics.

It's a description that fits both men. Both have records that include major accomplishments. But both men made a political calculation that backfired. Emanuel and Cuomo are "progr-actionaries." They're reliably left on social issues and reliably right on economic issues like tax policy, unions, and corporate giveaways.

It turns out that voters, especially Democrats, want no part of that calculated positioning, no part of austerity economics, Tea Party cuts in government spending, and tax policies that favor the 1%. That may be sound policy, or not. But it's a lesson that any politician needs to understand. Are you listening, Hillary?

After years of unchallenged dominance, the era of supply-side economics is over, at least to voters. Progressives and voters have been shaping an economic message that promotes demand-side economics, things that increase the spending power of middle-income and poor Americans. Jobs are created, not by bankers and CEO's whose taxes are cut, but by minimum wage increases, progressive tax policies, and government spending on human and physical infrastructure.

Cuomo/Emanuel missed an electoral shift, and are paying a political price, as they should in a democracy. Emanuel seems like he will struggle through with a Cuomo-esque margin, and egg on his face.

It will get more interesting. The organized forces promoting progressive, demand-side economics will shortly turn to the 2016 Presidential race. Hillary's inevitability notwithstanding, those folks are rumbling that her economic policies suffer from the same defects as Cuomo/Emanuel's do. She could ignore the problem: After all, where will the left go in 2016, to Elizabeth Warren? Or Jeb Bush? Unlikely.

But the lesson is there to be learned, if she's listening. Cuomo/Emanuel's electoral problems flow from a fundamental disconnect with voters over economic issues. Candidates supporting austerity, supply-side economics face electoral trouble, especially in Democratic primaries: Candidates who support the minimum wage, living wage, investment in schools, hospitals, roads and bridge, tax the 1%, an end to corporate giveaways, they prosper. I happen to think it's good economics. But I know it's good politics.

Chicago Cubs Shave Their Heads To Support Kids With Cancer, Reportedly Raise $12,000

Mon, 2015-03-23 03:57
Chicago Cubs stars Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and many others on the team shaved their heads on Sunday for a good cause.

It's for the kids #respectbald #theyoungcubbies

— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) March 22, 2015

Before playing the San Diego Padres at Sloan Park, the team -- including Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon, rookie Jorge Soler and pitcher Phil Coke -- participated in a fundraising event called “Respect Bald” that involved shaving their heads to support children battling cancer.

The first cut goes to @CubsJoeMadd. #RespectBald

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 22, 2015

Hey @JorgeSoler68, the new haircut will look great. #RespectBald

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 22, 2015

According to Maddon, the “Respect Bald” event helped raise more than $12,000.

Yahoo! Sports reports that 25 players were expected to shave their heads at the event. Several coaches and office staff also took part.

Today's #RespectBald wasn't just for players. #Cubs Baseball Ops execs went bald, too. #LetsGive

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) March 22, 2015

There are a lot of shaved heads on #Cubs today. #RespectBald

— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) March 22, 2015

Find out more about the "Respect Bald" event here.

Confronting Past, Mississippi Town Erects Emmett Till Museum 60 Years After His Killing

Sun, 2015-03-22 11:01
(Reuters) - Six decades after the brutal slaying of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy, the small Mississippi Delta town where two white men were acquitted of his murder is dedicating a museum to the event credited with helping spark the U.S. civil rights movement.

The opening in Sumner on Saturday of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center is timed to coincide with the reopening across the town square of the refurbished Tallahatchie County Courthouse, where an all-white jury set Roy Bryant and J.W. Milan free after deliberating for one hour.

The museum's exhibits detail the 1955 murder and key moments in the trial, which attracted wide attention at the time.

Months after the trial, the pair confessed in a paid magazine interview to abducting and killing Till, who had been visiting from Chicago, in what they said was retribution for his having whistled at Bryant's wife.

Work on both projects in the struggling town of a few hundred people began after the Tallahatchie Board of Supervisors issued a formal apology over the Till affair in 2006. It also established the Emmett Till Memorial Commission to bring attention to a racially charged incident that had for decades gone mostly undiscussed locally, said commission co-chairman John Wilchie.

"For a long time, the people in Tallahatchie County were afraid to even talk about it," he said.

A public ceremony to celebrate the twin projects was set to take place on the square, which looks much as it did when journalists from around the world descended on it 60 years ago, and will feature speeches from Mississippi political leaders along with musical performances.

Museum director Patrick Weems said his facility, which features the only publicly available library in town, together with the restoration of the courthouse, has helped foster a long overdue sense of racial reconciliation in the area.

Coinciding with the renovation of several buildings on the square, along with the opening of an art gallery and a restaurant, the projects have also helped rejuvenate Sumner, he said.

"I don't think it's a stretch to say the courthouse has saved the town," he said. (Reporting by Bryn Stole; Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Paul Tait)

Antibiotic Use In Meat Is Soaring

Sat, 2015-03-21 18:19
BLT sandwiches may need to add an A to the acronym -- for antibiotics.

Soaring demand for meat across the world has caused a major uptick in the amount of antimicrobial drugs in pork, beef and poultry, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But as bacon sales sizzle and China -- where pork is the favored meat -- becomes wealthier, pig farmers around the world are meeting demand by using about four times as much antibiotics per pound of meat as cattle ranchers. Poultry is a close second.

This charts shows that pigs, for the most part, consume the highest density and amount of antibiotics.

The antibiotics serve two purposes. First, they help fatten up livestock at a faster rate. Second, they keep animals healthy despite being raised in overcrowded, filthy conditions where disease spreads easily.

In 2010, farmers around the world used more than 63,000 tons of antibiotics to raise livestock. By 2030, the researchers expect that number to rise to more than 105,000 tons.

“People are getting richer and want to eat more meat,” Thomas Van Boeckel, an epidemiologist at Princeton University and an author of the study, told The Huffington Post by phone. “Antibiotics help to provide a lot of meat for people who can afford it.”

Consumption of antibiotic-fed meat poses a major threat to humanity. Exposure to human antibiotics through meat has given rise to antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” which some researchers suggest could kill up to 10 million people worldwide by 2050 if left unchecked.

As awareness of this threat grows, some companies have removed antibiotics from their meat supply. Earlier this month, McDonald’s vowed to remove human antibiotics from its chicken supply, though animal antibiotics would continue to be used and the human drugs would remain in beef and pork products. Chicken chain Chick-fil-A removed all antibiotics from its chicken last year.

But Chipotle remains the food industry’s poster child for antibiotic-free meat. The burrito chain showed its commitment earlier this year when it suffered a pork shortage after discovering issues with its supplier.

Still, the industry seems unlikely to change unless more consumers demand antibiotic-free meat. Legislation has done little to stymie the growth of the use of antibiotics in the United States. In China, no such legislation exists.

“If things change at all, it’ll be because customers demand better products, like organic bacon,” Van Boeckel said. “But, of course, not everyone can afford that.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner's Anti-Union Proposal Illegal, Illinois Attorney General Says

Sat, 2015-03-21 11:56
CHICAGO (AP) -- Illinois' Democratic attorney general on Friday delivered a blow to Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to weaken labor unions, saying two of the main ideas the Republican has been pitching across the state would be illegal.

Lisa Madigan issued formal opinions at the request of Democratic lawmakers who anticipated legislation would be proposed after Rauner first trumpeted his plans in his State of the State speech last month.

One proposal would allow voters to create "right-to-work zones" in Illinois counties where union membership and dues would be voluntary. The other would let local governments or school districts opt out of prevailing wage agreements, which require workers on public works projects to receive wages that reflect local compensation for similar jobs.

Rauner's office, in a statement, noted voters would decide whether his proposed legislation to protect employee rights should apply within their respective county, municipality, school district or other unit of local government. It said that would comply with the National Labor Relations Act.

Before crowds across Illinois in recent weeks, the multimillionaire businessman has argued unions have too much power and that overly generous salaries, benefits and pensions helped create Illinois' financial crisis. He says local voters should decide whether union influence should be curbed.

Rauner also says school districts could save almost $160 million per year if prevailing wage laws were changed and that establishing zones where employees have a choice on whether to join a union would help attract businesses - and much-needed jobs - to the state.

But Madigan said federal labor law only allows right-to-work to be enacted on a statewide basis, not by individual counties. She said both ideas also would violate state law.

Changing those laws or passing a right-to-work on a statewide basis would be nearly impossible in Illinois, where Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature and several Republican legislators also have been allies of organized labor.

Democratic state Sen. Gary Forby, one of the legislators who requested the legal opinion, said he hoped it would put an end to Rauner's rhetoric so lawmakers can instead focus on a state budget that is billions of dollars in the red.

"This guy, all he talks about is right-to-work states," said Forby, the chairman of the Senate's labor committee. "Well, now he can stop talking about right-to-work states and go back to trying to do a budget for the state of Illinois."

Madigan's opinions are just the latest in what's been a rocky early attempt by Rauner to take on organized labor. After he issued an executive order and sued to try to eliminate fees paid to unions by workers who choose not to join, more than two dozen unions filed their own lawsuit to stop him. Madigan also ruled that action by the governor was illegal, and the Republican comptroller said she wouldn't comply with the governor's plan to hold the dues in a state escrow account.

Rauner, who has called governors in states such as Wisconsin and Michigan who have stripped rights from unions his "role models," also has proposed banning unions from making campaign contributions.

Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said Madigan's opinions confirmed what unions suspected from the start.

"While Gov. Rauner continues his obsessive war on unions and the middle class, he just keeps running into huge road blocks - like the law," Carrigan said.

Fire Extinguisher Factory Erupts In Huge Blaze

Sat, 2015-03-21 09:49
Fire extinguishers protect us, but who protects the fire extinguishers?

It's a question firefighters will have to ask themselves after a huge blaze erupted at a fire extinguisher factory on Chicago's Southwest Side on Thursday night.

About 150 firefighters battled the inferno, which burned for hours, according to DNA Info.

The fire didn't spread past the building and it was contained by midnight. There were no injuries reported.

"We have found no danger to the public," Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford told the Chicago Tribune. "The smoke is not causing any harm."

The two-story building housed several companies, including the fire extinguisher factory, CBS Chicago reports.

The cause is under investigation.

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Mohammad Hossain Cleared In '50 Shades Of Grey' Rape Case

Fri, 2015-03-20 15:26
A judge ruled there wasn't enough evidence to proceed with a case against a college student accused of raping a woman while he acted out scenes from "50 Shades of Grey."

Cook County Judge Peggy Chimapas made the decision on Thursday. She ordered 19-year-old Mohammad Hossain released from jail and lifted a bond forbidding him from going to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where both he and his accuser are students.

"This doesn't mean this is over," Chimapas told Hossain, according to DNA Info Chicago. The judge noted that prosecutors could still try to secure an indictment against him from a grand jury.

Chimapas said the two photographs showing bruising on the accusers body and her testimony were not enough to take the case to trial.

At a preliminary hearing, the 19-year-old accuser said the sexual encounter in February started off consensual but then turned violent.

From DNA Info:

The woman stripped down to her underwear before Hossain stuck a knit cap over her face and tied her hands above her head, binding her to the bottom of a lofted bed, she said. Hossain tied a belt around her feet and covered her mouth with a necktie.

Then, the accuser testified, Hossain told her "I want to see you resist." He then hit her repeatedly with a belt, harder and harder each time.

Hossain then allegedly said "I want to see how much you can take" and "I want to see you cry."

The victim testified that he pinned her arms down and raped her.

"I was saying, 'No, stop,' shaking my head from side to side," the victim said, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But Hossain's lawyer, Joshua Kutnick, insisted the two were consensually acting out scenes from '50 Shades.'

"The two of you were role-playing the movie, correct?" Kutnick asked during cross-examination.

"I didn't see it that way," the accuser said.

Outside the courthouse, Kutnick proclaimed his client's innocence.

"It was clearly shown that this incident was consensual," Kutnick said, according to the Tribune. "It was two college students who were having a sexual encounter and that's all that it was."

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Behind the Mask: My Life as a Transvestite

Fri, 2015-03-20 14:44

Elio Leturia as Lolita, Marcopolo Soto as the fan and Oliver Aldape as María in Orquídeas a la Luz de la Luna (Orchids in the Moonlight), directed by Sándor Menéndez and produced by Aguijón Theater during its 25th-anniversary season.

It begins on Friday mornings. Green, white and red nail polish to represent the Mexican flag, alternating those colors on each toe. The glaze should be dry and hard to be ready for that night's show.

At the office, nobody notices that the transformation has already begun, because my socks and shoes hide it. But in my mind, garish colors and swaying images are slowly taking over.

The real metamorphosis begins around 7 p.m. in a basement on the west side of Chicago in front of a vanity covered by pencils, eyeliners, eye shadows and other makeup artifices. The table, lit by myriad lights, is reflected on mirrors that surround the theater dressing room.

I am about to become Dolores del Río,, or rather a transvestite who plays a poor Chicana who believes she is Dolores del Río. I'll go from being a 150-pound, 5-foot-11 Peruvian-born actor to a glamorous, exacerbated, exaggerated Mexican movie star.

I'm playing my character in Orchids in the Moonlight, a 1982 play by Carlos Fuentes that tells the story of two Mexican women living in Venice, California, whose delirious minds lead them into believing that their L.A. suburb is Venice, Italy. Their day-to-day lives involve recreating the films of the two most famous movie divas in Mexican history: Dolores del Río and María Félix. The first one -- who began her brilliant career as a star of Hollywood's silent films of the 1920s -- went from being a mute character to an English-speaking exotic beauty, from sex symbol to a "Comanche Indian," as she is described in the play. The latter, more beautiful than the most unbearable ecstasy, refused to cross her country's northern border and built her career in Mexico, France and Spain, becoming a legend in the process.

Beauty does not necessarily come with birth. It can be created. The challenge lies in making others believe it is real. You must pay close attention to every minute detail, every seductive line, the appropriate color. To create my character, I start with makeup foundation, followed by eyeliner, black and white pencils, brown color for thick eyebrows and fuchsia lip liner to create a full mouth. Then follows rouge, lipstick, brown and gray eye shadow, white and brown hues to hide a prominent chin and to highlight timid cheekbones.

The mask that hides me, a man dressed as a woman who plays a Chicana who believes she is a star, is like the many masks we wear in our daily lives. We wear them for various locations, times and situations: when we are reproaching our children, talking with colleagues, asking our boss for a raise or a favor to our next-door neighbor, making a comment on Facebook, sipping Dom Pérignon at a formal event with diplomats or having a beer with friends at the club. For each scenario, a different mask.

A skirt made of plastic trash bags, a size 36B green bustier from Victoria's Secret and 6-inch black patent leather stilettos bring my Lolita (a.k.a. Dolores) to life. Clip earrings, a pearl necklace and bracelet and a fake diamond ring complete the outfit of the delusional Chicana, who covers her shoulders with a fuchsia shawl with Indian motifs.

Chest hair? Clipped. Hair on legs? Trimmed. Hair? Tousled with gel.

Crossing the threshold and creating the transvestite mask involves drawing on prejudices, generalizations and stereotypes I have regarding obnoxious woman and then taking them to an extreme. My sources of inspiration? Latin American telenovelas, Lupita Ferrer and María Rubio, even Verónica Castro. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? come to mind as well.

My models for how to walk and sway? Miss Universe, or just watching Naomi Campbell on YouTube. My inspirations for treating everything and everyone with disdain? That's an easy one. I think of the old dismissive ladies I encountered as a child in Peru.

It takes cojones to become, or to pretend to become, a transvestite -- and to cover those cojones with tight black undies and leave them to sweat under a plastic skirt for an hour and 40 minutes on a stage.

Orchids in the Moonlight closes in a couple of weeks, so I have little time left to keep exploring this challenging transvestite life. After that, I'll probably cut my hair and let my beard and chest hair grow back. Still, I will continue to wear masks. They're necessary to navigate this society. Simple survival.

Elio Leturia teaches multimedia journalism at Columbia College Chicago and is an Aguijón Theater ensemble member. Orquídeas a la Luz de la Luna by Carlos Fuentes runs until March 29.

Let's Get Some Things Straight About Aaron Schock

Fri, 2015-03-20 12:05
So a reporter walked into GOP Congressman Aaron Schock's office last month and found what seemed to be an amazing recreation of the Downton Abbey set -- very lush and elaborate, and very red.

And Twitter went nuts with questions. Who paid for it? Was this with taxpayer dollars? Why was Schock spending his time and money on such an office? Why did the designer, whom the reporter bumped into, say she was giving her services for free, and who was paying for the velvet furniture and plumes of pheasant feathers? Others made conclusions, stating unequivocally that this demonstrated the hypocrisy of a congressman who came to Washington vowing to cut spending only to live like British nobility.

Not many facts were in yet, but people had questions and made conclusions. No one was screaming back at them, "Leave Aaron Schock alone!" or, "Stop the Downton-office baiting!" or, "Until you have facts, just shut up!" Nor were reporters sitting around waiting for the facts to materialize magically -- or running away from the facts while they busied themselves with other things they thought more important. They went out and began digging into this whiff of hypocrisy and possible ethical violation -- it's called a lead, which is not yet proof -- and they did bring back some facts. The office redecoration cost $40,000. Schock said he always intended to pay for it, and then did.

Then came the report of Schock having sold his house for well above market value to a former Caterpillar executive who had been a contributor to his campaign. Proof of something? No. Some people get lucky and sell well. Usually they don't even know to whom a realtor sells their home. But people rightly asked a lot of questions, and some made conclusions. And again, no one screamed, "Stop the Catepillar-executive-bought-his-house baiting!" Reporters dug further and further and brought up more facts. And so it went, with one after another instance of hypocrisy, possible violations and possible corruption -- with the FBI now investigating -- eventually leading to Schock's resignation this week.

Yet the media treated longstanding questions about Schock's sexual orientation and how it relates to his anti-gay voting record, questions that arose shortly after he took office and only came again and again, differently from questions about his official spending and how it relates to his fiscally conservative positions. Some of those questions, similar to those about the the office redecoration, were based simply on visual cues, what some saw as stereotyping based on his clothing choices; others were based on secondhand reports of sexual encounters. Again, these were not proof of anything, but they surely were leads. Schock has a terribly anti-gay record -- he voted against repealing "don't ask, don't tell" and has said he supports an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban marriage for gays -- prompting the Human Rights Campaign to rate his support for LGBT equality at 0 percent.

Those of us who pointed to the possible hypocrisy were met with -- and still are being met with -- cries of "Leave Aaron Schock alone!" and "Stop the gay baiting!" and "Stop the pink baiting!" Instead of seeing these as whiffs of hypocrisy and leads for a story that were OK to speculate about at that point, many people demanded that we offer "proof" or "shut up," holding this kind of alleged hypocrisy to a different standard of proof. Now, if homosexuality is supposedly so acceptable now, why, with this type of hypocrisy, was the "proof" necessary first for us to speculate -- or even come to conclusions, as some had in the other cases? Even New York's highest court, for example, ruled in 2012 that even falsely saying someone is gay is no longer "per se defamation." So why would it be wrong to even speculate, both morally and legally?

And why did reporters, rather than look into this hypocrisy -- similar to the hypocrisy of a politician running for office on cutting spending only to design his office in a way that countered that message -- run away from the story? Washington reporters have scoured every aspect of Rand Paul's and Ted Cruz's college years looking for evidence of hypocrisy in how they led their lives back then (e.g., bong using or elitist) compared with their positions now. But no one was able to engage them to even think about actually going to Peoria -- or Dupont Circle -- to do some digging into the possible hypocrisy story. The rumors about Schock were aplenty. They went far beyond what made it onto the blogs and the media that had picked them up, like the "Style" section of The New York Times, which wouldn't mention "the congressman" by name while discussing the fact that he'd been "outed" on Facebook by a former CBS reporter, Itay Hod, who said his friend, a Washington TV anchor, had walked in on his roommate and the congressman coming out of the shower together. (To his credit, Washington Post journalist Jonathan Capehart did use Schock's name at the time in discussing Hod's claim.)

Deception is deception. And, as with Congressman Mark Foley (R-Florida), whom reporters later admitted they knew was gay even as he voted for the Defense of Marriage Act a decade before he resigned in disgrace after a scandal involving male pages in 2006, had reporters exposed Schock's deception earlier, they might have stopped the later corruption. In both cases I believe the media is implicated in the ongoing corruption by looking the other way on this particular type of deception earlier on, not seeing it as valid.

It shows that the mostly straight Washington press corps has its priorities and knows the stories that will earn gold stars from their bosses (and which they themselves still feel queasy about) and those that their bosses will frown upon or absolutely say no to, seeing them as risky and wrong. It shows again that for those of us who are members of minorities fighting for our civil rights, our priorities and concerns are often not the media's. A possibly closeted gay politician voting anti-gay is a big issue for us within the context of the fight for civil rights, while to them it's a story that pushes too many buttons and isn't worth the hell they may get for publishing it. Then they get backup from gay apologists who write silly pieces about "bitchy gays" attacking politicians with a "moderately" anti-gay record.

It also shows that our battles moving forward are not just in the courts and legislatures, against sworn enemies, but even against a supposedly more enlightened media that still doesn't get it.

Michelangelo Signorile's next book, It's Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, will be published April 7 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Concussion Experts Pick Apart The Myth That Cycling Is More Dangerous Than Football

Fri, 2015-03-20 11:24
The idea that bicycling might be more dangerous than football crept back into the national consciousness this week after an NFL-affiliated doctor named Joseph Maroon suggested as much during an appearance on the NFL Network.

“It’s much more dangerous riding a bike or a skateboard than playing youth football,” said Maroon, who is a consultant to the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ team neurosurgeon.

Listen to the full interview here. (Source: SoundCloud)

It's a startling claim, especially considering the number of parents who fear the effect football could have on their children. But when The Huffington Post contacted four concussion experts this week, they all either denied the comparison outright or described it as false or difficult to make.

“In some aspects, this is comparing apples to oranges,” Christopher Giza, a professor of pediatric neurology and neurosurgery at the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center, said.

While bicycling and football both have the potential for traumatic brain injury (TBI), he said, “the frequency and severity and the relative risks are all slightly different."

“It’s difficult to compare injury risk of playing football to riding a bike or a skateboard,” agreed Kevin M. Guskiewicz, a leading concussion researcher from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the co-director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center.

Christopher Nowinski, the co-founder and executive director of the Sports Legacy Institute, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to the sports concussion crisis, took a stronger stance when asked about the bicycling-to-football comparison, calling the claim "false" in an email.

“It is unfortunate that this important information is being miscommunicated in the media,” Nowinski wrote.

Both Nowinski and Tom Farrey, the executive director of the Aspen Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based educational and policy studies organization, cited data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that tracked brain injuries among a variety of physical activities between 2001 and 2009.

According to the CDC, bicycling does lead to more annual TBIs than all other activities for children 19 and younger, just barely topping football. But break down those totals by gender, and you’ll remember something important: Young women don’t play tackle football very often.

A breakdown of why women of various ages end up in the emergency room with TBIs. Football is nowhere to be seen. (Source: CDC)

If you take a look at the male numbers, you’ll notice something else: Football accounts for the most emergency room visits for all males between the ages of 10 and 19.

It’s pretty clear. (Source: CDC)

Injuries sustained while biking or at the playground send boys under 10 to the emergency room more often than football-related injuries -- but that's likely because children often don’t start playing tackle football until the age of 10 or so, Farrey and Nowinski noted. Consider the number of people who bike compared to play tackle football, and the discrepancy suddenly looks even more stark.

Football players also have to grapple with a number of neurological concerns that cyclists do not. Players may hide or not know how to properly identify concussion symptoms. A 2014 study from Harvard University and Boston University researchers estimated that college football players experience six suspected concussions for every one that is actually diagnosed.

Another consideration is how often the typical football player suffers significant -- if not concussion-causing -- hits to the head. Even at the youth level, in a single season a football player may take hundreds of hits to the head at magnitudes that can compare to those in college. The long-term effects of these subconcussive blows are not fully known, but there is a growing body of research to suggest they can lead to significant brain damage.

“Riding a bike or a skateboard are not known to cause hundreds of impacts to the head in a year,” Nowinski said.

When we reached out to the NFL for comment, the league directed us to comments made Wednesday by NFL Senior Vice President of Health and Safety Policy Jeff Miller during an interview on NBC Sports Radio.

“Joe Maroon doesn’t speak for the NFL, nor we for him,” Miller said when asked about Maroon’s description of the NFL’s brain trauma problem as “over-exaggerated.”

But Farrey from the Aspen Institute noted that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s wife, Jane Skinner, said in 2013 that “kids are more likely to get injured riding their bike on the way to (football) practice than at practice." A blog post that same year on the NFL-affiliated USA Football’s website depicted the claim that biking is more dangerous than football as not only accurate, but “nothing new.”

“The NFL is doing a lot of good work in terms of training coaches and reforming the game,” Farrey said. “But if they’re going to make real progress, they’re going to have to start telling parents the truth.”

“If you lie to mothers, they don’t forget it and they don’t forgive it,” he added.

Another person who disagrees with the idea that bicycling is safer than football: Chris Borland. The former San Francisco 49ers linebacker retired earlier this week after only one season in the league, citing brain trauma-related concerns -- which is why Maroon was brought onto the NFL Network for his interview in the first place.

“You can ride a bicycle and the act of riding a bicycle isn’t causing brain trauma,” Borland told “CBS This Morning" on Thursday. “Yeah, you could fall, but that’s if something goes wrong. Everything could go right in football and it’s still dangerous.”

Annaleigh Ashford Takes 'Lost In The Stars,' Her Glitzy Solo Cabaret, On The Road

Fri, 2015-03-20 10:40
Annaleigh Ashford is honored when friends and fans sum up her new cabaret act, "Lost in the Stars," as "gay magic."

"There are certain performers that the gay community receives and recognizes with love, and my whole life, I've always responded to those same artists," the 29-year-old singer-actress told The Huffington Post in an interview. She pointed out that the first venue she ever performed in was Denver's Theatre on Broadway, which was known for its queer-inclusive shows: "I've always felt very attuned to, and at home in, the gay community."

There's a sassy sensibility in the retro glamour of "Lost in the Stars," which Ashford is taking on the road with her band, The Whiskey 5, after a string of acclaimed performances at New York's 54 Below. The star, best known for her Tony-nominated stint in Broadway's "Kinky Boots" and her portrayal of lesbian prostitute Betty on Showtime's "Masters of Sex," is promising audiences in Chicago, Denver, San Francisco and Las Vegas plenty of sequins, sky-high wigs and classic disco.

Of course, Ashford doesn't limit her material to the late '70s or, more specifically, the confines of Studio 54. She and musical director Will Van Dyke have crafted an eclectic set including songs by Stephen Sondheim, Elton John, Cyndi Lauper and Alanis Morrisette that they hope will have universal appeal. One highlight is a medley that offers vestiges of Ashford's musical theater roles, including "Hair," "Rent," "Wicked," "Legally Blonde" and, of course, "Kinky Boots."

Annaleigh Ashford poses backstage at New York's 54 Below.

Although her career has taken her down a more thespian path, Ashford sees "Lost in the Stars" as fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a bonafide cabaret star on the road. Each city on the tour, she says, has special resonance. She was born in Denver, while her husband, actor Joe Tapper, hails from outside Chicago. Meanwhile, she played San Francisco as part of the out-of-town tryout for "Legally Blonde," and participated in dance competitions in Las Vegas each as an adolescent.

"I grew up listening to cabaret. At 7 and 8 years old, I was already singing like a club performer," Ashford, who cites "Patti LuPone at Les Mouches" and Ann Hampton Callaway and Liz Callaway's "Sibling Rivalry" as influences, explained. "One of our goals is to bring this art form to a younger audience. I think our generation isn't as versed on cabaret [as previous generations were], so I think it's important to expose younger audiences to the art form."

She and Van Dyke said they aim to keep the show as organic as possible by refreshing or swapping out musical numbers in each new city and "playing a bit off the cuff" throughout.

"She just flies off the handle sometimes, and it's amazing," Van Dyke said. "It's just so fun to be on that ride."

Ashford would ultimately like to expand the show into a full-scale production of "song, dance and epic storytelling" in the vein of Liza Minnelli's famed "Liza with a 'Z'" act. In the meantime, she and Van Dyke plan to produce an album that compiles the best of their live performances on the tour, which they'd like to release this fall.

She also hopes that "Lost in the Stars" will be the first of many cabaret acts, noting that she's currently listening to a lot of New Orleans jazz, Janet Jackson and '80s era Bonnie Raitt.

"My ambition for the piece is that you walk out the door with your heart having been touched by at least one song," she said. "I think that intention has carried us through."

Annaleigh Ashford and The Whiskey 5 will perform "Lost in the Stars" at Chicago's Broadway Playhouse on March 21. She plays the Denver Center for the Performing Arts on April 11-12, San Francisco's Venetian Room April 19 and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas on June 27-28.

5 Reasons You Should Quit Your Job to Travel Now

Fri, 2015-03-20 10:15
There are a million great reasons to quit your job to travel the world, but here are five things that matter right now. There's never been a better time to get out and experience the world.

#1 The US Dollar-Euro Exchange Rate is at a 10-year best.


While traveling in Europe is the quintessential trip--and much cheaper than most Americans tend to think--the catch has always been the 25-30% 'tax' on travelers coming from the U.S. in the form of the Euro-Dollar exchange rate.

But things have changed in the last 6 months, and dollar is now as close to the euro as I've ever seen it. As I write this a dollar is worth about 0.94 euro.

That means your USD are going a lot further, not just in Europe but everywhere.

But currencies fluctuate, and who knows how long the current trend will last.

#2 Air travel may be as cheap as it will ever get.

Alright, people say things like this every decade, but I'm not really making predictions about the price of oil here.

Check this out: In December I flew from Budapest to Las Vegas to Mexico to San Francisco and back to Budapest over a 6-week period for about $300.

This might not be a surprise if you've read how I flew around the world for less than $220 or how my friend Scott booked $30k in airline tickets for $1,000 (punchline: by accruing and using frequent-flyer miles), but the moral of the story is just as relevant today: gas is cheap (oil is down to $51.14 a barrel as I write this) and airline miles will never take you further.

Even paying cash you can currently book a last-minute (for tomorrow) round-trip ticket half-way around the world (Budapest to Bangkok) for $600. Whether or not that seems expensive to you, the good news is, analysts are saying the price of airfare will continue to drop in 2015.

While the future is impossible to predict, it's hard to imagine flights getting cheaper than they are right now. Add to this the ubiquitous discount airlines that can get you around a region (like Europe or in SE Asia) for as little as $12, and you can get all over the world for next to nothing.

Yes, the price of oil will go up again, the dollar will probably lose value, and flights will probably be more expensive in the future.

#3 Traveling has definitely never been easier.

[Photo: When travel time was advertised as weeks, not hours.]

Some people will argue that we already missed the Golden Age: a time before everything was exploited, when travel was harder, there were fewer tourists, and it was easier to get lost.

Sure, while I would have loved to join Sir Richard Burton for one of his expeditions, I'll skip the high-percentage chance of death or being carried away from my discoveries by porters because of disease-caused temporary blindness and paralysis.

While ridiculous convenience can cheapen the experience of travel, it also means more people can travel. 

It also brings a huge number of new possibilities for those of us who live and work around the world.

Last month on the Budapest metro I booked the following on my iPhone: airfare, accommodation, and tickets to a concert in Amsterdam. It took about 15 minutes. When I arrived in Holland a group of friends and I used Uber to book a private driver to the event, at less than half of the cost of a regular taxi.

[That's an all-electric Tesla Model-S Taxi in Amsterdam. WTF?]

I can get phone calls at a U.S. number routed to my phone anywhere on earth. I pay no fees to withdraw money anywhere, and ATMs are everywhere. I can work from a hut in Indonesia while using my iPhone as a WiFi hot spot. Airbnb has opened up a whole new class of accommodation options. I've got more books on my 6-ounce kindle than the book shop at the airport. And so on.

And just in terms of places to go it feels like more of the world is accessible to travelers and unrestricted by governments, warfare, disease, sanctions, or other issues than ever before.

Sure, technology will get even better, but the party might not last forever. Things will probably get more crowded and more expensive, not counting the potential for large catastrophic events that may change the game.

It's impossible to predict what will happen in the next 5 years, but in my perspective we're living in a time of incredible prosperity.

Don't miss the window while it's open.

#4 You've put it off long enough.
Stop kidding yourself. How long has it been since you said "if I just get to X I will take that trip"?

As Americans we've been trained to fixate on goals and endpoints as tangible objects, like 'when I have another $10,000 in the bank I'll take that trip.'

But most of us have learned by now that the endpoints are illusory, and as soon as we 'arrive' the rules have changed on us. The need for $10,000 becomes $20,000. Something else comes up. Too much time has passed and our interests have changed (or we think we're too old).

This is all a normal, expected part of life, and it's only disappointing if we aren't kidding ourselves that someday we'll do something we actually care about.

That being said, maybe it's time to play your own game. In the long run, authenticity is more important than money, and if you've been putting off travel all these years it's time to sit down and seriously contemplate what you think is stopping you.

My advice: Buy a plane ticket. Make a "worst case scenario" disaster plan, sell all your shit, and do something new because:

#5 You are too comfortable (and this will only get worse).

[On the train in Vietnam. What your friends think you're doing / what you're actually doing.]

"Comfort is death." -- My dad.

People comment all the time that traveling "must get easier for someone who travels so much."

Actually, it gets harder.

By definition, real travel is uncomfortable and based on shaking routines up, and while this always has tremendous value it's less and less appealing as a long-term practice.

What extensive travel ends up teaching is the importance of a fixed location: every day I stay in one place I get stronger, healthier, smarter, and my business does better. Every day that goes by I'm more committed to higher-level experiences and the routines that produce huge results for me. This means the natural trend makes it less likely I'll travel as much in the future.

But the point at which I get too comfortable is exactly when I start to get nervous. While routines produce massive results, they can also form a tangible barrier to new experiences. It's easy to forget that uncomfortable experiences are exactly what expand our sphere of comfort, making new challenges easier to tackle and giving us the ability to see things in a whole new light. Cycling things is always more effective than wallowing where you're most comfortable.

My interpretation of the Spartan ideal here is combining the efficacy of routines with the mental strength to break them at will--knowing that when I come back for the next round I'll be that much stronger.

So break out of your routine now, while you can. Waiting will only make it harder.

Photo Credits: and Wikimedia Commons

U.S. Law Enforcement Investigating Aaron Schock's Campaign Funds

Fri, 2015-03-20 09:00

(Adds details, background)

WASHINGTON, March 20 (Reuters) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with federal prosecutors in Illinois, is investigating U.S. Representative Aaron Schock's accounting for campaign expenses and has sent out subpoenas related to donations to his political campaign, CNN reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Schock will leave office at the end of the month. The Illinois Republican announced on Tuesday he would step down following questions about misspending and inappropriate expense reimbursements.

CNN said the FBI is delivering subpoenas seeking testimony before a grand jury and the investigation is still in an early stage. The investigation into whether Schock broke the law could ultimately lead to criminal charges.

Schock, a 33-year-old who has gained national attention for his Capitol Hill office lavishly decorated in the style of the television series "Downton Abbey," was elected in 2008. Illinois will hold a special election to fill his vacant seat.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Eric Beech)

'Empire' Is Showing Us A New Way To Think About Black TV Characters

Thu, 2015-03-19 18:38
The Fox drama "Empire" reigned supreme Wednesday evening, capping off its breakout first season with a two-hour finale whose latter half drew 17.6 million viewers, according to Associated Press reports. That's about an 18 percent jump from the show’s March 11 episode, which 14.9 million people watched. It's also the greatest number of people to watch the first-season finale of a TV drama since "Grey's Anatomy" in 2005.

Since its Jan. 7 debut, “Empire” has stirred up numerous conversations about show creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, and the ways in which they've addressed various topics -- some of them drawn from Daniels’ own traumatic early life -- that often go unmentioned on black television.

“’Empire’ is resisting the impulse to present the typical one-dimensional, stereotypical characters we have seen in the past around representations of African Americans,” said Robin R. Means Coleman, an author and communications professor at the University of Michigan, told The Huffington Post.

“While some have noted that its attention to ALS and being bipolar is oversimplified, and that the 'homophobia-in-the-Black-community' narrative is a bit clichéd, that fact of the matter is that ‘Empire’ is a series that is 'going there,' on these important issues," Coleman continued. "More, these discussions reside right alongside other topics that have not typically been seen in a Black series, such as IPOs.”

Even as ratings have soared over the course of the season's 12 episodes, critics have debated "Empire's" authenticity and its portrayal of African-Americans. Others have questioned whether the show is glorifying certain stereotypes that are often associated with inner-city black communities.

During a recent appearance on "Access Hollywood," Terrence Howard, who plays "Empire" patriarch Lucious Lyon, mentioned that he'd like to hear the show's characters use the n-word in the second season. Though the n-word is almost never heard on television today, it was heard on many popular black TV shows of earlier eras, including “Sanford and Son” and “The Jeffersons.”

“I believe if we’re gonna really tackle racism, if we’re gonna tackle bigotry, if we’re gonna tackle homophobia, we need to attack it dead on," Howard said on "Access Hollywood." "You don’t just sit up, you know, 'let’s give a little aspirin right here.' No, we need to take the sutures, open up the problem and reach in and grab it."

“And since [the n-word] is used in almost every conversation in most black neighborhoods, why is it that we don’t hear it on TV anymore?" he continued. "Are white people afraid of it? Did they create the word? But if this is something that we use on a daily basis, then let’s address what it really means.”

Should a popular a sitcom such as “Empire” incorporate the usage of the n-word in an effort to combat racism and maintain authenticity within the black community? According to a highly unscientific poll of HuffPost readers, the answer is no by a margin of almost 3 to 1.

“We are supposed to be in such progressive times as a nation and a culture, why do we have to retread to something that represents such a heinous part of our history,” the entertainment journalist Karu F. Daniels told HuffPost in an email.

“Why does a fictitious prime time soap opera have to be ‘that authentic’?" Daniels went on. "I think enough slurs have been used. They don't need any more. It's not a reality show. And it's not cable. We are talking about a primetime soap opera right? There are black people on ‘The Young & The Restless’ and ‘The Bold & The Beautiful’ -- some from humble backgrounds -- they don't use the n-word.”

Besides "Empire's" eagerness to tackle explosive topics, another key part of the show's success has been Taraji P. Henson, who plays Lucious's ex-wife, Cookie. Henson has gained a cult following for her work on "Empire," which continues in the lineage of Shonda Rhimes' force-of-nature black leading ladies on “Scandal” and “How To Get Away With Murder." In fact, Strong recently entertained the idea of having "Scandal's" Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) show up on a future episode of “Empire.”

“I think television viewing audiences are seeing a surge in strong black female lead characters that haven't been seen for years on primetime television dramas. And that's a good thing,” Daniels told HuffPost. “Shows such as ‘Scandal’ and ‘Empire’ and even ‘Tyler Perry Presents The Haves And The Have Nots’ are infectious, over-the-top soap operas that an underserved and virtually ignored demographic gravitate towards because they walk in the door knowing that it's fictitious entertainment as opposed to the over-produced, scripted schlock that reality TV has become.”

“Cookie represents a hood-rat with a heart of gold who made many sacrifices to do what she thinks is right," Daniels continued. "She's not perfect and polished and doesn't try to be. But she, surprisingly, can be the moral center of the show.”

“Olivia is more aspirational to some. She has the pedigree and all of the sophistication we haven't seen in primetime television since Diahann Carroll was on ‘Dynasty’ 30 years ago," he added. "But she is flawed when it comes to matters of the heart, having an affair with a married man. And because of those types of imperfections, it humanizes her in a way that is relatable to many.”

Martese Johnson Did Not Have A Fake ID, Attorney Says

Thu, 2015-03-19 18:05
The bloody arrest of University of Virginia student Martese Johnson all started when an employee for a local bar approached him on a sidewalk, Johnson's attorney, Daniel Watkins, said in a press conference Thursday.

Watkins said his client was never in possession of a fake ID and was simply standing on the sidewalk when the bar employee walked up to him. The student's subsequent arrest, which UVA officials have described as "brutal" and "highly unusual," prompted Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to order a state investigation Wednesday into the behavior of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents who took Johnson into custody.

Johnson was standing near the Trinity Irish Pub around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Watkins said, when "an employee of the establishment approached him and asked for his license."

The employee quizzed Johnson about his zip code, and Johnson provided his mother's current zip code, Watkins said. The number is different from the one listed on his current Illinois license. Watkins said that at that point, Virginia ABC agents questioned Johnson about being in possession of false identification.

Johnson is originally from Chicago, where his mother still lives. He was never in possession of a fake ID, Watkins said.

The Virginia ABC agents then forced Johnson to the ground, where they handcuffed him while "his face and skull [were] bleeding and needing surgery, all of this over two alleged offenses," Watkins said.

Virginia ABC declined to comment further about the incident to The Huffington Post on Thursday. Trinity Irish Pub told HuffPost it had no comment. Watkins declined to take questions Thursday.

"I'm shocked that my face was slammed into the brick pavement just across the street from where I go to school," Johnson said in a statement, read by Watkins. As Johnson was on the ground, he added, "One thought raced through my mind: How could this happen? I still believe in our community. I know this community will support me during this time."

UVA students marched on campus Wednesday night and Thursday in protest of what they believe was excessive force used by Virginia ABC agents. Johnson has asked for activists to remain civil in their protests.

Here's How To Talk About Race In Starbucks Terms

Thu, 2015-03-19 17:33
Starbucks respects your heritage AND your order.

The coffee franchise's recent #racetogether hashtag campaign was not received as well as the company would have wanted, but in this instructional video from comedy site Internet Action Force, Starbucks is ready to mend any and all fences.

With help from this "Senior Vice President of Barista Strategies," Starbucks can now offer its baristas some new tips on how to discuss race with customers, such as, "How would you like your coffee? African-American or with milk?"

The Heroin Epidemic: It's 'Our' Problem, Not "Their" Problem

Thu, 2015-03-19 16:37
Why are people dying to get high?

Approx 30-60 seconds after injecting or inhaling heroin, users feel a surge of warmth, emanating from the lower spinal region - a "rush" of sensation that slithers through the CNS. Immediately, an overriding sense of wellbeing envelops the user. Within seconds of use, both the rate and depth of respiration sharply decrease. The rate of breathing can fall to two to four breaths a minute. As respiratory rates decline, blood pressure begins to drop, body temp plummets and the epidermis becomes cold and clammy, eventually turning blue-grey. Seizures may occur and respiratory failure can occur. The brainstem drowns in the drug and the signals to breathe, sent to the diaphragm and lungs, drown with it. Nothing glamorous here.

People are overdosing for two reasons. One, the heroin coming in from Colombia and Mexico is more pure than ever before. In 1980, average purity was four percent; now it is in the range of 70 percent pure. There is evidence that some blocks of heroin are up to 90 percent pure. Increase in purity can be attributed to more sophisticated production and marketing ploys used by retailers.
People are also getting poisoned with low-quality heroin now cut with a number of additives such as fentanyl quinine, milk sugar, starch, powdered milk, and even talcum powder. The problem is, to the consumer, both products look the same so they never know what they are getting.

The End Result
It is not uncommon for the user to experience imprisonment, violence, social condemnation, physical disfigurement, dangerous STDs, Hepatitis C, and other diseases as a result of recapturing this feeling of bliss. Heroin users may ultimately chase the "bliss" to the gates of insanity or death.

Analogous to my own personal powerlessness over my heroin addiction, I am also beginning to feel powerless over the current heroin epidemic. The local government will hold hearings and discussions and dictate policy that will hopefully assist communities in understanding the nature of the problem and, perhaps more importantly, offer solutions. Meanwhile, the law enforcement will continue to incarcerate the drug users.

Why All the Fuss?
The CDC released their research findings on heroin. To summarize:

  • Drug poisoning is the number one cause of injury-related death in the US with 44,000 in 2013.

  • From 2000-2013, the number of deaths involving heroin nearly quadrupled. Most of the increase occurred after 2010.

  • The number of drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin were nearly four times higher for men than women.

  • From 2000-2013, drug-poisoning deaths involving heroin increased nationwide with the greatest increase here in the Midwest.

  • Those aged 25-44 had the highest rate of heroin-related drug poisoning.

  • During the 14-year period, there was an average of six percent per year -- after 2010, it spiked to 37 percent.

What Are We Doing About It?
In response to the opioid crisis, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has developed one of the most comprehensive opioid specific treatment protocols I have seen to date. Hazelden in Chicago has developed one of the first outpatient opioid-specific treatment groups that supports both medically assisted treatment along with traditional abstinence-based treatment adjunct to 12-step facilitation. Additionally, Sen. Kirk's anti-heroin task force is working hard to put a nasal spray version of Naloxone in the hands of all first responders, but it's not yet passed by the FDA.

What More Can We Be Doing?
I am working directly with families and those addicted to heroin. I am in contact with some of the top leaders addressing this issue including those conducting research, advocating for recovery and those helping to reduce supply and demand of heroin, as well as those developing cutting-edge treatments. This is where all of you the savvy readers come in. I am doing my part, but "I" alone am not enough. This is a "We Problem" and a "We Solution." We need to join forces and create a treatment product that is more compelling than heroin. We are all in our pods doing extraordinary work, doing the best we can, but we need to be coordinating our resources in an effort to share and exchange best practices across disciplines. Please share ideas of what is working or has not worked for you. Together, we can design and implement a more efficient, strengths-based, individualized, cost-effective, comprehensive treatment protocol that additionally takes into consideration the context of the family in recovery.

Presidential Libraries: Taking Stock as Obama Readies His Own

Thu, 2015-03-19 16:09
By voting yesterday to approve release of 20 acres of public parkland to the University of Chicago, the local City Council finally cleared the last obstacle to its pending hometown bid for the Barack Obama Library and Museum. While initially expected this month, announcement of the White House selection from among the finalist cities of Chicago, Honolulu, and New York shifted to after April 7, when the run-off mayoral election takes place between the incumbent, Rahm Emanuel, and challenger, Jesús García.

Rumors circulating about the cause of this postponement range from the assumption that New York's Columbia University will prevail on its ambitious new West Harlem campus and that such news --reported now-- would hurt loyalist Emanuel's prospects, to just the opposite: Chicago is the favored choice so why not leave it in doubt so that Rahm's re-election remains a presumed advantage in the final decision-making? Others believe it will be split among the cities with distinct departments functioning as part of a synchronized whole in contrast to other recent presidential examples.

In any case, the choice is imminent and the civic stakes are high for what will stand as the 14th such namesake museum and archive, which by now seems to be the inevitable legacy of every American chief executive. With this pending presidential archive in mind, it also makes sense to look briefly at the trajectory of this expensive and essentially American public/private siloing of historical memory and future interpretation.

When the British burned the nascent congressional library of the young American Republic in 1814, it was Thomas Jefferson, known for his obsessive list- keeping and declining finances, who agreed to revivify it through the sale of his own book collection from the shelves of his beloved Monticello. Within the year, therefore, the nation again had a good leg up on a diverse and rigorously conceived central holding of the great books of global civilization. The third president gladly took the $23,900 purchase price and in turn declared with thinly concealed self-celebration, "There is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may now not have occasion to refer."

An ever-growing and institutionalized Library of Congress finally got its own separate headquarters across from the Capitol in 1897 with construction of a Beaux-Arts extravaganza by prestigious architects Pelz and Smithmeyer and duly named the Thomas Jefferson Building. Among all other duties in what stands today as the world's second largest library, the archivists are assiduously recreating these full original purchase contents, whether with the actual Monticello copies or their contemporaneous facsimiles.

While unique as the measure of a single curious mind, this library nonetheless serves as a spiritual antecedent to the present imperative for housing the records of each successive president in an eponymous facility under the official care of the National Archives and Records Administration.

This division of the federal Department of the Interior first gained the mantle for the 31st President, Herbert Hoover, and they have continued ever since. Over time its purpose has grown from mere repository to active interpretive center, housing celebratory museum, library, and research institute, where the presidency, American society, and important issues of public policy are placed before scholars and the public alike, regardless finally of the partisan origins of each (so far) man elected to the world's most powerful job.

Many times, however, such dual but linked missions have been split geographically under distinct governing boards. The best example is the distinguished Hoover Institute on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, housed in the landmark tower by the great West coast classicist, Arthur Brown, Jr. (1941)...

..and today conjoined with its Washington, D.C. Johnson Center satellite by Fox Architects (2013). It overshadows in more ways than one the more traditional blend of the Hoover Presidential Museum and Library in West Branch, Iowa by the forgotten firm of Eggers & Higgins (1962).

Next up, although in fact the first to open: The FDR Presidential Library and Museum of the legendary four-term chief executive who delivered America from the Great Depression and stood at the helm of our victory in the most just of wars. So far the nearest to New York City, it arose next door to his childhood home at Hyde Park, where the house and its fabled Hudson Valley setting are central to America's historic cultural identity.


Robert A. M. Stern, credited below for his own part in this library tradition, has called the longest-serving 32nd president an architect manqué. The Dutch Colonial Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum, like the earlier wheelchair accessible retreat (also at Hyde Park) called Top Cottage, was conceived and first sketched by Roosevelt who called in a licensed professional, Henry Toombs, to complete the working drawings and sign off accordingly. His respectful client collaborator later called Roosevelt the first disabled man, as well as the first president since Jefferson nearly 200 years earlier, to deserve the label "architect". Upon hearing Toomb's sincere apotheosis, Frank Lloyd Wright's reactionary son John Lloyd Wright wrote LIFE Magazine stating, "After seeing the title 'Architect' after Roosevelt in your magazine, please put me in a concentration camp. The moral breakdown of the integrity and dignity of the profession seems now complete." FDR quipped, "Did Jefferson have a license when he drew sketches of rather satisfactory architectural productions?"

Also separated from its academic nucleus is I.M. Pei & Associate's JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, dedicated in 1979, 16 years after his assassination despite a 1964 selection of the still obscure Pei firm by widow Jacqueline. Meanwhile, years earlier during protracted battles about the Pei building's sighting, Harvard created its John F. Kennedy School of Government, obviating any regional rationale for another educational institute honoring the 35th president.

This place-making split finally converged in 1971, when Lyndon Baines Johnson cut the ribbon for his legacy addition on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin. The LBJ Presidential Library and Museum was designed by the Pritzker-Prize winning Modernist acolyte, Gordon Bunshaft and his colleagues at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Two bombastic, larger-than-life soul mates hit the commission jackpot with an ideal pairing of client and designer that also brought with it the advent of the adjacent LBJ School of Public Affairs. At last library, museum, and living civics laboratory took form side by side. With the high-visibility exceptions of The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Foundation along with its cousin The Clinton Global Initiative, this precedent became a norm:

-The Harry S. Truman, Independence MO

-The Dwight D. Eisenhower, Abilene, KS

-The Richard M. Nixon, Yorba Linda, CA

-The Gerald R. Ford, Grand Rapids, MI

-The Carter, Atlanta, GA

-The Ronald Reagan, Simi Valley, CA

-The George H. W. Bush, College Station (Texas A&M), TX

-The William Jefferson Clinton, Little Rock, AR

The George W. Bush Presidential Museum, Library, and Institute, on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, serves as the latest metaphor for such blending of past, present, and unknowable future in the context of the legacy it empathically celebrates, as do all these separated and privately influenced repositories. The formal impulse and the private funds raised guarantee such celebration as the sine qua non of visitor experience.

Inaugurated in 2013 by Bush 43 alongside his father and the other three surviving Presidents, it was designed by Robert A. M. Stern as the first green version, built with an eye on public transpiration and site topography.

If one believes, as any patriot must, that American civilization will endure at least as long as the Chinese one has already, that makes about 3,400 years to go. If every president in that interval won two terms, we'd end up with a combined total of 436 such evocations of the Oval Office and very likely many more, as of course not everyone wins a second term. In sum, finally, building and operating these individual paeans in constant sequence cannot go on indefinitely. Future generations will adjust the model to contemporary values, needs, and tools yet unknown. And thank goodness for that.

Meanwhile with the decision pending in just a couple of weeks on Library #14 for President #44, the binding force of these successive projects is the fact that there is not and never should be a single political narrative.

Such shifting values rely instead on the bedrock of freedom to sustain the dynamic bonds of the social contract it upholds.